July 9, 2017
Marietta Event Hall
EVOLVE continued its southern weekend as it headed to Atlanta for the first time ever on Sunday. After EVOLVE 88 brought a lot of change to the company including new tag team champions, what would EVOLVE 89 have in store?
Lenny Leonard opened the show by announcing that instead of facing each other as originally scheduled, Anthony Henry and James Drake—the new EVOLVE tag team champions—had an open contract for any team to face them for their newly won EVOLVE tag team titles.
Before Leonard could finish his announcements, Darby Allin hit the ring and called out his opponent for the night, Timothy Thatcher. Thatcher came out quickly, once again accompanied by Stokely Hathaway.
Timothy Thatcher w/ Stokely Hathaway def. Darby Allin
This match was put together after Thatcher attacked Allin at EVOLVE 87.
Early on in the match, Thatcher put Allin in a sleeper hold and then threw him to the mat, starting to walk out as if he had won the match. However, the referee explained to Thatcher that Allin had never submitted, and the match was back on. Thatcher spent most of the match targeting Allin’s injured arm, and the match was an excellent back and forth, with Allin’s daredevil style mixing well with Thatcher no-nonsense offense.
I have never been the biggest fan of Timothy Thatcher, but I thought he showed an aggression in the match that really meshed well with Darby’s great selling ability. The match was headed for high marks until the referee messed up the ending, claiming Darby had kicked out of a pinfall attempt when he clearly didn’t. Thatcher kept Allin pinned and the ref simply counted again to three. I still liked the match, but the ending killed the crowd and really hurt the match. *** ¾
ACH def. Ethan Page
After the events of EVOLVE 88, this appeared to be an interesting match up between a wrestler with a new fresh direction (ACH) and a wrestler that continues to seem directionless in EVOLVE (Ethan Page). Unfortunately, we wouldn’t get any clarity on where Ethan Page is headed in EVOLVE. ACH came out first and claimed that because he was in the second match on the card, he would be giving second match effort. Ethan Page proposed that in lieu of effort, Ethan Page could help ACH get better at his promos, and ACH could help Ethan become a better wrestler.
If it isn’t clear from the previous sentence, this match was all comedy. ACH tried to cut a Rock promo, Ethan Page tried to master a kip up and there was even a take off on the the Kenny Omega Rainmaker collapse during his match with Kazuchika Okada.
Eventually, ACH won with a rollup on Page. Usually comedy matches aren’t my style, but I liked this match, as it played into both ACH’s and Ethan Page’s story within EVOLVE. They have both become disenchanted with their positions in EVOLVE and they showed it with the style of match they wrestled. I’m interested to see where both of these guys go from here – while this was entertaining, there is only so many times you can have a talent like ACH doing lowcard comedy in a promotion like EVOLVE. ***
Jason Kincaid def. Jon Davis
Just like at EVOLVE 88, Jason Kincaid was once again tasked with facing a talent returning to EVOLVE after a long hiatus. Although he appeared recently at WWN’s Mercury Rising during WrestleMania weekend, this was Jon Davis’ return to EVOLVE proper for the first time since losing to Rich Swann at EVOLVE 27. Davis dominated the early portions of the match with quick and brutal looking offense. Kincaid stayed alive though, and eventually won the match with a double stomp.
Last night, I mentioned that I run hot and cold on Jason Kincaid, and tonight I ran cold. Kincaid has unique offense, but it can look weak, and against a big guy like Jon Davis, it looked especially weak. The low light was a handspring cutter off the ropes that looked like it was in slow motion. It was a shame, because I thought that Jon Davis looked strong, with crisp offense that looked fast and devastating. I’m not sure if Davis was just brought in to fill in the card, but he might be a good guy for EVOLVE to keep around. As for Jason Kincaid, now that he seems to be moving up the card, I only hope that he can have more performances like EVOLVE 88 and less like EVOLVE 89. ** ¾
Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams – No Contest
Williams came into the match on a hot streak as he gets ready for his WWN Title match with Matt Riddle. On the other side, Keith Lee looked to bounce back from his loss to Matt Riddle in Queens, NY. In the end, I don’t think this match did favors for either competitor. It started off strong, with both men utilizing hard hitting offense, however, there was a ref bump in the middle, and from there, it descended into chaos.
After the ref bump, Catch Point came out to attack Lee, which lead to the entire locker room emptying to try and separate Lee and Williams. It felt like a WWE RAW pull apart brawl, but with no reason for us to feel strong animosity between Keith Lee and Tracy Williams, it came off as contrived. In the end, it turned out that the locker room had emptied so that Keith Lee could do an impressive (but ultimately meaningless) tope from inside the ring to the floor. After the dive, Timothy Thatcher and Keith Lee started brawling towards the backstage area, and although there was no official announcement made, the match ended in a no contest. Very strange. ** ¾
As everyone settled down, Stokely Hathaway, Chris Dickinson and Jaka got in the ring with Anthony Henry and James Drake. Stokely said that Henry and Drake had offered an open contract for an EVOLVE tag title match and he was accepting on behalf of Catch Point.
However, before the match could begin, local team the Ugly Ducklings, Lance Lude and Rob Killjoy, interrupted to also accept the open contract. Jaka announced a three-way contest, and the match was on.
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles
The Workhorses (Anthony Henry and James Drake) © def. Chris Dickinson and Jaka vs. The Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude and Rob Killjoy)
This was chaos from beginning to end, with bodies flying everywhere. Even when it got back into the ring, it never slowed down, with wrestlers constantly moving in and out of the ring, All three teams looked impressive, although Catch Point stood out, displaying great power and tight tag team maneuvers. I was expecting the titles to end up back around the waists of Catch Point, but in the end, I was surprised again, as the Workhorses of Henry and Drake retained the titles after pinning the Ugly Ducklings. Superb match filled with lots of great action. ****
Austin Theory w/ Priscilla Kelly def. Trent Barreta
This is a rematch of EVOLVE 87, where Baretta defeated Theory in his re-debut, but after the match, Theory low blowed Baretta. Before the match, Priscilla Kelly cut a promo, stating that Austin had joined her to avoid being a failure like everyone in the crowd, and now there was nothing he couldn’t do. Although it was a bit of a cliche promo, it was delivered well, and I was happy to see some movement in a storyline that has taken way too long to progress.
As for the match, it started hot, as Baretta attacked Theory before the bell and they brawled all around ringside. Barretta was in control until a slight distraction from Priscilla Kelly and from there, Austin Theory took control, focusing on Baretta’s injured arm and eventually hitting the Theory KO for the victory. It was a good night for Theory, as he showed better hell mannerisms than the previous night, taunting the crowd and viciously focusing on Baretta’s fresh arm injury. I’m happy to see the progression with Theory, and look forward to EVOLVE further fleshing out the relationship between him and Priscilla Kelly. *** ½
Zack Sabre Jr. © def. Fred Yehi
This was an excellent technical battle hurt badly by a poor crowd. The crowd in Atlanta was subpar all night, but they were particularly bad during this match, often sitting in complete silence while Sabre and Yehi attempted to get them invested in the match.
Matches like this are often hard to rate, as the work itself is sound, but the total non-investment of the crowd hurts, especially a match that’s as technical as this one was. Zack Sabre Jr. continues to impress with his brutal strikes and vicious submissions, and Fred Yehi matched him move for move with his blend of unorthodox offense before Sabre caught him with his back bridge pin. I hope there is a rematch of these two somewhere down the line, as I think that they could really have an excellent match in front of a better crowd. *** ½
After the match, Zack Sabre Jr. grabbed a match and thanked Atlanta for coming out to the promotion’s first show in Atlanta. He complimented Fred Yehi before giving him the mic and exiting the ring. Yehi thanked the crowd again and said he would work harder so next time EVOLVE is in Atlanta, he would be victorious.
An interesting show, but not always for good reasons. A good match marred by a botched finish, a highly anticipated match up ending with a ref bump, and a technical battle brought down by a poor crowd all encapsulate a night that had high highs and low lows. The tag team title match is the only must-see match of the night, and unless you are so invested in the EVOLVE storylines that you are willing to look past a number of missteps, this is a skippable show.