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By Stuart Carapola on 2010-05-02 23:24:27
I attended the third EVOLVE event this past weekend in Rahway, New Jersey, and thought I'd write a quick column sharing my thoughts on the event. The first thing I noticed, which EVOLVE management surely can't be happy about, is that it was very lightly attended, and I'd say they were lucky if they had 200 people there. Last time they had an excuse because of the massive rainstorm that was affecting the Northeast, but this time the only thing I can attribute it to was poor promotion. Their first event was very heavily hyped and drew a good crowd, but I nearly forgot this event was happening because it wasn't in my face the way the first one was.

-I liked the opener between Sami Callahan and Adam Cole, it was really intense and a good match to put on first and get the crowd going. Callahan has really grown on me in the last year or so and I like how he is innovative with his moves without making them overly complex or contrived like you see far too often on the indies. Callahan's stuff looks good and doesn't take 20 minutes to set up.

-After the first match, they made an announcement that from here on out, all EVOLVE matches would have no time limit and must have a winner. This pretty much told me that they were giving up on doing 12 or 13 matches at 7-10 minutes apiece and would instead have shorter matches that each got a decent length of time. I know Gabe made a conscious decision not to go long with his stuff the way he did at ROH, but even though I enjoyed most of the action on EVOLVE 1 and 2, I thought the matches were a little too short, and by the end of this evening I thought they struck a good balance.

-Match #2 saw Johnny Gargano defeat Ricochet in what amounted to two different matches: it was solid and well-worked when Gargano was in control and was a flippy dippy spotfest when Ricochet was in control. I think Gargano has a ton of personality but it doesn't come through at all in his matches because when he's wrestling, he just has this stone dead face on and he really needs to emote more. I think his wrestling is fine, but he just needs to make that connection with the audience who doesn't see his stuff on the internet. The match ended in a double countout, but as we conveniently were told before this match, every bout in EVOLVE must have a winner, and the first man to make it back in the ring would win the match. Ricochet almost made it, but Gargano pulled him back to the floor and dove in the ring to score the win. Jimmy Jacobs came out to confront him from the aisleway after the match, so it looks like that storyline is going to continue.

-Next was our traditional Mercedes Martinez squash of some local girl, and as usual it took all of two minutes. I really like Mercedes and think she's improved a lot over the last few years, and I would love to see her and Del Rey work another series of matches. Mercedes challenged Amazing Kong to a future match in EVOLVE, which I can't wait to see.

-From there we go to a three way tag match as Aeroform defeated Up In Smoke and Team Beyond in your standard indy spotfest match. This was basically the CHIKARA match with guys who look 12 years old instead of the CHIKARA guys. They ran, they jumped, they flipped, they took stupid bumps that meant nothing, and overall did nothing to make me care about any of them. Aeroform got the win and then had a confrontation with Up In Smoke, as each team has one win in an EVOLVE match that included the other team.

-Next up we got new FIP Champion Jon Moxley taking on Drake Younger. This was my first time seeing Younger and he looked like a miniature version of Eddie Kingston, except that Younger appeared to have some wrestling talent. This was a solid match until both men were on the top rope and Younger very obviously had a blade in his hand and was trying very hard to gig Moxley, but it just wasn't happening and he spent a ton of time blatantly running the blade over Moxley's head and headbutting to try and get him to bust open before he finally got color, and then Younger visibly stuffed the blade back in the front of his singlet. Not very subtle, and the blood was completely unnecessary and didn't play into the match at all since this wasn't a match between two guys who really had it out for each other. As for Moxley, I've only seen him a few times but he's really grown on me, I like his look and his persona as this big mouth dirtbag who can back up everything he says and I'm impressed with what he does in the ring.

-Next we got a terrific match between Chris Hero and Bobby Fish, and this was easily the best I've ever seen Fish look. To me he's always been this journeyman midcarder who just doesn't have what it takes to hit it big, but he showed a ton of heart and drive in this match and Hero literally had to throw everything he had at Fish to put him away, finishing him with a flash kick and three rolling elbows. There were a couple of points where it looked like Fish was going to get the upset, and this is one of those matches that shows that you can lose and still come out of it looking stronger than when you went in, and that's exactly what Bobby Fish did. I really liked this and for the first time ever, am interested to see what happens next with Bobby Fish.

-From there we went to a four way match that saw Brodie Lee defeat Gran Akuma, Hallowicked, and Chris Dickinson, and also saw these guys blow half the spots they tried, and Chris Dickinson was responsible for most of those blown spots. I've seen the other guys do better so I'll give them a pass, but I am not at all impressed with Dickinson and wouldn't be hearbroken if he weren't brought back for EVOLVE 4. I liked that Brodie got the win because he's this gigantic guy who can really move for a guy his size and he ought to be able to just roll over everybody, yet inexplicably does a clean pinfall job in nearly every match I've seen him in. I really hope this is the start of him getting a push because I see Sid Vicious monster potential in this guy, albeit at the indy level.

-Next was my personal favorite match of the night as TJP defeated Kyle O'Reilly in a really good match that saw both guys work an MMA style with a lot of submissions, escapes and reversals. I really like watching both these guys wrestle, and when you put them together like this they're both able to show just how good they are while working with a guy who can hang with them in their style of match. I was a little surprised to see TJP win since O'Reilly seemed to be the guy who was getting the big push, but I was really happy to see it because TJ is a guy who I think has talent coming out of every pore on his body and I've never seen him have a bad match, but for some reason has just never gotten the push that I feel is commensurate with his talent. After the match he cut a promo putting over Kyle O'Reilly in a nice gesture of sportsmanship, then challenged Munenori Sawa to a rematch of their bout back on EVOLVE 1. I'm all for that, I thought that was one of the strongest matches in EVOLVE so far and would like to see them try and top it. I'd also be totally up for a series of matches between TJ and O'Reilly.

-From there we went to the first of our two main events, both of which featured wrestlers who were undefeated in EVOLVE. The first main event saw Jimmy Jacobs defeat Brad Allen in a match that I found puzzling for a number of reasons. First, Allen has been building to a big match with Chris Hero, and having him suffer a clean loss like this seemed to kill his momentum for me, and if he can't beat Jimmy Jacobs, how are we supposed to believe he can beat Chris Hero? The other thing was that Jimmy was too physically dominant of the much larger and stronger Brad Allen, outbrawling him on a couple of occasions. I feel that a lot of the work that had gone into making Allen seem like a star on the rise was blown with the way he was booked in this match.

-Finally we had our second main event, as Chuck Taylor defeated Claudio Castagnoli. Claudio is an absolute monster, that dude is so strong and did one really impressive spot where he was standing on the top rope and reached down, grabbed Taylor by the arms, and yanked him up to the top rope with him. Claudio is just a beast, and is a terrific worker to boot, and the fact that this guy is not making tons of money in a national promotion is just mind-boggling to me. As for Taylor, I really like his style, I think he's a good wrestler and he has a lot of charisma, and he's obviously someone that Gabe has big plans for otherwise he wouldn't be in the position he is in, and the fact is that we may not be looking at guys like Hero and Claudio being around long term, so even though it's a little difficult to accept a guy like Taylor, who isn't very big, as beating a guy the size of Claudio, I think it's wise to use the stars to help get over the guys who are going to be around EVOLVE as regulars, as Hero did with Fish and as Claudio did here with Taylor.

Overall, an excellent show and I feel like after two shows of feeling things out and trying to figure out what works for them, EVOLVE has finally hit their stride and I'm really looking forward to seeing where they go from here. They've successfully taken guys like Bobby Fish, Brad Allen, Johnny Gargano, and Chuck Taylor, who I either had no familiarity with or no regard for, and turned them into characters whose future exploits I'm interested in watching. Great effort all around, and if you could have made it to this show and didn't, you really missed out on a great event and should make a point of trying to get to EVOLVE 4. EVOLVE returns to Rahway on September 11th as part of Wrestlereunion weekend, and are currently working on finalizing a July date as well.

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