Evolve 53 Recap & Review: Johnny's Here!

Rob Naylor, Lenny Leonard, and ring announcer Joanna Rose in the ring live to kick off the show by running down the night's events.

Timothy Thatcher introduced to deliver some breaking news. He's disappointed that he can't wrestle, but then again, he's not really a tag team wrestler anyway. But he's got some stuff to turn his attention to— he needs to wrestle Davey Richards, he owes Chris Hero for knocking him out the last time they shared a ring, and Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, TJ Perkins, and Matt Riddle... he's gonna hunt them down and take them out one-by-one.

Caleb Konley interrupts with the rest of the Premier Athlete Brand, sour that Thatcher rattled all these names off but didn't mention Konley. He's been around the top of the rankings all year, and he still hasn't gotten his title match. Plus, he beat Thatcher in China, so he thinks it's his to win.

Anthony Nese takes the mic and puts over the idea that the PAB are gonna win the tag titles when a fan yells that Peter Kaasa is a better athlete than Nese, which really cheeses him off. So Cal Val says her piece and hands the mic back to Thatcher, who says that nobody wants to hear him or them talk, so let's bring out the Bravados and get on with the show!

Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado) vs. Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley) (Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round Match)

Bravado's getting a real warm welcome from the crowd here in Ybor City. Premier Athlete Brand dominate the early proceedings with a Lionsault knee drop to Lancelot Bravado's face from Anthony Nese and a snug bodyslam into the turnbuckles from Caleb Konley. The Bravados turned the tide with a couple of sweet tag team maneuvers, a suicide dive Doomsday Device and a wheelbarrow facebuster springboard cutter combo and despite the Premier Athlete Brand's best efforts, the Bravados pick up the win with a Gory Special flipped into a reverse STO.

Very fun opener, set a good pace for the show.

Jason Cade vs. Joe Coleman

This is a showcase match for two prospective new members of the Evolve roster.

Jason Cade I'm quite familiar with from his appearances for the other WWN promotions, but this is my first time seeing Joe Coleman, who's working a gym rat gimmick, bringing a jar of protein powder with him to the ring and using Cade as gym equipment, including a wonderfully diabolic set of push-ups with Cade's neck between his feet and the ropes.

Jason Cade, as usual, was a ball of high flying energy and just a joy to watch. Hope he's gonna be an Evolve regular going forward. Jason Cade picks up the win with a frog splash.

Matt Riddle vs. Peter Kaasa (Style Battle Round Robin Tournament Match)

A short match, but action-packed and running full speed every second.

Brought down a little by a missed corkscrew shooting star press from Kaasa that I'm not 100% sure was intentional, but a good time regardless. Awesome sequence here where Peter Kaasa went for a missile dropkick, Riddle caught it into a double leg takedown, Kaasa reversed looking for the triangle, and Riddle powered out with the one-arm counter powerbomb.

Matt Riddle wins when he reverses a Peter Kaasa powerbomb into a heel hook.

Ethan Page vs. "Darewolf" PJ Black

Page, showing commitment to his road to redemption, tries to insist starting with a handshake, but Black wants a high five... and immediately turned it into a test of strength! Good start to a fun match, as is usually the case when Page wrestles a smaller, flippier guy.

Highlights included Page catching the Darewolf into a fireman's carry and transitioning it into that beautiful fallaway slam and Black busting out what I can only describe as a Blue Thunder Chaos Driver— ie, Chaos Theory, but ending in a Blue Thunder Driver! Darewolf, brother, I loved you already, you don't gotta go busting out crazy shit like that just for me.

Ethan Page picks up the win with Spinning Dwayne despite PJ Black's leg being under the ropes. But he's not happy about it, and he wants to be buddies with Johnny Gargano, so he's demanding the match be restarted!

Ethan Page vs. "Darewolf" PJ Black (Reprise)

PJ Black wins with an arm-trap cradle, about five seconds after the match restarted.

Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta) vs. Team Tremendous (Bill Carr & Dan Barry) (Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round Match)

Real fun back and forth from a pair of teams with a lot of character.

Bill Carr and Rocky Romero at one point provided an interpretive re-enactment of Terry Funk's first retirement by way of Rocky's "Forever!" clotheslines being cut off by a HUGE lariat from Carr. Other highlights include a real tight spot where Baretta cut off a Dan Barry Lionsault with a superkick and a moonsault fallaway slam off the top from Barry.

Roppongi Vice steal a win with Strong Zero on Dan Barry after a low blow.

After a twenty minute intermission, we're back with...

Fred Yehi vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams (Style Battle Round Robin Tournament Match)

Hold and counterhold, strike exchanges, suplexes, this match was basically a perfect encapsulation of what Evolve stands for in 2016. Some of the most violent chops this side of Roderick Strong, too!

Yehi brought his best, including a wicked punch to the foot, rolling elbow, folding powerbomb, rolling elbow sequence, but Hot Sauce was the better man tonight. Tracy Williams picks up the win with a choke after first softening Yehi up with his snap Bloody Sunday into the top turnbuckle, a high angle DDT, and a piledriver.

Drew Galloway out, because Johnny Gargano still hasn't made it back to the building from the NXT show! He calls Johnny in the ring and leaves a voicemail asking him to haul ass. Trevin Adams comes out and confirms that Callihan/Sabre vs. Hero/End will be up next to give Johnny a chance to make it.

Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre, Jr. (Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round Match)

What a match. The early parts of the match were mostly a story of Zack Sabre, Jr trying to manufacture an advantage for his side with his technical wizardry only to get caught by strikes from Hero and End every time. But then all hell broke loose and the back half was epic, both teams trading bombs and breaking out all the stops to try and win. A woefully incomplete list of highlights follows—

  • With Tommy End locked in his trademark Ode to Jim Breaks armbar, Hero kicks Sabre in the face repeatedly, trying to get him to break the hold, but he refuses to let go, at which point Callihan enters and delays Hero with a choke, but End won't die! So eventually Hero breaks through and lays a senton across Sabre's chest while he's still got the hold in, and that finally does it.
  • Many sweet double team maneuvers, including a Crash Landing/knee strike combo from Hero and End and a dropkick assisted cradle tombstone piledriver from Sabre and Callihan
  • Our man in the front row, Erik Rowan's younger brother, getting a mid-match selfie with Chris Hero:
  • And, the pièce de résistance, a piledriver sequence that nearly killed me, watching at home. Hero hits a piledriver on Sabre, Sabre kicks out. Hero hits a jumping piledriver on Sabre, the sort of thing that looks like it takes a year off your life, Sabre kicks out. Hero takes Sabre to the nearest corner and gets him in position on the second rope for an avalanche piledriver, and I stop breathing. Thankfully, Sami Callihan came in and broke it up and I could breathe again.

Hero and End go over following an absolutely insane sequence where a Chris Hero Gotch-style piledriver got reversed into a Zack Sabre, Jr. bodyscissors Kimura, reversed into an attempt at Death Blow, reversed to a cross armbar, transitioned into a triangle choke, whereupon Chris Hero stood up and waited for Tommy End to bring the Owari Death Stomp crashing down on Sabre, followed by a series of knockout knees and elbows from both strikers leading to the actual pinfall.

Catch Point (Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins) vs. Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round Match)

Johnny's still not here! But Drew's a little bit mental and he'll fight these two idiots (his words, not mine!) himself. But Ethan Page is out to the ring with another option— he'll tag with Galloway tonight and gracefully step aside when they win so that Johnny can take his rightful spot. But Drew won't have any of it, because Ethan wasted the opportunity he was given, so he's gonna go it alone!

The handicap portion of the match proceeded like two ornery bobcats trying to take down a bear. Galloway's superior size and insane stamina kept him going but slowly but surely the two Catch Point boys kept wearing him down. Lot of cool double teams and impressive 1-on-2 feats of strength peppered throughout. And fortunately for Mr. Galloway, Mr. Gargano arrived at about the halfway point and set the house on proverbial fire.

Drew Galloway pins Drew Gulak following three Future Shock DDTs to move on to the semi-finals.

And we go out on Catch Point in the ring postmatch to help their mentor out of the ring and to the back.


Evolve's streak of quality shows rolls on!

All the tag tournament matches delivered big, especially Callihan/Sabre vs. Hero/End, no mean feat when you've got a last minute replacement due to illness. Ethan Page's road to redemption continues to be an intriguing story, and while one of the Style Battle matches (Kaasa/Riddle) was disappointingly short, it was an entertaining effort all the same, and the other one (Yehi/Williams) was a real statement of intent.

Great show, cannot wait for the next one...tomorrow night!

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