EVOLVE 73 (Review)

Following the historic debut of EVOLVE Wrestling on the FloSlam streaming network the night prior at EVOLVE 72, the company presents its final event of November 2016. With EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher hospitalised with a concussion from his battle with Drew Gulak one night earlier, Tony Nese finds himself without an opponent and without his title shot. Chris Hero and Matt Riddle go one on one for what could be the final time…

Darby Allin
vs.
Jaka

Allin had a lot to do to convince me about him, after his unfortunate but completely avoidable botch at EVOLVE 72. Thankfully, it was kept a lot more simple here, as he tackled Jaka in a singles bout.

Allin is good on the mic, no question, and here he was good at making Jaka look strong. Honestly, Jaka dominated almost the entire bout, using his size and strength advantage to work away at Allin. There was one spot, a Release German Suplex, that was glorious to behold after Jake had caught Allin in midair.

I did wonder if Allin would get the surprise win, perhaps via rollup, but that wasn’t the case as Jaka put his dominance to good work, and scored the pinfall after a spinning kick. It was a decent opening match, if a little one sided, but Jaka came off strong and you can’t help but feel that EVOLVE could have a good heavyweight on their hands here. Where Allin goes from here, I’m not sure, but I imagine these recent defeats are all headed somewhere.

2star

Icarus
vs.
Jason Kincaid

Icarus earned this match through the WWN tryout and training seminar that was hosted prior to bell time for this PPV. This was a good chance for him to show what he’s got.

As soon as both men shook hands and stepped away from each other, I had a feeling that this was going to be a fast and competitive contest. As soon as Icarus took out Kincaid when his back was turned, we knew exactly what the heel/babyface dynamic was here.

I said it during EVOLVE 72, but Kincaid’s use of the ropes is so natural, it’s almost like they are a part of him when he makes contact with them. Be it to use them during a move, or when trying to break himself off from a move after his opponent has moved away, Kincaid just comes off as so innovative. Loved his sunset bomb into the turnbuckles too, although Icarus did get some time to dominate himself after that.

I was very impressed with Icarus, as it happens, although not so much with his name. I like his look, though he’d be smart to put a bit more muscle on his upper body and lose the shirt, as I think that would make him look bigger and more powerful. His use of his strength was impressive, but I feel his ring gear doesn’t match the style he displayed.

A “double stomp from the ceiling” ended the match, with Kincaid climbing up a pillar beside the ring, and jumping down backwards to sink his boots into Icarus’ chest. The three count followed, and Kincaid was the winner. That finishing move looked incredible, and I fully expect to see Finn Balor trying something similar when he returns to action for WWE.

3star

Charles Dickinson
vs.
Ethan Page

Both men did some good trash talk once the match officially started, which was picked up by the microphones around the hall. It appeared that we were going to be treated to a  technical match, but very soon it went to ringside and, following Dickinson being thrown into the railings and steel steps, it turned into a battle of strength and endurance. I should note that I loved the extra space at ringside compared to EVOLVE 72.

There was an exchange of punches, elbows and kicks in the middle of the ring, which looked hard as hell. That was the story of the match, as both men seemed to compete over who could hit the hardest. The crowd were very much behind Dickinson here, given Ethan Page has done a great job of building his bad guy image, but I did think it was all over after ra near fall following Page landed the RK-Ego on Dickinson.

There was another battle of kicks in the centre of the ring, both men taking it in turns to boot the other. These looked stiff as hell, and you could really feel each one as it connected. This ultimately led to Ethan Page getting the pinfall and win, but Dickinson came out of this looking strong, as did Page, who was the right man to win given the ongoing work he’s doing as he heads toward the main event scene.

Some of the crowd for this event were really a distraction from the whole show, as the microphones picked up a lot of the silly comments they were shouting throughout the night (“Boo this man!” “I’m not emotionally invested in this!”). But they got something right here, which was booing the hell out of Page after his win. Really enjoying his character work.

3star

Drew Gulak
vs.
Zack Sabre Jr.

It would take a lot for Drew Gulak to top the match he had with Timothy Thatcher the night before, at EVOLVE 72, so I really liked the decision to wrestle a completely different style of fight. This was all technical, with both men attempted to submit the other.

At first, I felt the match was moving a little slow, as it was all taking place on the mat mostly, and was just transition after transition. Very soon though, as the holds started to become that much more tighter, and the desperation from both men to win that much more obvious, it became obvious that I was watching a technical wrestling master class. Honestly, this was incredible.

I don’t remember a single bump taking place here, with all the focus on tapping out the other person. Normally, I’d get a bit frustrated as a viewer, but it worked a treat here and I wanted to applaud some of the transitions and reversals that I was seeing. After watching Gulak destroy the ring at EVOLVE 72, this was a welcome change and return to his more traditional style. Chants of “This is Awesome” weren’t wrong.

The contest (and that’s exactly what this was, by the way; a contest) became pure back and forth submission holds, with Zack Sabre Jr eventually tapping after his attempt to reach for the ropes during a Dragon Sleeper only exposed his arm for Gulak, who swiftly put him into an arm bar. Given the story of EVOLVE 72, where Ethan Page targeted Sabre Jr’s same arm for the entirety of their match, this was great continuity with Sabre Jr tapping out very quickly after the hold was locked in.

I’m not normally a huge fan of Zack Sabre Jr, as I don’t believe in some of his selling of injuries, but I have to give him credit here. He and Drew Gulak, who I am a big fan of, really did put on one of the best matches I’ve seen these past few months. You’d never be able to do this type of contest in a WWE ring due to the attitude of the live fans there, which is probably one reason Sabre Jr didn’t sign with that company a few months ago, but in this setting it was superb and the fans were very appreciative.

5star

Matt Riddle
vs.
Chris Hero

There was a lot of hype for this match, as it was built up as the rubber match in their feud, which had produced two great matches thus far. Chris Hero took out Riddle with a sucker punch before the bout had officially started, making it very clear the kind of contest we were going to get.

I loved Hero’s Senton onto Riddle, who he’d rolled up in a floor mat at ringside. Hero controlled most of the early going, so your typical heel vs. face match really. After taking some chops in the corner, Riddle had finally absorbed enough of a beating, and was charged up and on the offensive. He did some deliciously stiff-looking kicks and chops back to Hero. A Bro To Sleep by Riddle led immediately into a Rolling Elbow from Hero, resulting in both men down and out in the ring, both unable to capitalise on the condition of the other.

Hero got the win after a series of moves which resulted in Riddle’s head getting driven into the canvas three times in a row. For me, that was a surprise, as I thought Riddle was a sure bet to win here, but there’s no question that the finish meant that Hero was a deserved winner. I don’t know whether the match was just that engrossing, or that they didn’t get many minutes for this, but it felt like it ended rather quickly. Maybe the sign of a good match?

Riddle, selling his injuries, was carried to the back. Drew Galloway came out to watch, smiling and laughing at his rival. Looking forward to that match, whenever it comes.

4star

Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi
vs.
The Gatekeepers
vs.
Drew Gulak & Tony Nese
vs.
DUSTIN (C) & Chris Hero
(EVOLVE Tag Team Championship)

Prior to this match, I’d almost forgotten that the real life concussion suffered by Timothy Thatcher meant we had no announced main event for the show. A good promo took place, with Williams and Yehi challenging DUSTIN and Galloway to defend their EVOLVE Tag Team Championship. Galloway is out injured, so obviously couldn’t compete, but was so impressed by Chris Hero’s victory over Matt Riddle that he recruited him to compete on his behalf in the match. Gulak was soon out, continuing his dispute with Williams and Yehi, and announced that he and Tony Nese wanted in the match too. Before he’d realised what was going on, Galloway had unintentionally committed his team to a four-way elimination match for his and DUSTIN’s belts.

After their strong match at EVOLVE 72, I was happy to see the animosity between Hero and Tracy Williams carry over to here. Hero demanding Gulak tag in Williams was a good spot, and I wonder if there’s room for a future match between these two again?

The Gatekeepers didn’t last long, but their involvement was all about getting Ethan Page more mic time, so that’s no bad thing. Loved the sequence where Tony Nese threw DUSTIN into a rolling elbow, and then followed it up by diving out of the ring onto Hero. This led to Williams tapping out DUSTIN, leaving just two teams, and the guarantee of new champions. Loved Galloway’s reaction to losing his belts without even competing, as he lost his sh*t at ringside and took down the ref. Galloway is just awesome, he really is, and they’ve done a great job covering for his injuries over EVOLVE 72 and 73.

When it came down to Nese and Gulak versus Williams and Yehi, I did wonder if the current WWE RAW talents would win the match. A lot was made prior to these events of how Gulak or Nese could become EVOLVE Champion whilst still being on WWE television, which I don’t think was ever going to happen, but did seem possible for the tag titles. It wasn’t possible for long though, with Yehi making Tony Nese tap out to a submission hold in the centre of the ring. A surprise win, and new tag team champions.

I enjoyed the match, especially given it was put together at such short notice, and you can really see the pieces of various feuds being moved into place. A lot has been made of how the deal with FloSlam will allow for better longterm storytelling, and I think we saw the seeds of that planted here, and throughout the the EVOLVE 72 event too.

4star

 

Match of the Night:

Drew Gulak vs. Zack Sabre Jr

EVOLVE 73 Overall Rating:

4star

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