Joppa, Maryland 2/24/17
1.) Anthony Henry vs. Matt Riddle: ***1/2
Henry earned this opportunity after a strong showings at the first two Style Battle events. I thought this was a really good opening contest. There was enjoyable, hard-hitting action from start to finish, and it featured a fare amount of intensity. The amount of time they were given (about ten or eleven minutes) was perfect for this shot. Henry was actually a great opponent for Riddle, since he also has an MMA background. Riddle would ultimately get the win with the Bromission. I enjoyed this a lot, and it's certainly in the conversation for best match on the card.
After the match, Matt Riddle took the mic, proclaiming that he wants to win all of the titles in the WWN Family. However, before he can do that, he needed to deal with Drew Galloway. Riddle wants to kick Galloway's ass right now, but the rest of Catch Point come out instead. Tracy Williams took the mic, and offered Riddle congratulations on his win, but reminded him that tonight was Fred Yehi's night. Yehi then took the mic. He said that the last time he was in Joppa, Maryland, he won the Evolve Tag Team Titles with Tracy Williams, and declared that tonight will be magic all over again. Dickinson then grabs the mic and calls out for The Gatekeepers for their match, but Larry Dallas comes out instead. Dallas (once again) pushed the issue of Dickinson & Jaka challenging for the Evolve Tag Team Titles in the future before Williams said that Catch Point is about competition, and reiterated that tonight is about Fred Yehi walking away with the Evolve Title.
2.) Austin Theory vs. Darby Allin: ***
Despite the fact that Chris Dickinson called out The Gatekeepers, we didn't get that match following the end of the segment. Instead, Austin Theory (who had recently signed a contract with Evolve/WWN at only nineteen years old) took on Darby Allin in what ended up being an entertaining sprint. It only went about five minutes or so, but they packed a good amount of action in the time they were given. What was particularly notable about this one is that Priscilla Kelly, who had just started making appearances in FIP, came down the ring and observed the action. It was pretty clear that she had her eyes on one of them, but at the time, we really didn't know who. As for the result, Austin Theory would emerge victorious. This was short, and a lot of fun to watch.
3.) "All Ego" Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) vs. Jason Kincaid: ***1/4
I was actually looking forward to this one, as you had a smaller guy with an incredibly unique high-flying move set in Kincaid taking on a (relatively) larger guy in the form of Ethan Page. I thought this was a very enjoyable match. Much like the opener, it went about ten minutes, and they managed to fit in some fun back & forth action. At this point, it's almost impossible for me to not enjoy a match involving Jason Kincaid, because you just can't take your eyes off of him. His offense is so cool, and it really helps him stand out (if his look didn't accomplish that already). Ethan Page was good here as well, as a whole, this was a solid outing for both men. It wasn't necessarily a memorable match, but it was perfectly fine for it's spot on the card. Page would eventually get the win after hitting Kincaid with the RK-EGO.
Chris Dickinson & Jaka hit the ring almost immediately after Page won, and started brawling with The Gatekeepers, which signaled the start of our next contest....
4.) Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. The Gatekeepers: ***1/4
This was another match that I was really looking forward to, even though it didn't get much attention compared to some of the other bouts on this card. This was a very enjoyable tag team affair. You had four large dudes beating the crap out of each other for nine or ten minutes. Similar to Ethan Page vs. Jason Kincaid, this wasn't a match that you're to remember a week or two after the fact, but it was fun for what it was. Aside from Dickinson & Jaka getting the win, there's not much else to say about this one.
5.) ACH vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams: ***1/2
Since his return to Evolve, ACH has been unofficially running the "Catch Point Gauntlet". He lost to Matt Riddle at Evolve 76, but defeated Evolve Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi at Evolve 77. Now he's going up against Tracy Williams, who was the other half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions. This was a really good match. There was solid, technical wrestling throughout, but it just went a little too long for my liking. As I've said in some of my past reviews on this blog, I can never fault a match that has clean, proficient wrestling. These two did a very good job here, in that regard, but it never felt they got into that next gear. It certainly had the potential to be great, but they failed to reach that level. ACH would ultimately get the win after hitting Williams with a brainbuster.
After the match, Larry Dallas came out, and asked Williams (who was clearly annoyed) if Fred Yehi was going to be ready for his title match. Williams said that he doesn't want to see Dallas again, but proclaims that Yehi will get the job done tonight.
6.) Jeff Cobb vs. Drew Galloway: ***1/2
This was an interesting matchup on paper. Cobb is known as the power guy who tosses people around, but then you have Galloway, who easily towers over Cobb. I should mention that it had been a few months since we had seen Galloway in action in Evolve, as he had been out of action due to real life injuries and storyline suspensions since October/November. When the dust settled, this ended up being a really good match (I've said that a lot in this review, haven't I?). There was strong action throughout, and both guys looked very solid. Cobb got to showcase his power, and even tossed around Galloway on a few occasions. The latter half of this match featured some particularly good action, and in the end, Galloway connected with his Future Shock DDT to secure the victory.
After the match, Galloway took the mic, and said that it's hard to be in a feud with someone when you're expressing yourself and speaking truths while the other person just says "Bro". Galloway calls Riddle out for a fight right now. The "King of Bros" comes out, and the two start brawling. During this, Riddle bumps into Cobb, and this leads to Cobb hitting Riddle with Tour of the Islands. The rest of Catch Point come out to make the save, and Jaka gets into a shoving match with Cobb. I know this was building matches for Evolve 79 the next night, but it was still a little odd to see Riddle get attacked by Cobb for almost no reason. It seemed like it might've been a heel turn, but that wasn't the case. It was just a way to build up matches for the next night.
7.) Keith Lee vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***1/2
Despite losing to Chris Hero in his debut at Evolve 76, Keith Lee still came away from that match looking like a future threat, and in just his second appearance in Evolve, he went up against the guy who had arguably become the ace of the promotion. I thought this was a very strong match. It's certainly in contention for the best match on the card, though in my view, it's a tossup. This was a nice clash of styles, as you had a technical wrestler going up against a massive powerhouse. For Zack Sabre Jr., it was certainly a challenge that he really hadn't faced before in Evolve. The action was really solid throughout, though I don't think they did enough here to make this match stand out on this card. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot, but it just didn't manage to break away from the pack. In what was probably the most shocking result of the night, Keith Lee pinned Zack Sabre Jr. clean in the middle of the ring. It might seem odd in the moment, but given what happened the next night, it planted the seeds for a future rematch. Plus, a win like this gives Lee immediate credibility.
After the match, Stokely Hathaway cut a promo saying that he doesn't care about all of the new faces that have been coming into Evolve recently. He told Zack Sabre Jr. (who would be challenging for the Evolve Title the next night) that the ring is his street, and right now, he was standing in his spot. Hathaway said that when you come at the king, you best not miss, and introduced Timothy Thatcher. Zack Sabre Jr. then vowed that he would win the Evolve Title before heading to the back.
8.) Evolve Title - Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Fred Yehi (with Catch Point): ***1/2
Fred Yehi had a lot of momentum as 2016 came to a close, and that carried into 2017, as he scored a submission victory over Timothy Thatcher during an Evolve Tag Team Title defense at Evolve 76. I was very curious to see how this one would turn out, and it ended up being.....wait for it.....a really good match. I actually saw a lot of varying opinions of this one in real time. Some thought it was at MOTYC level, while others didn't like it at all. I'm firmly in the middle, as it was very entertaining to watch, at least from my perspective. There was some cool grappling exchanges, and at points it felt like a UFC fight (mainly because it was relatively quiet initially while Catch Point & Hathaway were giving instructions to their respective side). Yehi is an incredibly versatile performance, and he did a great job here. Thatcher was good here also, and as a whole, this was very solid. There were points where Yehi was clearly dominating, and had Thatcher on the defense, but in the end, Thatcher was able to just get the win after catching Yehi in the Saka Otoshi submission.
Tracy Williams consoled Fred Yehi following the match. Chris Dickinson & Jaka handed the Evolve Tag Team Titles back to them, but it was very obvious that there was tension building towards an eventual showdown over the titles.