Evolve 53, 54, 55 Preview: Crowning Tag Team Champions

Lo! Another weekend of excellent Evolve grappling draws nigh! Who's booked? What's happening? Is anybody from NXT showing up this time?! Read on and find out what's going on when Evolve returns to iPPV for Evolve 53 in Ybor City and Evolve 54 and 55 in Orlando (with a special early 2PM Eastern start time for Evolve 55 to avoid conflicting with the Royal Rumble) this weekend, friends!

I'd be silly to bury what's the lede for most folks, so we'll start right off with the NXT question. And the answer... is yes! Evolve 54 will feature an autograph signing from NXT tag experts Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, as well as an in-ring appearance from William Regal. Now, the in-ring appearance is almost certainly going to be for the live crowd only, much like Sami Zayn's was at Evolve 49, so don't buy the show just to see Mr. Regal, but the one thing we know about 2016 wrestling is that anything can happen. Now, what should you buy the show just to see? Read on, friends!

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament

The main event of the weekend, as it were, is the tournament to crown the first ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. The new titles replace the now defunct Dragon Gate USA Open the United Gate Championship, retired at Evolve 43 by then-champions Johnny Gargano and Rich Swann in recognition of DGUSA's ongoing hiatus. Our champions will be crowned in an eight-team, single elimination tournament over the course of the weekend's shows. And now, we're gonna take a look at our teams.

Timothy Thatcher & Zack Sabre, Jr.

One of several "superteams" entered into the tournament, the sheer grappling acumen of these two men, the two best technical wrestlers on the planet today, is a force to be reckoned with.

Timothy Thatcher remains the current Evolve World Champion, and has not been beaten in singles competition in Evolve since last April, by Roderick Strong in their epic two out of three falls #1 contender's match at Evolve 41. But that's singles competition, and his only tag contest to date, teaming with TJ Perkins to take on Roppongi Vice at Evolve 49, was a losing effort.

Zack Sabre, Jr., meanwhile, while he's never had a tag match in Evolve, is more familiar to the art of tag team wrestling, having made his name on the British indies as one half of Leaders of the New School, alongside Marty Scurll, as well as being a two-time GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, both reigns partnering with Yoshinari Ogawa.

Chris Hero & Tommy End

As Thatcher & Sabre are to grappling, Chris Hero and Tommy End are to striking. Two of the most fearsome brawlers on the planet today, many men have found themselves knocked out on the wrong side of a Chris Hero elbow or a Tommy End kick.

Chris Hero, a former Evolve Champion, has found himself something of a gatekeeper in Evolve, finding himself nearly undefeated all through 2015 against the likes of Trevor Lee, "Speedball" Mike Bailey, and even Zack Sabre, Jr. Indeed, his only losses came at the hands of Timothy Thatcher, at Mercury Rising and in a title match at Evolve 46. As well, Hero's a natural tag team specialist, not just in his legendary Kings of Wrestling partnership with Claudio "Cesaro" Castagnoli, but also finding success in Pro Wrestling Noah recently teaming with Colt Cabana as Big in USA.

These shows will mark Tommy End's second appearance in Evolve after an excellent performance at last year's WrestleMania weekend shows. End is also no stranger to tag team success, partnering with Michael Dante in Progress Wrestling and elsewhere as the excellent and terrifying Sumerian Death Squad.

Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano

Our last "superteam", Galloway and Gargano is a pairing that could happen nowhere else— where else are you gonna see an active NXT Superstar team with someone on the TNA roster? Evolve is a magical place.

Drew Galloway, another former Evolve World Champion, and the man who put the "World" in the middle there by defending it anywhere and everywhere, is coming strong off of victory in feuds against Roderick Strong and the Premier Athlete Brand, but his last significant tag success came way back in 2010 when he and Cody Rhodes won the WWE Tag Team Championship.

He might have been defeated in his struggle to remain the face of Evolve, but Johnny Gargano is still a real player in Evolve. The longest reigning champion in DGUSA/Evolve history with his 873-day DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Championship reign, Gargano has also seen tag success as noted above, being one half of the last Open the United Gate Champions with Rich Swann, as well as his two reigns as Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas alongside Chuck Taylor.

Catch Point (Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins)

With "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams caught up in Style Battle, Catch Point are represented in the tag tournament by the pairing of Drew Gulak and "Technical Lightning" TJ Perkins. Nearly as imposing a monolith of technical wrestling prowess as the pairing of Sabre and Thatcher, Catch Point are surely a force to be reckoned with themselves. Their wrestling philosophy based around learning from losses and chasing the ephemeral Catch Point, even though both men had their fair share of losses in 2015, they're coming into the tournament clear-headed and ready to win. Indeed, between both tag tourneys and their man in Style Battle, I don't see a way Catch Point come out of Evolve 55 anything but winners.

Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley)

Evolve's premier (pardon the pun) tag team, with SoCal Val directing traffic the Premier Athlete Brand have to be obvious favorites to take home the gold. A whole that's greater than the sum of its parts, Nese and Konley are former Open the United Gate Champions themselves, having defeated then-champions the Bravado Brothers and the team of AR Fox and Rich Swann in a three-way elimination match at Evolve 35. Perhaps the team with the largest bullseye on their back going into the weekend, with Drew Galloway having already got himself suspended once for going too far in his crusade against the Brand and a simmering feud with Roppongi Vice waiting to boil over, they're going to have a harder row to hoe than at first it seems, but if anyone can lead them to victory, it's Val.

Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta)

Speaking of 2016 interpromotional shenanigans, former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Roppongi Vice! Featuring career tag specialist Rocky Romero, who's won major tag titles with no less than four partners, and Trent Baretta, who's not only a former Open the United Gate Champion as an occasional part of the Premier Athlete Brand (Freebird rule, daddy!), but also a PWG DDT4 tournament winner alongside Chuck Taylor, it would seem to be RPG Vice's tournament to lose.

But one can't help but notice Romero and Baretta's rather... lighthearted approach to pro wrestling as a potential downside when facing competition as stiff as Thatcher & Sabre or Hero & End. Indeed, they own a tag victory over Timothy Thatcher, but only because he and TJ Perkins weren't on the same page. But if RPG Vice come prepared and focused on winning, they may very well end the weekend as champions.

Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado)

The longest reigning Open the United Gate Champions, the Bravado Brothers make their return after over a year away from Evolve. A pair of cocky grandma's boys with the sweaters knitted with love to back it up, the Bravados are probably most well-known from their stint in Ring of Honor, but they've wrestled all around the world, including two stints in Pro Wrestling Noah. Surely hungry to redeem themselves for their last appearance, a trios loss alongside Moose to Ronin (Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann, & Chuck Taylor) with the stipulation that the losing trio must never team again, the Bravados are looking to make an impact by any means necessary.

Team Tremendous (Bill Carr & Dan Barry)

Perhaps the least known factor in the tournament, Team Tremendous are (god, I can't help myself) nonetheless a tremendous tag team, and anyone who writes them off is making a huge mistake. With the frankly genius gimmick of bringing a buddy cop movie to a pro wrestling ring, Team Tremendous is two hugely athletic big men (seriously, their finisher, Book 'Em Danno, is a Doomsday Device shiranui!) who will stop at nothing until they get their son back er, win the tag titles.

Second Chance Tag Team Tournament

What's this? Two tag tournaments in one weekend? Why yes, yes it is. The losers of Friday's round one tag tournament matches will face off against each other in two matches on Saturday, before the winners of those matches go on to face the semi-final tag tournament losers in a four-way elimination match on Sunday. The winner is guaranteed a "second chance" at the Evolve Tag Team Championship, suitably enough, with a guaranteed title shot in their future.

Style Battle

Style Battle makes its triumphant return to Evolve this weekend as well. What's Style Battle? It's a tournament where each wrestler represents a different style of pro wrestling. Starting off as a single elimination tournament in 2011, it's since evolved into a four-man round robin.

This year's competitors are a diverse and talented bunch, to be sure. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams, the man with the most Evolve experience of the four, brings a traditional mat wrestling style with a modern edge to the table. Representing Catch Point, he's a clear favorite. Former UFC standout Matt Riddle naturally brings a heavily MMA-influenced hybrid grappling style, and, notably, is undefeated in Evolve at this point, including a win over Williams at Evolve 52. Peter Kaasa, a man who looks like "Dr. Death" Steve Williams but flies like Jushin Liger, has taken Evolve by storm and win or lose, probably stands to gain the most fans of any of the four men competing in Style Battle. And last but not least, Fred Yehi, arguably the most "traditional" pro wrestler of the bunch, with his arsenal of suplexes, looks to make a real impression in what will be only his second Evolve weekend.

Ethan Page Trial Series

Ethan Page was a very bad man. A dickhead who took all the wrong lessons from Johnny Gargano's career, in fact. But he wants to prove that he's changed, and his road to redemption rolls on. Asking for a change to show that he's changed through deeds and not words, he wants to go through a trial by fire of sorts.

At Evolve 53 on Friday, he'll wrestle the Darewolf himself, formerly known as Justin Gabriel, PJ Black, before facing his toughest test yet in a returning Sami Callihan. And once he's made it past the Callihan Death Machine, he'll contend with a member of one of the teams that's been knocked out of both tag tournaments on Sunday. A tough weekend for All Ego, but if he's really a changed man, one that will go a long ways to prove it.

But Wait, There's More!

The former Solomon Crowe won't be done there, however, as he'll wrestle another member of an eliminated team on Sunday himself. "Kain, buddy, that's two members of eliminated teams wrestling on Sunday. Are the other two guys just gonna sit on their hands?" No sir, they will not, because the remaining two men will be wrestling... each other!

Like what you hear and want to buy the shows? Let me sweeten the pot a little further. If you go to and order all three shows at the live and VOD level before the end of Monday and send your Paypal receipts to, you can choose two past DGUSA/Evolve events out of the VOD archive. I, for one, got Evolve 1 (finally watching that Perkins/Sawa match, Lenny!) and DGUSA Untouchable 2010, but if you're just starting, I highly recommend Evolve 51 and then one of Evolve 45, 47, or 52 to get some of the best shows of 2015. But in any case, remember to order before the day of the show to save $5, and then feel free to come hang out in the Daily while you watch.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.