DREW GALLOWAY PROMO - Awesome. He puts over the company and is proud to be our new champion. He's got a really nasty bruise on his leg (right by the hamstring) and tells us it might actually be injured but he doesn't care: There is no way he isn't going to wrestle tonight, and he is going to defend the belt every single match, and that starts right now with...
EVOLVE TITLE MATCH:
Drew Galloway(c) vs. Anthony Nese (w/Caleb Konley & Su Yung) - 6.5/10
Nese goes right after Drew's hamstring, so I'm hoping maybe this was some sort of makeup job for an angle rather than going what after what could have been a legitimately injured body part of the new company poster-boy. Whether the injury was legit or not, it added the perfect element to this match to frame Galloway as the never-say-die babyface that will embody the drive and determination that the promotion has been built on.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Nese is upset about having lost. Rich Swann comes out and makes him even more upset by claiming to have slept with Su Yung last night, and Lenny Leonard interpreted Su's embarrassed facial expressions as indicating that Swann was telling the truth. Nese and Konley were furious at this news, and berated Su for... let's say "fraternizing" with the enemy.
More important, though was the second part of this segment. Once the Premier Athlete Brand left, Swann expressed his frustration that Drew had won the title from Chris Hero last night because Swann, who has been one of the "building blocks" of the company from its very early days, was scheduled to get his very first title shot here tonight against Chris Hero, but that match is (obviously) no longer a title match now that Hero is no longer the champion.
Despite being injured and having just wrestled a match, Drew offered to put the belt up against Swann right here, right now but a referee came out to function as a representative of "EVOLVE management" and tell them that this would not be allowed because here in this new chapter of EVOLVE, the new top ten rankings are going to be very important and everyone needs to focus on their previously-scheduled matches right now so can get climb the rankings and earn a title shot. This segment helped to further establish Drew as the ultimate babyface paragon while also getting over the importance of this new rankings gimmick (and through them the wins and losses and performances that influence them).
STYLE BATTLE 2014 TOURNAMENT ROUND ROBIN CHALLENGE MATCH:
Drew Gulak vs. James Raideen - 5.5/10
Raideen jumped Gulak to start things off. The match was short, but good for the time it got. Raideen won, bringing each man to 1-1 heading into the final night of the tournament.
STYLE BATTLE 2014 TOURNAMENT ROUND ROBIN CHALLENGE MATCH:
Biff Busick vs. Timothy Thatcher - 8/10
They gave each other headbutts that the announcers referred to as "shades of Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, so that was scary. They also traded hard strikes of other varieties, and many, many, many submission holds. This was a wonderfully EVOLVE match, and felt very appropriate for Timothy Thatcher's first victory. Now all four men in the tournament sit even at 1-1 as we go into the final night.
JOHNNY GARGANO vs. CALEB KONLEY (w/Anthony Nese) - 8/10
As you've probably guessed by the fact that I didn't include her as accompanying Caleb Konley to ringside, the P.A.B. did not allow Su Yung to come out to manage Konley for this match. Gargano had a rather surprising amount of trouble with Konley when you consider their positions in the singles hierarchy in EVOLVE, and this, combined with almost identity crisis-like issues that Gargano has been having since losing his DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Title to Ricochet over WrestleMania Weekend, has clearly been playing on his psyche. Matters were not helped when Nese shouted his partner some encouragement saying that Gargano "is a nobody," so Gargano fired up and spit at Nese. This got Nese angry, and he wound up distracting Gargano was about to hit a big move from the top rope, allowing Konley to shove Gargano off, then hit his double-jump moonsault for the upset victory. This did a very good job of making me feel slightly sympathetic towards Gargano despite him being the top heel in the company for the past fifteen months or so. Konley buried Gargano in a post-match promo as well, calling him "washed up" and "a shell of yourself," and even going so far as to claim that this win over Gargano meant nothing.
Also note the fact that the P.A.B. won this match where Su Yung wasn't at ringside but lost earlier when she was, so she's probably not going to be around them for too much longer.
CHRIS HERO vs. RICH SWANN - 7.5/10
For the second straight night Johnny Gargano tried to attack Rich Swann before his match, only to get quickly and easily rebuffed via a punch in the face and then dragged off by a gaggle of referees. Lenny Leonard used this as an opportunity to compare Gargano's struggles since losing his title with Hero's much more non-descript mood today after losing his Evolve Title last night, noting that Hero "doesn't appear to be taking the loss any harder than any other loss."
As it turned out, however, that was not necessarily the case. Hero came across as that dangerous combination of calm and collected but also angry. Like a man who knew he had time to take his rage out on someone, and so he was going to take his time and enjoy doing it slowly. You could argue that losing his title has just reinforced Hero's desire to make sure he didn't lose rather than the idea that it was actually getting into this head the way it has with Gargano, but the end result is the same either way. This attitude both helped the match by setting Swann up as an almost underdog-like babyface fighting a much larger and stronger man, and also helped to get Hero over in his turn towards... the heel end of tweener-dom, I guess? Either way, great booking by Gabe and great execution by Swann, the referee (another target of Hero's verbal abuse), and especially Hero himself. The match was great and the storytelling was excellent. Just about the only negative was that the execution on the finish looked kind of weak.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great. Hero screamed at the referee, then shoved him, grabbed him by the collar, and even paint-brushed him, screaming "YOU THINK I GIVE A F*CK ABOUT A FINE?!" Hero ordered the referee to stand still and then did a rolling elbow, stopping up at the last moment just for the sake of scaring poor referee Jamie Tucker. Joanna Rose tried to ask Hero why he was acting so heelish all of a sudden but he blew her off, but rather than go to the back he just hopped the guardrail and walked right out the door.
DGUSA OPEN THE FREEDOM GATE TITLE MATCH:
Ricochet(c) vs. Matt Sydal - 7.75/10
This was a little short, but still gave you all of the excellent athleticism you'd expect from a match between these two, including one absolutely CRAZY spot towards the end (you'll know it when you see it).
JOANNA ROSE INTERVIEWS RICOCHET - He talks about all of the places he's the best. It started to come off as slightly heelish but he managed to save it by being humorous. He then turned his attention to Drew Galloway, who he is facing tomorrow night. Drew came out and he also cut a promo to build up their match, and they had a face-off posing with their respective championship belts.
Another awesome show from EVOLVE, with the storylines continuing to develop and the roads to change becoming clear. One thing that this particular show pushed rather successfully was the importance of the new ranking system. Between the Swann/Drew segment and Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi's excellent commentary they did a great job of really pushing the importance of tonight's results (and those of this weekend as a whole) because of the new ranking system. It's not that they didn't push it last night or anything like that, but it felt a lot less like random talk and more like something with actual consequences tonight. Maybe it's just naturally pre-disposed to be that way because it's the middle show of the weekend (we can emphasize the position the guys are already in- either they've already won once so they're fighting to be at the top of the rankings, or they've lost once and they're fighting to stay out of the bottom and have a chance to go in to tomorrow night able to come out of this weekend with a positive record) or maybe they were making a specific effort to push them tonight, but either way it did an excellent job of getting the concept over even though we haven't actually seen it in action yet (and won't be able to for another month).