Zack Sabre Jr. defends his EVOLVE Championship for the first time, facing off against ACH. Drew Galloway and Matt Riddle face each other again, with their rivalry showing no sign of cooling down. Ethan Page looks to further legitimise his case for a shot at Sabre Jr.’s championship, after disposing of longtime enemy Darby Allin via a body bag at EVOLVE 79…
(Winner: Drew Galloway, via pinfall)
Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway)
(Winner: Timothy Thatcher, via submission)
(Winner: Lio Rush, via pinfall)
“Black, Blonde and Neon” (Facade & Michael Richard Blaze)
The Gatekeepers (with Ethan Page)
(Winners: The Gatekeepers, via pinfall)
Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers)
(Winner: Ethan Page, via pinfall)
(Winner: Ricochet, via pinfall)
Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi (C)
Michael Elgin & Donovan Dijak
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
(Winners: Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi, via submission)
Zack Sabre Jr. (C)
(Winner: Zack Sabre Jr.)
Coming off of arguably EVOLVE Wrestling‘s best show of the year, EVOLVE 79, there was a lot of pressure on EVOLVE 80 to knock it out of the park. The first of countless wrestling shows across the extended weekend, all eyes were on EVOLVE. Thankfully, the show delivered.
Firstly, I was a big fan of the arena this time. Laser lights were in use throughout the whole night, and made the show look better than EVOLVE normally does when it is away from New York. That said, the lighting in the ring was a little darker than I would’ve liked, so I wish they’d bumped their main lights up a little, but that’s just personal preference. EVOLVE has a much bigger feel to it when it is presented as something more than a gymnasium-occupying indie promotion, and that was the case here too.
Drew Galloway’s passionate promo at the top of the show was a great way to start, but did seem to put him over as a babyface, which I’m not entirely convinced was the intention? Just as he was about to get out his heel lingo, Matt Riddle interrupted, and suddenly we were in a match-up.
Galloway dominated most of the match. In fact, he was so dominant that it was genuinely surprising when he got the three count and the win – you almost expected a comeback from Riddle, but it never came. Much more a brawl than a wrestling contest, Galloway brought an intensity to his performance that hasn’t been there since his recent return to EVOLVE. The spot where he put Riddle through a table, after coming off the ring apron with him, was insane. A genuine “Holy Fuck!” moment.
The Dickinson/Thatcher match was a very nice technical battle, with some hard hits throughout. Both men would’ve left this bout feeling sore, and Dickinson’s impressive solo run continues. This was Thatcher’s first match in the company since he lost the EVOLVE Championship, so it was very much the start of a new phase in his EVOLVE career. If he maintains this quality, one would assume he’ll be challenging to reclaim his championship sooner rather than later.
I’m starting to notice that Ethan Page is a much more interesting character than he is wrestler. Whilst his matches never seem to be anything other than steady affairs, his feuds are what make him stand out, and the Darby Allin rivalry is doing a lot of good for both men. No one is better on the stick in EVOLVE than Page, and he’s putting it to good use. I just wish his matches stood out more at the end of each show.
Keith Lee continues to be one of the most consistent performers in the company, this time putting on a great match with Ricochet. Lee’s recent work has been great, and he’s so damn athletic in the ring, so a match with Ricochet was always going to be a great affair. Quite how Lee is able to do something of the things he does is beyond me, as a man of his size has no right to be as agile in the ring as he is. After his wins at EVOLVE 78 and 79, I felt that him losing here against Ricochet did Lee more harm than good, but I suspect we’ll see him grabbing more victories soon.
The EVOLVE Tag Team Championship match was something else. Elgin and Dijak had absolute size dominance over Williams and Yehi, and so that was incorporated into all of the action in the ring. Rarely did Williams and Yehi maintain any sort of consistent dominance, instead finding themselves being rag-dolled around the area. One could argue that Elgin and Dijak looked too good compared to the reigning champions, and there’s simply no way Tracy Williams should’ve kicked out from some of the beatings he took, but when the Catch Point members finally put their opponents away, I was happy with how they defeated their opponents. Why on Earth the referee allowed it to essentially turn into a tornado tag is beyond me, as both teams found themselves experiencing the disadvantage of being outnumbered by their opponents at times. Great match, and whilst the champions are clearly headed towards a match with Dickinson and Jaka, a part of me felt that Elgin and Dijak deserved the championship for what they did here. Some of Dijak’s spots were the best moments of the night.
The main event didn’t quite reach the heights that I expected of both men, but it was a good match and the crowd were definitely into it from the first bell. ZSJ is the face of this brand now, and while his style won’t always fit with other opponents of his, the audience is clearly ready to accept him and I think he’s a decent choice for the company right now. I don’t envision a super long run with the title, but he was a good choice to take over from Thatcher.
All in all, an entertaining show that didn’t hit the heights of EVOLVE 79, but was still a consistent entry in the company’s 2017 output. Thatcher not being at the top of the card takes some getting used to though, I’ll tell you!
Match of the Night
Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi vs. Michael Elgin & Donovan Dijak
EVOLVE 80 Rating