Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Evolve 88 Review

Evolve 88
July 8th, 2017 | UpTownLife in Charlotte, North Carolina

I honestly had no idea Evolve was running this weekend. I realized it about an hour into the show, so I checked this show out on Sunday morning. This was the first Evolve show in Charlotte since Evolve 12.

Lenny Leonard introduced the show in the ring.

Caleb Konley vs. Jason Kincaid
Konley has quietly had some solid performances in FIP this year. Kincaid has been consistently good, yet has been on a losing streak. Lots of grappling in the early stages, as both tried getting a feel for the other. As things progressed, they began throwing bigger offensive moves. Kincaid came close with a flurry that ended with him going coast to coast. It reached a point where both men were down after a great springboard slingblade. Kincaid’s frustrations grew (even after he DID THE DEAL) at his inability to pick up a win. Konley hit a great series of powerbombs, but Kincaid hit a double stomp while hanging from the rafters! That wasn’t enough, so Kincaid transitioned into Compassionate Release to make Konley tap at 14:21. A bit long, but it told the story it had to. Konley was dying to come back strong, while Kincaid was desperate for a win. [***¼]

Austin Theory, fresh off a heel turn, came out with Priscilla Kelly, who spearheaded his change. He’s scheduled to face ACH, but ACH said he’s not wrestling this early on the show again. Theory was ready to take the forfeit, but Ethan Case came out to take ACH’s place.

Austin Theory w/ Priscilla Kelly vs. Ethan Case
Both guys had bursts of offense in the opening big. Theory showed off his more aggressive side. He threw dirty looks at the referee, delivered vicious stomps and arrogantly taunted. Case came back with fiery offense. He’s quicker than he looks. Theory cut him off with the TKO to score the win at 6:34. Fine little showcase for Theory, while Case got in enough of his stuff. First Evolve win for Theory. [**]

Ethan Page vs. Keith Lee
A rematch from Evolve 86. Lee was clearly pissed and came out more aggressively than usual. Page withstood that and took control, working the heat. Lee’s hope spots featured some brutal chops and offense, but Page almost always had a way to stall the momentum. He got two with the RK-Ego and talked trash to the fans. He also came close with a big rana. Near the finish, they just began trading blows, which isn’t where Page wanted to be. Lee bested him with a discus forearm at 9:49. Solid match, though I preferred their Evolve 86 outing. [**½]

Keith Lee got on the mic and mentioned Tracy Williams. Hot Sauce came out and attacked Lee. He got tossed aside until Timothy Thatcher joined him, and they teamed up on Lee. Darby Allin ran out, which helped Lee get free. Lee and Thatcher headed to the back, leaving the competitors alone.

Darby Allin vs. Tracy Williams w/ Stokely Hathaway
Allin is out to prove he’s more than a guy who can just take sick bumps. He’s also said he wants a shot at the EVOLVE Title. Williams took it to the mat early, where Allin surprised him by holding his own. Each time Allin attempted to take to the skies, Williams had it scouted and took it back to the ground. The focus was on Allin’s bad arm. They kept having the official check on Allin, as if Tracy wanted him to have to quit. Allin wouldn’t though, bringing harder strikes than Williams. Allin managed a few high risk moves once he got out of major trouble. Tracy countered a Coffin Drop into a rollup that he transitioned to the crossface. When that didn’t work, he turned it into a brutal arm submission and Allin had to tap out at 13:07. The underdog who won’t quit story is Allin’s specialty. I liked how Tracy had the strategy of not letting him fly. Good match but some of Tracy’s time on offense lulled. [***]

Fred Yehi was brought out and he’s scheduled to face Trent Beretta. However, Trent had his elbow drained a bit ago and isn’t cleared to compete. Trent was watching with his taped elbow and got a “Trent” chant. Fred offered an open contract to anyone in the world. ACH answered and said he doesn’t get paid if he doesn’t wrestle, so he challenged Yehi to put his Evolve Title shot tomorrow on the line. Yehi agreed, but ACH said he wouldn’t get his gear because it’s not the main event. ACH stumbled through the promo at times.

Number One Contender’s Match: ACH vs. Fred Yehi
At Evolve 77 back in January, these two had a damn good match (***½). A lot of quick back and forth here, showing that the guys are evenly matched. ACH did a good job playing the cocky heel without overdoing it. Yehi used his unique offense to gain slight advantages, but ACH was too quick for the most part. He had the upper hand at almost every turn. After hitting two suicide dives, ACH’s third was avoided, but he still managed to one up Yehi and kick him in the chest. Yehi rallied, nearly winning after a string of offense that ended with a dragon suplex. ACH won a battle of Germans, but his lariat wasn’t enough for the win. Yehi got his knees up on the 450 splash and won with the Koji Clutch in 16:38. I liked this, but the crowd didn’t seem to care. They’ve been weak most of the night but seemed extra quiet here. It’s a damn shame too, because they worked hard to have a competitive match. Kudos to ACH for some of the character work. [***¼]

Evolve Tag Team Championship: Chris Dickinson and Jaka (c) vs. Anthony Henry and James Drake
Henry and Drake are regulars in PWX, a company based in the area from what I hear. Henry has been awesome all over WWN, with two stellar Style Battle matches against Fred Yehi. He started hot, fueled by the crowd, but found himself in trouble. The confident champs allowed him to go to his partner, but Henry opted to stay in. The challengers started hitting some nice offense, until a Jaka blind tag swung the momentum again. Henry took the heat, yet continued to show fire. He was just overmatched by his larger opponents. The hot tag came, but Jaka still managed to cut off a tandem move. It looked over when the champs hit a double team move that ended with Burning Hammer, but Henry broke up the pin. The crowd was the loudest they’ve been all night for a drake near fall on a moonsault. Dickinson popped up, only to fall to Drill Bit. New champions after 19:14 of action! A shocking upset, but one that I liked. I wasn’t big on Dickinson and Jaka as champs, I love Henry and the shock means that these open challenges have an “anything can happen” feeling. The fans were finally invested and loved this. They built up the drama and had it pay off in a great way. [***¾]

Evolve Championship No Holds Barred: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Timothy Thatcher w/ Stokely Hathaway
Sabre ended Thatcher’s record-setting 596-day reign as champion back in February. Like Thatcher’s No Holds Barred match with Biff Busick in 2015, this wasn’t about weapons. It was about two dudes beating the hell out of each other because of nothing but hatred. Things did spill outside and over to the bar area in the early stages. Back to the ring and Sabre twisted Thatcher’s leg in horrible ways. Like, I can’t believe his leg didn’t snap. They also played into the No Holds Barred aspect when submissions were applied and the ropes couldn’t cause a break. They delivered some stiff strikes throughout, with the hardest coming down the stretch. Thatcher applied an armbar and Sabre slipped under the ropes. It was still locked in, so Hathaway took the title and showed it to Thatcher for motivation. It just motivated Sabre, who got free and applied an octopus hold in the ropes and Thatcher gave up at 17:58. A very strong main event that played off their past. It was different, due to the aggression and violence level. I slightly preferred the February match, but this ruled. [***¾]

Post-match, Sabre got on the mic and said he’s always respected Thatcher. He said the rivalry was over and wanted Thatcher to do the right thing. Thatcher took the title from Hathaway and handed it to Sabre before leaving.

Overall: 6.5/10. A middle of the pack show from Evolve. The crowd was pretty dead for most of it, but things picked up late. Everything was good, but I wouldn’t call anything great. The moment of the Tag Title change would be the thing I’d say you should go out of your way to see. The main event was also a strong match, just not “must see”. A fine way to spend two and a half hours, but there are better Evolve shows from this year.