Thursday, February 2, 2017

Evolve 77 Review

Evolve 77
January 28th, 2017 | Woodlawn Park Gym in San Antonio, Texas

Evolve 76 saw some solid action in the ring, but had other nightmarish problems. The ring ropes broke three different times, causing several issues. Today, in an afternoon show, we see the Evolve sendoff for Chris Hero as he faces his top rival, Zack Sabre Jr.

The daytime setup looks much better by the way.

It’s supposed to be Barrett Brown vs. Darby Allin to open. Allin is coming off an upset win over Chris Dickinson yesterday. Brown competed at a seminar this weekend. Before things got started, Ethan Page’s music hit and he walked out. The Gatekeepers jump him behind and they put the boots to him while Page talks smack. Page also leveled Brown and shouted to Darby that he’ll never be anything. He was gonna give Darby a match but didn’t want to share the spotlight. Instead, he offered a tag challenge. Allin said Page was scared of him and we got a handicap match.

Barrett Brown, Darby Allin and Zack Sabre Jr. def. Ethan Page and The Gatekeepers in 11:57
Allin started hot and nearly ended up against Page alone but the Gatekeepers returned. Allin took a big back body drop bump to the outside. Blaster did an effortless somersault dive outside but it might have been too easy. He mostly missed his opponents by overshooting them. Allin took heat for a bit and always kept his focus on Page. Even when the bigger opponents were kicking his ass. Zack Sabre Jr. showed up to make this an impromptu six man tag. ARE THERE NO RULES ANYMORE? Sabre cleaned house for a bit. Page launched Brown with a border toss onto everyone else outside. They brawled there, where Allin climbed a support beam and nailed a coffin drop on everyone. It was nuts. The pace didn’t slow inside and Sabre made Blaster submit to a Kimura. An absolutely chaotic opener that was way more fun than expected. It reminded me of ECW in a good way. They did a good job continuing Page’s feuds with Sabre and Allin, while giving us a wild tag match. ***¼

Tracy Williams def. The Laredo Kid in 7:58
The Laredo Kid looks just like Kalisto. Mask, attire and everything. Kid flew all over the place, including a somersault off the ring post. Most of the match saw Kid use his aerial skills, while Williams tried to ground him. It’s a basic formula, but usually works. Kid started putting together offense and went for a Phoenix splash. He crashed and burned when Williams rolled out of the way. Williams hit a vicious forearm and instantly made Kid tap in the crossface. Standard match here. I continue to be impressed by Williams’ skills between the ropes, while Laredo Kid is a fine luchador. There are a lot of guys with similar skills though, so I feel he would have been better served to stand out a bit more. **½

Chris Dickinson and Jaka def. Jason Kincaid and Sammy Guevara in 13:45
Guevara is from Texas and got a hearty pop in his Evolve debut. Kincaid scored an upset over DUSTIN yesterday. They continued to play the “Dickinson is a wild card” angle. He had to be held back and is a loose cannon. Kincaid and Jaka had a fun opening before both men tagged out. Guevara showed some impressive athleticism. I liked what I saw from him during the Style Battle show earlier this month. Sammy’s overconfidence cost him as the Catch Point guys took turns wearing him down. Guevara impressed with a fantastic shooting star press to the outside. Kincaid also killed it with a rope walk coast to cast. Guevara also busted out a 630 but they both missed other high risk moves, allowing Catch Point to win with a doomsday chokeslam. Good tag match and I came away wanting to see more Guevara and Kincaid for sure. *** 

Larry Dallas came out and tried to build tension between Catch Point, saying Jaka and Dickinson should get a Tag Title shot. Jason Kincaid interrupted to say some odd stuff that went over the crowd’s heads.

ACH def. Fred Yehi in 14:06
Outside of the main event, this was what I wanted to see most on the card. Yehi was intense from the start and didn’t seem amused when ACH stole his “YOU’RE IN TROUBLE” stuff. There were some great exchanges in the first portion of the match, with both men having the other scouted. Ach avoided Yehi’s trademark stomps but eventually got caught with them. I was particularly amused at Yehi using a stump puller and telling ACH to “kiss his knee.” On the mat, Yehi would typically have the advantage but Ach more than held his own, similar to the Riddle match. The pace picked up and they got into a huge battle of slaps and chops. Also like last night’s match, this was a big more aggressive at points than I expected. Just as things were possibly reaching the next level, ACH scored with a small package drive of sorts to win from out of nowhere. Not quite as good as ACH/Riddle, but still my favorite match so far. Good, hard hitting match between two of the better guys around WWN. ACH could be poised for a Cedric Alexander like string of performances after departing ROH, while Yehi is consistently awesome. ***½

No Disqualifications: Matt Riddle def. DUSTIN in 10:39
Riddle started with the clear upper hand until things moved outside. There, DUSTIN tossed him into rows of chairs several times. Riddle turned it around on him before having fans hold a chair in DUSTIN’s face, which he proceeded to big boot. They fought all around the building and brought chairs and tables into play. At one point, Riddle missed a senton and landed on two chairs. DUSTIN destroyed Riddle INSERT SPOT but Riddle powered up and kicked out at one. DUSTIN set up about ten chairs, open and on top of each other in the ring. He went up top but got stopped by Riddle. Riddle then superplexed him through all the hairs in an insane spot! Riddle then pummeled him with punches and kicks before pinning to get the three. The strikes at the end were odd. If the was gonna do that, it should have ended via ref stoppage. If it was a pin, he should’ve just pinned him. My favorite DUSTIN match so far because the stipulation allowed us to avoid his dull stuff. They tried some badass things and it fit the No DQ bill. Riddle can do it all. ***¾

At the upcoming WWN tailgate party during Mania weekend, Matt Hardy will be there!

Evolve Championship: Timothy Thatcher (c) w/ Stokely Hathaway def. Jeff Cobb in 16:10
Cobb dedicated the match to their trainer and made sure to note that it wasn’t Hathaway. Cobb used his power and amateur skills for an early upper hand. Thatcher worked the arm, looking to set things up for his finish and to take away Cobb’s power. Cobb did well to sell the arm, even when hitting bigger spots. The crowd was dead for this. The Thatcher experiment should have ended a long time ago. Each time Cobb tried to take over, his arm would cause him troubles. Like most Thatcher matches post-2015, the work made sense but it was so dry and boring. It killed the crowd. He ended up winning with the armbar. I can’t understand why Gabe keeps the title on Thatcher. He’s been champ for over 550 days and most of that has just been terrible. This is coming from someone who thought Thatcher was great in 2015. This match was a drag and the worst thing on the weekend. 

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Chris Hero in 22:59
Their last three matches for WWN have gotten ****¼, **** and ****½. Hero won all three and Sabre is dying to finally beat him. I loved how this began. Hero offered a handshake but the desperate Sabre charged in and applied a submission, trying to win quickly. Sabre went for another hold outside but would get stopped by Hero’s size and strength. For Sabre to knock Hero down, he had to run halfway around the ring on an uppercut. Hero took over and abused Sabre. Strikes, a BIG BOY senton outside and just brutal offense. Any hope spot for Sabre came in the form of submissions and flash pins. Hero kept kicking Sabre off the apron, telling him to stay down. Sabre blocked a top rope piledriver and kicked out Hero’s legs, but that didn’t stop Hero’s vicious elbows. Sabre fought off the tombstone, picking up a near fall, before taking a sick looking one. He sells piledrivers better than anyone. On his way to NXT, Hero went all Triple H with a Pedigree and Sabre kicked out at one. That was awesome. Hero connected on two sick piledrivers and looked to win with a third. Sabre countered and rolled into a sick submission to finally get the win. Their chemistry shined once again here. Sabre was always close to winning and they played into that story again. You could feel his desperation and Hero dominated at times like he should have. ****¼ 

Chris Hero got on the microphone and put over Zack Sabre Jr. at length. He discussed their time in NOAH and hinted at a future match in NXT with Hideo Itami. Hero said Sabre should get an Evolve Title shot. ACH came out and also put over both guys before reminding everyone that he beat Fred Yehi and wants a title shot. That brought out Stokely Hathaway, who said he makes the decisions regarding the title. Thatcher walked to the ring and pointed at Sabre before turning and leaving. Sabre told ACH that he can have the first title shot when he wins the title. ACH left Sabre to say some words to Hero. He said the last three years of Hero beating his ass defined him and made him better. They embraced and Hero had some final words. He spoke about the support he got when he was released and that there are a lot of people who dislike him but way more who want to see him. He thanked the fans and fellow wrestlers, because without them he wouldn’t have gotten the second chance with WWE. He went around the ring thanking fans and the locker room lined the aisle, all congratulating him and saying goodbye.

Overall: 8/10. An improvement on Evolve 76. The main event was exactly what it needed to be and sent off Chris Hero in grand fashion. The post-match stuff was good too. The entire card delivered, outside of Thatcher and Cobb. Thatcher continues to be the worst thing about Evolve, yet has been champion for almost two years. Yehi/ACH and Riddle/DUSTIN are both worth going out of your way to check out, while the undercard guys performed well. They give hope for the future of Evolve.