EVOLVE 76 – January 27, 2017
Watch: FloSlam (once VOD hits we’ll link it, you can watch tomorrow’s show live at 12:00 PM PT/3:00 PM ET)
Woodlawn Lake Park Gym – San Antonio, Texas
Jaka def. Peter Kaasa
The opener is reviewed by Quentin, who filled in for Trask.
First off, what the hell was this Peter Kaasa haircut? Granted, the man’s taste in hairstyles wasn’t the best before this, yet he somehow downgraded by going from mullet to rattail. This is 2012 Elgin tier terrible. This was an okay opener. Jaka has honestly grown on me the last few months and he typically tries very hard, which I appreciate a lot. Kaasa, however, is a guy where he gets badly exposed when he’s not protected the way he was in Dragon Gate. This was another example of that where I felt Jaka tried his best to get something good out of an opportunity and Kaasa just didn’t offer much to work with. Kaasa goes for a second rope moonsault, but the rope snaps and Kaasa has a nasty landing seemingly landing on his head. Thankfully they went home pretty quickly after that scary situation. Jaka won with a sitout powerbomb.
Thanks to Quentin for filling in for me as I was on the way home from work. I get home to see an Austin Theory video, then realized what happened. Catch Point were back in the ring as Chris Dickinson screamed “OPPORTUNITY!” prior to Darby Allin arriving for their match.
Darby Allin def. Chris Dickinson
The match started out with Allin integrating his beautiful lucha/suicide offense into the Dickinson formula, being evasive around the faulty ropes. Papa Hales was in the cut, chanting “fired up” as our bro Riddle among others did it with him. Even though it was very cat and mouse, it felt as if Darby could hold his own with strong style offense. The guy headbutted Dickinson like no tomorrow, but at the same time he was chucked around like a ragdoll. The dynamic was loads of fun. Darby hit a coffin drop to the floor from the top rope, which always gives me Jeff Hardy flashes. It didn’t last much longer after those spots, but we continued to get Darby hitting coffin drops, in the corner, and Dickinson continued to try to lift him for the Pazuzu Bomb. Eventually Darby countered such with a sunset flip roll-up for the victory. Good match that blended both styles together while giving us the best possible Darby. No reason for Dickinson to win that.
Jason Kincaid def. DUSTIN
This was half and half okay/good. I expected it to be a lot more competitive with both guys, but it ended up being stretches with big DUST in control only for Kincaid to whip out his unique offense. I wanted more work like the beginning of the match with technicality on display and wacky lucha arm drags. We do have Darby for that though. DUSTIN controlled the tempo, including getting Kincaid in a half crab with a shit eating grin on, and eventually it spilled out of the ring. DUSTIN walked around the outside with Kincaid in brainbuster position, delivering it on the floor. He then tried to get a chair but referee D.A. Brewer took it away, with good build to tomorrow’s No DQ match vs. Riddle. Kincaid hit his amazing stunner to the outside where he flips over the ropes. He also hit his ringpost dive and locked in the Compassionate Release choke for the surprise victory over DUSTIN. On board with any type of Kincaid push. Another guy ROH could have locked down, but didn’t due to talent blindness.
Ethan Page def. Zack Sabre Jr. (DQ)
This started EXACTLY how I wanted it to, EXACTLY how I wanted Zack’s character to be. He just wants to destroy All Ego and make his way towards the EVOLVE title. No bullshit Zack. He took out the Gatekeepers and locked in holds on the outside. For example: not before would you have saw Sabre Jr. go to the lengths he would outside of the ring. This sprung us to a beautiful Sabre DDT, PK miss, Page slam sequence that upped the danger and intensity to match the ‘grudge match’ label. It was a very good match as a whole, one of my favorite Sabre Jr. performances the past few months, and the best Page match in some time. It was essentially Page as a body guy/power guy utilizing what helped him beat Sabre months back, as well as maneuvering out of tight situations with power moves. The pacing made it feel important. Although Sabre Jr. was as rapid in an EVOLVE ring as ever, he’d still take the time to grip his rib cage, to sell the damage done to him at large. Escalation saw good escapes and kickouts, such as RK-Ego being survived. Sabre Jr. locked in a triangle choke as a counter to Spinning Dwayne, and originally won by submission. He wouldn’t let go, as Darby Allin was out smirking in Page’s face. The referee reversed his decision due to the submission not being let go of, therefore Ethan Page is your winner by DQ. A slick booking move to keep things rolling on both sides. This is worth going out of your way to see. Both guys looked money, especially Sabre Jr. who excels as a dick.
Matt Riddle def. ACH
ACH was over like God in the small venue as expected. He also has a new custom theme song. Riddle was out with his PROGRESS Atlas title. “I’ve got to remind Steve Corino that it’s anime, not a cartoon, buddy.” -Lenny Leonard
This was a good match, but nothing blow-away like I expected. They took a lot of styles and toyed with them together, testing the chemistry waters. There was only one slip up where they scrambled for a second after Riddle didn’t connect with a knee, but it doesn’t matter when you see how it was covered up. We got a little bit of crowd pandering and comedy, strong style with suplex trading and STIFF elbows going down, and for brief times we got grapplefrick ACH who even got Riddle in a Muta Lock. That’s one of the things I wanted to see. When I think about it, there wasn’t even that many near falls either which is impressive. Just a lot of experimental wrestling is how I saw it. I still enjoyed it. In the finishing stretch, ACH sold the up-kick extra well by spitting a thick strand. He tried to stay in it, but couldn’t hang with Bro. A Bro to Sleep/Fisherman’s Buster was hit for a pinfall victory. ACH’s debut was a fun one, but I expect awesomeness to come from the Yehi Saturday match that this didn’t quite reach.
Riddle cut a fun promo post-match, proclaiming the PROGRESS Atlas title won’t be the only one he’s holding by year’s end. He’s killing it. DUSTIN ran-in and hit Riddle in the back with a chair, exclaiming how he’s an MMA legend and how in the octagon they have rules. Tomorrow they won’t. He’s curious to see how tough Riddle really is. “Drew Galloway, this ones for you brother.”
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Catch Point (Fred Yehi & Tracy Williams) (c) def. Timothy Thatcher & Jeff Cobb (w/Stokely Hathaway)
The theme clash here was incredible. Thatcher has a new theme that’s a remix of his old one, but with a 2000’s hip hop beat tacked on. I bet Stokely did that remix. Catch Point came out to Nintendo video game bubbly type music. This was a good tag match, but lacked a big title match feel or any high level these four are capable of being at. Yehi and Thatcher were not only the best with each other in the match, but were the best overall. Thatcher feels refreshing being back after a long absence, plus carrying over momentum from a banger of a grudge match vs. Drew Gulak. Two non-wrestlers elevated this match. Lenny Leonard playing up the Northern California roots between Thatcher and Cobb made the team feel much more important, and Stokely Hathaway was fantastic ringside. His expressions peaked at the right moments. He’s not the manager to just pound the mat. He also explained to Yehi that now HE’S in big trouble! I have to talk about the match. It’s exactly what’d you expect. Very low profile, stuck to the mat style, but that’s not a knock. The Yehi-Thatcher, Yehi-Cobb, Williams-Thatcher interactions were my favorites, especially the sequence where Thatcher and Hot Sauce sat cross-legged, in close proximity, weirdly grappling with snug faces. Cobb continued to save Thatcher with his destructive suplexes. Thatcher eventually tapped to Yehi’s Koji Clutch, setting in more mystery ahead of tomorrow’s EVOLVE title match. GIVE ME YEHI AS EVOLVE CHAMP, and at the very least, a Thatcher vs. Yehi title match in February, assuming Cobb doesn’t win the EVOLVE title tomorrow because “Thatcher never loses”. Nothing to go out of your way to see, but an enjoyable tag because of different factors.
Post-match, Stokely Hathaway tore into Jeff Cobb, calling him a fat slop that gave up on the team. Thatcher never loses. It’s the best snobby heel manager logic ever. Larry Dallas was involved in all of this with his geek journalist gimmick, dare I say, is executed well because it’s himself turned up more. He took all the credit for making the title match tomorrow all the more interesting, until Thatcher scared him out of the ring.
Keith Lee def. Chris Hero
Another talent ROH messed up on debuts on a big platform. This is a Hero’s Exit, Part I. Hero screamed his theme in the ring, as this would be the second time, for at least, a very long time he’d be doing this entrance routine. This is the sequel to the two’s match at Beyond Wrestling’s ‘Party Animals’. Lenny Leonard from the outset, sucked me right into this match. He is quite possibly the best commentator in the world. It felt BIG TIME when Leonard started listing all the accolades gained during Hero’s career, while also putting over Lee over when he showcased his strength. Right after the feeling out process, Lee whipped Hero into the ropes, which snapped again. Hero could have been seriously hurt but caught himself. Hero and Lee proceeded to take down ropes. The match continued with two ropes. Hero changed the match to no countouts as the majority of the work took place on the outside. He even hit a big boy senton and paid tribute to his broken comrades (Hardys when they teamed at AAW) with a swanton. But apparently there were countouts again as Hero was in the ring waiting for Lee. To continue to highlight how brilliant these two are working within the confines of a shit ring, Hero hit a blockbuster from the flimsy second rope. Lee tried to go for a moonsault off the second rope but the rope collapsed on him and my heart dropped. A huge Last Ride wasn’t enough. Hero collapsed down after that. It took three rolling elbows and a Gotch-style piledriver to beat Keith Lee. The match was an absolute disaster, but the two played off the ring breaking smartly (except for Lee willingly risking his life on a moonsault which made me thankful he didn’t get hurt), and ended up over delivering within its circumstance. The ring broke TWICE during the match. The match was great because of them working around one of the most dangerous on a whim environments in wrestling in some time, plus, the work was really good anyways.
It was a happy disaster when all set and done, as the two laughed it off, posing on the bottom ropes to end the show. In between such, Hero put Lee over like a million dollars, while Sabre Jr. came out for a short bit, telling Kassius Ohno to piss off to Florida after he beats him in his last match in an EVOLVE ring. This was an excellent passing of the torch to Keith Lee. On the night of his debut, he’s a made man within the promotion. End scene.
EVOLVE 76 (JANUARY 27, 2017)
Good - 7.5/10
EVOLVE 76, ignoring the opener I missed (ring rope problems from the start, huh) was a good show. It was an enjoyable watch clocking in at a little over two hours. There was tons of variety which is the best thing about EVOLVE. We had Darby Allin hitting lucha offense on Dickinson, DUSTIN and Kincaid wilding out within the confines of the arena, Sabre Jr. and All Ego hitting nails on their heads when it came to their grudge match, BroCH providing a fun-time first-time chemistry to play off of in the future, and the grapple tag title match being well done; shoutout to Big Stoke for being the best. Then came a Hero's Exit I, in which the ring snapped twice, yet the debuting Keith Lee was put over like a billion dollars in many ways by Hero. The two killed it in every sense of the word, working around multiple instances that could have caused serious injuries. They still over delivered. The fans are going home happy. A new star is made for EVOLVE's future. Who's Your Hero? Literally.