EVOLVE 2: Hero vs. Hidaka

*** EVOLVE Wrestling DVD Reviews by Brad Dykens ***
March 13, 2010 – Rahway, New Jersey

INTRODUCTION: Like I said in my review of EVOLVE 1, I was very impressed with the brand new concept known as EVOLVE. In many ways, it has filled the void in my heart left by Ring of Honor when it creatively disintegrated. Gabe Sapolsky is a wrestling God and will never get the widespread praise that he deserves. EVOLVE has developed a whole new perception of professional wrestling, and challenged the fans to evolve with them by adapting to a new innovation. EVOLVE pushes the concept of sport in pro-wrestling a little bit closer to the realm of reality. The matches are still obviously pre-determined, but the product is based on wins and loses – like a real sport. They actually keep track of wins and losses. What a concept!

Brad Allen (1-0) vs. Chris Dickinson (0-1): After winning his first match on EVOLVE 1, Brad Allen issued an ambitious challenge to the amazing Chris Hero. Hero didn’t feel as though Allen deserved to wrestle him, so he has to wrestle a few more preliminary matches to prove himself. Allen won the match and continued to work his way up the EVOLVE rankings. They haven’t clarified what will happen to wrestlers with a losing record, so it will be interesting to see what happens to Chris Dickinson.

Gran Akuma (0-0) vs. Brodie Lee (0-0): This was a battle of newcomers to EVOLVE with a history together. Apparently Brodie was a member of Akuma’s Army, and Brodie was upset that Akuma disbanded the group without telling him. Lee was one of the breakout stars of 2009, competing in many high profile matches with Necro Butcher in ROH. It ended up being a short match, ending with Akuma stretching Lee into submission! With so many matches on the card, I expect a couple quickies before it’s over.

Aeroform (Flip Kendrick & Louis Lyndon) vs. Up In Smoke (Cheech & Cloudy): None of these guys really look like much, but if you go into the match expecting garbage you will be pleasantly surprised. Cheech & Cloudy have been fighting with and against each other since the early days of ROH, where they were members of the spoiled recreational drug addicted faction known as Special K. Kendrick & Lyndon are newer talents trying to earn their reputation on the independent circuit. The more experienced team of Up In Smoke were successful in a fast-paced short match and become 1-0 in EVOLVE competition.

Kenn Doane (0-1) vs. Caleb Konley (0-0): Kenn Doane brings a little bit of star-power to EVOLVE, with his experience working for the WWE as a member of the Spirit Squad. Doane was upset when he was announced with a record of 0-1, because he feels that he defeated Jimmy Jacobs on EVOLVE 1. Doane did initially win that contest, but Tommy Dreamer showed up and smarted up the referee, who restarted the match, allowing Jacobs to score the victory. Doane was so upset and humiliated that he grabbed his gear and left the building immediately. If he can’t beat this jobber Caleb Konley, then Doane should really be ashamed of himself. Doane indeed got the W, but cut a strange promo afterwards, telling the fans “justice has been served and I’ve proven everything there needs to be proved here in EVOLVE.”

Kyle O’Reilly (1-0) w/Tony Kozina vs. Hallowicked (0-0): I’m not sure how, but Kyle O’Reilly improved his record to 2-0. I’m not overly impressed with him, but we’ll see what Gabe has planned for him in the future. Hallowicked will pull double duty and work a 4-WAY Tag Team match later.

Chuck Taylor (0-0) vs. Ricochet (1-0): At EVOLVE 1, Chuck Taylor had to qualify to earn his spot on the EVOLVE roster, while other wrestlers he perceived as inferior to him were given automatic invitations. Taylor has convinced himself that someone in the EVOLVE office is out to get him. That’s a start to a cool new storyline. Despite his lack of size, Chuck is an unbelievable talent, He could be the center piece of any Light Heavyweight division, but I don’t believe he belongs in any Heavyweight or World title competition. This was the first really competitive match on the card. Taylor came out of this with the victory and received a standing ovation – even though he is a heel. It’s good to have the respect of the fans. Taylor called his story a Cinderella story and vowed to remain undefeated in EVOLVE.

Claudio Castagnoli (0-0) w/Chris Hero vs. Bobby Fish (0-1): Bobby Fish was especially upset about coming out of EVOLVE 1 with a losing record, so he was determined to turn things around as soon as possible. Claudio Castagnoli was accompanied to the ring by his Kings of Wrestling partner, Chris Hero. All of the hair on Castagnoli’s head has fallen off an landed on his face. He kind of looks like Killer Karl Krup now. Both of these guys have traveled and wrestled all over the world, but Castagnoli has built way more of a following in the United States. Claudio pinned Fish and got himself on the winning track, while Fish lost another match to fall to 0-2. Castagnoli did show respect to Fish after the match, so it seems like he will be a good guy in EVOLVE. After the match, Chuck Taylor interrupted a post-match interview and challenged Castagnoli to a match on May 1st – saying he wanted to go after the biggest dog in the yard. Claudio talked it over with Chris Hero, and wondered if Taylor was even in his weight class – but added if Taylor wanted to lose his first match in EVOLVE, he can do it against him on May 1st. Claudio offered to shake hands, but Taylor punked him!

Mercedes Martinez (c) vs. Sumie Sakai: I thought this match would be ruined by Superstar Sean (of Heartbreak Express fame) doing his Dr. Love shtick in the crowd making fun of women’s wrestling. Fortunately they left the ringside area and let the girls put on a great performance! WSU champion Mercedes Martinez came to the ring with another girl who I didn’t recognize. Sumie Sakai did a great job, but it came as a shock to no one when she was beaten by the very well respected WSU champion.

Jimmy Jacobs vs. Johnny Gargano: This was the match I was most looking forward to watching (besides the main event). The heat between these two has developed over the previous two months through the Internet, as breakout star Johnny Gargano attempted to make a name for himself at the expense of Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs felt he did not deserve to be disrespected by the less-experienced Gargano. Jacobs is probably one of the greatest all-around independent wrestlers of all-time. He can do it all, despite being criticized for his lack of size. Jacobs taught the young up-and-comer a lesson and scored the victory to improve his record to 2-0.

Mike Quakenbush & Jigsaw vs. The Colony (Fire Ant & Green Ant) vs. The Osirian Portal (Amasis & Ophidian) vs. Hallowicked & Frightmare: The referee had his hands full with this Chikara-influenced tag team elimination match. Mike Quackenbush was replaced on commentary by a familiar voice; a voice that I would quickly recognize as belonging to Chris Lovey aka Jimmy Bauer aka the one and only Gabe Sapolsky! This was not acknowledged on commentary. Mike Quackenbush was the only participant of the match not wearing a mask. There’s something fascinating about watching a match with so many masks, like Black Tiger vs. Tiger Mask at Madison Square Garden in 1984. The crowd was extremely hot for the action in the ring. The Colony was the first team eliminated, but it doesn’t count on their record because they are not official members of the tag team division roster. Quite a bit of time went by before there was another elimination, but it was Hallowicked & Frightmare who fell victim to a double super-kick from Quackenbush & Jigsaw. A few moments later, it was the Osirian Portal who picked up the surprising victory to earn a place in the EVOLVE tag team division.

Chris Hero w/Claudio Castagnoli vs. Ikuto Hidaka w/Brad Allen: Brad Allen said if Chris Hero was going to have Claudio Castagnoli in his corner, then he was going to be in Ikuto Hidaka’s corner. EVOLVE isn’t known for screwjobs or outside interference, so I think it was Allen’s excuse to get an up-close look at Hero in action. Hero has changed his ring gear to look more like a serious wrestler (a little bit like C.M. Punk did years ago). This classic match ended just shy of thirty minutes, after some amazing world class wrestling – when Hidaka finished Hero off in fine form. What an amazing match!

CONCLUSION: There wasn’t very many fans at this show, and that is very disappointing due to the fact that EVOLVE is an amazing product. Hopefully it will catch on like ROH & DGUSA and they will be able to fill decent-sized arenas. The only thing I hate about EVOLVE is the stupid character played by Sean Davis. It’s a cross between Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, except it is not cool at all. What is so tragic about it is that Sean Davis already has a pretty cool gimmick going with his Heartbreak Express gig. It’s lame and it’s got to go.

If you would like to purchase this or any other EVOLVE DVD, please check out the EVOLVE website at EVOLVEwrestling.com