As I write this on Friday evening, millions of NCAA Tournament brackets have already been angrily crumpled and tossed into wastepaper baskets. I actually forgot to fill one out this year; so I am going to use vast analytical skill to incorrectly forecast the results of this weekend’s EVOLVE shows in New York.
All kidding aside, I think it would be easy to forgive Gabe Sapolsky and crew if they shows were filler, especially with the monstrous lineup the WWN family of companies has booked for WrestleMania Weekend in Dallas.
Instead, EVOLVE fans will be treated to the second loaded weekend of shows that the company has offered so far in 2016. Two title defenses by EVOLVE World Champion Timothy Thatcher will headline both shows. Johnny Gargano and Drew Galloway will defend their newly won EVOLVE Tag Team Championships for the first time. Chris Hero, Mike Bailey, Ethan Page and Drew Gulak are just four wrestlers included on a star studded undercard.
EVOLVE 56 will take place this coming Saturday with a 6:00 P.M.bell time. The next night, EVOLVE 57 will begin at 8:00 P.M. Both shows can be purchased and will air live on WWNLive.com.
Ethan Page vs. Mike Bailey
I’ve gone on the record in my EVOLVE reviews that Ethan Page’s story of redemption is one of my favorite angles in wrestling right now and it is nowhere near complete I believe. My money is Mike Bailey in this match because storyline logic dictates that Page will try do the right thing and it will backfire–again–thus costing him the win. Prediction: Mike Bailey
Fred Yehi vs. Drew Gulak
Yehi was outstanding during the Style Battle in January. A match with fellow technician Drew Gulak will be treat for those of us that enjoy the grappling arts. I just don’t see Yehi picking up the upset win against Gualk, but I do think he will have an outstanding showing. Prediction: Drew Gulak
Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins
Both men excel in longish midcard matches, say about 12-15 minutes. If they go about that length, then this match will be a lot of fun, but if it goes any longer the momentum will start trending south. Callihan should go over here to keep building him up for his big title match against Thatcher in Dallas. Prediction: Sami Callihan
Tracy Williams vs. Chris Hero
Williams is a wrestler that I think has become a valuable part of the EVOLVE midcard. He’s capable of having decent to good matches with anyone. Silver Ant’s favorite wrestler also has enough legitimacy stored to put over established stars going into big matches or as a gatekeeper for wrestlers on the rise. He will do the former and put the Knockout Artist over. Prediction: Chris Hero
Team Tremendous vs. The Premiere Athlete Brand
If Team Tremendous loses this match I will be shocked. They have a title match the next night and need to look strong. Konley and Nese look to be on the road to splitting up so a misunderstanding between the two, leading to a loss is a possibility. Prediction: Team Tremendous
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Johnny Gargano
ZSJ is beginning a series of five matches to see if he deserves the title “Best Wrestler in the World.” His first test if former EVOLVE ace Johnny Gargano. There is no reason for Gargano to beat Sabre Jr. but every so often Johnny Wrestling picks up a victory he doesn’t need so I’m torn about who to pick. What I am certain of is that at worst this will be just a good semi-main event. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
EVOLVE Championship Match: Matthew Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher ©
The build for this match was as old fashioned as storytelling gets in professional wrestling. Riddle came into the promotion and has continually run his mouth about his how greatness. However, the former UFC fighter has backed his bravado up with an impressive winning streak that includes the Style Battle Tournament. Timothy Thatcher has been equally as impressive as EVOLVE Champion. Thatcher has taken on everyone who come at him and defeated them all. Something has to give in this match and one man will leave with his streak broken.
I have a strong inclination that this match will incredibly divisive. Riddle and Thatcher are wrestlers who do not have a lot of middle ground regarding a fan’s perception of them; either you love them or hate them. I’m firmly in the camp that both men are tremendous, even though Riddle is still green in many respects. With that said, I predict that Thatcher retains in a quality main event fight. Prediction: Timothy Thatcher
Fred Yehi vs. Ethan Page
Yehi is due for a win over an established star and Page’s ongoing saga demands he finds a way to fail at being honest, again. Prediction: Fred Yehi
TJ Perkins vs. Mike Bailey
These two had quite the match at EVOLVE 43 and I don’t see any reason why they can’t have a match on par or above their previous encounter. Perkins won the last time, so I’m going to go with Speedball to even up their series. Prediction: Mike Bailey
Sami Callihan vs. Tracy Williams
“Hot Sauce” is going to be mild after this weekend. I expect him and Callihan to have a nice little match, but Williams is going to do the J-O-B again to keep Sami strong for Mania’ weekend. Prediction: Sami Callihan
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Gulak
Like Riddle vs. Thatcher, this match will fall into a niche category. I’m a fan who enjoys a match structured around limb work and both guys are among the best of that style of wrestling; so I hope that is the direction the story of the match takes. ZSJ will make Gulak tap and complete the weekend with a perfect record. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
Matthew Riddle vs. Chris Hero
If Riddle wins the title then this will be for the EVOLVE Championship. With rumors flying that Riddle is due to show up in Orlando soon, a loss to Hero seems like a foregone conclusion. Hero has a habit of bringing out the best in whoever he is wrestling and I think he will do the same with Riddle. This has the potential to be the sleeper match of the weekend if the pace is brisk and both wrestlers work stiff. Prediction: Chris Hero
EVOLVE Championship Match: Caleb Konley vs. Timothy Thatcher ©
After months of storyline whining, Caleb Konley finally gets his long awaited title match with Timothy Thatcher (if Thatcher retains against Matthew Riddle). Konley wrestles a styles that I don’t think will mesh well with Thatcher. I expect good work from both men but don’t think this match will be anything special. Thatcher will win and retain the title if he is still the champion. Prediction: Timothy Thatcher
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match: Team Tremendous vs. Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano
Dan Berry & Bill Carr have toned down their cop gimmick during their EVOLVE bookings and have instead straight up wrestled. As a result they’ve gotten over with the work rate obsessed fan based. Even with their newfound popularity, Team Tremendous won’t be bringing the belts back to the precinct. Galloway & Gargano will retain. Prediction: Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano