April 1 2016
We’re in Dallas, Texas at Eddie Deen’s Ranch. Hosts are Lenny Leonard & Rob Naylor. This is the first of three WWN Live shows from this venue but they’re also showcasing CZW and Kaiju Big Battel the same weekend. No shortage of grappling in Texas ‘Mania weekend.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley
“This is wrestling week” points out Galloway. Gargano meanwhile has a special corner man for this match: Kota Ibushi. Well, he flew all the way from Japan so he might as well do something tonight. Although he’s not only here but he’ll be watching NXT after this and then working for Kaiju Big Battel after that! What a night for Kota! Nese has one of those Damien Sandow beards. So if Sandow gets fired from WWE he has someone he can naturally do stunt work for. If the challengers lose they’re done as a team, which is a pity because any excuse to get So Cal Val out here is a bonus. Everyone is at least good in this, apart from Konley who I’m not keen on. He doesn’t put enough weight behind certain things and it leaves his opponent looking stupid. In particular when clotheslining Galloway to the floor. Just not enough momentum going into it. Nese does a fine job of compensating for Konley’s shortcomings. There’s a secondary issue where they forget the rules of tag teaming and stop tagging. It’s a real spot fest, focusing on strikes and the fans love it. Konley tries to do the Dan Bryan kicks but cocks it up, running into Nese, and Gargano submits him with a crossface. The referee makes a complete hash of the finish, not calling for the bell, getting confused and talking to the ring announce Joanna Rose. It’s an absolute mess. It seems there’s no ring bell to ring, which is a bit of an issue. This is what happens when you don’t check shit before you start a show. Kota Ibushi looks confused. “Let’s pretend this is not going on Botchamania” says Drew Galloway before getting Gargano to submit Dylan Hales (“this guy”, random fan selection who I happen to follow on Twitter) and describe the actual finish. Ok, that was pretty funny. Referee blew the original ending though and that takes a chunk off the rating.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Timothy Thatcher (c) vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle is a former MMA fighter who’s been growing an Indie rep and trying to get into WWE. He’s essentially been told to get good in EVOLVE first, so he considers the EVOLVE title to be something he needs to win to move on to WWE. An issue EVOLVE have had this weekend has been with demand outstripping their current set ups ability to cope. The result is massive lag and buffering issues on their live and even VOD events over the weekend. I’m reminded of it during this match because the almost seamless mat grappling is broken up by constant interruptions from the stream failing. Keeping in mind I abandoned a live watch of 59 to watch this show, due to screen freezing issues. It’s disappointing that when a company gets such a big opportunity to get a tonne of new eyes on the product that it doesn’t deliver with the online viewers. I’m sure the live crowds are having a great time but that doesn’t help me.
Anyway, Thatcher does brutal stuff to Riddle’s leg, hooking an anklelock and putting his boot into the calf muscle and cranking back. From there they do a spot where Riddle bumps off the ropes and lands on his head. It’s awkward and the landing is nasty. They don’t play off it at all, which suggests they just cocked the move up. So many mistakes on this show, from production to officials to spots gone wrong. It’s giving the Indies a bad name. They end up duelling over armbars and Riddle looks to have the match won. Instead Thatcher rolls into the ropes, Riddle busts his elbow (kayfabe), and Timmy rolls to the floor. The ref stops the match and Thatcher retains while Riddle celebrates with the belt but it’s a non-finish. This was going well until the ineffective finish. I don’t see why Riddle can’t just win the belt at this point but it’s a no contest. The two worst words in wrestling!
Final Rating: **3/4
Fred Yehi vs. Marty Scurll
I’ve seen Yehi a few times and he looks like someone with a lot of promise. Which is how I’ve viewed Scurll for years. He’s finally delivering on a global level and is out to prove he can wrestle against lesser talent on a consistent level. We know he can work MOTYC with Will Ospreay any time they get together and can work Zack Sabre Jr. in his sleep but it’s against guys like Yehi that Scurll normally comes unglued. This isn’t his best work but a lot of his big spots get over with the crowd. Marty is very entertaining and his personality is one of the most marketable of the top English talent. His music, “superkick, just kidding”, the finger snap and “chickenwing” all get over easily. Yehi is all about stomps and rapid offence. It ends up being a good back and forth match with both guys getting their personalities over nicely. Marty gets the Chickenwing out of a sensational suplex counter and Yehi taps out quickly.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Ethan Page vs. Sami Callihan
Page is lacking in intensity for my liking. I never get the sense that he wants to win matches or beat people up. He strikes me as a guy who’s pretending to wrestle. Which is the second worst possible vibe you can give off after total incompetence. Some of his spots are actually very solid but without that personality to back up the spots I struggle to get into workers. Sami has personality and aggression and he hits hard. It’s tough for me to support Page against someone with all those tools and Sami couldn’t cut the mustard in NXT. Page has no hope of getting that far unless he drastically improves. Sami nails a Ligerbomb out of the corner right into the Stretch Muffler. The crowd helpfully chant “tap” at babyface Page. He really doesn’t have crowd winning charisma. The match is technically sound even if it doesn’t do much for me until Sami starts stamping on Page’s handsome face. Page eats a huge forearm and that’ll do it for Sami. This was solid even if Page didn’t get himself over like Callihan did. The evidence of this is the crowd chanting “tap” at Page. If they liked him they wouldn’t do that.
Final Rating: **3/4
TJ Perkins vs. Ricochet
Ricochet kicks things off by saying he’s quick “like a puma”, referencing his Lucha Underground run as Prince Puma. Perkins works a little too loose for my liking, which is why he’s never taken off. Perhaps he’s just overly influenced by lucha but it’s not my bag. The counters are described as “some circus stuff” by commentary. Sometimes it’s great athletic flipping and sometimes it’s absolutely pointless. About a half and half split. Perkins can’t keep up and can’t live with some of Ricochet’s more intense ideas. Perkins tries to work heel but has very little personality. That combined with his work not being as tight as Ricochet’s makes the match feel passable but not realistic. I don’t feel like Perkins is anywhere near Ricochet’s level. Anytime Ricochet hits a higher gear he takes Perkins apart. The one area that Perkins succeeds with is constantly going back to Ricochet’s knee and keeping focus on his offence. Ricochet barely sells any of it but at least Perkins’ offensive structuring is logical. If you can’t match top Indie guys in spot fests then apply logic instead. See: Riddle, Matthew. The leg work even leads directly to the finish with Ricochet’s leg buckling on a move off the top and the TJP Clutch puts Ricochet away bang in the middle of the ring. Logic goes a long way with me.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: “TJP”, as re-named by Stokely Hathaway, is put forward as a potential competitor in the Global Cruiserweight Series. Any time someone calls out Triple H in an EVOLVE ring it’s probably worth listening to seeing as Hunter has attended one of their shows as a guest.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay
These two had a killer match in wXw a few weeks back and I was begging someone, anyone really, to book them to go twenty minutes. Step forward Gabe Sapolsky! This is Ospreay’s EVOLVE debut and some of the crowd know him already. Soon everybody will discover the Ospreay hype is real. These two know each other extremely well so it’s an easy win for both guys to go out and wrestle. Their normal match will wow a new audience. They choose to structure the match in tidy fashion with Sabre showing his technical superiority in the early going as Ospreay tries to match him in countering. When Ospreay tries to up the pace, Sabre has counters ready right into submissions and pins. Sabre makes wrestling look like a piece of piss. Like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Ospreay is flexible enough that Sabre can tie him in knots and look even better than usual. Their familiarity and desire allow the match to take off in a big way. Especially as Ospreay’s offence is so explosive, perhaps the most explosive style in wrestling today. The pin escape right into a standing SSP, right into a middle rope Phoenix Splash is mind blowing. Tornado DDT into standing SSP right into the triangle choke is amazing too. Ospreay’s ability to break out ridiculous counters is almost unparalleled. His work is so great in this match that everyone in the building becomes an Ospreay fan during the course of it. Sabre wins it though by hitting a Ligerbomb and switching into the same double arm submission that beat Will in wXw. This was legitimately great. A fantastic BritWres showcase.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Chris Hero & Tommy End show up to confront Sabre Jr. Hero pointing out that Sabre has never beaten him but they’ll be going at it tomorrow. With that done Hero & End call out Catch Point (Gulak & Williams).
Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Drew Gulak & Tracey Williams
This has a near impossible job to do, following on from Sabre-Ospreay. Worse still is they set in for a long haul as they’ll be going nearly thirty minutes. Despite the technical competence on display it’s a tough ask for the crowd to buy into a lot of back and forth wrestling. A secondary issue is that Hero & End are the heels but they’re far more entertaining than the somewhat bland babyface team. The long term pay off is against Sabre and company but this match isn’t it. Gulak is a tidy mat wrestler but he’d be far more effective in the heel role. Same with Williams, who’s less talented on the mat, so they end up working heat on Tommy, which is no use to anyone long term. Especially as both of the Heroes Eventually Die have amazing comeback strikes. The whole match is backwards and odd. I like the match much more when either End or Hero is just smacking bitches around. Those sequences are brilliant and take me back to Hero & End vs. Sabre & Callihan from earlier in the year. That particular match is easily over **** (I went ****1/2) but this one is not. Heroes Eventually Die are just a better team. In fact End might be the best tag team wrestler on the planet. He seems to amplify the talents of whoever he tags with and Hero is already great. It’s a little frustrating that the second half of the match just abandons tags in favour of doing a load of pre-planned stuff. This half is far more entertaining than the first. Gulak catches End in a dragon sleeper out of nowhere for the quick submission. Submission holds have been getting a tonne of respect on this show. As soon as one is locked in it’s been a tap out. I approve. It makes them look more legitimate.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Summary: Major streaming issues have hurt the reputation of WWN live over ‘Mania weekend but one thing that’s not hurt them is the actual in-ring. This was a strong show, highlighted by the British Invasion. The standard of wrestling was very high, even if it couldn’t live up to NXT’s achievements in Dallas. Thumbs up but buyer beware regarding WWN Live’s actual live events. This weekend has seen a tonne of issues.