Monday, April 30, 2018

Evolve 82 Review

Darby Allin & Ethan Page do battle one more time!

Evolve 82
Woodside, Queens, New York 4/22/18

The show kicked off with the first-ever WWN Champion Matt Riddle. Of course, he became the inaugural champion at Mercury Rising 2017. Riddle refers to himself as the "champion of all champions", and added that it's not just about winning a title like this, but being able to keep it. He then brings up the fact that Timothy Thatcher is the one person he's never beaten in Evolve, and called out "Trashy Tim". This brought out Stokely Hathaway, who reminds Riddle that Thatcher beat him three times last year. Hathaway proclaimed that he'll soon be managing the WWN Champion, and wanted the title match to happen right now! It looks like we have our opener.

1.) WWN Title - Matt Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway): ***1/4

This was a pretty solid opening contest. There was grappling, as you would expect, but it was a physical match at points as well. The bout only went about ten minutes or so, and Riddle would score the victory after getting Thatcher to tap out to the Bromission. While this was a fine way to kick off the show, it did feel like a relatively weak first defense for this brand new title, and it did seem weird that this feud that was a big part of Evolve in 2016 just....ended in a good, but nondescript, ten minute opener.

Afterwards, Stokely Hathaway got in the ring and had a stare down with Timothy Thatcher. Then, Hathaway turned his attention to Matt Riddle. He said that everyone knows that he's managed champions. While Thatcher wrestled, he took care of all the other stuff that comes with being a champion. Hathaway then seemed to make an offer to Matt Riddle to join the Dream Team (in the middle of this promo, Thatcher went to the back). Riddle responds by saying that he decides what he does, and he finds what he does (hanging out with fans, signing autographs) to be fun. The WWN Champion then left after basically rejecting Hathaway's offer.

2.) ACH vs. Austin Theory: ***1/2

I was pretty excited to see what these two could do together, and when the dust settled, they ended up having a really good match. It went about thirteen minutes or so, and it featured some very solid action throughout. After suffering some tough losses to Zack Sabre Jr. & Pete Dunne during the big WrestleMania Weekend events in Orlando, ACH showed more aggression here as he looked to bounce back. Meanwhile, Austin Theory (who was still a babyface at this point) continued to impress after being signed by WWN only a few months prior. Even though he came up short here against ACH, he still looked strong in defeat.

Before the next match, we got a Drew Galloway promo. Of course, he was taken out of the WWN Title bout at Mercury Rising 2017 to appear at NXT TakeOver, and had since then officially signed with WWE. Thus, this was his last weekend in Evolve. Galloway said that he's finished with Evolve, and added that after giving this promotion everything, he's been met with nothing but disrespect, especially since he lost the Evolve Title. He complained that he didn't tap out the last time he was in La Boom (when he faced Matt Riddle), and called himself a "gift to wrestling". He alone decides where his career goes, and puts down La Boom and the Evolve fans. Galloway said he doesn't have to be here, but he chose to be, because he wanted to take back everything he gave to Evolve. He claims that Zack Sabre Jr. will always live in his shadow, and then took out the referee, saying that he simply "couldn't be trusted". He told Sabre to fight him like a man, and the match is on.

3.) Non-Title Match - Evolve Champion Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Galloway: N/R

This was more of an angle than an actual match. They had a really fun brawl that lasted about six or seven minutes, but it ended when Ethan Page & The Gatekeepers came out. The trio attacked Zack Sabre Jr., and Page handed the Evolve Title to Drew Galloway, who then decided he was going to destroy the title with a sledgehammer. Before he could go through with it, however, Keith Lee made the save and took out the heels. Zack Sabre Jr. then recovered, and managed to break the arm of one of The Gatekeepers (the former Flex Rumblecrunch from CHIKARA). After the heels retreated, Lee gave the Evolve Title back to the Sabre, but made it clear that he had his sights set on it (especially after his victory over the "technical wizard" at Evolve 78). Lee took the mic, and noted that while he was in the mode to play, Page and Galloway clearly weren't. He then called out Kyle O'Reilly for their big singles bout, and that was next!

4.) Keith Lee vs. Kyle O'Reilly: ****

For those who might not remember, Kyle O'Reilly wrestled in the very first match on the debut Evolve event back in January 2010 (against Bobby Fish, oddly enough). He was a part of Evolve in its early days before moving over to ROH. This was his return to the promotion, as he was basically waiting to go to NXT after he decided to leave ROH earlier in the year (interesting enough, Keith Lee also left ROH earlier in the year). It was an interesting matchup from a style perspective, as you had a power wrestler vs. the technical/MMA influenced wrestler, but when the dust settled, this ended up being a pretty great match. There was really good action throughout, and in general, it was a lot of fun to watch. There was an odd moment towards the end, where the bout appeared to accidentally end on a DQ after an inadvertent low blow from O'Reilly, who contests the decision. Keith Lee demands the match be restarted, and they picked things up from there. Ultimately, O'Reilly would get the win anyway after he somehow managed to hit a brainbuster. Strange moment aside, this was great.

5.) Evolve Tag Team Titles - Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi) vs. The Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka): ****

I used the "Doom Patrol" name for Chris Dickinson & Jaka, just so I could differentiate them from their Catch Point stablemates. This went about fifteen minutes or so, and as a whole, it was a great tag team encounter! While it has the same rating as Keith Lee/Kyle O'Reilly, the unintentional DQ in that one prevents it from taking that honor, in my view. There was some really good back and forth action, and the closing stretch was particularly strong. While I was extremely happy to see Chris Dickinson & Jaka to win the titles here, it came off as a somewhat shocking title change at the time (to me, at least). Catch Point always talks about the importance of competition, even amongst themselves, and this was a perfect example of that, as they went to war against each other over the Evolve Tag Team Titles. An awesome tag team affair, without question.

After the match, Larry Dallas came out to "stir the drink" once again, as he had a scoop about Catch Point. Dallas claimed that Stokely Hathaway was in talks with Tracy Williams about become the new manager of Catch Point. This brings out Hathaway, but Williams bails. Hathaway follows him out, while Fred Yehi goes after Larry Dallas & Earl Cooter (the bodyguard for Dallas). Yehi actually dished out a ton of punishment, as he hit Dallas with three German Suplexes. He was then wrapped in a ring apron and carried out. It was actually pretty hilarious to see someone FINALLY beat the crap out of Larry Dallas, but the stuff with Catch Point (the "rumor" about Hathaway potentially being their new manager) was a significant development for sure. This story would continue the next night at Evolve 83.

6.) Last Man Standing Match - "All Ego" Ethan Page vs. Darby Allin: ***1/4

These two had an epic and bloody war at Evolve 81, which saw Darby Allin finally get that elusive victory over Ethan Page. That seemed like the blowoff to the feud, but we would end up seeing one more clash between the two in the form of a Last Man Standing Match. As a whole, this was good, but it was ultimately unnecessary. The aforementioned bout at Evolve 81 was a great way to end the feud, and it should've ended. This match simply wasn't needed, and it wasn't nearly as good as their encounter in Orlando. The Gatekeepers got involved at will, and attempts by Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly to help Allin proved to be futile. At one point, Allin's elbow suffered an incredibly nasty gash after being hit with a shovel by Page (this would actually keep Allin out of action for a month or so). Later, we got shenanigans involving a bodybag, thumbtacks, and duct tape, and eventually, Ethan Page finally put away Darby Allin to win. Again, I didn't totally hate this match, but it didn't need to happen. The feud peaked in Orlando, and that's when it should've ended. As a follow up, this just didn't click.

Overall: 7.5/10

As a whole, this was a pretty solid show from EVOLVE. Keith Lee/Kyle O'Reilly (despite the initial DQ) and the battle between the two Catch Point teams over the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles were the best match on the show by far. The first two bouts (Riddle vs. Thatcher & ACH vs. Theory) ended up being good as well. For what it was, the Drew Galloway/Zack Sabre Jr. confrontation worked, as it continued a number of different stories. As for the main event, it was a relatively fine brawl in a vacuum, but it was totally unnecessary continuation of a feud that culminated so perfectly at EVOLVE 81.

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