Monday, June 4, 2012

EVOLVE 8: Style Battle iPPV (5/20/11)

EVOLVE 8: Style Battle
May 20th, 2011
ACE Arena, Union City, New Jersey
Attendance: 100

So after nearly a year  of letting indy shows pile up I've decided to work my way back into the pile again, and one of the promotions I promised myself I'd keep a tab on is Gabe Sapolsky's EVOLVE. It's becoming less and less relevant with Dragon Gate USA getting more attention but I still like the roster and the wins/losses system, so let's do this thing. Tonight's show is a live iPPV mini-tournament being dubbed a "style battle" as every competitor has been chosen for their unique style and set of skills in the ring. The Win/Loss records will not be affected by the results of tonight's tournament however, it's a one-off deal.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
A.R. Fox vs. Rich Swann

These two guys would be great additions to the X-Division if TNA ever actually got serious about getting fresh young talent for it. Quick moonsault from Fox and we're off. Swann eats a leaping ace crusher from Fox but sweeps his legs out from under him and hits a standing SSP. Step up enziguri from Fox and he follows up with a guillotine leg drop over the apron. Swanton from Fox gets him a two count. Package piledriver of sorts from Swann and he follows with the standing 450 splash for a near fall of his own. Swann eats a Codebreaker from the top rope and that's enough to give Fox the win at 5:23. Pretty standard stuff from these two, which means it was highly athletic and certainly fun but they kept it short and sweet so as not to blow their loads early in the event, and I can appreciate that with the tournament format of the show. After the match Fox says he's glad to be moving onto the next round and Swann refuses to shake his hand. **1/4

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Jon Davis vs. Tony Nese

Nese was recently in TNA for a cup of coffee and is a pretty well-rounded worker in the ring with a good look. Davis is an underrated powerhouse himself. Davis shrugs off some early kicks from Nese but Tony hits a springboard lionsault for a quick pin attempt. Davis delivers a big powerslam out of the corner and then cuts off a comeback attempt by Nese with an elbow. Delayed suplex gets Davis two. Back suplex out of the corner gets him the same results. Davis catches Nese off the top in a bear hug and starts squeezing the life out of him like a rag doll. Spinning heel kick from Nese and both men briefly jockey for position on the top rope before Nese fires off a top rope frankensteiner for another near fall. Davis takes his head off with a lariat but Nese fights off a second one with a bridging German suplex. Nese gets caught off the top rope with a spinebuster then gets buckle-bombed in the corner before Davis finishes him off with the 3 Seconds Around the World at 10:02. Power vs. Speed always works when you've got two guys who can go like these two, and this was a lot of fun as Nese did a good job of putting doubt into my mind about what the finish would be. After the match Davis tells AR Fox he's next. ***

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Brodie Lee vs. Sami Callihan

Now this should be some rough and tough fun. Lee finally got a WWE developmental deal and is now Luke Harper in FCW, but this was when he was still rippin' up the indies and impressing people with his agilit. Brodie uppercuts Sami in and out of the ring and then cuts off a missile dropkick attempt on the apron with a fist. Delayed suplex from Lee and he follows it by tossing Sami up and over his head with a belly to belly suplex like a ragdoll.Sami is able to apply a sleeper briefly to Brodie but the big man breaks it up soon enough and delivers a huge pumphandle slam for a two count. They trade stiff shops and Brodie boots his head off. Brodie falls out to the floor and Sami takes advantage of the circumstances with a big tope against the guardrail. Brodie recovers and slams Sami on the ring apron with a series of back suplexes before tossing him into the front row and hitting the ring before the ref's count. Sami barely makes it back into the ring before 20 but gets caught with a pair of swinging sidewalk slams. Sami takes all this punishment and manages to muster up a lariat in defense. Brodie blocks a springboard attempt and plants Sami with a Liger Bomb, but he kicks out. Sami manages to lift the big man up for a Death Valley Driver but Lee responds with a big chokeslam. Callihan grabs him anyways and puts him into the Stretch Muffler, kicking his head while applying the move until Brodie taps out at 12:36. In front of a bigger crowd this could have been something special but as it remains it was still a hard fought, stiff, manly and brutal match that woke the crowd up. Clobberiffic. ***1/4

After the match Sami gloats about making the biggest, baddest dude in the company tap out.

Style Battle Quarter-Finals Match
Bobby Fish vs. Austin Aries

Fish has become a NOAH regular in Japan while Aries finally managed to cash in on his buckets of talent and charisma in TNA with a bonafide push as the central point of their X-Division. Lots of amateur takedown attempts to start with the feeling out process. Aries works Fish out with some nice armdrag exchanges off the ropes. Aries tries for a backslide but Fish counters into a submission attempt that Aries quickly breaks up. Aries hits a dropkick on Fish in the corner and then begins some upper leg work on Bobby. They trade stiff chops and Fish hits a tope con hilo for a near fall. Fish drives Aries chest first into the turnbuckle Bret Hart style then refocuses back on the knee. Northern Lights suplex by Aries but Fish catches him in the old abdominal stretch. Fish gets sent out to the floor and Aries delivers a very Macho Man-esque double-axe handle off the top to Fish on the floor (I believe this event aired on or around the day Savage passed away).Both men tease a suplex on the ring apron until Aries snaps Fish's neck over the top rope and then puts him in the Last Chancery. Fish gets the rope break though and they're trading forearms back on their feet. Aries teases the powerdrive elbow but goes for a Macho Man elbow drop instead for a two count (prompting a Macho Man! chant). Fish misses a moonsault attempt and lands on his head. Aries misses a frog splash but makes up for it by sending Fish to the floor and hitting another tope that knocks down the guard rail completely in a neat bump. Aries misses the missile dropkick back in the ring though and Fish targets that same leg he was working early in the match with a dragon-screw and some kicks. He hits an exploder suplex out of the corner and a diving headbutt off the top rope. Aries responds with a back suplex but gets caught in a gutbuster and Fish is pissed now, all fired up and delivering stiff roundhouse kicks straight to Austin's head. Aries hits the patented dropkick/brainbuster combination but only gets a two count from it. He misses the 450 splash and tries a second brainbuster but that won't do it either so he transitions into the Last Chancery. but Fish escapes it and grabs a hold of Aries in a nasty heel hook submission that he doesn't let go of until Aries taps out at 22:35. I watched the first few minutes of this and thought it was going to play out to a familiar formula but instead these guys totally superseded my expectations and delivered a match that was chock full of psychology, sick bumps and passion. The only thing missing was a bigger crowd, but a minor gripe for a great match. ***3/4

After the match Bobby says that was the biggest win of his career, and explains that he learned that variation of the heel hook from one Mr. Bryan Danielson himself. He doesn't seem to connect with the fans as well as he should, but that's probably just because the crowds are usually so small and quiet at these shows. Fish definitely has all the tools necessary to be a helpful part of the roster.

Next up Larry Dallas and Reby Sky make their way to the ring for some promo time. Lenny Leonard brings up their actions at the last show, throwing in the towel for one of their wrestlers and that a new rule has been enacted that from now on only licensed trainers and managers can be at ringside during a match. They talk a bit about their newest acquisition participating in the FRAY match later tonight and then take off before they get fired for being out here without a reason.

Style Battle Semi-Finals Match
AR Fox vs. Jon Davis

Now we're onto the semi-finals of the tournament here. Fox fires off a quick 'rana to start but gets caught in a Blue Thunder Bomb from Davis. Stiff knee from Davis and he delivers a pair of scoop slams before hitting a running powerslam out of the corner. Davis muscles Fox up in a big vertical suplex then goes to work on his mid-section in the corner. Davis falls out to the floor and Fox nearly kills himself on a moonsault off the apron. Back in the ring he hits a springboard 450 splash for two but Davis hits him with a huge football tackle. Codebreaker off the top from Fox gets him the pin at 7:16. This match never got a chance to build any kind of momentum or story and it was clear this was just a filler spot in the tournament, but the action flew by atleast. Finish came out of nowhere. After the match Jon Davis wishes AR Fox luck. **

Style Battle Semi-Finals Match
Sami Callihan vs. Bobby Fish

Winner faces Fox in the finals. Both men shake hands to start then trade kicks.Fish goes for the heel hook he won with earlier but Sami quickly escapes it. Falcon Arrow from Fish and he follows with an exploder suplex out of the corner, followed by a diving headbutt for two. Sami lays in some stiff forears on Fish then takes him to the mat and begins reigning down big elbow smashes on Fish's head when the ref calls for the bell to stop the match at 4:10. Well that was a lame finish, if you're going to do the "ref stop the match because the opponent can't protect himself" finish you need to make sure you put over how much punishment the guy has taken that night and in that match. This just felt like Fish was on top one second and being knocked out with a few forearms seconds later, which was especially strange after they put Fish over so strong against Aries earlier in the night. Weird match. *1/2

After the match Fish congratulates Callihan, whose ready to take on AR Fox in the finals.

The S.A.T. (Joel Maximo/Wil Maximo) vs. The New Havana Pitbulls (Ricky Reyes/Alex Colon)
Both of these teams have a long history with Gabe and the old ROH but each team here features a new member with cousin Wil replacing brother Jose in the SAT and Alex Colon replacing Rocky Romero whose graduated onto bigger and better things in Japan as the fourth incarnation of the famous Black Tiger character that Eddie Guerrero once played. Joel is quickly sent to the floor by Colon but he sends Alex into the guardrail as Wil 'ranas Reyes out after him. Reyes cuts off a tope attempt and elbows Wil back inside. Colon tags in and lays in big kicks on Wil, who counters with a German suplex. Reyes tags in and applies a chinlock but Wil fights it off with a jumping DDT and tags Joel in. Powerslam from Joel but Reyes catches him with a kick and a neckbreaker. Pitbulls take control with a double team double-stomp manuever and tag rules went out the window in this one about twenty seconds in. The SAT finish Alex off with the Spanish Fly at 5:29. While it's nice to see the SAT getting some work again, this felt like filler and the fans just didn't care about any of it. It didn't help that they basically threw the tag rules out the window within a minute of the match. It's one thing to throw them out late in a match when the action is hot and heavy but what's the point of even having tag rules if you can just come in and do whatever you want within 60 seconds anyways? *1/2

FRAY! Match
Scott Reed vs. Cheech Hernandez vs. Brian XL vs. Blain Rage vs. Kory Chavis vs. Pinkie Sanchez vs. Derek Ryze vs. Ahtu

The rules here are that two guys start out and every 90 seconds a new guy enters the match and there are eliminations until there's only one man left. Winner gets booked on the next slew of Dragon Gate USA shows. Reed and Cheech start us off and you just can't help but hate Reed's guts because of his goofy Mortal Kombat-esque ponytail haircut. STO from Reed and the next man out is Brian XL, who old school indy fans will remember from the very early days of ROH and CZW (there's a reason he was gone as as soon as both companies could employ better talent) but he hits a nice headscissors on Reed before totally botching a springboard DDT on Cheech. And just to make sure to get over how bad XL still is he immediately botches the suicide dive out of the ring onto Cheech moments later, nearly breaking his own neck in the process. Reed hits a back suplex and someone named Blain Rage is out next. I watch the most obscure of indies and even I haven't heard of this guy. He and Cheech fire off stereo hurricanranas on Reed and XL and the next man out is Kory Chavis, the tag team partner of Jon Davis in the Dark City Fight Club. He hits an inside out suplex on XL and quickly eliminates him at 5:45. Kory lariats Rage and then plants him with a pendulum slam at 6:30. Well atleast we got the scrubs out now. Next man out is Pinkie Sanchez, still freshly canned from CHIKARA around this point. Pinkie hits a German on Kory out of the ring and then takes him out with a somersault senton over the top rope. Reed eliminates Cheech in the ring with the Roll of the Dice neckbreaker at 8:13. Derek Ryze is in next, another kid I've never heard of just as Reed gets his head booted off by Chavis, who eliminates Reed at 9:03. Pinkie stomps Derek's head into the mat but Ryze hits a blockbuster on Chavis off the top. He tries for a cross body but Chavis catches him, tosses him aside like a ragdoll, and eliminates him at 10:19. The final man out is Ahtu, the mystery man in Larry Dallas' stable. He spears Chavis in the ring and eliminates him immediately at 10:52. Ahtu is ripped and huge and looks like he would do well in the big leagues but he sloppily tosses Pinkie out of the ring and a few fans chant "You can't wrestle!" at him. Pinkie barely makes it back inside before the 20 count and it's surreal seeing a crowd rally behind Pinkie as the underdog babyface here as I'm so used to him a slimy heel. Rob Naylor makes a Devo reference, earning cool points in my book while Pinkie launches off the top and hits Ahtu with a DDT out of nowhere for the win at 14:56. This was a total mess for the most part as you had guys nobody knew in there, a guy nobody has seen in several years botching things left and right, and no flow whatsoever to this match. Even the spots were lame. The finish was decent as the crowd actually got invested and behind Pinkie against the meathead heel Ahtu, but everything before that was a waste of time. After the match Pinkie promises to see everyone in Dragon Gate. *3/4

Style Battle Finals Match
AR Fox vs. Sami Callihan

And we arrive at the finals tonight with Fox representing the high-flying style and Sami the hard-hitting. Fox calls for the Lo Mein Pein (a top rope reverse STO of sorts) early but Sami blocks it and wipes out Fox on the floor with a tope. Fox slides right back into the ring though and wipes out Sami with a springboard 450 splash on the floor. But Fox is fired up and that's not enough for him, so he goes back in the ring and hits a huge somersault senton out of the ring as well just for good measure. Back in the ring Sami retorts with a STIFF jumping clothesline on the apron. Fox drops a leg over Sami's neck on the ring apron and looks for another moonsault but Sami catches him with an exploder suplex on the floor. Back in the ring Sami hits a back suplex and slaps on a tight chinlock. Fans seem split, chanting for Sami one minute and then getting behind Fox as the underdog the next. Bicicyle kick/death valley driver combo from Sami followed by a slingshot body press gets him two. Sami gloats a bit while beating down Fox with chops but AR hits a chinbreaker and then a leaping ace crusher for a two count. Swanton bomb from Fox and he tries for a follow up moonsault but Sami gets the knees up and lariats him for two. Fox hits the Codebreaker off the top (the move he won his first two matches with), but Sami kicks out this time. Fox goes to the top but Sami takes him off with a super Saito suplex, then follows with another Saito and a lariat but still Fox kicks out. Fox hits a boot on Sami up top in the corner and then hits him with the Lo Mein Pain that he teased earlier to pick up the pin and win the tournament at 10:13. This was a great little finals match for the short time they had to work with, even if the roles were a bit confusing at points. They went right to high gear pretty much from the bell and didn't let up for ten minutes so it's hard to fault their effort here, even if the whole thing felt slightly underwhelming for a main event. These two were definitely the right choices for the finals though. ***

After the match Fox thanks the fans for attending and he basks a bit in their chats for a minute as the winner of the inaugural Style Battle tournament tonight.

Bottom Line: This wasn't one of the stronger EVOLVE shows and a lot of that can be accredited to the tournament concept. While the whole style battle tournament idea is a good one in theory, they didn't really showcase any differing styles in the ring other than your standard indie head-drop high-spot formula. Some of that can be blamed on the short time restraints a few matches had in order to fit under the 2 hour broadcast, but they could have cut the Fray or tag team match easily I thought to accommodate them there. All that said though, there were some enjoyable matches on this show, particularly Sami/Brodie and Aries/Fish, so I can't call it an outright bad show by any means, but just a rather boring and average one. Some solid stuff on here for sure but as a whole you don't have to go out of your way to see this one, so we'll go with a Thumbs in the Middle sort of deal as half of this is quite good and half of it is boring and amateurish.

Score: 5.5/10


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