Most of my previews, reviews, opinions, and thoughts are on Facebook Live anymore, but I wanted to put out an old fashioned written review of Evolve 88. Here it is-
Jason Kincaid defeated Caleb Konley- This was a solid opener as Kincaid has been struggling to get a win in Evolve ever since signing with the company, but is over with the fans, and a top notch wrestler. Konley was a major player in Evolve for years until signing with GFW and is making his return to Evolve here. This was a very well worked match that felt like both guys really wanted to win for different reasons. Kincaid did a very cool spot at the end where he used the top rope to reach the buildings rafters and shimmied on them until he was over Konley and dropped with a double foot stomp onto him. He then picked up the submission victory to give him a much needed win. The loss doesn’t hurt Konley, it just shows him that things have gotten tougher since he was last in Evolve.
– ACH vs. Austin Theory never happened because ACH said he came to Evolve to be in main events, not in the second match of the show. He wished Theory well with whomever he would face now, but it wouldn’t be ACH because ACH is just too damn good for that. I loved this move because smiling ACH reminds me of what the WWE has done with Apollo Crews. It doesn’t work, no one cares, and it sinks careers. Here ACH called BS on that and set himself on a new track in Evolve.
–Ethan Case from local PWX (which aired on Floslam before Evolve) then made his way out and challenged Theory. I like that Evolve has turned Theory heel, even though I don’t know what to make of his manager/valet Priscilla at all. Theory is only 19 years old but has shot his way up in the wrestling world quickly. As skilled as he is he’s also been struggling for wins so it makes sense that he would act out in desperation. This was a good match that allowed Case to show himself to a large audience and give Theory a much needed win as well.
– Keith Lee was challenged by Ethan Page again after Lee beat him at Evolve 86. I personally don’t know how to take Ethan Page. He’s a great worker and a solid promo guy, but he doesn’t seem to take anything seriously. Even when he is being an evil, sadistic, heel he comes off as slightly silly, or somewhat of a parody of an evil, sadistic heel. When he beats someone it feels like an upset but when he loses it attributes to me not taking him seriously. Having “Gate Keepers” didn’t help because it made him seem even weaker than he already seems in Evolve. I really don’t know what Page needs to get a boost in Evolve. Lee is great, sloppy at times, but fun to watch. If there’s a problem with him it’s that he tries to do “super indy” stuff far too often. He’s capable of it, but over does it. He also has back and forth matches with guys that he should steamroll. I think he’s going places, but how he’s booked needs to be adjusted a little. Enjoyable match that Lee won again.
– Tracy Williams then took on Darby Allin immediately, as after Lee won Stokely Hathaway and Williams hit the ring to beat down Lee, and Allin made the save. Allin is another wrestler that I don’t know how to take. He’s a decent worker but his gimmick is odd for Evolve. My take on him is that he’s a Raven type of character, willing to sacrifice his body because he knows he’s smaller and has to do something to withstand the rigors of Evolve. However, he wins very few of his matches, but then in my opinion he shouldn’t win many. He doesn’t win here either, even though like always he puts up a great fight. Williams is in one of the biggest pushes I’ve ever seen anyone get in Evolve as of late and while I like him, he needs a small tweak of some sort. He doesn’t seem mean enough or something. He’s a terrific wrestler as most in Evolve are, but he’s too methodical. Evolve already has Thatcher and Sabre Jr with that kind of presentation. Williams needs to add a little more flair to his gimmick, but over all this was a great match. I can’t recall the last time Williams lost a match in Evolve and if he is on his way to taking the title off Sabre Jr. I’m fine with that.
– Fred Yehi was set to face Trent Berretta but Trent had to have fluid drained from his elbow and had to pull out. ACH made his way back out in street clothes and said that this was a match he’d accept but wanted Yehi to put his number one contendership on the line. ACH also said he’d wrestle in his street clothes because “this isn’t a main event match.” Fred of course agreed and one of the best matches of the night was on. I really like this new ACH, and Yehi is one of the best wrestlers in WWN right now, having held the FIP title for what feels like forever. This hotly contested match saw both men pull out everything they had. Just when it looked like ACH had it won, Yehi gets his knees up for ACH’s 450 splash and locks in his Koji clutch for the submission victory.
– EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match: Anthony Henry & James Drake (The Work Horsemen) took on the tag Champions Chris Dickinson & Jaka in another match of the night. Too often non Evolve contracted wrestlers stop in to take a loss so that’s what most expected was going to happen here. Instead we get an amazing tag match that saw new champions crowned. Henry has been impressing WWN in 2017, and Drake’s new age enforcer gimmick works. This also shows that fans cannot expect every new face in Evolve to lose, even in title matches. Evolve, much like most other companies today also needs tag teams badly. Here they immediately established Henry and Drake as a legit team, which is a great thing for Henry and Drake but also for Evolve. I loved this match. I loved this result, and I loved what it did for the Evolve tag scene. The only bad thing about this match is that it pretty much assured that the main event wouldn’t see a title change. I mean the chances of the tag and singles titles changing on the same show is pretty low.
– EVOLVE Championship No Holds Barred Match: Champion Zack Sabre Jr. took on former champion Timothy Thatcher with a determined Stokely Hathaway at his side. I really felt like it was time to put the title back on Thatcher. Yes, a lot of Evolve fans seem to hate him, but so what? He’s legit, a bad ass, and now with Stokely he’s more than one dimensional. I also thought this match favored Thatcher as he’s more of a fighter than Sabre is. While I am not a fan of gimmicked matches like this, this one was fun. They didn’t take it too far, and still used a lot of pure wrestling, which I appreciate. Sabre won when he locked on his octopus hold through the ropes and Thatcher just couldn’t take it. Stokely broke down in legitimate tears after the match, which was awesome, and Sabre chastised Thatcher for not handing the title to him (an Evolve tradition) when he won it from him months ago. Thatcher looked angry, but got the title and handed it to Sabre. I don’t know where Thatcher goes from here in Evolve. Many fans don’t like/appreciate him but yet love Sabre who has less charisma than Thatcher does. This felt like a sendoff for Thatcher which will bum me out if so. Sabre does have the daunting task of facing Yehi and Williams coming up, so at least there’s that. Great main event though, even though my guy lost.
Overall- A great show from Evolve here. Every match was good to great and the tag title shocker made the night. ACH’s new attitude was much needed, and watching Theory progress is going to be fun so long as this Priscilla angle doesn’t get goofy. Keith Lee needs to kill a few guys instead of struggle against them, and Page…I don’t know what Page needs. Allin needs a stable imo, or something around him to make him more relevant. I have loved Evolve since day one and so long as they stick to what they always have been, and don’t try to expand what they do to reach more people, they are the best American company out there today. Evolve 88 showed me that they can stay on the course that brought them to where they are. If they do, I’ll be singing their praises forever. As for the crowd…they didn’t care until the tag title change but that doesn’t matter to me. Just because a crowd doesn’t get it doesn’t mean the wrestling isn’t great.
9/10 show here…watch it!