EVOLVE returned to Long Island last Sunday for its 50th show that featured not one, but two main events. Timothy Thatcher would defend his EVOLVE World Championship against Trevor Lee, who defeated Drew Gulak the previous night to earn the championship opportunity in one main event.
The other headlining match featured Roppongi Vice squaring off against the Premiere Athlete Brand. Prominent undercard bouts included Willie Mack vs. Drew Gulak and Matt Riddle against Chris Dickinson.
Tracy Williams vs. TJ Perkins
During this match I kept thinking that it was the fastest technical contest I’d ever seen and after rewatching it I stand by that statement. Williams and Perkins started the match trading holds and they never let up in the early, not even for the usual standoff/crowd applauds spot. What differentiates Perkins from the other grapplers on the EVOLVE roster is that his quickness and flexibility allows for him to do some incredibly original stretching. Go back and watch some of the ways he worked over William’s arm in this match and you will see what I mean.
For the second night in a row Tracy Williams had to fight from behind. Unlike his match with Chris Dickinson, Williams was able to get the submission victory with an out of nowhere crossface. For some the abrupt finish hurt the quality of the match because it negated Perkins’ arm work. Personally, I thought it fit in well with the realistic tone of EVOLVE’s technical battles have taken on the over the last few months. ***½
Matt Cage vs. Ethan Page
The night before Ethan Page lost the biggest match of his EVOLVE career and that carried over into this match. Page was clearly not interested in wrestling the “Money” and spent more time jawing with the crowd than putting Cage away. As the match wore on longer than it should have Cage kept gaining confidence in the small windows of offense that Page’s self made distractions afforded him, and when Page went for the Spinning Dwayne, Cage caught him with a backslide for the upset victory.
This match told a sneaky good story of Page not being able to get over his defeat and it costing him what should have been an easy victory. ***
After this match a Johnny Gargano/Ricochet match from the WWN China Tour played while Sami Zayn and Page had an in-ring confrontation that could not air on the WWNLive iPPV.
Peter Kassa vs. Andrew Everett
Kassa’s blend of strength and athleticism made him the breakout star of the weekend. Against Andrew Everett he showed that he is more than showman, he is also a solid worker. Kassa used strength to keep Everett on the mat to prevent Everett from using his speed advantage and to build anticipation for Everett’s comeback. So, when the time came, the crowd was fully behind Everett’s flurry of aerial moves. Down the stretch both men traded blown chances to put the match away until Kassa took advantage of Everett wiping out on a SSP attempt and hit him with a hybrid back suplex/powerbomb for the win to end an excellent showing for each young wrestler. ***½
Matt Riddle vs. Chris Dickinson
I thought this match would have gone on a little longer but it lasted only four minutes. Riddle and Dickinson did some nice work on the ground before transitioning to stand up and trading a few strikes. “Deep Waters” picked up the pinfall victory with a knee strike. I get that they are trying to establish Riddle as a dangerous all around wrestler but a submission victory would have fit the story of the match better. **¼
Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams came down to the ring to praise Riddle and then Gulak announced that he and Williams would each face Riddle one on one at the next set of EVOLVE shows.
Drew Gulak vs. Willie Mack
This pairing looked like a bad matchup on paper but turned out to be a solid match. The story revolved around Mack trying to play the ground game with Gulak but failing at each turn. Gulak had a very unique rotating Cattle Mutilation that was a real thing of beauty, hopefully he will add that into offense from here on out. Eventually, Gualk got the submission victory with an ankle lock after Mack wiped out on a corkscrew senton attempt.
Kudos to both men for working hard to turn a potential train wreck into a very nice undercard bout. ***
EVOLVE World Championship
Trevor Lee vs. Timothy Thatcher (c)
Trevor Lee has done an exceptional job as a baby face during his EVOLVE run and so I was surprised when he wrestled this match as a heel. Lee was on the offensive for most of the match and favored a methodical approach that targeted Thatcher’s previously injured ear. He also made sure to throw in plenty of trash talk at the champion as well. The match was progressing nicely and then Thatcher got a sudden submission victory with an armbar.
Again, like I wrote earlier, I understand that these kind of finishes work in the EVOLVE style of wrestling. What bugged me about this match was that it felt it was building to a really nice comeback from Thatcher that never materialized and so I felt like that I’d only seen that first half of an epic match. ***¼
Roppongi Vice vs. The Premiere Athlete Brand
The main event was a solid tag, competitive tag match with a few fun spots involving Trent Baretta’s mother who was seated in the front row. I liked that Baretta got a clean win over his former stable in his hometown, but I don’t think that this match should have been the main event.
The entire contest had the vibe of match that would have been perfect to have gone on before intermission. There was no drama to sell the fact that this was a grudge match and the feud itself just never felt main event worthy. ***¼
Final Thoughts: EVOLVE 50 was another solid outing for the promotion. No match brought the “wow factor” but everything on the card was well wrestled and entertaining. While the main event players had unusual subpar outings, young performers like Tracy Williams and Peter Kassa used the show to demonstrate that they need to be part of the equation going forward and deserve to be booked in prominent roles. Matt Riddle came into the weekend heavily hyped and showed that with some polish and more experience in the ring he will be a good addition to the mid-card.