This show was also notable for featuring the EVOLVE debut of Bryan Danielson, who was in the midst of a brief break in his WWE employment. Danielson was originally going to be a partner in EVOLVE when it launched earlier this year, but he went to WWE before the first event and that never happened, so this is a kind of homecoming to a place he never was, in a weird sort of way. His opponent: Bobby Fish, a hard luck wrestler who has fought with everything he has against the top competition on the independent circuit, only to come up short every time and wind up with an 0-3 record as of the beginning of this show.
So let's head on out to Union City, New Jersey for...
The DVD opens with a backstage promo featuring Bryan Danielson trying to cut a promo before being interrupted by "Larry", the pretty boy guy you've seen hanging around with Sean Davis on previous EVOLVE events. Danielson tells him he doesn't belong here, and literally kicks him out the door.
With that intro out of the way, we move on to our opening match, which featured Brodie Lee taking on Jon Moxley. This was just a straight up fight, and they spent as much time fighting outside the ring as they did inside. The finish came when both men went outside and grabbed chairs which they brought in the ring, and the referee called for the bell before a chair was ever swung. The idea here was that EVOLVE is about clean competition, so the mere act of bringing the chairs into the ring was enough to get both guys disqualified. I think DQ finishes are generally unpopular so you're never going to get a high five for doing one, but I'm okay with this here because a)you have to have an incident like this to really drive home the importance of the rules against doing these sorts of things, and b)it means we're going to get another Moxley-Brodie match down the line, and I really like both guys so I'm cool with that. In any event, Brodie earned himself a suspension from EVOLVE for getting so mad about being disqualified that he cracked Moxley with the chair anyway and went after the referee as well.
Instead of the usual backstage promos, EVOLVE conducted their interviews the next day and inserted those into the DVD instead. The first of these interviews is with the man who just got disqualified, Brodie Lee, and he's not going to apologize for what he did because he's hurting, and if they want him to play by the rules...but he doesn't finish the thought and just walks out. I think doing interviews "the next day" is a really interesting idea, because we're so used to prematch promos and interviews that happen right after the match that I like the idea of getting peoples' thoughts once they've had a night's sleep to reflect on the events of the night before.
We move on to a four way match between Chris Dickinson, Rich Swann, Ricochet, and Drake Younger. Swann and Ricochet are two guys who were a major part of the action this past weekend at the Dragon Gate USA events, and while I'm not so high in Ricochet, I definitely definitely see the potential in Swann and I think putting him right into the thick of things with Homicide and Austin Aries was the right move. Dickinson is 0-3 in this match and needs this win before falling too far behind in the rankings, and as the announcers pointed out, he's put on a lot of size since the beginning of EVOLVE and looks great here. We saw a lot of power moves out of Dickinson like a nasty pump handle suplex on Younger and a double backdrop suplex on Swann and Ricochet. Drake Younger, on the other hand, seems to have lost weight, and came into this match as the guy to beat. Cool finish where Dickinson had Ricochet trapped in a sort of Dragon Clutch type move that Ricochet was just not going to get out of, but while he was doing that, Younger gave Swann the Drake's Landing and pinned him, stealing the win out from under Dickinson's nose like Shane McMahon buying WCW. Dickinson even did a great job selling it by getting into it with a ringside fan who was telling him he sucked. Younger cut a postmatch promo saying that he's on a roll and to line them up at EVOLVE 5 so he can knock them down. The next day, Younger gave an interview talking about his thought process at the end of the match and how he's looking forward to EVOLVE 5 against Sami Callihan. Now THAT is a match I'm looking forward to getting the DVD of.
The next match featured WSU Champion Mercedes Martinez coming out for her requisite squash of some poor local girl, and today's lucky contestant is Tina San Antonio, who I have never heard of. The usual: Mercedes rolls her over in about three minutes before putting her away with the Fisherman's Buster. Lenny Leonard gets in the ring after the match to ask Mercedes if she's received a response to her challenge yet from Amazing Kong, and Mercedes said that she hasn't, but then a video plays on the video screen of Amazing Kong (in a nice pink top) tears a picture of Mercedes in half, and then a graphic comes up saying that the challenge was accepted for September 11th in Rahway. Mercedes says that she's the longest reigning WSU Champion in history, and the title will be on the line in Rahway. I've never heard of WSU before Mercedes' involvement in EVOLVE, so I don't know exactly how impressive that may or may not be, but it sounds good at least.
Up next, Johnny Gargano took on Adam Cole, and these are two young guys that I look at and see a ton of potential in. I have to give Gargano credit, I used to get on his case because he showed a ton of personality doing promos and in his YouTube videos, but had his Dan Severn face on when he was wrestling. In recent months, though, we've seen more of his natural charisma come out during his matches, and it adds a nice dimension to his matches. This was mostly about Gargano beating Cole up, and even though Cole would get some hope spots in, Gargano would shut him back down before too long, but eventually Cole got a rollup out of nowhere and pinned Gargano to score his first win in EVOLVE. Lenny Leonard came in to interview Cole, and Cole thanked Gargano for giving him the fight of his life and offering him a rematch anytime, and then thanked the fans for coming out and supporting a product that's superior to anything else. Jimmy Jacobs comes out and applauds Cole, then thanks the fans for being here on the worst day of Johnny Gargano's life, and thanks Gargano for losing to Adam Cole. Cole grabs the mic and tells Jacobs that he's known since day one of EVOLVE that Jimmy didn't think he belongs here, and challenges him for a match on September 11th in Rahway. Jacobs blows him off and walks away, and Gargano follows him to the back.
Afterwards, we go to a backstage promo with Adam Cole, who says that he's going to give everything he has to be the best in EVOLVE, and he asked Tommy Dreamer for his advice because he wants to be the best in EVOLVE. He said that Gargano is the up and coming star on the indy scene, but he kept fighting and caught Gargano in the rollup and pinned him, he had a ton of emotion going through his body and became confident in his abilities. He's not going to let Jacobs walk all over him anymore, and on September 11th, Jacobs will see what he's talking about. Really good promo, I like that even though Cole was being presented as the kid on the roster, he cut a really confident promo instead of doing a 123 Kid style "Well, I'm going to go out there and give it my all and see what happens and hopefully I'll win", and instead came off like the Gargano win just proved to himself what he can do and now he's purposely going after the big dogs because he knows he can do it and he'll prove to everybody else what he can do.
The next match saw CHIKARA Sekigun members Jigsaw and Hallowicked take on Aeroform in tag team action. Aeroform was in the midst of a tag team feud with Up In Smoke, with each team getting one up on the other in previous matches, while Jigsaw and Hallowicked have just kind of been hanging out doing their CHIKARA thing. (aka getting into endless, meaningless tag matches that never go anywhere) I think everyone knows that I don't like these kinds of matches and nobody's ever going to convince me otherwise, so I'll spare you the commentary except to say that it's what you would expect out of these teams, and the CHIKARA guys had a killer finishing sequence where they hit one of Up In Smoke with five or six high impact kicks in a row to set up the win.
Moving forward, the next match features Arik Cannon taking on one of my favorite guys on the indies right now, Sami Callihan. This match was awesome, and was all about both guys just stiffing each other as hard as they possibly could. They literally just battered each other back and forth to see who would drop first, and eventually they spilled out to the floor where they traded suplexes on the hardwood floor and just barely beat the 20 count back into the ring, where they continued to slap, punch, forearm, chop, and kick the hell out of each other. They continued destroying each other with high impact stuff until Callihan ducked under Cannon's Glimmering Warlock and caught him in the horse collar, forcing Cannon to tap out. This match was just amazing, and easily the best match so far on the show. Lenny Leonard got in the ring after the match and put over the war we just saw, and pointed out that Callihan is now 2-0 in EVOLVE. Callihan says he hears everyone about Bryan Danielson and Jimmy Jacobs, but soon it's going to be about Sami Callihan because he's 2-0. The next day, Callihan talks about how sore he is because of the bumps he took during the match, but what's different about him is that while Cannon is still laying in bed and planning to take a hot shower, Callihan's already been up, gotten his coffee, gone to the gym, and trying to figure out what he's going to do to get better. What makes him different is that he's hungrier and he wants it more, and as soon as he got Cannon in the horse collar, he knew it was over because there isn't anyone in the EVOLVE locker room that can escape his hold. He says the message boards will talk about Bryan Danielson and Bobby Fish, but he's 2-0 and soon to be 3-0 and the leader board winner. Great promo.
We go outside, where Larry is hanging out with some chick who's pissed off that he promised to get her into the building and get her wine and stuff, but she's standing around outside in the rain, so he tells her not to talk to him about the rain because his Manhattan hairstyling cost him $200. She seems unimpressed, and simply walks away from him.
From there we go back into the building where we are at intermission, and Lenny Leonard announces that Sami Callihan will take on Drake Younger on EVOLVE 5, but Lenny is interrupted by Johnny Gargano, who comes out and says he did some soul searching and admits that Adam Cole got the better of him, and that's more than he can say for Jimmy Jacobs, who he says is scared of Adam Cole.
We're back from intermission with another tag match, this time featuring the Osirian Portal against Up In Smoke. Even though both teams can certainly hold their own in spotfests, I liked this match better than the earlier tag match because both teams have better psychology and can tell a better story than the teams in the first match. And just so, this was more of a traditional tag match than what we saw earlier, with the Osirian Portal working over Cloudy and cutting him off from making the hot tag to Cheech. By the way, I love watching the Portal wrestle, they are so innovative and sometimes the stuff is a little more flashy than it needs to be, but in general the stuff they come up with is both clever AND looks effective, and it's fun because I see them break out something new seemingly every time out. I think that this was probably the best tag match so far in EVOLVE, a hard fought, back and forth match with both teams getting several close falls on the other until Up In Smoke broke the stalemate by hitting a combination top rope kneedrop/powerbomb/backbreaker that put the Portal down for the count. Lenny Leonard came into the ring after the match and said the tag team division is starting to heat up, and Cheech called the Portal cookie cutter luchadores, and then ran down Aeroform while declaring that they're going to the top of the tag team scene. The next day, Cheech and Cloudy said they've been around for a while and the tag divison doesn't really impress them, but they want the EVOLVE tag division to bring it on.
Time to move on to the semi main event, which saw two undefeated wrestlers in Jimmy Jacobs (3-0) and Chuck Taylor (2-0) tangle to determine who would emerge alone at the front of the leader board. Taylor had actually won three matches in EVOLVE at this point, but the first one was a qualifying match and didn't count toward his overall record, and since the qualifying match concept was killed after that one show, Taylor is technically behind Jacobs in the rankings even though he's technically won three matches. Jacobs cut a promo before the match telling Johnny Gargano not to misinterpret Jacobs leaving the ring earlier as him being scared, and goes on to accept Adam Cole's challenge for EVOLVE 5 so he can shut Gargano up, and tonight he's going to shut Taylor up as well. Solid match that saw Taylor go over Jacobs clean with the Awful Waffle to go up to 3-0 and hand Jacobs his first loss in EVOLVE, and then after the match Lenny came in to inform Taylor that he is now the leader in every win/loss category, to which Taylor replies that he started with the qualifying match at EVOLVE 1 and never looked back, and now he is the face of EVOLVE. The next day, Taylor says that beating Jacobs was tougher than he thought it would be, but it doesn't matter and EVOLVE can keep the win they stole from him because he doesn't need it: he's the wins leader and the streak leader, and wonders if EVOLVE thought when they started the company that he'd end up being the face of the promotion, and says he bets they didn't.
All this brings us to the main event, as Bryan Danielson made his long awaited debut in EVOLVE against Bobby Fish. Fish has had it tough in EVOLVE, and he's currently 0-3 but he's been going against top stars like Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, and now Bryan Danielson, and even though he's lost all the matches, he's fought like hell and survived stuff a lot of other people wouldn't, and in every sense went down swinging. I'm assuming the plan is for him to eventually get that big win and start his run to the top, but the only thing is that after losing to the guys he's already wrestled, that win needs to come against a big name like Austin Aries or Homicide, otherwise it'll come off flat if it's against someone like Chris Dickinson or Arik Cannon. As for the match itself, it was awesome and far and away the best match on the show. They must have gone 20-25 minutes and it was just two guys who went out there and wanted to win, and once again it was Fish taking a beating from his opponent, but he kept on coming back and wouldn't give up and came close a couple of times to getting a win over Danielson, but in the end Danielson got him in a leglock and Fish tapped out. Crowd gave Fish a big "thank you Bobby" chant, and then Danielson asked the audience how many of them were at their first independent wrestling event, and then thanked them for coming and supporting EVOLVE, and also thanked the fans who had been coming all along for getting him where he is today, and after challenging Munenori Sawa to a match at EVOLVE 5, announced that he was going over to the merchandise table to sign autographs for free. Really classy and an awesome match.
As for Bobby Fish, the show closed with Fish leaving just as Larry and his girl are able to get back in the building, and he asked Fish how the main event went, and Fish just shook his head and said he's done, and walked out.
I really enjoyed this DVD, Danielson-Fish and Callihan-Cannon were both awesome, Jacobs-Taylor and Up In Smoke-Osirian Portal were really good too, and everything underneath was solid as well. I didn't like the CHIKARA-Aeroform match, but I gather that's more a matter of personal taste and people who are fans of the lucha/CHIKARA style will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did. Really good DVD, and I like the venue as well, I thought it gave the show a much cooler, more underground look than what they get in Rahway, and I'm glad they're returning there later this month. Solid thumbs up for this one.