Chris Hero’s final weekend on the indy scene started with a show that would go down in infamy – for a couple of unsafe “oops” moments with the ring!
The show started with some “bonus matches”, courtesy of the Texas Wrestling Academy, featuring names that it’d be safe to say that only the most hardcore of wrestling fans would be familiar with.
Action Jackson vs. DJ Talamantez
Talamantez recently appeared in a throwaway match on Style Battle’s debut earlier in the month, and we started with some shoving before battling armdrags led to a backslide from DJ for a near-fall. More armdrags see DJ work into an armbar, before Talamantez counters a wheelbarrow into a headlock takedown, as another armdrag puts us back into an armbar. We’re sticking with headlock takedowns, and finally a back suplex gets Jackson free.
Jackson’s gimmick seems to be that he’s always sucking Gatorade through a straw attached to a backpack that he’s wrestling in, which… is a thing, I guess. DJ fires back with forearms, before Jackson log rolls into Talamantez to trip him for a quebrada – and those ropes are already looking mighty loose. Foreboding, much?
Some chops from the corner leads to forearms and kicks from Jackson, who leaps into DJ with a leaping cannonball senton. Another shot of Gatorade follows as Action gets a two-count, before he lands a nice looking dropkick to keep DJ down. Jackson misses a big moonsault off the top rope, with DJ having gone all the way to the other corner, as he then hits back with elbows and kicks, before a neckbreaker gets a near-fall.
Jackson tries for a clothesline, but it’s ducked as DJ hits a Code Red for a near-fall. He’s then pulled into the middle turnbuckle as Jackson goes up top for a double-jump corkscrew Blockbuster neckbreaker that gets a… four-count pin from the referee?! Well, everything’s bigger in Texas, I guess. A basic match, but a flashy finish… I’m really not sold on Jackson’s “stay hydrated” gimmick… **
Rudy Russo vs. Max Castillano
Somehow, Russo creates such a commotion coming out that he knocks down the entrance way. There’s a passing shot of Papa Hales in the front row as Russo does his rounds, whilst Castillano’s entrance is as bare bones as you get.
They trade wristlocks to start with as Russo wears down on Castillano’s left arm, before grabbing a hammerlock. Castillano tries to roll through, but Russo holds on and takes Max to the mat. The tables turn as Castillano hits a snake eyes and a clothesline for a near-fall, before dishing out some chops in the corner, followed by a side slam for another two-count.
Max goes for a rear chinlock and props himself on the ropes for extra leverage – much to the confusion of the referee who looks a bit like Al Snow after someone ribbed him with a bad dye job. Of course the referee catches Max on the third time, and somehow Russo makes hard work out of a schoolboy for a near-fall.
A leaping legdrop gets Castillano a near-fall, but Russo makes a comeback with clotheslines and dropkicks, then a big back body drop gets a near-fall. Rudy goes for a butterfly suplex, but Max avoids it and gets a Fireman’s carry, before chopping Russo into the corner. A powerslam out of the corner gets Castillano a near-fall, before he misses a standing moonsault, as Russo gets the win with an awkward springboard into a roll-up. The basics were fine, but the complicated stuff… hit and miss, I’m afraid. *¾
Texas Lion Carson vs. Moonshine Mantell
We start with a tie-up as Carson doesn’t break cleanly, as he boots Mantell and goes back to a headlock. A shoulder tackle knocks down Mantell, who fires back with a slam and a back suplex to send the Texas Lion onto the apron.
Carson avoids a knee strike and hangs Mantell across the back of the neck on the top rope, then returns to the ring with a spinning neckbreaker for a near-fall, before he kicks Mantell onto the apron after he was hung up in the ropes. Mantell comes back with chops, then a belly-to-belly suplex for a near-fall, before Carson replies with a powerslam for a near-fall.
Mantell’s held in a camel clutch-like chinlock, before eventually going for a big splash as Mantell gets the knees up to block the move. Some elbows rock Carson, who misses a charge and gets knocked down with some Polish hammers, before a back body drop takes him down again. Moonshine unloads in the corner with shoulder charges and chops, before scoring a near-fall with a lariat.
Carson comes back with a uranage for a near-fall, then tries his hardest to rip off the turnbuckle… but it doesn’t give, and he ends up charging into Moonshine, who makes hard work of a Gory Bomb for the win. This didn’t really feel engaging to me – what they did worked, but the pace felt way too slow. *¾
The main show starts with with Lenny Leonard and Joanna Rose in the ring for EVOLVE’s first show of the year… and first, we start with Catch Point! Featuring Matt Riddle wearing the PROGRESS Atlas title around his shoulders like it’s Chris Brookes’ shoulder sling. Tracy Williams cuts a promo saying that this year you’ll see new faces in EVOLVE and Catch Point… and we’re straight into action!
Peter Kaasa vs. Jaka
Kaasa has shaved off most of his mullet, leaving us with a rat-tail instead.
They lock-up from the off as Jaka takes Kaasa into the corner for a clean break. From a headlock, Kaasa shoves Jaka into the ropes as we get some shoulder tackles, then some leap frogs, before Kaasa connects with a dropkick. I’ll admit, knowing what happened, I’m flinching every time these guys hit the ropes…
Kaasa lands a hip toss for a one-count, before a Cactus Jack clothesline sends Jaka to the floor. Jaka returns to the ring, dropping Kaasa over the top rope with a hot shot, before Kaasa replies with a German suplex. The back and forth continues as Kaasa takes a spinning heel kick in the corner for a near-fall, but he pops back up and exchanges chops with Jaka. And comes up short.
Jaka lands a suplex for a near-fall, but Kaasa comes back with a Thesz press as Jaka’s sent into the aisle, as the pair brawl around the ringside area. Hey Papa Hales! Jaka drills Kaasa into the apron, before they return to the ring where an elbow drop gets Jaka another two-count.
A capture suplex takes Kaasa into the ropes for a near-fall, then Jaka looks to go for a Tazmission-esque choke, before instead turning it into a schoolboy for a near-fall. We get so many headbutts from Jaka, who adds an exclamation mark with a DDT for another two-count, but Kaasa launches a comeback with clotheslines, before elevating Jaka with a back body drop.
Kaasa dumps Jaka with a tiltawhirl, before a standing corkscrew moonsault gets a near-fall. He then drags Jaka towards the corner as Kaasa goes up top, but he ends up having to leap over an onrushing Jaka, who then puts him onto the apron, then the floor with a superkick. Jaka slingshots himself into Kaasa with a plancha – impressing Matt Riddle at ringside.
They again head back to the ring as Jaka looks to finish off Kaasa with something off the top rope, but Kaasa catches him and brings him down with an Angle Slam off the middle rope for a near-fall. From there, Kaasa drags Jaka to the corner and climbs up the turnbuckle… and the middle rope snaps! Thankfully Kaasa didn’t do anything close to a Hayabusa, and he’s able to get back up as Jaka lands a spinning heel kick then a choke powerbomb for the win. Up until the (literal) rope break, this was a decent opening match… sadly, this wouldn’t be an isolated incident! **¾
From looking at the remains, it seemed that the turnbuckle itself snapped free in the corner opposite where Kaasa was preparing for the moonsault. After the match, Catch Point surround Kaasa, more to applaud him than anything else.
We get an extended period of downtime here, including a SHINE music video and some promo pieces that aired before the show went live as they mask the ring crew fixing that middle rope…
After the break, Catch Point return as Tracy Williams cuts the promo that he would have done had we not needed that downtime. Chris Dickinson then wants his “opportunity”, so out comes Darby Allin, thankfully not asking anyone about Uncle John.
Darby Allin vs. Chris Dickinson
Dickinson starts by taking Allin into the corner with a never-ending tie-up, before Allin springs off the repaired middle rope as he tries to use his speed to out-maneuver Dickinson.
Despite his back elbow off the middle rope being caught, Allin manages to recover and springs off the top rope with an armdrag. Dickinson replies by giving Allin a Biel throw into the turnbuckles, then a powerslam for a pair of one-counts. A brainbuster gets a two-count as an upgrade, as Allin’s attempted fightback just earns him some clubbing shots in the corner, before he fights out of a back superplex attempt.
Dickinson catches Allin on the top rope, but a Razor’s edge off the apron is countered with a ‘rana to the floor, as Darby flies with a Nestea plunge off the middle turnbuckle down to the floor. He’s going to kill himself with that move one day…
They both return to the apron, where Allin uses some headbutts to send Dickinson back inside, but he’s caught and dragged back in with a waistlock for a wheelbarrow German suplex. Dickinson does it again, ragdolling Darby for a second one, before a third was turned into a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall. A big clothesline turns Allin inside out, but Allin comes back when he counters a crucifix bucklebomb into a sunset flip pin, and that’s enough for the shock win! Way too short to get out of first gear, but what they did was fine, I guess… **½
Dickinson beats on Allin after the match, until the rest of Catch Point make the save.
Jason Kincaid vs. DUSTIN
DUSTIN starts by grabbing a wristlock on Kincaid, who manages to roll free before DUSTIN counters with a rolling armdrag into a half crab.
Kincaid escapes but takes a boot to the midsection before a springboard armdrag leads to a nice headscissor variation that Kincaid had to walk on his hands from to escape. A trip takes DUSTIN down, before Kincaid followed up with an assisted headscissors after climbing up the ropes. That advantage didn’t last long as he was thrown into the turnbuckles, then to the floor as DUSTIN pounded on him outside.
They return to the ring where DUSTIN cuts off Kincaid with some forearms, then with a butterfly suplex for a near-fall. A slam and a forearm drop gets another two, and they head back to the outside as Kincaid’s thrown towards the ring steps. Kincaid gets the knees up to block a slingshot senton, but he can’t quite lock in a submission, before he takes DUSTIN down with a press slam off the top rope.
A powerslam and a double stomp sets up Kincaid for a corkscrew Blockbuster off the middle rope for a near-fall… but DUSTIN comes back with Soul Food, only to be caught in the ropes with a lariat. Kincaid continues the see-saw with a rolling neckbreaker, before a Falcon arrow gets DUSTIN a near-fall, as DUSTIN pulled some stuff out of the Samoa Joe playbook with a powerbomb before rolling over into a half-crab, then an STF.
DUSTIN keeps up with a hip attack in the corner, but Kincaid again cuts him off with a hotshot before he flips into a stomp on the apron… only for a tope to be caught and turned unto a stalling suplex on the floor. The referee grabs a chair as DUSTIN went to use it on Kincaid… providing a distraction for Kincaid to spring onto the apron and score a twisting Stunner. One double stomp off the ring post later, Kincaid locks in the Compassionate Release submission, forcing DUSTIN to give up. A good match – Kincaid showed some unique stuff here, even if the match didn’t garner much reaction. **¾
Ethan Page vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre didn’t wait for his entrance, as he rushed to attack Page before he even entered the ring, before taking down both Gatekeepers with dives off the apron.
Sabre and Page fought around the ringside area, leading to Sabre catching Page in an abdominal stretch. “All Ego” fought back by posting Sabre, and the match finally gets going when both men entered the ring… Sabre tried for an early single-leg crab, but Page was too close to the ropes, as a break was ordered. So he just pulls him away and tied in a leg grapevine to send Ethan back to the ropes, as Sabre started to make this match his own.
A right hand from Page drops Sabre, who’s then whipped hard into the corner before rebounding with a lariat and a kick to the floor… only for Page to knock Sabre back to the outside. There, Sabre puts a foot up to avoid being posted, and then drops Page with a tornado DDT, only for Ethan to dump him with a tiltawhirl on the outside.
Page continues to wear down Sabre on the outside, before draping him on the apron into a spin-out double underhook backbreaker. Back inside, Page chokes Sabre in the corner with a shin, and that seems to wake up Zack as he tries to trade strikes with “All Ego” – and eventually gets some luck in the back and forth. A series of enziguiris the the arm rocks Page, as Sabre follows in with a European uppercut in the corner, then a springboard roundhouse kick out of it.
Sabre kicks away at Page’s thigh, before another kick is caught and met with a punch. Another tiltawhirl sees Sabre land on his feet though, as he goes into a German suplex on Page, and then takes him to the mat for a neck twist. The crossface Dragon sleeper and a rear naked choke follows, as Page again heads into the ropes… so Sabre just kicks away at Page.
Ethan retaliates with a slap, but he’s quickly met with an up-kick to the elbow and a guillotine’d armbar, which Page just powers out of with a fallaway slam. Sabre blocks a pump kick and goes into the Octopus hold, before going up top for some reason… and that’s almost caught as Page tried for the Iconoclasm. Sabre just picks up Page onto the top turnbuckle with him for another Dragon sleeper, which Page switches into a powerslam off the top.
Page followed up with a RK-Ego (slingshot RKO from the apron) for a near-fall, before Sabre again leapt up into a triangle choke, and eventually Page is forced to tap… but Sabre refused to let go of the hold, as Darby Allin rushes out to neutralise the Gatekeepers. Allin grins at a passing-out Page, and as Sabre didn’t let go of the hold, the referee reverses his call. Your winner by DQ: Ethan Page. A good match, maybe a little slower-paced than I’d have liked, but I didn’t mind the screwy finish after that match. ****
So… they’re doing Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page? Well, there’s someone to catch him, I guess.
ACH vs. Matt Riddle
Referee Brandon Tolle doesn’t know what to do with Riddle’s Atlas title – of course, he brought it to the ring, but it wasn’t on the line here.
They start by trading wristlocks, before Riddle tries for an armbar… which doesn’t work, so Riddle just trips ACH again and tries for a triangle choke, which ends when ACH dives into the ropes. After some more grounded stuff, ACH goes aerial, but his kicks miss as they end up squaring off once again.
From there, Riddle takes ACH into a corner for some slaps, then a leaping forearm and an Exploder suplex, before a back senton makes ACH sit-up. Until a PK sends him back down. A knee strike from Riddle knocks ACH to the floor, where he takes another palm strike as Riddle stalks him for a bit. Back inside, Riddle hits some gutwrench suplexes, but ACH comes back with a low dropkick to take Riddle down to the outside, where he’s prey for a running kick off the apron after an aborted plancha.
ACH misses when he leaps back into the ring, and he takes a German suplex for his troubles, before he comes back with a roll through into a Muta lock. Riddle gets the ropes, and when he pulls himself back up, he gets some more chops from ACH, then a forearm to take the former UFC guy down.
ACH Matrix’s out of a clothesline, but has no way to block some more knees from Riddle as they go back to exchanging paintbrush-like slaps. Riddle pops up from a German suplex to give ACH an instant response as they go back to strikes from the ground up, ending with an up-kick from Riddle as the Bro To Sleep, then a Fisherman buster gets the win. Fun stuff – nothing blowaway, but it keeps the record alive of Riddle not having yet had anything resembling a bad match on a big stage. ***¾
After the match, Riddle gets the mic as some people in the crowd shout for him to be in the Rumble. The promo ends with Riddle declaring his goal is to win a WWN title… in the Year of the Bro. DUSTIN attacks Riddle from behind with a chair, then DDT’s him onto it, and there’s our set-up for their no-DQ match on the next day’s EVOLVE 77 card.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Timothy Thatcher & Jeff Cobb vs. Catch Point (Fred Yehi & Tracy Williams) (c)
Stokely Hathaway gets Cobb to wear a “Dream Team” shirt as Timothy Thatcher pulls his face. The story here is that Cobb’s agreed to be part of the team in exchange for a shot at Thatcher’s EVOLVE title.
Yehi and Thatcher start with some grappling that comes to nought, as Thatcher then grabbed a headlock that led to Yehi reversing it with an armbar. Williams comes in for more of the same as “Hot Sauce” grabbed an ankle lock whilst in a figure-four position, before a leg grapevine came too close to the ropes.
Thatcher and Williams trade some forearms, before Williams staggered into the ropes as Thatcher went for a gutwrench suplex. Yehi tagged back in and stomped away on Thatcher’s hand, but the champion returned with a belly-to-belly suplex (as he pulled THE FACE) before more Yehi stomps led to a leg sweep and a dropkick. Catch Point keep Thatcher isolated for a spell, but he finally tags out to Jeff Cobb, who holds up Williams briefly before he’s pushed away. Some chops from Yehi are barely acknowledged, but Cobb’s Athletic-plex (spinning back suplex) sure puts Yehi down!
Thatcher nonchalantly tags back in as he takes down Yehi with a grounded Octopus, but Yehi manages to escape it… only to take a knee to the side from Thatcher. Cobb returns with a stalling suplex for a near-fall, before Yehi blocks an O’Connor roll to tag in Williams, who lights up Cobb and Thatcher with clotheslines. Williams struggles to suplex Cobb the first two times, until a back suplex takes the big man down… and into the corner for another tag.
Williams and Thatcher renew strikes, until a discus clothesline drops Thatcher for a two-count, but the challengers turn things around as Cobb returns to land a wrist-clutch back suplex on “Hot Sauce”. Thatcher and Cobb take turns in throwing Williams around with side salto suplexes, all whilst Stokely Hathaway laughed on from ringside. The tide finally turns as Williams hits a vertical suplex on Thatcher, before tagging out to Yehi, who finally dumps Thatcher with a shotgun dropkick.
Yehi and Thatcher exchange more shots, before Cobb makes the save from a pinning attempt by pulling Yehi up and into another Athletic-plex. Williams rushes back in to try and get rid of Cobb, and does so with a pescado as he posts Cobb. Back in the ring, we have Thatcher and Yehi, who blocks a kick only to get some of his own medicine as Thatcher stands on Yehi’s hand. Eventually Yehi surprises Timothy with a Koji clutch, and that forces the EVOLVE champion to tap! A bit of a surprise ending, but this was a fine match in spite of Thatcher’s lack of connection with the crowd. ***½
After the match, Cobb and Thatcher remain in the ring… as Larry Dallas comes out to conduct an impromptu interview. Dallas asks Hathaway if Thatcher’ll be able to rebound from tapping out tonight… instead, Hathaway rips into Cobb, and he’s delusional, thinking that Cobb was the one who tapped. Cobb rips into Thatcher for “being Stokely’s bitch”, then leaves as Timothy Thatcher got interesting, as he stared a hole in Larry Dallas before making him scarper to the back.
Keith Lee vs. Chris Hero
This was Lee’s debut for EVOLVE, after turning down a ROH contract to join this group.
Lee and Hero start by shaking hands, and its Lee who’s the early aggressor, taking Hero into the corner. Hero responds with a wristlock, then an arm wringer, before another wristlock is broken up as Lee rolls free. A headlock from Hero is almost broken up when Lee goes for a back suplex, but the deliberate pace is kept up as Hero goes for a test of length instead.
From that, Hero takes Lee down into another headlock, before Lee’s escape is flipped out of, before Hero hits the ropes… and the top strand breaks! The crowd boos through disgust, as Hero powders to the outside to regain his composure – whilst Lee grabs the piece of the ring post that snapped. Before he returns to the ring, Hero angrily dismantles the remains of the top rope, so they have something resembling a safe environment.
We resume with Hero jumping off the middle (top?) rope with some forearm smashes, before Lee’s chop sends Hero rolling back outside. Lee accepts Hero’s request to take this outside, which ends up with Hero taking a belly to belly onto the apron, before they trade strikes in front of the crowd.
Hero clings onto the ringpost to avoid a German suplex on the floor, before reversing things around with an elbow strike. A double hand chop rocks Hero, who’d just asked for this to be made a no-count out, before a straight right hand rocks Lee, who then gets tripped for a back senton from Hero. After that, Hero goes up to the apron and lands a senton flip onto Lee, and now we’re back to count-outs as Hero asks the referee to start the count… but Lee returns at the count of 9.
We get some clubbering shots from Hero from there, but Lee Hulks up and lays into Hero before he holds up Hero for a vertical suplex for a near-fall. A brief chinlock from Lee ends when Hero grabs the rope,before he goes up to the middle rope for the Diamond Dust for another two-count. You know the ring’s bad when the crowd chant “please don’t die” when you climb to the middle strand…
Lee hits Hero with a discus lariat for a near-fall as both men went for the same thing, and it’s then his turn to climb the buckles, as he looks to hit something… but the rope snaps before Lee can leap, and he lands awkwardly on Hero’s back. Yeah, this ring is the drizzling shits, and it looks like that middle rope snapped free of the turnbuckle in the same place as it did for Peter Kaasa earlier.
With just one rope left, Hero resorts to some strikes, before Lee ducks a roaring elbow and replies with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. Hero elbows out of a Fireman’s carry and lands a series of roaring elbows that daze, but don’t knock down the big guy. It does soften him up for a Gotch piledriver though, and that’s enough for the win. Credit to Hero and Lee for being able to make something resembling chicken salad out of this, but this was hardly EVOLVE’s banner moment – the first part of their farewell to Hero show ending with a barely-existing ring. A good match, but had the ring held up, it’d have been so much better… ***½
Afterwards, Hero takes the mic to rag on the ring, then put himself over for being able to piledrive Lee despite the state of the ring. Hero sits on the remains of the bottom turnbuckle, which looks saggy and about to break as he continued to put over Lee. Zack Sabre Jr comes out to spoil the party, telling Hero that once he beats him, “Kassius Ohno can piss off to Florida”. Zing.
Once Sabre disappeared, Hero shook Lee’s hand before they ended the show by climbing the remaining turnbuckle to play to the crowd, rather than any attempt to break the last strand!
All-in, this was a good show, marred by that bloody ring. Thankfully, nobody was badly hurt, but this is a show people will remember for one thing. Come for the spectacle of a battered ring, stay for the great matches!