Yessir, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the World Wrestling Network to come back in to your home with Evolve 62 (live from Ybor City, Florida) and Evolve 63 (live from Orlando, Florida), and as always, I'm here to give you the low down on what's going down.
Trying something new here, as Evolve pump out many, many high quality videos between shows to keep you up to speed, so here's a sampling of their wares if you happen to hate words.
Evolve Mini-Doc: The War Chronicles
Who has the Evolve title belt?
A Man With His Dream On the Line
Evolve Mini-Doc: The Thatcher Crisis
Evolve 62 (Friday, June 10th, at 9PM Eastern)
Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher (c) (Evolve World Championship)
I spend a lot of time in these previews talking about Chris Hero's win/loss record here in the WWN family of promotions, and with good reason. He's a juggernaut, nigh-unstoppable, and his record shows that quite clearly. And naturally, the further back you go, the more wins appear. Matt Riddle, Drew Galloway, Rich Swann, Ricochet, Masato Tanaka... but only one man can say he's beaten Chris Hero twice, and that's Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher.
Stepping back from the record for a moment, the matchup is a classic one. Grappler vs. striker, no matter what specific disciplines are represented, has always captured people's imaginations. Boxer vs. wrestler, of course, the most famous formulation, from the late great Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki all the way on through to Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather, but no matter the specifics, the clash of styles always draws interest.
This match is no different, but we come to a conundrum. Traditionally, the grappler has the advantage, but Chris Hero is no pure striker. His concussive kicks and his knockout elbows are a significant part of his arsenal, yes, but the man can wrestle with the best of them. And while Thatcher is undoubtedly one of the best technical grapplers in the world today, Hero's on a roll, having swatted away Zack Sabre, Jr. twice in two months, while Thatcher's been plagued with injury and self-doubt. Much as I (who once wrote Mr. Thatcher a sloppy internet love letter) hate to admit it, it might be Chris Hero's night to become the first ever two-time Evolve Champion.
Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado) vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak & "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams) (c) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)
With a strong record since returning to Evolve in January, only dropping losses to eventual tag champions Galloway & Gargano and the once and future IWGP junior tag champions Roppongi Vice, both during the tournament weekend, the world's toughest grandma's boys have more than earned this title shot. And indeed, it wasn't too long ago that the Bravados held the Open the United Gate Championship for more than 300 days, having beaten no less than the 11-time major independent tag team champions the Young Bucks.
Catch Point have never been hotter than they are right now, though, coming off of a stream of even bigger victories, having tossed aside Heroes Eventually Die, the former champions, and even their own stablemates TJP and Fred Yehi. They've got two men in the Cruiserweight Classic, and they've got a boatload of potential title shots in the pipe as long as Thatcher retains against Hero. Everything's coming up Catch Point, it seems, and only Saturday will show if their hot streak continues.
Drew Galloway & Ethan Carter III vs. Johnny Gargano &
TJ Perkins TJP (Unsanctioned Street Fight)
If you haven't watched the angle that set this one up, now's the time. All caught up? Excellent.
This is, quite simply, a battle for the heart and soul of Evolve, and perhaps even to seize the beating heart of all of 2016 pro wrestling. Galloway and Carter, after all, crusade against the fulcrum around which 2016 pivots, WWE's increasing incursion into the wider pro wrestling world. A victory here likely won't send the whole WWN/WWE working relationship crumbling down around our ears, of course, there are slow, grinding corporate forces at work here. But what it could do is make everyone just that tiny bit gunshy about going deeper. If Evolve is overrun with anti-NXT forces, that changes the equation. Maybe not immediately, and maybe not in a big way, but there's a lot on the line in this match.
And what of the match? Well, seeing as we're having this non-sanctioned match in Ybor City's Orpheum, home of several bar-spanning brawls (a few of which have even spilled out into the street!), it's gonna be memorable, to say the least. I don't expect many tags to be made, know what I'm saying? The sort of pier six brawl where you're lucky if somebody stops after a pinfall is counted or a submission accepted. Pillar to proverbial post. It's gonna be awesome.
And the rest
Cedric Alexander makes his Evolve debut against Matt Riddle. Once again Matt Riddle finds himself in a clash against a hot young prospect from the south. He beat Lio Rush rather handily last time out, but Alexander has rather more experience under his belt, putting in five years in the historical crucible of stars that is Ring of Honor. And indeed, Riddle has never yet faced someone whose specialty is destroying his opponent's back in quite the way Cedric Alexander does. But Riddle's a proverbial freight train, and Alexander's gonna have to turn the heat up to have a chance at putting him away.
Flips against fists as Anthony Nese and Fred Yehi clash. Anthony Nese's terrible horrible no-good bad year rolls on as he faces yet another member of Catch Point! Yehi, to be fair, hasn't had the greatest year thus far himself, going 0-9 in singles action in Evolve. But he's just won the FIP World Heavyweight Championship, and under Drew Gulak's guiding hand his fortunes are almost certainly turning.
He impressed officials enough to be brought back, now Darby Allin faces Ethan Page once more. Debuting at Evolve 59, Allin put up a brave fight but fell to Ethan Page's shiny new package piledriver. Finally firmly ensconced on the side of the angels, it's unlikely Page will have to go to That Place™ to beat him. But as always, when you have a young fighter looking to make a name for himself, a win over an established star like Ethan Page would make a big splash.
Evolve 63 (Saturday, June 11th, at 8PM Eastern)
Drew Gulak vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Lince Dorado vs.
TJ Perkins TJP vs. ??? (WWE Cruiserweight Classic Flashpoint Elimination Match)
2016 strikes again! Yessir, this is an elimination match featuring nothing but qualifying participants in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Four men are confirmed— Catch Point maestro Drew Gulak, WWN Icon (and future NXT Tag Team Champion?) Johnny Gargano, cat-themed luchador Lince Dorado, and half-Catch Point, half-Dream Team, all "Technical Lightning" TJP, with at least one more initially promised by the question marks, although recently that's been reduced to mere speculation of late additions.
It's unclear at the current time what might be on the line in this match beyond bragging rights, but honestly, does it need to be for seeding or a first round bye or whatever other rewards you can think of? It's 2016, and several men who will be competing in a WWE tournament will be having a full-on Dragon Gate USA style high spot filled elimination match preview of the event on an Evolve card. What a world.
Drew Galloway vs. Ethan Page (Anything Goes Match)
This is it. Eight months of redemption, all leading to this match. Through words and deeds, Ethan Page has tried and failed to convince Johnny Gargano that he's not the man he used to be, but here in Orlando, he'll not only put his money where his mouth is but cash the check, because his fight is Johnny's fight and Johnny's fight is his, now that Drew Galloway has declared all-out war on Evolve. Win, lose, or draw, Ethan Page is gonna take his pound of flesh out of Drew Galloway, no matter the cost.
Their first match was a knockdown, drag-out fight that Galloway only won through chicanery. No amount of ball shots will end this one, though, because Anything Goes. While Orlando isn't quite as conducive to brawling into the street as Ybor is, I'm sure they'll take the fight around the arena and back all the same.
Ethan Carter III has an open contract to wrestle any member of the Evolve roster.
"Any member of the Evolve roster." That's a lot of dudes, for sure. Let's try to figure out who it might be then, eh? Unfortunately the roster page on DGUSA.tv is a bit out of date, still listing Biff Busick and Rich Swann, so let's just consider everyone who's wrestled on more than one Evolve weekend in the past year or so "on the roster" here.
Lead off by going ahead and eliminating everyone else that's already got a match on this show, that's a pretty good chunk. Toss out any tag teams that aren't likely to have singles matches and dudes that are busy in Japan, which takes care of Team Tremendous, RPG Vice, and Peter Kaasa. Eliminate EC3's fellow TNA employees Andrew Everett and Caleb Konley, because that seems like it'd be counterproductive, and likewise, Lio Rush has split loyalties to ROH. Zack Sabre, Jr. and Tommaso Ciampa both seem like they'd be some of the extra men in Flashpoint if anything. Sami Callihan's supposed to be finished up now, so he's out. Tommy End would make sense, but I doubt he flies in for just one show. This leaves my list whittled down to one man: Chris Hero. The Greatest of All Time, the man who's made Evolve his home and number one priority for the last two years. Yeah, that seems about right. And it oughta be great.
And the rest
Catch Point's receipts begin to come due as "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams faces Timothy Thatcher. Regardless of Friday's results, this is currently scheduled to be a non-title match. This one's actually a rematch from Evolve 35 where a fresh-faced Hot Sauce made his Evolve debut. He was unable to be the ants at Thatcher's picnic at the time, but nearly two years later, all bets are off. Can Thatcher start cutting a swathe through Catch Point or will Williams turn out to be too hot to handle?
Trevor Lee returns to Evolve to wrestle Matt Riddle. I wonder if Riddle actually has a clause in his contract about wrestling these awesome southern boys. Anyway, the Carolina Caveman is back in Evolve for the first time since his failed attempt to wrest the title from Thatcher last October. Lee may well be another slighly confounding opponent for Riddle, with his mixture of physics breaking high-flying and technical mat grappling. Perhaps even more exciting than the wrestling that'll be on display is the trash talk, as both men have a mouth and a half on themselves.
Cedric Alexander rounds out his weekend with a bout against Fred Yehi. Just two exciting young wrestlers with unique styles looking for a victory that will send them to the next level here in Evolve, although this match may well have Cruiserweight Classic implications. Both men are certainly the right size, there are still plenty of open spaces on the bracket, and WWE scouts are always watching. Beyond that, Catch Point is always watching, and a strong performance against their men may well result in Alexander being offered a handshake.
Darby Allin teams with Florida standout Jason Cade to take on the Bravado Brothers. Certainly seems to be a lopsided matchup here, with a top shelf tag team of brothers who have held all kinds of gold against two young prospects teaming together for the first time. But Jason Cade has fire like few others, and Allin has gone straight from the seminar to the ring, so anything's possible.
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