La Boom in Queens has become EVOLVE’s de facto stronghold when the company rolls through the northeast, and regularly features the best matches in Gabeland. The promotion’s 87th chapter was no different.
Twin title, for the final time for quite a while, headlined the card. Matt Riddle locked horns with the mammoth Keith Lee over the WWN Championship, while Zack Sabre Jr. looked to continue his hot run as EVOLVE Champion by civilizing the savage Jaka. The undercard featured Fred Yehi against former ally Chris Dickinson and the return of Trent Baretta opposite of young gun Austin Theory.
June 26, 2015
Queens, New York, New York
Tracy Williams def. ACH
The leader of Catchpoint and the man most likely to beat you at Super Smash Brothers passed each other like two ships in the night, traveling towards different destinations. Williams, steady and sure in his methods, targeted the nerdy Texan’s neck the entire contest. He appeared unflappable under pressure, especially when ACH rallied. Spurred on by chants of “Go, Go ACH,” the usually jovial wrestler tapped into the frustration he felt the previous night. He turned his typically graceful dives into torpedo like flying tackles and put a little mustard on his strikes. However, Williams neck work prevented ACH from pulling off the kill shot and set the stage for his victory via submission with his trusty cross face. Establishing Williams on course for a WWN Championship match and ACH towards a whirlpool of uncertainty. ***1/2
After “Hot Sauce” finished celebrating and headed backstage, ACH rejected the nice round of applause he received from the New York City crowd. He got a microphone and stated what was already evident; he is frustrated with his place on the lower card in EVOLVE.
Timothy Thatcher def. Jason Kincaid
The derision that Timothy Thatcher consistently receives in our nation’s largest city apparently inspires the dormant personality in the former EVOLVE Champion.
He consistently mocked and snarled not only at Jason Kincaid but the crowd as well. Thatcher’s uppercuts and knee strikes, normally as intimidating looking as a puppy, had an extra bite to them. Both made him a fitting antagonist for Kincaid to struggle against, and though he went stride for stride with the former ace in a valiant battle. Kincaid’s spiritual calm could not overcome Thatcher’s rugged ground game, and he became the latest man to tap out to Thatcher’s lethal Fujiwara armbar. ***1/4
Kincaid tried to be respectful after the contest and offered Thatcher a handshake. Thatcher arrogantly dismissed Kincaid and sent Kincaid into a fit before the West Virginia native calmed himself by quietly chanting a mantra.
Fred Yehi def. Chris Dickinson
At EVOLVE 86, Yehi defeated Jaka in his first contest against a former stable mate since he left Catch Point a few months ago. He looked to make a clean sweep against the EVOLVE Tag Team Champions by defeating Jaka’s partner, Chris Dickinson. There did not seem to be any bad blood between the two, and the matchup quickly became one of pride. Dickinson challenged Yehi to prove his wrestling chops early by taking him to the ground. Likewise, Yehi wanted to fight standing up which is Dickinson’s area of expertise. Both men’s ventures outside of their comfort zones, however, proved to be inconclusive. As the match wore on it seemed to fit to Dickinson’s liking, a quick pace with an emphasis on strikes and suplexes. However, Yehi gave it to Dickinson as much as he got it and survived the “Dirty Daddy’s” best licks and finished him off with a Koji Clutch right in the center of the ring.
The story of this bout starting off a sparring exhibition and quickly devolving into a brawl was great. Neither man was able to out-tough the other and Dickinson looked good in defeat as he lost only because Yehi trapped him at the end. ***1/2
After Yehi had left the ring awash in the glow of victory, Jaka seized the house mic and told his buddy that there was no shame in losing such an epic fight. Jaka went on to say that no one in the building gave him a chance against Zack Sabre Jr. and then proceeded to call the champion to the ring.
EVOLVE Championship Match
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Jaka
The best part of Zack Sabre Jr. being EVOLVE Champion is how aggressive he comes across during his title defenses. It is tremendous character work considering how difficult his road to the title was, and yet his desire to keep proving himself just might be his undoing down the line. Jaka dared the champion to trade strikes with him, which ZSJ obliged. The lanky leftist held his own but eventually folded against his challenger’s barrage of chops and headbutts. Sabre Jr. stayed even with some advantageous grappling that targeted Jaka’s bare feet. As the bout advanced later into the clock, the champion seized control with a penalty kick and an Ode to Breaks, but neither kept Jaka down. Both instances produced a hardy round of cheers from the fans who earlier were ready to boo Jaka out of the building. That is a testament to the heart the veteran displayed in yet another in a long line of quality singles encounters going back to earlier this year. With the fans in a frenzy, Jaka gripped ZSJ by the throat and looked to finish him with a choke bomb. Somehow the champion wormed his way out, and thanks to a majestic pinning combination survived to keep his reign intact.
ZSJ’s run on top continues to breathe life back into the EVOLVE Championship after the belt its luster during Thatcher’s awful run with it. With the close fight against Jaka, the champion adds another rivalry alongside the one with Lio Rush to keep busy in between higher-profile defenses. Like Dickinson in the previous bout, Jaka looked great in defeat thanks to how devastated he looked after realizing he’d lost after coming so close to victory. ****
Stokley Hathaway made his way to the ring shortly after the title match reached its conclusion. Hathaway demanded that ZSJ give Timothy Thatcher his rematch. Darby Allin, complete with cast, came out to plead his case again. That brought Thatcher. The usually stoic technician ran down Allin’s credentials as a wrestler and then turn his sights to the man who beat him in February. Thatcher told ZSJ he respected him and that they had a beautiful in-ring rivalry. Then Thatcher vowed to win back the championship and cheap shotted Sabre Jr. with a headbutt.
After that heinous act, Thatcher laid into Allin and ripped the protective cast from his arm, undoubtedly causing further damage to the injury. Coupled with an excellent promo, this is the most interesting that Thatcher has ever been.
Ethan Page def. Thomas Sharpe
Free of his former Gatekeeper label, Thomas Sharpe looked to collect his second consecutive win of the weekend. The agile big man flashed traces of enormous potential for a man of his size: a beautiful hurricanrana and a frog splash that barely missed. Sharpe could never find the kill shot though, and his former boss landed just enough bombs, including the Spinning Dwayne to eek out the 1-2-3. Where Sharpe goes from here is anyone’s guess, but his solid outing against Page should guarantee a few more high profile matches down the line. **1/2
Trent Baretta def. Austin Theory
Austin Theory has been oh so close to winning “the big one,” or at least his first signature victory in EVOLVE several times over the last few months. His excellent contest with ACH at EVOLVE 82 being the closest he has come to making a statement, until this match. Theory survived everything that Trent Baretta threw at him: a piledriver combo (one was on the ring apron) and gnarly-looking running knee strike. He just could not put Baretta away, and the veteran finally ended the match with the Dudebuster and the 1-2-3. Trent Baretta worked well in his EVOLVE return, but Theory outshined him. The 19-year-old’s moves were crisp, and he sold effectively, making this his most complete performance to date. ***1/2
Baretta gave Theory the traditional post-match rub afterward by raising his hand. Theory repaid him by low blowing the former FIP World Champion in the nuts thanks to a distraction from Priscilla Kelly.
WWN Championship Match
Matt Riddle def. Keith Lee
Before Chris Hero returned to NXT, he advised Keith Lee to develop a killer instinct. What Hero did touch on was sometimes you need a little bit of luck to win the biggest match of your life. Lee displayed plenty of grit, attacking his friend and the champion, Matt Riddle, right at the opening bell with a clubbing elbow strike. He also managed to stay afloat during a storm of Riddle’s famous chops and kicks. However, Lee’s tremendous girth did not serve him as well as it normally does. Riddle kicked out Lee’s version of the Pounce and managed to lift his larger foe several times for suplexes and the Bro 2 Sleep. However, Riddle’s surge of impressive strength may have been his near undoing. As the two combatants traded blows near the end of the fight, Riddle looked gassed while Lee still had the power of an angry grizzly bear. Only a stroke of luck saved Riddle’s title. He fell on top of Lee after a nasty headbutt by the challenger and got the 1-2-3.
This was by far the most serious Keith Lee has looked in EVOLVE. He did not take any time, save at the start, to showboat. He was all business and better than Riddle–he just wasn’t lucky is all. That will serve to be a tremendous set up for the inevitable rematch. ****1/4
Ethan Page and Tracy Williams attacked after the match, but Riddle and Lee fought them off. The two bumped fists to cement their friendly rivalry to end the show.
When EVOLVE was really rolling a year ago, the cards were always must watch because the entire roster had good matches. EVOLVE 87 felt like one of those shows. Every wrestler had a purpose and has a story coming out of the weekend. With Riddle and Sabre Jr. on top, the main event scene looked and will continue to be excellent. Now the once shaky undercard is coming together. Austin Theory finally has a story to tell. ACH is on the verge of turning heel. Stokley Hathaway continues to warp once honorable men into scum. All of it has the potential to produce a memorable summer. EVOLVE 87 is a trumpet call to keep an eye on the promotion because it looks like they are going to have a sizzling summer.