Friday, March 31, 2017
WrestleMania weekend officially kicks off with Evolve 80! Quick note, the venue looked awesome and was one of the best Evolve has ever run in.
To start the show, Drew Galloway was in the ring and steals the microphone from Lenny Leonard. He only trusted himself to set the tone for this big event. He put over the company and called this Wrestling Week, not WrestleMania Week. He called out Matt Riddle for their match.
Galloway opened things with a headbutt and they went to war from there. Riddle brought strikes, but Galloway overpowered him. He hit an impressive slam on the apron but also took a Bro to Sleep outside. A table was brought into play and Galloway delivered a piledriver off the apron through it. That felt like the end but Galloway wasn’t done. He put an exclamation point with the Future Shock inside and ANOTHER piledriver to end it at 7:15. That was shorter than I expected, but it worked for what they were going for. Galloway looks like a BEAST going into the WWN Title match this weekend. This was intense and I dug it.
Drew Galloway looked to continue the assault but Chris Dickinson and Jaka ran out for the save.
Timothy Thatcher goes from almost two years as Evolve Champion to the second match. His performances in the past year fit the card placement. I’m also not big on Dickinson, so my hopes weren’t high coming into this. They worked the mat early, with Dickinson, as always, playing the aggressor. It was typical Thatcher stuff. Outside of the Zack Sabre Jr. match last month, he’s had almost non-stop dull, lifeless matches. The highlight was probably Dickinson curb stomping him. In the end, Thatcher fought off a powerbomb, hit a kick and won with a submission at 9:16. Like I said, nothing special and rather lifeless.
This was scheduled to be a singles match, but it was announced that Lio Rush didn’t want to wait until scheduled return tomorrow and it was made into a three way. Rush and Kincaid had a fun exchange early until Jaka showed the power and ran him over. Jaka kept dumping Rush out of the ring. I’m not a fan of the tired trope where one guy gets thrown out to make these matches a series of one on one encounters. When all three were involved, the match was at its best. Rush nearly killed Kincaid with a kick and a reverse rana. Kincaid did a dangerous double super rana that nearly saw Rush and Jaka land on each other. Rush got the win with the Dragon’s Call, which looked great at 9:06. I was worried that turning it into an impromptu three way would cause issues. Instead, it made things better than I expected since Rush was the highlight here and was mostly used well. It was high energy, moved briskly and was entertaining.
I’ve never heard of Façade and MRB. I was genuinely confused when they came out. One looked like a shitty FCW era Seth Rollins cosplayer. The Gatekeepers did exactly what they needed to and squashed these geeks in 2:03. They needed that after some recent losses.
Ethan Page got on the microphone, saying this show is part of the “era of ego.” He demanded to be part of the Evolve Title match but since nobody gave him a shot, he called out his opponent for the night.
Austin Theory is just 19 and one of the guys to be featured on several WWN shows this year. He seemed to tweak his knee early but was mostly fine. Page took the time to wear down Theory, grounding the youngster. Most of it was dull. Page hit the RKO-Ego but Theory surprisingly kicked out. I think that could’ve been a bigger deal but it fell flat. Theory ate a series of kicks and Page won with a uranage. This was just bland. It worked as an extended squash at 7:17 but I would’ve liked Theory to get in a few more hope spots to get the crowd more invested.
More promo time from Ethan Page as he berated Theory on his way out. After Theory exited the ring, Priscilla Kelly strolled to the ring. She got in Page’s face before the cameras caught a bunch of people in bloodied scrubs bringing a body bag to the ring. They had their faces painted too. They lifted the body bag but Page and the Gatekeepers attacked them before they opened it. The Gatekeepers slammed the body bag down without even opening before launching it into the rest of the guys outside. He was brought back in and the bag was opened to reveal Darby Allin. He awoke and took out the Gatekeepers with a pipe. Page scurried during this and Allin challenged him to a match tomorrow. It’ll be an anything goes match apparently. That was a strange segment that dragged on too long so the crowd was dead for some of it. I loved seeing Priscilla Kelly though.
This was part of Keith Lee’s “Trial Series.” It should make for an interesting clash of styles. Ricochet’s early grapple attempts were fun. He turned to try his athleticism but Lee showed off his skill in that department with a great dropkick. Ricochet was game for this and bumped like an absolute madman for Lee. He finally got an opening after snapping off a big rana and nailing a dive to the outside. Lee survived some of Ricochet’s best shots. Ricochet then impressed everyone with a reverse rana and Benadryller. It wasn’t the best Benadryller but just picking up Lee was huge. Lee survived a series of kicks and avoided the SSP. After a series of strikes, Lee hit an awesome sitout powerbomb but Ricochet got the shoulder up. Lee went for the moonsault that broke the ring in San Antonio but missed. Ricochet hit a springboard 450 for two and then the SSP. Lee kicked out so hard he launched Ricochet into the turnbuckle. Ricochet hit another but Lee grabbed him by the throat, so Ricochet had to fight him off. Kicks after kick and Lee barely got down. Finally, a 630 got Ricochet the win at 17:13. That was the best Lee match thus far. I was surprised he lost but he looked awesome in defeat. Ricochet threw everything he had at Lee, over and over, and it was still barely enough. Ricochet bumped like crazy for him though I’d still have preferred a Lee win.
Williams and Elgin started, with Williams having an advantage in the technical aspect. Yehi and Dijak had some good exchanges, like Yehi stomping on his feet and Dijak tossing him like a rag doll. The champs showed off some solid tandem offense. Dijak impressed with his fosbury flop. He’s a big dude and does it rather well. Williams got worked over the challengers. Yehi got the hot tag and was his awesome self. Tracy seemed to have issues with the size of his opponents. He survived a moonsault from Dijak and then delivered a sick dragon screw into an ankle lock. I thought Dijak’s leg was broken. The challengers came back with a series of big offensive moves on both champs. Williams somehow kicked out of a middle rope powerbomb and one of Dijak’s best moves. Yehi, like a wild man, hit Elgin with a damn Canadian Destroyer! They hit a double powerbomb on Dijak that he kicked out of, so Tracy transitioned to a crossface. Dijak fought to his feet only for Yehi to dropkick his knees. Dijak tapped at 18:25. Like most title matches since Yehi & Williams won the titles, this was good but not quite great. They did a good job of making fans believe Elgin and Dijak could win despite not being Evolve regulars. The champs fought from behind, using their smarts and technical acumen to overcome their size disadvantage.
Larry Dallas showed up to stir more shit. He claimed Yehi and Williams allowed Riddle to get hurt ahead of the WWN Title match on Saturday. Yehi said he hoped Riddle wasn’t hurt and looks forward to their match tomorrow. They sent Dallas packing, before Chris Dickinson and Jaka wanted to know where their title match was. Tracy wants them to focus on the matches signed for this weekend.
Zack Sabre Jr. only brought out one of his titles. ACH startled him in the beginning with a soccer kick. Sabre retaliated with a kick of his own to the hand, looking to set up later submissions. He took the time to bend and twist ACH in awkward ways. ACH sold it well and Sabre continued to go after it. Sabre’s best matches are the ones where he doesn’t just do submissions for the sake of it, but here they made sense and focused on something. He caught an ACH dive into a submission but was too close to the ropes. ACH rallied by escaping a corner submission. He got close on a pinning combination and a bridging German suplex. Someone started a “USA” chant so the rest of the crowd booed him. ACH went into a flurry of offense only for his 450 splash to be caught in a triangle choke! He transitioned to another submission at 15:16 to make ACH submit. This was really good but lacked things to take it to the next level. I feel like ACH brought it but I wish Sabre sold some of his stuff better. Still, this was a worthy main event with some great moments.
Overall: I’d say this was solid outing from Evolve. There were some things that missed the mark (Page/Theory, Thatcher/Dickinson, the Allin segment) but most of the show featured good matches. Riddle/Galloway is an intense sprint, the two title matches are both very good, the three way is fun and Ricochet/Lee was awesome. Consider that the first must-see match from the weekend.