Saturday, February 25, 2017
Lenny Leonard opened the show by hyping the card in the ring.
I saw Anthony Henry have a great match with Fred Yehi on the first Style Battle show back in January. Riddle had an nWo style shirt that said bRo. They had some standard early exchanges and it was Henry who delivered the first big shots, looking to make an impact. Riddle stopped a springboard attempt with a knee before following up with some suplexes. It was as if Riddle took him lightly but now saw he had to bring it. There was a strange moment where Henry awkwardly sent Riddle outside. At least he made up for it with a tope suicida and tope con hilo. They traded submissions inside, though n either looked very crisp. The pace quickened in the final stretch with strikes and kicks galore. Riddle fired up with a springboard knee, fisherman buster, tombstone and Bromission to win. This was a good opener, but I wanted a bit more. Henry got in a lot and it was clear they have high hopes for him. A few things didn’t come off as well as they’d hope though it was a good effort.
Riddle shook hands with Henry after the match. Riddle got the mic and said he wants to add to the title he already has. He wants the FIP and Evolve Titles. He called out Drew Galloway but got the rest of Catch Point instead. Tracy Williams tells him that it’s Fred Yehi’s night tonight. Yehi said he loves this building because it’s where he made Tony Nese tap out to win the Evolve Tag Team Titles. Chris Dickinson said he wanted the Gatekeepers right now but Larry Dallas arrived. He tries driving a wedge in Catch Point by saying if Dickinson and Jaka win their match tonight, they should get a Tag Title shot, which are titles held by Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi. Tracy said Catch Point is about competition and they’ll give them a shot but tonight is about Yehi. Dickinson has been a loose cannon of sorts so I can see him and possibly Jaka leaving the group but it’s not like Catch Point hasn’t always been about respectfully wrestling each other.
Both guys have been featured on the FIP and Style Battle shows on WWN lately. It’s the Evolve debut of Theory, while Allin has gained a bit of a following for his insane underdog role. It’s odd that he’s a heel over in FIP. Priscilla Kelly, stablemate of Allin in FIP, was at ringside. They got off to a quick start, with Allin springboarding all over and Theory trying to combat it with his power advantage. Allin hit the Coffin Drop early but Theory kicked out. Theory might’ve died on an Asai moonsault attempt where he totally overshot Allin and hit ribs first on the guardrail. He was somehow up within seconds to a standing ovation and “he’s okay” chant. After more back and forth, Allin had the Coffin Drop caught into a TKO that ended it. Allin loses nothing and stays the popular underdog, while Theory gets a win in his debut. Energetic match but nothing more.
Kincaid is a wacky dude. He stopped to meditate, annoying Ethan Page. He clearly got in Ethan’s head early and used it to gain control. Page used a sucker punch and release suplex on the apron to swing the momentum. Page took to wearing down Kincaid inside, but that thankfully didn’t last too long. Kincaid fires back, picking up a few near falls. He hit interesting variations of the stunner and X-Factor. Someone’s been watching the Attitude Era. He made the mistake of going up top one too many times and was met with a release powerbomb. The RK-Ego came next, giving Page a win. Good back and forth match with a nice twist as Page wasn’t in control. Kincaid’s different style caused problems but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
Chris Dickinson and Jaka charged the ring and wanted their match with the Gatekeepers now. Ethan Page left and the match started.
This started with a brawl in and around the ring. Things calmed down into a normal tag match in a few minutes. The Gatekeepers are ridiculously big dudes. It brown down again for a bit and Jaka was thrown into the steel steps, leaving Dickinson to get worked over. It was odd to see Dickinson take the heat since he’s a big guy himself. Dickinson survived it all and Jaka came in hot. He hit an exploder but the pin was broken up. Again though, Jaka was taken out and Dickinson ate a double chokeslam. He somehow kicked out, staying alive. He broke free of a Doomsday Device spot, leading to the Death Trap for the win, keeping them unbeaten as a team. Solid tag match as Jaka and Dickinson have been a welcome addition to the tag division. They don’t fit in Catch Point, so I’m assuming they split after a Tag Title match during Mania weekend.
ACH has made it clear he wants an Evolve Title shot. Williams came in with a great game plan, taking ACH to the mat and not allowing him to quicken the pace. Each time it seemed like things would get faster, Tracy grounded him. Things only ramped up when Tracy wanted them to, before hitting a middle rope butterfly suplex. ACH finally got going, driving Tracy’s face into the apron and hitting a plancha. Again though, Tracy slowed it down once back inside. ACH lit up Tracy’s chest with some brutal chops. He seemed like he would try a dive but instead got down and soccer kicked Tracy from the apron. It was odd. This seemed to go on forever to be honest. ACH finally got hot late, hitting a series of lariats and a brainbuster to put Tracy away. This was a disappointment. The stuff they did was smart, with Tracy grounding ACH, but it never got me invested. It seemed to drag on, lacked urgency and never clicked how I hoped. I like both guys and hope for better performances coming up.
Larry Dallas was back to stir the pot but Tracy got annoyed and left.
It’s a good old fashioned HOSS FIGHT! It’s the return of Galloway following suspension and injury. Galloway is used to the height advantage, but Cobb is a BIG BOY. Cobb tossed him around like a cruiserweight at points. They took things outside and brawled there for a bit. Galloway took over there and continued to control things as they moved inside the ring. He talked smack while doing so. Galloway made a mistake by coming off the top and Cobb caught him in a belly to belly suplex. Cobb got in some offense before they traded some sick sounding headbutts. Not Shibata/Ishii levels but still. Cobb continued to impress, catching Galloway in a suplex and then getting two on the swinging German. They struggled for advantage on a back slide until Galloway used the ropes to flip over and hit Future Shock for the win. There were some slow points but overall, I thought this was a good battle. Cobb looked great and the finish was creative.
Post-match, Galloway got on the mic and called out Matt Riddle. Riddle answered and they brawled until Riddle was shoved into Cobb. Cobb hit Tour of the Islands on Riddle to boos. Catch Point ran out to calm things down. Jaka and Cobb got in a shoving match while Galloway laughed outside.
Sabre has an Evolve Title shot in 24 hours. I was instantly impressed when they went to the mat and Sabre bridged up despite Lee being on top of him. The size difference was crazy here. Sabre tried combating the power with submissions. Each time it looked like Sabre found a way to slay the beast, Lee brought something else. At one point, he got free with a nice up and over and hit a shoulder block. He continued the monster work, wearing down Sabre. He destroyed Sabre with chops. Sabre clipped the knee and hit the Penalty Kick but Lee bench pressed him off for the kickout. I always love that spot. Lee fought out of an armbar into a sitout powerbomb for two. A fan got heat for telling Sabre to “Never give up. Hustle, loyalty and respect.” Sabre listened, connecting with a series of uppercuts and strikes. He came close with the prawn hold and went for another armbar, hanging on Lee like a small branch on a giant tree. Lee countered into a big powerslam that got the three. Best match on the show so far. It was a great clash of styles and both guys looked good. It wasn’t your standard Sabre match, which was welcome. They clearly have big plans for Lee. Not sold on Sabre losing right before the title shot though.
Stokely Hathaway came out to say he doesn’t care about the new guys coming in. He wasn’t happy with people saying the company is tanking because it’s all about Timothy Thatcher.
Yehi made Thatcher tap out in a tag match last month. This is Evolve Champion vs. FIP Champion. Lenny Leonard hammered home how successful Yehi’s Koji Clutch has been. We got some early grapple work that progressed to striking. Yehi used his unique offense and stomps to gain an advantage for a bit. They traded chops and strikes in the center of the ring before Yehi got aggressive and drilled knee strikes into Thatcher’s head. The fans came alive when Thatcher looked helpless against Yehi’s strikes. Yehi picked up some near falls on a rolling forearm, German and powerbomb but I never felt like he had a chance. He slapped on the Koji Clutch but Thatcher made it to the ropes. They struggled for control until Thatcher hit sakatoshi. Yehi tapped out with no drama, almost instantly. The awful title reign of Thatcher continues. Like a lot of Thatcher matches, it was technically fine but lacked real drama or intrigue. I did think the final few minutes were the best parts though. ***
Catch Point got in the ring to console Fred Yehi. Jaka and Dickinson slowly handed the titles to the champs and they all did the Catch Point handshake.
Overall: A disappointing Evolve outing for sure. Nothing on the show was outwardly bad but nothing stood out either. Most of the card felt flat and lacking something. The crowd didn’t help matters, being much less engaged than previous trips to Maryland. I enjoyed Riddle/Henry, Galloway/Cobb and Sabre/Lee the most. The rest of the card was solid, but very unspectacular.