Lenny Leonard and Joanna Rose in the ring to kick us off! Lenny mentions the Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers and we're right into the action!
Lio Rush vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle firmly in control early on thanks to his grappling ability. Rush tries to go toe-to-toe with the former shootfighter on the mat, but just ends up plastered by way of a German Suplex. Indeed, Riddle keeps slinging Rush around the ring with a trio of rolling gutwrenches, but Rush finds an opening and locks a guillotine choke on. Not to last, unfortunately, as Riddle fights out and drops the young man with a fisherman buster. One of the craziest damned striking sequences I've ever seen, with Rush ducking and diving only to get caught out with a hard slap across the jaw.
Matt Riddle wins by submission after countering a frog splash into a cross armbar.
Hell of an opener. I keep saying it, but even just over a year into his career, Matt Riddle can basically do no wrong between those ropes. And Rush ain't shabby himself, either.
Riddle gets on the mic to say "Bro." He then continues, calling "Trashy Tim" out and saying that if he wants his belt back, he should come get it before tossing the title belt over his shoulder. Stokely Hathaway comes out and claims the title for his own and heads to the back.
Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado) vs. Chris Dickinson & Ethan Page
Harlem and Dickinson to start, and a quick tag has the "superteam" in control momentarily, but the Bravados know a lot about dissecting one half of a tag team and work Page over. Page manages to make an opening by way of a step-up cutter off of a Bravado's back and gets the tag, and Dickinson continues turning the tide with a Poison Frankensteiner and a fireman's carry Michinoku Driver. Once again, though, the story is that the Bravados are wily tag veterans, and despite perhaps being outmatched by either man on the opposing team, they know tag team wrestling inside and out, and cut them off again with a cutter/lungblower combo. Back and forth the tides turn, Dickinson dropping one Bravado onto another with an Avalanche Frankensteiner, after which the match degrades into a slugfest.
Bravado Brothers pick up the win with a Gory Special rolled into a reverse STO on Chris Dickinson.
Harlem on the microphone, answering the crowd's boos by telling them not to boo Page and Dickinson, they did a great job! It doesn't take a detective and his drunk little friend to tell that the Bravados have been robbed, and those guys are Team Tremendous. And it's a travesty that they got the first Evolve Tag Team Championship title shot and not the longest reigning Open the United Gate Tag Team Champions, the Bravados.
Here comes Dan Barry! And Harlem says they don't mean any disrespect, just because Barry dresses the way he does and his partner is a drunk, but he wants to hear what Dan has to say. And Dan says that normally he'd walk out here with a "giant hammered fat man", but unfortunately Carr is undercover busting up an old lady jaywalking ring. They earned their title shot, and they lost, but the Bravados are garbage and they don't deserve anything. They do have his favorite entrance music in pro wrestling, though. Anyway, he's happy to accept a challenge for a match against the Bravados and he's happy to drop them on their head. Harlem tells him he's got a deal, they shake hands, and then Harlem kicks him in the head and the Bravados put the boots to him and then hit him with the same move they finished Dickinson off with.
Trevin Adams out to address the crowd and point out that history is being made here tonight with the two WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Matches. He wants to talk a little about what an opportunity this is for everybody involved and how it couldn't happen without the fans. And even though WWE isn't here to dictate behavior or anything, since the matches are going up in whole or in part on WWE's YouTube, the crowd has gotta keep it PG.
Fred Yehi vs.
TJ Perkins TJP (WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match)
Grappling to start, big shock. Perkins largely in charge, keeping control of Yehi's neck with a headscissor before Yehi gets a pumphandle takeover and stomps Perkins right in the knee. Yehi keeps ravaging the leg, wrenching in a stump puller, stomping the knee and ankle, but the minute he lets up TJP grabs an octopus hold and transitions to a Haas of Pain momentarily before settling on the Muta Lock. Yehi works an extended bodyscissors chinlock sequence, but Perkins eventually squeezes out into an inverted surfboard. It doesn't last, though, and Yehi takes him right back to the bodyscissors. Perkins tries a sunset flip and Yehi stomps his chest in! Forearms exchanged, Yehi hits his trademark fist drop to the foot and Perkins takes his head off with a knee! Perkins with a tight nearfall off a leaping neckbreaker and a double chickenwing gutbuster, followed shortly by his suplex combo and to the high rent district for a frog splash that comes up empty! Yehi locks his Koji Clutch on but TJP gets to the ropes! Yehi takes Perkins to Suplex City for a moment but gets outfoxed. Strikes exchanged and again Yehi stomps the foot before getting caught by a Detonation Kick!
TJ Perkins TJP wins with a 450 splash, qualifying for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic
Hell of a match. It's technically a qualifier, but it'll be a real travesty of 2016 pro wrestling justice if both guys here aren't in the Cruiserweight Classic.
Drew Gulak vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams (WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match)
Evenly matched probing between master and student into an extended test of strength sequence that sees Gulak flip Williams clean over his head. Hot Sauce with a tope suicida that nearly knocks the barricade over and he's in charge. Gulak keeps him on his toes at every turn, though, and dueling "Gulak!" and "Hot Sauce!" chants echo through the building, stopping only when Gulak drops Williams with a powerbomb! After some cursory softening up the arm Gulak hits a chain of stomps to the torso before shifting to the leg, taking a "kitchen sink" strategy to try and keep Hot Sauce off balance. A stepover leglock on one of Williams' legs followed by threading the other around behind Gulak's back. Lose my feed on Roku for a moment but switching to the laptop and Hot Sauce is in control working Gulak's arm over, dropping him with Divorce Court. Drew takes Williams to the top but Hot Sauce is a step ahead, hitting a DDT into the top turnbuckle and following up with a brainbuster! Williams with his trademark Just Facelock and Drew fights and claws his way out! Switch to the rear naked choke and Gulak get a foot on the ropes! Dumps Gulak on his head with a backdrop driver! Goes off the top but Gulak gets both feet up and follows up by taking Hot Sauce's head off with a lariat! Gulak with a diving lariat but Hot Sauce catches it in the Just Facelock! Both men striking hard, Williams hitting some HARD dropkicks in particular.
Drew Gulak wins by submission, tapping Tracy Williams with the Gu-Lock and qualifying for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
Awesome match, all-out war at the end there, and again, if both dudes don't end up in the Cruiserweight Classic on the strength of their performances here, it'll be a shame.
Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
Feed still super choppy here during entrances. Hope it clears up. (And it did!)
Very much an exhibition feel early on here, as the longtime friends and rivals toy with each other. Scurll catching a foot and inviting Sabre to try to grab at his beard, that sort of thing. Real smooth stuff, very entertaining. Things start to get serious after a couple vicious shoulder armbreakers from Sabre, Scurll going for an early crossface chickenwing and Sabre going for his cross armbar. After a bad landing on the wrist, Scurll's in charge and he takes Zack to the outside to beat on him some, but Zack's master wrist control gives him an opening. Scurll chops the ringpost and there's blood in the water! Back in the ring the tide changes again, the Villain wrenching Sabre's fingers and stomping the elbow. A second stomp is a fakeout to slap Zack across the face and that riles him up enough to take charge again, giving the elbow stomp back in kind. An extended Japanese Stranglehold sequence follows. Sabre locks a wicked octopus hold on, putting a foot to the back of Scurll's head. Scurll moves him out, looking for a Tombstone, but Sabre just shifts and locks a different flavor of octopus on. An elaborate hold and counterhold sequence ends in a Chaos Theory style Dragon Suplex!
Marty's got the finger but Zack has the wrist! Scurll calls for the chickenwing but Sabre rolls out and does his patented monkey flip to cross armbar spot! Marty breaks, Sabre triangles, Marty puts him in the turnbuckles and they trade strikes. You can just go ahead and assume that wherever there's a gap in my narrative here, they're doing crazy counters and exchanges, because that's what's happening. Every time. Now they're charging at each other like a pair of bull moose, lariat on lariat, knee on uppercut. Zack tries to roll a Liger Bomb into the crazy sit-down submission he'd been using but Scurll escapes! Villain's got 70% of the chickenwing but Sabre picks a leg and grabs the armbar! Again and Sabre escapes with elbows. A third meets a bridging prawn hold! Penalty Kick! Scurll out at one! Scurll catches a diving corkscrew uppercut into the chickenwing but Sabre pops out! Back to the finger! Wishboned!
Marty Scurll wins with his crossface chickenwing on approximately his eighth attempt.
I gotta admit, I didn't have huge hopes going into this one. The previous match of theirs I saw, in Progress's Super Strong Style 16 last year was a lot of fun, but not blowaway awesome. Lot of time "wasted" on comedy spots that, while enjoyable, made it maybe not the match it could have been. But this one, my god. The struggle around the chickenwing in the last act! Awesome match.
Joanna Rose on the mic to announce that when Evolve returns to Queens on July 16th, Marty Scurll will wrestle Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve World Championship!
Scurll on the mic. He read on the Evolve website some time back that Zack Sabre, Jr. is too modest to call himself Best in the World. Well, it's not that he's too modest, it's that he knows that Marty surpassed him for that title years ago, and now the Evolve audience gets to find that out. Here comes Stokely with the title belt! "Ello, mate!", he says. Marty may be number one contender, but the belt is around his waist, and why? Because TJP is the uncrowned Evolve Champion, and everybody saw him qualify for the Cruiserweight Classic, and a wrestling god! Drew Gulak out to "reclaim" the title belt and he leaves without a word.
Marty's not too sure what's going on here with the hot potato with the belt, but when he comes back to this very ring, he's gonna become Evolve World Champion.
Drew Galloway vs. Johnny Gargano
Drew on the mic before the bell rings. His name is Drew Galloway and he's the last bastion of independent wrestling within Evolve. He represents the leaders, not the followers, and he told everyone last night, if you weren't on the bandwagon before, he doesn't want you. Slaves to the damned machine, one and all. He's willing to be a martyr, to be a savior. Trust him, he knows what's good for you and he's trying to save Evolve from itself.
Gargano on the mic. His name is Johnny Gargano, and he doesn't know how many times he has to tell Galloway how wrong he is, but he was in the back during the Cruiserweight Classic matches, and the people there made this a very special night. They know how big a deal this is for TJP and Drew Gulak, and now they get the opportunity to get the exposure that they deserve. That's not a bad thing, Drew. New turnbuckle pads, new canvas, new apron, and a packed house. Not a bad thing. He's been doing this for ten years, busting his balls and breaking his back, and Galloway can't tell him what he's earned. He thinks Drew doesn't think guys like Johnny deserve the opportunity because they're not like him, and he's not a savior, just a bitter douchebag.
Johnny clobbering Drew off the bat, all punches to the face. A kick to the face puts the Scotsman in charge and the match quickly spills to the outside. Gargano sells his body out with a cannonball off the apron that puts as much as him through the barricade as it does Galloway only to have Galloway catch him on the slingshot DDT and toss him into the turnbuckles like a sack of flour. The beating continues, Galloway borrowing his old pal Sheamus's rope-hung clubs to the chest, tossing Johnny across the ring with a belly-to-belly and stomping a proverbial mudhole in his chest. A desperation sunset flip powerbomb keeps Gargano in the fight! Hits the Superman Spear and he's on fire, but Galloway hits his Alabama Facebuster for a nearfall. Gargano chopping the tree down with superkicks for two and three-quarters! Gargano goes for a Pedigree, one of many tiny love letters to HHH in this match, and Drew cuts him down with a Sick Kick before putting Gargano in his own Gargano Escape! Johnny gets to the ropes and Galloway tries Plan B. Unfortunately for him, Plan B is going up top and jumping into Gargano Escape himself. Galloway reverses but Johnny gets it back in. Galloway to his feet and he drops Gargano with a Tombstone Piledriver! Galloway begs Johnny to give up and gets spit in the face for his trouble. Backslide! Future Shock! No! Second rope Air Raid Crash! Johnny Gargano will not die! Galloway can't even get him up for Future Shock now, he's dead weight.
Holy shit it's Ethan Carter III! Johnny Gargano wins by disqualification! This is insane!
EC3 on the mic. He came in peace, but he's prepared for war. How dare you, Johnny, he says, say this man blew it? Because if Galloway blew it, EC3 blew it, too. They became world champions on their own, so who blew it? The King of Kings up north, that's who blew it. Referees come out and Carter knocks two out of three down before Galloway gets in head referee Brandon Tolle's face before EC3 knocks him down, too. Devastation Corporation, Earl Cooter, Larry Dallas, they all suffer the same fate before Carter threatens to take a literal poop on the canvas. He runs the current version of NXT down and says real stars are made by survival, like say, surviving all the stupid stuff they put dudes through in the old version of NXT. Independence isn't bowing ot hte machine, it's succeeding despite it.
Drew Gulak hits the ring! He eats a beatdown, naturally. Carter gets back on the mic and introduces him to the microphone, claiming it's how you make box office and put asses in seats. Carter's been endorsed by the best and destroyed by the worst, and he's gonna shoot. He calls out Bill DeMott and says he won. Perkins with a diving crossbody on both of them! He gets taken out too, of course.
DEAD #EVOLVE61 pic.twitter.com/M0TgGSAyhy— Brianna Rogers (@accordingtobri) May 8, 2016
EC3 back on the mic, saying they're the last bastions of the independents, not former football players, not the children of past stars, this isn't a game, it's their lives. Ethan Page out with a chair! Galloway and Carter finally driven off!
Gargano gets on the mic and issues a challenge for next month in Florida, Gargano and a partner against Drew and Derrick Bateman over there. Page asks for the mic and says he would love nothing more than to be Johnny's tag partner next month. C'mon, Johnny, accept his love! But for now he's gonna call out Derrick and point out that Evolve has guys that are good on the mic. No matter what he does, he knows Johnny won't forgive him. He won't forgive himself, so how can he expect Johnny to forgive him, but he swears, that if Johnny accepts him, he would never, ever betray him again. Johnny doesn't need that, though, and there's somebody else in the ring who's fit to be his partner, and in fact they tagged together in Dallas and won. TJP! (Himself terribly misused by TNA as Manik!) One thing done, but he's not done. He's got a lot to prove to everybody, but especially to Drew Galloway. So when the tag is over, he wants Page/Galloway II in Orlando the next night, Anything Goes! Galloway accepts.
Lenny Leonard starts confirming everything to send us off and Page interrupts to ask the crowd if they enjoyed the show and say that Evolve has the best athletes in the world. Lenny finishes up and the show is over.
My god. What an ending angle. So good it's hard to even look at the rest of the show objectively. TNA vs. NXT with Evolve caught in the middle! 2016 pro wrestling! But I gotta try, and honestly? Fantastic show. Riddle/Rush was a hell of a sprint, the WWE Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers were technical wrestling clinics, Gargano/Galloway was a war, and that's not even trying to think of words to describe Sabre/Scurll. Buy the VOD, you won't regret it.
So, be sure to keep an eye right here on Cageside Seats for all the articles about exciting 2016 pro wrestling stuff coming out of this in the meantime, and join me again next month for Evolve 62 and 63!