This weekend, EVOLVE makes its return to Queens, New York for EVOLVE 72 and Joppa, Maryland for EVOLVE 73. It’s an especially huge weekend for the promotion, as it’s their first set of shows since they signed on to be part of FloSports and their wrestling subsidiary, FloSlam. Many interesting things are on the docket, including title matches, grudge matches, and a very special return!

The Squared Circle of Survival

At EVOLVE 71, Drew Gulak defeated Timothy Thatcher in a street fight that went all over The Orpheum, and even onto the streets of Ybor City, Florida. It was easily the best match those two have had with each other, which is incredibly ironic since that kind of match is the complete opposite of the kind of style that these two promote and represent.

Gulak earned a definitive victory in that non-title encounter, which (as I speculated in my review) has led to him getting a rematch for the EVOLVE Title at EVOLVE 72. This time, however, they’re facing off in a match that is being called “The Squared Circle of Survival”. What this is supposed to mean hasn’t exactly been explained. The only clue we’ve been given was a quote from Gulak, saying that “it takes the Catch Point philosophy and strips it down to its most brutal core.” If this ends up being some kind of anything goes match (which I hope it does), then it has the chance to be great. Regardless of the outcome, both men are going on to EVOLVE 73, where the winner of this match will be defending the EVOLVE Title against Tony Nese, while the loser will be facing off against Zack Sabre Jr.  I doubt that Thatcher will lose the EVOLVE Title right after joining up with Stokely Hathaway. If anything, it makes me think Thatcher will probably be holding the EVOLVE Title going into 2017. I do think that Zack Sabre Jr. will be winning his match, regardless of who his opponent ends up being, as he continues on his quest to secure another title shot.

Tommy End’s Last Hurrah?

Drew Galloway was originally scheduled to be on this weekend’s cards, but unfortunately, the injury he suffered many weeks ago is still lingering, and as a result, he’s not quite ready to return to the ring.

To make up for this loss, EVOLVE talked with NXT, and struck a deal that has allowed Tommy End to make a brief return to EVOLVE! He’ll be taking on Tony Nese at EVOLVE 72, and Tracy Williams at EVOLVE 73. Unfortunately, since Tommy End is signed with WWE, these matches will be for the live crowd only. Obviously this is a great treat for the fans who are attending these shows and I’m hopeful these matches see the light of day. While the situation is unique, it isn’t unprecedented as Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian wrestled The Bravado Brothers in a match back in 2014 that was for the live crowd only (Daniels & Kazarian were still contracted to TNA).

The War Continues

At the last set of shows in Florida, Catch Point finally appeared to be unified with Matt Riddle reaffirmed his allegiance to the group. While Drew Gulak is busy with Timothy Thatcher, the remaining members of Catch Point have a number of important matches scattered throughout both cards.

On EVOLVE 72, Matt Riddle will be taking on DUSTIN, who is (of course) one-half of the EVOLVE Tag Team Champions. Originally, Riddle was going to face Drew Galloway, but that had to be changed when Galloway wasn’t medically cleared. This marks the second time that the Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle encounter had to be pushed back, as it was originally scheduled for one of the shows in Florida last month. In a way, I think this second postponement of that match might be the proverbial “silver lining”, as the more we have to wait see the match, the more they can build it up, which will lead to more exciting among fans for when it eventually does happen (and I have no doubt that it’ll be a great match). As for this match, I’ll be very interesting to see how those two mesh, stylistically, but I’m expecting a Riddle victory.

Meanwhile, on that same show, Tracy Williams will be going up against Chris Hero. This isn’t the first time that these two have met in La Boom, as Hero defeated Williams in a fantastic match back at EVOLVE 56. I’m sure this match will be equally fantastic, though Hero will be just coming off of tough matches in the UK for RevPro with Tomohiro Ishii & Katsuyori Shibata, so I’m not sure if he’ll be at full strength. I’m going with Tracy Williams to get the win here. I feel like it’s been awhile since he got a big victory, but then again, you can never count out Chris Hero.

Then, Fred Yehi takes on Jason Kincaid in a match that I’m actually really excited for. These two have very unique styles and I can’t wait to see how they match up. Hopefully Yehi gets the win here (bouncing back from his loss to Zack Sabre Jr. at EVOLVE 71), and continues pile up more victories.

On EVOLVE 73, Matt Riddle will be facing off with Chris Hero in what is essentially a tiebreaker match. Riddle won their first encounter (which was great) at EVOLVE 57, while Hero won their rematch at EVOLVE 71 (which was one of the best EVOLVE matches this year). I have no doubt that these two will have another incredible match here. I actually was a little surprised that they went to the third match so quickly after EVOLVE 71. I might have saved that third match for (maybe) San Antonio or Orlando next year (a minor gripe on my part), but again, the match they just had was awesome, and at the end day, I’m excited to see this third match.

Since Matt Riddle as EVOLVE Champion is probably the ultimate goal down the line, I’m going with Riddle here to get the deciding victory in this series, but again, never count out Chris Hero. Fred Yehi, meanwhile, will be challenging for the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles, though as of now, neither he nor DUSTIN have announced partners. Due to Drew Galloway’s injury, DUSTIN is being allowed to invoke the “Freebird Rule” by bringing in another partner to defend the titles. I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s someone we’ve seen on the side of Galloway’s cause before (like Ethan Carter III or AR Fox), but we could get someone completely new.

As for Yehi, he could go with Tracy Williams, but he’s already got a match with Tommy End for the live crowd only. He seems like the easy choice for Yehi’s partner, since Williams wouldn’t be on the show otherwise, but I’m sure. If Williams was still going to be his partner, why make it a mystery? Could we see a new member of Catch Point? As for the result, I doubt DUSTIN will lose the titles without Galloway, but depending on who his partner will end up being, putting a title on Fred Yehi would be a big step up for him. It’s honestly a tossup and I really can’t give a true prediction since half the participants are unknown.

All Ego vs. The Technical Wizard

Drew Galloway isn’t the only member of the EVOLVE roster leading a crusade. After failing to win the EVOLVE Title at EVOLVE 70, Ethan Page declared that he and his Gatekeepers would create chaos in EVOLVE, and he made a big statement at EVOLVE 71 by going after Zack Sabre Jr. They’re now facing off at EVOLVE 72. This would be the first time these two have faced each other, as they had a match in AIW earlier this year, but I’m very intrigued to see how it plays out with EVOLVE as the setting. Page hasn’t interacted with many of the grapplers or technicians on roster since joining EVOLVE. As I mentioned in my review of EVOLVE 70, I actually think it’s really cool that they’ve managed to keep a guy like Ethan Page completely separate from other aspects of EVOLVE for so long.

While they have been running a storyline building up Zack Sabre Jr. for a title shot, I feel like Ethan Page needs this win more, especially after what transpired at EVOLVE 70. Sure, a win over Sami Callihan at EVOLVE 71 helped, but a win here would be a big moment for Ethan Page, and I think his storyline is going to lose steam if he falls short in another big match.

The FloSlam Era has begun

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, these will be the first EVOLVE shows on FloSlam. I’m honestly a little nervous about this weekend. It is an entirely new streaming service, and if you’ve been following independent wrestling in the last six or seven years, you know that iPPV can be tricky (that might be the understatement of the decade). Whenever I watch an iPPV live, I always have the fear of something going wrong and things not working. I guess all of the iPPV issues I’ve had to deal with in this past (with both EVOLVE and ROH) have left in a state of perpetual pessimism towards live iPPVs. That being said, I’m hopeful that everything for EVOLVE and FloSlam will go off without a hitch this weekend (*knock on wood*). I know some have been questioning whether people will buy into this network at the $20 a month price point, but honestly, I think it’s a great deal. Buying two EVOLVE events on WWNLive costs about $30 each weekend they run shows (even more during WrestleMania Weekend), so $20 is actually a great savings. Plus, with regards to the price (and this is something that I don’t think enough people are talking about), what makes it an easy yes for me is the fact that EVOLVE is basically running shows every month.

This deal would be a lot harder to sell on me if EVOLVE wasn’t running as many shows. Now, they’re doing more shows than ever before, and if they continue to run at least two shows a month, I think the price point is totally reasonable. Plus, I think the recent signing of PWX and (kind of, sort of?) Beyond Wrestling make this FloSlam network that much more valuable. The more companies they add, the more justifiable the $20 price tag becomes.

That’s it for my overarching preview of EVOLVE 72 & EVOLVE 73! The only other major note to make is that NXT General William Regal will be in attendance at EVOLVE 73 for autographs and will be a guest at another WWNLive Seminar. It was also announced that he’s “on assignment” and will be appearing on the live event itself (for the live crowd only, of course), so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of that. I’ll leave you with a rundown of the cards below so you can take a full look at what’s going on this weekend.

November 12, 2016
La Boom
Woodside, Queens, New York
6:30 PM

  • EVOLVE Title – The Squared Circle Of Survival – Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Drew Gulak
  • “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
  • EVOLVE Tag Team Champion DUSTIN (with Drew Galloway) vs. Matt Riddle
  • Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams
  • Fred Yehi vs. Jason Kincaid
  • Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin
  • Tommy End vs. Tony Nese (*Live Crowd Only*)

November 13, 2016
Joppa, Maryland
The MCW Arena
7:00 PM

  • EVOLVE Title – Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) or Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese
  • EVOLVE Tag Team Titles – DUSTIN & TBA (with Drew Galloway) vs. Fred Yehi & TBA
  • Chris Hero vs. Matt Riddle
  • Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) or Drew Gulak vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
  • “All Ego” Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) vs. Chris Dickinson
  • Tommy End vs. Tracy Williams (*Live Crowd Only*)
    • Darby Allin & Jason Kincaid are also signed to appear.