EVOLVE weekends always come as a set. What happens on the first show of the weekend is usually resolved at the second. With that in mind, EVOLVE 81 will be the midpoint of the Mania’ weekend story. By night’s end, the fans will know just how fragile the Catchpoint alliance is, whether Zack Sabre Jr. can be the dominate ace of the company, and perhaps who the next big thing in EVOLVE will be as 2017 continues.
March 31, 2017
Orlando Events Center
Timothy Thatcher vs. ACH
I’m sure my reaction to the announcement of this match is the same many EVOLVE fans had, huh? ACH and Timothy Thatcher in the same ring feels like something better seen on the Twilight Zone or Joey Janela’s Spring Break. From a style standpoint I have no clue how either of these two match up. Thatcher proved for most of last year that he won’t budge from his Tuesday night BJJ class style. ACH is willing to work on his partner’s level, that scares me. I want to see ACH fly and not roll around on the mat. Eh, but what does I want really matter? ACH will win this one with a Buster Call out of nowhere. Prediction: ACH
Drew Galloway vs. Lio Rush
On the indies fans are treated to the absolute best side of Drew Galloway: a giant, pissed off Scotsman bent on turning the arena into a warzone. That is the Galloway I want to see when he takes on former ROH Top Prospect Lio Rush. The size disparity between the two is vast, and that means one thing: the former EVOLVE Champion is going to launch Rush like a lawn dirt. Rush is gifted enough in the air to pull off some jaw-dropping counters. Plus he seems like he has much to prove after frustrating run in ROH. Just for the heck of it, I think Rush pulls the upset with the assistance of Matt Riddle. Prediction: Lio Rush
Tracy Williams, Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid, Sammy Guevara & Austin Theory
The purpose of the only tag team encounter on the card is two fold: make the new guys look good and further the strained relations in Catch Point. The setup is just too perfect for that not to happen. Kincaid, Guevara, and Theory have put in enough quality appearances to get the upset. Chris Dickinson is enough of a hot head to do something dumb to cost his team the match because of a miscommunication. If anything else happens but what I theorized about above I will be mighty surprised. Prediction: Kincaid, Guevara & Theory
Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak
I’m tempted to write up this contest as a battle between guys who ROH stupidly let walk away, but that narrative is an injustice to both men. Instead, I want to focus on the fact that this will be a battle between two of the breakout independent stars of 2016. Both guys should be motivated to work and possibly steal the show. There are just so many different bouts they can have too. A straight up hoss battle or even a game of one upmanship. Either way I expect both to cement themselves as true stars and not just names to watch. Lee wins just because he is booked going forward. Prediction: Keith Lee
Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle
Out of all the matches EVOLVE will put forth this weekend, the clash between stablemates Fred Yehi and Matt Riddle has the best story. In many ways it is the tale of two vastly different men trying to exist within the same camp. Yehi had to scratch and claw his way onto the roster. He went through hell to earn Drew Gulak’s respect and an invitation to join Catch Point. Riddle earned everything he got as well, just with more hype. He joined Catch Point to get one over on Timothy Thatcher and his interest in the group seems to ebb and flow. Yehi is the hardest of hardcore soldiers. He is at ringside for his brothers in arms big fights and always has their backs. Yehi said it himself, he is tired of Riddle’s selfishness and one can’t blame him either. The crowd will be in Riddle’s back pocket, that much is known, but will the Bro be ready for the angriest, shortest, and most pissed off challenge of his career? We shall all have to wait and watch to find out. Prediction: N/A
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Michael Elgin
For whatever reason, Zack Sabre Jr.’s technical wizardry is often null and void against his burlier opponents. It took ZSJ almost a full year to finally tap out Chris Hero. Keith Lee flattened him like a pancake the night before he won the EVOLVE Championship. Now he faces the boulder of professional wrestling, “Big Mike” Elgin. From a critical standpoint, I have full faith this will be an excellent main event. However, my interest is more invested in the narrative. ZSJ’s road to the title was very human. He had to overcome several obstacles to claim his throne, but has several failures outstanding. Will he be able to rectify his inability to best larger men on the first try, or will the champion’s past continue to haunt him? Personally, I think the better story is Elgin convincingly beating the champion, but with him locked up in Japan most of the year that will not be happening. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.