EVOLVE Wrestling enters the FloSlam Era, as it broadcasts its first live PPV on the streaming network. Drew Gulak challenges Timothy Thatcher for the EVOLVE Championship, with the winner set to face Tony Nese at EVOLVE 73 the next night. Could Gulak win, and guarantee that after EVOLVE 73, the company’s champion would be on weekly WWE television?
Commentators really sold Riddle’s MMA background, and relationship with the UFC and it’s president, Dana White. Made Riddle seem legit.
Pace was quite fast throughout, and Riddle landed a lovely Senton on DUSTIN, who quickly followed it up with DDT, and then another DDT. Absolutely love how DUSTIN delivers those; real Jake the Snake Roberts-style. Riddle ended up getting the win after the Bro To Sleep, followed by Fisherman Buster.
A decent opener, with the crowd hot throughout. Maybe expected a little more from the match, given the announcement this past week of Riddle’s new contract with EVOLVE Wrestling, but it was decent for what it was.
A nice segment at the end of the show continued the build for Matt Riddle vs. Drew Galloway, which you have to assume is going to take place at EVOLVE 74 or 75.
Quick from the outset, Yehi and Kincaid wrestled a sweet little match. Kincaid brought the speed and creative offence, with Yehi bringing a bit more physicality.
Kincaid landed a beautiful Sunset Flip Power Bomb on Yehi, putting him into the steel barricade on the outside. Between that and some great high flying moves on the edges of the ring, using the ring ropes to assist in some innovative ways, Kincaid easily outperformed his opponent. Unfortunately, Yehi transitioned into a lovely clutch, and Kincaid tapped out quickly.
This was a good showing for both men, but still had that feel of being an early show match. It looked as if both men botched a few times, but they did a decent job of hiding it, leaving me with the feeling that some sequences just didn’t move as slick as they were meant to.
Chris Dickinson & Jaka
Darby Allin & Tony Nese
This was originally scheduled to be Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin, but after some trash talk from Jaka aimed at Allin and his new contract, Tony Nese came out and it ended up becoming a tag team match.
The match was building up to the Tony Nese hot tag, with Allin taking a beating. Made sense, given Nese’s star has been rising thanks to his WWE run, and he had already competed in the dark match before this. When he did come in, he completely held his own and took on both Dickinson and Jaka.
Allin made one of the worst botches I have ever seen of an attempt to jump from the corner ropes to the outside. He didn’t just fall off the ropes once, he fell twice, and then chose to just throw himself onto his opponents. Sometimes, less is more, and the overly complicated way he went about trying to do his move almost deserved the awkward mistakes it caused. The crowd forgave it, which I’ll give them credit for, as I’ve seen crowds turn on matches big time for those kind of mistakes.
Allin and Nese are not a team, and that was shown when Allin tagged himself in towards the end of the match, much to Nese’s annoyance. Nese was then taken out at ringside, allowing Dickinson and Jaka to hit a double team finisher to seal the win by pinfall. Would’ve been a decent tag match, and it was really, but the botched big spot left a sour taste – announcers covered for it very well though!
Zack Sabre Jr.
Ethan Page (w/ The Gatekeepers)
Both men wrestled a technical style, as you’d expect, but Page worked at a much slower pace which fitted his heel character. A lot of work done on his left arm throughout, which was sold well, until every time Sabre Jr went on the offensive at which point he suddenly seemed to forget about the arm. I’d expect better than that from someone of Sabre Jr’s ability, personally, especially given the announce team were talking about how he would need to find a way to win without his injured arm.
That said, Sabre Jr did what he did best, which was lock his opponent into submission holds out of nowhere, one of which led to the first near fall. Ethan Page did a lovely block of an attempted Tornado DDT on him, and from that point really used his size advantage over Sabre Jr to take control of the match. Page eventually got the three count clean as a whistle, which pissed off Sabre Jr big time.
I was a little surprised at the winner, but when you think about how good a heel Ethan page is being built up to be, he needed the win here to solidify him as a threat. Loved him calling out Cody Rhodes (who obviously wasn’t at this show), and hope they face off with each other at EVOLVE 74 or 75.
I’ve not gone back to check, but I swear they spelt Williams’ name wrong on his entrance graphic? Poor work, if they did!
What wasn’t poor work was this match, with both men putting on a great contest. Given Hero’s size advantage over Williams, you’d almost expect them to have him throw Williams around like rag doll, but it never came to that, and both men wrestled a very physical style with each other. I won’t lie, I did sometimes struggle to believe that the much smaller Williams could do some of the moves to Hero that he was, but that didn’t matter, as this was mostly about the punches, elbows and kicks. When Hero sat Williams in a chair at ringside, and then delivered a big boot – I genuinely thought the match would get called there and then, but it went on for maybe another ten minutes!
The crowd were very much into Hero, which makes sense given his standing on the indie wrestling scene, but it did make the match feel a bit weird as Hero was certainly wrestling as the heel, and Williams as the baby face.
I made a note, when Williams first locked Hero in a Crossface, that I didn’t believe for one second that Williams could beat him that way. Five minutes later, he locked it in again, and got Hero to tap, much to the surprise of myself and the crowd. I think everyone expected a Hero win going into EVOLVE 73 and his big match there, so this came out of the blue, which is good.
Timothy Thatcher (C)
What. A. Fight.
I say ‘fight,’ because that’s what this was. From the moment Gulak called for the ring crew to remove the ropes, you knew this would be messy, and it certainly lived up to that.
I’ll say this: I love Gulak. I think he looks like a star in an indie wrestling setting, and I think the crowd sell him as one too, which makes his presentation on WWE RAW all the more frustrating. With the introduction of 205 Live, I’m sure we’ll see an improvement for him though. The crowd were definitely behind him, here at EVOLVE 72.
Without ropes, there were some painful-looking throws out to ringside. What I liked most about that was that they knew they didn’t have much space at ringside, so they didn’t do anything stupid to over sell not having ropes – they just let the small things sell it more, and each impact to ringside did resonate. Less is more, people.
The bungee hook in Thatcher’s mouth was brutal, and Gulak really stretched Thatcher’s face with it. From that moment on, this main event went big, and both men really went to town on each other. When the wood of the ring got exposed, it was obvious we were about to see some tough spots, but I never quite expected the match to continue as long as it did, especially once Gulak started removing some of the wooden boards.
The stunner onto the wood, with Gulak dropping under the ring, looked great. So did the dragon sleeper on the steel bars, for that matter, and that would have been a superb ending if Gulak was going to win the championship. Unfortunately for this Drew Gulak fan, it was not meant to be, and Gulak ultimately got pinned for the three count after various moments of looking like he was going to pass out from rear chokes. Thatcher retained, and Gulak’s performance with him really sold Thatcher as a tough champion. Clean win, can’t fault that.
This will be one that I watch again, and it really did think like either man could win, which is exactly how a championship match is meant to be, isn’t it? Gulak really needs a push toward the WWE Cruiserweight Championship on RAW, but for now I’m curious as to where he goes next with EVOLVE.
Match of the Night:
Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Gulak
EVOLVE 72 Overall Score: