Grab Bag Reviews is a series in which Trask selects a group of matches revolving around a theme. This time we’re watching matches from EVOLVE 1.
Something I couldn’t help but chuckle at was the fact that Davey Richards, who will be spotlighted later on in this post as he would main event EVOLVE 1, drove away “documentary style” camera crews as they were trying to capture everything for the pre-show. WWN Live and FloSports just signed a five-year long deal which will encourage this type of content. Full circle!
Bobby Fish vs. Kyle O'Reillyok
This is the first match ever for the EVOLVE promotion and featured two names that would go on to become one of the better indie tag teams of this decade. What better than in the opener to your first show ever to showcase the new style you’d be implementing for the future. This was an insanely fast paced opener with evidence that this was a newborn promotion. From the house mic being the loudest mic I’ve ever heard in correlation to the rest of the sound to commentary peaking with Lenny Leonard screaming, keeping up with the action, this had a charm to it that’s not as existent in EVOLVE as of this year. Fish and O’Reilly worked the “EVOLVE hybrid” style, introducing what would be the evolution of the promotion during its first origins. This was no more than 7-8 minutes but fit in good grappling, technicality, some hard hits and near falls. I really enjoyed the layout although it would have benefited from being a longer match as compared to the next match that hit its timing perfectly. Eventually, O’Reilly showed no remorse by hitting a tornado DDT and a brainbuster for the win. This was a fitting way to start off the promotion while showcasing two of the best at this style.
Cheech vs. Chuck Taylorgood
This was a qualifying match for the official singles division in EVOLVE, as a win or loss wouldn’t go towards the eventual start-up records of the competitors in question. I actually preferred this as a sprint to the first match. No, I am not a “technical wrestling sucks” guy. I just had more fun with this and I thought it protected both guys even better. They managed to trade fast-paced cruiserweight offense effectively to where I bought into chain roll-up near falls. Everything felt like it could bring the finish of the match. Chuck Taylor looked really good here, as smooth as I’ve ever seen him; which means it’s safe to say these two not only have good chemistry but are two of my favorite guilty pleasure wrestlers. I’m unsure if this even got as much time as the first match, but it did its job to a tee while in the minimalist format. After Cheech had Taylor pinned after a few minutes in control, Taylor hit soul food which led to the Awful Waffle for the win. A good effective sprint to introduce both to the audience. Not to say the last match wasn’t good, it just felt more over and done in a flash.
Arik Cannon vs. Ricochetgood+
This jumped off the Cagematch.net event page to me as something that could rule on the undercard. Young Ricochet is someone I nearly appreciate as much as I do current Ricochet. He works just as well for me. Cannon is a solid hand wherever I’ve seen him, (also whenever). This had one of the hottest opens to a match I’ve watched recently spanning any time period. They went from chain grappling to a Sasuke special to an exploder suplex into the turnbuckles in about 60 seconds. I adored the layout that would continue with Ricochet getting in shine spots only to be dominated most of the time. Ricochet took an absurd amount of spots for the third match into the show, which he continues to do to this day. He hit a damn inverted Canadian Destroyer and hit a 630. This is now one of my favorite 5 minutes and under matches of the 2010s. The work here was crisp, we got a lot of showmanship, as well as an INSANE amount of spots and advancement sewn into one match that would generally be assigned to a squash due to its time. Talk about going all out for a debut show.
Brad Allen vs. Silas Youngok
Brad Allen, otherwise known as Brad Attitude, worked EVOLVE. I had no idea. Especially vs. Silas Young which is a tremendous clash of like-minded personalities. This felt experimental, even from the job, but that’s something redeeming about EVOLVE. It plays with different characters, angles (good or bad) and clashes of styles. Attitude flew around much more than expecting, timing a crossbody weirdly so that he’d fly over Young who was running towards him. At the same time, he’d ground Young at times, providing an oxymoron of wrestling continuity. This was nitty gritty with the working man clashing. We got tons of breaks after impact moves. It felt well worked even past the short-sided problems I had with the flow. Until it got even more scrappy and obvious the chemistry wasn’t quite there. The biggest example of this was Silas flipping back off a leg lift to land straight into the ropes, as well as Attitude going for a moonsault SMASHING Silas in his eye. Pending on you this could add or subtract from it, though. It blossomed into a count out/kick out combo. This was ALL over the place in the most indie-riffic way, but it worked to a degree. Attitude popped up from a Finlay Roll only to catch Silas off the top rope standing on his head, to hit a flatliner for the win. I enjoyed this for the chaos it was.
Muneori Sawa vs. TJPgreat
The graps are good, as shown by EVOLVE Wrestling’s Exhibit A: Sawa vs. TJP. You could have told me that Sawa was the best wrestler in the world in 2010, and this performance alone would be enough to justify it. Although still not a long match, it got tons of time to do what the promotion does best: tell stories with hybrid wrestling. Early on before the bell rang Sawa clocked TJP in the face which led to an already existent story as the bell rang. These two hated each other and wanted to put their mark on the competitive singles rankings. Sawa targeted the leg, TJP targeted the arm. Between those submissions and limb work moments, we got a barrage of strong-style offense with Germans, strikes, holds, plus a lot more that popped me. Everything felt so crisp and right. This wasn’t dry. It contained a lot of excitement that held itself the entire way through. Everything felt authentic. It felt so…EVOLVE. This is by far one of my favorite matches I’ve seen from the promotion in non-2016 settings. Sawa came off like a comic book hero, so larger than life. This was at an indie show in front of a few hundred people. Sawa eventually made TJP tap out to a stretch. How we got there, how these two told the story, how it was so physical — all add up as matches like this are my favorites typically.
Akuma's Army (Gran Akuma, Icarus & Brodie Lee) vs. Team Frightning (Hallowicked, Fightmare & Mike Quackenbush)ok
In what was a solid trios match, a few things stood out to me more than anything else. Gran Akuma was a tremendous base in this match. Whether it was monster Hallowicked, small Frightmare, and speedster Quack, Akuma managed to take all the lucha offense as well as selling well. With that being said, Frightmare was positioned as the face in peril, one year into the business. That ties into Akuma being a very good base for him, as Frightmare continued to be tortured by the Army. Brodie Lee made the match better because he’s BRODIE LEE! Although his role was small compared to others, him and his Boss Man Slams made this match. The pulse kept beating harder as we got closer to the finish. After the drawn out start which is what I liked, it transitioned into a hit or miss crash course like a lot of trios do. We got neat spots like a sunset flip onto another partner’s knees, shooting star knee drop that Speedball now trademarks, etc. Eventually, the rudos got phased out and Hallowicked hit a huge press slam on Icarus for the win. Speaking of Icarus, he was limited but was super entertaining in his a-hole movements/moveset. He’s someone that doesn’t get enough credit when it’s due.
Kota Ibushi vs. Davey Richardsexcellent+
It was the main event of the evening, a big dream match between two heavy hitters with one being extremely less problematic than the other. This blew away my pre-match expectations after years of not watching it. This was a war, and more than just hybrid wrestling. This felt like a shoot, this felt like DDT, this felt like a lot of mat-based attack, this felt legitimate, this felt like worlds clashing. This was a wrestling match with everything. The way it was laid out built excitement on Jenga blocks in that it could have come crashing down due to the dangerous spots that were done. Yet everything came off pretty much flawless, a lot of such having to do with Ibushi putting in one of the better performances he’s ever had. Ibushi bumped on his neck 9/10 for an already notorious stiff/rag doll as a worker. If you know both of these two like I do, you knew this was going to be wacky, but this was near MOTY level insanity. It went from Ibushi being worked on slowly to him hitting a flipping pele, Golden Triangle, Matrix evasion offense out of his moveset that would make everyone go insane. Not only that but Ibushi traded strikes and took the brunt of Davey’s offense, where literally every play call had to be made out of the play-book of Richards + Kozina on the sidelines. Kozina even screamed “you’re a bitch, Davey” when he covered up for Ibushi, who was firing back after being on the bottom for so long. Everything felt masterful like strings of an orchestra with wrestling styles on every note. This is a match with an aura and feels that you can only obtain by watching, not just reading/imagining. The finishing sequence was out of this world and then some. Ibushi still kicked out of everything. Ibushi still stayed in Davey’s holds. That was until Davey went shoot mode and threw shots on the top of Ibushi’s head, mounting him, slaying the smaller man with fighting spirit. Ibushi wouldn’t say die until his life depended on him giving up. He didn’t do such in the form of submitting as he got pinned after a DR Driver. A tremendous once in a lifetime match that made Ibushi even more, and turned Davey Richards into a star even if it was just for the time being. You couldn’t have asked for a better EVOLVE 1 main event. I wouldn’t blame you if you had this as your 2010 MOTY, either.
Grab Bag Awards
Best Match: Kota Ibushi vs. Davey Richards
Best Performance: Kota Ibushi (vs. Davey Richards)