Winter Park, FL – 1.10.2015
Open the Freedom Gate Champion: Johnny Gargano
EVOLVE Champion: Drew Galloway
Open The United Gate Champions: The Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley)
Commentary is provided by Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi.
Shane Strickland vs. Anthony Nese
So Cal Val, Su Yung, and an injured Caleb Konley are in Nese’s corner. Nese has accepted Val as the head of PR for the PAB and Yung has been demoted to her assistant. Su Yung is very upset by this turn of events. After the initial lock-up, Nese knocks down Strickland with a running shoulder block. Strickland catches Nese with a headscissors from the apron and follows up with a dropkick. Strickland enzuigiri’s him off the apron and to the floor. Strickland headstands off the apron and into a Frankensteiner outside the ring. Strickland keeps control with some strikes. Val and Yung chat him up, but Strickland blows them off. It gives Nese enough time to recover and take over with a superkick. In the ring he knocks down Strickland with a running back elbow for two. Nese grabs a front facelock. When Strickland begins to fight free, Nese shoots him to the ropes. Strickland tries a sunset flip but Nese kicks him in the side of the head. Strickland throws a flurry of right hands. Nese takes his legs out when Strickland hits the ropes. He comes back in with a slingshot lionsault but Strickland moves out of the way. They trade right hands with Strickland getting the better of the exchange. Despite Nese blocking some kicks, Strickland is able to sneak in an enzuigiri. Nese leapfrogs over a corner attack. Strickland rolls up into an Ace Crusher for two. He goes to the top rope. Nese catches him with an uppercut. When he brings Strickland back down, Strickland is able to spike Nese with a DDT. Strickland counters a vertical suplex with a roll-up. Nese kicks out. Nese flips out of a suplex and double stomps Strickland’s chest. He looks for a half crab. Strickland escapes. Nese ducks his bicycle kick and throws some kicks of his own. He rolls up Strickland, then muscles him up into a one-armed powerbomb. Strickland kicks out. Nese fights for a vertical suplex. Strickland slips out. Nese slides through his legs and pump-handles Strickland into a powerbomb. He then turns over into a half crab. Strickland taps out at 12:01. This was a solid opening match, with Strickland keeping the momentum from his match with Gargano going and Nese bouncing back from his loss to Swann. A lot of the focus during the match was on Su Yung and So Cal Val which was somewhat distracting and took away from the importance of the match itself. Commentary made it sound like the half crab might be one of Nese’s new calling cards, so having him win with that move was the right choice. **¾
Roderick Strong vs. Timothy Thatcher
On the microphone before the bell, Strong apologizes to hostess Heather Lynn for Drew Galloway kicking her in the face last night. He adds that he doesn’t want to brawl around the building as he did with Galloway yesterday, but rather he wants to show Thatcher how good of a wrestler he is.
Thatcher gets frustrated at Strong for toying with him, and Strong gets in the ropes before Thatcher can do any damage. On the mat, some back and forth enables Thatcher to grab a hammerlock. Strong gets to the ropes. Strong shoves Thatcher, so Thatcher uppercuts him. Strong takes down Thatcher and digs his foot into Thatcher’s knee. Thatcher gets a mount but can’t get a pinfall. Strong gets up to his feet and rolls out of Thatcher’s grasp, regrouping and cooling down on the floor. He goes for a dropkick, but Thatcher blocks it and lands three uppercuts instead. He puts pressure on Strong’s knee. Strong grabs his hair and throws multiple knees to the head. He boots, chokes, and grabs at Thatcher’s face. We get a sequence where Thatcher goes for different armbar on multiple occasions, but Strong knees Thatcher in the face to escape and then uses strikes to keep control. Thatcher settles for a cross armbreaker which Strong gets the ropes to escape. He pulls Thatcher outside and throws him ribs first into the ring post! When Thatcher crawls back in the ring, Strong catches him with another basement boot to the face. Thatcher gets in some uppercuts, which Strong stops with a dropkick. He goes for the Stronghold. Thatcher blocks it by picking Strong’s ankles. Strong punches him multiple times in the ribs and takes him to the corner. After a knee strike and running forearm he drops Thatcher with an Angle Slam for two. He chokes Thatcher on the middle rope. Thatcher fights back up and suplexes Strong. He goes for the Tower of London, which Strong counters with a German suplex. Thatcher peppers Strong with slaps to the face. Strong enzuigiri’s Thatcher from the corner. He also enzuigiri’s Thatcher as Thatcher sit on the top turnbuckle. They fight up to their feet, only for Strong to bring Thatcher back down into the Stronghold. Thatcher kicks Strong into the ropes and small packages him on the rebound. Strong knee strikes Thatcher, hits him with a rolling elbow. Thatcher throws a headbutt to the stomach and forearms before taking Strong over with a butterfly suplex. He then puts on a Fujiwara armbar. Strong taps out at 17:11! This was a major victory for Thatcher, as he beat one of the top names in all of independent wrestling. This entire match revolved around that armbar, and you just knew if Thatcher could get it locked on he was likely to get the win. Strong knew it too, and used his experience and some questionable tactics where he could to try and stay on top and avoid what would become the inevitable. Beautiful is the way I would describe this match. ***¾
Thatcher is not a man of words, but he takes the opportunity off of his win to request a match with Chris Hero. That should be fantastic.
AR Fox vs. Trevor Lee
Lee controls early on with a boot to the stomach and shoulder block. He and Fox trade armdrags. Fox wins the exchange with a Japanese variant. Lee hops to the apron, armdrags back in, leapfrogs over Fox, and Fox hits him with a dropkick. Fox lays in the standard ten punches. Lee blocks an elbow but eats a pump kick. Lee boots him away. They hit the ropes repeatedly dodging one another. Fox enzuigiri’s Lee, then bounces off the ropes into a wheelbarrow bulldog. Fox suicide dives onto Fox twice. Lee cuts him off on the third attempt. After avoiding each other’s offense, Lee punts Fox in the chest from the ring apron. Fox’s face is slightly busted open and Lee pulls at his face to make it worse. Lee gets back in the ring. The referee checks on Fox, and then calls for the bell at 4:17 saying that Fox cannot continue, making Lee the victor. Word is Fox got a concussion, so I can’t blame them for stopping it, but I can’t help but feel disappointed because I really was looking forward to this match and what we got before the ending was excellent. N/R
Uhaa Nation vs. Biff Busick
Nation overpowers Busick in the initial collar-and-elbow tie-ups. Busick gets some leverage in a double wrist clutch, leading to a side headlock which Nation reverses. Nation dropkicks Busick to the floor after a leapfrog and drop down. He then moonsaults off the apron onto Busick. Busick gets some uppercuts in. He sets up two chairs next to each other. Foolishly he sets up Nation for a powerbomb, and Nation easily backdrops Busick through the chairs instead. In the ring, Nation slams Busick into a leaping elbow drop for two. Busick drops down the top rope to stop Nation’s bicycle kick. Nation’s leg clips on the ropes as he falls to the floor. Busick wears down Nation upon him coming back in the ring, using knee lifts to the stomach before attempting a pin. Nation escapes a bodyscissors. Busick goes for another knee to stomach, which Nation turns into a roll-up. Busick kicks out and puts on an abdominal stretch. Nation hip tosses his way free. He splashes Busick in the corner and follows up with a leaping lariat. Nation strings together two German suplex. Busick elbows his way out of the third, so Nation kicks him in the face before successfully pulling it up. Busick is able to kick out of the pin, so Nation heads to the top rope. A huge top rope splash earns Nation another two count. With his worn down stomach, Nation isn’t able to hold up Busick for a delayed vertical suplex. However, Nation is able to pop right up after Busick’s half-nelson suplex and turn him inside out with a lariat. They fight back to their feet. Nation nails an enzuigiri. A Death Valley Driver leads to the Uhaa Combination. However, Busick gets his knees up for the shooting star press, and he small packages Nation. When Nation kicks out, Busick puts on the rear-naked choke with a bodyscissors right after. Nation’s arm drops twice. He fires up and escapes. He pops up Busick into two consecutive powerbombs. Busick kicks out and crawls to the apron, creating distance. Nation from the second rope muscles up Busick into a superplex. Busick however hooks his leg upon landing. Nation kicks out of the pin, kicks Busick in the face, and gorilla presses him in the air. Busick throws Nation back down into a rear-naked choke! Nation taps out at 14:12! Like Thatcher defeating Strong, this win felt like a big deal for Busick who wrestled a very smart match and used his mat wrestling and submission prowess to take down the larger opponent. Nation overpowering Busick not only made himself look good, but by being so dominant it felt like a bigger deal that Busick was able to overcome the odds. ***½
Busick echoes Thatcher’s sentiments about wanting to wrestle Hero, because Hero ran away from Busick last time they encountered each other in Florida. At least, that’s his story. He wants to take on Hero when EVOLVE travels to San Jose in March.
Drew Galloway vs. Ricochet
Drew Galloway has been champion since 8.8.2014 and this is his twelfth defense. Ricochet holds a pinfall victory over Galloway at “EVOLVE 33.” Ricochet nails Galloway in the face with a kick before ring introductions are done! He throws strikes in the corner, only for Galloway to knock him down with a boot to the face. He pounds Ricochet in the chest while holding him against the ropes. Galloway drops Ricochet across the guardrails, then tosses him over the guardrails and onto the floor. Galloway tries tossing Ricochet into the wall. Ricochet grabs a hold of a basketball hoop and uses it to swing down with a Frankensteiner to Galloway! Ricochet backflips off the wall. Galloway catches him in his arms and swings him back first into the wall! In the ring, Ricochet kicks Galloway’s left hand, which is sporting a splint on his finger after Galoway’s battle with Strong last night. Ricochet attacks the hand further, including a shooting star press directly onto Galloway’s arm. He slaps Galloway in the face. This makes Galloway angry, and he pops up Ricochet into a right hand punch. Galloway tosses Ricochet into the corner and follows in with a forearm strike. He comes off the top rope with a diving lariat for two. Galloway misses a yakuza kick in the corner. Ricochet gives him an enzuigiri and Chocolate Rain for two. He goes for the Regalplex. Galloway backs him to the corner to escape, then German suplexes Ricochet neck first into the corner for two. Galloway goes for the Future Shock DDT. Ricochet kicks out his leg and pulls off the Regalplex. A standing shooting star press gets a two count. He goes to the top rope where Galloway crotches him on the top turnbuckle. Ricochet gets Galloway in a tree of woe, but from that position Galloway is able to toss Ricochet down with a belly-to-belly suplex. Galloway drops Ricochet out of a reverse waterwheel slam for two. He goes for the Future Shock DDT again. Ricochet switches out and strings a Northern Lights suplex and vertical suplex together for another two count. Galloway avoids a shooting star press and the Bennadryller. He punches Ricochet in the face and his splint gets Ricochet in the eye! Galloway apologizes, saying it wasn’t intentional. He kicks Ricochet in the side of the head then hits the Future Shock DDT for the pin at 13:45. I dig the story of Galloway looking reckless and dangerous. It adds some character and sets a tone for his title reign. He and Ricochet both wrestled a smart match and built the Future Shock DDT as the endgame. That particular finish also semi-protects Ricochet while also giving Galloway a clean victory; smart. This was a very fun match, and a great defense for Galloway. ***¾
Ronin (Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor & Rich Swann) vs. The Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado) & Moose
The losing triumvirate can never team again in the WWN Universe. All six men fight on the floor. Swann and Harlem end up in the ring first. Harlem baits Swann into a kick to the stomach. A Lucha exchange sees Swann send Harlem to the floor with a dropkick. Lancelot comes in. Gargano catches him with a slingshot senton. Taylor Swanton’s in from the apron and Swann lands a rolling frog splash. Taylor and Gargano get thrown together and double clotheslined by Moose. Swann throws some kicks at Moose and low bridges the top rope to send him to the floor. Swann tries a tope con hilo, but Moose catches him and powerbombs him onto Taylor and Gargano. Harlem tosses Swann back in the ring so the Bravados and Moose can isolate and beat him down. After a lenghty beatdown, Swann musters up the strength to power Harlem to the Ronin corner where both Gargano and Taylor tag in. They take out Lancelot and Moose on the apron and clothesline Harlem to the floor after a double dropkick. Taylor dives onto the Bravados while Gargano dives onto Moose. In the ring, Gargano slingshots Lancelot into a lionsault from Taylor and a frog splash from Swann. Harlem breaks the cover. The Bravados double team Swann in the corner, ending with a big back body drop from Moose. Taylor stops the pin. Taylor and Gargano wipe out Moose with enzuigiri’s and superkicks. Harlem suplexes Gargano onto Taylor in the corner. Lancelot pops up Gargano into a Death Valley Driver for two. Gargano sends Lancelot into a gamengiri from Harlem. Ronin deliver F.I.S.T. kicks to Lancelot. Moose spears Taylor. He Samoan Drops Gargano and fallaway slams Swann at the same time. Harlem blind tags in when Moose is poised to dive. This makes Moose mad, so Harlem slaps him in the face to set him straight. Harlem back steps and offers a handshake. Moose at first accepts, then tosses Harlem onto Ronin and Lancelot on the floor. Moose tope con hilo’s outside, but Ronin moves and he lands on the Bravados. In the ring Moose drops Swann with a side slam. He misses a spear. He tries a crossbody. All of Ronin hits him with superkicks ont he way down. They take out Lancelot with a superkick. Swann double stomps Harlem into a DDT from Taylor, into the Hurts Donut from Gargano. Swann then lands a top rope frog splash for the pin at 14:01. The Bravados and Moose must split up. Seeing Ronin back together and doing all their classic offense was a fun treat. However, the Moose/Bravados animosity felt incredibly forced and almost took me out of the match entirely, which is a shame because Moose had a pretty good performance and I enjoy the Bravados in general. A fun match overall, but I really think Galloway vs. Ricochet would have been better suited in the main event spot. ***¼
Johnny Gargano thanks all the fans. He then lays out a challenge for anybody to challenge for the Open the Freedom Gate championship in San Jose, the most important title in WWN. This brings out EVOLVE Champion Drew Galloway, who takes umbrage with Gargano’s statement about his title being the most important. He says DGUSA is dead and that the EVOLVE title is now the top title in WWN. Although not explicitly stated, a champion vs. champion match is heavily teased.