July 16th, 2016
La Boom – Queens, New York

Watch: WWNLive / Photos: @NickBurch721 & Facebook.com/BurchPhotography721

The show kicks off with Lenny Leonard hyping up the crowd, but he’s quickly interrupted by Stokely Hathaway. Hathaway says that TJP vs. Zack Sabre Jr. won’t be taking place tonight, and explains that TJP needs a day of rest to prepare for his upcoming match against Timothy Thatcher for the EVOLVE Title at EVOLVE 65. Hathaway also says that TJP will also need a day of rest in preparation of the biggest celebration in the history of Evolve, after TJP wins the Evolve Title. This was a very….interesting change. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get that match, but as we would see later on, the replacement definitely made for it.

Johnny Gargano def. Cedric Alexander

This was the first match in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Series. Basically, it’s EVOLVE running a number of matches over the next several shows featuring competitors in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. It was mentioned by Lenny Leonard on commentary that Alexander had already advanced to the 2nd Round (as he won his match on the first episode of the Cruiserweight Classic last week). I thought this was a fantastic opening match! I would go as far as to say that this was the best match on the entire show. There was a ton of great action here, and the crowd was really into it (more so than any other match on the show, in my opinion). They were on fire for this match. Both guys, of course, looked awesome here. Alexander, in particular, has been very impressive in his EVOLVE outings thus far. It’s crazy to see how much different he looks, physique wise (since he had to cut weight to meet the 205 pound weight limit). In the end, Gargano would pick up the victory in an incredible opening contest. ****1/4

After the match, as Johnny Gargano is celebrating, Drew Galloway attacks him from behind. After hitting him with a powerbomb, he goes to hit him with a chair, but Ethan Page runs out and shields Gargano on the ground. Galloway then proceeds to hits Page repeatedly with the chair. This brings out Drew Gulak, who goes right after Galloway. He manages to send Galloway to the floor. Gulak says that last month, they ran that “Fred Flintstone lookalike” Ethan Carter III out of EVOLVE. He wants his match with Galloway right now, but then Chuck Taylor runs out and attacks Gulak!! The rest of Catch Point (minus Matt Riddle) run out to make the save. Galloway says that he’ll always be one step ahead, and adds that it might seem like he’s alone in this war, but with a message as strong as his, he’ll always have new allies, and introduces us to “Dustin”. Galloway said that “Dustin” carried Gargano during EVOLVE’s early years, much like Galloway carried Gargano when they were EVOLVE Tag Team Champions. He then challengers Catch Point to an EVOLVE Tag Team Title Match tonight, saying that they could be men and accept, or turn them down and prove that they’re just posers that are willing to suck off the machine. Tracy Williams says that this is their home, and that they’re willing to defend both their home and their EVOLVE Tag Team Titles tonight.

This was a very fascinating segment that. We did get the continuation of Ethan Page trying to prove to Johnny Gargano that he’s a changed man, figuratively taking the bullets for Gargano. Matt Riddle not coming out to assist Catch Point is something that will be brought up later, but the big story here is the return of Chuck Taylor, a guy who, despite being a huge part of EVOLVE during those first few years (including having the best “win-loss” record), has only had one match in Evolve in the last two years (that being a one-night Ronin reunion in January 2015). His inclusion here is interesting. He doesn’t have the history in WWE like Galloway, EC3, Hero or Cody Rhodes do, but he does have a history of being “passed over” by WWE and other promotions (like ROH), and I’m sure it’s frustrating to see former partners like Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann, and Drew Gulak getting opportunities in WWE.

Four-Way Freestyle – Tony Nese def. Fred Yehi, Chris Dickinson & Darby Allin

Tracy Williams was originally scheduled to be in this match, but with Williams now defending the Evolve Tag Team Titles with Drew Gulak later on, Chris Dickinson (who has made sporadic appearances in Evolve over the years), has now stepped in to take the open spot. The big moment in this match occurred right after the opening bell, as Darby Allin charged at Dickinson, and got absolutely launched over the top rope, landing legs first on the guardrail before landing head & neck first on the floor. That was a legitimately scary moment. It seems serious, as referees quickly rushed to his aid, and the other three guys in the match stood around for a good minute, as they weren’t sure what to do. The match, however, kept going, and eventually, Darby Allin got back in and continued the match. He deserves a ton of credit, as he’s taken some sick bumps on the last few Evolve show, but was able to get up and keep fighting. The match itself was a fun Four-Way Freestyle. The crowd was quite after what happened to Darby Allin, but really got back into it once he got back in the ring. Nese would get the win with a 450 on Allin, who had just taken a top rope Pazuzu Bomb from Dickinson. ***1/4

“All Ego” Ethan Page def. Wheeler Yuta

Wheeler Yuta has made a name for himself on CZW’s “Dojo Wars” events, and he’s getting an opportunity here against Ethan Page, who’s still selling the chair shots from Drew Galloway earlier on. There’s not much to say about this one. It was pretty short, and save for a few quick moves from Yuta, Ethan Page dominated, eventually scoring the win with a Package Piledriver. Yuta is then taken away by a face paint-less Devastation Corporation. N/A

We get a promo from Ethan Page after the match. He says that it’s time for Johnny Gargano to forgive him. Page says he just took several chair shots from Galloway for him, and he doesn’t know what else he needs to do to prove himself. Not only is Gargano alone, Page says, but his plate is full right now, with NXT, The Cruiserweight Classic & EVOLVE, adding that he needs Ethan Page as his tag team partner and his friend. Page then says if Gargano won’t listen to him, he should listen to the people in the crowd, who start chanting “friendship” He closing by saying that he’s the only guy in EVOLVE that Gargano can trust.

I’ve really enjoyed this Ethan Page story arch over the last year. He was brought into the promotion by Gargano, but then turned on his friend, and spent much of 2015 trying to ruin Gargano’s life. Ever since Page lost the feud with Gargano, he’s been trying to earn his trust back, and that’s really escalated since the Galloway heel turn and the involvement of the likes of EC3, and now Chuck Taylor. Page does play a great heel, but his abilities as a babyface can’t be overlooked. With the news that Gargano might be finishing up with EVOLVE soon to go full-time in NXT, I hope this storyline reaches some kind of conclusion over the course of these next few shows.

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Jigsaw

I was shocked to see Jigsaw appear on my screen when I saw this show live (I missed the start of the show initially, so I was unaware of the change that had been made). Of course, Jigsaw is a longtime stalwart of CHIKARA, and also appeared pretty frequently in both Dragon Gate USA & EVOLVE from 2009 to 2014, but he’s really been off the radar for the last year and a half (at least). I knew he had recently returned to CHIKARA, but I never expected him to show up in EVOLVE. I was ecstatic to find out that he was wrestling Zack Sabre Jr.

I thought this was a great match. As you might have expected, this was very much a Zack Sabre Jr. style of match, with lots of back & forth holds and smooth exchanges, but I thought Jigsaw was definitely able to hang with him here (don’t forget, Jigsaw was trained by Mike Quackenbush). This was just a lot of fun to watch, and honestly, I was just overjoyed to see Jigsaw again, who did a really good job here. I hope this performance results in Jigsaw getting more EVOLVE bookings, because he’s a very good pro-wrestler (but that’s been known for many years). I thought it was interesting that Zack Sabre Jr. got the win with his Soccer Kick, as I can’t recall him ever winning a match with that move (if he has, feel free to correct me, but for me, nothing comes to mind, at the moment). ****

Matt Riddle def. Roderick Strong

Strong recently left his longtime home promotion ROH, and rumors have been swirling as to where exactly he’ll end up. On this show, however, he’s got a tough task ahead of him as he’s taking on Matt Riddle, who is easily the runaway contender for 2016 Rookie of the Year in all of pro-wrestling (if he’s eligible for that WON Award, which I think he is). I was really hoping that Strong would get some bookings in EVOLVE before his next destination, and the one match I wanted to see was Strong vs. Riddle. Thankfully, we got that on this show, and it was pretty great! There were a few minor rough spots, but other than that, I enjoyed this match a lot. Strong is always great, and Riddle continues to have a fantastic 2016. If you’re not onboard the Matt Riddle train, I don’t know what you’re waiting for, because he’s just awesome in everything he does. It still amazes me that he’s gotten so good in such a short amount of time. The last few minutes of this match were especially great, and Riddle would end up scoring a huge victory over Strong after forcing him to tap out to the “Bro-mission”. ****

Riddle cuts a promo with the EVOLVE Title after the match. He says that “Trashy Tim” (Riddle deserves a medal for coming up with that nickname for Thatcher) continues to dodge his challenges every time he calls him out. He notes that Thatcher said he would hurt anyone who touched his title belt, and then proceeds to rub the title on his junk. Thatcher comes out, and the two face off, but Stokely Hathaway quickly interrupts them. He questions Riddle, asking him why he wasn’t out there earlier with the rest of Catch Point to defend EVOLVE from Drew Galloway & Chuck Taylor, before then asking that Riddle polish up the EVOLVE Title, in preparation for handing it over to TJP the next night at EVOLVE 65. Hathaway makes the challenge for Riddle vs. TJP for EVOLVE 69, adding that when TJP wins the title, he’ll defend it against Riddle in that match. He reminds Riddle what Thatcher said he was going to do to whoever touched the title. Riddle responds by tossing the belt at Stokely Hathaway, leaving him in the ring at the mercy of Tim Thatcher, who then goes to break one of Hathaway’s fingers (that fiend!). Marty Scurll comes out for the Evolve Title match, and has a brief interaction with Riddle, who Scurll is facing at EVOLVE 65.

Another interesting segment that brought up more intriguing storyline elements, with regards to the Pro-WWE vs. Anti-WWE feud. Matt Riddle has been noticeably absent from the feud that the rest of his Catch Point stablemates have been involved in. It just adds another thread to overall story, which will be explored a little more later on. Hopefully the upcoming No Holds Barred Match between Riddle & Thatcher is much better than their previous two encounters. As far as Stokely Hathaway goes, he’s been a fascinating player in this story as well, as he’s obviously aligned with TJP as The Dream Team, but he’s really not part of Catch Point (and you get the feeling that, at the end of the day, Stokely is more concerned with his own interests than those of Catch Point).

EVOLVE Title – Timothy Thatcher (c) def. Marty Scurll

We get a quick Scurll promo before the match. He says that he didn’t come all of the way from England to bicker. He’s come to capture the EVOLVE Title. I’ve seen that some people were a little down on this match. Now it wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other matches on the card, but this was still a good match. Personally, I’d say it was on-par with the match these two had back at EVOLVE 59 in Dallas. The action was solid, and the fans seemed to be into at some points, and not as much at other points. This was a very pro-Scurll crowd throughout the match. There were points where Thatcher got boos, but it wasn’t too loud. That changed at the finish, when the crowd really thought Scurll was going to win after locking in the Chicken Wing, but Thatcher found out of it (to a chorus of boos), and ended up choking out Scurll in a very anti-climactic fashion. I’ve also seen complaints that this match was a little too long, but I think that’s hard to say considering that the two preceding matches, as well as the Main Event, went longer (maybe some thought it felt long?).

This brings me to some thoughts I’d like to make on Thatcher in general, as he’s now been EVOLVE Champion for just over a year (he actually past that milestone last weekend, but I don’t recall hearing anyone mentioning it). Despite all of his recent criticisms (which I’ll address in a second), I think it’s easy to forget that the first half of his title reign (basically the second half of 2015) featured some legitimately great title defenses, against the likes of Chris Hero, Zack Sabre Jr., Biff Busick, Johnny Gargano, and the rematch with Drew Galloway. The second half of this title reign has been marred with disappointing matches against Caleb Konley & Sami Callihan, and two matches against Matt Riddle which were both hampered by odd booking decisions. His title matches since ‘Mania Weekend in Dallas have gotten better (his recent match with Chris Hero at EVOLVE 62 was great and his match with Tracy Williams at EVOLVE 63 was pretty good as well), but it’s been clear that fans are starting to turn against Thatcher, both online and (slowly by surely) in the live crowds. I think a big reason for that is that Thatcher, in the last few months, has simply been surpassed, both in terms of the quality of his matches and general interest level (I’ve seen others make this point, and I tend to concur). Catch Point as a whole has become a much more interesting stable, Chris Hero is having arguably the best run of his entire career right now, EVOLVE’s involvement with NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic has gotten people really excited, and this Drew Galloway/Anti-WWE storyline has really caught fire in recent months. I don’t think Thatcher has necessarily gotten worse as a wrestler (though, again, some of his title matches earlier in the year weren’t good), it’s just that he’s become less interesting, while everyone and everything around him in the promotion has become better or more interesting in general right now. ***1/4

TJP attacks Thatcher after the match (clearly retaliation for what Thatcher did to Stokely Hathaway), and he needs to be pulled of by his Catch Point stablemates. Thatcher then has a head-to-head with Gulak, before TJP knocks Thatcher down with a hard kick. Matt Riddle, meanwhile, watches on from the turnbuckle. After Thatcher is taken away (again, by a face paint-less Devastation Corporation), Drew Galloway & Chuck Taylor make their way out for the Main Event. Galloway says that Matt Riddle belongs with his group, and not Catch Point, adding he’s better than this, and that doesn’t need the machine behind him.

Once again, we see the intrigue with Matt Riddle. As mentioned earlier, he hasn’t been helping Catch Point very much in this feud with Galloway (he’s a free spirit, after all), but Galloway now openly courting Riddle does introduce questions as to whether Riddle’s loyalty is indeed to Catch Point, or if he’s able to be swayed by Galloway’s words. This segment also did a good job of building up Timothy Thatcher’s upcoming title matches with TJP and Drew Gulak. Speaking of which, it seems like there’s been a growing sentiment regarding Thatcher losing the Evolve Title (as I saw a number of people thinking that both Chris Hero & Marty Scurll had strong chances to take the title), but the thing is, if you’ve paid attention to the storyline, is certainly seems to me like Thatcher is running through everyone. Now I think the best chances for Thatcher to lose the Evolve Title are on those two shows in August when he defends against Matt Riddle & Drew Gulak, but honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Thatcher beats them as well.

EVOLVE Tag Team Titles – Catch Point (Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams) (c) vs. Drew Galloway & Chuck Taylor

This is the third defense of the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles for Gulak & Williams. I thought this was a pretty good Main Event, but it wasn’t the best match on the show. Some people seemed to like this a little more than I did, and while this match was (as I said) pretty good, I wouldn’t call it great (but maybe that’s just me). The action was pretty solid, and I enjoyed the interactions between Gulak & Taylor (as those two have a LONG history). Of course, the big shock here was that Galloway & Taylor actually won the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles. It was certainly a shocking moment, but it does keep this Anti-WWE storyline (spearheaded by Galloway) going, so I’ve really got no complaints. At the same time, I just find Drew Galloway & Chuck Taylor team to be such an odd pairing, but if they can make it work, then more power to them. ***1/2

Galloway takes the microphone and says I told you so. He says this crusade is about the hypocrisy in EVOLVE, adding that they broke EVOLVE’s spirit tonight, and tomorrow at EVOLVE 65, he’ll personally rip out it’s heart when he beats Johnny Gargano. Galloway says they’ll be out in full force on the August shows, as himself, Chuck Taylor, EC3, Chris Hero, & Cody Rhodes will all be there. He says that you (referring to Evolve and the fans) don’t know better, and that we know what’s best for you. Taylor then takes the mic, and finally explains himself. He says he’s been in Evolve since Day One, back when Drew Gulak was still just a guy in CZW. Taylor then says that when “Uncle Paul” calls, everyone gets a contract, or an opportunity to shine, but not him. He claims Chuck Taylor was now dead, and all of the “morons” in the crowd killed him. Taylor says that Galloway will break the back of the golden boy, Johnny Gargano, at EVOLVE 65.

I think it’s interesting that, for Chuck Taylor, it took him turning on Evolve for him to finally win his first title in the overall WWNLive Universe. I’m very excited to hear that this Anti-WWE group, led by Galloway, will be out in full force in August. This storyline really has me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Final Thoughts:

It’s been said multiple times at this point, by many different people, but it’s a point that’s still worth repeating. From a match-quality perspective, EVOLVE has become one of the most consistent promotions in all of wrestling over the last two years. It’s very rare to see a bad Evolve show these days. As a whole, I’d say Evolve 64 was a really good show, with no bad matches to speak of. Not only did you have three awesome matches in the form of Alexander/Gargano, Jigsaw/Sabre, & Riddle/Strong, but you had the continuation of easily one of the most intriguing storylines in wrestling, as Chuck Taylor (or “Dustin”) made an impactful return on the side of Drew Galloway. The team of Galloway & Taylor winning the Evolve Tag Team Titles seemingly out of nowhere marks another interesting turn in this whole story. Definitely seek this one out.