EVOLVE 85 Review

May 21st, 2017

Opening Match:  Dominic Garrini vs. Alex Daniels
I enjoy watching these two make appearances outside of AIW and the fact that both of them were trained by Johnny Gargano already gives them some EVOLVE relevance.  Although they only had four minutes to work with, I think they did enough to do their styles and characters justice.  Daniels’ crowd work in particular is quite good.  Also, we hear enough about the EVOLVE seminars that it’s probably a decent idea to illustrate that wrestlers are actually attending and getting opportunities through them.  Garrini won in 3:36 with a triangle choke.  **

Match #2:  EVOLVE Tag Team Titles: Catch Point (Chris Dickinson and Jaka) © (w/ Stokely Hathaway) vs. Jason Kincaid and Austin Theory
Much like Dickinson and Jaka’s outing at EVOLVE 84, this would have been much more interesting as a non-title match.  However, I still think that this match was successful, largely due to a great performance from the challengers.  Dickinson and Jaka have been quietly having a tremendous 2017.  I have been critical of Kincaid before, but his offense looked much better than usual here.  The intricacy of his offense felt like it had a true purpose.  The fact that this was the first substantial match that the crowd had seen tonight meant that they were particularly vocal for the action despite the inevitable result.  If you would have told me that they were going to wrestle for sixteen minutes beforehand, I would have been apprehensive, but they made it work.  Catch Point retained their titles in 16:24 with the Death Trap on Kincaid.  ***

Match #3:  Priscilla Kelly vs. Allysin Kay
Apparently, this was the first women’s match in EVOLVE since Mercedes Martinez vs. Awesome Kong back at EVOLVE 5 in 2010.  Given that Kay has been with SHINE since the beginning and Kelly is a relatively new roster member, I guess this was appropriately short.  The crowd seemed to enjoy the action well enough and they certainly didn’t overstay their welcome, so overall they delivered a harmless SHINE showcase match.  Kay won in 5:00 with a lariat.  *½

Match #4:  Donovan Dijak vs. Ethan Page
In a bit of a twist, they started out the match by having some fun with each other.  They kept things fairly lighthearted but I actually found most of it humorous.  There’s a moment where they take turns analyzing #EVOLVE85 Twitter comments on a fan’s cell phone that translated quite well to the VOD audience.  If they were going to go down the comedy route, it is important that the crowd responded and that the comedy was translatable to people watching at home.  They managed to check both of those boxes.  A lot of the value to this match comes from the fact that they wrestled a completely unexpected style of match and made it work.  I’m firmly convinced that Donovan Dijak can do no wrong.  He also cannot seem to pick up a victory in EVOLVE, but that’s a different story.  Page won in 16:07 with the Spinning Dwayne.  ***¼

Match #5:  Tracy Williams vs. Kyle O’Reilly
I imagine the presumption going into this match was that it would be great.  Unfortunately, I thought this one was underwhelming.  O’Reilly’s match against Matt Riddle last night established a chaotic atmosphere from the opening bell and followed through with coherent action that allowed me to clearly see what strategies they were employing to win the match.  It was difficult not to become invested in what they were doing.  I just didn’t experience any of that here and as a result, eighteen minutes felt like an extremely long duration.  Williams winning deflated the crowd and I’m curious to see where they’re going with O’Reilly losing twice this weekend.  Williams won in 18:22 with a crossface.  **½

Match #6:  Keith Lee vs. Fred Yehi
Lee and Yehi are two entertaining personalities and as such some entertaining exchanges happened between them.  They told a story of Yehi continually “poking the bear” and seeing what Lee would let him get away with throughout the course of the match.  Unfortunately, there is some bad news. This was the fourth match on the show to last longer than fifteen minutes and we still have two title matches left on the card.  Given what came before it, this would have been a tremendous ten or twelve-minute outing between two great wrestlers.  But the cumulative effect of these longer match times started to weigh on me at this point in the night.  I imagine may people will enjoy this one more than me.  Lee won in 18:10 with a jackhammer.  **¾

Match #7:  WWN Title: Matt Riddle © vs. Jeff Cobb
It’s almost as if someone realized the match times were becoming a bit long.  These two killed it in six minutes.  One thing that we have discovered this weekend is that Cobb is a lot of fun to watch in shorter sprints.  They took advantage of their familiarity with each other to deliver a compact, exciting title defense.  Absolutely no complaints from me.  Riddle retained his title in 6:21 with the Bromission.  ***

Match #8:  EVOLVE Title: Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Lio Rush
This was a rematch from EVOLVE 83.  In that match, Sabre successfully neutralized Rush’s speed advantage by working over his leg.  Now, Sabre elected to target Rush’s heavily-taped left shoulder.  Sabre absolutely went to town on Rush’s shoulder and when the champion was in control, Rush almost seemed out-classed.  Rush’s offense was restricted to intermittent spurts and you never really got the sense that he had a winning strategy.  However, down the stretch, Rush started to become more confidant and Sabre became worried.  The crowd was tremendous throughout this match as well, adding to the believability of a title change.  I thought their outing here vastly surpassed their previous match together because they made the limb work mean something.  I would be curious to see how a match between them plays out with Rush in the driver’s seat.  Sabre retained his title in 19:19 with a shoulder submission.  ***½

After the match, Keith Lee comes out to challenge Sabre.  Matt Riddle interrupts and claims to have the superior championship.  Ethan Page runs out to brawl with Sabre.  Catch Point attack Riddle until Jason Kincaid makes the save.  Lee lands a dive to the floor onto Catch Point while Riddle hits the Bro 2 Sleep on Tracy Williams.  Riddle and Lee agree to a title match.

-Show Grade: B
You Need to See:
You’d Enjoy Watching: Sabre/Rush, Riddle/Cobb, Dijak/Page, tag title match
You Should Avoid:

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