Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Evolve 84 Review

Evolve 84
May 20th, 2017 | Summit Park District in Summit, Illinois

Usually, the first show of Evolve weekends feature lesser cards. Not here as a rematch from one of the best matches of Mania weekend is signed (Dijak/Lee), a grudge match for the Evolve Title (Sabre/Page) and a big time WWN Title match (Riddle/O’Reilly) are all on tap.

Lenny Leonard opened the show in the ring but there were horrible audio issues with the microphone. Keith Lee came out and cut a promo I barely understood, outside of bask in my glory, and it led to the opener.

Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
These two tore the house down during WrestleMania weekend. They impressed the fans early with high impact offense. Dijak tried his Fosbury Flop but Lee caught him and hit snake eyes on the apron to a standing ovation. They continued throwing bombs including Lee using Feast Your Eyes, a Destroyer and a Spirit Bomb, but not getting the three. I get scared every time Lee goes up top and I was freaked out when he did it here, only to be launched backward by Dijak. To up the ante from Orlando, Dijak did a somersault from the ring into the crowd. Not done yet, Dijak pulled out a super rana, before Lee responded with a reverse rana. After all that, it took a top rope Spirit Bomb for Lee to win at 18:42. This was great but didn’t reach the level of their previous encounter. Something was missing. Still, I could watch these two go to war anytime. [****]

Fred Yehi vs. Jason Kincaid
These are two of the more unique wrestlers around. This was a change of pace from the last match. Instead of trying to throw everything in their arsenal at one another, this was two guys trying to win a grappling battle. Kincaid did well in hanging in Yehi’s wheelhouse, so the former Catch Point member had to move to bigger offense. Kincaid continually went for a knee bar. Yehi caught Kincaid with an awesome high angle German suplex that was the highlight of the match. Kincaid came close a few times and his frustration grew, before tapping to the Koji Clutch around 14:47. I found this to be a good showing for Kincaid. He showed toughness, heart and hung in there against one of the top guys in WWN. Yehi continues to be a consistently good performer with a variety of opponents. [***]

Austin Theory vs. Lio Rush
Both guys are incredibly young. They traded early stuff to show how evenly matched they were. Lio was first to hit a big move, nailing an Asai moonsault. Theory came back with some solid stuff but Lio remained in firm control. I admittedly lost my notes for this one, so I can’t recall many specific moves. However, I can tell you that this was a blast. Lots of fast paced action in a short timeframe. I do remember Theory hitting an interesting torture rack bomb for a good near fall. Lio won at 9:00 following a Spanish Fly and frog splash. Like I said, this was a really fun sprint. [***¼]

Priscilla Kelly came out, told Theory he belonged with her, and then left.

Jeff Cobb vs. Tracy Williams w/ Catch Point
Another match on this show I was looking forward to. Williams tried grounding Cobb, but the big man can more than hold his own there. After surviving an armbar, Cobb started tossing Williams around. It’s a blast to watch him manhandle people. Once Tracy took over though, the match hit a lull. It picked up a bit when Tracy showed power and did a bit of throwing Cobb around. Cobb came back with an excellent popup swinging gutwrench and looked to be on his way to a comeback. However, Tracy pulled him into a rollup and stole the match at 9:58. It started well and ended in the best possible fashion. Cobb looked strong and Tracy’s a smug dick. The middle parts were missing something, but this was still good. [***]

Stokely Hathaway got on the microphone after the match. He said a bunch of stuff about New York being better than Chicago. It got a “Fuck New York” chant going and made sense considering the upcoming opponents are from Chicago.

Evolve Tag Team Championship: Chris Dickinson and Jaka (c) w/ Catch Point vs. Isaias Velazquez and Matt Knicks
The crowd was hot for this, showing how well the pre-match promo worked. I’ve never seen the challengers before, but the champions quickly subdued them and the fans. Luckily, the crowd was ready and into the hot tag that brought in Velazquez. He showed fire and got a near fall with a standing sliced bread. There was an awkward point where the challengers set up a diving spot outside and it all looked so staged. From Catch Point standing in place to the moves themselves. Velazquez got left alone with the champs, who murdered him with a flurry of offense. He somehow survived and they came back with their own flurry for a near fall. In the end though, Velazquez got left alone and fell to Death Trap at 10:04. Another good match. The challengers impressed at times, while the champions played their roles very well. [***]

Evolve Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Ethan Page
These two have had quite the rivalry in recent months. Sabre only wore the Evolve Title to the ring for this one. They played this like two guys who don’t like each other, bringing strikes and brawling from the get go. Sabre incorporated his style with an octopus hold on the guardrail for extra leverage. Page nearly won in under five minutes following an apron bomb and RK-Ego. They continued with a hard hitting match that saw both guys come close a few times. Sabre countered the RK-Ego into a triangle choke, only for Page to buckle bomb out. I completely bit on a package piledriver near fall. Sabre escaped a second and delivered a series of strikes and submissions. He fired off two PKs, but Page flipped him off instead of staying down. Two more PKs kept Page down at 13:52. I found this to be a very strong grudge match. They made me believe the title could change hands, while also making sure this was the physical match it had to be. Both men played to their strengths and delivered the goods here. I also loved Page being defiant until the end. This was much better than Page’s title match with Thatcher last year. [****]

Darby Allin showed up with his arm in a sling. He said he’s going to reinvent himself as a wrestler, so he can do what Page never could and that’s hang with Sabre.

WWN Championship: Matt Riddle (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
I thought their match in PWG last year was strong but a bit of a disappointment considering they seem made for each other. They both applied early submissions and reached the ropes to break them. They progressed into forearm strikes. Kyle got in trouble there, so he kicked Riddle’s leg to knock him down. O’Reilly continued to have a game plan for whatever Riddle threw at him. He’d stop his momentum whenever he could and try to get in his own attempts at winning. Kyle won a strike battle while holding a knee bar, so Riddle responded with heel strikes. Riddle no sold some kicks and hit the Bro to Sleep. A German followed but it wasn’t enough. They did a great guillotine choke struggle spot that was a highlight. The final stretch started off oddly, with a few moments that looked staged. It picked up and became great though. Riddle nailed a Liger Bomb and Kyle trapped him in a triangle choke. He delivered a bunch of elbows but Riddle powered out and nailed the jumping tombstone. The Bromission finished, allowing Riddle to retain at 16:11. This was far better than their PWG match. For the most part, it felt like a real fight, which I loved. It stayed in Riddle’s wheelhouse of 15 minutes, too. It was hard hitting, played to their strengths and was the best Evolve match I’ve seen this year. [****½]

Overall: 9/10. A show of the year contender. I expected a good show, but this blew me away. Three matches clock in with at least four stars and nothing gets less than three. It flew by. The undercard was quality, with consistently good matches and then the two main events delivered. Add in an excellent opener and there’s nothing not to like about this show.