On July 23rd, 2010 at EVOLVE 4: Danielson vs. Fish, a match took place between two notable individuals long before they were battling for the NXT championship. When a young clean-cut, Adam Cole faced a long-haired rocker named Johnny Gargano, their encounter was unlike anything fans had seen, and certainly unlike what we would see now. In EVOLVE, wins and losses were counted, and mattered (does that sound familiar today?), and Cole was walking in winless with a record of 0-1 as he squared off against Gargano. It was a very different time as Gargano was in the role of heel and Cole couldn’t be more of a white meat babyface if he had tried. To see these two in very different states shows how much both are able to adapt.
Gargano dodges the early lock up and does jumping jacks afterward. After Cole gets him in the lock-up we get a display of counter for counter between them. Gargano hits Cole with a back elbow and follows that up with a chop. Moving into the corner, Cole dodges by leaping over the top of a chasing Gargano. Cole then locks in a side headlock and follows up with chops. A couple of arm drags, a dropkick and a clothesline over the top rope and Cole has the upper hand, at least temporarily. Gargano re-enters the ring forcefully by hitting a spear through the ropes, followed by fists and a tilt a whirl backbreaker.
The two men begin a striking exchange with Gargano getting the upper hand. He spits in the face of Cole which gets him irate. He hits Gargano with a bareback and then fireman’s carry neckbreaker. He goes for the pin, but only gets a count of two. Gargano tosses him to the outside, but Cole re-enters with a sunset flip, followed by a superkick and a German suplex before attempting another pin. After a two count, Gargano gets up and attacks Cole with a handspring kick and tope suicida through the ropes. He then climbs the top rope but is caught with a dropkick. Cole follows up with a hurricane DDT and another pinning attempt, but only for a count of two. An attempt at a slam is reversed into a slam into the corner turnbuckle by Gargano and then a lawn dart into the opposing turnbuckle. Gargano then locks in a grapevine sharpshooter/Texas cloverleaf and almost falls back he has the hold cinched in so tightly.
The referee asks Cole if he wants to quit instead he breaks the hold by grabbing the bottom rope. The two men exchange punches once again. Both men counter each other’s pin attempts, neither getting the three count. After rolling around the ring attempting small packages, both men get up dizzy. Gargano then picks up Cole in what appears to be a full nelson attempt, but Cole reverses into his own pin and gets the three count of three.
Winner: Adam Cole
After the match, a stunned Gargano and an elated Cole remain in the ring. Fans applaud the effort. Cole is interviewed and gets congratulations for his first win in EVOLVE. He thanks Gargano for giving him the match of his life and offers a rematch any time he wants. Cole thanks the fans, after which Jimmy Jacobs runs to the ring applauding and steps into the ring much to the delight of the EVOLVE faithful. Jacobs thanks fans for being there on the worst day of Johnny Gargano’s life. Cole interrupts Jacobs and says if he wants to see if Cole really doesn’t belong then challenge him. Jacobs leaves the ring blowing off both Gargano and Cole. Gargano exits himself, and after basking in the adulation of the fans Cole does as well.
Before there was an NXT championship, and before both men were slated to battle over the title, Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano took the fight to one another here at EVOLVE 4: Danielson vs. Fish