EVOLVE 72
November 12, 2016
La Boom – Woodside, Queens, New York

Watch: FloSlam

Matt Riddle def. EVOLVE Tag Team Champion DUSTIN

It was interesting to see that—after being in the main event during the last set of EVOLVE shows—Riddle was placed in the opener here. On the other hand, kicking off your first show on FloSlam with your next “ace” isn’t the worst idea in the world. As for the match itself, it was a perfect opener. There was some solid action throughout, and the crowd was really behind Matt Riddle. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it was a good way to start the show. This was far from Riddle’s best outing in 2016, but I think that just speaks to how many outstanding matches he’s had in EVOLVE. A match that I would say was relatively good is on the low end of Matt Riddle matches this year. Riddle would, in the end, get the win over DUSTIN with a “Bro-2-Sleep” followed by a fisherman buster. It’s nice to see that Riddle is establishing some other moves as potential finishers. Diversity in that department is never a bad thing. ***1/4

Fred Yehi def. Jason Kincaid

This second match on the card features another member of Catch Point in action, as Fred Yehi went up against the unorthodox Jason Kincaid. I was excited to see these two square off, given their unique styles. While I think the match could have been a bit better if it was given a little more time (it only went about six minutes or so), I still enjoyed it. There was some nice back and forth action, with both guys getting to showcase what makes them unique. Yehi would score the victory after making Kincaid tap out to the koji clutch. As I’ve mentioned in previous EVOLVE reviews, I’m really happy that Yehi is finally racking up victories after a start to the year that was probably a little slower than it needed to be. This marks his fourth singles victory in the last five EVOLVE events, and again, that’s really awesome to see. ***¼

Up next, we were originally scheduled to get Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin in a singles match, but before the match could begin, Dickinson (who comes out with Jaka) interrupts. He talks about how it bothers him that Allin got a contract with EVOLVE after six months, while he’s been making appearances for EVOLVE since the first show in 2010, and has yet to get a contract. Dickinson also mentions how he destroyed Allin the first time they met (in a Four-Way Freestyle back at EVOLVE 64), but then he’s interrupted by Tony Nese. He puts over Darby Allin, saying that Allin beat a RAW superstar to earn his spot in EVOLVE, before questioning who Dickinson ever beat. Jaka suggests a tag team match, and then joins Dickinson in jumping Allin & Nese to get the match started.

Chris Dickinson & Jaka def. Tony Nese & Darby Allin

Here we had another match that was relatively short (going around seven minutes or so), but still proved to be entertaining. I would say that all four guys looked good here, but unfortunately, Darby Allin had a terrible botch towards the end of the match. He essentially tried a springboard dive to the floor, but failed on multiple attempts, but eventually, he just kind of threw himself over the top rope and flopped to the outside. It was a very Sabu-esque botch, and I’m sure it’s a moment that Darby Allin would like to forget. Obviously, that took away from the match a little bit, but the finish also hurt the match, in my eyes. Nese looked to have the match won, but Allin tag himself in. This led to a bit of a disagreement between the two, which caused a distracted Nese to get taken out by Dickinson & Jaka, who got the victory over Allin. I’m happy to see that Chris Dickinson & Jaka, who are known as Team Pazuzu in places like Beyond Wrestling and other Northeast independents, got the win here. If people like Drew Gulak and Tony Nese are moving up to WWE, that creates more spots that need to be filled, and I believe that Chris Dickinson & Jaka are solid choices to potentially fill those spots. Again, the match was fine, but unfortunately, the last parts of the match definitely took away from it. **3/4

“All Ego” Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) def. Zack Sabre Jr.

This match came about after Ethan Page & The Gatekeepers attacked Zack Sabre Jr. at EVOLVE 71. There were some good exchanges between the two, and they told a good story in the match, with Page continuously going after the arm that he, along with The Gatekeepers, targeted back at EVOLVE 71. The biggest takeaway from this match was that Ethan Page pinned Zack Sabre Jr. clean in the middle of the ring, with absolutely no help from The Gatekeepers at any point. I mentioned in my reviews of the EVOLVE shows back in October that the booking in Ethan Page’s match against Timothy Thatcher for the EVOLVE Title really damaged Page after the huge moment he had at the end of EVOLVE 69. His victory over Sami Callihan, and the subsequent attack on Zack Sabre Jr., at EVOLVE 71 did a good job in rebuilding Page, but this moment was a massive boost for Page. Not only has he bounced back, but I honestly believe that this was an even bigger moment for Ethan Page than what he did to Johnny Gargano at EVOLVE 69. It’s legitimized him as a serious threat, because if he can beat a guy like Zack Sabre Jr. all by himself, then he can beat anyone on the EVOLVE roster. ***1/2

Tracy Williams def. Chris Hero

These two had a fantastic match in this very same building back in March at EVOLVE 56. Even though this match didn’t quite reach the heights of their previous encounter, it was still fantastic. It’s insane to think that Hero is able to put on this kind of performance after having physical matches with Tomohiro Ishii & Katsuyori Shibata in RevPro just a day or two days prior. This match just adds to Hero’s amazing resume this year, and is definitely a standout contender for Most Outstanding in 2016. Tracy Williams deserves a lot of credit as well. I’ve said this before, but he’s a guy who’s having a sneaky great year, but is getting overshadowed (just in EVOLVE alone) by the likes of Matt Riddle & Chris Hero. Don’t sleep on Tracy Williams. As for the match itself, it featured a lot of physically and intensity (as you would expect), with a lot of great nearfalls towards the end. Tracy Williams eventually got the victory after making Chris Hero tap out. For me, this was easily the best match of the show. ****1/4

EVOLVE Title – Squared Circle of Survival
Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) def. Drew Gulak

There was a lot of speculation going into EVOLVE 72, specifically surround the Squared Circle of Survival Match, and what exactly that was supposed to mean. As we soon found out, it was basically the No Ropes Match that we’ve seen two times previously in Dragon Gate USA (YAMATO vs. BxB Hulk in late 2011, and Johnny Gargano vs. Jon Davis in early 2013, both of which were for the DGUSA Open The Freedom Gate Title). I mentioned in my preview of the weekend that if this was an Anything Goes/No Holds Barred type of match, then it had the chance to be great.

In the end, this match delivered, just managing to top their outing from EVOLVE 71.

Now there were a number of times in the first half of the match where things slowed down, and that did take me out of the match a little bit, but the brutality in the second half, particularly once the mat and the padding were pulled off to expose the wooden boards underneath the ring, sucked me right back in.

While I didn’t see the BxB Hulk/YAMATO match from 2011, I did see the Johnny Gargano/Jon Davis match from 2013, so that was my only real reference point going into this final encounter between Gulak & Thatcher. The reason why this match connected so much with me was because it was so incredibly different from the version of the match we saw in 2013. The No Ropes Match between Johnny Gargano & Jon Davis was much more of a hardcore brawl with various weapons, like chairs, ladders, and the ring steps getting involved. This match didn’t rely so much on foreign objects, but was equally as brutal, if not moreso. Both men hit several suplexes and back drop drivers onto the exposed boards, and even removed some of those boards to utilize submissions involving the large gap in the ring that had been created. We’ve seen people tearing up the mat and exposing the wooden boards before, but I’ve never seen it done to this extent, and I’ve never seen it used in such a manner. It was very different from anything you’ll see all year, in any wrestling promotion, and a lot of credit has to go to Gulak & Thatcher. No only were they innovative in exploring a different dimension of this kind of match, but they were really able to convey the hatred they had for each other.

There were a number of moments where it looked like Gulak had the match won (and the crowd seemed like they were going to explode if he had won), but in the end, Thatcher got the win and retained his EVOLVE Title. After an abysmal title match at EVOLVE 67, these two were able to bounce back with their super entertaining Street Fight at EVOLVE 71, and here at EVOLVE 72 in a No Ropes Match. I’m honestly surprised that more promotions in North America haven’t explored, or at least tried out, the No Ropes Match. It’s a truly unique match that is different from anything else we see in wrestling, as Gulak & Thatcher both proved here. ****

After the match, the rest of Catch Point came out to check on their leader. Despite the crowd chanting “We still love you!”, Gulak said that, because he failed, he felt like Catch Point, as a whole, was a failure. He went to leave, and crossed paths with Drew Galloway & DUSTIN, who made their way out to the ring. Galloway agreed with what Gulak had just said, before he moved his attention to Matt Riddle, saying that he was making it his mission to exterminate Riddle. In response to this angry and passionate promo from Galloway, Riddle gleefully responded by just telling Galloway to chill out and relax. This enraged Galloway, who threw a fit in the ring as the show came to close. Matt Riddle’s response was hilarious. In a way, it reminded me of how Shinsuke Nakamura would playfully toy with the super serious Samoa Joe before their big match in Brooklyn last August. Riddle just oozes charisma, and the fact that he was so easily able to get under Galloway’s skin was so entertaining to watch.

Final Thoughts:

From a match quality perspective, EVOLVE 72 was a good show and a solid first outing on FloSlam. It wasn’t one of their best shows of the year, but from top to bottom, it was pretty entertaining. Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams was easily the match of the night, while Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Gulak in the Squared Circle of Survival delivered a great, and violent, conclusion to their feud. Most of the undercard was good, with Ethan Page’s shocking victory over Zack Sabre Jr. being the standout. What made this show so enjoyable was that it was a relatively short show by EVOLVE standards, clocking in at right around two hours. That made it just a breeze to watch. As good as this show was, however, it was unfortunately overshadowed by some comments that Joey Styles made during the live broadcast (which were edited off the VOD). I would hope that what he said doesn’t take away from some of the great wrestling we saw on this show. It really sucks when these performers put a lot of effort into their matches, only to have the attention taken off of them because someone made some controversial and unnecessary remarks made by a commentator. As a whole, Joey Styles was pretty annoying on commentary throughout this entire show. In certain cases, I felt that he detracted from some of the matches, so in a way, his firing may turn out to be a real blessing for EVOLVE.