May 21, 2017
Monaghan Knights Of Columbus Hall
Dominic Garrini def. Alex Daniels
The show kicked off with a surprise bonus match featuring two Johnny Gargano trainees out of AIW. This was my first time seeing Dominic Garrini (who appears to have a MMA background, based on his attire and in-ring style), though I’ve seen Alex Daniels before. He’s changed a lot since the last time I saw him. He’s got this weird obsessions with Ben Affleck? Anyway, the match itself wasn’t anything special. It was relatively short, going about three minutes or so, and it served as decent introduction for both guys. Garrini would emerge victorious via referee stoppage after a series of elbow strikes. **1/4
After the match, Catch Point came down to the ring. Tracy Williams, in a cocky manner, gives Garrini some props on his victory, but Hathaway interjects. He said that Catch Point are the real stars, and tells Garrini to leave. Hathaway then turns his attention to Keith Lee & Matt Riddle, noting that he meant everything he said at EVOLVE 84 (During this speech, some fan loudly shouted at Hathaway, calling him a “midget Charles Barkley”). He proclaims that nobody is too big for an ass whooping, but then Jason Kincaid & Austin Theory interject themselves into the proceedings. Kincaid issued an apology, saying that in the past few months, his heart really hasn’t in the “Catch Point vs. High-Flyers” feud, because he never considered himself a high-flyer. However, he’s had a change of heart recently, and will now carry that banner with honor. Kincaid then challenged Catch Point to put the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles on the line, and they accept, on the condition that they get bigger paychecks at the end of the night. I was little disappointed by this. I would’ve much rather preferred if this remained a non-title match. The potential result could’ve been more wide open that way, which meant that Kincaid & Theory had a stronger chance to get a (much needed) victory to set up a future title match.
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka with Stokely Hathaway & Tracy Williams) (c) def. Jason Kincaid & Austin Theory
Alas, even though the result of this one was never in question since the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles were at stake, it was still good, for the most part. It went a little longer than it needed to be (that seems to be a trend in most of these “Catch Point vs. High-Flyers” matches), but at no point did it lose my attention. There was solid back & forth action throughout, and both teams looked impressive. Chris Dickinson & Jaka continued their run of quality performances (I don’t think they’ve had a bad tag team match since signing with EVOLVE), while Jason Kincaid & Austin Theory seemed to show more cohesions as a team here. The high-flyers put in a good showing, but as I already mentioned, the result was never in doubt, and Catch Point got the win after Dickinson & Jaka hit Kincaid with their tag team finisher, Death Trap. ***1/2
Allysin Kay vs. Priscilla Kelly
Lenny Leonard noted on commentary that this was the first women’s match in EVOLVE since EVOLVE 5 back in September of 2010. These two put on a fine SHINE showcase. The most surprising aspect was the result, as Allysin Kay got the win, though in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Plus, Allysin Kay is from the Detroit area, so there’s that to consider as well. At the same time, however, Priscilla Kelly is the one who’s actively being used in EVOLVE, so it’s weird that she didn’t win here. It was still fine, but again, I think most us (myself included) might’ve misunderstood the purpose of this match as a SHINE showcase match. **1/4
“All Ego” Ethan Page def. Donovan Dijak
Both of these men lost their respective bouts the night before at EVOLVE 84 which, in a way, added some stakes to this one, as neither guy wanted to go 0-2 on the weekend. This was an incredibly entertaining contest on multiple fronts. The match did feature it’s fair share of comedy, but I thought both played off each other very well. Of course, the most notable comedy spot involved social media. This match was unofficially billed as a “Battle of the Vanity Searchers”, as both men are notorious for their vanity searching on Twitter, and they actually got to do indulge in that habit when they borrowed a fan’s cellphone. It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a match in quite some time, though it ended in a disgusting way, as Page stuck the cellphone down his trunks. After he got his phone back from Page, the fan licked it. Yes, you read that correctly….that happened. Anyway, while the match had its funny moments, it also featured a ton of really good back & forth action in the second half. I was a little unsure about this one going into it, but both men worked well together, and they produced one of the best matches on the night. They were great when they were being funny, and they were great when they were serious. Page got the win after reversing a Feast Your Eyes attempt from Dijak into the Spinning Dwayne. ***3/4
I should note that there was a stipulation to this match. Apparently, if Ethan Page won, then he would get “control” of FloSlam (what that means). Well, Page won, so I guess he “controls” FloSlam now? I don’t know what’s going on there.
Tracy Williams def. Kyle O’Reilly
Most of us were expecting a technical battle here, and that’s exactly what we got. This was a very strong contest though, in my eyes, it never got to the point where I would call it a great match. Perhaps some would enjoy this a lot more than I did (and that wouldn’t shock me), but from my perspective. It went down a path similar to the bout O’Reilly had with Fred Yehi at EVOLVE 83. There was a ton of technical wrestling from start to finish, and some of it was very cool to watch, but it suffered from a few different issues. There’s nothing wrong with a match like this going long (it went over eighteen minutes), but it’s important to keep your audience engaged throughout. Even though the wrestling was very good (and I can never fault a match that had technically sound wrestling), I can’t say it kept me totally invested. From the way the crowd reacted, it seemed like they weren’t totally invested either. They were far from dead for this one, but they weren’t exactly ecstatic either. Again, this was a really good match, but I wouldn’t call it great. As for the result, Tracy Williams got Kyle O’Reilly to submit to the crossface. This meant that Williams went 2-0 on the weekend (and will probably be getting a title shot soon), while O’Reilly went 0-2. Based on that, I would think that this might’ve been O’Reilly’s last appearance in EVOLVE, but we’ll see if he’s announced for future dates. ***1/2
Keith Lee def. Fred Yehi
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but it definitely exceeded my expectations. There was plenty of strong action throughout, and both men played their roles to perfection. Keith Lee played the monster to perfection (as he always does), imposing his will on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, Fred Yehi was great in his role as the underdog. Even though he was dominated by Keith Lee at points, he never quit, and took the fight to his much larger opponent at various points. These two worked very well together, and unlike the previous match with Kyle O’Reilly & Tracy Williams, the crowd seemed a lot more invested. Maybe that’s because Keith Lee & Frey Yehi have more defined personalities, in addition to being great wrestlers? I don’t know. Anyway, Lee eventually scored the victory over Yehi after hitting Ground Zero. ****
After the match, Keith Lee took the mic. He mentioned that, since he won both of his matches on this weekend of events, he would be receiving a shot at the title of his choosing (either the EVOLVE Title or the WWN Title) in Queens, New York on June 25th. Lee didn’t give an answer here, though we would know which title he decided to challenge for by the end of the night.
Matt Riddle (c) def. Jeff Cobb
Jeff Cobb, in his EVOLVE debut, defeated Matt Riddle in a pretty decisive manner at EVOLVE 74. This second bout was right on par with their first encounter. While Matt Riddle winning wasn’t really a shock, what was surprising was that this match only went about seven minutes. It was very short for a title match. In this particular instance, that didn’t hinder the match much at all. This was incredibly entertaining from start to finish, as both men went after each other right from the opening bell. Riddle eventually retained after getting Cobb to tap out to the Bromission. While it was the shortest major match on the card, they still managed to pack in a ton of action throughout. ***1/2
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) def. Lio Rush
In their first encounter at EVOLVE 83, Zack Sabre Jr. retained his EVOLVE Title against Lio Rush after catching the rising star in a prawn hold pin.
This second title bout was just as good as, if not a little bit better than, their first title bout last month. Of course, there was great wrestling throughout this one, with a number of entertaining exchanges (both at the start of the match as well as the closing stages) and exciting moments. You can never go wrong with Zack Sabre Jr. these days, especially in EVOLVE. He’s been showing a more aggressive side over the last several months, and it’s added to his matches, especially in a situation like this, that sees him going up against a smaller opponent. On the other side, Lio Rush has been producing nothing but good performances since his return to EVOLVE during WrestleMania Weekend in Orlando. He played a great underdog here, and did a good job selling some of Zack Sabre Jr.’s vicious offense. It’s pretty clear that both guys work well together, which is very interesting, given that Lio Rush is very different compared to the type of opponent that Zack Sabre Jr. usually faces in EVOLVE. The story they told here was pretty similar to the one that they told in their aforementioned first match, as Zack Sabre Jr. dominated a good portion of the match, just working over Rush repeatedly with submissions and strikes. Fortunately, Rush would fight back, and we ended up seeing some very entertaining back & forth action in the closing stages before Zack Sabre Jr. eventually retained. This was the best match of the night, and one that’s definitely worth checking out. ****1/4
After the match ended, Zack Sabre Jr. took the mic and gave credit to Lio Rush for his efforts. He’s quickly interrupted by Keith Lee, who first congratulates Sabre on another successful title defense. Lee brings up that he’s getting a title shot against the champion of his choosing in Queens, New York, and this brings out WWN Champion Matt Riddle. He claims that the WWN Title is the superior title, and gets in Sabre’s face. Catch Point then interrupt the proceedings, and have a stare down with Riddle, Lee, and Sabre. Ethan Page then sneaks up from behind and hits a low blow on Lee before hitting Riddle with the Spinning Dwayne. He then brawls to the back with Sabre as Catch Point went after Riddle. As Chris Dickinsion & Jaka hold Riddle down, Tracy Williams admonishes him for not siding with them, adding that he can take this personally. Williams then said that Stokely Hathaway was going to “slap the piss” out of Riddle. Before that could happen, Jason Kincaid makes the save, taking out Catch Point with a twisting dive to the floor. Keith Lee then recovers, and hits a dive onto Catch Point, Kincaid, and some security guys. Lee tossed Williams in the ring, and Riddle hit him with the Bro 2 Sleep. Riddle took the mic and said that he owed Lee one, and Lee decided to cash that in, announcing that he was choosing the WWN Title to challenge for. The two shooks hands as the show came to a close.
A lot of things happened in that final segment. This kind of ending (the giant shmoz) reminded me of closing segments we’ve seen in the past on EVOLVE shows and ROH live events. The main thing to take away from this was that Matt Riddle vs. Keith Lee for the WWN Title was set for EVOLVE 87 in Queens, New York. As for everyone else, this probably sets up a number of different matches down the line. The only part that was a little confusing was the brawl to the back between Zack Sabre Jr. & Ethan Page. Sabre defeated Page pretty definitively at EVOLVE 84 the night before, so there really isn’t much of a reason to do a rematch. Other than that minor critique, this was a fine way to close the show.
EVOLVE’s debut in the greater Detroit area was a successful one. They drew a great crowd that was hot for (almost) everything on the card, and they were given a very good show. Zack Sabre Jr. & Lio Rush had another fantastic match for the EVOLVE Title, and it was easily the best contest on this card. Keith Lee vs. Fred Yehi and Donovan Dijak vs. Ethan Page weren’t that far behind, as they were both great in their own unique ways. The undercard featured a couple of short showcase matches, along with a number of other very solid contests (some came off better than others).
EVOLVE proved once again why they’re arguably the most consistent promotion in the United States, even with a roster that is still in a large state of flux.