Lenny Leonard and Joanna Rose in the ring to welcome us to the show! Lenny runs down the double main event and introduces Lio Rush to kick us off. Lio gets on the mic and asks the crowd what's up before thanking them for all being with him from the very beginning. He's been with them from the very beginning, and he can't wait for them to show Evolve what they've got, and for Evolve to show them what they've got, in return.
Caleb Konley vs. Lio Rush
Maryland is already full of hate for Caleb Konley and he hasn't even done anything! Konley dominates Rush early on, quickly chucking him to the outside and taking him to the proverbial woodshed. Rush tries to turn the tables with a big bulldog off the apron, but the veteran Konley stays one step ahead of him and cuts him off with a powerbomb onto the apron. Rush manages to find an opening with strikes eventually before taking to the air with a huge tope con giro and an elbow off the top in quick succession. A poison Frankensteiner an a stiff knee to the head gets Rush two and a half but Konley's resilient. A second poison Frankensteiner is countered into an electric chair facebuster and followed by a Regalplex, but Rush won't die either! Lio stays in the game, managing to struggle out of Konley's trademark O-Face wristlock Boston Crab into a sunset flip only to get buckle bombed into the corner, which in turn he follows up with a running C4!
Lio Rush wins with a frog splash.
Fun opener, well-paced and pyrotechnic.
Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado) vs. Devastation Corporation (Blaster McMassive & Flex Rumblecrunch)
Bit of a tentative start, but Devastation Corporation take things to the outside pretty quickly and it's all-out war. Back in the ring and Blaster flattens Lancelot Bravado with a sidewalk slam before inviting Flex to ram into him off the top. The Bravados mount a comeback, even managing to hit their powerbomb/lungblower on Blaster before rolling it into a half crab. Blaster hits his huge over the ringpost tope con giro, but it's the Bravados' night in the end.
Bravado Brothers pick up the win with a Gentleman's Agreement on Blaster McMassive.
Good showcase for both teams, lot of fun.
Anthony Nese vs. Matt Riddle
Nese trying to wrestle Riddle's match early on, looking for hammerlocks and headlocks and whatnot. Riddle disabuses him of this notion by nearly getting a Kimura right off the bat, but Nese uses his strength to set him on the turnbuckle. After the break, they go a-strikin' and Nese has rather more success in that regard, getting the first cover of the match. Nese's dominant streak ends with a boot to the face on the outside, and a struggle sequence on the apron ends with Nese dazed on the outside again. Riddle fakes a dive but slides out and just slaps Nese in the face instead! Nese lands on his feet off a German Suplex and stomps Riddle's chest in! Riddle locks a Kimura in but Nese escapes to trade slaps before being caught again, then escaping again, but this time by deadlifting Riddle into a straight suplex! Nese goes high risk but jumps right into a Matt Riddle knee to the chest followed by another German and a Kimura. Nese looks for a way out again, but none is to be found.
Matt Riddle wins by submission after Anthony Nese taps to a cross armbar.
Matt Riddle is simply incapable of having a bad match right now. Crazy talented. Amazing structure, too, moving from grappling (where Riddle held the advantage), to striking (where Nese had the advantage) to throwing bombs (where both guys just went nuts).
Johnny Gargano vs. Marty Scurll
Scurll taunting early on, trying to gain a psychological advatage over Gargano. Johnny shows he's here to grapple, though, getting control over Scurll's hand in response. After some lovely intricate grappling they trade chops and go for their respective submission finishes early on. Chops intensify as nationalism enters the scene, Scurll claiming this is how they do in England and Gargano both welcoming Marty to America and dedicating one to "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan (HOOOOOOOOOOOO!), to which Scurll's best answer is a poke to the eyes. Fighting to the outside and the Villain starts to dominate with another poke to the eyes, but Gargano cuts him off. Scurll nonetheless ends up with the advantage when they get back in the ring and starts working Gargano's arm over something unholy. One-armed Johnny fights back but Scurll eventually manages to cut him off again, catching the foot on the roll-through enzuigiri and laying him low with a series of kicks and knees before looking for the chickenwing. Gargano knows that's the end, though, and makes a break for it. A short while later and both men are on their knees trading slaps before Scurll wishbones the crap out of Gargano's fingers with an echoing crack. Chickenwing attempted countered into Gargano Escape, Scurll rolls out and back to the chickenwing but Gargano gets out and gets the Escape back on only to see Scurll go for Cattle Mutilation! Scurll goes for the fakeout superkick but Gargano has him scouted and goes for his own, only to pick Scurll up for Lawn Dart!
Johnny Gargano picks up the win with Gargano Escape.
Wow, did not see that one coming. Maybe not the absolute best match these two could have with each other (a bit too much Superkick: The Match), but still a lot of fun.
Johnny gets the mic and says he's not gonna get cocky and say "Follow that," but he asks the crowd if it was awesome and if they're figuring out what Evolve is all about. Tells 'em they were fantastic and that he's pleased to announce that Evolve is coming back to Joppa on August 19th. It's an amazing time in this business, and that brings him to his next point. He calls Drew Galloway out and asks him to come to the ring. He's got something he wants to say-- at Dallas, in front of the largest crowd in Evolve's history and said that the WWE/NXT working relationship with Evolve is a bad thing. He said it was compromising independent wrestling. He asks Drew to do him a favor and look around, see if independent wrestling is compromised, hear if this crowd sounds compromised. No, right now is the best time in professional wrestling ever. Six years ago, Drew was wrestling in front tens of thousands at WrestleMania while Johnny was wrestling at the Rahway Rec Center in front of fifty, so who is Drew to tell him anything about indie wresting. It's about time the world was able to see how great Evolve is, and the relationship with WWE lets him, all the guys in the Cruiserweight Classic and all the guys in the locker room get the exposure they deserve. He knows what this is about, he knows Drew's real motivation. When he was in WWE, he was the Chosen One, he had all the tools to be a star, and he blew it, and just because he blew it doesn't mean he needs to blow it for everybody.
Drew asks for the mic and Johnny tosses it at his feet, to which Galloway just punches him in the face and jumps him. Here comes Ethan Page for the save! Page puts the fists to him but Galloway ducks out before the bell rings, we're underway!
Drew Galloway vs. Ethan Page
Full Galloway Brawl on the outside to start! Back in the ring and they just keep clobbering each other. A Galloway baseball slide sends Page back to the outside and the ref is counting like he thinks Galloway cares. But Galloway gets him back in the ring anyway and lays the hurt in, stomping Page's head in repeatedly. Page manages to get back to equal ground after catching Galloway off a dive with an enzuigiri, but it's no relief as they just keep hammering. Page manages to pepper power moves in, though, a spinebuster here, that beautiful fallaway slam of his there, before Galloway introduces his own Air Raid Crash. The through-the-ropes springboard cutter comes with a cry of "He's my friend, Drew!"
Drew Galloway wins the match with a Future Shock DDT following a low blow.
Really, really fun brawl, hope this develops into a series. I need Galloway and Page fighting on the bar in the Orpheum next month, or better yet, out in the street.
Drew hits a second Future Shock for good measure before demanding a microphone. He says he blew it for himself, and tells Johnny that he's doing just fine, in fact, he's doing better than everybody else in the work. He doesn't need a machine behind him, Drew Galloway made Drew Galloway, and he remembers a time when everybody back there used to shout about how much they loved independent wrestling. He was champion, he felt Evolve was the greatest company and he spread the word, but when WWE came and said jump? All the boys in the back and all management said "How bloody high?" and it's pathetic. Nothing against WWE, WWE made him, every good thing about him came from 9 years there, no, the problem is the lack of self belief, the lack of balls, and that everyone in the back is a hypocrite, that's what drives him crazy. And then they want to give WWE credit for the success of Evolve? No, he made Evolve, and he's not gonna let anybody take credit for his success. Tomorrow night, nobody's gonna be talking about the cruiserweight thing, they're gonna be talking about him. If you weren't here before, you're not welcome. And what's about to happen is on Gargano's hands, he says as he grabs Ethan Page for another Future Shock before Johnny runs down with a chair.
Johnny chases Galloway to the back and Page struggles to his feet and to the back with the assistance of the chair Gargano left, to an ovation from the crowd.
Catch Point (Drew Gulak & "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams) (c) vs. Catch Point (Fred Yehi &
TJ Perkins TJP) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)
Handshakes to begin but Stokely wants the mic. He's pre-emptively congratulating TJP and Yehi on being the new Evolve Tag Team Champions, and no matter what Drew Gulak says, TJP is the star of Catch Point and a major league player. HHH guaranteed TJP a spot in the Cruiserweight Classic because he's a wresting god. Gulak gets on the mic to let Stokely know that it's not time for business, but about competition, and he needs to get out of the ring.
Perkins and Yehi working well together to start, Perkins popping Gulak up for Yehi to hit his fist drop to the foot. Yehi goes to town on Gulak's leg and Perkins continues the theme, busting out a Haas of Pain and knocking heads with Gulak on a Muta Lock. Even through a tag to Hot Sauce, Perkins and Yehi taking a surprising amount of advantage here, but sooner or later the tide turns and the OG Catch Point isolates Yehi. Yehi takes a beating but slowly starts eking out an advantage by working Williams' legs, finally making the tag to TJP. Yehi and Perkins isolate Gulak again, hitting a powerbomb/frog splash one-two for a nearfall, but Hot Sauce neutralizes Perkins. Yehi and Gulak execute some high-level grappling culminating in Gulak's bodyscissors Dragon Sleeper, very nice. A Detonation Kick and Perkins tries to get Yehi to get on the same wavelength for a double-team to no avail!
Catch Point retain the Evolve Tag Team Championship when Drew Gulak forces TJP to submit to the Gu-Lock.
Lot of good grappling in there, and a rather more evenly matched match that I'd expected going in, with Yehi and TJP only really malfunctioning right at the end there.
Gulak on the mic, tells Yehi and Perkins they had a good match, and holds the Evolve World Championship belt over his head. The belt is staying with Catch Point until Thatcher "mans up". Thatcher says Catch Point owe him a debt, but by Gulak's reckoning, it's Thatcher that owes Catch Point a debt, and when Evolve returns to Maryland, he'll be defending against a member of Catch Point. Matt Riddle comes out, as if in response. And when Tim comes back, he should face "the real champion", at which point Riddle walks off with the belt. Stokley stops him with a "Broooooo" and asks him if he'd like representation before following him to the back.
Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
Crowd evenly divided between "Let's go Hero!" and "Sabre, Jr!" chants here. Electric.
Gentlemanly grappling to start, culminating in a wonderfully ridiculous bit with Sabre on Hero's back Air Raid Crash style, Hero tweaking the foot, and Sabre tweaking Hero's hand. Hero's had about enough of that though, and unloads with a right hand before taking Zack to the corner for chops and kicks. Sabre fights back with uppercuts and rolls to the outside, but Hero's one step ahead and takes him pillar to post, blowing a snot rocket on a fan at one point. Back in the ring, Hero gives Sabre some of his own medicine with that wicked stomp to the elbow and a frankly terrifying shoulder armbreaker. Hero hits his running senton but Sabre has it scouted and grabs a cross armbar! The only way Hero can get out is to maneuver ZSJ under the ropes for a catapult! Another stomp to the elbow but Zack catches it and wrenches Hero's foot. Sabre in charge now, laying kicks and uppercuts into Hero before offering an elbow stomp of his own in receipt. Sabre continues working the arm unmerciful, wrenching and ripping, grabbing an octopus and tring to break Hero's finger.
Hero comes back with a running boot but it only gets Sabre fired up! A second and a third! Sabre holding his jaw but defiant as Hero runs the ropes again but fakes out into an elbow. Lenny Leonard claims to see birds circling Sabre's head now, but that must only be for the live crowd, it's not on my Roku feed. Hero follows but Sabre's ready for him and lays in a Penalty Kick off the apron. Zack thinks to try for a German Suplex but the big man ain't budging, so back to the arm it is! Kick after kick and it's Hero's turn to be defiant before hitting a desperate elbow for a nearfall. Cyclone Kill but Zack catches the foot and goes for a pinning predicament, but Hero pulls him out into a Dragon Sleeper. Hero lifts him up and Zack flips into position for the bodyscissors Kimura Lock. Back to the Dragon Sleeper, Hero locks his hands behind his back for added leverage and jams his knee into Sabre's back. Hero's Welcome! No! Hero begins pummeling Sabre's head in and jawing with the crowd. Sabre runs up and Hero catches him with a jumping piledriver! Goes for the Tombstone but Sabre catches him in a pin! Short piledriver! No! Only one left, has to be going for the Gotch Piledriver but Sabre flips up, rolls through a guillotine and looks for Ode to Jim Breaks! Sabre hits some suplexes and goes back to the arm but Hero turns it into a ripcord elbow!
Chris Hero picks up the win with an incredibly violent Tombstone Piledriver.
What a match. These two dudes deliver every time out and this is no different. I could quibble, I could maybe wish for a little more match-to-match escalation, but that was awesome.
Hero on the mic to ask every person in the building, watching the show, on the show, staff, everybody stand up. Stand up and give a round of much-deserved applause to Zack Sabre, Jr. Because what Zack just did, is he came (holds fingers up) this close. As much as he gets under Hero's skin with his "mates" and his "piss off" and the shit he does to Hero's joints, Zack Sabre, Jr. brings the best out of Chris Hero. You know what else brings the best out of them? All of you, the fans. Asks if they want another Evolve show in their town, and from him, and every person in the back, he thanks everybody. Who you lookin' at right now? "Chris Hero!" And what is he? Undisputed number one contender, says Hero.
Lenny Leonard runs down tomorrow's card to send us off and the show is over.
A very strong show, not quite a top tier, instant recommendation level, but Hero/Sabre III, Galloway/Page, and Nese/Riddle are all strong matches worthy of the purchase, and none of the matches underdelivered to any extreme degree. And, critically, after a month of excellent action where I found myself maybe biting my nails about what the future holds, a show that has me really excited for what's next. Next month's Florida shows are gonna be pretty hype, and with Thatcher/Riddle III seemingly penciled in for August 19th, the future is bright, and that's not even thinking about tomorrow's WWE connections.
Be sure to come back tomorrow at 6:30PM Eastern for Evolve 61, and again after the show for my recap of that one, folks, it's gonna be something special.