January 9, 2015

Current Watch List:

  • David Starr & J.T. Dunn (c) vs. Eddie Graves & Teddy Stigma for the FIP Tag Team championship (FIP)
  • The Usos (c) vs. Goldust & Stardust vs. The Miz & Damien Sandow for the WWE Tag Team Championship (WWE)
  • Seth Rollins & Big Show vs. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose (WWE)
  • Kamaitachi vs. Dragon Lee (CMLL)
  • Ryuichi Sekine vs. Kota Umeda (DDT)
  • Jiro Kuroshio vs. Tomoya Kawamura (DDT)

Matches Watched:

David Starr & J.T. Dunn (c) vs. Eddie Graves & Teddy Stigma for the FIP Tag Team championship
United States & Canada
Full Impact Pro

A common issue with contemporary indie matches (at least for me) is the tendency for the match to go from respectfully competitive to heated without much of a reason or transition.  For that reason, I liked how this match got from Point A to Point B.  Graves & Stigma bullied Dunn and Starr right off the bat.  Dunn fired back with kicks in the corner that got progressively more wild and heated.  This caused him to be double teamed, Starr made the save, and then the match headed to the outside.  I am probably not doing it justice, but it all unfolded in a very natural manner with a realistic escalation.  Even outside the ring, they went from contentious to angry in a progressive manner.

Unfortunately, the match floundered after they returned to the ring. There was some a rather pedestrian isolation segment on Starr.  Trina Michaels interfered and got super kicked for her troubles.  Below average match overall.

Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Shane Strickland
United States & Canada

Open the Freedom Gate Championship

Opening minutes were good.  Garagno’s quick matwork was nothing unique but was well executed.  Strickland held his own.  The deeper the match got, the more disjoined it became.  That’s not unique to this match; its a bit of a US indie epidemic.  Just too much poorly executed offense.  The non-chop strikes in this were bad.  The purpose of the match was to to put Strickland over as an up and comer.  I am not sure it totally succeeded to that tend, but that’s more because Strickland’s execution on was off and not because the layout was to blame.

Trevor Lee vs. Biff Busick
United States & Canada

Trevor Lee has a lot of potential.  There has been definite growth, for example, from his February ’14 sixty minute match versus Andrew Everett, to his late summer PWG matches, to this.  For a young wrestler (Everett is only 21), you don’t always get that forward progression.  He seems more comfortable, more crisp, and with a stronger idea of what he wants to do.  He moved well around the ring and took some nice bumps.  I liked his pinning combo centered offense in this match.

Busick really laid in some shots.  He had a clothesline and several slaps to the face that were just brutal.  Lenny Leonard made the comparison to Nakamura/Ibushi in regards to the physicality.  It wasn’t that, but Biff definitely for his shots in.

At thirteen minutes (give or take) the match was easy to watch.  The offense got a bit whacky towards the end and (in what is becoming a theme tonight), the body of the match didn’t live up to the mat work that got.  things started.  The finish with Lee working his way out of run choke only to be caught in another one was good.  Average-ish match.

Harlem & Lancelot Bravado vs. Uhaa Nation & AR Fox
United States & Canada

AR Fox is an impressive bumper.  He showed it off in this match by taking every high impact move on his upper back & neck.  His bump on the apron also looked good and I generally dislike ring apron bumps. A Mikey Whipwreck role would work well for him where he can bump and sell for ten minutes, hit a couple of his better high spots, then go home.  When he gets in too much offense, he is overexposed.

To be fair, so are all of the guys in this match.  Bravados are fun when they are working basic southern tags as heels.  When they wrestle a move intensive style like they did here, the matches generally are not good.  A lot of indie overwrought offense from them and to an extent, Uhaa as well.  The Bravados are good heels though.  The sweaters as entrance attire always get get.  Overall, not a very good match.  I am sort of looking forward to Uhaa versus Moose.

Ricochet vs. Timothy Thatcher
United States & Canada

Best match of EVOLVE 36 to this point at least, but more “above average” than great.  Fantasy booking, I’d like to see a series between these two where they work one match on the mat and one in more of a quick, flying oriented style.  This tried to be both at once and that is a near impossible task to pull off.

There were both positives and negatives to the performances of Ricochet and Thatcher, which made for an uneven match.  In terms of positives, Thatcher’s uppercuts looked better than they often do.  His mat work was stellar as usual.  Ricochet’s mat work was good.  He’s demonstrated the ability to be a competent mat worker as shown in this match as well as matches from 2014 with Low Ki and KUSHIDA.  His kicks looked good – both normal kicks to the chest and his speciality kicks which are usually more hit or miss – and I liked the striking he did from the mat on one occasion.

On the downside, Thatcher’s usual issue of being exposed off the mat was evident.  His selling also wasn’t a strong point.  Ricochet’s timing was off at points.  His offense also got a bit goofy, which is not an an unusual problem of his either.  Overall because of these issues, the match could have tighter but as said, it was the best on the show to this point with many fun, interesting segments.

Rich Swann vs. Tony Nese
United States & Canada
10 Minute Flash

I liked this a lot.  I’ve thought that the CMLL lightning match concept could have a home in the US, particularly on the indies.  It would keep certain matches from going too long and provide logic for guys going all out from the opening bell.  The “most pins in 10 minutes” concept that EVOLVE is using does not seem totally necessary, but at least in this match, Nese and Swann made it work.

They came out firing and going a mile of a minute, which worked given the stipulations.  I liked how Nese kicked out of an early pin attempt after a flurry of offense form Swann, only to be immediately caught in a pinning combo.  Doing that emphasized the idea that a strong pinning combination could put someone away rather than pins only coming via brute force.  Swann continued to dominate and when Nese couldn’t get anything done, he took a chair to Baltimore’s favorite wrestler for a purposeful DQ when there were under two minutes remaining.  The move paid immediate dividends as Nese pulled within one fall by picking up a quick victory.  They teased victories by Swann and Nese late, but ultimately time ran out.  This was a smartly put together match and for that reason, it exceeded my expectations.

Post-match, they sent up a trios match for tomorrow with Chuck Taylor/Gargano/Swann versus Bravado Brothers & Moose.  That could be interesting.

Drew Galloway vs. Roderick Strong
United States & Canada

Strong’s pre-match promo was good and calls to question why his Ring of Honor promos are so bland.   He came off as such a chicken on the mic and carried that over to the match itself.  It is easy to work a brawl around a bar by doing a bunch of spots that utilize the setting without getting all that physical.  Strong and Galloway didn’t take the cheap way out, working a brutally physical brawl.

The chops were nasty.  Both guys were wearing big welts on their chests after only a few minutes.  The intensity level was high and they used the bar setting to work a great brawl, rather than a goofy, gimmicky one.  The cameras missed a few key spots, including what was – based on the crowd reaction – a nasty bump by Galloway on an outside bench.  At least one of Galloway’s fingers was potentially broken and covered in blood.  I thought the finish was good.  It was definitely timed right.  I was once told that a good no contest finish is one that teases the perfect finish only to deprive the fans of it at a peak point in the match.  Galloway and Strong accomplished just that.  They got me invested in seeing Galloway kick Strong’s ass.  Just when they got back in the ring and you thought the match was going there, the ref tossed it out.  Great example of a non-finish that is a good finish.  It left me wanting see a re-match rather than feeling ripped off.

I thought this was better than the infamous Punk/Homicide strip club brawl from FIP ten years ago.  Good use of the setting and a legitimately tough-as-nails brawl.


The Usos (c) vs. Stardust & Goldust vs. The Miz & Damien Sandow
United States & Canada
WWE Tag Team Championship

While all the makings were there for a throwaway Smackdown match, this ended up being slightly better than a mere throwaway largely due to the layout and story.  The opening few minutes were fast paced with the Usos in control against Miz.  As in all Mizdow matches, the story was that Miz didn’t want to tag out to his partner.  The Usos worked quick and tried for early pins, because of the fear that if Goldust or Stardust tagged in, they could lose the titles without being in the ring.  They didn’t a good job presenting both stories.  Sandow got a huge pop when he tagged in and cleared house initially.  Good dive from the Usos followed up a solid flying shoulder block from one of the Usos, using the stairs as a springboard.

The ending also played into those stories well.  Sandow got worked over by the Rhodes brothers.  He needed to make a tag, but Stardust knocked Miz off the apron before he could.  This left him with no choice but to tag in one of the Usos.  They went through the usual “out of control” ending to multi-team WWE matches which ended with the Usos getting the win over Stardust & Goldust.  The idea was that Miz was mad at Sandow for tagging in an Uso but Sandow had no choice.  I thought the whole way the match was presented kept it from being more than your normal, throw away Smackdown match.


Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins & Big Show
United States & Canada

An inoffensive Smackdown main event with a year notable moments.

The heels worked over Ambrose’s knee which played off of the injury angle from Monday’s ambulance match.  Ambrose came out fired up at the beginning, but the turning point (the start of the knee work) came during the commercial break when Big Show clipped Dean’s knee while on the apron.  Ambrose sold the knee well during the bulk of the match.  Big Show was fun casually chopping Ambrose down whenever necessary.  Ambrose’s big comeback spot was a tornado DDT that Big Show took remarkably well considering his age and size.

Reigns took a nice hot tag and got a good pop,  Reigns offense was crisp.  He has enough good looking, high impact stuff to be the hot tag member of a tag team which probably should be the position he is still in.  He can definitely work as a single with what he has, it will just take a little more care in terms of structuring his matches (ie. mainly keeping them short).  Rollins bumped like a pin fall so nothing new there.  Reigns speared and pinned Rollins for the win.  Decent match; nothing wrong with it.

Kamaitachi vs. Dragon Lee

A CMLL lightning match that broke from the pack due to its heatedness, stiffness, and big time bumps.  Kamaitachi has improved significantly since his stint last year working for All-Star Wrestling in England and the beginnings of his CMLL run.  He showed a violent intensity versus Dragon Lee that really great.  His stiff kicks to the back of Lee’s head punctuated that but the entirety of his offense was snug and full of impact.  Not to get three or four steps ahead my myself here, but you could see signs in this match of Kamaitachi having a big feud with Liger upon returning to New Japan that culminates in mask match.  He’s not there yet, but he came across in this match like he gets one some level the intensity and danger that would need to be portrayed in such a high level match.

Really fun 5 minutes that was far more over the top than I have come to expect from the run-of-the-mill lightning match.

Ryuichi Sekine vs. Kota Umeda

From the second DDT student show.  It would appear the theme of these shows is to match up students with more veteran wrestlers, but not necessarily DDT regulars.  Hideki Suzuki, Jun Kasai and Katsuhiko Nakajima were a few of the non-DDT regulars on this card and they were all matched up against younger guys who are (presumably) DDT students.  In this one, it is K-Dojo mainstay Sekine against the younger Umeda.  The idea of match wrestlers still in training with more experienced guys (but not DDT regulars) seems really smart on paper.  It will help the shows draw via the special attractions, while the young guys can maybe learn a thing or two they wouldn’t pick up from wrestling each other.

Unfortunately one of the things Sekine demonstrated to his young peer in this match was the “art” of the no-selling opening strike exchange.  Sekine looked good.  I’ve always dug his offense and he has a lot of Dick Togo in him from a visual standpoint.  His offense looked good in this one but the structure was a tad off.  Umeda looked good.  He didn’t blow anything and showed off a nice missile drop kick.  Sekine won with a Boston Crab because veteran or not, this is still a student show.

Jiro Kuroshio vs. Tomoya Kawamura

This wasn’t student vs. student but it was more a prospect vs. prospect match.  Jiro is the bigger name thanks to his mid-card role in Wrestle-1, but Kawamura (Union) is actually older and not too far behind in experience.  Jiro wrestled the entire match with his ring coat on.  Since first seeing Jiro last year or late 2013, he’s struck me as having a Brian Kendrick quality to him.  That came through a lot in this match.  This match was better than a lower card W-1 match in that it was executed well and Kawamura played off of Jiro well.  Better than the Sekine match overall, I think, but both were roughly in the same realm.  Not much reason to watch this other than to get a non-Union peak at Kawamura.

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