April 22nd, 2017
Opening Match: WWN Title: Matt Riddle © vs. Timothy Thatcher (w/ Stokely Hathaway)
We now live in a world where Thatcher loses most of his matches. Fortunately, this world meshes much better with the crowd’s preferences. There wasn’t a second that Thatcher was in control and the crowd wasn’t booing. Riddle retaining his title cleanly meant that everyone in the building felt satisfied, which is a really important aspect of an opening match. The action itself was what you would expect. They kept things on the mat and Riddle’s inevitable win felt earned rather than Superman-esque. In fact, Riddle beginning his reign by defeating a man he was never able to beat made a lot of sense. This was a fun opener primarily because EVOLVE has found themselves in a position to leverage the crowd’s hatred of Thatcher to their advantage. Riddle retained his title in 10:21 with the Bromission. ***
Match #2: ACH vs. Austin Theory
This contest could have gone horribly wrong. They positioned ACH as the cocky veteran insistent upon making sure Theory did not use him to make a name for himself. The problem, of course, could have been a refusal from the crowd to get behind Theory. There was a ton of pressure on Theory here to make this structure work and win over the crowd. I think he 100% delivered and the match was extremely productive as a result. Theory brought his best fight to the table, ACH confidently weathered the storm, and the action actually became more intriguing as they progressed. ACH smiling and singing along to his theme song after the three-count was a nice touch as well. Around the eight-minute mark, I certainly had my doubts about this one. But the match as a whole ended up being worthwhile. ACH won in 13:53 with a brainbuster. ***
Match #3: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Galloway
Galloway’s promo abilities and overall character have been on fire lately, and this was more of an extended segment to showcase that. To start his final weekend in EVOLVE, Galloway came out and headbutted the referee. He brawled with Sabre for some time. Then, Ethan Page and the Gatekeepers helped Galloway attack Sabre until Keith Lee made the save. Sabre grabbed one of the Gatekeepers and allegedly broke his arm. Lee handed Sabre the EVOLVE Title, suggesting that he wants a crack at the belt. This was simply one of those nice Gabe match-segment hybrids that successfully blended together different personalities and angles.
Match #4: Keith Lee vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Looking at this pairing on paper, my concern was that someone had to lose. After a loss to Ricochet over WrestleMania weekend, I didn’t think Lee could afford another one. Then you have O’Reilly who is making his long-awaited return to EVOLVE with a vengeance. Bracketing that conundrum for a second, I had no worries about the action itself. Lee and O’Reilly played to their strengths and this was an interesting game of human chess with an appropriate amount of urgency. O’Reilly was made for EVOLVE and that is just as true now as it was ten years ago.
Then something neat happened. O’Reilly had Lee crotched on the top rope and delivered a kick that caught Lee low. The referee called for a disqualification but Lee insisted that the kick was accidental and that the match must continue. O’Reilly gave Lee no time to recoup and proceeded to win the match shortly afterwards. Some people think they should have just went with the disqualification finish and turned O’Reilly heel. Some people think the whole disqualification tease was unnecessary. I think the way things played out was near perfect. O’Reilly came off like a jerk but a rather believable, non-obvious one. Lee being personally offended that the referee would even consider ending his match in a disqualification was a great character highlight. Plus, we have a plausible reason why Lee lost. I may be in the minority, but I think everything worked here. Hey, Ring of Honor, how you doing? O’Reilly won in 20:02 with a brainbuster. ***¾
Match #5: EVOLVE Tag Team Titles: Catch Point (Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi) © vs. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson and Jaka)
This match became quite enjoyable down the stretch and was only held back by the slower beginning portion. If this was the implosion of Catch Point, I would have expected something more epic, but for all intents and purposes this seemed like a peaceful transition of the EVOLVE tag team titles. It’s always nice to watch a title change occur in front of a crowd that genuinely wants to see the titles change hands and that’s the situation we had here. Portions of the crowd also seemed to be booing Williams, which means that his actions at the WWN Supershow resonated with at least some fans. I would call this title match and the post-match happenings a success, but they had the potential to steal the show. Dickinson and Jaka won in 15:30 to become the NEW EVOLVE Tag Team Champions. ***
After the match, Larry Dallas and Earl Cooter come out to cause some tension among Catch Point. Dallas accuses Williams of having discussions with Stokely Hathaway. Williams denies the accusation, but the rest of Catch Point seem upset. Yehi absolutely unloads offense on Dallas and the crowd rejoices.
Match #6: Last Man Standing: Ethan Page vs. Darby Allin
The general impression that I am getting from people is that this feud should have ended with the feel-good Allin win at EVOLVE 81 and I agree. At EVOLVE 81, Allin did some crazy stuff and ended up having to go to the hospital. In this match, Allin did some crazy stuff and ended up having to go to the hospital. Page’s win felt like an afterthought tonight because everyone was concerned about Allin’s health. Page hit Allin with a shovel, causing a gash in Allin’s left arm. Allin proceeded to wrestle for eight more minutes. Mind you, right after that shovel shot, Allin was zipped into a body bag with thumbtacks and powerbombed. The whole sequence was uncomfortable to watch.
I don’t think that a star rating is appropriate here. I do think, however, that I speak for everyone at Pro Wrestling Ponderings when I wish Allin a speedy and successful recovery. Page won in 18:59.
-Show Grade: B-
–You Need to See:
–You’d Enjoy Watching: Riddle/Thatcher, ACH/Theory, Lee/O’Reilly, Catch Point tag
–You Should Avoid: