May 20, 2017
Summit Park District
Keith Lee def. Donovan Dijak
It was a little surprising to see this kick off the show, but if you’re making you’re debut in Chicago, this is certainly a big way (both figuratively and literally) to get things started.
These two had another incredible match, but it wasn’t quite as awesome as their first encounter at EVOLVE 81 during WrestleMania Weekend. There was plenty of exciting action throughout, as both men busted out a number of insane moves (as we all knew they would).
It still amazes me that Dijak & Lee can pull off some of the things they do. From crazy dives and springboard moves to Canadian Destroyers, those two can do almost anything. They are unlike anything we’ve seen on the independents in recent memory, and it’s magic whenever they go up against each other. However, even though this was incredibly exciting to watch, their ambition would end up detracting from this one a little bit. There were a few noticeable rough spots, the biggest of which was a botched attempt at a springboard hurricanrana by Dijak.
Of course, I appreciate the effort, but I feel as though they were trying a little too hard to impress, if that makes sense. Keith Lee winning was a nice surprise. I was expecting a Dijak victory to set up a potential rubber, but given the stipulation placed on Keith Lee for this weekend (he would receive a title shot if he won both of his matches), the result make sense. Aside from the minor hiccups I already went over, this was a fantastic opener. ****1/4
Fred Yehi def. Jason Kincaid
This was a rematch from EVOLVE 72. As a whole, this was a fine undercard bout, though to be honest, I enjoyed their previous encounter more. While this had some entertaining action, it went longer than it really needed to. There were different points where I was actively bored, and with a match involved these two, that shouldn’t happen. Fortunately, they did enough to keep me invested, but the length of the match definitely hurt it. The reason why their first encounter worked so well was it was relatively short and they wrestled at a quick pace. This match lacked a sense of urgency at times, and that contributed to this not being as good as their first bout. Still, with all of that being said, both guys still did a solid job here. Fred Yehi would eventually pick up the win when he got Jason Kincaid to submit to the Koji Clutch. This was by no means a bad match (it was still relatively good as a whole), but I wasn’t expecting this to be the worst match on the card. ***
Lio Rush def. Austin Theory
I mentioned this briefly in my portion of the preview for this weekend of the EVOLVE events, but it still amazes me that these guys are this good at their respective ages. Both of these men were looking to start off their weekend on a high note after suffering losses at the previous EVOLVE weekend, and they ended up putting together a really good match. It was an entertaining sprint that featured action from start to finish. Lio Rush was great (as he always is), and managed to pick up the victory as he looked ahead to his second match with Zack Sabre Jr. for the EVOLVE Title.
Meanwhile, even though he lost, this was another impressive outing from Austin Theory. He’s been very solid as of late, and you know he’s only going to get better. This was a ton of fun to watch, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch down the line. ***1/2
After the match, Priscilla Kelly came out to the ring wearing a pink dress and told Austin Theory that he belongs with her. It’s nice to see that we actually got some development with this storyline.
Tracy Williams (with Catch Point) def. Jeff Cobb
Out of the seven matches on the card, this was the one that I was the least excited about, though I’m happy to say that it turned out to be pretty good. There was some good action throughout, and at just under ten minutes, it didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The biggest surprise here was the result, as Williams managed to get the victory over Cobb. That might seem backwards at first glance, since Cobb was getting a shot at the WWN Title the next night at EVOLVE 85, but it made sense if you looked at the structure of the match and the finish itself, which was actually very well executed. Cobb manhandled Williams a lot in this one, but in the end, the leader of Catch Point was able to reverse Cobb’s Tour of the Islands finisher into a cradle for the win. Cobb looked strong here, but the loss didn’t really hurt him, as Williams just barely got away with the victory. The way Williams won also fit right in with the Catch Point philosophy, as he seized an opportunity when it presented itself. This was far from the best contest on the show, but it was good, and way it played out made sense in hindsight. ***1/4
After the match concluded, Stokely Hathaway took the mic. He said that Catch Point was the greatest faction in pro-wrestling, before turning his attention to Chicago itself. Hathaway claimed that Chicago was “decent”, but it just couldn’t even compare to New York City, and added that Catch Point was made up of New York’s Finest. This got a large “Fuck New York” chant from the fans in attendance. Hathaway then said that he was going to be keeping his eyes on Keith Lee & Matt Riddle (after what happened at EVOLVE 83), before Chris Dickinson called out their opponents tonight for their match.
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c) def. Isaias Velazquez & Matt Knicks
Isaias Velazquez & Matt Knicks are representing Freelance Wrestling (a local Chicago indie) here, and they got a massive response from the crowd when they came out. This was my first time seeing either guy, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. When the dust settled, I came away very impressed. Knicks & Velasquez worked well together, and had a number of moments to shine. Of course, the crowd being excited to see them (either because they knew them from Freelance, or because of Catch Point’s anti-Chicago promo beforehand), helped a lot, as their energy definitely added to this one. Meanwhile, Chris Dickinson & Jaka had another good outing. They never have the best match on any given EVOLVE card, but Dickinson & Jaka have proven to be an incredible addition to the roster. Whether they’re in tag team action, or competing in singles competition, you can always count on them to deliver quality performances every time out. While the winner of this one was never really in doubt, both teams put forth good efforts here, and it resulted in an entertaining tag team encounter. ***1/4
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) def. “All Ego” Ethan Page
These two have been feuding for several months, but surprisingly, Page has had the upper hand on Sabre with regards to singles matches. He defeated Sabre decisively at EVOLVE 72, and again at EVOLVE 76, though only through a technicality, as he won by DQ after the referee reversed his original decision when Sabre refused to release his submission hold.
I might be in the minority here, because not only did I think this was great, but it was easily the best match these two have had together. This was a lot of fun to watch from start to finish. Sabre was awesome, which isn’t much of a shock, but Ethan Page did a good job here as well.
In my eyes, this title bout really played to Page’s strengths. It didn’t go overly long, and the first part of the match featured a fair amount of brawling on the outside. What also helped was that Ethan Page appeared to really take this title bout seriously. He left The Gatekeepers at home, and we didn’t see much goofing around. Page is someone that’s known for being the funny guy, but he can be serious when he the situation calls for it. What made all of that come off even better was the more aggressive style that Zack Sabre Jr. has been utilizing over the past several months or so. Those elements combined made for a great title match, though the most curious thing to come out of it was the result.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ethan Page pretty decisively, as he put him away with four straight penalty kicks. I didn’t mind the finish that much (though I know some disliked it), though it leaves Page in a precarious situation. You would think the feud would be over after this one, but given what transpired the next night, that might not be the case. It’ll be interesting to follow what Page does from here, but for Zack Sabre Jr., this was another successful title defense in what has been a fantastic reign thus far. ****
After the match, we got an appearance from the injured Darby Allin (his left arm in a sling after his brutal Last Man Standing Match with Ethan Page at EVOLVE 82). Allin said that his war with Page was over, and noted that he’s no longer focused on his longtime rival.
Now, Allin is focused on the EVOLVE Title, and said his goal was to accomplish the one thing that Page couldn’t do: defeat Zack Sabre Jr. for the EVOLVE Title. It’s certainly an interesting direction for Darby Allin.
Obviously a potential title match won’t happen until Allin fully recovers, but I find the idea of Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Darby Allin to be incredibly fascinating. I was wondering what Allin might be doing once his feud with Ethan Page was over, and this gave us a look at what he could be in for once he returns.
Matt Riddle (c) def. Kyle O’Reilly
O’Reilly earned this title shot after going 2-0 in his return to EVOLVE back in April. This was one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire weekend, and these two certainly didn’t disappoint, as they had an incredible main event! It was different from everything else on the card, and it was exciting to watch from start to finish. There were a ton of great exchanges that involved everything from grappling, to submissions, to hard-hitting strikes, suplexes, and slams. This match played perfectly into the strengths of both men, and in general, it had a big fight atmosphere that just made it even better. Riddle would eventually emerge victorious after getting O’Reilly to tap out to the Bromission. If you enjoy both guys, and the style of pro-wrestling they utilize, then you’re going to love this main event. It was easily the best contest on the entire card, and it delivered in spades. ****1/2
EVOLVE’s debut in the greater Chicago area went incredibly well from an in-ring standpoint. While the crowd wasn’t as lively as the crowd the next night in Michigan, EVOLVE 84 had the stronger of the two cards. You had two awesome matches (Matt Riddle vs. Kyle O’Reilly & Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee), and even a third, depending on what you thought of Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ethan Page. The undercard was mostly entertaining, with Lio Rush vs. Austin Theory being the standout. As a whole, EVOLVE 84 was a very strong show that is definitely worth checking out.