Deer Park, New York 9/10/16
1.) Jigsaw vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/2
The opening contest on the show actually has a little backstory to it, as Yehi is looking for a bit of redemption after Jigsaw pinned him in a tag team match back at Evolve 68. I might be the high person on this match, but I really enjoyed it. Seeing Jigsaw again is so cool, and I thought he worked well with Yehi here. This was just a very solid opening match, which featured a good amount of action without overstaying its welcome. Yehi ultimately got the victory over Jigsaw via submission. Again, this was a very good match, and a strong outing for both men.
2.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Dan Barry: **1/2
While Dan Barry made a number of appearances for Evolve earlier in the year as part of Team Tremendous, he’s taking on Ethan Page here in a rare solo outing. This was mostly a comedy match for the first few minutes, highlighting by Barry teaching Page how to wrestle, but it did get a little more serious towards the end. I’m not sure if Barry has a future as a singles competitor (since Team Tremendous is such a good tag team), but he did have a good showing here. As far as Ethan Page goes, it might seem out of place (given the storyline he’s been involved in over the past few months), but it was nice to see him bust out some comedy here, because he’s pretty good at it. This wasn’t the best match on the show, but I found it to be entertaining for what it was. Page managed to get the victory here following a package piledriver.
3.) TJP (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Darby Allin: ***1/4
Even though this was the final weekend in Evolve for Johnny Gargano, it was also the final weekend in Evolve for TJP, who was also going the WWE. These shows took place right before the WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals, and at this point in the tournament, TJP had actually made it to the Final Four. His penultimate match in Evolve was against Darby Allin, who didn’t waste any time, as he dived onto TJP as he made his entrance. I thought this was a very solid match. The result (TJP winning) was never in doubt, but nonetheless, Darby Allin looked really good here against TJP, as he showed a lot of fire. He even went as far as to try another crazy move, but it resulted in him crashing into the ring post. Allin hasn’t been around that long, but he’s quickly become one of the craziest guys in all of wrestling. Of course, TJP eventually took advantage, and using his diverse offense, managed to get the victory of Allin.
4.) Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN vs. Tracy Williams: N/R
Back at Evolve 64, it was DUSTIN (who made his shocking return to Evolve), along with Drew Galloway, who goaded Tracy Williams into an Evolve Tag Team Title defense, and Catch Point would go on to lose those titles in that match. Now, they’re facing off in singles action. Unfortunately, this match didn’t last very long, as Galloway came out and attacked Williams with a chair, causing the match to end on a DQ. Catch Point (minus Matt Riddle) came out to make the save, and this brought out Joey Styles. He announced that he’s restarting the match as an Extreme Rules Match, and adds that if anyone interferes, they’ll be sent home without pay.
5.) Extreme Rules Match – Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN vs. Tracy Williams: ***1/4
I honestly wasn’t sure how this one was going to turn out, but when the dust settled, I thought this was an incredibly entertaining match. This match only went about nine minutes or so, but they packed a lot of fun hardcore action in that timeframe. Chairs, ladders, and thumbtacks were all used in this match in a number of different ways. There was actually a very cool spot involving thumbtacks towards the end of the match, as DUSTIN tried to break a sleeper hold from Williams by rolling into a pile of thumbtacks, but Williams just powered through the pain, and got DUSTIN to tap out for the win. This wasn’t the best match of the night, but it was a ton of fun to watch.
6.) Triple Threat Match – Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet vs. Tony Nese: ****
This is such an odd makeup of guys for a Triple Threat Match, but it might’ve been the most anticipated match on the entire show. Before the match actually got started, Johnny Gargano came out. He basically put everyone over (particularly Riddle) and said that he hoped all three guys would fight for the spot that was being left open due to his departure. As for the match itself, I thought it was great! It was easily the best match on the entire show, in my opinion. It only went about nine or ten minutes, but they packed so much exciting action into that timeframe. There was a ton of incredible athleticism from all three guys, and they managed to work the match in a way that was a nice diversion from the normal formula of a Triple Threat Match. The finish came when Tony Nese hit a 450 Splash on Matt Riddle (who had Ricochet locked in a submission hold) and got the pin on Riddle to score the win. Nese getting the win was a bit of a surprise, and it was even more surprising that he pinned Matt Riddle. Regardless, the match itself was great.
After the match, Drew Galloway came out, and (once again) tried to get Matt Riddle to join his cause. He even called Riddle the “uncrowned” Evolve Champion. Galloway was then jumped by Drew Gulak, who he was scheduled to have a match with on this show. Gulak had a stare down with Matt Riddle, who then went to the back as Gulak continued his assault.
7.) Evolve Tag Team Champion Drew Galloway vs. Drew Gulak: ***1/2
Here we have another match (A Battle of the Drew’s) that came about as a result of the events of Evolve 64. For the most part, I thought this was a pretty good match. Both men showed a lot of aggression, and the action was solid throughout. The biggest issue I had with the match length. Given the intensity level they were at, I feel like this match would’ve worked better if it went ten minutes, instead of sixteen minutes. It definitely was a little longer than it needed to be, but still, the action was good, and it had a good finish that saw Drew Galloway get the win with a tombstone piledriver followed by a Future Shock DDT.
8.) Johnny Gargano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***3/4
These two had an incredible match earlier in the year at Evolve 56 during Zack Sabre Jr.’s Best In The World Challenge Series, which Zack Sabre Jr. won. Now they’re facing off in Gargano’s penultimate match in Evolve. I think a lot of people (myself included) were really looking forward to this match going into it. While it was a very good match, I don’t think it was anywhere close to their first encounter at Evolve 56. It’s hard to explain my feelings on this one. Technically, everything in this match was fine, and both guys did a very good job, but this match was just lacking something. It sort of felt like they were trying for an epic match, but it never got to that level. I think the length of the match, which was around twenty-four minutes or so, might have played a factor in this not being as good as it could’ve been (but maybe that’s just me). As a whole, I enjoyed the match, but it just wasn’t as great as I was expecting. In the end, Zack Sabre Jr. got the win via submission, going 2-0 against Johnny Wrestling in 2016.
After the match, Zack Sabre Jr. cut a promo saying that he would take the torch from Gargano, and promised to beat Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve Title. Ricochet came out, and said that although Gargano was leaving, there were plenty of talents waiting to fill those spots. He then said that he would prove that he is the best by beating Zack Sabre Jr. the next night at Evolve 69. They then left Gargano alone in the ring as he celebrated with the fans to close the show.
This was far from an amazing show, but as a whole, I thought it was enjoyable from start to finish. There was only one great match on the show (the Matt Riddle/Ricochet/Tony Nese Triple Threat Match), and despite various issues, the rest of the undercard was really solid. Even what was (technically) the worst match on the show was still an entertaining comedy match. I think the fact that the majority of the matches on this show were just under ten minutes (aside from the top two matches) helped a lot, as it made the show go by pretty quickly. Evolve has put on better shows than this in 2016, but from top to bottom, this was an enjoyable show that was relatively easy to watch.