Lenny Leonard, Rob Naylor, and Joanna Rose in the ring to thank the crowd for making this the most attended live event in Evolve history and kick us right off to the tag title match!
Champs out first and on the mic, Drew welcomes us and says this ain't WrestleMania week, it's wrestling week! When he was let go from WWE he didn't know what was gonna happen and he's only the top guy he is now because of us, the fans. Johnny gets on the mic, says he has a surprise for everybody-- they have a professional corner man for this match. It's Kota Ibushi!
Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley) (Evolve Tag Team Championship) (If Premier Athlete Brand Loses, They Can't Team Again)
PAB attempting to take charge from the jump, but Drew Galloway cuts 'em off on the outside and the field is pretty quickly leveled. Feed issues dominate the story of the match, as I'm lucky to get about five seconds uninterrupted stream before it freezes on me again. I'll take a moment to say, to WWN's credit, that this is the first time in about a year and a half of watching these shows that I've had a significant feed issue like this. And also to their credit, they're making up for it in their usual excellent manner: Everybody that bought the show at the live-only level will automatically be credited the VOD, and folks (like yours truly) who bought at live and VOD will get a free DGUSA, Evolve, or FIP VOD of their choice out of the archive by emailing their selection to email@example.com.
Anyway, thanks to man on the scene The so-called Beautiful, I can tell you that Drew and Johnny retained the Evolve Tag Team Championship through some ref controversy including a full-blown redo of the finish. As a result, the Premier Athlete Brand are no longer allowed to team.
Matt Riddle interrupts Joanna Rose announcing the next match and gets on the mic to call "Trashy Tim" Thatcher out-- the title match is happening right now!
Matt Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher (c) (Evolve World Championship)
Intense grappling out the gate, right back into that UWFi shoot-style action, hold and counterhold, every action an attempt to lead to a direct and sudden end to the match. Riddle finds himself on the back foot a bit here, with Thatcher looking for the definitive win that eluded him last time out. Thatcher returns to Riddle's unshod foot again and again, wrenching it back something unholy. Riddle tries to give Thatcher a taste of his own medicine in return and Thatcher shifts gears, taking Riddle to the ground and laying elbow upon elbow on him. After a sick Dragon Sleeper from the champ that turns into an inverted brainbuster against the ropes, Riddle's able to mount a bit of a comeback off a high knee strike, and tries for a Karelin Lift but the champ reverses it into a series of his own. An absolutely incredible armbar trading sequence takes us to the finish.
Timothy Thatcher retains the Evolve World Championship when referee Brandon Tolle rules the match a no contest after Riddle refuses to break a cross armbar on his count, instead attempting to break Thatcher's arm.
Another slightly disappointing finish, but man, these two do such incredible work together. Here's hoping the third time's the charm!
Fred Yehi vs. Marty Scurll
Marty Scurll looking for control of Yehi's arm early but Yehi's more agile than he expected. Match as whole is a lovely fast-paced showcase for both men, Yehi getting to throw his suplexes and show his patented intensity and Scurll working the fingers (including a frankly terrifying spot where he wrenched one of Yehi's fingers to hell and back with both feet) and generally being dastardly.
Marty Scurll wins by submission with his patented crossface chickenwing.
Ethan Page vs. Sami Callihan
Callihan comes screaming out the gate with a bicycle kick but Page turns things right around with a lariat and a slam onto the apron. Back and forth as they brawl on the outside and back in, just two dudes beating the holy hell out of each other, peaking at one point with a double bicycle kick that leaves both men down. Callihan with a wicked Liger Bomb into his patented stretch muffler, and Page returns a hot sequence including a springboard cutter and his trademark Spinning Dwayne.
Sami Callihan picks up the win with the sliding forearm strike he calls Cinder Block.
Ricochet vs. TJ Perkins
Some light grappling to start as somebody in the crowd calls out that Ricochet is "like a puma", which is just nonsense. They turn up the acrobatic heat and Ricochet, being the master, takes the lead. Eventually Perkins goes back to his home on the mat and begins working Ricochet's legs over something fierce, rolling leglocks and Indian Deathlocks a-plenty.
TJ Perkins wins following a Face Eraser combo'd into his TJ Clutch ankle lock.
Ring of Honor's Stokely Hathaway (2016!) comes out with some kind of contract for TJ Perkins to sign. TJ signs and Stokely announces that he's the first exclusive signee to his Dream Team and he's now TJP for marketing reasons. Stokely then calls out HHH (2016!), saying if he wants the best cruiserweights, he need look no further than TJP.
Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (Best in the World Championship Series - The Flyer)
Sabre working Ospreay's arm over early and Ospreay, perhaps foolishly, trying to give back in kind. Sabre plays the wily veteran, almost leading the younger man along and toying with him at times, including an extended cravate sequence that can only be seen as a message sent directly to Chris Hero. Just putting Ospreay through the grinder with ridiculous submissions, torture half crabs, an octopus with a foot on the back of his neck, a deathlock butterfly hold, all to the tune of Will Ospreay's howls of anguish. Ospreay bravely mounts a comeback, but ZSJ counters a running shooting star press into a triangle choke in one of the most holy shit intense counters I've ever seen. As if that weren't enough, Ospreay countered with a deadlift buckle bomb!
Zack Sabre Jr. wins by submission with the same wacky submission he beat Drew Gulak with last month following a Liger Bomb.
What a match. Zack Sabre, Jr. is definitely building up that Best in the World resume.
Heroes Eventually Die make their entrance before Zack has a chance to head to the back himself. Hero has a mic, congratulates Zack for being 3-0 in his Best in the World series, says that's cool, but he still ain't beat the Greatest of All Time. Sabre gets in his face, tells him that changes tomorrow and heads to the back. Tommy gets on the mic, says he's the best striker in Europe and that he's gonna knock TJP and Kota Ibushi out tomorrow.
Catch Point (Drew Gulak & "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams) vs. Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End)
Both teams taking a measured, almost respectful pace early on. Eventually we coalesce into a long period of Hot Sauce getting worked over by Hero and End in turn. Nothing groundbreaking, but good work, culminating in Hero taunting the younger man that he can't hurt him and getting dropped on his head for his trouble. Gulak clears house and suddenly the shoe is on the other foot as the Catch Point men work Tommy End over. Hero comes back in and proceeds to take Catch Point 2 on 1, because he's Chris Hero. The effort takes a lot of out of him and the match goes into the last stretch even. Hot Sauce nearly ends it with a rear naked choke on End, but Hero breaks it up by suplexing Gulak onto the pair. For a while everything seems to happen in stereo. A double-team spike Gotch Piledriver takes care of Williams and the strikers double team Gulak, but the Catch Point maestro has other ideas.
Catch Point win when Drew Gulak makes Tommy End tap to a Dragon Sleeper.
TJP lingers in the ring with Catch Point to taunt Tommy End and Stokely Hathaway comes out to tell him to save it for tomorrow. Lenny Leonard runs down the rest of the weekend's events while Catch Point celebrates in the ring, thanks us for joining and sends us out.
Despite early technical difficulties, this was a real good show to kick the biggest pro wrestling weekend of the year off with. A couple of fine showcase matches in Perkins/Ricochet and Scurll/Yehi, one technical classic with a story-building finish in Riddle/Thatcher II, and a straight-up classic encounter in Ospreay/Sabre. If you didn't catch it live, catch it on VOD when it goes up, and join me back here tomorrow afternoon for Evolve 59!