Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Failing to EVOLVE

BREAKING* EVOLVE Wrestling Ceasing Operations Due To Pandemic ...
To many, EVOLVE was an unofficial arm of Vince's empire for a while now. Now, WWE owns the brand and honestly no one is certain what happens next. Does it become their 6th brand? Does it just dissolve quietly and the catalog get slowly added to the Network? Time will tell, but as I quickly ran to the WWNLive shop to finish my collection of DGUSA DVD's, I realized the company deserved a look back. I have no intentions of holding back or pulling punches and my distaste for Gabe is well known, but I hope this comes off as fair and I promise to call out the good just as much as the bad.

Now, I could rant and ramble endlessly on DGUSA but I am working my way through my large collection and posting reviews for the shows so let's keep this to EVOLVE.

Starting up in 2010, EVOLVE spent much of the early years trying to find a footing. They were uneven, showcasing many ideas that largely faltered, and most considered them a less attractive brother of Dragon Gate USA. The style they showcased changed a lot over the years, too. The idea of EVOLVE was formed between Gabe and The American Dragon, Bryan Danielson, with hopes of bringing technical wizardry to a more prominent standing in the states. Too bad Bryan ran off to Vince's empire and never got a chance to take on the role that was suggested for him. He had a chance to work EVOLVE 4 and 5 thanks to the infamous tie incident, but that was it.

Instead of Bryan, Davey Richards took over as a top dog to be pushed. You can see this alluded to on the early DGUSA shows. Davey didn't last long, though. These early days featured a ranking system that they never really embraced for long and the debut of the Style Battle which was more thud than anything else.

Despite all of this, it's worth noting that the shows did tend to always have at least one great match and it was certainly different if nothing else.

In 2011, Gabe officially announced that EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA would share a universe, which was a decent idea but the way it worked out just further showcased that EVOLVE was largely just a secondary brand. It didn't help that they had frequent streaming issues.

We went through this era and then on to the grapplefuck saga which saw Thatcher polarize crowds while the shows continued to change more and more. Once DGUSA was closed up, EVOLVE finally had a fighting chance to be a big player but they tended to botch things often enough that only diehard fans truly tuned in regularly. Even Csonka, who watched nearly everything of note stateside tended to skip a lot of the shows.

The lowest points are arguably the FloSlam drama and the WWE era, though.

FloSlam was supposed to be the game changer that put the WWNLive brands on par with ROH and all the other non-WWE US companies, but the entire thing fizzled out and turned into a giant, ugly mess. FloSlam not only turned to shit, but EVOLVE had a stench on them after that didn't rub off easily.

Then, Gabe sold his soul.

Now, I get that it's been said without working with WWE, EVOLVE would've died. I understand. But, after making the deal that eventually saw most of the EVOLVE shows turn into what felt like NXTVOLVE and saw the bigger names of the company falling to WWE names, Gabe grew an ego that more and more turned away fans that had supported him since day one. The company began to rely on people that were WWE fans instead of diehards and they pissed away good will left and right.

I have complained a lot about them, but I should note that I still consider myself a fan of the brand despite the many issues. I sincerely loved them at times, while sincerely hating them at others. I loved the roster most of these ten years even though I grew to strongly dislike Gabe. I appreciate them being a launching point for many great talents, even if those talents didn't get paid well enough nor treated well enough while there. I guess it's fair to say, I appreciate them but not enough to ignore the flaws, of which there were many.

Alas, EVOLVE is...EVOLVE. They evolved many times over the ten year run, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but they evolved nonetheless. And, then they didn't. I regret that this is how it ends for the brand; swallowed up by the WWE and into the abyss. But, that's what happens when you sell your soul. I'd blame COVID, which is one of the worst things to ever happen in world history, but I think this was inevitable.

Thanks for the memories.

Select Match Reviews: Farewell (EVOLVE)

Match from EVOLVE 146:
1.JD Drake vs Atlas vs Stallion ***3/4

Thoughts:
This is from the final EVOLVE show ever. I considered watching the full show but ultimately decided against due to time restraints, a lack of interest in the full card, and that Briggs was in the main event. Note that Briggs recently had his developmental contract offer rescinded by WWE officials.

Anyway, JD announced today that he is a free agent and EVOLVE is now owned by WWE. I'll never get a chance to complete my collection of DGUSA DVD's now...

This three-way featured a fun dynamic, with Atlas and Stallion bringing the speed and JD working as the large object that he is. In all, it was a great encounter with a decent pace though I'd argue the finish felt a bit off. Alas, it is still worth checking out for sure.

I'll be posting a little piece on EVOLVE soon. Until then, if you wanna see the match in question click the video above and jump about 90 minutes in!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Dragon Gate USA Open the Untouchable Gate Review

Matches:
1.Dragon Kid vs Yoshino ***3/4
2.Quackenbush, Jigsaw vs YAMATO, Akuma ***
3.Danielson vs Doi ****1/2
4.CIMA vs Kendrick ***
5.SHINGO vs Richards ****3/4
6.Young Bucks vs Real Hazard ***1/2

Thoughts:
Time for show #2.

On the first event review, I mentioned that Dragon Kid and Yoshino are capable of better matches. This event started with one such match. Great stuff, truly. Thanks to a cut-off spot, DK was considered the heel by the crowd for a majority of this. This was largely smooth and crisp and well worked. Yoshino refusing to shake Kid's hand after worked well.

Match two was surely held back a tad by Jigsaw's injury but honestly all four guys worked hard and it was a good tag overall. Quack picked up the win but YAMATO attacked after until Hallowicked made the save.

The Bucks then came out and cut a promo teasing the main event. Jacobs and Mustafa Ali came out to recruit the Jacksons but were turned down. The four brawled a tad with the Bucks standing tall but the Real Hazard came in for a cheap shot.

The lights went out and when they returned, the American Dragon was in the ring. I personally remember seeing this match between Bryan and Doi and thinking, "this promotion is going to be huge". While I was sadly wrong, Gabe's gonna Gabe after all, it is still a huge match that has aged very well. Right before Bryan went off to WWE (before being fired for the necktie situation), he wanted a chance to work a DGUSA show and thank God he did. Him and Doi killed it in a fantastic affair that I urge you to make time for.

Bryan issued a challenge to Richards after telling him to take his spot as the best in the world. That never happened, but I did appreciate Davey's work.

Next, CIMA and Brian Kendrick had a good but forgettable match that kept the show rolling on a solid enough foot. Not too bad for a throwaway.

In the semi, Davey and SHINGO stepped up big. Richards gets a lot of shit, but I used to really enjoy his work and I urge all the naysayers to watch this. If they still dislike the dude, I would have to ask what drugs they are on. SHINGO happens to be a dude that has been in many of my favorite matches, though none have hit five stars yet for me. Many ****3/4 scale, though. They fucking killed it here in a nearly perfect battle!

Bryan and Davey share a moment post-match. Richards is put over by Dragon before he turned heel, attacking Danielson.

The main event saw the Twin Gate Champs in non-title action versus the Bucks. Following that last match was a tall task and this certainly was in the shadow, but regardless of card placement it was a respectable closer and a pretty good match. If nothing else, this worked nicely to showcase the growth of the Jackson brothers over the years which is always fun. The champs, of course, were a strong pair. The only true knock I have is the weak finish, really.

WWNLive also added EVOLVE 45, 79, 81 that I don't think I've ever seen so I might check those out at some point. I also just purchased some more DVD's from the WWN site, fearing they won't be available much longer. I will continue slowly working through these gigs as I reconfirm my love for DGUSA. For now, I give this one a thumbs up. It lived up to my own hypes nicely, being as good a show as I remembered. Check it out when you get a moment!

Overall Rating: 85/100%

Thursday, July 2, 2020

RWB TRUE Heavyweight Champion Tournament Announcement

The RWB TRUE Heavyweight Championship is a concept I have had in some form or another for years. I'm sure others have had the same idea. Basically, using Fire Pro World, I will simulate a tournament featuring a majority of the top prize champions from various promotions from around the globe. I plan on starting the tournament post-pandemic, but wanted to post the idea now. The winner will defend the title monthly.

I plan on including the following brands:
NJPW, AEW, WWE, Dragon Gate, AJPW, NOAH, NWA, ROH, PWG, MLW, IMPACT, AAA, CMLL, PROGRESS, wXw, DDT, BJW, ZERO1, FREEDOMS, RevPro, OTT, IWRG, CZW, AAW, GCW, and more!