December 10, 2016
Woodside, Queens, New York
Drew Gulak def. Jaka
When I initially looked at this card on paper, this wasn’t exactly a match that was high on my priority list, but these two blew away my expectations and produced a pretty exciting opening match.
I’m not sure what it was, but Drew Gulak & Jaka worked so well together here, and their efforts certainly showed. While it was a little long for an opening match, their was a lot of good action throughout. The second-half of the match was especially hard-hitting. Even though Gulak ultimately won the match, Jaka looked very strong in defeat. He was able to hold his own against an EVOLVE veteran, plus he didn’t truly lose to Gulak, since he never actually tapped out to Gulak’s dragon sleeper (the match ended on a referee stoppage).
I’ve seen some of Jaka’s work in other places (mainly Beyond Wrestling & CHIKARA), and he’s been impressive on a number of occasions. With so many people on their roster leaving for WWE in the last two years, EVOLVE is in a seemingly continuous need for fresh faces, and I think Jaka would be a very good addition to the roster. ***¾
After the match, Larry Dallas (yes, you read that right) make his return, and is apparently taking on the role of a heel interviewer. He asks Gulak about the fate of Catch Point, and he reiterated that Catch Point was a failure, and says that he wants to focus on a new goal: The WWN Championship.
This brings out Tracy Williams, who says that Catch Point has always been bigger than Gulak, and that he doesn’t have the right to say when it dies. Dallas interrupts, and starts to antagonize Williams by saying that he’s always been in Gulak’s shadow. Williams talked about how he & Gulak won and lost the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles as equals, and despite losing the titles, he regrouped, teamed with Fred Yehi and recaptured those titles. Gulak then just pats Williams on the cheek and leaves. This was a good continuation of the Gulak/Williams story, and did a fine job building up to their match the next night. I actually really enjoy the fact that, after months of Gulak telling his fellow Catch Point members to step up, he wants to end the group after his own failures, while his teammates are simultaneously enjoying great success. It’s a nice little added element that makes the story that much better.
DUSTIN def. Chris Dickinson
Much like the opener, I wasn’t very excited going into this particular encounter, but to the credit of DUSTIN & Chris Dickinson, they managed to put on a good match. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but for the second match on the card, it was very solid. Dickinson, much like his tag team partner Jaka, is fighting for a spot on the Evolve roster. I know that Dickinson has been a divisive figure on the independents over the last few years, but like I said earlier, EVOLVE needs to fill the voids that are being left by talents who are departing the promotion for WWE, and Dickinson is someone who can easily step into one of those spots. However, despite Dickinson’s best efforts in this match, he suffered defeat after DUSTIN hit him with a nasty-looking Awful Waffle. ***1/4
Brian Cage def. Darby Allin
The story behind this match is that Brian Cage was brought in by Ethan Page to deal with Darby Allin. This was one of the most intriguing matches on the entire card, just based on the sheer size difference, and I was very curious to see how this would turn out. In the end, the match turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I thought it was just going to be a complete squash of Darby Allin, with a few spots of hope here and there, but it was much more competitive that I thought it would be. Allin went right after Cage before the bell even rang, and actually got a fair amount of offense in.
Unfortunately for Allin, Cage eventually took over, and just started beating the crap out of him. The match ended on a count out when Allin failed to get back in the ring after Cage launched him over the barricade and onto the stage. While it seemed like a weird finish when it happened, I actually think it helps Allin a little bit, as he took this immense beating, but didn’t really lose the match. For what this was, it was an entertaining spectacle. ***
After the match ended, Ethan Page came out with only one of his Gatekeepers (Blaster McMassive). He gave Cage an envelope, presumably cash for his services, and then starts to talk about Cody. Page mentions the recent video featured in New Japan that signaled Cody’s arrival as the newest member of The Bullet Club, and brings up his “American Nightmare” nickname, saying that Cody’s independent run has been a nightmare. He then vows to beat this “waste of money”, and calls Cody out for their match.
Cody def. “All Ego” Ethan Page
The newest member of The Bullet Club was already dressed for the role, as had a Bullet Club T-Shirt and was wearing black & white gear. This was a very strange match, to say the least. I honestly enjoyed the opening few minutes, which featured some funny moments, but from there, the match was pretty average until it fell apart towards the end. The referee gets hit three consecutive times, and this leads to a giant mess. Brian Cage ran out and attacks Cody, but then Darby Allin comes out to apparently save Cody. Allin actually get a “too sweet” from Cody, who then immediately tosses him out. Page then appeared to have the match won, but the referee was still down.
This led to what was (basically) the exact same finish from the Cody vs. Jay Lethal match from ROH Final Battle. Cody hit a low blow when the referee was still down, hit the Cross Rhodes, and got the pin. Again, this was just a mess. The crowed was very mixed for Cody throughout most of the match, which just made things even stranger, since he was matched up against one of the top heels in EVOLVE. Who exactly were we supposed to cheer for? I know Darby Allin has issues with Ethan Page & Brian Cage, but why would he try to help Cody? The match had a chance of being ok if it had ended in a clear manner, but all of the stuff that happened at the end was just bad. **
Jeff Cobb def. Matt Riddle
A brief interaction between these two in a multi-man tag team match during PWG’s annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament has led to a flurry of promotions trying to book this match. AAW were the first to do it, and now EVOLVE was able to present the match. I was really looking forward to this coming in, but honestly, this match was a little underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, the match was still very good, but it just wasn’t this great match that I was expecting. Maybe it was the fact the match clocked in at just under ten minutes? I’m not quite sure. Still, there was some really solid action throughout this match, and we did get a shocking result, as Jeff Cobb defeated Matt Riddle pretty decisively. It was mentioned that Cobb would be making more EVOLVE appearances in 2017, so I guess this result makes sense with that in mind. Cobb certainly made his presence known right out of the gate with an emphatic victory. ***1/2
After the match, Stokely Hathaway comes out (wearing a very interesting sweater, along with the EVOLVE Title) and offers Jeff Cobb a spot in The Dream Team based on his victory over Matt Riddle. Hathaway hands him a contract, but Cobb says the only contract he wants to sign is one for a shot at the EVOLVE Title, currently held by the injured Timothy Thatcher. So it seems like we’re going to be getting Timothy Thatcher vs. Jeff Cobb for the EVOLVE Title at some point. I’m sure they’ve wrestled each other at some point on the California independents, but this encounter will be on a much bigger scale (relatively speaking). I’m actually pretty excited for that match, just to see how it turns out. Cobb’s style fits perfectly in EVOLVE, and it’ll be interesting to see how that style meshes with Thatcher’s style.
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles
Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi) def. Ricochet & Peter Kaasa
Peter Kaasa has grown a mullet, and with his singlet, looks like a young Scott Steiner. While the team of Ricochet & Peter Kaasa is very random, it’s a very interesting one, as you have the most successful foreigner in the history of Dragon Gate teaming up with a guy who is currently in the middle of a run with Dragon Gate. I was really looking forward to seeing how this one would turn out, considering these two teams are made up of wrestlers with completely different styles, and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. This was a fantastic match! It was easily the best match on the show, in my eyes. Even though it was a little too long for my liking (I think a few minutes could’ve been shaved off), they managed to keep the crowd engaged for the entire match. There was some great back & forth action throughout, and all four guys looked awesome. In particular, the interactions between Ricochet and Fred Yehi were fantastic. It felt like those two had instant chemistry, to the point where I want to see a singles match between the two. Eventually, Catch Point did manage to successfully retain their titles. Again, this match was incredible, and is definitely worth checking out. ****1/4
Dick Togo def. Chris Hero
The only other Dick Togo match I’ve even seen was the Michinoku Pro vs. bWo Japan Six-Man Tag from ECW Barely Legal, so my knowledge of him was incredibly limited coming into this match. I didn’t know what to expect, but I shouldn’t have been that concerned, considering that Chris Hero, who has had an incredible 2016, was involved.
While the tag team match that preceded it was judge a smidge better, this was still an excellent match. The match was filled with really good action, and I had a ton of fun watching it. Hero was, of course, fantastic (that’s a formality at this point), but a lot of credit has to go to Dick Togo as well. For his age, he did a great job, and showed that he can still go. This was an awesome main event, and the fact that I really haven’t seen much of Dick Togo made it that much more special. ****1/4
I should note that there was an issue with the live stream during this match, which wasn’t fixed on the VOD version of the show. Fortunately, the match by itself was uploaded separately by FloSlam, so you can see it in it’s entirety.
After the match was over, Chris Hero cut a promo putting over Dick Togo, specifically mentioning that all of the people in the venue, and everyone watching on iPPV, who were seeing him for the first time just saw one the best to step foot in the ring. Hero is then interrupted by DUSTIN, who comes out with a chair, and tells Chris Hero, “fuck your 2016”. He wants to fight Hero right now, but Hero just slaps him and leaves.
While this wasn’t the best offering from EVOLVE in 2016, it was still a very good show. The two main events definitely delivered, and are well worth checking out. The rest of the matches were a bit of a mixed bag. Drew Gulak vs. Jaka was a strong opening match that I thoroughly enjoyed, DUSTIN vs. Chris Dickinson was pretty solid, Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle was good (but underwhelming), and Brian Cage vs. Darby Allin was an entertaining spectacle of a match. The only real low point of the show was Cody vs. Ethan Page, which was an average match that later turned into a horrible one by a bunch of unnecessary shenanigans. Aside from that one match, the show as a whole was pretty enjoyable.