EVOLVE 78 Review

February 24th, 2017

Opening Match:  Matt Riddle vs. Anthony Henry
It’s hard for me to imagine someone disliking Riddle, so it’s a testament to Henry’s ability that the crowd was able to get behind him throughout the course of this match.  Henry has had impressive performances in FIP and Style Battle, and I’d be happy to see him featured in EVOLVE moving forward.  Given how much offense Henry received here, it’s clear that Gabe sees something in him, too.  The crowd was awkwardly quiet at times, but the competitive nature of the action made for an entertaining opener.  More importantly, Henry came through with a solid showing.  Riddle won in 10:39 with the Bromission.  ***

Match #2:  Austin Theory vs. Darby Allin
EVOLVE 78 is being advertised as a night of first-time matches and, well, I don’t doubt that this is the first time these two have wrestled each other.  They did a lot of athletic stuff, but the action never really felt cohesive in any way.  Theory overshot an asai moonsault at one point and collided with the barricade in a scary moment.  Ethan Page’s recent promo made me somewhat excited for his match against Allin on the next show, so I don’t fully understand Allin losing to Austin Theory of all people.  Allin’s infatuation with building pillars is constantly entertaining, though.  Theory won in 5:20 with the Unproven Cutter.  *¾

Match #3:  Jason Kincaid vs. Ethan Page (w/ The Gatekeepers)
I feel as though the WWN universe really wants me to like Kincaid and Page but I’m completely indifferent.  Kincaid undoubtedly has unique offense, but it’s not always clear to me how his tactics lead to a higher win percentage or why he generally wrestles the way he does.  Page can be solid in the ring but I can’t remember many great Ethan Page matches over the years.  This match, as I expected, was just okay.  They worked well enough together and Page did a good job of showcasing Kincaid’s offense.  Page won in 10:36 with the RKEgo.  **

Match #4:  Chris Dickinson and Jaka vs. The Gatekeepers
For whatever reason, the Gatekeepers are still not being given individual names.  Thus, Lenny Leonard has to say stuff on commentary like “Remember in San Antonio, when one of them did that dive.”  The nice thing about Dickinson and Jaka is that they rarely have actively bad matches.  They are versatile in the ring and can work with a wide variety of opponents.  In this case, they had solid chemistry with the Gatekeepers and made the crowd care about the action.  Even though Dickinson and Jaka are being setup for a tag team title shot, I think more could have been done here to make the Gatekeepers look credible.  Oh well.  Dickinson and Jaka won in 9:50 with the Death Trap.  **½

Match #5:  ACH vs. Tracy Williams
Eighteen minutes felt long in this case because they didn’t do anything particularly interesting with them.  The first ten minutes featured some decent back and forth exchanges with them having each other well-scouted.  The rest of the match featured them throwing bombs at each other with the crowd not biting on the nearfalls.  Rather, the crowd politely clapped along.  At least once ACH hulked up in the final minute and put Williams away, the crowd seemed satisfied with that conclusion.  The idea here was clearly to have ACH survive the best that Williams could throw at him en route to an EVOLVE Title shot, but ACH’s eventual win didn’t come off as though he had just survived a war.  ACH won in 18:33 with a brainbuster.  **½

Match #6:  Drew Galloway vs. Jeff Cobb
These two had a snoozer in AAW last year and this outing was substantially better.  I mean, like night and day.  Cobb embarrassed Galloway early on by effortlessly dead-lift suplexing him, so Galloway decided to be a jerk and catapult him into the bottom of the ring.  Then, Galloway started working over Cobb’s left arm to neutralize his power advantage.  Galloway working over a limb does not normally thrill me, but they incorporated the arm work into the match in creative ways.  The finish was especially satisfying, as Cobb couldn’t get Galloway over on a backslide attempt due to his bad arm, so Galloway flipped through and hit his finisher.  These two aren’t a match made in heaven by any means, but this was a good example of two guys playing to their strengths in almost every way possible to deliver a quality match.  Galloway won in 12:02 with a Future Shock DDT.  ***

Galloway calls out Riddle after the match and they start brawling.  Cobb mysteriously hits Riddle with a Tour of the Islands.  Catch Point come out to save their guy.

Match #7:  Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Keith Lee
Lee debuted in EVOLVE last month against Chris Hero in a losing effort.  After the match, Sabre came out to confront Hero, but Lee disliked Sabre indirectly getting involved in his business.  So here we are.  Look, it’s not the most intricate storytelling, but it makes sense.  Unlike many other promotions, EVOLVE does not try too hard with their booking and that’s a relief.

This was a lot of fun.  Lee’s sheer size presents a complicated puzzle for his opponents to try to figure out.  Hero figured out the puzzle by overwhelming Lee, but Sabre didn’t really come close here to figuring out how to defeat Lee.  That doesn’t mean Sabre looked weak or didn’t try hard enough.  In fact, Sabre tried like a madman to get his submission game to work, but Lee just never let it happen.  Watching Sabre struggle was incredibly entertaining and gave the viewer a somewhat rare chance to see Sabre out of his element.  Lee won in 12:30 with a jackhammer.  ***½

Match #8:  EVOLVE Title: Timothy Thatcher (w/ Stokely Hathaway) vs. Fred Yehi (w/ Tracy Williams, Chris Dickinson, and Jaka)
This contest felt like another instance of Thatcher refusing to adjust when his usual style of match wasn’t working.  Of course, the big hurdle you have to jump over to truly enjoy the predominantly back and forth action is believing that Yehi had a chance of winning the title here.  Despite a few believable facial expressions of despair from Stokely, they never truly made me believe that Yehi could pull this one out.  Thus, while they were certainly working hard over the course of these nineteen minutes, the action just wasn’t interesting.  They had a very similar problem as ACH and Williams from earlier in the show.  The crowd was clearly invested, but only in spurts, and the electric atmosphere that you want for a title defense simply wasn’t there.  Thatcher retained in 18:53 with the Sakatoshi.  **¼

-Show Grade: C+
You Need to See:
You’d Enjoy Watching: Riddle/Henry, Galloway/Cobb, Sabre/Lee
You Should Avoid:

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