Monday, February 6, 2017

Evolve 66 Review

Cody Rhodes makes his Evolve debut!

Evolve 66
Joppa, Maryland 8/19/16

1.) WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Series - Cedric Alexander vs. TJP (with Stokely Hathaway): ***3/4

This was the final weekend for the Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Series in Evolve, and the first of those two matches on this particular show was a really exciting one. Cedric Alexander has only been with Evolve for a few shows, but he’s really made an impact in that time, even after being officially eliminated from the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in the second round by Kota Ibushi. TJP, meanwhile, was still alive in that tournament, and continues to have a stellar 2016. As for this match, I thought it was a really good opener. The match got a fair amount of time, and the fans were into it. There was a lot of grappling (as you would expect), but there was also a solid amount of back & forth action throughout. Both guys worked hard here, and their effort definitely showed. In the end, TJP got the submission victory over Alexander.

After the match was over, Stokely Hathaway cut a promo talking about how awesome TJP is. He mentions that the Cruiserweight Division is coming to RAW, and tells Stephanie McMahon to call him, as TJP’s price goes up with each passing day. Then, TJP & Alexander embraced in a great sign of respect.

2.) Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi) vs. Jigsaw & Peter Kaasa: ***1/4

I’m pretty sure that this the first time Williams & Yehi have teamed up in Evolve, but I could be wrong. They’re taking on the makeshift team of Jigsaw (who made his return to Evolve back at Evolve 64) & Peter Kaasa (who is not only making his first appearance in Evolve since the Style Battle Tournament in January, but is just coming off his first tour with Dragon Gate in Japan). This wasn’t quite as good as the opener, but I still thought this was a fun tag team match. I really enjoy when stables mix things up, as far as tag team pairings go, so it was nice to see this Williams & Yehi pairing. They did a fine job here in their first outing as a team. At the same time, Jigsaw & Peter Kaasa did well in this match as well, despite being a totally makeshift team. The beginning of the match was a tad rough, and I think one or two minutes could’ve been shaved off, but those are only minor complaints. In a massive upset, Jigsaw & Peter Kaasa scored the victory here over Catch Point after hitting a brainbuster on Yehi.

After the match, we got an odd segment where Williams slapped Yehi in the face for losing, which led to Yehi attacking Jigsaw. Yehi then gave Williams a slap of his own, and then the two shook hands. Again, this came off as a little odd, and while I get that they were trying to show some frustration within Catch Point, this was just weird.

3.) Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN vs. "All Ego" Ethan Page: **1/4

Ethan Page had a number of encounters with Drew Galloway during the summer, but now he’s going up against Galloway’s tag team partner, DUSTIN. This was probably the worst match on the show. They did start off with a good brawl initially, but from there, it just fell flat, and by the time the match was over, it just wasn’t that engaging. It’s not like it was bad (because it wasn’t), but after that first minute or two, the match just got so boring and uninteresting. The only thing you really need to know about this match is that Ethan Page won with a Package Piledriver, but that’s pretty much it besides that.

4.) WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Series - Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese: ***1/4

This was the second WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Series of the night, and I think it’s fair to say that it was the weaker of the two. The match was still relatively good, but the opener was just so much better. Even though this wasn’t his best outing, Nese (who had just been eliminated from the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in the second round by Brian Kendrick) has been so much more enjoyable to watch since the breakup of The Premiere Athlete Brand. Drew Gulak (who was facing Zack Sabre Jr. in his second round match the following week) has really been on the rise since Catch Point became a major force in Evolve, but this wasn’t exactly his best outing. Again, this was a good match as a whole, but the main issues I had with it were that it went a little too long (clocking in at just over eighteen minutes), and that they wrestled more of Gulak’s style of match in the first half, which did slow things down somewhat. That made the match a little less interesting, but fortunately, the second half turned into more Nese’s style of match, and they definitely turned it around. Eventually, Gulak scored the victory after catching Nese in a sunset flip. For the most part, this was good, but it was far from the best match on the show.

After the match, Gulak took the mic, and called out Timothy Thatcher (Gulak would be challenging him for the Evolve Title the next night at Evolve 67). Thatcher did come out, but he ended up getting attacked by Matt Riddle, meaning that our next match was underway!

5.) Evolve Title - No Holds Barred - Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle: ****

This match has been building for quite some time, as their first two matches (at Evolve 56 & Evolve 58) both ended in controversial fashion. It was clear that a No Holds Barred Match was the only way the rivalry between these two was going to be settled. I thought this was easily the best match of the night! After their first two matches failed to live up to the hype going in, this one delivered. There was a ton of hard-hitting action throughout, and the stipulation really helped. Riddle was so awesome, as he always is, but Thatcher really thrived in this environment. 2016 really wasn’t a good year for Thatcher in Evolve, but whenever he’s in a match that turns into a fight (see his matches with Chris Hero), he usually excels, and that was the case again here. Both guys seemed to work incredibly hard here, and their efforts definitely paid off. In the end, Thatcher was able to retain his Evolve Title after catching Riddle in a submission that saw his body essentially hanging outside the ring (I believe Thatcher had him in an arm bar, if I recall correctly). Thatcher looked very dominant in the victory, and Riddle’s selling throughout the match was a big contributor to that. This was a great brawl, and a good conclusion to this particular story.

Even though the match was over, Thatcher refused to let go of his submission hold on Riddle. He only let go when Drew Gulak came out to make the save. The two then had a faceoff, and it led to Gulak taking out Thatcher. Gulak then dropped the Evolve Title on Thatcher, and said that he could hand it back to him tomorrow night when he beats him. This led to the crowd chanting “paper champ” at Thatcher. I thought this was a fine for a post-match segment, and did a good job setting up the title match for Evolve 67.

6.) Cody Rhodes vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***1/2

The main event of Evolve 66 features the independent wrestling match for Cody Rhodes! He had just gotten released from WWE a few months prior, and got a lot of attention when he posted a list on Twitter of opponents he wanted to face on the independent scene. He was originally scheduled to face Johnny Gargano on this show, but Gargano had WWE commitments that he needed to fulfill ahead of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, so instead, Zack Sabre Jr. is stepping up to the plate! A lot of people were curious to see how Cody Rhodes was going to do, and as a whole, I thought this was good start for him. While this wasn’t the best match on the show, it was still a really solid match. You can always count on Zack Sabre Jr. to deliver a good match, regardless of who he’s going up against, and that was the case here. The match featured some fine action throughout, and they told a good story with both men working over a particular body part with the intent of getting a submission victory. Rhodes was relatively good here, as he stepped out of his comfort zone a little bit. It was honestly about what I was expecting, because when guys are fresh out of WWE, they need a couple of months to settle in to that independent style. Eventually, Cody Rhodes was actually able to get the victory over Zack Sabre Jr. with his new submission move, called “The American Nightmare”.

After the match was over, Cody Rhodes shook hands with Zack Sabre Jr., and took the mic. He mentions how he was going to bet on himself, but thanked Evolve for betting on him. Rhodes said people watched him grow up on TV for nearly ten years, but during that time, he grew up in a shadow of his father, who he loved dearly. He said that he plans on proving all of his doubters wrong, and notes that he is not part of Drew Galloway’s grander plans. Rhodes then celebrates as the show comes to a close.

Overall: 7.25/10

This was definitely one of Evolve's weaker shows of 2016. While the show featured a ton of good to great matches (with Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle & Cedric Alexander vs. TJP being the clear highlights), nothing really stood out as being amazing, and only one match on the card (DUSTIN vs. Ethan Page) would fall under the “not good” category. The rest of the mid-card was fine, but as a whole, this wasn’t a show that you need to go out of your way to see. Despite a few high points, this was an uncharacteristically weak show from Evolve.

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