EVOLVE 81 (3.31.17)

EVOLVE 81 (3.31.17)

The second half of EVOLVE’s WrestleMania weekender wrapped up with a brutal main event between Ethan Page and Darby Allin in front of a largely indifferent crowd.

This show started a little late due to the over-run from PROGRESS, and we open with Zack Sabre Jr. in the ring with the EVOLVE title… His eyebrow is stitched up having been bust open by Jimmy Havoc a few hours earlier for PROGRESS, and he calls out “big bollocks” Michael Elgin. Main events on first two shows in a row, huh?

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Michael Elgin
This is non-title, despite Elgin’s pleas last night, but Elgin starts out hot with a shoulder tackle to Sabre. They head out with a back suplex onto the apron by Big Mike, who rams Zack into the ringpost, then forearms him in the lower back.

After Elgin misses a slingshot big splash, Sabre capitalises with some boots out of the corner, only to be caught with some rolling German suplexes, then a Tiger suplex for a near-fall. Elgin gets knocked down as he went for a superplex, and they go to some back and forth strikes as Elgin smashes Sabre into smithereens with some clubbing forearms.

Some kicks from Zack lead to a guillotine attempt, but Big Mike powers free, only to take a Pele kick to the arm. A tornado DDT follows, as my feed buffers and returns to see Elgin hitting a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. Somewhere hear, Zack’s stitches re-opened and he was left bleeding like Steve Austin in the Sharpshooter as Elgin caught him in a Boston crab… which Sabre broke by BITING THE BOTTOM ROPE.

This crowd look to be either tired or horribly mic’d, as it sounds like only one person cares about these two as they trade kicks. Sabre hits an uppercut after taking an avalanche, but he runs into a Splash Mountain as Big Mike almost took the win. Elgin takes Sabre up top in a Fireman’s carry, but Zack works free into a triangle choke, only to take a top rope powerbomb for a near-fall.

After landing, Sabre grabs another triangle on Elgin, switching it eventually into a Rings of Saturn-like double armbar, but Elgin makes the bottom rope to keep the match alive. On the apron, Sabre wrenches on Elgin’s arm, but he ends up taking a superkick as Elgin decided to land an apron death valley driver. You know, because Sabre’s not been beaten up enough today. At least the blood’s clotted…

Elgin keeps up the pressure with a Falcon Arrow, bringing Sabre in off the apron for a two-count, then sends Zack down with a spinning backfist. A bucklebomb’s followed up with an attempt at a spinning sit-out powerbomb, but Sabre slips out and bridges Elgin up for the win. Well… technically, this was fine, but the crowd live barely made a peep. ***¼

Lio Rush heads to the ring as Elgin leaves… Sabre’s still there, and Lio introduces himself. Yep, Lio’s adding his name to the list of contenders, and Sabre agrees to a shot. That prompts Drew Galloway to head to the ring next, to “educate the kid” that is Lio Rush. Drew’s grumpy at Zack for doling out title shots, and it’s clear they’re aiming for Drew vs. Zack down the line, particularly since Galloway’s taking shots at Sabre “living in his shadow”.

Galloway then turns his sights to Rush, for overlooking their match tonight in favour of looking for a title shot. Drew wants to fight Rush now and have their scheduled match, but only after Sabre tells him to “smash him in, mate”. I love nonchalant Zack!

Lio Rush vs. Drew Galloway
Rush uses his speed advantage to kick Galloway to the outside, but his follow-up sees him slide into some chops. Some kicks on the apron set up Lio for an Asai moonsault, then a low-pe as he tries to keep Galloway on his arse.

Back inside, a crossbody is caught as Galloway turns it into a backbreaker, and from there Drew’s throwing Lio around like a small kid. Rush lands on his feet from one of those flips, but he’s quickly taken outside for more of the same. Rush does have some exciting flurries, but this crowd just don’t seem to care – it’s like they all had a late night and are hanging.

Galloway catches a reverse ‘rana and plants Lio with a reverse fly swatter to almost win the match. An enziguiri from Rush knocks Drew off the top rope, but he can’t hit the frog splash and turns around into a Claymore kick for a near-fall. The piledriver follows for another two-count, but Rush manages to turn things back around, this time getting a two-count from a top rope elbow.

The finish comes Drew knocks Rush loopy with a headbutt, then hits a swinging Futureshock DDT and a piledriver for the win. Another good match, met with solid indifference. This crowd man… ***½

Apparently the show went to interval early because of streaming issues. I hope that’s true because my feed took a bath here.

Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
Oh hello… two former ROH guys. Something something dropped the ball… Surely THIS will wake up the crowd?

Somehow, Lee lands on his feet after an even more impressive monkey flip from Dijak in the opening stages. A dropkick takes Dijak to the outside, where he’s floored with a corkscrew plancha from the freakishly agile Lee, and yes, that woke up the crowd!

Dijak comes back with a chokeslam onto the apron, then hits a superkick before an Asai moonsault took the big lad down again. A springboard elbow drop gives Dijak a near-fall, but Lee catches a splash out of the corner and tries to powerbomb Dijak… who lands on his feet and goes back to the forearms before pouncing Donovan out of his skin!

Lee misses a moonsault off the middle turnbuckle, but catches Dijak… who shifts his momentum into a Destroyer for a two-count. Yes. A DESTROYER. A discus big boot follows, but Dijak just gets shoved into the ropes for a pop-up chokeslam… but Dijak kips up and superkicks Lee off the top rope as he follows up with the Feast Your Eyes inverted Go To Sleep for a near-fall.

Lee catches a springboard cannonball as Dijak breaks the barriers… then gets powerbombed onto the apron. Jesus Christ, this may not be fast paced, but it’s intense as all hell. A top rope moonsault follows, but Dijak kicked out just before three as another microphone was turned on for a split second!

Dijak goozles Lee as he trashtalked, but Keith grabs a chokeslam of his own… Dijak flips out… so does Lee, and that leads us to a Spirit Bomb after an utterly bonkers match. You NEED to see this, if only to see some big hosses moving like cruiserweights. ****¼

ACH comes out next, but Stokely Hathaway interrupts to tear strips into ring announcer Joanna Rose after her screw-up yesterday. So he wasn’t the current Timothy Thatcher? Hathaway reminds us how he took TJ Perkins to the WWE, and this just makes ACH have a lie down. I know the feeling…

Hathaway wants to bring Kyle O’Reilly into the Dream Team… and now we have ACH’s opponent…

ACH vs. Timothy Thatcher
You know how Timmy’s matches go… They start off with a lot of ground-based holds, with Thatcher gurning his way to a submission attempt from a rear chinlock. ACH gets a series of neckbreakers to take Thatcher down, but we’re back to the rear chinlock as this is falling firmly into my “dislike” bucket of Timmy matches. Thatcher swaps it for a sleeperhold, but ACH powers him onto the apron… where we get another sleeperhold. This time, ACH sneaks ahead with a PK off the apron, then manages to follow up with an ushigoroshi for a near-fall.

The crowd’s gone back to sleep, but ACH throws out of a sleeperhold and hits a brainbuster out of nowhere for the win! That was a very abrupt finish to what I must say was a match that almost put me to sleep. Technically fine, but just not exciting at all. **½

After the match, Hathaway tries to apologise… but Timmy’s got the mic and he’s talking! Thatcher tells Stokely, if he’s not added to the WWN title match tomorrow, he’s done with the Dream Team!

Jason Kincaid, Austin Theory & Sammy Guevara vs. Tracy Williams, Chris Dickinson & Jaka
Billed as “Catch Point vs. High Fliers”, we started with Dickinson wearing down on Guevara’s wrist, only to get rolled through as Sammy backflips over “Dirty Daddy” and hits a dropkick in the early going. Plenty of flips include one for a clothesline for a two-count, before Jaka and Theory come in to exchange big kicks.

A dropkick from Theory takes down Jaka, who recovers to chokeslam Theory and Kincaid… the latter of which ended up taking down all three members of Catch Point with a double bulldog. Williams comes back to dropkick Kincaid to the floor, and this quickly breaks down to a dive set-up… but Jaka and Williams just give Theory and Guevara German suplexes, whilst Dickinson gives Kincaid a Pazuzu bomb on the apron. Ouch.

Kincaid remains isolated as Jaka throws him across the ring with a T-bone suplex for a near-fall. Dickinson continues that beatdown, choking the meditator in the corner, and my feed goes once again. It returns to see Dickinson tag back in and pick up Kincaid in a deadlift German suplex, but Kincaid finally counters a top rope Splash Mountain into a ‘rana to get himself free.

Things break down again as Theory and Guevara come in to double-team Williams with a curb stomp into the Theory Driver (torture rack into a powerbomb), but Jaka breaks that up. Theory takes a DDT onto the top turnbuckle from Williams, before Williams grabs a crossface that Kincaid quickly breaks up.

A shooting star press to the floor sees all three members of Catch Point somehow fail to catch Guevara. Theory connects with an Asai moonsault, before Kincaid combines a dive with a front flip Stunner onto Dickinson off the apron. All flashy stuff, but this crowd is back to playing with their phones, it seems.

A trio of Coast-to-Coast dropkicks batter Dickinson, but Williams tries to mount a comeback as this turns into a parade of kicks, ending with a standing moonsault from Theory. Williams gets a near-fall from a snapping brainbuster on Kincaid, but Dickinson and Williams get knocked down for a double stomp from Kincaid… Guevara misses a shooting star press as we rush to a finish with a double-team electric chair drop on Guevara getting the pin as Williams held on and didn’t tap as Kincaid had a Dragon Sleeper in. Ah, this was alright, but it seemed to derail several times and lose its flow badly. I like how the story here is that Dickinson (and Jaka) are capable of getting the win by themselves rather than breaking up their partners’ predicaments. **¾

Dickinson and Jaka want their tag title shot, but Williams urges them to focus on their tag match against the South Pacific Power Trip tomorrow on the Mercury Rising supershow. Yehi then grants them their shot regardless, leaving Williams speechless.

Larry Dallas is out now, because this crowd isn’t dead enough already. Dallas reveals that title shot will take place on April 22, then asks where Matt Riddle’s been during all of this. The crowd actually boo here as he goes to Kincaid… and randomly Matt Riddle wanders out in this. I guess he’s having his match now?

Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle instantly goes for a Bromission, but Yehi rolls away from him as they rolled into the ropes.

Riddle grapevines Yehi’s leg whilst grabbing a chinlock, before they exchange ankle locks for a brief moment. A Stretch Muffler bends Riddle in half, but Matt swivels out into an armbreaker then a crossface. The back-and-forth submissions continue, with Yehi throwing in some dropkicks, and it’s just amazing how little this crowd is caring.

Yehi grapevines Riddles’ legs and rolls him around into a leg spreader that Riddle slaps his way free of. He pops up out of a Yehi German suplex… then flips out of another and rushes in with a knee strike, then a Fisherman buster for a near-fall. A Doctor bomb sees Riddle keep on top, as does a back senton… and my feed cuts out again. Apparently in there Riddle hit Yehi with a pair of Bro to Sleeps…

Yehi peppers Riddle with a series of up-kicks, before landing a folding powerbomb for a near-fall. Another dropkick sends Riddle flying, as he’s tossed around with some German suplexes for a two-count. A tombstone slam only gets a one-count, so Riddle hits it again for a near-fall. From there, Yehi’s forced to fight out of a Bromission, and he actually counters it into a Koji Clutch. Riddle’s fading… and the referee stops the match! Much to the shock of the rest of the Catch Pointers at ringside! This was quite the match… yeah, it had the usual lack of interest from the crowd, but this was a well-done “technical” blood feud, if you get my drift. ***¾

After the match, Catch Point shake hands, and I guess all is well?

Anything Goes: Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page
Darby’s zombie medics from yesterday are back in Ethan Page masks, and Allin’s got “Ethan” written over one half of his body like a lunatic. The audio dies as Ethan Page heads out, meaning he gets muted booing.

Page whacks Allin with chairshots… then takes the whole thing up a few notches by Pastoring him into the crowd (throwing him from the ring, through several rows of seats). They stay in the crowd, where Page throws a table onto Allin, before Ethan runs a long way to lawn-dart Allin into the wall!

Darby’s already bleeding when he takes a ladder to the face, and doing an EVIL doesn’t help as Page puts a chair on him, then throws him into the ringpost repeatedly. Another ladder comes into play, but Allin makes a comeback with some dropkicks, before a springboard crossbody keeps Page down.

Everyone’s standing, obscuring the hard camera, so we have to rely on mobile cameras to see Darby throw ladders at “All Ego”. An Iconoclasm from Page throws Allin into the ladder – rendering it useless – but Page takes a ‘rana into a steel chair as Allin mounts a comeback using that same chair. Darby gets distracted, so Page throws that chair in his face, before he brings a table into the ring.

Page does the comedy “chair rebounds off the rope” spot, before killing Allin with the Tanned Sheamus kick. The RK-Ego sees Allin push off Ethan into the chair, before he dives into “All Ego”, sending both men crashing through a propped-up table in the corner for a near-fall. They work towards a ladder in the corner, with Allin climbing up it… but Page catches him on the top rope and press slams him through some tables on the floor. Yep, Darby’s insane.

Back in the ring, Page sets up a landing pad with some folded-open chairs… and a package piledriver sees Allin crash through those chairs, one of which flipped on it side as he went down.

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The Gatekeepers are summoned, but in comes Priscilla Kelly to try and put an end to things… Austin Theory comes in and dropkicks Page and one of the Gatekeepers. The other one takes a TKO as the crowd go MILD at Austin Theory’s arrival.

They go back through the crowd, but Allin’s leaving Ethan at ringside by himself. So he gets a good view of Allin hitting a coffin drop whilst wearing a trash can. That kid really wants to kill himself doesn’t he? Allin drags himself back to the ring, and whacks Page repeatedly with the bin, eventually sending Ethan onto a table. Allin climbs the ladder and leaps high with a big splash to put Page through it… and that’s the win! Well, that was something… this one meandered a fair amount and was brutal at times. I don’t get what they’re doing with the FIP crossover, given how little buzz FIP seems to get, but it’s being done for a reason. ***

Compared to the Thursday night show, this was like chalk and cheese. Some good matches, but the crowd were largely dead in comparison, which hurt the presentation big-time. There’s jokes about how Florida “doesn’t deserve some of the wrestling it gets” – reactions to stuff like this just highlights that problem. Maybe it’s the saturation of shows in the area, both this week and in general, but the guys who gave their blood, sweat and tears here probably didn’t expect the quietness they got.

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