EVOLVE 87 Review

June 25th, 2017

Opening Match:  Tracy Williams vs. ACH
I mentioned in my EVOLVE 86 review how much I’ve been enjoying Williams’ matches and his subtle personality quirks since aligning with Stokely Hathaway.  Particularly, Williams makes no allowance for shenanigans in his matches.  Between Jason Kincaid and ACH, this was the perfect weekend for him to show how much he hates shenanigans.  Much like his outing with Kincaid on the last show, this was another enjoyable showcase.  Something subtle seems to be going on with ACH as well, since he has recently been unhappy with his placement on EVOLVE cards.  ACH’s promo after this match cemented that feeling.  This opener was all about ACH realizing his antics might not be working against a wrestler who can best take advantage of an over-reliance on antics.  Those elements were engaging enough to make this one of the longer ACH matches that I enjoyed quite a bit.  Williams won in 14:38 with a crossface.  ***¼

Match #2:  Timothy Thatcher (w/ Stokely Hathaway) vs. Jason Kincaid
Thatcher came into this match taking Kincaid too lightly and Kincaid was able to put up enough of a fight to change Thatcher’s attitude.  In that sense, Kincaid once again looked solid in defeat.  At least for me, there was still that sense of dread that hangs over Thatcher’s matches when he was in control.  I just could not get invested in the action and the feeling is pretty difficult to articulate in words.  There is just something about Thatcher right now that isn’t working for me.  With that said, the crowd enjoyed badgering him and this was still a worthwhile showcase for Kincaid.  Thatcher won in 12:46 with an armbar.  **¾

Match #3:  Chris Dickinson (w/ Jaka) vs. Fred Yehi
As expected, they were able to improve upon Yehi’s match against Jaka from the previous show.  The action was appropriately violent and Yehi’s victory truly felt earned.  After defeating both holders of the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles in singles matches, it would be somewhat interesting for Yehi to go out and find a tag team partner to challenge for the belts.  I don’t think that there is much more to say about this one except that it continued the Yehi/Catch Point interaction in a predictable yet sensible way.  Yehi won in 16:30 with a koji clutch.  ***

Match #4:  EVOLVE Title: Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Jaka (w/ Chris Dickinson)
These two were put into a position to succeed and that’s what happened.  They embraced the fact that Jaka wasn’t the most credible challenger with a nice pre-match promo from Jaka claiming that everyone was sleeping on him as a potential threat.  Jaka’s success in this match was dependent upon his willingness to become a savage and be more aggressive than Sabre.  The more intense than Jaka became, particularly down the stretch, the more vocal the crowd became.  Jaka connected with the crowd in a way that I certainly did not expect.  The unexpected nature of that connection made it almost seem magical.  This was a ton of fun to watch.  Sabre winning with a quick bridging pinning combination was icing on the cake.  Jaka fans need to seek this one out immediately.  Sabre retained his title in 15:21 with a bridging pinning combination.  ***¾

After the match, Stokely Hathaway demands that Sabre give Timothy Thatcher a title shot.  Darby Allin appears in the ring.  Thatcher tells Allin that he doesn’t even consider him to be a professional wrestler.  Thatcher attacks Sabre and Allin.  At Hathaway’s request, Thatcher traps Allin in an armbar, going to work on the injured arm.

Match #5:  Ethan Page vs. Thomas Sharpe
Everything was going really well here until the abrupt finish.  Page defeating Sharpe in five minutes in their first battle just seemed way too easy.  Sharpe came into this contest with a clean slate – the fans had no expectations about how he would be handled in EVOLVE.  Losing so quickly here sets those expectations moving forward.  Still, Sharpe’s offense looked great and he received a nice ovation after the match, so hopefully he starts picking up some wins.  Page won in 5:40 with the Spinning Dwayne.  **

Match #6:  Trent Baretta vs. Austin Theory
Baretta returned to EVOLVE and Theory turned heel after losing.  Those two happenings alone make this match a success.  The in-ring action was, as you’d expect, very solid.  Baretta was entertaining and Theory has consistently proven that he can hang in the ring with just about anyone.  I was starting to become tired of watching Theory consistently lose without snapping and I think they pulled the trigger on his heel turn at the right time.  I still find it surreal that Theory is only nineteen years old.  I’m pretty sure my weekend life at nineteen was being a freshman in college trying to avoid underage drinkers.  Somehow I think wrestling on EVOLVE shows against the likes of Trent Baretta is a better deal.  Baretta won in 14:54 with the Dudebuster.  ***

Match #7:  WWN Title: Matt Riddle © vs. Keith Lee
This was tremendous.  Lee wasted no time asserting his power advantage and the puzzle of how to escape with his title began for Riddle.  Lee also punished Riddle for trying to be too cute with his comebacks.  Riddle’s attempt at rolling gutwrench suplexes, for instance, did not work out very well.  So Riddle decided to just focus on causing the most damage, even if it wasn’t flashy.  There’s a point where he hits four sentons in rapid succession.  It was simple, but it worked out much better than trying to be flashy.  Lee caught Riddle on his fifth senton attempt and dead-lifted him into a spirit bomb, because he’s a beast.  From bell to bell, they told an interesting story that rewarded the viewer for following along.  It’s not hard to see why this was the best match of the weekend.  Check this one out.  Riddle retained his title at 14:59 with a flying knee strike.  ****

After the match, Ethan Page comes out and attacks both men.  Tracy Williams and Stokely Hathaway join in.  Williams announces that he’s challenging Riddle for the WWN Title on August 12th.  Williams holds Riddle in place so Hathaway can slap him.

As a final note, even if you disagree with the above review, I hope you can agree with me that Lenny Leonard did an incredible job on commentary (by himself) this weekend.  I have to imagine that solo commentating is not easy and there are probably only a few commentators out there that could handle it.  Leonard ended the show with this message, which deserves repeating:  “Pro wrestling, like love, is beautiful in all of its forms.  Be good to everybody.  Be good to one another.”

-Show Grade: A-
You Need to See: Riddle/Lee
You’d Enjoy Watching: Sabre/Jaka, Williams/ACH, Dickinson/Yehi, Baretta/Theory
You Should Avoid:

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