This week was a pretty good week in wrestling, as not only did we get a pretty awesome Old School edition of Monday Night Raw, but Dragon Gate also held their Evolve 25 event. Per usual, I will rank what I thought were the top ten matches of the week to not only highlight the oft forgotten wrestling aspect of bigger companies like WWE and TNA, but to also hopefully bring attention to lesser known wrestlers and companies.
#10. Rhyno vs. Kevin Steen (House of Hardcore 3)
In what was one of the only watchable matches at the third installment of House of Hardcore, the King of the Indies Kevin Steen took on the Man-Beast Rhyno in a match that wasn’t up to par with what these two are usually capable of, but was still fairly entertaining. The ending sequence was great as Rhyno had to nail Steen with two Gores to secure the victory, but had to endure getting slammed through chairs and barricades before being able to do so. The first half of the match was pretty slow moving, as Steen just dominated the match while taking pretty long breaks to either look for weapons or yell at the fans. The match picked up when Rhyno finally got to get some offence in, which included him belly-to-bellying Steen through a set-up chair. Like I said before, this match was pretty good but definitely not as good a match as Steen and Rhyno usually put on.
#9. The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Smackdown)
In a good showcase of WWE’s reborn tag team division, the every popular Usos took on the Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family. The match was pretty standard for the Usos and Wyatts, meaning it featured a lot of high flying and stiff strikes. The Usos would win via disqualification after Bray and Bryan came in to attack them. It’s a little odd that the Usos seem to be the first feud for the newly Bryaned (it’s a verb now) Wyatt Family, as a more credible opponent would of seemed like a better choice. Either way, entertaining match from two entertaining teams.
#8. The Brotherhood vs. The Real Americans (WWE Raw)
On the old school edition of Monday Night Raw, the WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust took on the team of Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro. This match was pretty awesome, as the pacing was almost perfect and the constant switches of momentum between the two teams were nail biting. The ending sequence was so well done that the Real Americans actually looked like they were going to win! The finish came when Goldust saved Cody from an ankle lock that seemed to have been locked on forever, allowing the Brotherhood to get the win. Everybody likes to talk about the Usos when the conversation about who should be the next tag champs comes up, but I really think that the Real Americans should get a run before Cesaro breaks off from Swagger. Every week the Real Americans are one of the highlights of all WWE programming. And no, it’s not all just Cesaro. Swagger is great in the ring too!
#7. Ricochet vs. Chris Hero (Evolve 25)
While this match was great, it could have been so much better. The opening sequence of this match was great, with Hero and Ricochet combining slick chain wrestling with flashy one upsmanship. The ending sequence of the match was even better, with Hero and Ricochet hitting each other with everything they had multiple times in quick succession. Unfortunately, the entire middle of the match was just a drag. For about fifteen minutes, Hero would basically just stomp Ricochet and put him in a rest hold. It was almost as if these two men were told last minute that their ten minute match was changed to twenty on a whim. Still, the bookend sequences of this match still warrant this contest a watch, even if you have to skip a few chunks in the middle.
#6. CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Raw)
When the Shield first debuted at Survivor Series in 2012, no one gave a crap about Roman Reigns. He was just a generic looking WWE-trained dude who was teaming with indy darlings Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Well, what a difference a year makes. Now, Reigns is being pegged as the next mega star in WWE, and his win over CM Punk on Monday Night Raw was a huge sign that he may just be that. In what was a fairly entertaining match, Roman Reigns speared the tattoos of Punk after an extremely slight distraction from Dean Ambrose. Not only did he beat Punk, but he also had a good match with Punk. Not to sound like a dick, but Roman wasn’t that great when he first debuted. Now he’s one of the most explosive guys on the roster. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for the muscle of the Shield.
#5. Chuck Taylor vs. Lince Dorado vs. John Davies vs. Caleb Connely vs. Uhaa Nation (Evolve 25)
In one of the opening matches of Evolve 25, Chuck Taylor, Lince Dorado, John Davies, Caleb Connely, and Uhaa Nation participated in an “Evolve Fray” match, which is a Royal Rumble type contest. The match was really fun to watch, as each participant brought their own style to the match. Chuckie T was as hilarious as usual, and John Davies was pretty impressive for his size. The eventual winner, Uhaa Nation, was easily the most impressive. He brought a fun sort of energy to match as his unique blend of extreme strength and surprising agility was a refreshing thing to see amongst the indy scene. Imagine of Michael Elgin, Rich Swan, and Anthony Nese had a baby. Now give that baby one great smile, and then you have Uhaa Nation. I’m excited to see where this guy will be in the next three or four years.
#4. Johnny Gargano & The Bravado Brothers vs. Rich Swann & The Young Bucks (Evolve 25)
Gargano? Check. Swann? Check. The Young Bucks? Double check. Yes, this match featured the three best things on the indy scene today (and the Bravado Brothers). This match was pretty awesome, and it was interesting to see the Young Bucks work as faces for once. Not much changed, just less of them asking people to suck their dicks. Gargano and Swann were the perfect foil to each other in this match, and the Young Bucks were great supporting characters in this episode of their rivalry. The only reason this match didn’t rank higher was because of the freaking Bravado Brothers. Think of the most generic looking guys with the most generic looking move set. Now give those guys stupid hair. That’s what the Bravado Brothers are. Still, awesome match.
#3. Anthony Nese vs. Petey Williams vs. Alex Reynolds (House of Hardcore 3)
In what was the only great match on the fairly underwhelming House of Hardcore 3 event, Anthony Nese defeated Petey William and Alex Reynolds in a Triple Threat Elimination Match. Anthony Nese continues to show that he’s easily one of the best wrestlers on the indy scene today, and the fact that he’s still so underrated in a crime. Petey Williams was as spectacular as usual, and we got to see him hit not one, but TWO Canadian Piledrivers (one of which was from the top rope). Alex Reynolds was the only unfamiliar face in the match for me, but he was pretty impressive. I could easily see him becoming a mid-card staple for the indy scene in the next few years, similar to what Matt Taven is now. The finish came when Anthony Nese hit Petey with a 450 Splash after Petey eliminated Alex with the Super Canadian Destroyer.
#2. Trent Barreta (c) vs. Anthony Nese – FIP Heavyweight Championship Match (Evolve 25)
l never knew how good Trent was until he started doing the indies, and boy is he good. In the opening match of Evolve 25, Barreta and Anthony Nese went at it for almost half and hour in an epic match for the FIP Heavyweight Championship. The shift of balance between Nese and Trent switched frequently, making it so there was never a dull moment in that match. Both competitors also showed their great versatility, using a combination of high flying, chain wrestling, and power moves during the match. My only complaint is that the ending of the match was pretty chincy, as after hitting all these amazing moves, Trent wins with a pretty underwhelming roll-up. Still, I would recommend this match to anyone who wants to check out matches from smaller indy promotions.
#1. AR Fox (c) vs. Davey Richards – Evolve Championship Match (Evolve 25)
In the main event of Evolve 25, AR Fox defended his championship against the always controversial Davey Richards, and it was one hell of a match. Davey may be a giant asswipe, but you can’t deny how good he is in the ring. This match was stiff as hell, with each man hitting the other as hard as they could. Early on in the match, AR Fox hit an imploding Shooting Star Press to Davey on the outside and landed head first on a chair. Some how, AR Fox managed to get up from that and keep going for twenty more minuted. The reversals in this match were very creative, with Fox relying on his aerial style to counter Davey, and Davey relying on his MMA style to counter Fox. There was a great spot in the match where Davey caught AR Fox from behind and somehow turned it into a Tombstone Piledriver. The pacing in this match was perfect, with Davey and Fox seamlessly transitioning from mat wrestling to striking contests, and from striking contests to tope rope battles. AR Fox would end up winning the match after hitting the tope rope Paydirt. If their is any Evolve match I could recommend, it would definitely be this one.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me why in the comments or on Twitter @SmarkInProgress.