Drew Galloway (c) vs Timothy Thatcher
EVOLVE and Open the Freedom Gate Championship
The Orpheum, Ybor City, Florida, United States
Before the match, Thatcher grabs the mic and says a year ago, the both of them debuted in EVOLVE on the same show and in Thatcher’s match, Biff Busick slapped him and cost him five weeks of his “wrestling adventure”, presumably giving him a concussion that I don’t know anything about, or perhaps injuring his ear. He goes on to state that he doesn’t have a lot of time left in wrestling and that if Galloway is “Mr. Any Time, Any Place”, he should put the title on the line here tonight (as apparently this was a non-title match previously). In response, Galloway says that when he was cut from the WWE, EVOLVE booked him in his first match afterward, giving him the opportunity to wrestle Chris Hero in the main event of his first show with them, winning the EVOLVE Championship from Hero in that match. He goes on to say that he’s willing to give Thatcher that same opportunity and agrees to put both his titles on the line here. As soon as he says that, Thatcher’s all fired up, whipping his jacket off, bouncing around in his corner, and the crowd is super into it. Simple and intense, good little main event angle here, something that EVOLVE sometimes struggles with but sometimes pulls off super well as they do here. Thatcher immediately takes the champ to the ground and locks in an armbar, but Galloway muscles his way out and beats him down. Thatcher turns him around in the corner and returns the favor before going back to the arm, attempting a Fujiwara armbar, but Galloway won’t let him get it and drops him over, slapping on a short arm scissors himself. Thatcher fights up and lays in a number of Euros and other strikes. This is a much faster match so far, relatively, than I’ve seen either of these men have, which sells the importance of this bout. Galloway turns the tide and stomps at Thatcher’s ankle, cranking away at it. Thatcher’s able to work his way into an armbar to escape before Galloway gets to the ropes, but the damage is already done on Thatcher’s ankle. He shoots the leg and likewise grabs an ankle pick, but Galloway, frustrated, is able to get to the ropes again, and his ankle is likewise tweaked. Thatcher pulls the champ over with a kimura briefly before Galloway yet again gets to the ropes, and after Thatcher pleads with the referee for a moment, Galloway puts an elbow in his ear to gain the advantage. The champ goes to work with some stomps and a great belly to belly suplex for two, and Thatcher’s facials here are real solid, especially after some chops. He cuts off Galloway with a hell of a headbutt that sends the champ outside, clutching his jaw. They brawl around a bit on the floor, trading Euros, and Thatcher comes out on top. Ingeniously, Galloway crawls under the ring and when Thatcher tries to grab him to drag him back out, Galloway instead yanks Thatcher into the side of the ring, into the steel framework shoulder-first. Real smart bit of environmental work that I really dig. Galloway turns the trash can at ringside over and drives Thatcher’s shoulder down onto it before tossing him back inside. Great selling, facials, and body language from the challenger here. Galloway is able to fight through Thatcher’s guard, just smashing him down, and grabs a top wristlock on the mat before wrenching his arm on the top rope. He slaps away at Thatcher, firing him up, and Thatcher looks like a fookin’ madman here before he knees away at the champ and goes for an armbar. Galloway blocks it, rolling over onto his stomach, and he stomps down on Thatcher’s ear and temple with a malicious precision, dropkicking him down when Thatcher shoots him a look. Mean ol’ slap from Galloway and Thatcher fires back with a Euro that sends the champ out on the apron, where Thatcher shoves him into the corner post shoulder-first. Still selling his arm real well, he smashes Galloway’s face and chest down on the apron and stomps hi m down before going for a double underhook suplex. Galloway beautifully, slowly drops him over for a pinfall, but Thatcher kicks out with the double underhook still in place and muscles the champ up for a double underhook suplex, transitioning it over into a Fujiwara armbar. Galloway fights his way free with a headbutt and both men slug it out in the middle, and the champ keeps the advantage with a single leg dropkick. He puts the fake Brit up on the top rope, looking for a superplex, but said fake Brit fights it, and Galloway has to put a boot in his jaw to stun him sufficiently. Big ol’ Schwein off the middle rope earns Galloway a two count. He goes for the double underhook DDT but Thatcher brings him down and grabs him in the Fujiwara armbar, muscling him into the middle of the ring, dragging his feet away from the ropes. Galloway yells that Thatcher will have to break his arm to get him to tap, and Thatcher does just that, cranking back on his arm, and Galloway has no choice but to submit. Crowd pops big and Thatcher, head down, still selling his arm, is up on his feet, and as he slowly lifts his head and stares into the camera, the look on his face is money. Dude’s got incredible, incredible presence. After a moment, Galloway begrudgingly, emotionally gives Thatcher both the titles, and the way the gold of the EVOLVE championship glows in the light against his face is likewise just absolute money. Nice little moment. Not a great match, as it’s just a bunch of “muscley dudes hit each other and slap on submissions”, but it’s built to feel big, and the spectacle and emotion of the post-match makes it all worth it. The crowd chants “you deserve it” as Thatcher kneels before them to send us home. Great stuff.