April 23rd, 2017
Opening Match: Ethan Page (w/ A Gatekeeper) vs. Austin Theory
Given Theory’s involvement in Page’s matches against Darby Allin, I thought this outing would have more intensity than their prior match together at EVOLVE 80. That wasn’t necessarily the case and this was just an okay opener. A few minutes into the contest, Priscilla Kelly came to ringside to watch the action. If her presence indicates that the Page/Allin feud will continue, I’m not sure what is happening. In all likelihood, Kelly is scouting Theory for a possible partnership or something. Overall, this match wasn’t interesting enough to stand out in any way. Page won in 7:58 with the Spinning Dwayne. **
Stokely Hathaway and Tracy Williams make their way to the ring. Williams is concerned about the current state of Catch Point, as they are doing more talking than fighting. Williams says that he is not a manager. Hathaway announces that he now represents Catch Point and that he will take them to the next level. Fred Yehi, Chris Dickinson, and Jaka interrupt and voice their objections. Yehi quits Catch Point on the spot. Dickinson is fine with everything so long as the group is still concerned with competition. This leads to…
Match #2: Tracy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson
Williams’ slow descent into madness is being handled quite well. Dickinson said before the match that he wanted Catch Point to be about competition, but Williams did little things throughout the match to gain underhanded edges. Williams wasn’t an obvious jerk, and Dickinson even shook hands with him after the match, but things are slowly building. The action itself was fun to follow because the storyline made me genuinely curious as to how this battle of stablemates would play out. Unlike the opener, this contest had the right amount of energy to get the crowd invested. Williams won in 10:37 with a crossface. ***
Match #3: Jaka (w/ Catch Point) vs. ACH
There has been this weird thing about ACH’s matches recently where the sub-ten-minute outings are incredibly fun sprints but the lengthier showcase matches end up being a mixed bag. ACH and Jaka didn’t have amazing chemistry together and there ended up being some awkward exchanges throughout the thirteen minutes. Jaka winning makes a ton of sense because it establishes Stokely Hathaway as being potentially useful to him and it continues ACH’s frustrating losing streak. Jaka won in 13:26 with a tiger driver. **½
Match #4: Keith Lee vs. David Starr
This match was originally supposed to be Lee against Darby Allin, but I don’t think anyone was complaining about Starr being the replacement. The action was all about Starr finding creative ways to out-think Lee and take advantage of his smugness. Starr was incredible here. Seriously, it would be crazy for Starr not to break out this year. The crowd had absolutely no trouble getting behind Starr and the building was full of fans wanting to see him somehow pull off the upset. Lee ended up winning rather decisively, which was totally fine after recent losses to Ricochet and O’Reilly. This match was exactly what it needed to be and EVOLVE would be foolish not to bring back Starr if possible. Lee won in 8:50 with a jackhammer. ***½
Match #5: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Fred Yehi
I don’t think this match will be for everyone, but I enjoyed it and it seemed like the fans in attendance did as well. You got the sense that Yehi had an upper-hand from the onset due to his unique angles of attack perplexing O’Reilly. As the action settled down, Yehi targeted O’Reilly’s leg and O’Reilly targeted Yehi’s arm. At that point, it was off to the races as they battled to wear each other down. If the crowd sat on their hands throughout all of this, the match would die a slow, painful death. Fortunately, the fans hung with them and the sequences had enough urgency to them to make this feel like a battle of human chess.
With that said, I don’t think O’Reilly should be having these twenty-minute exhibitions on every show. However, insofar as this contest showcased how representative O’Reilly is of the EVOLVE style, this worked out really well. O’Reilly won in 20:36 with a cross armbreaker. ***¾
Match #6: EVOLVE Title: Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Lio Rush
The idea here was that Rush’s best chance of winning the title would be to successfully leverage his speed advantage, so Sabre spent the first half of the match working over Rush’s leg. That ended up working better in theory than in practice, as the leg work didn’t come into play in the second half of the match. Rush wasn’t limited in what offense he was able to fire off down the stretch, for instance. As a result of the limb work becoming inconsequential, they had to rely on delivering a flurry of heated exchanges to keep the crowd engaged for the nineteen-minute duration. I imagine my rating for this one will be low compared to others, but in my opinion this match was inferior to O’Reilly/Yehi by a large margin. Sabre retained his title in 19:10 with a bridging pinning combination. **¾
Ethan Page and his Gatekeeper confront Sabre after the match. Last night, Sabre broke the other Gatekeeper’s arm. Page will challenge Sabre for the EVOLVE Title next month. A new Gatekeeper attacks Sabre from behind and Page stands tall with the title.
Match #7: WWN Title: I Quit Match: Matt Riddle © vs. Drew Galloway
This match started out a lot like their battle over WrestleMania weekend, with Galloway overwhelming Riddle from the opening bell. This time, however, Riddle was able to make a legitimate comeback. I appreciated that Galloway spent a decent amount of time focusing on Riddle’s neck, as WrestleMania weekend was only about three weeks ago and there would be reason to believe Riddle’s neck was still sore. As a whole, this match had some really smart moments, a few odd ones, and a satisfying yet unspectacular conclusion.
For instance, Galloway seriously believes that EVOLVE as a company is out to get him. This causes Galloway to attack referees for no apparent reason like he did last night. Thus, it was odd that on the day of the show this match was suddenly turned into a title match. Why risk Galloway leaving the company with your title? Then, during the match, Galloway had Riddle’s hands tied to the ropes, leaving him defenseless. Riddle landed a wild kick and while Galloway recovered, the referee untied Riddle’s hands. It’s unclear if the referee was going beyond the scope of his duties. I think they either needed to completely ignore Galloway’s conspiracy theory during this match or make the action completely about it. Instead, they took a half-way approach and it came off awkwardly.
Galloway certainly left EVOLVE on a quieter note than I was expecting. This was a solid brawl but it didn’t have the violence or storyline developments to take it to another level. Given that the recent Page/Allin feud has been satisfying the violence quota in EVOLVE, I think they took a reasonable approach here. Riddle made Galloway quit at 17:37 with the Bromission. ***
After the match, Stokely Hathaway and Catch Point congratulate Riddle. Riddle tells Hathaway that there is absolutely no way he is involved with Catch Point now. Galloway attacks Riddle from behind and Catch Point refuse to help. Keith Lee ends up making the save.
-Show Grade: B
–You Need to See:
–You’d Enjoy Watching: Williams/Dickinson, Lee/Starr, O’Reilly/Yehi, Galloway/Riddle
–You Should Avoid: