WWN & EVOLVE Wrestling
August 19, 2016
The Many Layers of EVOLVE in 2016
Gabe Sapolsky has done a tremendous job this year of booking EVOLVE into being the most intriguing American independent company coupled with a solid output of wrestling. Sapolsky has been publicly open about his desire to book wrestling at the best of his abilities, but having felt burnt out at times. Regardless of what’s happened in his past, Sapolsky is perhaps on his hottest streak as a booker since the glory days of Ring of Honor.
EVOLVE in 2016 has a mutli-layered story running throughout the entire promotion. Every player has a goal they are trying to achieve and there is enough level of doubt of the outcomes in the major storylines in the minds of the fans that it has made every event can’t-miss. If you are on the fence at all about ordering EVOLVE 66 on iPPV, then allow me to peel back the layers of this delicious pro wrestling onion that is EVOLVE.
As of today, Thatcher has held the EVOLVE championship for 404 days. The longest reign in the championship’s history. As the company’s ACE, Thatcher has been the target of Catch Point faction lead by Drew Gulak. Thatcher is the lone wolf in EVOLVE as he has no allies and has been relentlessly attacked by the members of Catch Point because they don’t feel he fits the mold of their style of wrestling despite being the flag bearer of it for the duration of his run in EVOLVE. Thatcher and Gulak first clashed at EVOLVE 31 in a monumental match that turned the tide for what style defined EVOLVE. As EVOLVE started to lose the world class high flyers of yesteryear, guys like Ricochet, Rich Swann, and AR Fox all were taking less dates with EVOLVE as they were finding the next stage of their careers. When Thatcher and Gulak met in the middle of the ring at that game changing EVOLVE 31 event, it changed the philosophy of the company.
EVOLVE went from the American indie with the best high flying to the American indie with the best technical wrestling. Thatcher and Gulak’s careers have been linked together ever since. Earlier this year, at WrestleMania weekend in Dallas, Thatcher reached his breaking point. Catch Point had attacked him for the last time. After a second controversial match with Matt Riddle, Thatcher left with his title in tow in one arm and his other arm hanging nearly dead off his body. Riddle damaged Thatcher and achieved his one career objective. To always break his opponent. Thatcher hasn’t been the same since.
The cherry on top was later in the weekend at Mercury Rising when Catch Point surrounded Thatcher in the ring after yet another successful title defense. Gulak made it clear to Thatcher that his disdain for him started from seeds of jealousy. Gulak was sick of Thatcher being accredited for the recent evolution in the company. Gulak was sick of being compared to Thatcher. Gulak was sick of not receiving a shot at Thatcher’s title despite holding two victories to zero losses in matches against each other.
Thatcher, however, had other plans. In a shocking and unprecedented move, Thatcher dropped the EVOLVE championship down in the middle of the ring and walked away. This event has been dubbed the “Thatcher Crisis.” A name fitting for what Thatcher was going through at the time, as he was in crisis mode. Thatcher was broken, both physically and mentally. In the midst of a dominating championship run, the champion was seemingly doubting himself. The words of Gulak, and the words of Catch Point started seeping into the mind of Thatcher, leaving the champion with no other choice. Thatcher has since declared that leaving the championship behind was a symbol of his redemption. The redemption that Thatcher would achieve after defeating every man that had disrespected the champion. By doing this, Thatcher removed the target from his back and placed it firmly on the backs of the four key members of Catch Point: TJP, Tracy Williams, Matt Riddle, and Drew Gulak.
Since the inception of the Thatcher Crisis, TJP and Tracy Williams have fallen victim to Thatcher’s newfound focus. This weekend Thatcher gets his chance to wrestle Matt Riddle and Drew Gulak in which case, Thatcher finally has the opportunity to redeem himself.
The former UFC fighter, Riddle, made his EVOLVE debut less than a year ago at EVOLVE 49. Riddle stands as the true Wild Card of the EVOLVE roster. Not even his own teammates in Catch Point know quite where Riddle stands or what his true intentions are. Riddle has become a dangerous threat to the EVOLVE roster with major victories over Gulak, Tracy Williams, Zack Sabre Jr., and Chris Hero in spite of his lack of experience. Are Gulak and Catch Point keeping him around to keep the biggest threat in the company within their grasp? How long before Riddle realizes the success he can achieve on his own? This is a point of contention that Drew Galloway has entered as a way to divide and conquer Catch Point by offering Riddle a spot with his faction. Galloway has played to Riddle’s whims by reminding Riddle that he has been screwed out of two championship matches with Thatcher and Catch Point hasn’t done anything to help him achieve his goal of being champion.
In Riddle’s first encounter with Thatcher, at EVOLVE 56, Riddle took a loss against after a controversial low blow and stiff headbutt from Thatcher leading to a pinfall. Riddle met Thatcher in a rematch at EVOLVE 58, WrestleMania Weekend, and the match ended in a No Contest. Riddle had Thatcher in an armbar and despite Thatcher reaching the ropes with his foot, Riddle didn’t break the hold. Instead, Riddle wrenched the hold in deeper thus severely injuring the arm of Thatcher forcing the referee to call the match. Riddle celebrated with the championship thinking was the rightful victor due to a referee stoppage, but since Thatcher’s foot was on the rope the referee had no other choice other than calling the match to its conclusion.
On Friday, Riddle meets Thatcher in a No Holds Barred match, where all bets are off. Riddle has the opportunity to win the EVOLVE championship within his first year on the roster. If Riddle wins, will he still remain a member of Catch Point? How will Catch Point leader, Gulak, react to one of his stablemates holding the championship that has alluded him? With the No Holds Barred stipulation will we see Galloway come to Riddle’s aide in a way to further guide Riddle to his faction?
Gulak is founder of the Catch Point philosophy and the group of the same name. Gulak takes pride in the fact that he is responsible for the style evolution within the company, but despite the fact that Thatcher is also complimented as such. Winning the EVOLVE championship has always been Gulak’s main goal in the company. Despite being a mainstay on the EVOLVE roster since EVOLVE 11, Gulak has only contended for the EVOLVE Championship one time, and that was a losing effort to the inaugural champion, AR Fox at DGUSA: REVOLT! 2014.
SummerSlam 2016 Weekend: What You Need to Know (https://t.co/S0BzCOepMZ) by Taylor C. Mitchell
— Voices of Wrestling (@voiceswrestling) August 16, 2016
Gulak feels it is an injustice that he has not been given an opportunity to challenge Thatcher for his title despite earning victories over the champion at EVOLVE 31 and EVOLVE 39. Gulak feels like he is responsible for physically and mentally breaking Thatcher. When Thatcher dropped the EVOLVE Championship in the middle of the ring signaling his need for redemption, Catch Point took possession of the title. The EVOLVE Championship has been passed around each member of Catch Point until Gulak finally took the championship declaring that he would be the one to award the title to whomever could defeat Thatcher. Will Gulak be awarding the EVOLVE Championship to Riddle on Friday night? Or will Gulak walk into his match with Thatcher on Saturday with the title as he finally gets his shot at officially winning it?
On Friday night, Gulak has the opportunity to wrestle Tony Nese in a Cruiserweight Classic Showcase match. Gulak is lined up for a second round match in WWE’s CWC tournament against EVOLVE regular, Zack Sabre Jr., but first will wrestle Nese who was recently eliminated from the tournament and is seeking to prove he still deserves a spot on WWE’s roster.
Drew Galloway plus Sports Entertainers
Drew Galloway (formerly known as Drew McIntyre) was released by WWE in June 2014. Two months later Galloway wrestled in his first match after his release against Chris Hero and won the EVOLVE Championship. Galloway went on to become a true player on the independent scene leading to being an inaugural EVOLVE tag team champion with WWN Icon, Johnny Gargano. This odd pairing proved to be a formidable team until they lost their championships to Catch Point standouts, Gulak and Williams. Galloway then turned heel by attacking the pinnacle babyface of EVOLVE, Gargano. Galloway has since gone on a rampage throughout EVOLVE and started collecting members for his cause. Ethan Carter III and DUSTIN (formerly known as Chuck Taylor) have joined Galloway with Chris Hero being declared a member as well. Galloway is already stating that his former tag team partner, Cody Rhodes (The two held the WWE Tag Team Championships together in 2010), will be joining the group as well. The group’s mission is seemingly to declare war on EVOLVE causes chaos in its wake as they rebel from their WWE past.
Galloway acts as the overseer of EVOLVE’s future as he masterminds the downfall of the company from afar. Galloway is creating an army as Thatcher feuds with Catch Point to possibly an pointless end. Pointless if Galloway’s group achieves their goal. Galloway won’t be wrestling at EVOLVE 66, but his tag team partner and fellow EVOLVE tag team champion, DUSTIN will be wrestling Ethan Page.
Page debuted for EVOLVE 39 at the behest of Johnny Gargano. Gargano was doing a favor for the friend that he had wrestled with and rode the roads with throughout other independent companies. Page was looking to take the opportunity of making an impact in EVOLVE and immediately turned on Gargano. Page knew Gargano was the icon of the company and if he could take him down then his stock would immediately rise.
This eventually lead to Page main eventing at EVOLVE 49, just ten EVOLVE events after his debut. Page wrestled Gargano in an I Quit match that night in a losing effort. Page’s stock plummeted after this defeat and he hasn’t main evented an EVOLVE show since. In fact, Page has wrestled exclusively in the first half of the cards on every EVOLVE show since. Page finally came to the realization that the easy path he took to the main event wasn’t doing him any favors in the long run. In an effort to turn a corner Page has been on the path of regaining the trust of his former friend, Gargano. Page has gone to great lengths to prove to Gargano that he is a changed man by even taking the brunt of Galloway’s attacks on Gargano, shielding his former friend from a barrage of steel chair shots. Gargano has still yet to forgive Page, but on Friday night Page will take on the latest man to turn on Gargano, DUSTIN. Will Page be able to finally earn Gargano’s trust with a victory over his newest enemy?
Gargano is the icon of EVOLVE and has been a key player on WWN roster since its inception. Gargano has also been the unfortunate recipient of multiple friends turning their backs on him. First it was Page, then Galloway, and most recently it was DUSTIN. Page has vowed to earn Gargano’s trust before Gargano officially ascends up the professional wrestling ladder with the start of his WWE contract. Page has also made it known that he wants to take Gargano’s spot as the flag bearer of the EVOLVE brand upon his exit from the company. Gargano won’t be wrestling for EVOLVE this weekend as he is teaming with Tomasso Ciampa at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II to challenge The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championship. Gargano’s last dates for EVOLVE are in September, but will be make an appearance this weekend? Will be endorse Page a second time as the future flag bearer of EVOLVE? What impact can Gargano make upon his exit from the company?
This past May, Rhodes announced that he has asked for his release from WWE. Rhodes has wrestled exclusively within the WWE system for the entirety of his career. This hasn’t kept Rhodes from having his finger on the pulse of prominent wrestling companies outside of WWE. Sapolsky recently took to Facebook to tell a story of being backstage at a WWE event five years when Rhodes first introduced himself to Sapolsky. Rhodes told Sapolsky that he should be proud, because all of his former roster members are achieving success on the biggest stage.
Having had his finger on that pulse, Rhodes has left the staleness of his character in WWE to make a large impact on the outside wrestling world. One week after asking for his release from WWE, Rhodes posted a list of goals on Twitter. This list included potential opponents for Rhodes that would challenge his skills as a professional wrestler. Zack Sabre Jr. was not on that list, but he certainly meets Rhodes desire to wrestle the absolute best that the industry has to offer. ZSJ and Rhodes will meet in the middle of the ring at EVOLVE 66 in Rhodes first ever endeavor outside of the WWE system. Will Rhodes be able to quickly adapt to the independent wrestling world or will he bomb like some of his fellow WWE castoffs have in the past?
After 8/19 pic.twitter.com/txeAKw9SSN
— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) May 28, 2016
EVOLVE 66 Predictions
Those are the layers of the “State of Flux” within EVOLVE. Now, let’s get to the card and predictions for the all important beginning to our action packed SummerSlam weekend.
EVOLVE Championship – No Holds Barred Match
Timothy Thatcher © vs. Matt Riddle
The multi-layered storyline within EVOLVE has peaked my interest and I want to see more chaos brew within the company. The chalk result would be Thatcher going over and defending his title against Gulak the following night. I am leaving the chalk at home as I am taking Riddle in this one. I would love to see the story play out with Gulak having to reluctantly present Riddle with the EVOLVE championship only to wrestle Thatcher the following night in essentially a number one contender’s match. Prediction: Matt Riddle
Cody Rhodes vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Rhodes is making debut on the independent scene, but will eat humble pie with a loss to the best technical wrestler in the world, ZSJ. Until Rhodes becomes a permanent member of the EVOLVE roster, he shouldn’t be defeating the top stars of the company. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Match
Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese
Gulak will be challenging Thatcher for the EVOLVE Championship the following night at EVOLVE 67 (If Thatcher retains the title vs. Riddle). Gulak will need all the momentum possible going into that match. Gulak needs the win and Nese doesn’t. Prediction: Drew Gulak
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight Match
TJ Perkins vs. Cedric Alexander
Alexander lit the CWC on fire with his incredible performances in the opening two rounds of the tournament. After his loss to Ibushi the crowd began an unprecedented chant of “Please sign Cedric! Please sign Cedric!” Triple H promptly greeted Alexander in front of the audience seemingly “signing Cedric..” With that known, I am going with TJP here for the win. Catch Point has been gaining momentum and Alexander doesn’t need the win. Prediction: TJ Perkins
DUSTIN vs. Ethan Page
Page is looking for Gargano’s acceptance and needs to defeat DUSTIN to help his cause. With Page potentially being the “savior” of EVOLVE inside of the on-going war of CATCH POINT vs. Galloway’s stable, I see Page losing this match. Page will then go on a longtime path to be the new icon of EVOLVE. Prediction: DUSTIN
Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi) vs. Jigsaw & Peter Kaasa
This will be a fun match and I am happy to see Jigsaw return to a prominent role within the independent scene. Of all the independents standouts in the last decade I have always felt that Jigsaw has been criminally underrated. Fortunately for us, Jigsaw is teaming with newly re-discovered muscle bound high flyer, Peter Kaasa in what will surely heat the crowd up for the rest of the evening. To go along with the rest of my narrative, Catch Point wins this match to further their momentum. Prediction: Catch Point