Yessir, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the World Wrestling Network to come back in to your home with Evolve 70 (live from Orlando, Florida) and Evolve 71 (live from Ybor City, Florida), and as always, I'm here to give you the low down on what's going down.
Evolve 70 (Saturday, October 15, at 8PM Eastern)
Ethan Page vs. Timothy Thatcher (c) (Evolve World Championship)
A word that binds these two men together. Both men spent much of the year to date seeking it. Page’s quest turned out to be a sham, of course. A year-long put-on that Ole Anderson would be proud of, a quest to get close to Johnny Gargano by any means necessary. To get close enough to the man that brought him into this company to take him out of this company. And he did what he set out to do, granted, Johnny was leaving anyway, but he made his mark. He tied himself inexorably to Gargano’s legacy in Evolve.
Timothy Thatcher, meanwhile, has seen his quest to become worthy to hold the title again corrupt him. As he tore one-by-one through first Chris Hero, the man he beat to put himself in a position where he would even be considered for a title shot, and then the men he considered as having wronged him, the four members of Catch Point who nearly broke his arm at Evolve 52 last year and Marty Scurll, who reaggravated the injury at Evolve 59, he changed. Gone was the Thatcher of old who aimed to entertain us with his sport, and in his place is a man who frankly isn’t concerned with whether or not you enjoy what he’s doing, but simply with whether what he’s doing keeps him reigning as Evolve World Champion.
It’s not too far removed from the psychological shift Johnny Gargano underwent a little more than halfway through his record setting Open the Freedom Gate Championship reign. That title consumed him too, just as surely, turned it into a reign of terror punctuated by tag rope-assisted chokes. Page, in his training video and before he went undercover, adopted the same as a trademark. No matter who wins, Evolve may well continue to be bent under the thumb of a tyrant champion.
Chris Hero vs. Drew Gulak
Their first match way back at Evolve 38 last year was excellent, almost certainly in my top ten Evolve matches of 2015. Gulak lost that match, a fate shared by every opponent Hero faced last year save Timothy Thatcher. The one time since then that he’s stood on the opposite side of the squared circle from Hero, he counted a win, but it was tag team action and Tommy End took the fall.
So, one apiece, but not an even accounting. Fair enough, Drew Gulak doesn’t mind climbing uphill, and as far as top-shelf grapplers go, he’s stylistically more similar to Thatcher (3-0 against Hero) than he is Sabre (0-3 against Hero). If anybody has an even chance to beat that young knockout kid, it’s Drew Gulak.
But one has to consider the wildcard factor here. Drew Gulak’s loyalties are split. Evolve may well still be his main priority, but well, anybody wrestling under those bright lights on Monday night has gotta have that on his mind. That’s the big show, the goal everyone in pro wrestling aspires to on some level, even if they can’t or won’t admit it. If Gulak turns out to be preoccupied by the cruiserweight division, he may have already lost.
Matt Riddle vs.
Drew Galloway’s choice of MYSTERY OPPONENT AR Fox One of the most tantalizing results of the card shuffling that occurred in the wake of Drew’s recent injury is the Bro facing down a mystery man. Everybody loves a mystery opponent! But who is it going to be? Kota Ibushi’s in the country for the NXT tapings, but would he really join Drew Galloway’s crusade? Ethan Carter III back as a one-off, perhaps? Low-Ki would be exciting, he’s worked for Evolve many times in the past and would almost certainly be interested in Mr. Galloway’s message. Along similar lines, it’s tempting to run through our mental rolodex of former WWE Superstars and come up with a whole gaggle of dudes who might want a piece of Galloway’s action, from Chris Masters to MVP. Of these, perhaps the most logical (being very good friends with Mr. Galloway) and also certain to put on a tantalizing grappling exhibition opposite the Bro is Alberto El Patron. Of course, no matter who it is, you can count on one thing— Matt Riddle’s gonna have a hell of a match with them.
Nevermind, they went ahead and announced it early, it’s AR Fox!
And the rest
Zack Sabre, Jr. continues walking what he hopes will be a road to the title versus “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams. Sabre defeated Johnny Gargano last month in a match billed as the Battle of the Aces, but his momentum couldn’t carry him past Ricochet the next night. By comparison, since beating Matt Riddle at Mercury Rising, Hot Sauce has only dropped two falls in singles competition, to his mentor Drew Gulak and to Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher. Thus, the hill is still ahead of Sabre. Is he up to the task of climbing it or will he crash and burn again?
DUSTIN fights Drew Galloway’s war against Evolve and Catch Point with a match against Fred Yehi. The former Chuck Taylor can bring it on the mat if he so chooses, but he’s largely eschewed grappling in his return to Evolve. Against a man like Fred Yehi, though, he’d best come with his wrestling boots on or he’ll be in BIG TROUBLE.
Two men clash in their respective Evolve debuts as Jason Kincaid and Nathan Cruz have at it. Nathan Cruz was the very first Progress Champion, so it’s natural to look at his appearance here as being prescient as to how Evolve vs. Progress will go down at Mercury Rising next year. But Kincaid himself is an unknown quantity, so literally anything can happen, folks.
Newly contracted to the roster Darby Allin gets to fend off a new arrival of his own in Anthony Henry. I’ve been gently pushing for Anthony Henry to come to Evolve since I first saw him last year in the inaugural Scenic City Invitational, and now he finally has his shot. But can he overcome the momentum that finally signing a contract must surely have imparted Darby Allin? Only time will tell, but I know for sure that Evolve won’t regret giving Henry the chance.
Evolve 71 (Sunday, October 16, at 8PM Eastern)
Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher (Non-title Fight to the Finish)
Cards on the table, folks, I’m gonna peel the curtain back a little from my usual pseudo-sports presentation for this one. Their match at Evolve 67, a match over a year in the making, built nearly from the moment Thatcher arrived in WWN fell flat. It should have been an epic culmination, a final victory for Thatcher as he climbed the one mountain he couldn’t yet climb in Evolve... and it was just a match.
There were things to like, to be sure. The overall story of Thatcher keeping things methodical, knowing he was one victory away from completing his “redemption” was a fine idea, if inconsistently applied. They finished strong, with Thatcher steeled for the first knockout backfist and taking the fight out of Gulak with headbutts to the point that even though he was able to throw two more backfists, there was no power behind them.
But compared to the absolute classic no holds barred war Thatcher and Riddle had the night before, or even to Thatcher and Gulak’s previous Evolve matches, it was a real disappointment. Hopefully this is a chance, with the “fight to the finish” pseudo-stipulation, to have the match I wanted back in August.
Chris Hero vs. Matt Riddle
If you climb Mount Everest once, can you do it again?
Hero’s record in Evolve these last two years certainly suggests you can. Undefeated by anyone else, beaten every time they’ve faced by Timothy Thatcher. Matt Riddle beat him once, he can surely do it twice. I believe in the Bro.
But... a shred of doubt exists. Last time they met, Hero was apolitical, shall we say. A monolithic entity of knockout elbows and concussive kicks, he was an entity to himself. He needed neither friends nor allies, aside from his tag team partnership with Tommy End, and they kept that quarantined off in the tags proper. But now, with Drew Galloway and DUSTIN at his side?
All bets are off.
Ethan Page vs. Sami Callihan
Sami Callihan returns after nearly six months away from Evolve for a rematch of his tilt against All Ego at Evolve 58. But the Ethan Page he fought then is not the Ethan Page he’ll fight on Sunday, no sir. This is Ethan Page uncorked, unrated, unleashed in his final form. Back in April, Ethan Page was trying to play nice, trying to turn his leaf over enough to convince us all that he wasn’t the dickhead we knew, and he paid the price for it, eating Cinder Block for the 1-2-3.
But now? No trick in the book is off-limits. Page will even have his hulking Gatekeepers with him, the former Devastation Corporation. Sami Callihan’s in for the fight of his life. Fortunately for him, he’s not a man who is easily cowed, and regardless the outcome of Thatcher/Page the night before, there could be serious title implications from a win here.
And the rest
Zack Sabre, Jr. takes on another member of Catch Point in Fred Yehi. A natural bookend to Sabre’s match against Williams, Fred’s fortunes have seen him on a similar run, only with the added prestige of being FIP World Heavyweight Champion. I reckon Sabre’s chances rest heavily on how he does against Hot Sauce here, a win could boost his confidence, whereas a loss will see him in BIG TROUBLE.
Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN keeps himself busy going one-on-one with Darby Allin. With only one win to his name in Evolve, taking down a tag team champion is a tall order for Darby Allin, but between his heart and his never say die daredevil attitude (not to mention his sweet entrance music), there’s no way you can count him out.
It’s another piece of fresh meat for “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams as he takes on Jason Kincaid. Kincaid’s chances here are slim, to be sure, but even simply holding his own against Catch Point’s right hand man will get him far in Evolve. And a win? Well, surely a win of that caliber would push him right onto the fast track to an Evolve contract.
Like what you read?
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