Sunday, February 26, 2017
Like Evolve 78, Lenny Leonard introduced the show.
A win for ACH would secure an Evolve Title shot during WrestleMania weekend. Kincaid’s unique style perplexed ACH in the early stages, especially when he stopped to seemingly meditate. The back and forth continued until ACH sent him outside and hit the soccer kick. Kincaid responded with some interesting offense including a double stomp variation over the ropes. He jumped from stage by ringside to the ring with a nice dropkick and got two on a slingshot stunner. Kincaid missed a double stomp, opening the door for ACH to go into a flurry that included lariats and the brainbuster that ended it. Good way to open the show. Kincaid got to shine and show off his skills, continuing to impress. ACH picked up another win. ACH didn’t have a weekend the level of his debut but still accomplished what he needed to here.
They called this a Four Way Fray. Two Catch Point guys and two guys who are new to Evolve and looking to impress. Yehi and Henry relived their great Style Battle match early on. Priscilla Kelly watched from ringside again. Henry showed off great stuff against Theory until Dickinson ran him over with a lariat. The Catch Point guys worked together on Theory, nearly killing him with a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo. They got into the typical argument in these matches where partners realize only one can get the pin. They did the Catch Point handshake and went at it. Both men threw exploders before Dickinson hit four powerbombs on Henry, only to have the pin broken up. Yehi and Henry went at it again shortly after and Yehi applied the Koji Clutch. Dickinson border tossed Theory over the submission and got the victory. I thought this was a blast. Theory took a beating, Henry impressed me several times and they teased more Catch Point tension between Yehi and Dickinson. Yehi was his great self and Dickinson looked like a monster.
Another Cobb match, another HOSS FIGHT! I love these things. These two got into a shoving match on the previous show. Within a minute, they were throwing kick, strikes and headbutts like men. They went up top where Cobb delivered a ridiculous middle rope stalling superplex that looked almost like a brainbuster. Jaka had a less impressive response, German suplexing Cobb. Outside, Jaka hit a tope suicida but had his plancha caught. He escaped and they traded blows. Back inside, they began throwing each other around. Cobb hit an awesome popup gutwrench suplex. Jaka retaliated with kicks until Tour of the Islands ended him. A damn good hoss fight like I wanted. They played it evenly, building the intensity. The crowd was invested, it was hard hitting and that’s all I could ask for. Best thing on the weekend so far.
“Keith Lee is like a building with feet,” said Lenny Leonard and it’s rather accurate. Tracy came out on the offensive but was quickly overwhelmed by Lee’s size. Lee abused Tracy with shots around the ring. He sat Tracy on the top, but Tracy caught a shot into an armbar on the ropes. Unfortunately for Tracy, he jumped right into a belly to belly suplex. Tracy made the mistake of hitting Lee in the face, leading to him getting more of a beating, including a sitout powerbomb. That continued to be the story throughout. Tracy finally got going, taking down Lee with a lariat for two. Lee went up for a moonsault but Williams nailed a super Angle slam for a close near fall. He tried the armbar but couldn’t get Lee down. Lee countered it into ground zero, getting the 1-2-3. They told a great story here with Williams having to dig down deep but not being able to overcome Lee. They kept harping on Chris Hero telling Lee to find his killer instinct and he may have this weekend. Again, the crowd was hot and Lee showed he’s going to be a big part of Evolve going forward.
Darby Allin came out with an Ethan Page photo taped to his face. Page attacked instantly but Allin hit the Coffin Drop on Page and the Gatekeepers. Page responded by press slamming Allin from the stage into the ring post. It looked sick and the crowd reacted perfectly. Page handcuffed Allin but Allin refused to quit. Madman Allin took a back body drop and could’ve broken his wrists. Allin worked the crowd into a frenzy by getting offense in despite the cuffs. He snapped off a rana and dropkicked the Gatekeepers off the apron. Page’s super powerslam wasn’t enough to keep Allin down. Allin spat at Page, who hit RK-Ego and a powerbomb for the win. Not a technical masterpiece but it told a great story. Page was a sick bastard who wanted to hurt Allin, while Allin is the epitome of never say die. Both guys played their roles wonderfully.
Ethan Page got on the microphone and brought up beating Allin in all three of their matches. He called Allin trash and put him in a body bag. Page said Allin should thank him for beating him up to the point where fans felt sorry for him. He said Darby’s career is dead and promised to win the Evolve Title, ruining the reams of the roster. They zipped up the bag and took him out. Page was great in this segment.
The fans treated Riddle like a god. He was the most over guy on this show. This match is months in the making. The crowd bit on Riddle winning with a knee strike in about five seconds. Galloway turned it around, slamming Riddle on the stage and beating him up around the ring. Galloway wisely stomped on Riddle’s toes. PUT SOME DAMN SHOES ON! Riddle brought out a flurry of strikes but Galloway had some scouted and blocked before hitting the sick kick. Riddle countered a suplex into a fisherman buster for two. That helped spark a rally and he got two on the Bro to Sleep. Galloway hit a super air raid crash but it wasn’t enough. Riddle reversed Future Shock into a pin for a near fall but nearly got caught in a tombstone. He slipped out into a submission. Riddle delivered hammer fists to the head and ribs of Galloway, who couldn’t defend himself so the referee called for the bell. Good, intense battle. The best thing about it was the finish. Galloway is allowed to continue to say there’s a conspiracy against him, while it was the perfect end to a Riddle match considering his style.
A furious Drew Galloway jumped Matt Riddle after the match. He was saved by Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi, who ran Galloway off. Larry Dallas came out and brought his own security guard, Earl Cooter. Once in the ring, Dallas announced that Riddle, Williams and Yehi have been entered into the “Battle of the Champions Elimination Match” to crown the first WWN Champion during Mania weekend. They join Drew Galloway. Riddle said the titles would all be his and left. Yehi spoke, calling Riddle selfish because they always have his back but never even get a thank you. Yehi challenged Riddle and Williams tried keeping the pace. Riddle vs. Yehi should rule.
The last time these two met was at Evolve 47 (FloSlam uploaded the match for free on YouTube this week) and I gave that ****½. Crowd was very pro-Sabre. They came out firing uppercuts and forearms. Both guys went for their signature submissions early. The fans chanted “Thatcher’s garbage” several times while these two went to war on the mat. Thatcher stomped on Sabre in the corner, only to get his leg caught in a submission on the ropes. Like s shark smelling blood, Sabre attacked that leg. The heat from the crowd was great here. They hated Thatcher and everything he did. Thatcher had control, wearing down Sabre. The challenger fought back with uppercuts, kicks and chops. They countered each other’s submissions before Sabre hit a running kick and German for two. Thatcher slapped on the armbar after a gutwrench suplex but Sabre reached the ropes. Sabre nearly won with a bridging pin, had it countered into a sleeper and then turned that into another pin for a crazy close near fall. The PK connected and then he applied a triangle choke. Thatcher turned it around, leading to another exchange of submissions. Sabre countered sakatoshi into an octopus hold, complete with elbow strikes. He reached back on both of Thatcher’s arms and stomped on his head while in the submission, finally ending Thatcher’s reign of terror. The pop for Sabre’s win was nuts. This was the best Thatcher title defense since the weekend he worked Sabre and Gargano back in November 2015. It had the intensity and emotion that most Thatcher matches lack. Props to Thatcher for finally doing things to be more interesting, like playing to the crowd and doing the little mannerisms to add to things. Their mat work and strikes were expertly done and the win felt like a huge deal.
Timothy Thatcher prepared to hand the title to Zack Sabre Jr. Ethan Page ran out and attacked Sabre from behind, ruining a big moment just like he did on Johnny Gargano’s final night. ACH made the save, running Page off. ACH congratulated Sabre and said the match gave him goosebumps. He put over Sabre hard but said Sabre will be handing the title to him on March 30th. The locker room emptied to congratulate the new champion and Zack thanked the fans.
Overall: As expected, Evolve bounced back after a lackluster show. This show was great. The worst matches clocked in at three stars. Anytime that happens, a show is going to be easy to watch. Most matches told a story and set things up for the future while delivering here. Riddle/Galloway and the four way were both a lot of fun. I enjoyed the hell out of Williams/Lee and Jaka/Dickinson for different reasons. Then, the main event was the best Evolve Title match in over a year. The moment of Sabre winning is a big one in Evolve history and they set up at least four future title matches for him (a Thatcher rematch, ACH, Page and Lee).