WWN Mercury Rising 2016 (4/2/2016)- Dallas, TX
ZACK SABRE JR. vs. CHRIS HERO- 8.5/10
Well… we’re off to a pretty good start so far. This was one hell of a slugfest. They had been building this match up for about a year or so and it sure as hell delivered. As you’d expect, Sabre Jr. worked the arm while Hero worked the head going for the knockout. You’d expect it because it’s what we’ve seen in just about every match these two have had, whether against each other or against someone else… but it works every time.
FRED YEHI vs. DREW GULAK (w/Catchpoint)- 5/10
Gulak worked the knee and leg of Yehi a lot, but wound up winning with a Dragon Sleeper, which felt a little anti-climactic. After the match, Gulak said that Yehi had a lot of potential and offered him both a handshake (which he had refused to give him back at EVOLVE 56, which started Yehi on the not-shaking hands spree he has been on since then) as well as a spot in Catchpoint. Yehi accepted both.
Speaking of Catchpoint memebership, TJ Perkins (or I guess I’m supposed to be calling him “TJP” now) was at ringside with Catchpoint. So does signing with Stokely Hathaway’s stable not mean he isn’t part of Catchpoint anymore? Some sort of clarification on this point would be nice.
Gulak then cut a short promo about Catchpoint which led to Tracy Williams challenging Matt Riddle to an intra-stable match right now!
TRACY WILLIAMS vs. MATT RIDDLE- 7.75/10
The other Catchpoint guys were are ringside in neither guy’s corner. Williams and Riddle did a great job of mixing in some… not-very-Catchpoint moves to make this match feel different from their previous two, but they also managed to do it in a very Catchpoint way, so I thought that all worked really well. This one definitely had a slightly different intensity to it as well. GREAT match!
ANYTHING GOES MATCH: Anthony Nese vs. Ethan Page- 7.5/10
Notable by their absence here are SoCal Val and Andrea. These two had one hell of a hard-hitting No DQ’s match with lots of stuff that just looked REALLY brutal. Page offered Nese a handshake after the match and Nese surprisingly accepted.
TERRY FUNK CEREMONY- Sabu showed up. At least I think it was Sabu, but it might have been an imposter because he was wearing a suit. He teased attacking Funk but instead they hugged it out. Sabu had his “Super Genie (Melissa Coates) with him. She felt very out of place. Then MICK FOLEY showed up and flat out said that “the reason I’m not [at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, which was head-to-head with this show] is that Terry Funk is right here.”
Then Larry Dallas and some geek who I didn’t recognize dressed in wrestling gear got into the ring and Foley let one in gear talk. The guy cut a fine promo about how he loved Terry Funk and wanted to be a legend like Terry… but he couldn’t be because he wasn’t booked on this show. Larry Dallas then cut a promo on Funk and the others for not “doing the right thing” by “passing the torch.” He said they would take it themselves and the guy attacked the legends, but they all beat him up and hit their signature stuff. It was fine for what it was if you were live in the building, but watching it a few days later I found it kind of boring.
SHINE SEGMENT- Trevin Adams comes out and announces that the originally scheduled SHINE Title match of Taylor Made vs. Ivelisse won’t be happening because Ivelisse got injured earlier this week. He brings out Taylor Made (w/SoCal Val & Andrea). Val cuts a promo saying that the contract she signed for was Taylor to face Ivelisse and only Ivelisse, so if Ivelisse can’t wrestle then Taylor doesn’t have to defend the title.
Luscious Latasha came out and told us all she was on a winning streak in SHINE so she apparently has a title shot she can cash in. Andrea immediately attacked her and took her out with one kick (she did get in Andrea’s face and brag about beating her first, so she kind of had it coming). Val cut a promo insulting the fans and reiterating that there would be no SHINE Title defense tonight. Trevin Adams said that there would be, and brought out the new challenger…
SHINE TITLE MATCH: Taylor Made(c) (w/Valifornia) vs. Nicole Matthews- 5.75/10
They had perfectly fine match. Matthews had the match won but Val distracted the referee and Andrea ran in and broke up the hold. Andrea laid Matthews out with her running kick and Taylor hit an Ace Crusher for the win.
FATAL 4-WAY MATCH FOR THE FIP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE: Caleb Konley (w/Valifornia) vs. Jason Cade vs. Gary Jay vs. Maxwell Chicago- 6.25/10
“Maxwell Chicago” sounds like some sort of Colt Cabana alias. He definitely acts like some sort of comedy dork.
Trevin Adams took over on commentary for Lenny Leonard and kept getting annoyed when Joanna Rose would forget to refer to the FIP belt as a “world” title. He kept pushing that the FIP belt is older than the other WWN belts and has been held by so many greats… except that he listed CM Punk among those greats, and as anyone who has been following my 2005 FIP reviews knows, PUNK NEVER WON THE BELT! He stole the physical belt from Homicide and claimed to be the champion, but he was never ever the legitimate champion. And here is this guy pushing the history of FIP by repeating a heel’s lie!
Maxwell Chicago was in fact a comedy dork whose present totally killed the match for me. Trevin Adams kept pushing “you could see one of these guys in EVOLVE next year!” and every time Maxwell did something I kept thinking “this guy will NEVER be in EVOLVE.” Konley was good, as always and Cade impressed me a bit. Andrea interfered towards the end, knocking Cade off the top rope. Konley then pinned Jay, so they’ve left Konley vs. Cade open as a match they could do, and I’d like to see that match in EVOLVE at some point.
EVOLVE TITLE MATCH: Timothy Thatcher(c) vs. Sami Callihan- 6.75/10
Thank G-d Lenny Leonard is back on commentary. They built the match around Callihan going for Thatcher’s injured elbow and it was all very good… and then Thatcher just won with the headbutt. I REALLY didn’t like this finish. It was WAY too abrupt. The match felt like it ended about fifteen minutes before it should have.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Catchpoint shows up. Gulak once again calls Thatcher a cheater and a disgrace. I didn’t see him do anything questionable in this match. Then he said that he and his guys all deserve title shots and that he is tired of being compared to Thatcher.
Thatcher says that all of the Catchpoint guys will get a title shot and that they all owe him a “debt” (in other words, there needs to be payback for what they did to him at Evolve 52)… but he says he will leave the title here and he will “reclaim” it when he has had his “redemption.”
I didn’t like this for quite a few reasons. First of all, this felt just like the segment they did after the controversial ending to the Thatcher vs. Riddle match at Evolve 56- which I’m sure was by design. The problems with that, though, are two-fold:
1. The presence of Fred Yehi hurts the logic of the repetition of that segment. What I mean by that is that Yehi wasn’t involved in the attack and thus he shouldn’t owe Thatcher a “debt.” Similarly, Yehi hasn’t actually done much (if any) winning in EVOLVE, so unlike the rest of the Catchpoint guys, he doesn’t deserve a title shot, either.
2. There has been really been no advancement of this story in any way since that segment. Riddle did indeed get a rematch that a controversial finish, but that was because of Riddle, not because of Thatcher. In the other two title defenses that Thatcher has had since then (vs. Konley at Evolve 57 and vs. Callihan here tonight) he has done nothing questionable whatsoever that would give Gulak new reason to call him a disgrace and a cheater, so this just felt redundant. It also means that Thatcher has been given no new reason to doubt himself and thus him relinquishing the title or whatever he is doing here also makes no sense. Why did he decide to relinquish the title now if he didn’t do so last time? I think this would have worked a lot better if they saved it for the next weekend of shows, and done it after another Thatcher title defense with some sort of controversial finish.
I also just generally don’t like this idea of Thatcher temporarily giving up the title (or whatever it is he is doing). You can have doubt his right to be champion, but the way you have him “fix” that is by insisting that the Catchpoint guys get title shots and that he defends against them, not by having him say “maybe they’re right and maybe they’re not but I’m going to give up the title anyway.” Neither me, nor Lenny Leonard nor the fans seemed to have any idea what this all meant in terms of the official status of the title.
After Thatcher walked to the back, both Riddle and Gulak went over to the title. Gulak eventually picked it up (and the fans chanted “DON’T DESERVE IT!” at him). Riddle kind of slinked off to the back, but then so did all of the others, Gulak included, so I don’t know if this was a subtle sign that he is unhappy with Gulak or it was just the beginning of Catchpoint heading backstage.
TOMMY END, MARTY SCURLL & WILL OSPREAY vs. KOTA IBUSHI, JOHNNY GARGANO, & TJP (w/Stokely Hathaway)- 8.75/10
Well… Gabe promised us something in the “tradition” of the “WrestleMania weekend six-man tag” and that is certainly what we got. There were spots in here. Lots of them. And many of them were spectacular, but there were also points it felt like they were doing things just to do them. Some of the “everyone does the same thing” spots felt very phony, and that Ospreay and Ibushi “moonsault off of a high place” just felt fake. Why would they stop focusing on the other guy up there with them just to do a moonsault onto two guys down below them? Making matters worse was that the entire time they were brawling into the crowd, we at home couldn’t see a damn thing. Then, all of a sudden there are Kota and Ospreay standing up on a ledge above the ceiling fans and then they just each decide to do this big moonsault onto… well… I assume there were wrestlers down there, but we couldn’t see. This was made worse by the fact that the entire purpose of brawling out into the crowd was to do this big highspot rather than because it made sense in the match. Also the whole time they were out there they certainly should have been counted out. So like I said, it was definitely in the tradition of the WrestleMania weekend (read as: “Dragon Gate-style”) six-man tag. I did like the finish, though, which was like a Last Ride Ligerbomb, which looked really awesome.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- fine for what it was.
Everyone hugs and stuff the announcers called it “a ceremonial passing of the torch from Kota Ibushi to Will Ospreay” and all I could think was “if that’s the case then why did you have Kota pin Ospreay instead of the other way around? (The answer, of course, is that Ospreay is headed to New Japan so they probably won’t be able to use him anymore).
Then Johnny Gargano gave a speech saying that Drew Galloway is wrong and the WWE-WWN relationship is a great thing because it lets him work both. He said that he doesn’t know what the future holds for him (reports are that he signed with WWE this weekend, so take that to mean what you will).
A pretty great show from WWN to cap off what has been a pretty great weekend for EVOLVE. That being said, I think this weekend will go down in history was quite the interesting one for EVOLVE. They put on some great shows and had some awesome matches, but a good chunk of those matches involved foreign talent, while a lot of the big matches that EVOLVE was promoting didn’t deliver at the expected level and a lot of the booking surrounding the world title fell pretty flat. Throw in a lot of the WWE-EVOLVE relationship speculation and what it means about the talent they will or won’t be using in the future (and the angle they did with Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano and how the fans will react to it) and I think this weekend will go down as perhaps the most important in EVOLVE history… though whether that winds up being to the betterment or detriment of the product remains to be seen.