Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Evolve 81 Review

Evolve 81
March 31st, 2017 | Orlando Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando, Florida

After a solid outing yesterday, Evolve is back for night two of their WrestleMania weekend events.

Zack Sabre Jr. came out to start the show and wanted Michael Elgin now because Elgin slapped him after the main event last night. It’s non-title because Sabre said Elgin hasn’t earned it.

Non-Title Match: Michael Elgin vs. Evolve Champion Zack Sabre Jr.
Though Sabre was pissed at Elgin, this didn’t get off to a hot or intense start. The crowd was quieter than expected too. Sabre made the mistake of trying to get into a strike battle, which the more powerful Elgin won. Sabre resorted to kicks to even things out. Elgin took control and it took its toll on Sabre, so who got a badly busted eye. It was busted open on the PROGRESS show earlier today, so it was probably easy for it to happen again here. He survived some of Elgin’s big offense, including a super powerbomb and apron DVD. From seemingly out of nowhere, Sabre countered the Elgin Bomb into a prawn hold for the three at 16:37. This was a fine match. Unfortunately, it felt lifeless at times and neither guy seemed keen on bringing their best. [**¾]

After the match, Lio Rush came out and introduced himself to Zack Sabre Jr. He wanted their upcoming match to be for the Evolve Title. 

Drew Galloway vs. Lio Rush
This was what I expected it to be. Drew Galloway has been booked like a monster and Lio Rush is a great underdog. They played right into that. Galloway threw him around like a rag doll. From slams onto steel steps to being thrown into a ring post, Rush took a beating. His hope spots were well done too, finding small openings for moonsaults and such. Rush missed the Dragon Call and got hit with a piledriver like Riddle last night. Rush kicked out and continued to fight. Galloway wasn’t having any of it though and delivered a ridiculous spinning Future Shock! He followed with a another piledriver to win at 9:23. Good old fashioned storytelling. The monster against the resilient underdog. [***½]

Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
Despite this being two big dudes, they started by showcasing their athleticism. Dijak did a cartwheel before Lee one upped him by landing on his feet on a monkey flip. He also busted out a twisting dive to the outside. They continued to one up each other when Dijak did a springboard corkscrew attack. I don’t want to do play-by-play but this was a series of two big dudes doing things they physically shouldn’t. Dijak did a GODDAMN CANADIAN DESTROYER! BIG BOYS! Dijak nailed Feast Your Eyes but it wasn’t enough. A Lee moonsault wasn’t enough so he tried a chokeslam. Dijak back flipped out and tried his own, so Lee responded by doing SAME DAMN THING! Lee finished it with the Spirit Bomb at 12:09 of pure insanity. This was fucking nuts. They had a different kind of hoss battle and I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was one of the most impressive spot fests I’ve ever witnessed and kind of a spectacle. My friends and I were going nuts. [****¼]

ACH vs. Timothy Thatcher w/ Stokely Hathaway
Stokely Hathaway cut a promo before the match but I admittedly missed it. This began with Thatcher doing what Thatcher does and taking ACH to the mat. ACH came back with some bursts of offense but nothing too sustained. Like the opener, the crowd sat on their hands. More here since that’s what Thatcher does. Thatcher delivered a kick to the face but ACH came from out of nowhere to hit a brainbuster and get the win at 9:06. I like ACH but this was the standard boring, heatless Thatcher affair. [*½]

Post-match, Hathaway checked on Thatcher. Thatcher said if he’s not in the WWN Title match, he won’t be his client anymore.

Austin Theory, Jason Kincaid and Sammy Guevara vs. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson, Jaka and Evolve Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams)
Dickinson and Jaka were the focal point of the opening portion. It was as if they were trying to prove that they’re carrying Catch Point (they aren’t). The other team brought the high flying offense, especially Guevara. Catch Point took back over and worked a rather lengthy heat segment. In a scary moment, Guevara did a shooting star press to the outside but nobody caught him. Still, Kincaid’s team rallied. While Kincaid choked Tracy out in a submission, Jaka and Dickinson won on the other side with a doomsday device chokeslam spot at 17:17. It played into the Jaka and Dickinson wanting a shot and Tracy coming up short. The dead crowd and the length didn’t do this match any favors, but most guys worked hard and this was energetic. [**¾]

Tracy again tried to avoid giving a Tag Team Title to Jaka and Chris Dickinson, but Yehi stepped in and accepted. Larry Dallas showed up again to massive heat to announce the scoop that the match will happen in Queens on April 26th I believe. Catch Point scared them off and Matt Riddle came in through the crowd for the main event.

Evolve Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle
This stemmed from Yehi being irritated by Riddle not always being loyal to Catch Point. Things come easy to Riddle, while Yehi had to scratch and claw to his position and earn Drew Gulak’s respect to get into the group. They traded mat work in the early stages, with neither main gaining a clear upper hand. It was Yehi who got the first advantage. Him stomping on Riddle’s feet was extra great here because Riddle wrestles barefoot. As things progressed it got more physical, with them powering up out of moves and hitting more strikes. The longer the match went, the better it got, which isn’t always the case with Riddle matches. They built to bigger moves and everything felt like it mattered. After trading some suplexes, Riddle nailed a tombstone but Yehi kicked out at one. Riddle hit a second (jumping) and it still wasn’t enough. He transitioned to the Bromission only for Yehi to counter that into the Koji Clutch. Riddle fought but couldn’t reach the ropes and passed out at 17:18. This was great. Two of my favorite guys on the indies having a great wrestling match. It felt like an important match with both guys fighting hard for the win. [****]

Anything Goes Match: Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page
This has been building for quite some time. Even going back to last year’s Mania weekend, when Page defeated Allin in short order. Half of Darby’s body was painted and the word ETHAN was written all over. Most of this match saw Page kicking Allin’s ass. He launched him into chairs with a gorilla press slam from in the ring. Page remained in control, talking shit the entire time, until Darby got an opening inside. By this point, Allin was a bloody mess. Each time Allin seemed to gain momentum, Page had an answer. He slammed him onto a ladder and threw a chair at him to stop him. Page brought the big spots, busting out a GORILLA PRESS OFF A LADDER THROUGH TABLES ON THE FLOOR! My god. Page and the Gatekeepers attempted to murder Darby but Priscilla Kelly came out. Her distraction brought out Austin Theory, who neutralized the Gatekeepers. Allin hit a Coffin Drop but nobody caught him. I swear he almost died about five times in this match. Allin won with a crazy splash off a ladder through a table at 20:07 to finish his revenge. A spectacle with some bonkers spots. They booked this the right way. Allin took a beating and came out as a star who finally overcame his bully. [***¾]

Overall: 8/10. It seems common now, but Evolve’s second show of the weekend bested their first. ACH/Thatcher was the only thing I’d consider bad. Though Sabre/Elgin disappointed, everything else clicked. The six man tag was fun and Galloway/Rush was rather great. Allin/Page was the war it needed to be, while Yehi/Riddle ruled because they’re awesome. Lee/Dijak was the show stealer and, up until the NXT Tag Team Title match, was the best thing this weekend. Easy watch.