February 25, 2017
La Boom – Woodside, Queens, New York
ACH def. Jason Kincaid
After losing his debut match in EVOLVE against Matt Riddle, ACH had managed to turn his luck around, with two straight singles victories over Fred Yehi & Tracy Williams. A successful outing against Jason Kincaid would earn ACH a shot at the EVOLVE Title on March 30th in Orlando, Florida. In the end, ACH did manage to pick up the victory here after hitting Kincaid with a brainbuster. This was a pretty solid opening contest. I feel like these two could definitely put on a better match, and in that regard, I was slightly disappointed by this. In hindsight, however, it was perfect for it’s spot on the card, as it got the crowd excited for the rest of the show. The important thing to remember coming out of this opener is that ACH managed to secure himself a shot at the EVOLVE Title after his third straight win. ***1/4
Chris Dickinson def. Anthony Henry, Austin Theory, & EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi
This was a match that featured an interesting mix of competitors, as you had two members of Catch Point along with two guys who are looking to make an impact in EVOLVE. When the dust settled, Chris Dickinson (who came out to the ring wearing a devil mask) got the win in one of the most entertaining matches of the night. What made this match so enjoyable to watch is that it was pretty much all-action right from the opening bell. There was never really a dull moment, and four guys had moments to shine. Something else that added to the match is that they managed to tell a bunch of smaller stories throughout. Firstly, you had Anthony Henry & Austin Theory looking to prove themselves to both the EVOLVE audience and the members of Catch Point that were in this match (in particular, I thought the former had a very strong outing).
Then, you had Anthony Henry & Fred Yehi squaring off a number of times, which was a brief continuation of the thirty-minute time limit draw they had on the first Style Battle show back in January. Finally, you had the finish, as Dickinson pinned Austin Theory while Yehi was trying to get Henry to tap out to the Koji Clutch. That was actually a clever finish, as Dickinson basically seized the opportunity to get the win (a key part of the Catch Point philosophy) at the expense of his fellow stablemate. It was also a bit funny, as Dickinson essentially used the go-to strategy for winning four-way matches on WWE video games (getting the win while the other two guys are preoccupied with fighting each other). Regardless, this was a big win for Dickinson. ***1/2
It should also be noticed that, during the Four-Way Freestyle, Priscilla Kelly made her way out to ringside to observe the action. She also came out the night before at EVOLVE 78 to observe a match between Austin Theory & Darby Allin. I’m not sure exactly where that is going, but I’m presuming that Priscilla Kelly will end up be the manager for someone down the line. Right now, I would guess Austin Theory, since he seemed to be the common denominator in both cases this weekend.
Jeff Cobb def. Jaka
An underreported aspect of EVOLVE’s recent influx of talent is that they’ve quietly built up a pretty sizable (no pun intended) Hoss Division. They’ve already got guys like Jaka, Jeff Cobb, and Keith Lee that fit the mold, plus Drew Galloway, Chris Dickinson, and Matt Riddle (the current PROGRESS Atlas Champion) to a lesser extent. Throw in Michael Elgin & Donovan Dijak, and you have a lot of potential for exciting matchups involving some pretty big dudes. This particular encounter was a perfect example of a hoss fight, as these two beat the crap out of each other for a good nine minutes. There were a number of cool spots throughout, including Cobb holding Jaka up for a stalling superplex from the second rope that nearly had Jaka’s feet touch the ceiling of the venue. It was a compact match that featured some great action and kept the fans engaged from start to finish, and you can’t ask for much more than that. Cobb ultimately got the win after hitting an awesome-looking Tour Of The Islands on Jaka. ***3/4
Keith Lee def. EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams
The night before at EVOLVE 78, Keith Lee picked up a huge victory over Zack Sabre Jr. in only his second match with the promotion. He would end up going 2-0 on the weekend as he scored an emphatic victory here over one-half of the EVOLVE Tag Team Champions. This was the one match on the card that I was a little unsure of going in, but it turned out to be another strong bout on this card. While there was definitely a fair amount of hard-hitting action here, what made this battle so appealing was that they managed to tell a good story. Keith Lee would dominate, but then Williams mounted various comebacks in an attempt to keep the big man down for the count. He gave it everything he had, but he just couldn’t match Keith Lee’s power, and in the end, Lee put him away with his finisher, Ground Zero. Despite his initial loss to Chris Hero at EVOLVE 76, Keith Lee has looked like a beast in his three appearances thus far, and it looks like he’ll continue to be a huge threat in 2017. ***3/4
“All Ego” Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) def. Darby Allin
It’s amazing to think that this whole feud started with a nothing squash match during WrestleMania Weekend in Dallas last year. You never would’ve guessed back then that we would’ve gotten to this point, but they’ve slowly built it up to the point where it’s one of the most anticipated matches of the entire weekend.
In a very odd scene, Darby Allin actually wore a cutout of Ethan Page’s face during his entrance. Now move-for-move, this was by no means a spectacular match, but as a whole package, it was fantastic. The storytelling was great, as both men excel in their respective roles. Page dished out a ton of punishment to Allin, including tossing him from the stage at ringside into one of the ringposts. At point, Page even went as far as to handcuff Darby Allin. That didn’t deter the fearless underdog, as Allin managed to put up a good fight against Page & The Gatekeepers even while he was handcuffed, which got a huge reaction from the crowd. Eventually, Page finally managed to put Allin down for the count. Again, it wasn’t exactly a normal match, but considering the story, it was perfect. ***¼
After the match, Ethan Page cut a promo encouraging people to cheer for the “biggest loser in EVOLVE”. He said he’s beaten Allin three times now, and noted that the only time Allin had the upper hand on him was when he had Zack Sabre Jr. to back him up. Page called Allin “useless”, and said that it was now time to take this trash out of his company. The Gatekeepers then bring out a body bag, and stuff Allin in it. Page then says that he doesn’t know why Allin hates him so much, adding that it’s because of him that people know about Darby Allin at all. He says that Allin should just be grateful that he knows his name, and tells Allin that he could consider his career to be dead. The body bag is then zipped up, and The Gatekeepers carry Allin out of the venue. Page demands that everyone pay their respects and say goodbye to the first dead career of “All Ego”. He then turns his attention to the EVOLVE Title, and proclaims that he will be the next champion. I’m honestly not sure what to make of this whole thing, with respect to Darby Allin. It comes off (to me, at least) like a segment that would be used to write someone out of the promotion, but I doubt that he’s going anywhere, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does going forward. As far as Ethan Page is concerned, it’s nice to see him back in the title picture, but hopefully his next title match won’t be filled with shenanigans like his last one was.
Matt Riddle def. Drew Galloway
This was a match that was supposed to happen a couple of times towards the end of last year, but it kept getting put off when Galloway got sidelined with an injury. After months of anticipation, I was really pulling for this bout to deliver, and fortunately, it did. There was a ton of great back and forth action throughout, as both men tried to put each other away again and again, but to no avail. Not only was the action awesome, but the intensity and hatred that these two showed for one another added so much, and made that much more enjoyable. The finish was very cool, as Riddle counted a tombstone piledriver attempt by Galloway into a Bromission attempt. He wasn’t able to fully lock it in, so Riddle just pounded Galloway with repeated shots to the body until the referee called a stop to it, and awarded the victory to Riddle. Even though Riddle won the match, Galloway still looked good in defeat because (as pointed out by Lenny Leonard), he never actually tapped out or verbally gave up. The referee simply determined that Galloway couldn’t defend himself, and called for the bell. It does leave the door open for a rematch, but as far as this encounter is concerned, it lived up to expectations. ****
Drew Galloway immediately went after Matt Riddle following the match, hitting him with a low blow. He attempted a piledriver onto a chair, but was run of Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi. This led to Larry Dallas and his new personal security guard, “The Big C” Earl Cooter (yes, that guy is back) coming out. Dallas stirred the pot again between Catch Point by confirming that Matt Riddle, Tracy Williams, & Fred Yehi would be joining Drew Galloway in the Six-Person Battle of the Champions Elimination Match at Mercury Rising in Orlando to crown the first-ever WWNLive Champion. As Riddle tried to leave following this announcement, Yehi called him out, saying he was selfish, and challenged him to a match, which Riddle seemed to accept. This segment seemed to serve as a further set up for the battle to crown a WWNLive Champion, while also setting up a future bout between Matt Riddle & Fred Yehi. It should be noted that Riddle & Yehi haven’t met in a singles match since January of 2016 during the Style Battle Tournament, so it’s awesome that we’re getting a bout that’s totally fresh.
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Timothy Thatcher (c)
It’s easy to forget that these two actually have quite the history with each other. Zack Sabre Jr.’s “re-debut” in EVOLVE back in 2014 (he made a one-off appearance in EVOLVE back in 2011) was against Timothy Thatcher at EVOLVE 34.
While Zack Sabre Jr. won that night, Thatcher evened up the series when he successfully defended the EVOLVE Title against the “technical wizard” back at EVOLVE 47. Those previous encounters were both incredible matches, and this one was no different. While the action in this one was very good throughout, as both men traded submissions and strikes, what made this particular encounter so special was the atmosphere. The crowd in Queens was firmly in Zack Sabre Jr.’s camp for the entire contest, and were firmly booing Timothy Thatcher throughout, even going as far as to chant “Thatcher’s Garbage” and “You Still Suck”. Speaking of Thatcher, I think he deserves as much attention as Zack Sabre Jr. does here. He’s been incredibly controversial, particularly in the last year, but honestly, this was one of the best Timothy Thatcher performances of this entire title run that wasn’t a gimmick match. A lot of it had to do with how he carried himself. It seemed like he finally embraced the hatred he’s been getting over the last year, and went full heel. He acted like this smug prick from the moment he came through the curtain, and he kept this up throughout the match with some incredible facial expressions. Thatcher finally took on the role of the arrogant heel who’s had a dominant reign as champion, and it worked out incredibly well here against Zack Sabre Jr. who, like I said earlier, had the fans pulling for him all night.
This was the one of the most energetic crowds we’ve seen for a Timothy Thatcher title defense in quite some time, and again, that added so much to this encounter. Both men were very aggressive, and seemingly had the match won at numerous points, but eventually, Zack Sabre Jr. finally gets the submission victory. The crowd exploded as the reign of Timothy Thatcher (which I’m sure some would call a reign of terror) was over. Personally, I believe the Chris Hero/Zack Sabre Jr. bout from EVOLVE 77 was slightly better than this, but as a whole package, this was pretty awesome. ****½
Zack Sabre Jr.’s jumped into the crowd as soon as the match end. Stokely Hathaway was distraught, and Thatcher had to pry the EVOLVE Title from his grasp. It looked like he was going to hand the title to Zack Sabre Jr., but the new champion was then jumped by Ethan Page. Thatcher just dropped the title and left as Page continued his assault. Fortunately, ACH was able to run Page off. ACH then congratulated Zack Sabre Jr. on his big title win, but reminded him that he’s got a title shot coming up in Orlando at EVOLVE 80, and proclaims that he’ll be the next champion. Zack Sabre Jr. then does a short speech where he says this earth, and pro-wrestling, are for everyone. The locker room empties out, and the new EVOLVE Champion shakes hands with everyone. However, before he goes through the curtain, he runs into Keith Lee, who defeated him the night before at EVOLVE 78. They shook hands, but had an intense staredown before Zack Sabre Jr. went through the curtain. The show then came to a close with an incredible shot of Keith Lee smirking into the camera. This final segment was fantastic, in that it immediately set up Zack Sabre Jr.’s first three challengers (ACH, Ethan Page, & Keith Lee) right out of the gate. That’s just great booking.
EVOLVE 79 was a great show from top to bottom. Every single match on the undercard was good (at the very least), while in some case, they were very good. All the guys involved up and down the card looked solid, and they set up a number of different things heading into WrestleMania Weekend. The final two matches on this card really delivered in a big way, and the Zack Sabre Jr. title win was an incredible moment.