Santa Clara, CA – 3.26.2015
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.
Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Gulak
Before the bell, Gulak takes the microphone. He says wrestling has lost its integrity, but says people like himself, Biff Busick, and Thatcher want to use this weekend to rectify that. Pro wrestling has lost sight of what really matters because people are afraid of losing their jobs. He says the challenge of the match, the desire to win said match, and the catch point are what matters. Gulak wants to put “feeling” back into professional wrestling.
This is a rematch from “EVOLVE 31” and from “A Wrestling Odyssey” during last year’s WWN Live Experience. Gulak won both of those matches. They cleanly break a lock-up against the ropes. On the mat, Thatcher places his knee into Gulak’s leg and picks at his toe and ankle. Gulak escapes, but Thatcher grabs his leg and looks for an ankle lock. Gulak grabs the rope before any pressure is applied. Gulak wants a cross armbreaker, but Thatcher claps his hands together to avoid the hold. Thatcher again finds himself in possession of Gulak’s ankle. Gulak rolls beneath him and grabs Thatcher’s ankle in a lock. Thatcher uses the ropes to free himself. Gulak German suplexes Thatcher and once again goes for the cross armbreaker. Once again Thatcher uses the ropes to stop a submission. Thatcher gets Gulak in a Fujiwara armbar,but Gulak is so close to the ropes that he breaks it immediately. Gulak grabs an ankle lock with Thatcher’s arm wrapped around the leg. Thatcher frees his arm and grabs the ropes. He goes for a cross armbreaker. Gulak avoids it. He figure sevens Thatcher’s leg, pulling on the ankle. Thatcher holds onto Gulak’s right ankle. Gulak turns over and grabs the ropes. Thatcher Judo throws Gulak over and stomps on his wrist. He grabs a kimura in a standing position. Gulak falls into the ropes to save himself. Thatcher suplexes Gulak and tries the cross armbreaker again. When that doesn’t work, he gutwrench throws Gulak. After a pair of uppercuts he places Gulak on the top rope. He wants the Tower of London but Gulak chops Thatcher from above. Gulak then delivers a flying clothesline for two. Thatcher successfully applies an ankle lock. Gulak gets to his foot, fight out and puts on his own ankle lock. Thatcher kicks him away and trips Gulak down. He grabs his wrist, hoping for a Fujiwara armbar. Gulak counters by rolling Thatcher onto his shoulders and putting on his body weight, pinning him at 13:15. These two are some of the best practitioners of mat wrestling today and had that on full display here. They each wanted armbars and ankle locks, but since they’re so skilled, they knew exactly how to escape. Gulak had a one up on Thatcher by escaping and catching him in a pin to end it, keeping Gulak’s streak of victories over Thatcher alive. It was a good story, and with Gulak’s pre-match speech, it set a nice tone for the weekend. ***¼
Biff Busick vs. Tommy End
End was brought in under the endorsement of Chris Hero. End tries a kick. Busick catches his leg. End kicks Busick away before he can do anything. Busick sneaks in a schoolboy for two. End grabs a wristlock. Busick from his knees rolls End into a lateral press for one. End grabs hold of Busick’s arm. He whips Busick across the ring. Busick hops over and looks for half-nelson suplex. End fights out. Although Busick ducks a roundhouse kick, End delivers one to the chest as Busick comes off the ropes. End punches Busick, and Busick responds with an uppercut. End kicks him twice in the face, bringing Busick to the canvas. End takes him back down with a knee to the stomach for two. Busick fights back with chops. End throws some shots to his head which only fires up Busick. They trade strikes until End snapmares Busick into a kick to the side of his head. End gives him a running uppercut in the corner for two. Busick whips End into the corner. End kicks him away from the corner. He dives off the second rope into an uppercut from Busick. Busick deposits him with a half-nelson suplex, but End kicks out just in time. Three running elbows in the corner from Busick connect, but a clothesline is blocked with a flying knee to the arm by End. The two men switch positions until Busick turns End inside out with a lariat for two. Busick tries a rear-naked choke. End avoids it and cracks Busick with a running, jumping knee strike. End comes off the top with a double stomp but misses. He throws some kicks and grabs a waistlock. Busick elbows out but takes another kick to the side of the head for two. Another kick to the chest gets two. They fight out of each other’s offense until Busick throws End down in a rear naked choke. End passes out at 9:32. This accomplished three key things: it showed that the rear naked choke is still an infallible submission, Busick got to defeat Hero’s endorsed athlete the night before finally getting his match with Hero, and End had a good showing, as he was able to “hang” with the #2 guy on the EVOLVE rankings. However, the action was at times sloppy and the action had little cohesion aside from the story of the rear naked choke. Despite the sloppiness, people seemed to like it, and it was effective for the reasons listed above. **½
Busick tells Hero that he will beat him tomorrow and says that Hero is afraid of “the choke.”
Chris Hero vs. Ethan Page
Page was brought in under the endorsement of Johnny Gargano and wears a Johnny Gargano shirt to the ring. He introduces himself to the EVOLVE crowd and publicly thanks Gargano for the endorsement. He’s learned so much from what Gargano has done in the WWN Universe and hopes he makes Gargano proud this weekend.
A wristlock exchange ends when Page snapmares Hero into a side headlock out of a hammerlock. Hero escapes and doesn’t budge when Page tries a running shoulder block. He invites Page to try again and again Hero remains steadfast. He cuts off Page’s third attempt with a knee to the stomach. Page picks up Hero, dropping him off his shoulders into a legdrop. He grabs a cravate on Hero. Hero rolls free and shoulder blocks Page down. Hero blocks Page’s leapfrog with a boot to the stomach. Hero throws some shots and disrespectful slaps to Page’s face. Angered, Page backs Hero across the ring and unloads with punches. The referee separates them, allowing Hero to kick Page in the head for two. Hero gives him a basement single leg dropkick. Hero picks up his own foot and drives it into Page’s face. He throws Page into his own boot in the corner, then lands a senton splash for two. He accelerates Page off of the ropes and hits another single leg dropkick for two. More disrespect is shown with Hero stepping on Page’s hand. He allows Page to get in a few punches before elbowing him to the floor. Hero follows Page around ringside where he gives him some chops. He tosses Page back in the ring and follows. He goes for a senton but Page gets his knees up to block it. After a failed crucifix pin he throws more punches. Hero cuts him off with a bicycle kick. Page counters Hero’s release vertical suplex with one his own. Page ducks a kick and connects with more punches. A running clothesline and backdrop follow. He drops Hero with a sit-out spinebuster for two. Hero maneuvers himself to the apron, but Page enzuigiri’s him to the floor and suicide dives after him. Page comes back into the ring with Boom! Head Shot. Hero pops right back up and nails a bicycle kick. A sit-out powerbomb gets Hero a nearfall. Page catches Hero charging at him with a boot. He comes off the middle rope with a leaping enzuigiri for two. Hero takes some time in the corner to recover. It works, as he hits Page with a boot and the Cyclone Kill, but only for two! Hero comes off the top with a moonsault block, but is caught in mid-air with a cutter by Page for two. Page ducks an elbow. He goes for the Spinning Dwayne but Hero blocks. He lands two kicks and an elbow strike. Instead of a senton, he pulls off his elbow sleeve and cracks Page with a rolling elbow for the pin at 14:24. Page got almost the exact opposite treatment End did. While End was positioned as an equal of Busick, it seemed as if any offense Page got in was due to luck or generosity from Hero. The quiet crowd didn’t seem to know who Page was and dismissed the match before it even began. Despite the match’s shortcomings, Page got in his key offense and showed a little personality, which is exactly what should be exhibited in a debut. I also would have knocked off a few minutes as the crowd seemed restless by minute 8 or 9. **¾
As he stated at “EVOLVE 38”, Hero says Biff Busick doesn’t deserve to say his name. He says he’s not afraid of Busick’s “choke”, or anything else for that matter. He hypothetically asks how Busick can choke someone out if he is knocked out. Busick makes his way into the ring and Hero gives him the microphone. Busick re-iterates that Hero is afraid of him and his choke and promises to choke Hero out tomorrow. Busick says he’s not afraid of Hero’s elbow and gives him a free shot, presenting his chin to Hero with his arms behind his back. Hero says if he took the shot, he would concuss Busick, and asks if he’s willing to take that risk. Busick says he is. Hero backs down, saying if he concussed Busick, he wouldn’t have any fun kicking his ass tomorrow. Busick tries grabbing Hero but Hero headbutts him in the stomach. Hero goes for the elbow but Busick ducks and goes for the rear naked choke! Hero escapes and hops the railing to leave the building. Busick says that tomorrow Hero is a dead man.
Ricochet, Rich Swann & Uhaa Nation vs. The Premier Athlete Brand (Caleb Konley, TJ Perkins & Brian Cage)
So Cal Val and Andrea are in the PAB corner. This is Perkins’ first EVOLVE match since EVOLVE 3. Konley kicks Swann to stop his dancing. A Lucha exchange ends with Swann taking down Konley with an alita armdrag and dropkicking him to the PAB corner. Nation and Cage get in a shoulder block battle. Nation dropkicks Cage after a leapfrog and drop down. Cage quesadora’s into an armdrag and strings a dropkick and DDT together. They evade one another’s offense until Cage drop toe holds Nation on the middle rope and hits him with a 619. Perkins throws some quick kicks to Ricochet. Ricochet backflips into a headscissors takedown on Perkins. Perkins kicks Ricochet from the apron and snaps off his own headscissors. He baits Ricochet to the floor, but Ricochet comes back in and catches Perkins with an Ace Crusher. Nation and Ricochet knock him down with stereo shoulder blocks. Ricochet and Swann string a series of kicks together onto him before doing some dancing. Swann gets attacked by Perkins. He fights off Konley but ends up in a gorilla press from Cage. Nation holds up Perkins. Ricochet and Konley run in, so Cage and Nation free Swann and Perkins and give Ricochet and Konley delayed vertical suplexes. Cage and Nation slug it out. Konley grabs Nation’s boot from the floor, but Nation sends Cage out onto him. Swann looks to dive but Perkins pops him up into his boots. Perkins dropkicks Ricochet and Cage and Konley take out Nation, leaving Swann isolated in the PAB corner while his partners recuperate. Swann eventually escapes when he ducks a clothesline from Cage after throwing multiple kicks and tags in Ricochet. Ricochet comes in with a springboard clothesline to Cage. He gives Konley a neckbreaker, causing Konley to incidentally DDT Perkins. Cage doesn’t move from Ricochet’s springboard shoulder tackle. Nation blind tags in when Cage flips Ricochet to the corner. Nation splashes Cage in the corner and takes him down with a diving clothesline. Nation German suplexes Cage. Cage ducks an enzuigiri and wheelbarrow suplexes Nation. After a belly-to-belly suplex from Nation, Cage and Nation hit stereo bicycle kicks. Konley shotgun dropkicks Nation to the corner. He tries a crossbody but Nation catches him with a Samoan Drop for two. Konley gives Nation a back cracker. Swann tags in and drops Konley with a neckbreaker. He kicks Konley in the back of the head before landing Rolling Thunder for two. Konley catches Swann with a Gory Special, then puts him in the O-Face. Ricochet superkicks Konley to free Swann. Cage and Perkins get sent out with Konley. Swann and Nation hit stereo backflips off the apron onto Cage and Perkins while Ricochet Sasuke Special’s onto Konley. In the ring Swann drops Konley and Perkins with a stereo Ace Crusher. Nation tosses Perkins into an Ace Crusher from Ricochet. Nation assists Swann with a DDT. Cage breaks the cover on Perkins. A series of moves leaves everyone laying. Ricochet enzuigiri’s Cage, sending him outside. He follows with a Fosbury Flop. Perkins accidentally enzuigiri’s Konley. Swann tornado kicks Perkins. Nation press slams Konley into a 450 splash from Swann. Nation hits the Uhaa CombiNation for the pin at 20:20. This was a fun showcase match for either side. You’d expect the DG triumvirate to do well, but Cage impressed, Konley worked hard, and Perkins looked awesome in his re-debut. Again, maybe it went a tad long, but I enjoyed this quite a bit. ***¼
The PAB (including Andrea) attack their opponents after the match. Konley hits Swann with his Open the United Gate championship belt. Val blames the loss on Perkins since he hit an enzuigiri on Konley moments before the fall. Perkins puts his hand in her face and walks off, leaving the PAB after just one night.
Open The Freedom Gate Championship
Johnny Gargano vs. AR Fox
Gargano has been champion since 11.16.2014 and this is his third defense. Ethan Page is in his corner, and Page faces Fox tomorrow night. This is a rematch from “EVOLVE 13.” Gargano trips Fox after a wristlock exchange. They trade positioning on the mat, getting back to their feet in a stalemate. They trade armdrags. Gargano goes for the Garga-No Escape when Fox misses a dropkick, but Fox moves away. After shoving one another in the face, Fox bicycle kicks Gargano. Gargano blocks a second bicycle kick, but takes a dropkick. Fox hops off the ropes into a quesadora bulldog. Gargano pulls Fox to the floor to avoid Lo Mein Rain. He chops Fox around ringside. He tries throwing Fox back in the ring, but Fox uses the apron for a tiger feint kick. He then successfully lands Lo Mein Rain onto Gargano and Page. Gargano avoids an attack off the guardrails. He superkicks Fox and uses the entrance stairway for a tornado DDT. In the ring, Gargano snapmares Fox into a dropkick to the head for two. Gargano drives his knees into Fox’s chest, then pulls Fox down into a lungblower for two. After throwing some forearms he puts Fox in an arm capture cloverleaf. He pulls on Fox’s fingers before rolling him into a crucifix pin for two. Fox cuts back and gets his own two cut. Gargano rolls Fox into an air kick. Fox gets himself to the apron and comes in with a springboard dropkick. Fox and Gargano each get in a kick. Fox uses the ropes to give Gargano a neckbreaker for two. Fox puts Gargano on the apron and enzuigiri’s him to the floor. Fox misses a kickflip moonsault. Gargano superkicks Fox from the apron and lands a rolling senton to the floor. He puts Fox back in the ring, then hits a slingshot DDT for two. Fox escapes some offense and hits a springback Ace Crusher. A Swanton Bomb gets him a nearfall. He goes for a 450 splash. Gargano avoids it but Fox lands on his feet. Gargano rolls Fox, but this time Fox ducks the enzuigiri. Gargano trips Fox and double stomps his neck. He stops Fox in mid-air with a sit-out powerbomb for two. They trade forearms on their knees, continuing to do so as they get to their feet. They knock each other down, Fox knocking down Gargano with an enzuigiri and Gargano knocking down Fox with a rolling clothesline. Fox drives all his body weight onto Gargano’s neck and back against the middle rope. He misses a top rope leg drop on the apron. Gargano suicide dives onto Fox and sends him through the guardrails! Gargano is hurt from the dive. So much so that Fox recovers before him, is able to kick Gargano to block his slingshot spear, and deliver a jumping Canadian Destroyer. Somehow, Gargano kicks out. Fox goes for Lo Mein Pain. Gargano blocks and gives Fox a running Buckle Bomb. A lawn dart gets him two. He tries bringing Fox to the top. Fox gets the better of the situation and brings Gargano down with Lo Mein Pain. The 450 splash connects and again Gargano kicks out. Fox and Gargano trade boots for superkicks. Gargano gets Fox hung up on the top rope and takes him to the mat with a super Hurts Donut. Fox kicks out, so Gargano locks on the Garga-No Escape. Fox taps out at 26:47. There was nothing technically wrong with the match (though some more selling would have been nice), but the silent crowd made for a lifeless, awkward experience. It also felt like all the action was “forced”, as if it felt like a rehearsed exchange of moves more so than a sporting contest or something worth sinking your teeth into. The dive through the barricade breathed life into the crowd for the closing stretch which was quite good, and they paid off some stuff they teased earlier on in the bout, so they get points for that. It’s just a shame, because we’ve seen them in this company have a really great main event title match and this wasn’t it. **¾
Lacey interviews Johnny Gargano. She says the last time she saw Gargano it was in China when he reclaimed the Open The Freedom Gate Championship. The next defense he will have is at the WWN Supershow on Saturday against Drew Galloway. Since Drew Galloway is wrestling the next match, Gargano says he’s going to watch from the back. He wishes Galloway luck, and hopes he retains the EVOLVE Championship, because after he defeats Galloway on Saturday, he will be the one to lead EVOLVE into the future.
Drew Galloway vs. PJ Black
Drew Galloway has been champion since 8.8.2014 and this is his fourteenth defense. After a handshake, both men try a sneak attack boot. They catch one another’s feet. Galloway throws some forearms. He places Black on the top rope to end an aggressive lock-up. Black comes down with an armdrag, leading to some pinning combinations. Galloway controls Black by the wrist until Black uses the ropes to send Galloway outside. Galloway comes back in. Black wants a crucifix bomb but settles for a sunset flip. Galloway kicks out and delivers a big boot. He gets in some chops in the corner. Black responds with some of his own. Black punts Galloway in the chest. Angry, Galloway turns him inside out with a clothesline. He traps Black in the ropes and gives him the Ten Beats of the Bodhrán. Black fights back and locks on a Guillotine Choke. Galloway places Black on the top rope to break, then chops him to the floor. Galloway follows, but Black sends him into the audience. Black jumps off the guardrail into a seated senton on Galloway onto a chair. They fight ringside, where Galloway launches Black face first into a ring post. In the ring, Galloway chokes him in the corner before vertical suplexing him for two. Black escapes a chinlock. He tries going up and over in the corner but gets kicked in mid-air. Galloway stomps on his foot and pulls him into a clothesline for two. Black boots him from the corner and headscissors him to the floor. Black follows with two elbow suicidas. Black comes back into the ring with a springboard elbow. Galloway falls to the floor, so Black hits him with another elbow suicida, then a tope con hilo. Black ascends the ropes. Galloway splits his legs, causing Black to crash onto the top post. However, when Galloway tries to bring Black down, Black is able to catch Galloway in a tree of woe and give him a double stomp. Black goes up top. Galloway sits up in the tree of woe and German suplexes Black to the mat. After trading shots, Galloway hooks Black in a reverse Alabama Slam for two. He deposits Black gut first onto one of the top turnbuckles and kicks him in the stomach. Galloway charges, but Black knocks him down with a trifecta of superkicks. He drops Galloway with two tornado DDT’s for two. Black uses the ropes to connect with a back heel kick. Galloway gets his feet up to block a quebrada. He gives Black a piledriver for two. He muscles up Black onto his shoulders and carries him up to the second rope. Galloway drops him down with an Air Raid Crash for two. Galloway hits the Future Shock DDT for the pin at 18:16. They worked very hard to make this a big match and it just didn’t connect. Like the previous bout, nobody thought Black had a chance, as the Gargano vs. Galloway match just had so much steam behind it. You could tell that they really tried to make this all about “two former WWE guys letting loose”, but that resulted in no cohesion to what they did. Stuff was done for a reaction and not building a story. I hope this sold some tickets, because it was a disappointing match on tape. **½
Lacey comes in the ring to interview Drew Galloway, confirming a Title vs. Title match against Johnny Gargano at Mercury Rising. Before he accepts the interview, he thanks Black for the match and thanks the fans for their support of two guys who used to be in WWE during WrestleMania weekend. He knows Gargano has been the man for awhile, but Galloway says he’s killed it in the ring since he’s left WWE. He’s ready to fight and says he loves professional wrestling. His train is going to keep rolling and he is going to take home both titles home at the end of the weekend. Gargano makes his way out. He says he hasn’t been on and off TV and back on the Indies for eight months, he’s been killing himself for six years to prove the EVOLVE ring is his ring. After more arguing, Ethan Page and Rich Swann come out to break up a fight between the two of them. Gargano is led backstage by the both of them as Galloway celebrates his win.