EVOLVE 84 (Review)

Following his attacks on EVOLVE Champion Zack Sabre Jr. at EVOLVE 82 and EVOLVE 83, Ethan Page finally gets a shot at his championship. Matt Riddle defends his WWN Championship against Kyle O’Reilly, whilst Keith Lee and Donovan Dijack face off in a rematch of their superb battle at EVOLVE 81…


Keith Lee
vs.
Donovan Dijak
4star
(Winner via pinfall: Keith Lee)

Jason Kincaid
vs.
Fred Yehi
3star
(Winner via submission: Fred Yehi)

Austin Theory
vs.
Lio Rush
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Lio Rush)

Tracy Williams (with “Catch Point” & Stokely Hathaway)
vs.
Jeff Cobb
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Tracy Williams)

Chris Dickinson & Jaka (C)
vs.
Matt Knicks & Isaias Velazquez
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Chris Dickinson & Jaka)

Zack Sabre Jr. (C)
vs.
Ethan Page (with the Gatekeepers)
EVOLVE Championship
4star
(Winner by pinfall: Zack Sabre Jr.)

Matt Riddle (C)
vs.
Kyle O’Reilly
WWN Championship
4half_star
(Winner by submission: Matt Riddle)


Review

EVOLVE 84 was EVOLVE Wrestling‘s debut in Chicago, and with it came a loaded line-up as the company sought to make a positive impression in this new market.

When Keith Lee and Donovan Dijak faced each other at EVOLVE 81, it was the match of the night. A 4.0, and maybe it deserved even higher. Their rematch here was highly anticipated, although there was always the fear that they wouldn’t be able to match what they created in Orlando, but then that’s always a risk with rematches. It ended up being a very good contest, but it always felt like they were trying too hard to beat what they’d done before, and as a result it led to some real sloppiness from Dijak as he looked to execute some offensive moves, and gave a general sense of both men just trying too hard.

That said, the match was still of a very high quality, but whereas Lee/Dijak I was a 4.0 but on the cusp of something higher, Lee/Dijak II was only just a 4.0. I don’t normally like to get caught up in the match ratings, but realistically this is the only way I can communicate the difference between quality in the two bouts. That Lee got the win again was a real surprise, as it was almost telegraphed that Dijak should get his win back to set up a rubber match down the line. Clearly though, EVOLVE Wrestling has other plans for Lee, such as a future title shot.

Fred Yehi and Jason Kincaid was probably the one match I wasn’t looking forward to on the show, and that had absolutely nothing to do with Yehi, but everything to do with Kincaid. I’ve criticised Kincaid previously over his ridiculous move set and look, so I won’t repeat myself again, but I will say that I was happy to see him cut out some of the theatrics here. The result was a decent match in which Yehi looked slick as hell, and Kincaid didn’t look like an absolute buffoon for once, instead coming across as a capable opponent for Yehi. Another defeat for Kincaid followed, and Yehi had to win this, but I liked that we seem to be teasing a heel turn for Kincaid. Personally, I’d rather see him gone from EVOLVE altogether and left on the smaller WWN brands, but that’s not going to happen, so I’ll happily take him ditching the babyface act instead if that’s where they’re headed.

Austin Theory and Lio Rush looked good on paper, and lived up to expectations in the ring. Theory has a lot of upside, and in a couple of years he’s going to be one of the biggest names on the indies, so EVOLVE have done well to make him into one of their own. He’ll need to start winning soon though, but one must assume his run of defeats is headed somewhere given it’s being mentioned a lot on air.

Catch Point appear to have made their heel turn official, cemented by Stokely Hathaway’s antagonistic promo following Tracy Williams’ surprise win over Jeff Cobb. That match had decent grappling, and showcased Cobb’s strength as he stopped Williams from building any real momentum during the contest. The win for Williams came as a shock, and I’m really wondering what the future plans are for Cobb. He seemed highly protected when he came in to the company, but in recent times has taken some defeats that don’t seem to do him any good.

Hathaway’s promo, which resulted in the Chicago fans chanting “Fuck New York” at him, set the stage nicely for the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship match. Fans were behind Matt Knicks & Isaias Velazquez, given their Chicago roots, but it never seemed likely that Dickinson and Jaka were going to drop their titles so soon into their run with them. That said, the Catch Point members did a gig job of making their opponents appear a serious threat. Dickinson and Jaka are so stocky and well built, that their grounded style looks so good against opponents who fly around. I’m envisioning a long title run for these two gentlemen.

The EVOLVE Championship match, which didn’t main event the show (no doubt a regular occurrence now that the WWN Championship exists), was a really good battle between Zack Sabre Jr. and Ethan Page. This was better than their previous EVOLVE match by a long distance, and Sabre Jr. brought much more variety to it than I’ve seen from him in the past. Whilst I appreciate that ZSJ is a huge talent, my one criticism of him has usually been that he doesn’t ever wrestle different kind of matches, regardless of who he’s facing. That wasn’t the case here, and he and Page had a very good title match. It took four penalty kicks from ZSJ to put Page away, really showcasing how legitimate a threat Page has become. I still predict a title run is in Page’s future, but with so many top talents now working in EVOLVE, the main event scene is going to be very crowded for the rest of 2017. Page just needs to keep doing what he’s doing though, whilst Zack Sabre Jr. has done a great job at carrying the prestige of the EVOLVE Championship.

The main event was absolutely superb. In a week that has already seen myself and other wrestling fans stunned by the quality of matches such as Will Ospreay versus Ricochet (NJPW Best of the Super Jr. 24), Trent Seven versus Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate versus Mark Andrews (both at WWE United Kingdom Championship Special), Matt Riddle and Kyle O’Reilly added their names to that list with a match that stole the show.

They went strike for strike, move for move, and it really could have gone either way. As the match wore on, it seemed more and more likely that a submission was going to win it, and I thought it was all over when O’Reilly locked Riddle in a triangle choke. It wasn’t to be though, as O’Reilly tapped out soon after, both mens body’s covered in battle damage. It was a hell of a match, and by far the best Matt Riddle one I’ve ever seen. If Riddle can maintain this quality, I may actually start buying into his hype.

All in all, EVOLVE 84 was full of good wrestling, and the EVOLVE roster is starting to look crazy. You could argue a case for 90% of the talent to be EVOLVE Champion, and that can only be a good thing for the future of the company.

I do have one complaint though, and it’s not isolated to this one show. EVOLVE looks great when its back home in New York, but seeing them in brightly lit gymnasiums when they travel really does undermine what they’re doing. For my money, they’re the biggest indie promotion in North America (I’m sure financial numbers put someone else there but, fuck it, I believe what I believe!), and sometimes they just look cheap as hell. I can look past it, but if the company is to reach new fans, surely it needs to look a bit more professional on the eye? At a minimum, cover the windows so it’s not so bright.

On that same note, the sound levels are atrocious if you are watching from home, and this show was one of the worst for that in a long time. It’s always a challenge to hear what is being said in promos in EVOLVE at the best of times, but this Chicago show was awful, and I genuinely never heard nor understand a word being said on the mic’s throughout the entire show. They need to get better with this, because it really does ruin the home viewing experience.

Finally, I’m flabbergasted that they get their entrance title cards wrong. On this show, Ethan Page’s said he was accompanied by the Gatekeepers, but he was not. At EVOLVE 83, the title cards that came up for Fred Yehi and Tracy Williams still listed them both as EVOLVE Tag Team Champions, which was no longer the case. It’s sloppy, and not good enough for a big company that will only get bigger.

I won’t let any of that take away from what was a solid wrestling show though. EVOLVE Wrestling is on a roll.

Match of the Night

Matt Riddle vs. Kyle O’Reilly

EVOLVE 84 Rating

3half_star

You can view this EVOLVE event at FloSlam.tv
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