Evolve 8: Style Battle (5/20/2011)- Union City, NJ
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the idea here is a tournament between wrestlers ostensibly representing different styles.
OPENING VIDEO PACKAGE- cool… but I do think it’s notable that they didn’t have the usual EVOLVE opening video package explaining that “if it’s not tolerated in sports, it’s not tolerated in EVOLVE” and telling us about the records and leaders and all of that important stuff that sets EVOLVE apart from every other promotion.
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND MATCH: Rich Swann vs. A.R. Fox- 4.5/10
Fox is a high-flyer. Swann is representing “Rich Swann-style.” That’s kind of goofy, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I can see Gabe thinking will get Swann over as full of himself but in a fun way.
Lenny Leonard let us know that wins and losses won’t be counted in this tournament, which seems a little silly, but I guess it does make sense to not allow someone to have three chances to win on one show (although on the previous show they did allow people to have a second match to ensure that we would have a leader at the end of the night, so maybe that wasn’t much of a consideration and it’s just silly).
The match wasn’t very long, and mostly they just did moves. Their previous match was much better.
LENNY LEONARD INTERVIEWS A.R. FOX- good
Lenny noted that Fox was now 2-0 against Swann. Fox cut a fine respectful but confident babyface promo. Swann came by to offer Fox a handshake but then pull it back to turn heel.
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND MATCH: Jon Davis vs. Tony Nese- 7/10
The idea that Tony Nese is representing the “standing combat” style of wrestling rather than power or high-flying feels ridiculous as I watch this here in 2021. Davis, of course, is representing “power.” Both men represented their styles well. This actually felt like two different styles. It also felt like the sort of match that wrestlers have when they’re on the verge of having that breakout match.
LENNY LEONARD INTERVIEWS JON DAVIS- fine
Lenny asked Davis if he would have anything left in the tank after such a grueling match. Davis obviously said that he would. This question didn’t seem quite appropriate for a match that, while it was great and went a decent amount of time, was not even fifteen minutes long (it barely went ten).
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND MATCH: Sami Callihan vs. Brodie Lee- 7.5/10
Sami is listed as representing “Hard-hitting” style, so I guess “Strong Style” wasn’t a thing in the US yet. Brodie is representing “Super heavyweight” style. This is Brodie’s return from his suspension for attacking Jon Moxley after the match at Evolve 4: Danielson vs. Fish. Sami got the win in a hard-hitting heavyweight brawl. In the post-match interview, they put over Sami’s Stretch Muffler finisher.
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND MATCH: Austin Aries vs. Bobby Fish- 8.5/10
Aries is representing “hybrid” style, while Fish is “puroresu jr. heavyweight” style. Aren’t those the same thing? Fish wins a big upset in an excellent match. This had selling, dives, technical wrestling, hard strikes… everything you could want.
BOBBY FISH INTERVIEW- good
He says he has started using the heel hook- or “Fish Hook,” as he calls his- after losing to the move against Bryan Danielson at Evolve 4. He’s confident about his ability to win despite not having much time between his matches.
LENNY LEONARD INTERVIEWS REBY SKY & LARRY DALLAS- good
This wasn’t an interview so much as a formal warning that after their involvement on the last show throwing in the towel for Chuck Taylor against Chuck’s will, EVOLVE officials have decreed that anyone inside the guardrail must be a licensed wrestler, manager, or trainer. Anyone else will be ejected from the building and barred from ever attending an EVOLVE show again.
Reby cut a promo that… was a fine promo, but it really didn’t serve a purpose or relate to anything, either. It felt like they had her talk just to give her the practice cutting a promo in front of a crowd. Larry Dallas cut a promo saying that a wrestler that he had discovered has drawn the final entrance number in tonight’s FRAY! match. Lenny saw that they weren’t leaving the ring, so he ordered them to leave and then began counting down from ten to get them to leave, which they did.
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH: A.R. Fox vs. Jon Davis- 6/10
Fox won a relatively short match that did a fine job of displaying the difference in styles that gives this tournament its name.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- good
Jon Davis briefly interrupted the winner’s interview to put over Fox and his finisher. The announcers pointed out the contrast between Davis here and Rich Swann earlier. Fox cut a passable promo putting some more focus on the endorsement he just received from the veteran Davis.
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH: Sami Callihan vs. Bobby Fish- no rating, fine segment
This was disappointingly short, but the purpose of it was push home the idea that the guy who had by far the longest and hardest-fought match in the first round was very worn down and was able to be quickly beaten down and overwhelmed. Sami won via stoppage with repeated forearms to the head. Hopefully this is an attempt to play into Fish’s conversation on the phone in EVOLVE 3 where his girlfriend was urging him to quit wrestling due to the potential for head injuries. Either way, it gets over a second finisher for Sami.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- great
They did a great job tending to Fish and making it seem like there was real concern about him. When he finally got up, Fish staggered over and congratulated Sami on his win, but said that he’d like another match with Sami. He didn’t say “when we’re both equally fresh,” but the booking certainly implies it. Sami said he would be happy to oblige. Sami then cut a great promo saying that he would win the tournament.
THE NEW HAVANA PITBULLS (Ricky Reyes & Alex Colon)(0-0) vs. THE S.A.T. (Will & Joel Maximo)(0-0)- 6/10
A solid post-intermission match to get the crowd back into things.
FRAY!: Scott Reed vs. Cheech Hernandez vs. Brian XL vs. Blain Rage vs. Kory Chavis vs. Pinkie Sanchez vs. Derek Ryze vs. Ahtu- 6/10
The rules here are eight wrestlers with staggered (ninety-second) entrances. Eliminations occur by pinfall or submission. XL got a big reaction from Rob Naylor, as this was just his third match back after six and a half years away from wrestling. This seems like the kind of thing they could used as the basis for a pretty good promo to make us actually care about someone in this match.
As if to emphasize my point, the next entrant, going by the terrible moniker of “Blain Rage,” was greeted by chants of “WHO ARE YOU?!”
Kory Chavis came in at #5 and started wrecking everyone. He also ducked embarrassingly early for one of those “counter the back body drop after I shoot you off the ropes” spots that rarely ever looks good.
The fans were the most behind Cheech and Pinkie Sanchez. The big story as Chavis eliminated most of the field on his own, and was then quickly eliminated by Ahtu, putting Ahtu over quite strong. Ahtu and Pinkie were the final two. Pinkie put up a good babyface fight, but Ahtu dominated him… which made it quite the surprise when Pinkie picked up the win with a big diving DDT. The fans chanted “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE!” at Ahtu. The guy was pretty green (this is only his second match listed on Cagematch.net), but I didn’t think he was that bad.
LENNY LEONARD INTERVIEWS PINKIE SANCHEZ- Apparently this win earned him a spot in Dragon Gate. Maybe that’s why the records for this match didn’t count? That should have been explained if it was going to be a thing (the next show lists Pinkie at 0-0 despite this win).
STYLE BATTLE TOURNAMENT FINALS: A.R. Fox vs. Sami Callihan- 7/10
This was fine for the spot it was in, but to really establish the tournament if EVOLVE ever wanted to bring it back (and they did, several times and in several ways), I think it needed to be better. I think Gabe has said that the idea of a finals not going very long was intended to make things more realistic (like before, the wrestlers would be worn down from having wrestled two matches already), and while I can appreciate the logic behind that, I think delivering a top-notch main event is one of those few places where the desire to simulate realism has to bow to the fact that pro wrestling is entertainment (and especially on the indy level, where no one is getting the show for free on their TV, you need to make sure you give people something that will make them feel like your product is worth spending their money on).
The match itself was a good mix of their styles, but I found it a little weird that Fox’s new big finisher that they’ve been building up all night already got kicked out of, only for Fox to win with his regular finisher shortly after. It almost feels like the Flying Codebreaker was only built up so that they could use it to get a big false finish in what they knew would be a shorter-than-expected main event.
This was an okay show from EVOLVE. There was solid wrestling up and down the card, including the excellent Aries vs. Fish match, but the show definitely felt like it lost steam after that point, as it never got anywhere near as good as it did during that match or even the Sami Callihan vs. Brodie Lee match that came before it.
You also might have noticed that this show didn’t have any of the “documentary crew” footage that was the distinguishing feature of EVOLVE backstage segments (and unlike with Evolve 4, they didn’t acknowledge that there was any sort of change). They were toned down on the previous show, but their complete absence here was jarring. Combine that with the lack of talk of records (which counted neither for the FRAY! nor the tournament) and the self-contained nature of the majority of the matches on this show, and you have a show that feels a lot more like a generic indy than it does the EVOLVE promotion we have been watching up until now.
I have a lot of sympathy for Gabe for the issues EVOLVE was facing at this time (talent being signed by WWE, TNA, and ROH, and what I suspect were money issues, based on the fact that the previous month’s show, this show, and one show in July were the only three shows EVOLVE ran this year), but the fact of the matter remains that whatever the issues were, this show itself was mostly unremarkable (though still solid) in the ring, and had almost none of the things that I had been so enjoying about EVOLVE so far in its run. It’s a fine show to sit down and watch, but I can’t imagine ever re-watching it, and unless you’re trying to watch all of EVOLVE like I am, I think there are plenty of other shows of a similar length that most people will enjoy watching more.
PWG, EVOLVE, AAW, WWN, etc
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