Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
EVOLVE is all about a format: setting aside Beyond Wrestling, there are no other promotions today that play out the wins/losses this way, and that kind of structure has been a huge benefit with all the changes in long term commitments surrounding this company.
Beyond the wins/losses, the main event builds have been the best part of this promotion. While the wins/losses aren’t always the leading factor, creating top notch main events, pitting styles against each other, making the most of possible and available ‘dream matches’ has worked well. And even with the revolving door of expectations as to who would lead the promotion, there has been a very solid concept of establishing big matches and has established EVOLVE as the place where top notch matches are expected.
While the roster depth has been questionable, the constant introductions of new talent has been interesting. At times too many new faces is a problem, but like this event in Toronto, last minute cancellations and issues created a no-win situation. In the end, having nine guys without records, and another four with one match, doesn’t sound strong.
But the format is the key, and those records, if meaningful, have to start somewhere.
Questions remain with some of the matchmaking. Sure, having El Generico as one of the main events is a no-brainer, but then again, the point of having wins and losses is what? And in that regard, no matter how great another Sami Callhan vs Dave Finlay match is, how does Callihan get a main event with a 3-3 record?
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the format?
And then there’s the inexplicable three-way Elimination match with Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor and Samuray Del Sol.
I’ve seen enough of Del Sol to like him, and he has the size, passion and talent to go places in the indie world. His story – touted by Lenny Leonard – of getting a tryout and then taking it to the next level and finally getting his chance, is great.
But in a promotion where structure matters, where matchmaking supposedly was solid and not ‘on the fly’, and where wins and losses are made completely irrelevant with a three-way dance, this match just boggled my mind.
Yes, I understand Gargano and Taylor are feuding after a long alliance in Dragon Gate USA, and that breakup was within weeks of this event.
(But, as that heckler heckled, what’s up with Friends in Similar Tights?)
The main point is this – if Samuray Del Sol is to be a player, and if there are virtually a dozen unknowns on the card, why would he debut against the two guys with the best records in the promotion, only to be ousted so quickly?
It just doesn’t make sense.
Even when Taylor vs Gargano is great, and even if it brings about some intrigue down the road.
And then there’s the ability of Gargano to insert himself into a match, despite the early premise that the matchmakers at EVOLVE controlled things, not the talent. And then the Open the Freedom Gate Championship gets mentioned, but the match deemed non-title.
Yeah, I get that on a few levels, but… but… but… why bring it up?
And while I’m grousing, as great as Chucky Taylor is, he’s turning into a version of Chris Hero during that ROH run, where he stands a little too tall on a roster of equally talented workers. Taylor can go, and this feud with Gargano has two guys who can push each other’s buttons and raise each other’s games, but there comes a time when size does matter.
Give me Gargano, Davey Richards, Sami Callihan, Low Ki and a dozen other guys who can battle each other and keep the relative comparisons close….
That’s another aspect of structure that I wish the Indie world would believe in.
EVOLVE 11 has its great parts, though, so don’t get me wrong.
From the hard hitting battle of Dave “Fit” Finlay vs Sami Callihan to the blend of styles brought to light by Low Ki vs El Generico, this DVD has more than its fair share of moments. Time will tell about a lot of the fresh faces, but Caleb Konley, Adam Page, John Silver and others can and will shine in this promotion.
Most importantly, getting back to the structure commentary, that aspect is there despite some questions and despite the apparent train wreck of reshuffling the card. As long as the format (wins and losses, building to big matches, having a stronger sense of matchmaking) persists, EVOLVE is building to last.
If Low Ki is the next guy to assume the mantle of EVOLVE’s formatting, this promotion can go far. In the long term, a Johnny Gargano vs Low Ki matchup is vastly intriguing. And El Generico as a guy either passing through the promotion or getting a longer look is the kind of old school appearance that I’d like to see more of, instead of having guys trapped in the mid card because there’s nowhere else to go.
Of course, this Low Ki vs El Generico match was off the charts.
Not so much because it was an indie match like all others, but because it played out and told a story. Here, we have a slightly goofy Generico and a slightly heelish Ki and they mesh but clash and battle as expected.
It was definitely refreshing to see a match that did not have 17 kick-outs and a long, drawn out phase before the finish.
That along made it great.
And then the Finlay/Callihan match went in a distinct and different direction.
EVOLVE has been touted as a place where styles do exist, and this match proved it. This was a stiff match, a match where two guys violently tried to hurt each other (without the garbage, with a lot of muscle, and to an extent where it was believable).
To that extent, Sami Callihan is growing his stature immensely.
There are too many indie talents running around, chasing each other, and not breaking out of the pack because getting spots in and doing false finishes seems vastly more important in some people’s minds.
Getting pushed, pulled, stretched and stiffed seems like a better way to go. And Callihan is already showing that he is a better wrestler. Getting in the ring with a talent like Finlay, getting that weird sort of worked/shoot promos at the end of the matches … that all makes for learning on the job and entertaining professional wrestling all at the same time.
Which is what EVOLVE seems to be excelling at.
First it’s Sami Callihan, next it’s Jon Davis. The promo package delivered at the end of EVOLVE 11 – no run-ins, no nonsense, just building from previous interactions, challenges, promos and call-outs. That’s what professional wrestling should look like, should feel like, and how this promotion is evolving.
Dave Finlay vs Jon Davis?
I’m definitely looking forward to see how that plays out. Because if it’s anything like the way Finlay/Callihan feels, and I’m absolutely sure it will be just as different as it is well done, then we’re all in store for some more, great wrestling.