Zack Sabre Jr. starts the show in the ring. He immediately calls out Michael Elgin, who comes to the ring.
Opening Match: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Michael Elgin
This match is still a non-title match. Elgin asserts his power advantage to start. He blocks a soccer kick from Sabre and back suplexes him onto the apron. Elgin hits a backbreaker and takes over with rolling german suplexes. Sabre finds openings to land kicks and fights back with a tornado DDT out of the corner. Sabre connects with a penalty kick for a nearfall. Elgin answers with another backbreaker and a falcon arrow. The cut above Sabre’s eye from today’s PROGRESS show gets busted open. The crowd is pretty much dead so far. They exchange strikes and Elgin connects with a lariat. Elgin hits a niagra driver for a two count. They battle up top and Elgin hits a powerbomb. Sabre shows life with a triangle choke. He transitions into a kimura but Elgin reaches the bottom rope. The action goes to the apron where Elgin hits a death valley driver. He brings Sabre back into the ring with a super falcon arrow for a nearfall. Elgin hits a bucklebomb. Sabre counters the spinning powerbomb into a bridging pin for the win at 16:37. This was awkward. Very awkward. Whereas Riddle and Galloway opening the show last night made a lot of sense, the placement here felt weird. The crowd was extremely apathetic towards Elgin. Sabre’s cut getting busted open wasn’t even acknowledged on commentary and didn’t seem to play into the action at all. I’m not sure what happened here. *½
Lio Rush confronts Sabre after the match. Rush wants their match at the next set of shows to be for the EVOLVE Title. Sabre agrees.
Match #2: Lio Rush vs. Drew Galloway
Rush connects with a few kicks and lands an asai moonsault to the floor. He follows with another dive. In the ring, Galloway hits a backbreaker and an overhead suplex. He takes control, hurling Rush into the ringpost. Rush comes back with a spinning enzuigiri. Galloway blocks a reverse hurricanrana and hits an alabama slam. Galloway connects with a yakuza kick and hits a piledriver for a nearfall. Rush comes back with a tornado DDT and a flying elbow drop. Galloway lays in a huge headbutt, hits a Future Shock DDT, and follows with a piledriver for the victory at 9:29. Galloway’s microphone work and Rush’s unique offense certainly helped this show get back on track. This is the type of exhibition match where both wrestlers walk away looking strong because they spent a lot of time highlighting Galloway’s massive size advantage. **¾
Match #3: Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
Dijak tries to monkey flip Lee, but he lands on his feet. Sure. Lee connects with a dropkick and lands a corkscrew plancha to the floor. Dijak connects with a superkick on the apron and then hits a chokeslam onto the apron. He follows with a springboard plancha. In the ring, Dijak connects with a springboard elbow drop. Lee rolls through a splash and hits a pounce. Lee misses a moonsault from the middle rope and Dijak hits a destroyer for a nearfall. The crowd has reached peak levels of interest. Dijak connects with a roaring yakuza kick but runs into a spinebuster. Dijak recovers with Feast Your Eyes for a two count. Lee catches Dijak on a dive attempt and powerbombs him into the apron. Lee lands a top-rope moonsault for a nearfall. Dijak flips out of a chokeslam but Lee does the same. Lee hits the Spirit Bomb for the win at 12:06. This was two incredible professional wrestlers busting out amazing visual after amazing visual in an attempt to wake the crowd up. It worked. Did the action push the boundaries of believability? Yes. But compare the crowd levels during this match and the opener. We can only hope that Lee and Dijak are on every EVOLVE show moving forward. ***½
Match #4: Timothy Thatcher (w/ Stokely Hathaway) vs. ACH
The ring announcer nearly introduced Thatcher as the EVOLVE champion last night, so Hathaway does the introduction for this match. Hathaway also offers his services to Kyle O’Reilly. They trade control on the mat to start. Thatcher hits a gutwrench suplex and the crowd is silent once again. ACH hits two neckbreakers and connects with a flurry of strikes. Thatcher slows him down with a belly-to-belly suplex and applies a headlock. Oh man. ACH springboard dropkicks Thatcher off the apron, connects with a penalty kick from the apron, and hits a fireman’s carry neckbreaker back in the ring. Thatcher answers with a butterfly suplex. ACH hits a brainbuster for the victory at 9:07. Whatever momentum Lee and Dijak generated was thrown away here. Thatcher refuses to change his style of match to adapt to different crowds. In what world was ACH working over Thatcher’s neck the correct route in front of his crowd? The win out of nowhere in nine minutes was really odd. *
After the match, Thatcher tells Hathaway that if he doesn’t get him into the WWN Title match tomorrow night, he can find another client.
Match #5: Catch Point (Tracy Williams, Chris Dickinson, and Jaka) vs. Jason Kincaid, Sammy Guevara, and Austin Theory
Dickinson wins an opening exchange against Guevara with a lariat. Jaka and Theory exchange strikes. Williams hits a backbreaker on Kincaid, who responds with a bulldog. Guevara lands a slingshot senton onto Williams. Jaka and Williams block stereo dives from Guevara and Theory with german suplexes. Dickinson plants Kincaid onto the apron with a niagra driver. Catch Point isolate Kincaid until he hurricanranas out of a top-rope niagra driver and makes the tag. Theory and Guevara clean house with some double team offense. Theory hits a rack bomb on Williams for a nearfall. The action starts to break down as everyone trades offense. Williams DDTs Theory into the top turnbuckle and applies a crossface. Kincaid breaks up the hold. Guevara lands a shooting star press to the floor onto Catch Point. No one really catches the poor guy. Theory follows with an asai moonsault and Kincaid adds a dive of his own. Back in, the faces connect with stereo coast-to-coast dropkicks. Everyone trades strikes. Kincaid connects with a flying double stomp to Williams. Guevara misses a shooting star press. Catch Point hit a doomsday chokeslam on Guevara for the win at 17:19. The action was fine but seventeen minutes was certainly too long given the state of the crowd response thus far on this show. I wish Catch Point would have ramped up the severity with which they punished their opponents. Dickinson hitting niagra drivers onto the apron was a start, but the action eventually fell into a methodical place. **¼
Jaka and Dickinson want a shot at the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles. Larry Dallas informs us that the match will happen on April 22nd in Queens, New York.
Match #6: Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle
The rest of Catch Point is at ringside watching. They trade control on the mat and appear to be pretty even. Yehi connects with a basement dropkick and hits an overhead suplex. He adds a backbreaker and synchs in a stump-puller. Riddle fires back with a knee strike and a fisherman buster. He follows with an exploder and a senton. Riddle hits rolling gutwrench suplexes and transitions into a doctor bomb. Yehi blocks an up-kick and starts going after the pressure points. Riddle hits Bro 2 Sleep followed by a german suplex for a nearfall. Yehi connects with a series of kicks and hits a powerbomb. Yehi starts being the aggressor, hitting multiple german suplexes but Riddle won’t stay down. Riddle finds life with a tombstone but Yehi kicks out at one. Riddle hits another tombstone for a nearfall. Yehi escapes the Bromission and applies a koji clutch. Riddle passes out, giving Yehi the victory at 17:16. This was a solid effort from both men. Even though the mat work had a slower pace at times, you got the feeling that they were doing everything in their power to win. From a storyline perspective, you’re left wondering what would have happened in this match had Galloway not put Riddle head-first through a table last night. This was enjoyable for what it was. ***¼
Match #7: Anything Goes: Ethan Page (w/ The Gatekeepers) vs. Darby Allin
Allin Coffin Drops a chair into Page’s face. Page manages to land some chair shots. If the Gatekeepers are allowed at ringside and this match has no rules, I need a reason why this is not a 3-on-1 from the start. Page military presses Allin from the ring into the third row. They go into the crowd. Page lawn darts Allin into the venue wall. Allin is busted open, so Page hits him in the face with a ladder. Back in the ring, Allin lands a springboard splash and starts hitting Page with the ladder. Page responds with an iconoclasm onto the ladder. Allin hurricanranas him into a propped chair. The Gatekeepers are just patiently watching at ringside. A table is setup in the corner of the ring. Page connects with a mafia kick. He misses the R-K-Ego and Allin drives him through the table. Page military presses Allin from the top rope through a double stack of tables at ringside. In the ring, Page hits a package piledriver through two chairs for a nearfall. The Gatekeepers start to get involved but Priscilla Kelly comes out. Austin Theory runs to the ring and attacks Page and the Gatekeepers to no reaction. Geez. Theory lands a swantan to the floor onto Page and company. Allin jumps off the balcony and onto the Gatekeepers. In the ring, Allin hits Page with a trash can and puts him through a table with a splash from the top of a ladder for the win at 20:10. As expected, Allin suffered some severe punishment and did some legitimately crazy things. I wish Theory taking out the Gatekeepers would have happened in the opening minutes rather than down the stretch. Making a weapons-based brawl interesting for twenty minutes is a tall order, but they did a reasonably good job. The important part is that this feud with Page has truly raised Allin’s stock in EVOLVE. ***
-Show Grade: C+
–You Need to See:
–You’d Enjoy Watching: Lee/Dijak, Riddle/Yehi, Page/Allin
–You Should Avoid: Thatcher/ACH
You can join me tomorrow night at 8:00 pm EST for live coverage of Mercury Rising 2017 where the first WWN Champion will be crowned!