Zack Sabre Jr. has an EVOLVE Championship opportunity set for EVOLVE 79, but he’ll have to go through the gigantic Keith Lee to get there. Darby Allin and Ethan Page, also set to battle at 79, are under strict instructions not to come into contact with each other before then. Meanwhile, Timothy Thatcher defends his championship against double WWN champion, Fred Yehi…
(Winner: Matt Riddle, via submission)
(Winner: Austin Theory, via pinfall)
Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers)
(Winner: Ethan Page, via pinfall)
Jaka & Chris Dickinson
(Winners: Jaka and Chris Dickinson, via pinfall)
(Winner: ACH, via pinfall)
(Winner: Drew Galloway, via pinfall)
Zack Sabre Jr.
(Winner: Keith Lee, via pinfall)
Timothy Thatcher (C) (with Stokely Hathaway)
(Winner: Timothy Thatcher, via submission)
Henry versus Riddle was a great opening match. The former has made some impressive appearances across the World Wrestling Network recently, and this was no different. Admittedly, he is a fair bit smaller that Riddle, so him dominating Riddle so much throughout the match was a little hard to me to swallow, but I like the idea that Riddle may have underestimated his opponent. There were some great strikes throughout (a trait of Henry’s matches now), and some good wrestling thrown in too, not to mention a fair few submission attempts. The crowd were behind Riddle all the way, and you always felt he would win, but he really did a good job of selling for Henry here and made the kid look legit. Riddle is rising to the top of the independent scene, so if you can go in the ring with him, then you’re likely going places to – buckle up, Anthony Henry!
I’ve written before that I’m not a fan of Darby Allin, and that hasn’t changed during this show either. I don’t believe a damn thing he does in the ring, and it comes off as nothing more than rehearsed dancing. Throwing himself around isn’t impressive when it’s got no psychology behind it, and someone backstage should be telling him that. He was surprisingly dominated by Austin Theory, suggesting that EVOLVE is throwing its weight behind its new young talent (Theory, Henry, etc). Insane spot where Theory did a moonsault from the top rope to the outside, but missed Allin and landed on the steel barricade, on the audience side. Intended, or a botch, it looked brutal. I was surprised that Allin lost, given he has a big grudge match coming up at EVOLVE 79. He should have won, if I’m being honest, but a good win for Austin Thoery.
Someone who grinds my gears almost as much as Darby Allin is Jason Kincaid. I don’t like his look, and his supposedly “unique” moveset looks nothing more than silly and staged. The work that his opponents have to do to make Kincaid’s transitions look legit is ridiculous, and I don’t feel Kincaid is worth it, if I’m honest. That said, he can put together good spots and there were a few littered throughout this match, such as his X Factor that he delivered from the ring apron to the floor. As far as Page goes, he was surprisingly subdued here, but it was a good win for him to take into his next match with Darby Allin.
Maybe I’m the only one who would think this, but The Gatekeepers, Jaka and Chris Dickinson put on a ‘Match of the Night’ candidate. I’ve never been too hot on these performers previously, but I’m liking Jaka more and more, and Dickinson’s intensity is just nuts and infectious. Both teams have great chemistry with each other, and this match opened so frantically that I thought we were going to see an early finish. That didn’t happen though, and all four men were given some serious time to work a good, fun bout. Fans are really into Jaka and Dickinson as a babyface tag team.
Tracy Williams and ACH had a decent contest, but there were moments when I felt that they thought they were putting on a classic, when it was anything but. There was good technical wrestling in the first third of the contest, but that was later replaced with strike after strike after strike, with a small bit of wrestling thrown in too. I absolutely hate when two wrestlers stand in the middle of the ring and exchange single strikes – it only works in a damn good match, and that wasn’t what this match was, so they hadn’t earned the moment. Really loved ACH’s penalty kick to Tracy Williams, who was stood at ringside, and got completely wiped out by the ACH’s boot from the apron. I thought ACH sold his injuries very well towards the end of the match, really made it look like Williams was going to put him away.
On paper, Drew Galloway versus Jeff Cobb is a great fight. Unfortunately, something didn’t quite click here for me. I thought Galloway’s transitions felt a bit slow and unnatural at times, which is rare for a performer as good as he, and it brought the match down for me a little. Some lovely moments of them both really demonstrating their size, so there’s definitely potential for these guys to put on some great matches down the line. Really liked Galloway’s flip over Cobb, leading into the Futureshock for the win. Best part of the whole match was probably the segment after, which had Galloway and Matt Riddle go at it in the middle of the ring until Jeff Cobb wiped out Riddle. Tease of a heel turn for Cobb, perhaps? Certainly would be a better fit for him, anyway!
I quite enjoyed the Lee/ZSJ contest. Lee had a huge size advantage right from the start, and dominated as a result. Sabre Jr’s comebacks were always short-lived, and he simply spent the whole match being crushed and beaten up. There was a lovely early spot when Lee was pinning ZSJ, only for ZSJ to move into a bridge, pushing up Lee in the process – it looked great, and the crowd were impressed. Huge surprise to see ZSJ lose this contest, given he has a big title opportunity at the next PPV, and whilst I can understand the need to build Lee as a huge beast, it was a shocking decision to have him go over ZSJ at this point in the current angles.
Finally, a competitive title match to end the show. Thatcher’s run as EVOLVE Champion is to be commended, and the commentary put over all the opponents he’s beaten since winning the strap in 2015. The end is surely in sight for his time at the top of the company, but it wasn’t to happen at EVOLVE 78. He and Yehi (who’s an impressive performer in his own right) really went for it, kept things simple, but did them with such aggression that you really felt that these guys wanted to come out on top. Thatcher was in genuine trouble at times, taking some strong elbows to the head as Yehi seemingly tried to knock him out. Thatcher’s submission win came out of nowhere, making me feel a little cheated as a viewer as I wasn’t ready for the match to come to an end, but the nature of his submission hold made the quick tap believable. Given I’ve often been frustrated at wrestlers managing to stay in hard submission holds for minutes at a time, I’m not going to now complain when I’m presented with an immediate and realistic tap out to a strong submission hold.
All in all, a good show from top to bottom. The last couple shows have struggled a little, following the most recent departures of talent to WWE (Tony Nese and Drew Gulak), but this was a return to form. The three things that bug me with this wrestling promotion (Allin, Kincaid, and senseless booking at times) were all present, and likely will be for a long time yet, but they didn’t hurt a show that had some great ‘1st Time Ever in EVOLVE’ matches. Look forward to seeing some rematches down the road.
Match of the Night
Anthony Henry vs. Matt Riddle
EVOLVE 78 Rating