Yessir, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the World Wrestling Network to come back in to your home with Evolve 78 (live from Joppa, Maryland) and Evolve 79 (live from Queens, New York), and as always, I'm here to give you the low down on what's going down.
Darby Allin: This Road Ends For Both Of Us
Ethan Page NEEDS To Exterminate Darby Allin
Evolve Mini-Doc: Drew Galloway
Evolve 77 Recap: A Hero's Exit Part 2
Evolve 76 Recap: A Hero's Exit Part 1
Evolve 78 (Friday, February 24, at 8PM Eastern)
Fred Yehi vs. Timothy Thatcher (c) (Evolve World Championship)
Timothy Thatcher's title reign has reached epic proportions. Indeed, if he retains through this weekend, he's going to crack 600 days on March 1. That's a long time, and in fact, only two men have held top titles longer in Gabe Sapolsky promotions-- Samoa Joe and his 645 day reign as Ring of Honor World Champion, and Johnny Gargano and his 873 day reign as Open the Freedom Gate Champion in Dragon Gate USA.
It's lofty company, to be sure. But if anybody can knock him off the mountain at this point, it's Fred Yehi. Fred had a whirlwind 2016, coming into the company regularly for the first time with Style Battle and finding little success at first. But once he hooked up with Catch Point, everything started coming up Yehi, and he collected the FIP World Heavyweight Championship as well as becoming one half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions alongside "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams.
And, unlike nearly every other likely contender, he has the advantage that he and Thatcher have never wrestled before. Sure, he plays Tim's game, having a match of intense, aggressive, mat-based technical wrestling, but he has a unique style that exploits weaknesses that even the best are unprepared to counter.
Timothy Thatcher is going to find himself in BIIIIIG TROUBLE on Friday night for sure.
Keith Lee vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
Chris Hero casts a long shadow.
Despite losing the Evolve Championship mere months after he won it in 2014, the Greatest of All Time took center stage from the moment he made his triumphant return all the way to his departure last month. So it's only fitting that the men that faced him in his final two independent matches clash this weekend.
Sabre has momentum on his side, having finally conquered Hero in their fourth and final match in Evolve. But Lee is fired up to prove that he belongs in Evolve, and this match is the first in a four-match Keith Lee Challenge Series that will take us through WrestleMania weekend. Starting things off with a victory over Zack Sabre, Jr. would certainly prove just that.
And even better, if he can hurt the Technical Wizard enough to the point where Timothy Thatcher, should he retain the Evolve Championship, can beat Sabre handily to retain his title, well, could there be a seat at the Dream Team's table for the Pretty Boy Killer?
Drew Galloway vs. Jeff Cobb
At long last, Drew Galloway makes his in-ring return to Evolve. He's been a presence on the show even through his injury last fall, but the timing refused to line up to allow him to take to the squared circle, until now. So of course, he runs into Mr. Athletic himself, Jeff Cobb.
They're in kind of similar situations, really. Both men come into this one having not had the best time of it recently. Galloway, as mentioned, had his injury, but not only that, but he lost the tag titles without even being involved in the match after authorizing DUSTIN to defend them with Chris Hero in his place. Cobb, for his part, suffered losses in both of his matches last weekend, failing to claim the tag titles nor the world title.
So the stage is set for a real clash of the titans, and both men need a win to make a decisive statement and carry some momentum forward.
And the rest
ACH takes on "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams as he continues looking to make his mark in Evolve. WWN officials have made a deal whereby ACH will get an Evolve World Championship title shot at WrestleMania weekend if he wins both his matches, and his first challenge is the other half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions. He bested Fred Yehi already, can he take care of Hot Sauce?
Matt Riddle faces a challenge as he goes against newly-minted PWX World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Henry. It's a night of first-time matches in Evolve, but these two faced before at PWX Redemption, where Henry was victorious. But now he's on the Bro's turf, and he has a tough row to hoe getting past him in Evolve.
"All Ego" Ethan Page is set to wrestle one of wrestling's fastest rising stars, Jason Kincaid. Page was eliminated by Kincaid at Glory Pro last weekend, ending his ambitions of seizing the Crown of Glory Championship, and that defeat will be fresh in his mind. But Kincaid's unorthodox bag of tricks and seemingly innate Zen-like sense of calm may just win him the day in the end anyway.
The Gatekeepers have a rare match announced ahead of time as they stare down Catch Point's very own Doom Patrol. Jaka and Chris Dickinson have been victorious every time they've teamed in Evolve, but the Gatekeepers are coming off a trios loss and looking to make their names once again. (And hopefully share their names with us in the process, because I can only refer to the erstwhile Devastation Corporation as Blaster McMassive and Flex Rumblecrunch for so long before I start to go mad.)
Two of the newest contracted WWN talent go toe-to-toe, it's Austin Theory vs. Darby Allin. Both men are young and hungry to prove themselves, there's no limit to the sort of wild pyrotechnics we might see here.
Evolve 79 (Saturday, February 25, at 6PM Eastern)
Winner of Yehi/Thatcher (c) vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (Evolve World Championship)
Zack Sabre, Jr. has been scraping his way to this title shot for nearly a year now.
It seemed, initially, that the inevitable end to his Best in the World Challenge Series was victories all around and a title shot as soon as reasonably possible. But then the Bro happened, and Chris Hero happened, and Sabre was sent into a tailspin.
For a time it seemed like it might all turn out to be irrelevant, as he made his way to the semifinals of the Cruiserweight Classic. But there he fell to Gran Metalik and it was soon clear that WWE wasn't in his future, either. So he got himself together, he dusted himself off, and he started building on his victory over Johnny Gargano at Evolve 68.
He cleaned house on the October weekend, beating both halves of the current tag champions, and seemed poised for a shot. But then Stokely Hathaway interposed himself between challengers and the title, and Ethan Page brought his brand of chaos right to Zack's doorstep.
It felt like he was back to square one. But in January, he finally dug deep and found that killer instinct, that Best in the World edge. He choked Ethan Page out to such a vicious degree that he got himself disqualified, and he finally climbed the mountain that is the Greatest of All Time.
And now, he finally takes a crack at the title. He doesn't have the pleasure of preparing for a single opponent, he has to be ready for either Thatcher (who he's 1-1 with in Evolve) or Yehi (who he's up 1-0 on), but you can be sure he's gonna fight like his life depends on it.
Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle
This match has been nearly six months in the making.
When Riddle stood tall and kicked Galloway's head off to turn him down, it ended months of questioning. Evolve was Bro once and for all, and he proudly took the proverbial banner from Johnny Gargano and waved it high. And the match was set for soon after, it seemed like there was no reason for the battle to be fought quickly and decisively.
And then Galloway got hurt. And he blamed it on the Bro for kicking his head off in the first place. And suddenly, a war for the heart and soul of Evolve became... personal. As Galloway's empire crumbled around him, as he lost the services of Ethan Carter III and Chris Hero and lost the tag titles, leaving only DUSTIN at his side, Riddle stood taller than ever, and Galloway's focus narrowed.
Now, his crusade against Evolve has become a crusade against one man, Matt Riddle. It's a battle for the heart and soul of Evolve, and neither man is going to give anything but his all.
Darby Allin vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page
Ethan Page is out to eradicate Darby Allin.
The first two times they faced each other, Page was in the midst of his "redemption", trying to play the nice guy and get close to Johnny Gargano. And still, he destroyed Darby each time, once throwing Allin into a support beam with no regard for his well-being. It should have been a sign, really, but I wanted to believe there was goodness in his heart.
But no, he offered his hand open, but it wasn't for an embrace, it was for a cold slap across the face, to ruin Johnny's last day in the company. And, the Icon vanquished, he set his sights on chaos. Darby, freshly contracted, has resumed his campaign for a third match and finally got it after the trios match where Zack Sabre, Jr. choked the life out of Page.
It's a serious uphill battle for Darby, but he's got fire and he's got steel. He's willing to sacrifice everything he has to prevail, and if he can take the beating Page will dish out long enough to find an opening, he might just finally get that victory.
And the rest
The Keith Lee Challenge Series rolls on as he fights "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams. Hot Sauce has had the pleasure of defeating Chris Hero where Lee has not, but the Catch Point man cannot take the superheavyweight lightly here. Williams is gonna have to really chip away if he doesn't want to bask in his glory here.
ACH has a chance to finalize his contendership against Jason Kincaid. If he gets past Williams, a win against Kincaid will secure him a title shot, but Kincaid's no pushover. ACH is gonna have to dig deep to push past the West Virginian if he wants that shot against Thatcher, Yehi, or Sabre.
Suplex machines collide in ALL OUT HOSS WAR as Jeff Cobb takes on Jaka. The ring may be shaken to its very foundation when Mr. Athletic and Catch Point's savage collide! YEOW!
The man who loses the world title match the night before will be thrust right into high stakes four-way action against Chris Dickinson, Austin Theory, and Anthony Henry. It's gonna be hot and heavy and anybody's match as the action flows and changes, and a victory over a former champion or contender could skyrocket any of the other three men into the main event.
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