EVOLVE 88





EVOLVE 88

By Big Red Machine
From July 08, 2017

EVOLVE 88
Joanna Rose is not doing the ring announcing this weekend because she is "on assignment." I like to think that means she's off scouting potential ring announcers for other WWN promotions (which, now that I think about it, might actually make some kayfabe sense after the events of last month's FIP show).

JASON KINCAID vs. CALEB KONLEY - 6.5/10


I was excited about Konley's return until I remembered that there was no SoCal Val with him anymore to make the act work (not that Tony Nese and Andrea weren't important, but Val and Konley always came off to me like the core of the act). Can you imagine how awesome Val and Stokely would be cutting promos on each other?

Konley is getting a hometown reaction from his hometown crowd, probably aided by the hometown basketball team-inspired gear he is wearing. That was just one factor that made the babyface/heel dynamics in this match very odd for me. Both men wrestled as total babyfaces, but the last time we saw Konley in EVOLVE (about a year ago) he was a heel, and had been for a very long time... and yet here he as getting the babyface reaction from his hometown fans, and I was quite happy to see him back. Kincaid, of his part, is a very sympathetic character, but has kind of felt like the heel in his little feud with Catchpoint (which started when they were babyfaces), and yet we know that there is a dangerous evil lurking inside Kincaid, which makes him feel ominous and evil even though the most heelish thing he's done so far in his ten-month tenure in EVOLVE has been to tell Catchpoint that their philosophy was very limiting, which he himself later said that he didn't mean to cause any real offense by.

Kincaid did manage to pick up the win here, which I found quite surprising. He has definitely needed one lately, but him finally snapping seems like the kind of thing that will come as a result of slipping into anger over losing too often, and with this being Konley's first match back and being in Konley's home town, I had figured Kincaid would do the job here to show us him moving closer to finally snapping. Gabe being Gabe, though, he found a way to make all of these things word together and still build towards the same goal, as Kincaid showed Konley respect after the match, but Konley, proving to be his heelish self, rudely rebuffed him. Konley is clarified as a heel while Kincaid gets a much-needed win, resulting in a situation that still results in a small tease of Kincaid's anger getting the best of him- although he didn't even need his beads to helm focus him this time, so maybe he's getting better at dealing with frustration? Or maybe winning just makes it easier.
Also, LEG DROP FROM THE CEILIING!

ACH PROMO - He was originally scheduled to face Austin Theory right now (Theory was already in the ring when ACH came out to cut his promo) but ACH said that he only wrestles in big spots, not second on the card, and objected to being booked against a non-main event guy like Theory twice in one year, so he refused to wrestle the match. This was a great arrogant heel promo.

Theory was about to take the forfeit victory when Ethan Case came out and cut a hometown babyface promo saying he has waited for a long time to show what he can do in EVOLVE and he won't let his friend, family, and hometown fans gets cheated out of a match, so he wants to face Austin Theory right now. Theory and EVOLVE officials were both apparently okay with this, so we got...

ETHAN CASE vs. AUSTIN THEORY (w/Priscilla Kelly) - 5.5/10


Conceited heel Austin Theory is infinitely better than whiny babyface Austin Theory. The match was fine, but certainly nothing that changed my view on theory or that made me feel like I need to see Case again, but the booking works, with Theory picking up the (clean) win after gaining a new manager and a "new attitude" after is loss at the last show, and Case was a hometown guy who would get Theory booed and was completely expendable as far as wins and losses go due to what I assume is the auditioning nature of his presence on this show.

KEITH LEE vs. ETHAN PAGE - 6.75/10


This was shorter than I expected, but it definitely had the right level of intensity and was a fun quasi-hoss fight with the added benefit of a clear babyface and a clear heel.

POST- MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Lenny Leonard commented on the previous match by saying that "Ethan Page kept pushing Keith Lee's buttons until he pushed the wrong one." Lee cut a promo after the match on a slightly similar theme, saying that some people- specifically naming Tracy Williams and Stokely Hathaway- were going to start seeing a different side of Keith Lee because "if you put your nose in my business, there will be hell to pay."

Unhappy about being called out, Tracy Williams and Stokely Hathaway came out. Tracy got in Lee's face and slapped him a few times before Lee fired back with a huge forearm that floored Tracy. Lee advanced on Stokely, but Timothy Thatcher then came out and got in Lee's face. While they were having their stare-down, Tracy Williams slipped back into the ring behind Lee and attacked him. Thatcher and Williams ganged up on Lee until Darby Allin came out and went after Thatcher. Williams tried to get involved so Allin speared him and then went right back after Thatcher until Thatcher managed to dispose of him.

Stokely went over and started to stomp away at Lee, but when Lee started to get up, Stokely ran off. Lee followed him and Thatcher went to follow Lee, leaving us with the already-scheduled...

TRACY WILLIAMS vs. DARBY ALLIN - 6.25/10


The story of the match obviously focused on Darby's injured arm, with Lenny Leonard suggesting that Darby came back from his injury earlier than it would have been wise to. Stokely eventually made his way back to ringside. The other important thing to note in this story was that Darby's attempts to wrestle a mat-based style as is he currently on a quest to prove that he can do did not work out so well for him, although his usual Darby Allin "extremely high risk" style didn't work out so well for him, either, as Tracy was often able to counter his attempts at the Coffin Drop into various roll-ups and arm-locks.

FRED YEHI PROMO - He announces that his scheduled opponent for tonight, Trent Baretta, can't be here tonight because he's in the hospital. The fans chant for Trent. Fred says that he still wants to wrestle, and he has an open contract, meaning that WWN can put him against whoever they want. Out comes ACH. Hmmm... it will be interesting to see if this Trent injury is actually a work or if Gabe just found a way to use the situation to help get ACH's angle over.

ACH said that after his little stunt earlier management reminded him that he only gets paid if he wrestles. He suggested that he and Yehi wrestle each other tonight, and that because Yehi is the #1 contender to the Evolve World Title (his title shot is tomorrow night if Zack retains, or a date TBD if Thatcher wins) and because ACH had previously beaten Yehi back when Yehi was still one half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions (oddly Yehi's FIP World Heavyweight Title, which Yehi also held back when ACH beat him, was not mentioned), that Fred should put his #1 contendership on the line. Fred accepted, so we got a...

#1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Fred Yehi vs. ACH - 6.75/10


ACH decided to wrestle in his pads and boots, but with shorts and a t-shirt instead of his wrestling trunks because this wasn't the main event. I don't quite get what the connection there is but whatever. ACH worked the back a bit, Yehi worked the knee a bit. ACH had some good arrogant heel stuff, but Yehi wound up getting the win. I was pretty disappointed with this one. I was hoping for something a lot better.

EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Catchpoint (Chris Dickinson & Jaka)(c) vs. Anthony Henry & James Drake - 7.25/10


I have no idea what Drake & Henry did to earn this title shot. Henry won Style Battle S1 E5, so maybe you could say that counts (although that seems like a stretch to me, seeing as how that is a singles accomplishment and these are tag titles), but what has James Drake ever done? According to Lenny Leonard they've both done stuff as singles guys, but that's still a stretch, IMO. That being said, Catchpoint's take on all comers philosophy does go a bit towards letting me look past this.
Anyway, the new guys had a pretty great showing for themselves, as they actually won the belts here in a MAJOR upset. I'm happy with this, simply because during this match it occurred to me that Jaka & Dickinson were literally the only team in EVOVLE on anything even resembling a regular basis right now. Henry's girlfriend from FIP (and maybe other places. And maybe they're also legit. I have no idea) Amber Young came out to celebrate with them. Dickinson was characteristically frustrated with this loss, screaming angrily and almost throwing things. We got a totally random "YOU DESERVE IT!" chant for guys winning the tag titles in their first ever time teaming together.

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH FOR THE EVOLVE WORLD TITLE:
Zack Sabre Jr.(c) vs. Timothy Thatcher (w/Stokely Hathaway) - 8.75/10


Stokely gave Trevin Adams a fancy intro to read, which talked up not only Thatcher for being the greatest and longest-reigning Evolve World Champion of all time, but also Stokely himself for being "the only man to knock out Matt Riddle and beat down Keith Lee in one night."

One of my all-time favorite matches is Bryan Danielson vs. Roderick Strong from ROH Vendetta, which is essentially a story of two very technically-minded wrestlers getting more and more pissed off at each other as the match goes on, until it feels like they're trying to rip each other's limbs off. This was kind of an inverted version of that. Here we had two very technically-minded wrestlers who already didn't like each other being told they could do whatever they wanted to each other, which results in the growing anger from Danielson vs. Strong being replaced by a sort of grim determination to hurt the other guy and not allow yourself to give in to him...and all while keeping true to their technical style. They had what you could mostly refer to as a "nice, clean technical match" except that there was nothing "nice" about it. I also really love how EVOLVE has taken the idea of a "No Holds Barred" match and brought the focus back to the literal meaning by focusing on holds while still making sure that the fact that you can't get disqualified for anything remains relevant.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very good. Zack cuts a promo on Thatcher saying that he used to respect him but hasn't since Evolve 79 when after Zack beat him for the Evolve World Title, Thatcher didn't continue the EVOLVE tradition of the old champion presenting the title belt to the new one. Zack said that either way he considers their rivalry to be over, but asked Thatcher to not pass up the chance to right this wrong so that their rivalry can end the way it began: two men who respect each other because they love pro wrestling so much.

We got some teasing that Thatched wouldn't do it, then some teasing that Stokely wouldn't hand the belt to Thatcher (Stokely had picked it up during the match to show it to Thatcher to inspire him), then another tease that Thatcher might not give it to Zack, but he finally did and walked off. This could theoretically be a face-turn for Thatcher, but either way he will probably still be despised by the fans and it still makes sense for him to remain with Stokely for exactly the reasons he joined up with him in the first place, so even if he does turn face it won't change much.

Final Thoughts
Another good show from EVOLVE, although this one was definitely below the level we usually get. The much-hyped main event delivered though, and we got some important storyline moments for ACH, Thatcher, and Lee as well as the big, shocking tag title change, so this is definitely a show you should try to watch.

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