Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Evolve 86 Review

Evolve 86
June 24th, 2017 | Melrose Memorial Hall in Melrose, Massachusetts

Evolve has put on consistently strong shows in 2017. This is the start of another double shot weekend, headlined by the top two champions meeting in a non-title match. This is my first time seeing this venue, as I missed Evolve 75. It looked cool and different.

Austin Theory vs. Timothy Thatcher w/ The Dream Team
Thatcher’s gone from champion of 596 days to curtain jerker. Theory is scary good for being just 19 years old. Thatcher almost immediately grounded Theory and delivered some vicious strikes. During the match, Priscilla Kelly came out to watch, continuing her infatuation with Theory. Thatcher and Theory told the story of grizzled vet against young upstart. It was a fine story to tell, but a lot of Thatcher’s offense isn’t very engaging. That led to a lot of stuff falling flatter than they hoped. Theory showed good fire and has loads of potential. He eventually lost to a rear naked choke at 10:20. I wonder when he finally starts winning. Either way, this was solid, but dull at times. [**¼]

Stokely got on the microphone and put over Thatcher, before saying Jaka would take home the Evolve Title tomorrow. He also hilariously said P. Diddy was the best rapper ever and believed the Dream Team “can’t stop, won’t stop.”

ACH vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Chris Dickinson w/ The Dream Team
Jaka has been the more impressive member of the Evolve Tag Team Champions. Dickinson tried using his power early, so ACH had to combat it with quickness. It’s a story that’s been told often, but it typically works. That formula was followed throughout, with neither guy going on a clear run. As the match progressed, ACH got more aggressive due to frustration. It allowed him to hit the high impact moves that Dickinson was using earlier, like a German and a lariat, but it still wasn’t enough. Dickinson then got a near fall with a Michinoku Driver, which is an ACH signature. ACH avoided the Pazzuzu Bomb and hit a brainbuster, before finishing with the 450 splash at 14:15. A good match that would’ve benefitted from having a few minutes shaved off. [**¾]

Gatekeeper McMassive came out and said he didn’t want to be known as a Gatekeeper anymore. He said he was done with Ethan Page and wanted to go by the name Thomas Sharpe. He threatened Page, who came out and said he didn’t care about him. He promised to decimate Keith Lee because he wants to ruin things that people love. His new Gatekeeper jumped Sharpe to start a match.

Mystery Gatekeeper vs. Thomas Sharpe
They brawled out onto the floor for a short while. Once inside, Sharpe hit a big boot and a Bossman Slam to win at 2:00. Short and to the point. [NR]

Fred Yehi vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Jaka
Jaka started this by telling Yehi he was in big trouble. That’s a no-no considering it’s Yehi’s thing. I love Yehi and have enjoyed Jaka, but something about this felt off from the start. Things were a bit sloppy in several spots and Jaka looked to nearly injure himself when he accidentally ran into Yehi’s ass early on. They clearly had the right idea, making sure this was a physical battle by two bad dudes. Jaka wanted to hurt Yehi for leaving Catch Point and they got that point across well. In the end, Jaka went for a chokeslam, only for Yehi to counter with a hurricanrana. He went right into the Koji Clutch to win at 16:12. I wanted to like this more. The early botches hurt things and the rest of the match never made up for it. The finishing stretch was solid, but the crowd wasn’t as invested as I hoped. [**½]

Jason Kincaid vs. Tracy Williams w/ Stokely Hathaway
This continued the feud between Catch Point and the High Fliers. They went right to the mat, which is Tracy’s specialty. However, if you follow Style Battle, Kincaid showed he can hang there in his win over Fred Yehi. Still, when he realized that wasn’t going to work here, he took things outside, but even then, Tracy was the aggressor. He took back control inside with a vicious missile dropkick. You could sense the little extra he put into it. They went into some good back and forth, featuring a lot of Kincaid’s signature innovative offense. Just when Kincaid looked to win with the double stomp, Williams avoided it and locked him in the crossface. He had to wrench extra hard to make Kincaid tap at 13:52. I liked how the guy on the High Flier team went to the mat with the Catch Point guy and did well, but not quite well enough. Even match that continues the story of Kincaid always coming up just short, while advancing Tracy’s heel run. [***¼]

Post-match, Jason Kincaid looked ready to snap, but calmed himself and shook Tracy’s hand.

Ethan Page vs. Keith Lee
Cocky Page mocked and attacked Lee, so he got his ass kicked and ate a massive POUNCE…PERIOD! Page used a wise backbreaker to get in the driver’s seat. His heat segment worked because the crowd hates him so much. He easily draws the most heat in Evolve. He also never got too dominant, which would’ve made Lee look weak. Lee constantly came back with his power. Page realized his normal offense might not work, so he dug deep and pulled out a rana. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that. He also took a page (pun intended) from Lee’s book and busted out a powerbomb for a near fall. Lee’s a beast though, so none of that, or the RKEGO, was enough to keep him down. He hit a DVD Jackhammer from almost out of nowhere to win at 10:28. Smartly laid out match. Lee was too much for Page until Page used his wits to take the upper hand. His shortcuts and tricks just weren’t enough and Lee picks up a win before his WWN Title match tomorrow. [***]

Keith Lee asked Joanna Rose if he could announce the next match and she obliged. He did great, talking about how he’s still sweating and how Riddle needs to stop wearing cornrows.

Non-Title Match: WWN Champion Matt Riddle vs. Evolve Champion Zack Sabre Jr.
Their match last year was a great nine minute sprint (***¾) that saw Riddle make Sabre tap out. This had a lot of intense grappling from the start, as expected from these two. Lenny Leonard was great on commentary, noting Riddle’s striking advantage and Sabre’s endurance upper hand. Once they moved on from grappling, Riddle started throwing Sabre around. There was an extra level of aggression from Riddle that I didn’t expect in a match like this. Sabre was more than happy to return the favor. The finishing stretch was great, with Sabre kicking out of a powerbomb at one! He also survived the jumping Tombstone but was in trouble when Riddle tried the Bromission. Sabre countered, using both a head scissors and heel hook at the same time, while slapping Riddle’s ribs. The WWN Champion tapped at 12:24 ,eliciting a HUGE reaction from the crowd. Great way to close the show and this was better than their Evolve 59 outing. Two top guys trying to prove who the better man is and who really runs Evolve. Excellent exchanges of grappling and striking with a hot crowd. [****]

Stokely Hathaway showed up to run down Zack Sabre Jr. and tell him that Catch Point was coming for the title. Darby Allin also came out, still with his arm in a sling, and said he had to win the title, regardless of who the champion was. Sabre basically told them to piss off and left. Riddle started cutting a promo, but Tracy Williams arrived to attack him. Tracy beat up Riddle around the ring, while Stokely talked smack. Maniac Darby Allin removed his sling and did a coffin drop off the top onto Tracy and Stokely. Riddle retrieved his title and thanked the fans to end the show.

Overall: 6.5/10. Not one of the best editions of Evolve this year, but still a solid outing. The first half of the show got off to a bit of a rough start. I wouldn’t consider anything on it bad, but I was disappointed with Theory/Thatcher, Dickinson/ACH and Yehi/Jaka. The second half is stronger. Kincaid/Williams was good and Page/Lee was a smart bout. The main event is where the show becomes above average, as Riddle and Sabre were both great. The show also set things up for the future pretty well.