Friday, November 4, 2016

Evolve 71 Review

Evolve 71
October 16th, 2016 | The Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida

I know I’m a bit late with this but I only just got around to watching this show. I looked at the card for Evolve 70 and wasn’t too interested in it, so I went with Evolve 71.

Non-Title Fight to a Finish
Drew Gulak def. Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher in 14:22

Evolve missed a chance to take the title off of Thatcher at Evolve 70. The Thatcher title run has been horrible since the calendar changed to 2016, filled with shitty storylines and bad matches. In fact, these two had a stinker at Evolve 67. After that match, Thatcher choked out Gulak so this continued. This was a brawl with both men in street clothes. It reminded me of the tag team brawl on Evolve 62 since they fought all around the building. They battled in places I’ve never seen in Evolve before. They even fought into the streets. My main concern with this was that it was hard to see at times because they’d brawl in such dark places. Back to the ring, Gulak won with a dragon sleeper. Much better than their previous outing. When Thatcher goes outside of his comfort zone, he can do good but he’s too stubborn for that a lot of the time. This was good, had a hot crowd and felt different than a lot of what we typically get from these guys. ***½

Stokely Hathaway came out to try and get Thatcher to join the Dream Team. With the Dream Team, Thatcher will be able to just focus on wrestling and Stokely will take other things off of his plate. The last time he extended his hand, Thatcher broke it. Surprisingly, Thatcher accepted and shook his hand.

Tracy Williams def. Justin Kincaid in 18:16
Williams is the unheralded member of Catch Point, while I believe this is the first weekend for the interesting Kincaid. I’ve never seen Kincaid before but he certainly impressed with a very unique move set. It’s always great to see something different in wrestling and that’s what Kincaid brings. He did an awesome running lariat off of the stage. Williams got his stuff in after giving Kincaid a lot. He nailed a brainbuster for a close near fall. Kincaid continued to innovate with a cartwheel powerslam and double stomp, followed by a sunset buckle bomb. Hot Sauce came close again with a turnbuckle DDT and lariat. He went nuts with forearm strikes. After a series of counters, Williams won with a piledriver. A really good match that might have gone a bit too long. Kincaid came off looking great and nearly scored the upset a few times. Williams continues to be his underrated great self. ***¾

The Gatekeepers w/ Ethan Page def. Eric Locker and Joe Coleman in 1:07
Coleman and Locker were in the WWN seminar earlier in the day. The Gatekeepers are the former Devastation Corporation. They attacked before the bell and just annihilated these jamokes. They won with a doomsday device type finisher. The squash that it needed to be.

Ethan Page, in Suicide Squad inspired gear, got in the ring after the bell to put over his team. Page said that because he hit an official last night, he was fined his pay for both shows. He claimed that it was worth it because he enjoyed bringing chaos to Evolve. Since he wasn’t getting paid, Page wanted to end his night as soon as possible, so his opponent came out.

Ethan Page def. Sami Callihan in 13:47
This is Sami’s first WWN appearance since an Evolve Title shot at Mercury Rising. On Evolve 58, Callihan beat Page, but this was a different Ethan. Page recently turned heel and attacked Johnny Gargano on his way out of Evolve. Right from the start, these two just went right after each other. They worked at an aggressive pace and it helped things immensely. Page hit an apron powerbomb which was a highlight. Page was great at the trash talk and giving his offense a little extra something behind it to make it more vicious. Sami survived RK-Ego and Page survived a tombstone variation. Page finally won with the package piledriver. Hard hitting and an improvement on their Evolve 58 match, while also being the bounce back that Page needed after the debacle with Thatcher at Evolve 70. The best singles Callihan match I’ve seen since he left WWE. ***½

Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN def. Darby Allin in 11:00
Allin has made several appearances for Evolve and has nearly hurt himself on big spots in most of those. Grew Galloway, DUSTIN’s’ partner, joined commentary since he’s injured. He continued to talk about Evolve selling out. The opening stretch was full of fire and the best part of the match. DUSTIN took things outside and made it a bit of a brawl. I like DUSTIN/Chuck Taylor but I just don’t buy him as a serious heel which kind of hurt this. Allin is a good underdog babyface but and I don’t think it played too well against DUSTIN. I did like how DUSTIN would hit a move and instead of covering, he wanted the referee to ask if Allin quit. Allin fought hard but fell to the Awful Waffle. Fine match but it was certainly missing something. I love the comparison of Allin to Mikey Whipwreck that I’ve heard a few times. **¾ 

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Fred Yehi in 20:48
The two last matches on this show are among the most interesting and exciting in recent Evolve memory. Both guys are known for their mat work, but Yehi brings something different to the table as well. He has some unorthodox ways of doing things. For the most part, Yehi stayed right on par with Sabre when they went to the ground. I could watch these two twist each other for days. Yehi bent Sabre’s foot at an odd position and Sabre got out of that by going after Yehi’s fingers. I loved that whenever Yehi seemed to get in trouble, he would drop a fist on Sabre’s foot. It’s just a little thing but it makes sense and was cool. Sabre attacked the elbow, which Yehi sold very well. Yehi came close with the Koji Clutch and several flash pins. Sabre caught a roaring elbow into a submission and transitioned it over into a crazy way to tie up both arms. Just shy of being great. Some awesome grappling, good selling and a certain intensity that I liked. Another great job from Yehi. ***¾

After the match, Sabre put over Yehi and said that he wanted another shot at the Evolve Championship. Ethan Page and the Gatekeepers showed up and beat him down. Darby Allin and some seminar students showed up to try and help but they failed. Page did the old Pillman/Austin chair gimmick on Sabre’s arm. This and the earlier win were about as good as a way as possible for Evolve to make up for Evolve 70. It did seem like Sabre was going heel based off of Evolve 67 so this was odd in that way.

Chris Hero def. Matt Riddle in 17:33
Earlier this year, at Evolve 57, Riddle actually beat Chris Hero. After a relatively slow start for the first two or so minutes, Riddle fired up and just went nuts with strikes on Hero. Hero answered with a big boot that sent him outside. They continued to wail on each other outside but Hero’s shots pretty much sent Riddle to sleep in the corner. Hero did what everyone should do to guys who don’t wear boots. He stepped on Riddle’s feet. Riddle fought from behind with fire, which we don’t see often from him. He would sit up after big shots from Hero and shout “BROOOOO”. Matt came close with the Bro to Sleep but Hero kicked out. Hero looked out of it but was playing possum and drilled Riddle with three elbows. He missed a fourth before blocking the Bromission. Riddle took a tombstone and piledriver before locking in a triangle choke. Hero broke that and hit the sick arm capture piledriver for a near fall. A rolling elbow kept Matt down. Match of the night and exactly what I wanted from these two. It was heated and physical, with some vicious shots throughout. Riddle as the babyface was great since the fans love him and Hero is an amazing bully brute heel. ****¼

Tracy Williams came out to check on Matt Riddle. Chris Hero got mad and Williams issued a challenge to him. Hero beat all remaining Catch Point members in recent months. Drew Galloway and DUSTIN ran out. Hero knocked Williams out and Riddle got beat up outside. Galloway said that though injured, he was there to inspire his troops. He wanted Hero to attack Riddle more but Hero declined and left. Gulak and Yehi showed up to run Galloway and DUSTIN off. Gulak promised that a unified Catch Point would win the war.

Overall: 7.5/10. A strong effort from Evolve here. The lowest rated match (since I didn’t rate the squash), still nearly comes in with three stars. Williams/Kincaid was a great surprise, Yehi/Sabre ruled and Hero/Riddle was a worthy main event. Everything else is pretty good and the show is barely over two hours, making it a really easy watch.