Dot Net DVD Review: EVOLVE 10: A Tribute to The Arena - Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet ends with a frightening moment, the final wrestling show at the ECW arena featuring Sabu and Justin Credible

Posted in: Other DVD Reviews, MUST-READ LISTING
Nov 22, 2012 - 12:07 PM

By Will Pruett

EVOLVE 10: A Tribute to The Arena - January 14, 2012
The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It's amazing just how good wrestling shows looked from The Arena. This place provided the best indie production values you're likely to see. At this time, it seemed structure specifically for wrestling and that showed. I'm not sentimental about ECW or any other events that took place here, but I will miss seeing the production goodness of these shows.

The DVD began with an announcement of the union between EVOLVE and DGUSA. Maybe I'm behind on reviewing things.

Lenny Leonard welcomed us to The Arena from the commentary position.

1. Ahtu w/ Larry Dallas vs. Low Ki. Ahtu had an open contract for anyone to sign. Low Ki decided to be that guy, in a surprise appearance. Low Ki kicked him hard for the first move of the match and Ahtu went down hard. Low Ki then hit him in the corner, hit the double foot stomp, and got the pin. This was a fun squash, which the crowd really made.

Low Ki defeated Ahtu.

Low Ki cut a promo about how he wants to be the catalyst for change in wrestling. He hates what wrestling has become and is putting EVOLVE on notice. He spoke through some dates that he will be at and said anyone who is man enough to step in the ring with him could. He used Taz's "Beat if you can; survive if I let you" phrase to close the promo.

I liked this segment. Low Ki's return and mission statement were enjoyable. The serious bent to the character is nice to see. The Arena looks amazing on camera. It really was the best place to film an indie wrestling event. It's a shame it was gutted.

2. Cheech Hernandez vs. Cloudy. This was a battle of former tag team partners (Up In Smoke), who may or may not like each other. It seems like they're leaning towards may not. Cheech was the heelish portion of this equation, with Cloudy being the optimistic undersized babyface. I'll admit that I've never seen these wrestlers before this, but nothing made me want to see them again. The beginning of the match was clunky and most of it was hard to get into.

Cheech ended up winning the match, after delivering his finisher (a Go To Sleep variation called the Go To Cheech) twice and pulling Cloudy's shoulders up on the first pin attempt.

Cheech defeated Cloudy.

3. The Scene w/ Larry Dallas vs. John Silver and Alex Reynolds. This was the first time Silver and Reynolds worked as a team and at moments it showed. The Scene actually looked better here than I am used to seeing them look. I'm not a big fan of the team, but I thought they showed some real chemistry here in this nicely timed match.

This wasn't a stereotypical indie tag match. It was fast-paced and fun, but it didn't try to get cute and overstay its welcome. I appreciated that. The Scene won this match with a DDT and German Suplex combo on Reynolds. This isn't a match to go out of your way to see, but it is a nice time filler on the show.

The Scene defeated John Silver and Alex Reynolds.

Jigsaw and A.R. Fox came to the ring for their matches. Jigsaw spoke and thanked everyone for CHIKARA's success in The Arena.

4. Jigsaw vs. A.R. Fox. When I received this DVD in the mail, this was the match I was most looking forward to. It promised to be fast paced and very exciting from two of the best wrestlers on the indie scene today. It delivered, but not in a spectacular way. It was good, but it didn't quite make it to great.

Jigsaw and Fox traded some high flying offense that at times felt clunky and at times flowed really well. They didn't exactly mesh, possibly because this was a babyface vs. babyface affair. The end of the match came when Fox went for his finisher in the corner and Jigsaw responded with a super kick to get the three count.

Jigsaw defeated A.R. Fox.

After the match, Lenny Leonard went to the ring to interview Fox and Jigsaw. Jigsaw promised that we would see more of him in EVOLVE in 2012 and left. Fox talked about having a beer bottle broken over his head by Sami Calihan. Calihan came out and dared Fox to come and fight him, beer bottles in hand. The referee said Fox would be fined and suspended if he hit Calihan. Calihan was forced to return to the back.

This was a great promo segment and it ended up leading to a great hardcore match at DGUSA's Southern California show a few weeks later (Open the Golden Gate).

5. Pinkie Sanchez vs. Uhaa Nation w/ Ricochet. This was another short match to excite the crowd. Sanchez had some offense early on, but Uhaa Nation's high flying athleticism (which is still mind blowing) won out. Uhaa won this one with the Uhaa combination.

Uhaa Nation defeated Pinkie Sanchez.

Leonard interviewed Ricochet and Uhaa. Ricochet called The Arena a dump. Ronin's beat-boxing hit and Rich Swann cut a singing style promo calling Ricochet a bitch.

6. Ronin (Rich Swann and Chuck Taylor) vs. The Super Smash Brothers (Player Uno and Player Dos). This match started out surprisingly slow, but built pretty quickly. Swann and Taylor may have been the heels here, but I'm not sure about that timing. The crowd actually didn't support this match as well as one would hope. They popped for the numerous high spots, but they didn't really hit a fever pitch, which this match deserved.

The match did end up breaking down the way that indie tag matches do, with a series of high spots, double team moves, finishers, and near falls. This isn't a criticism, as the match was entertaining. The finish came when Chuck Taylor hit Player Dos with the Awful Waffle.

Ronin defeated The Super Smash Brothers.

Chuck Taylor threw down a challenge for Ricochet and CIMA for an Open the United Gate Championship shot.

7. Kyle Matthews vs. Jon Davis. This card was dense and it was stocked with squash matches. I normally don't expect to see that on an indie show and while it is a good thing to have a few, the third squash of the night felt like overkill. They were trying to tell a story here, but it seemed like a match just for a match's sake. Jon Davis won this match with his spinning powerbomb.

Jon Davis defeated Kyle Matthews.

After the match, Jon Davis challenged Fit Finlay for a match sometime in 2012.

A.R. Fox said he was just here to be in Fish's corner for the next match.

8. Bobby Fish w/ A.R. Fox vs. Sami Calihan. This match involved a lot of screaming, but not from the crowd, who seemed to be embracing silence. Sami Calihan and Bobby Fish decided to fill the void by yelling as much as possible in this match. The action was as solid as it could be, but the excitement for this match wasn't there. This was an odd semi-main event on a long card. Bobby Fish ended up winning the match with the Fish Hook.

Bobby Fish defeated Sami Calihan.

After the match, A.R. Fox jumped into the ring and challenged Calihan to hit him. Sami resisted. Fox then handcuffed himself. Sami called Pinkie Sanchez to the ring and Pinkie brought a beer bottle with him. Sami teased hitting Fox a few times until he decided not to get suspended and walked to the back. This was an interesting and compelling part of this story.

9. Johnny Gargano w/ Ronin vs. Ricochet w/ Uhaa Nation for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship. This was Johnny Gargano's first title defense and it was also the match where he injured his back, which kept him out of action for a couple months.

I feel bad calling this match disappointing, which it was. I don't want to be too critical, since Gargano couldn't really feel his legs for the entirety of it and the effort was there from both men. It wasn't even a bad match, but having seen a fair amount from both of these guys, I knew it didn't match what they're capable of.

The crowd also made this match drag. I don't think these people were there for EVOLVE. It seemed like they wanted to see the ECW tribute segment and not the main event. That could be a problem with the ECW tribute concept.

Johnny Gargano ended up kicking out of a 630 splash from Ricochet, then was able to lock him into the Gargano Escape. Ricochet tapped. Gargano could not get up after the match. Johnny would be helped from the ring by various people and spend the night in the hospital.

Johnny Gargano defeated Ricochet to retain the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.

That was technically the end of the EVOLVE show. The next segment would be the tribute to the ECW Arena. Bob Ortiz was introduced to handle the ring announcing. Joey Styles was then introduced by Bob Ortiz. Styles brought out Pitbull 1, J.T. Smooth, and Tod Gordon. This lead to some CZW wrestlers coming out, which lead to Ball Mahoney and New Jack beating them up.

Justin Credible hit Balls and New Jack. Sabu came out and the match was made.

10. Sabu vs. Justin Credible. This was the standard late ECW-style garbage match. Tables, chairs, spikes, canes, and garbage cans were all used. It wasn't all that special, aside from it happening for the last time in the building. If you enjoy the stereotypical bloody ECW brawl, you'll enjoy this. I don't enjoy seeing men cut up with spikes, so it isn't really my thing.

Sabu defeated Justin Credible.

Sabu asked for a microphone and was about to talk. Sami Calihan ran down and hit Sabu, them cut his head up with a beer bottle, which was superfluous and gross. A.R. Fox tried to help Sabu, but Pinkie Sanchez stopped him. Finally, Calihan declared extreme dead and asked for the lights to be turned off. This closed the show.

Final thoughts: The tribute to The Arena portion of this show did nothing for me. Sadly, I'm not a big fan of the ECW legacy. It's not that the promotion didn't do anything good. They did a whole lot that was good. They also pioneered a style of violence that has ruined lives, encouraged addiction, and caused wrestling to devolve from an art to a blood sport. I watch for art.

The rest of the show didn't do a ton for me. There is an inherent awkwardness to the EVOLVE format when almost every wrestling is 0-0 or 0-1. Win-loss records are great in theory, but they are so loosely defined in this format. They're saying that wins matter, but they aren't saying why. I know the format is still evolving, but this show suffered.

Because the match between Gargano and Ricochet under-delivered and the rest of the show was lacking something, I cannot recommend this DVD purchase. If you loved ECW and can't get enough of the reunion shows, you might enjoy the last twenty minutes. For standard wrestling fans, the tag team match is the match of the night.

The DVD is available in the store section of DGUSA & EVOLVE's website.

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