11Every week on Place to Be Nation, Steven Graham, Glenn Butler, Peter Saladino, Brad Woodling, Tanner Teat, and Chad Campbell review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!
This week’s entry is TJP’s final indy match as he faces the phenom, Matt Riddle.
TJP – The youngest veteran in the business. TJP has been on the indies for multiple years and is now currently the WWE Cruiserweight Champion
Matt Riddle – A former Ultimate Fighter competitor, Riddle was released from the UFC and trained at the Monster Factory.
Nothing too complex here as it was well known this would be TJP’s last match in the company. Both competitors are affiliated with the Catch Point group in EVOLVE.
If you haven’t seen Matt Riddle, you need to see Matt Riddle. You can now throw Riddle’s name into the hat of folks who picked up wrestling the quickest. Riddle’s name goes right beside Owen Hart, Barry Windham, Jun Akiyama, and Kurt Angle. You can make a case for Riddle being the most outstanding wrestler of 2016, which is insanity when you realize Riddle started training in October of 2014, had his first match in February 2015, and only debuted in EVOLVE in October 2015. He started training essentially two years ago and may be the best wrestler in the world, right now. I joked on twitter that in a few years be prepared for the greatest match of all-time at WrestleMania when Nakamura faces Riddle, this match gives you a glimpse of why.
A few year’s ago EVOLVE re-branded taking on a more shoot style focus, with guys like Timothy Thatcher and Drew Gulak. There was some great stuff, but it never felt like it took hold. That is, until Riddle (joining up with the Catch Point stable) came into town and established himself. This match kind of felt like a changing of the guard. TJP represented more of the original EVOLVE style, while Riddle represented the current EVOLVE style. Yes, TJP did work the leg and mixed it up on Riddle’s level, but he did have a different flare than Riddle. Riddle worked on the arm and is very much a UFC fighter in wrestling. Every time he pulls off a suplex or more wrestling type move it feels like an event.
This built really well from the beginning, but the later part really stole the match. The trading of submissions and near falls gives everybody hope for the future that wrestling will not all be about how many flips you do and how many times you can hit your finisher. TJP gets a nice send off to his new career and Riddle will get the same in (probably) the near future as well!
Well, thanks to the wonders of the WWE Network I’ve now actually seen one of these competitors in a match before. The sum total of my background on Riddle is the following: a) he used to be an MMA fighter; 2) he’s one of these indy guys everyone loves. Which means he has better than even odds of showing up in NXT within a couple of years, but hey, one step at a time.
Of course TJP is the star of the cruiserweight division now (as we hear hype for on Evolve commentary, which feels slightly absurd but that’s just how wrestling works in 2016), and he’s highlighted here in a match that’s very similar to the ones he had in the CWC. Unlike in the CWC, though, I got a cocky vibe from a lot of Perkins’ mannerisms, which could serve him well in time given the seeming dearth of heels in the cruiserweight division as it’s presently constituted. Other than that shading of his character, this really was just the style of match he had in the CWC, with high spots combined with a ton of submissions and reversals to show that the two men are evenly matched, leading to an exciting ending sequence in which TJP escapes Riddle’s submission and Riddle pummels him in the head for a minute so he can’t escape again. In that way, Riddle works in some MMA-style offense without being obnoxious or boring, which is a real danger in these contexts — his jumping tombstone is also a hell of a thing, and by being so far from the MMA stuff shows that he’s more multifaceted than that.
Random notes: kudos to the dude in the crowd who watched Riddle slip on the rope before hitting a springboard knee strike and yelled “That’s why you wear shoes!” Speaking of which, does Riddle have a slight Von Erich vibe to him, or is it just the hair and the bare feet? (I know it’s not the moveset.)
I walked into this match fully expecting to be doing my write-up about how annoying I find TJ Perkins’ persona to be. During the CWC he basically became my #1 Heel of the tournament with his propensity to say ludicrous skater-poet-bro things like “When they see me wrestle, I want them to feel… love.” It seemed like every time TJ opened his mouth in a backstage promo or interview I would either shudder or roll my eyes. Something strange happened when I started this match. TJ Perkins, a wrestler who I have a visceral and instinctual dislike for, might as well have not been there. I’ve seen the star of the future and his name is Matt Riddle.
Every so often, there is a name you hear in the wilds of the indie scene that reaches fans before they can be watched by the general wrestling fanbase. We heard about AJ Styles in 2002, and Kevin Steen in 2010, and most recently Zack Sabre Jr was exposed to the WWE for the first time. Matt Riddle is going to be the next in that lineage. What I saw in this match was Brian Kendrick with Kurt Angle’s size and credentials. He was well versed in submissions and mat wrestling, which are the focuses of the EVOLVE style. He has WWE size and some measure of mainstream credibility from UFC and The Ultimate Fighter. He has personality for days as a stoner-bro frat boy. He shoots It-Factor out of his pores.
When I watched him wrestle, it was clear (at least to me) that he’s not long for EVOLVE. He looks like the surest thing I’ve seen in a very long time on the indies. I’d be willing to go so far as to say by the year 2020, he’ll have been WWE Champion. This is what the future looks like.
When Gabe tweeted that they were releasing this match for free in advance of the CWC live show, I watched it almost immediately. In a world where there is so much wrestling to consume, this urgency is notable for me. And this wasn’t the first time this happened. When the Monster Factory released Delirious vs. Riddle on a seemingly random Monday or Tuesday night – I was all-in to see this prodigious talent in another environment. He does not disappoint.
And neither does TJ Perkins in his send-off from EVOLVE. TJ establishes the leg work early, and in turn Riddle does the same with the arm. From the early minutes of this match until the very end, everything plays back to these core themes. And this is in no way a trading of moves match. Perkins’ psychology is nearly flawless here: Riddle has him in strength, but not experience so he does everything he can to avoid his kicks and reverses out of a number of attempted suplexes. About five minutes into the match we get to see Riddle take control as he starts deadlifting and throwing TJP around. TJP then avoids a charge in the corner in the best transition spot of the match: he pops up onto the top turnbuckle and grabs Riddle’s leg. This leads into an extended sequence where TJP just grinds Riddle down, trying to take away his advantages in the contest.
Riddle tries to come back but TJP cuts this off with a guillotine in the middle of the ring, which is the perfect transition into Riddle again showing off his power and hitting a huge fishermen buster. This seems like a lot of play-by-play for a quick thoughts piece, but the transitions and layout of this match really stuck out to me. When Riddle hits a huge jumping tombstone, it’s a legit nearfall. That is the only pinfall Riddle goes for in the match, and it fits his character perfectly. None of this transition move into a pin attempt stuff. No acts of disbelief from Riddle when a guy kicks out of a regular move. He knows what it takes to finish a guy off. Big power moves, submissions or TKO only. Perkins isn’t done yet though, they trade thrust kicks and build to a slick finish after both guys counter out of submission attempts. Everything circles back to Riddle’s power as he essentially stands up out of the leg lock and just pummels TJP’s neck before again locking on his Bro-mission for the win. That’s how you build on your already strong submission to make it a match ender – and it plays into his past MMA stuff and comes off legit.
Not lost in this fantastic match is the continued elevation of Riddle in EVOLVE. It’s pretty textbook, yes, but seeing the future CWC champ put over this amazing talent on his way out legitimizes Riddle even more, positioning him (along with the end of this particular EVOLVE show) as the top face in the company.
This match highlighted why I absolutely adore both these guys. Riddle and TJP seemed to have turn it up to 11 here and as a result it did not disappoint, but this was predictable when it had two of the best wrestlers in the world currently? TJP worked the match like BattlArts Minoru Tanaka and it was a thing of beauty, especially considering Riddle is a former UFC fighter and his arsenal is heavily inspired by said martial arts. It just made pure magic. TJP’s kneebar in the Cruiserweight Classic had been built up to be such a devastating submission, I was convinced that Riddle was losing this match on more than one occasion. Not to mention at the pace these two were working at, there was hardly any time for me as a fan to get bored, which is more than what I can ask for. The finishing stretch is a thing of beauty and may be my favorite finishing stretch to a match all year. EVOLVE this year is seemingly producing a MOTYC every weekend, so for this to be a Top 5 match in EVOLVE this year is quite the feat. I would recommend any fan of wrestling to check out, it’s only twelve minutes! ****1/2.
This match is proof positive on how something in wrestling can turn from just a match on the card to a must see event in just a matter of moments. If this same matchup would have happened in January, it would have been a very good affair. Commentary would likely had been centered around Riddle botching one move because he is so inexperienced and TJP being a great partner for him to work in this match. There also could have been a semblance of explaining how TJP has been around the wrestling scene for over a decade and never quite gotten his due. Fast forward to September and you have TJP, the cruiser weight classic star that at this point was heading into a huge semi final match vs. Kota Ibushi. It was no secret that this was TJP’s last EVOLVE match and that he had Monday Night Raw as a future destination to hone his craft. Matt Riddle has went from being the big favorite in the Rookie of the Year voting in January to being one of the best rookies in wrestling history and a making a legit claim for being wrestler of the year worldwide.
The match was a fantastic blend of grappling wrestling, exchanging submission but also a dazzle of the personality that each men exudes. Shoot style wrestling can be a really hard style for a viewer to come into, but I thought they did a marvelous job of mixing that up here. Little touches like TJP doing his dab dance before clinching in a brutal submission really added flavor to the match. The other thing on display was the fantastic athleticism of both men. At one point, they both bridge straight up in quick fashion from a seated headlock position. That makes an ordinary counter into a memorable one. The closing moments were fantastic and drama enriched. It didn’t feel like each person exchanging submissions just for the heck of it, it was a real struggle with each guy knowing their submission would end the contest if applied at the right moment. After the match, TJP gets a well deserved send off and really stakes his claim as one of the feel good stories in wrestling in 2016. Final Rating: ****
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