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Evolve 5: Danielson vs. Sawa (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000142326
Added by: Michael Campbell
Added on: 30/5/2011 20:06
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    Review for Evolve 5: Danielson vs. Sawa

    8 / 10

    Evolve 5
    Danielson vs. Sawa

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    When Professional Wrestling was a hot product in the late Nineties, various figures and personalities were not just huge stars within the industry, but house-hold names, the most obvious examples being The Rock, Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I have no doubt that the vast majority of readers of this site will be familiar with these names, but very few beyond that. Additionally, most casual observers will not be aware that this boom period ended in 2001, with the number two promotion, WCW in freefall, resulting in it's purchase by rival company, Vince McMahon's WWE. The number three group, ECW folded, and the result was a horrendous stagnancy within the next two-three years in mainstream professional wrestling that remains to this day. Nowadays, there is only one legitimately major player in North American Wrestling.. the WWE, with numerous, distant pretenders to the throne. The positive upside, is that since 2001 a number of companies have sprouted up around the US, on a much smaller scale, entertaining those fans who were all to aware of the downside of WWE's monopoly, and what the lack of a competitor can do their perspective, and creative growth.

    Evolve, is not one of those pretenders though. Instead, this independent company represents a true alternative to the often frustrating, shallow product that exists on television. It's the brainchild of Gabe Sapolsky, the award-winning booker of Ring of Honor from 2002-2008, and it's focus on win-loss records, and following the rule-book of legitimate sports (i.e., if it's illegal- it does not transpire in Evolve), rather than soap-opera storylines, distinguishes it from the competition. In Sapolsky's own words, "what we're doing with Evolve, is trying to give Pro Wrestling a new presentation, trying to modernize it with the times."

    The first four Evolve releases followed through with this concept, matching up the top stars of the independent scene, along with a healthy balance of up-and-coming talent. Rules were adhered to, and dazzling contests were arranged based on the notion of sportsmanship and the desire to win. This edition however, upped the ante, thanks to a roster bolstered by several notably names, none more so than Bryan Danielson, better known as "Daniel Bryan".

    What's on it?

    Mike Quackenbush vs. Chuck Taylor
    This is a tremendous way in which to kick off the event. Quack is a beloved veteran of the scene, and his Lucha-Hybrid style in Chikara Pro Wrestling is a thing of absolute beauty. Taylor is arguably a more divisive performer, occasionally serving to draw criticism for his "Indy-riffic" trappings. Both are fantastic here, in a well-paced, superbly executed opener, that really establishes the tone for the remainder of the show. Quack lands a beautiful Asai Moonsault to the outside, and also a stunning Swanton, while Taylor also impresses with his repertoire of inventive trademark spots. If there's anything that could be argued as questionable here, it's in positioning Chuck, an undefeated guy, who would headline the following show, in the opening bout.

    Adam Cole vs. Jimmy Jacobs
    Jacobs played the veteran here, with Adam Cole as his "pretty opponent" being bullied yet underestimated. As anyone would expect from these two, this is a sharp, breezy affair, with crisp exchanges highlighted by several big spots. Cole shows great promise for the future, while Jimmy, one of Evolve's main players, has been an underappreciated talent for a number of years. For my money, he is in a league of his own when it comes to character development and promos. Throughout this scrap, he also shows an unusual confidence in presenting himself as the more experienced, bullying type. These two showed great chemistry here.
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    Sami Callihan vs. Drake Younger
    Both of these guys are known for their stiff, hard-hitting battles, often within the context of a hard-core environment. In that respect, they're the opposite of what fits within the Evolve mantra. However, Younger has previously displayed his surprising versatility within Evolve, whilst Callihan brings an edge to the usual stiff, fighting spirit routine.
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    That said, Younger/Callihan remains the most explicitly violent of the bill here, although that makes it a worthwhile diversion from the other bouts. Trading extremely brutal strikes, the battle at one point spills to the outside, which in turn results in Callihan sporting a crimson mask. Callihan brings a unimposing physicality to his already range of impressive submission holds.

    A very satisfying effort.

    Gran Akuma vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Frightmare vs. Brad Allen vs. Jon Moxley vs. Rich Swann
    These names may not mean much to the average WWE fan, but for Indy followers, this six-man bout represents a wealth of talent. Moxley in particular should be paid close attention… Known for his scrappy brawling, and bundles of charisma, he is currently positioned in WWE's developmental territory, FCW.

    Moxley and Allen start this off, with Allen suffering an absolutely horrendously botched Springboard move off the top, that sees the youngster take a spill onto his head. After that, Allen unfortunately is never able to win the crowd over again, despite playing his part commendably. This one contains far, far too much action to catalogue, but needless to say, it is executed at a feverish pace. One thing is for certain, it is definitely not a match designed for purists, who will likely desire the lack of selling, and the complex, choreographed multi-man sequences. Gargano particularly shines here, showing personality at every opportunity, whilst also indulging in some fabulously dangerous spots, such as his Running "Lawn-Dart" . Sapolsky favourite, Gran Akuma is a little robotic and inhuman generally for my tastes, but in this environment he really looks solid, holding together parts of the bout with his experience and timing.

    After the match, former TNA star Homicide makes his debut, interrupting a Johnny Gargano promo, and establishing a challenge. It's well-received by the New Jersey crowd.

    WSU World Title Match
    Mercedes Martinez© vs. Amazing Kong
    Kong should be familiar to the majority of grappling fans, as Awesome Kong, she was a regular in TNA, and most recently appeared as Kharma for the WWE. However, it's in this sort of promotion she often flourishes, being able to engage in lengthy, Joshi inspired efforts. On paper, the two are a perfect match.
    Mercedes nominally falls into the role of aggressive bully, utilising stiff strikes to wear-down her opponents. However, Kong's size marks the champion as an unlikely underdog, but an easy one to rally behind thanks to her inferior stature.

    Sadly, the clash ends in an unsatisfactory Disqualification, that both sucks, and does very little for either competitor. The NJ audience let them know it too, and were clearly extremely irritated by the outcome. Prior to that, the two had an engaging contest, that seemed to be developing very nicely indeed.

    Kyle O'Reilly vs. Ricochet
    O'Reilly has earned some extremely positive notices for his Ring of Honor work in recent times, and rightly so- he's a very exciting young athlete. However, he has also been impressing in Evolve since the beginning, with his combination of crisp striking, and fluid, intricate Submission work. As per usual, he is very convincing in this exciting contest.

    Not to be outdone though, Ricochet steps up in a big way, and delivers an astonishing Springboard Corkscrew Leg-Drop to the outside, across the guard rail., along with his other trademark, high flying manoeuvres. What makes this match such a delight is the subtle differences between the two, despite both displaying many similar characteristics. While there arguably could have been a more coherent story incorporated into this collision, and a little more actual selling, it's hard to argue with the athleticism, and generally scintillating structure of the bout.

    Bryan Danielson vs. Munenori Sawa
    Prior to being one of the highlights of the first season of WWE: NXT, Daniel Bryan carved a reputation in the independent scene as not just one of the best wrestlers on the planet but "The Best in the World". Over the past decade, he etched a place in history for himself, contesting astounding contests in Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate USA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and elsewhere. Battles with Nigel McGuinness (Desmond Wolfe), KENTA, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Homicide, AJ Styles and numerous others provided unforgettably great moments in modern grappling history. In the WWE, his unique blend of everyman appearance, diminutive frame, and unparalleled range and skill within the squared circle has the opportunity to be seen by more fans than ever before, and in a working environment that potentially offers him the economic benefits he truly deserves. The trade-off on this scale, is that he is, and will, rarely be afforded the opportunity and freedom to simply be creative, and have the astonishing quality of lengthy match-ups that he previously did. Taking place last year during his brief WWE exodus (he was released from his contract briefly for choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with his tie during an angle, before being brought back once the controversy was extinguished ), this battle is a gob-smacking entry into "|The American Dragon's" back catalogue.
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    In this fifteen-minute epic, the two combatants jockey for an early advantage, offering some really smooth mat work, before segueing into some bad-tempered strikes. Through the course of it, some of spirited exchanges are unbelievably smooth on the mat, whilst the slap and kicking battles are jarringly vicious. Neither give an inch as the clash develops, with every hold and advantage genuinely appearing to be a true battle. In truth, this sort of earnest physicality and the authentic give-and-take appears to me, to be the essence of Evolve's entire approach. Rousing, hard-hitting entertainment, without being a sprawling or indulgent dream, this is a near-perfect dream match.

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    There are no extras included, aside from several backstage segments that transpire within the event, and a highlight reel. Featured bouts can however, be viewed with optional commentary… a very welcome option.

    Even amongst the relatively specialist market that is the wrestling fan base, Evolve represents an extremely niche area. This DVD release is unlikely to change that. The production values are low in comparison to what most will be familiar with, and the general lack of frills will alienate many. An undeniably familiar aspect of pro wrestling is the element of theatrics, the pyrotechnics, and the ludicrous Pantomime associations.
    For those dissatisfied with the scant time afforded actual in-ring action on the average WWE, and TNA television show however, Evolve will prove to be a revelation. The Main Event alone has to be considered worthy of the price of admission. A thrilling, near-perfect Indy Dream match, it should please jaded long-term fans, whilst astonishing the uninitiated.
    With nothing even approaching sub-standard on this card, a match-of-the-year candidate, and a couple of familiar faces for mainstream grap-fans (Kong, Danielson, Homicide), this entry is a superb starting point for those wishing to try something new. Evolve is not perfect, but even with it's flaws, is a far more noble and appealing product than almost anything else out there right now.

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