PREMIERE ATHLETE BRAND PROMO - Good. As you would expect, Val did most of the talking. She claimed the PAB were robbed of the tag titles last night but vowed that they would avenge their defeat. She also had a very public message for Roderick Strong, who was watching like on iPPV and will be landing in New York in a few hours. That message was that when Roddy gets to his hotel room, a key to Val’s room will be waiting for him… “to talk business!”
Val said that the PAB has a new attitude now, and Nese displayed this new attitude by telling Rey Horus to get his ass out to the ring so that Nese could kick it.
REY HORUS vs. TONY NESE (w/Caleb Konley & SoCal Val) - 6.5/10
Nese jumped the bell on Horus. They had a good solid match, with Horus picking up the upset win. SoCal Val was very entertaining on the outside.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Caleb Konley tried to attack Horus after the match but Horus ducked, slid out of the ring, and shot Konley the double-bird before heading to the back. Nese and Konley then argued and had a shoving match while Val tried to keep the peace. Nese eventually stormed off and told Konley to concentrate on winning his own match. Konley then grabbed a mic and demanded “that sheep in wolf’s clothing Davey Richards” come out for their match right now. That line… was a little too prepared for it to feel like something Konley would be able to come up with during a fit of anger. Also, the metaphor doesn’t really make sense as an insult. None of that stopped Davey from coming out for…
DAVEY RICHARDS vs. CALEB KONLEY (w/SoCal Val) - 8.5/10
This went over twenty minutes and did a TREMENDOUS job of building up throughout the match.
DAVEY RICHARDS PROMO - Good. SoCal Val interrupted Davey with some heckling, so he shut her up by telling if “if you take your top off, I’ll let you talk as much as you want.” That one doesn’t sound so good a few years later, although the three women right behind Val when Davey said this were laughing their butts off. Davey then said something that can either be interpreted as him making a challenge for an American Wolves vs. Premier Athlete Brand match, or saying he wants to double-penetrate Val with Eddie Edwards. It’s Davey Richards, so it’s hard to tell sometimes.
Also, Davey says he’s coming for the Evolve Title and “his” spot at the top of EVOLVE. He told the “booker-man” to line up however many opponents he needs to beat to earn a title shot. Sadly, this would go nowhere, as this would prove to be Davey’s last weekend in EVOLVE.
TJ PERKINS vs. “SPEEDBALL” MIKE BAILEY - 8/10
A tremendous blend of striking and submission grappling, with the story being that each man had the advantage when the match moved more towards his favored style. Bailey offered a handshake after the match but TJP turned it down.
CHRIS HERO vs. TREVOR LEE - 8.5/10
The slow, plodding Chris Hero matches of this era where he dominates his opponent talks a bunch of trash in the long gap between each elbow have been pretty hit or miss for me, but this one was definitely a hit. The little side-story with Hero working over Lee’s knee certainly helped, but the thing that really made this match for me was Lee’s babyface performance. Talk about a guy who just plain wouldn’t stay down. Thrown in a tremendous set-up for Lee’s Collision Course and a convincingly brutal finish, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Weird. Hero went to leave, but then came back. He picked Lee up like he was going to give him a vertical suplex but instead of lifting him up he spun him around like he was setting up for Ripcord Elbow… then instead switched that to a set-up for a Saito Suplex… then dropped Lee so he fell to his knees… then raised his hand. If you’re going to show the guy respect, just show him respect and don’t swerve everyone for no reason. Hero left for real, and the crowd gave Lee a massive show of respect.
DGUSA OPEN THE UNITED GATE TITLE MATCH:
Ronin (Johnny Gargano & Rich Swann)(c) vs. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams - 7.75/10
Great tag team action, and an important step in getting the relative newcomer Williams over as someone who was on a trajectory to be a top guy someday.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Swann accidentally said that he and Gargano were still the “Open The Freedom Gate” Champions before correcting himself to Open The United Gate. This could have been an accident, but it’s definitely possible that this- and, the “don’t worry about it. It’s okay” reaction from Gargano it spawned- was done on purpose to give us more evidence that Gargano is reacting much better to losing the Open The Freedom Gate Title this time than he did to losing it last time.
Gargano and Swann then announced that they were vacating and retiring the DGUSA Open The United Gate Titles because “DGUSA is in the past” and the company needs to look to the future. They then proposed that EVOLVE create its own tag titles.
I completely understand why they did this, but I do find it a little awkward. It seems to make more sense to me to just officially rename the titles. Yes, you’re paying for new belts, but you’d be paying for new belts anyway if you create new titles, so why not keep the lineage. With hindsight, the fact that it took over five months to even announce a tournament for the new titles (and almost eight to finally have it happen), and the fact that the DGUSA Open The Freedom Gate Title would be retired and deactivated within three months makes me think that there was probably some pressure from Dragon Gate to stop using the name as soon as possible.
DGUSA OPEN THE FREEDOM GATE TITLE MATCH:
Drew Galloway(c) vs. Biff Busick - 8.5/10
This was a f*cking WAR! That’s the only way to put it. These two beat the sh*t out of each other and gave no quarter because they knew the only way to put the other down would be to knock him unconscious.
As you might expect, I was not a fan of them being allowed to fight on the outside forever without being counted out. While that was happening, I noticed that the referee was Brandon Tolle, whose refereeing Busick was very unhappy with just two shows ago. On the one hand, I like that EVOLVE is standing by their licensed official and his decision, but on the other hand, it does seem kind of odd that they would have Tolle referee such a big match of Busick’s on the next weekend (and it’s even more frustrating known that this story with wrestlers being unhappy with Tolle’s stoppages would never go anywhere).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Decent. Drew puts Busick over huge and offers him a handshake but Busick turns him down. Drew then cut a promo building up his title defense against Roderick Strong tomorrow night. Eventually Johnny Gargano came out to ask Drew to retire the Open The Freedom Gate Title instead and just focus on the Evolve Championship. Drew refuses to do so because he worked so hard to earn that title. Instead, Drew offered to give Johnny a rematch for that title, and said that if Johnny wins, he can do whatever he wants with the title. I guess that’s a fine way of getting one more match out of the title.
Drew then left, and Gargano cut a promo saying that everyone has to look towards the future. Johnny used this to segue into a promo about his match tomorrow night against Ethan Page with Page’s EVOLVE career on the line.
This was a fantastic show from EVOLVE, with awesome wrestling all up and down the card, as well as an historic moment in the DGUSA Open The United Gate Titles being retired. G-d, this promotion was so great. I really hope WWE actually does put the footage on the Network.