I have to preface this rundown with a warning. By the time EVOLVE 22 started at 8 o’clock on Sunday, June 2nd I had watched all of EVOLVE 20 and 21 and Chikara Aniversario. Making a conservative estimate at the opening bell from Ybor City I had digested about 9 hours of professional wrestling and it is possible that I was starting to get a bit loopy. However, one of the great things about WWNLive.com is that the iPPV stream comes with a fancy chat room, and being in constant contact with other fans watching the same program is one of the real joys of being a wrestling fan. I highly recommend watching wrestling with a friend or complete stranger via the interwebs, it makes your 12th hour of wrestling in the last three days continue to be enjoyable. Now, on to the rundown.
- Is it possible that I haven’t talked about Johnny Gargano enough? I feel like I haven’t been good at conveying just how incredible Gargano is in EVOLVE/DGUSA right now. Gargano’s character is obsessed with being the DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Champion, he used his wrist tape to choke out Shingo to win the title and then justified it because he needed to be the champion for the fans. He doesn’t carry the belt to the ring, he clutches it in both hands and holds it against his chest. He used interference from the Bucks and Jon Davis to beat EITA/Tomahawk T.T. at Evolve 21, and at Evolve 22 he out-did himself by pulling off Samuray Del Sol’s mask to render him defenseless and lock in the Gargano Escape to secure the quick tap out victory. Let me repeat that, during a fast paced exchange following many “YOU CAN’T BEAT HIM” chants, Gargano ripped off Del Sol’s mask, the most evil thing you can do in lucha libre wrestling to get a submission victory, and he did it with a smile on his face. Johnny Gargano operates on a different level right now and you should absolutely be paying attention to one of the very best wrestlers in the world.
- A.R. Fox continues to be an interesting champion. For the third night in a row A.R. Fox, fighting champion was on display. This time in a rematch with Lince Dorado a match that started as a non-title bout turned into a championship defense when Fox essentially asked that the belt be put on the line. For those who don’t know Dorado he’s a cat-themed lucha wrestler with “meow, meow, meow” on his tights — he is also out of his mind. After three nights of watching AR Fox I am convinced that he’s willing to kill himself in a wrestling ring, which probably isn’t the safety standards you want from your champion, but once again he put on a hell of a performance, in a title defense in an attempt to increase the prestige of the EVOLVE championship. I really like what they’re doing with Fox, as I explained in a previous review the idea that he’s constantly fighting for respect for both himself and the title, while also putting himself and his championship reign in jeopardy unnecessarily is a great story and will probably ultimately lead to his downfall as champion.
- A.R. Fox accidental misogynist. So there was a SHINE match on this card between Mia Yim and Ivalesse. The match itself was fine, nothing spectacular, but at the end the Young Bucks came out to once again prove that they’re untouchable and the Bucks got ready to super kick both of the women after their match. AR Fox came out to protect Yim and Ivalesse, and while I appreciate the nobility he actually said that he was out to “protect these two girls” and suddenly I’m thinking, why can’t two professional wrestlers protect themselves? I understood the logic, but the way it was played off made it seem like the Young Bucks were going to overwhelm Yim and Ivalesse and they were helpless had AR Fox not intervened — and I dunno, something about the whole thing felt wrong to me.
- Serious Chuck Taylor is maybe not that great. This triple shot weekend was a chance for Chuck Taylor to unveil his more serious persona. Evolve played a ton of promos from Chuckie T where he talked about leaving the Gentlemen’s Club behind and turning over a new, more serious leaf. Well he went 0-3 over the weekend and was in two matches that I’d classify as meh to not great. I usually love Chuck Taylor but his matches this weekend (on this show he was with Caleb Konley) were not great (other than the Jon Davis match) and the one constant was Taylor so I have to blame him at least initially. I don’t know, it may be that Chuck Taylor has a comfort zone and trying to make him a “serious” guy just isn’t going to work for him.
- Even Evolve makes trios matches that are great. I mentioned during my review of Aniversario that I love trios matches, and EVOLVE 22 had a pretty good one. Even though I typically associate Chikara with trios matches I know that Dragon Gate is really the innovator of this type of match so give credit where credit it due. This match featured the Bravado Brothers and Andrew Everett taking on Dos Ben Dejos and Shane Strickland. Everett used to be Chiva Kid and he has one of the best shooting star presses in the business. If you haven’t seen Strickland he looks a little bit like Jon Jones from the UFC but wears Sprite themed wrestling gear and is an athletic freak. He’s still a work in progress, but he has a really nice axe kick and had good chemistry with Everett. This was my first time seeing Dos Ben Dejos who have a marginally racist identity but were pretty fantastic in this match and should do more EVOLVE shows (they’re the FIP tag team champions). This match was perfectly placed on the card because it brought the crowd, who at that time were pretty quiet, to life.
- I’m about to say something bad about the Young Bucks. I heart the Bucks, I’ve made that very clear over all of the reviews that I’ve done and I’m not going to change my mind now — however, I absolutely hated the Young Bucks tonight. I understand the story being told — the Bucks can say and do whatever they want and the powers that be in EVOLVE can do nothing to stop them because of how great/important they are to the company. However, when the Bucks came out after the Yim/Ivalesse match and Matt said they were going to “superkick these two whores in the mouth” I felt very uncomfortable. It’s the heels job to make me uncomfortable, but I’m not sure this was the most appropriate way to do things. This is absolutely a case of personal preference, but the Bucks are so good and so talented that I don’t think they also need to be over the top misogynist, but hey at least AR Fox came out to save those little ladies….the whole segment was just yuck.
- Oh wait, the Bucks also wrestled and it was glorious. The thing that makes the Bucks so frustrating is that they’re so great in the ring. The Bucks, and not Gargano and not AR Fox headlined this show, defending the Open the United Gate tag titles against EITA and Tomahawk T.T., and it was everything you’d want it to be. The Bucks are the perfect heels for the DG duo because there is something cathartic about watching the Jacksons get chopped so hard their chests are beat red five minutes into a match. The thing that EVOLVE/DGUSA has in its pocket other than a very good group of American wrestlers is the Dragon Gate support, because EITA and Tomahawk T.T. came across as important stars over the weekend, and even though I didn’t think they’d beat the Bucks, they seemed much more important that say Dos Ben Dejos. Coming out of the weekend I want to see more of EITA and Tomahawk T.T., which means that the whole thing was a productive weekend for the company.
Awards section after the break
Wrestler of the Night: Johnny Gargano — a supporting role should go to Samuray Del Sol who had me convinced for a period of time that he was going to upset Gargano and begin the Summer of Del Sol. Gargano’s expressions are perfect, his mannerisms are great and his character is so nuanced right now that I’m loving everything he does. The look on his face when people were chanting “you can’t beat him” made him seem like he was believing it and he was willing to go to any lengths to keep his title, which is why when he saw his chance to pull off the mask – he took it.
Match of the Night: Gargano/Samuray Del Sol — I hate giving one guy/combination all of the awards but on this night I have no other choice. This was a fantastic match and even after watching 12 hours of wrestling it still sticks out in my mind. The ending was so unexpected and so perfectly done that I’m not sure I’d change anything about it. Just a really good effort by everyone involved, and if Del Sol is making his way to the WWE that was a fitting goodbye to the company.
Should I See It? — Absolutely. Honestly I thought all three nights of the triple shot were very good shows and well worth the investment. If I could only choose one event to watch I would recommend EVOLVE 21 but this was a very close second and this show had three very good matches that make me feel like my money was well spent.