Yessir, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the World Wrestling Network to come back in to your home with Evolve 84 (live from Chicago, Illinois) and Evolve 85 (live from Detroit, Michigan), and as always, I'm here to give you the low down on what's going down.
Evolve 82 Quick Hit: Two Major News Stories With Evolve 83 Implications!
Evolve 83 Recap: Who Are The Champions & Earth-Shattering Catch Point News!
Evolve Mini-Doc: Page vs. Darby - The Final Chapter
The Keeper Of The Gates To Heaven...
Evolve Mini-Doc: Tag Team Excellence In Catch Point
From the Desk of Stokely Hathaway: It's Personal
Evolve Mini-Doc: Kyle O'Reilly Perfecting The Style
Jason Kincaid Coping With Perfection
Evolve 84 (Saturday, May 20, at 3:30PM Eastern)
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Matt Riddle (c) (WWN Championship)
Some men are destined to fight each other.
The minute Riddle burst onto the indies, confirmed as the next big thing, O’Reilly became an obvious dream match. But with Kyle shackled by the constraints of his exclusive contract with Ring of Honor and rumored to be scouted by WWE, the question of if we’d ever get it on the indies hung heavy.
Well, when our Bro was entered into PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles last year, only a year and a half into his pro wrestling career, we got it, and O’Reilly’s eleven years of experience carried the day. But the story of this match doesn’t end there, as Ireland’s OTT ran the match earlier this month, and this time Riddle had his hand raised.
So, at one win each, the match happens again in the promotion both men may as well have been born to compete in, for arguably the richest prize Evolve has to offer. There is a question of momentum— O’Reilly and Riddle both have had strong showings in Evolve this year, but they’ll meet one more time in tag team action at PWG the day before this match, and the result of that could very well create an edge here.
“All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (c) (Evolve World Championship)
Ethan Page has trouble letting go, it seems.
He refused to let his feud with Darby Allin go after the young daredevil bested him in Orlando, insisting on a rematch where he not only won, but put Allin on the shelf for three months with a broken elbow after a wild shot with an actual shovel. It took six matches, three Gatekeepers, and two body bags, but All Ego made sure he got the last word.
But his past encounters with Sabre are... different. He’s been beaten at every turn by the Technical Wizard— the record books show them 1-1 in singles action, but that second match was one ZSJ won handily only to have the result overturned because he refused to break the triangle choke that tapped Page out. So in a way, the situation is reversed, and Ethan is the guy clawing for his first real victory in the face of the dominant force that has stymied him at nearly every turn. But with the title on the line, and a brand-new Gatekeeper at his side, it might just finally be Ethan Page’s day.
I pinned ZSJ 1-2-3 In NYC.— All Ego Ethan Page (@OfficialEGO) May 19, 2017
I should slap you. https://t.co/23UXNk4vle
To my great shame I misremembered the events of Evolve 72 entirely, folks. Usually I'm obsessive about double checking my facts before going to print, but I cut corners this month and there's nothing I can do here but apologize and print this retraction.
So, that being said, All Ego still has a bit of a hole to crawl out of here. A reversed decision this time won't win him the title, after all.
Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
Yes indeed, it’s a rematch of the match that got everyone talking WrestleMania weekend!
That one was an all-out HOSS WAR without parallel, two giant dudes flipping in and around the ring, but make no mistake, it wasn’t some psychology-free spotfest. No sir, everything they did had gravity and purpose to it, a real weight behind it, as befitting these two titans locking horns.
And what’s more, Keith Lee’s near-future rests on winning this one. WWN officials have promised him a shot at his choice of the WWN or Evolve Championships if he can win both his matches this weekend. For the Limitless one, anything is possible, and he’s already beaten Dijak, but his short time in Evolve has already proven that he has a tendency to fall prey to his tendency to gloat and grandstand.
Trying to force his opponents to bask in his glory has cost Keith Lee before, will it lead Dijak to even things up in Evolve?
And the rest
Doom Patrol defend the Evolve Team Championship against two of Freelance’s finest, Isaias Velazquez and Matt Knicks. Dickinson and Jaka look to bring a bit of Catch Point philosophy to Velazquez and Knicks. The Freelance men are as capable as anyone, but can the former Team BETA allies hold together in the face of Evolve’s top tag team? (As an aside, I’m stoked for these dudes to get this opportunity!)
Catch Point leader “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams takes on suplex machine Jeff Cobb in singles action. Hot Sauce technically owns a tag team victory over Jeff Cobb from January, but Fred Yehi got the fall over Timothy Thatcher in that match and anything is possible, especially as Tracy hasn’t had the best luck wrestling hosses this year, having fallen to Keith Lee at Evolve 79.
It’s a battle of the prodigies as Austin Theory takes on Lio Rush. Rush is coming in with a lot of momentum having just won the CZW World Heavyweight Championship, so he’ll be a tough nut to crack for Theory, but if the somehow even younger man can knock Lio off, it’ll be a feather in his cap.
Jason Kincaid returns from injury with a big test in the form of Fred Yehi. It’ll be Fred’s first match since leaving Catch Point, so naturally both men are gonna want to kick the next phase off with a win.
Evolve 85 (Sunday, May 21, at 8PM Eastern)
Lio Rush vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (c) (Evolve World Championship)
You wouldn’t like Zack Sabre, Jr when he’s angry.
That’s a lesson Lio Rush learned in their first encounter last month at Evolve 83. Usually it takes more to get Sabre riled up, but something about the young Rush trying to go hold-for-hold with the Technical Wizard on the mat flipped the switch early; perhaps a side effect of Zack’s quest to unlock the killer instinct that brought him the title.
But then a curious thing happened. Instead of crumpling, Lio dug deep, fought through the pain of the targeted leg and gave Sabre back as good as he got. Indeed, the champion had to settle for a victory through his trademark European Clutch bridging pin instead of getting a decisive submission victory.
Can Zack keep his cool this time or will he just unload on Rush from the jump to teach him a proverbial lesson? Will Lio bait him in and try to get him hot enough to make a mistake or will he try to get him off-balance with a different strategy?
All I know is the stage is set for a hell of a rematch.
Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle (c) (WWN Championship)
It’s fairly rare that Matt Riddle has anything to prove.
But so it is, as Cobb is a man he’s wrestled twice (once in Evolve, and once in AAW) and never yet beaten. And more, Jeff’s Evolve victory over Matt was his debut for the promotion, instantly making his mark and making his case for the Evolve title shot he came short with in January.
Since then, Cobb’s record has been rather more mixed, going 3-2 in singles in total, while Riddle has rebounded nicely, going 6-2 in singles action in 2017. As well, our Bro won the inaugural WWN Championship against heavy odds. So, in a sense, this is a battle between a rising force and a falling one, and it’s tempting to count the former Olympian out.
Then again, we come right back to their encounters against each other. Riddle is in a hole to be climbed out of, and Cobb holds the momentum along with the high ground.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams (Pure Wrestling Challenge)
Those are three magical words right there at the end of the header.
Okay, so as I write this, they’re “only” on the official match graphic and the match is just billed as a “special challenge match” in all the newsletters so far, but if those words mean what I think they mean, this is easily my most anticipated match of the weekend.
Because if those words hold true, that means this match will be contested under Pure Rules. Pure Rules, if you’re not familiar, are an invention of Gabe Sapolsky’s Ring of Honor that foresaw the direction Evolve would be going in all these years later. The idea is each competitor gets three rope breaks and one warning. Run out of rope breaks, and getting to the ropes can’t save you any longer, and once you’ve been warned once (for a closed-fist strike or the like), further warnings take rope breaks away. If you’re warned when you’re out of breaks, that’s a disqualification.
It all adds up to an excellent way to have a technical wrestling match, as the tension of using up rope breaks grows and builds the match to an absolute crescendo. It is a match type that is long overdue in coming to Evolve, and this is an excellent first matchup to test it on.
But even if I’m over-interpreting what’s meant to simply be a bit of flavor, you know these two guys are gonna make some grappling magic in there.
And the rest
Donovan Dijak faces off against “All Ego” Ethan Page. Against a foe as formidable as Dijak, one assumes that Page will be all too happy to involve his Gatekeepers in the action, and if he wrests the Evolve Championship away from Zack Sabre, Jr., you have to think that goes double.
Keith Lee entices Fred Yehi to bask in his glory. Lee hasn’t had the greatest luck against smaller opponents, and Yehi is short, angry, and as pissed-off as ever in the wake of Stokely Hathaway’s takeover of Catch Point. But having put ZSJ and Tracy Williams both away previously, Lee has gotta be looking at adding another top-notch technical wrestler to his trophy case.
Jason Kincaid and Austin Theory will be in non-title action against Doom Patrol. Chris Dickinson and Jaka are looking to continue Catch Point’s war against high flyers under the management of Stokely Hathaway, and a loss would undoubtedly propel Kincaid and Theory into the title scene.
It’s a rare women’s match on an Evolve card as Allysin Kay and Priscilla Kelly clash in a Shine showcase. The AK-47 is a battle-tested veteran, but Hell’s Favorite Harlot has been skulking around the edges of Evolve for some time now and has the lay of the land. Could she have found the friend she’s looking for?
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