Thursday, August 17, 2017

 TNA Legends Championship I Quit Match: AJ Styles [c] vs. Booker T – TNA Sacrifice 5/24/09; iMPACT! Zone

Booker T held the TNA Legends Title for 143 days, but was dethroned by AJ Styles at Destination X in March. That title change was when TNA officially recognized the title and it made Styles the company’s first ever Grand Slam Champion. This bothered Booker, as he introduced the title as a way to pay tribute to his legend status, not to add to someone else’s. This was the rematch and it was set under I Quit rules. Booker looking to get his title back, while AJ looked to solidify his status as a legend.

Mike Tenay noted that this series with Booker T led to the maturation of AJ Styles. He’d ride that to a TNA Heavyweight Title run in a few months. Thankfully, this didn’t follow the WWE I Quit match trope where the referee constantly stops the action to ask if someone quits. Remember how bad that was in the awful Rusev/Cena I Quit match? Anyway, Booker knew he was slower and didn’t try to play AJ’s game. When AJ tried a springboard, he simply ran into him to cut it off and send AJ crashing outside. With AJ having to sell, the pace slowed, which benefitted Booker. Booker worked the arm and they did a fair amount of rolling around in a submission that Booker wouldn’t let go. Not something I’ve seen often from the Booker man.

Just when things really picked up and seemed headed towards a great ending, Sharmell came to the ring. She shouted support for Booker after AJ hit a springboard 450 splash. I guess there was a miscue, because Booker ran straight into Sharmell and knocked her off the apron with almost no provocation. AJ trapped him in an armbar, but Booker refused to quit. He wouldn’t allow his legend status to potentially be ruined by saying those two words. Kevin Nash’s girlfriend and fellow Main Event Mafia member Jenna Morasca, ran out and threw in the towel for the finish at 16:48.

Man, that ending killed something that was on its way to being very good. I liked how smart Booker was, making this move at a pace that worked for him. AJ bumped and sold well, helping things out. I also thought there were a few MMA like elements (the Booker armbar spot and some of the mounted punches) that worked. That finish was awful, though. It shifted the focus from the guys in the ring to the dreadful Jenna/Sharmell feud, which culminated in a horrendous match two months later. With a better finish, this would’ve been one of Booker’s better matches ever. Instead, it’s just good, which is how a lot of his matches in his career went. [***¼]

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Evolve 91 Review

Evolve 91
August 12th, 2017 | Elmcor Center in New York City, New York

Due to the business of the end of the G1 Climax, I was unable to get to the Evolve shows on time. I did manage to catch Evolve 90, but didn’t have the time to review it. You can find my ratings for the matches on the giant spreadsheet located on my Twitter. Evolve 91 had a stronger card in my mind, and with the G1 finished, I have some time for it.

ACH vs. Ethan Page
The newly dubs the “Troll Boyz” faced off here, but came out together. Their theme song features them rapping to the “Bad Boys” theme. They met in a fun match at Evolve 89, where they trolled 2017 wrestling and were punished for it by Evolve. All sorts of banter in this one, including selling the shirt off ACH’s back to a fan. They mocked some of the popular spots in wrestling, like kicking out at one, chasing down your opponent as he runs to the opposite corner and the Rainmaker. In fact, it was a FINGERPOKE OF DOOM Rainmaker that got Page the win in 9:29. Not as good or fun as their match at Evolve 89, but still entertaining in spots. This feels like a step back for Page, though, as he seemed on the verge of the Evolve Title a few months ago. If they must compete together, it should be as a tag team. [**¼]

Grudge Match: Darby Allin vs. Timothy Thatcher w/ Stokely Hathaway
Another Evolve 89 rematch here. That one was solid, but unspectacular (**½). Thatcher doesn’t like Allin’s wild style of wrestling, calling him a glorified stuntman and saying he doesn’t belong in the ring with him. Allin quickly took out Hathaway with a tope con hilo, angering Thatcher. They told the expected story, where aggressive Thatcher took Allin to the mat and wore him down. Allin played the “never say die” babyface, which is a role he’s good in. His hope spots on Coffin Drops and a Code Red were great. He went into the Gibson Lock and scored a surprise three on Thatcher in 10:38. This was solid. They played their roles well and built off their previous match. The win for Allin was one of the biggest so far in his career. [***]

Post-match, WALTER came to the ring, unhappy that his Ringkampf buddy lost. A dejected Thatcher told Hathaway that he had to leave and they hugged. Apparently, that’s a wrap on Thatcher in Evolve. It started well but he had a ROUGH 500+ day reign as champion.

Evolve Tag Team Championship: The WorkHorsemen (c) vs. Fred Yehi and Jason Kincaid
This renews the Henry/Yehi rivalry that was born in Style Battle. They wrestled to a 30 minute draw and then Henry defeated Yehi. Both matches ruled. The Troll Boyz took over the commentary booth, making me think they’re coming for the titles. Yehi and Kincaid worked well together, showing off some double team offense. T hit a point where Drake literally dragged Henry to their corner and tagged himself in. Page got Drake confused with Takeshi Morishima, the most badass ROH Champion I recall along with Samoa Joe. There was a great spot where Kincaid caught a Henry suicide dive into a stunner. Some of the moves caused the Troll Boyz to legitimately go nuts, and for good reason. In the end, Henry hit a diving double stomp, followed by a Drake moonsault (which was beautiful) on Kincaid to retain in 11:12. Another chapter in the Henry/Yehi rivalry that is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Tons of action and intensity. I’m loving the reign of the WorkHorsemen so far, while Kincaid and Yehi made for a fun oddball pairing. [***¾]

Henry and Yehi got in each other’s faces but nothing came of it. Yehi interrupted Kincaid’s meditation, leading to them nearly coming to blows, but they left in peace.

Austin Theory w/ Priscilla Kelly vs. Mark Haskins
Our first influx of PROGRESS tonight. Haskins took to the mat early, before catching Theory with his signature suicide dive fake out spot. Mr. Theory did not do his homework. He managed to turn the tide and shift the focus to Haskins’ back. The Haskins comeback got a nice reaction, as he went for several submissions. The crowd popped for each, but Theory was always too close to the ropes and found an escape. It was clear that Haskins was superior on the mat. Interestingly, Priscilla Kelly got physically involved, nailing Haskins with a cutter. That’s the first time that’s happened. When that wasn’t enough, Haskins hit an apron DVD and they both fell outside. Kelly tried a springboard cross body, but missed and hit Theory. Haskins took him inside and made him to the Sharpshooter at 15:47. Good work from both guys, though I feel it went a bit too long. The Kelly stuff was interesting, but I don’t think they needed the springboard spot. Either way, Theory continues to show improvement. [***]

Chris Dickinson and Jaka vs. The South Pacific Power Trip w/ Dahlia Black
These teams met at the WWN Super Show this year and it was a lot of fun (***½). This is the first SPPT match since TK Cooper and Dahlia had their VISA issues. They offered handshakes, but got jumped for it. That led to a wild brawl which saw Banks take out both opponents with suicide dives. A super falcon arrow on Cooper led to him taking the heat segment. Banks’ hot tag run got cut short and it set up everyone kind of getting their stuff in. It was a battle of fun, athletic spots by SPPT and hard hitting offense from the Catch Point guys. Jaka fired up to survive a series of kicks and delivered a double chokeslam. Dahlia nearly got involved and we almost got a repeat of Dickinson murdering Kimber Lee. Luckily, TK made the save. Unfortunately for him, he got hit with a Total Elimination variation and fell to the Death Trap at 14:12. Wild stuff down the stretch and about on par with their Mania weekend outing. [***½]

In the aftermath, SPPT got the handshakes they wanted at the start.

WWN Championship: Matt Riddle (c) vs. Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams w/ Stokely Hathaway vs. PROGRESS Atlas Champion WALTER
Interesting situation for Riddle here, as WALTER took the Atlas Title from him and Lee nearly beat him back in June. Right from the start, they teased the HOSS BATTLE, but Riddle and Williams interrupted. When it finally went down, they traded suplexes and strikes. I enjoyed their exchanges, but I was also intrigued by Williams and Riddle joining forces. Their Catch Point past issues be damned when there are two BIG BOYS that need to be taken care of. They built to tons of great moments late and the barrage of chops throughout were brutal. Everyone’s chest looked to be destroyed. Riddle wisely raining elbows down on WALTER and Lee to try and knock them out was great. When Williams snuck in and hit him with a piledriver, I bought him stealing the title. Riddle kicked out though, and countered the crossface into the Bromission to retain in 15:49. Great main event and one of the best Evolve matches all year. The crowd was way into this and the interactions between WALTER and Lee felt like a big deal. The Riddle/Williams stuff was a nice underlying story as well. [****¼]

Overall: 8/10. A great showing by Evolve. I didn’t love Evolve 90, but this was a step up. Outside of the first match being decent, everything else was good to great. Both tag matches were high quality, while the main event was awesome. They also continued to build things like Kincaid’s struggles, Yehi/Henry, Lee getting closer to snapping, among other things. The show also clocks in at just under two hours, which made it fly by.