March 19, 2016 in Queens, NY
Evolve was back in Queens with a big show headlined by the undefeated Matt Riddle challenging Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve title. Shortly before the event a special appearance by William Regal was added for the live crowd. Regal is a long time favorite of mine and it was an honor to meet him. He opened the show announcing that the US qualifiers for WWE’s upcoming cruiserweight tournament would happen in Evolve. Good news and a nice moment / appearance from Regal.
La Boom is a great little venue and it was absolutely packed, with I think the largest crowd I’ve seen them draw. Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins was a decent opener that started strong then fell off a bit when both wrestlers ignored major leg work their opponent had been doing all match. TJP in particular often forgets to sell at certain points which takes me out of his matches. Good otherwise though. Odd booking, as Callihan really shouldn’t be dropping matches given his building feud with Thatcher.
Unfortunately “Speedball” Mike Bailey couldn’t make it this weekend, so Jack Gallow took his place against “All Ego” Ethan Page. Bailey was impressive in previous appearances so his absence was disappointing, but Gallow was fine and Page looked good in what was almost a squash to establish Page’s new outlook is starting to work.
Drew Gulak vs. Fred Yehi felt a bit slow to me, but was well worked overall. I’m not sold on Yehi yet. He’s not bad but there just seems to be something missing from his matches. Nothing wrong here, but nothing great either.
The show picked up in a big way with Chris Hero vs Tracy Williams. Hero quite honestly came out looking huge, but he’s lost none of his speed or mobility so all it really did was make his sentons and William’s power moves look more impressive.
Hero is crazy over and Williams desperately trying to prove he could hang made for a great in ring story (although perhaps not the best position to put a heel in). They built this into a frenzy and topped it all off with and insane exchange of piledrivers. This was neck and neck for best match of the night with Sabre vs Gargano.
Next up was The PAB (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley) vs Team Tremendous (Dan Barry & Bill Car). Nese and Konley looked better than they have in a while, clicking on all cylinders and keeping the pace brisk without sacrificing their heel heat. Andrea was great in SoCal Val’s usual role on the outside cheering them on and objecting to everything the faces did.
Team Tremendous looked good too put on a fun match with the PAB. More questionable booking though. Team Tremendous are around 50-50 in their short stay in Evolve and don’t seem like a credible threat to Gargano and Galloway going into their title match tomorrow. If they do upset the champs it will feel like a fluke. On top of that the last time we saw Konley he said tag matches don’t matter and he was focused on the Evolve singles title. More on that later. Just weird all around. Sometimes the obvious result is the right one.
Best In The World Challenge Series – The WWN Icon: Johnny Gargano vs Zack Sabre Jr.
The more I talk with other fans the more I notice a divide on Sabre’s work. Most like it, but there are a fair number within that who don’t quite “get” the style and are waiting for his matches to “hit another gear.” They don’t always build into a frenzy of high impact moves like others (Hero’s for example). They get more intense in brutality of the holds being applied and the single minded will to win on display. Personally I love it and Sabre vs Thatcher was one of my favorite matches last year.
This match had similar qualities, and the story revolved around Zach RELENTLESSLY going after Gargano’s arm until the centerpiece of Evolve just couldn’t escape and couldn’t take anymore pain. The counter wrestling on display was glorious, and I loved every minute of this. The crowd was pretty loud and into it, but again I think some fans are still adjusting to Sabre’s style. Huge win for him to start out his “challenge series.”
After the match Sabre left and Gargano was attacked by the PAB during a promo. It was “just a reminder that we’re still coming for the tag titles.” With Galloway absent Ethan Page made the save with a chair to continue his redemption / unasked for aid to Gargano story.
The Page part works fine, but after building Konley’s frustration up regarding it taking so long for his singles title shot, having him previously state he doesn’t care about tag victories, and with his Evolve Title shot the NEXT NIGHT, him taking a night off from his obsession to suddenly care about tag team wrestling again knocks a lot of steam out of his quest.
Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Matt Riddle
I adore Timothy Thatcher’s style and was looking forward to this battle with the undefeated Matt Riddle. Riddle is extremely over as a heel and the crowd was chomping at the bit to see Thatcher finally get his hands on the upstart in a one-on-one environment.
This was incredible while it lasted. Riddle kept countering Thatcher’s grappling enough to get on top and then pounded away with forearms and elbows until Thatcher could turn things around again. He’d then suddenly switch to suplexes and throws to try to wear Thatcher out. Thatcher in turn just kept going straight at Riddle like a pit bull.
The drawback here was just as they really seemed to get going the match ended. The finish was so abrupt several fans around me (including myself) thought Riddle had legitimately been knocked loopy off the headbutt Thatcher delivered. Reading results from people watching it on ippv it seems there was actually some sort of (inadvertent?) low blow involved in the finish, which would better explain Gulak getting in Thatcher’s face and calling him a disgrace after the match. No one in my general area caught the low blow so there was a lot of confusion about the finish. Likely (and understandably) done to protect Riddle, but something clearer and more of a match before that ending would have been appreciated.
While Catch Point was arguing with Thatcher after the match Sami Callihan came in for another attack on the champ from behind. Williams then returned the favor on Callihan sending a message for their match the next day. I like the competitive spirit aspect, and I understand the crowd will always cheer for their favorites, but the mix of heel mannerisms and “face me like a man” sportsmanship ramblings several roster members use makes it hard to get into the overarching angles.
Evolve consistently puts on some the best displays of professional wrestling available anywhere in the world. Nothing is ever outright bad and the highs of each card are always raising the bar. The various stories are interesting, but there are issues with the booking that make it hard to get caught up in those stories sometimes. Still I always feel like I get my money’s worth (an often more) from Evolve’s shows, and I highly recommend checking this one out for a pair of excellent matches and an unique if short main event.