Drew Galloway’s farewell to EVOLVE came in the form of an I Quit match that was hard-fought, if not a show-stealer as the Brooklyn crowd was treated to a great evening’s wrestling.
The Saint Finbar Catholic Church Gymnasium played host to the second half of EVOLVE’s latest New York double-header – you know, the place where Chris Hero hit his head during his match with Cody Rhodes over SummerSlam weekend last year – and we’ve got some farewells and debuts on a slightly-tweaked show.
Trevin Adams and Timothy Barr are our commentators again, and it’s Barr who tells us that the main event tonight will be an I Quit match as Drew Galloway’s last match in EVOLVE is for Matt Riddle’s WWN title. Just like the last time they were here, there’s a tonne of feedback on the house mic, so I guess no lessons learned there! For some reason, despite the EVOLVE set being on the floor, the wrestlers are coming off the venue’s stage… why, I don’t know.
Austin Theory vs. Ethan Page
Despite the caption announcing “with the Gatekeepers”, there’s only one Gatekeeper with “All Ego” here after the one that wasn’t bald announced his retirement earlier in the day. Trevin Adams announces here that Darby Allin’s off tonight’s show after a deeply-cut elbow following his last man standing match with Page at EVOLVE 82.
Page jumps Theory at the bell as the Gatekeeper distracted the rookie… and Theory replied with a PK off the apron then a springboard moonsault to take the pair down to the floor. Unfortunately, that man on the outside distracted Theory again as he was caught in a rope-hung double underhook backbreaker… and yeah, now we have Priscilla Kelly out to ogle Theory. Because we’ll have forgotten her role with Uncle John’s Friends wiping out Theory elsewhere in the WWN Universe earlier this year!
Theory tries to mount a comeback, wriggling out of a fireman’s carry before rolling through into a dropkick. An enziguiri gets a near-fall, but a palm strike rocks Theory in the corner and leads to an Iconoclasm as Page starts to wear down on Theory some more. Again, Austin escapes and lands a standing moonsault to get a two-count before the pair went back and forth with forearms. A head kick dazes Theory briefly, but he comes back with a running shooting star press to collect another two-count, before he’s caught in a Spinning Dwayne out of nowhere for the win. A nice brief back-and-forth outing, with Page continuing to rack up Ws… I’m not sure at all where they’re going with Austin Theory, but given that the same person’s booking FIP and EVOLVE, I wish they’d not cross the proverbial streams. ***
After the match, Kelly again fawned over Theory before she just walked away. Eh, it’s a slow build to an angle I doubt few care about…
Stokely Hathaway comes out next for a “special announcement” along with Tracey Williams. It turns out that that Larry Dallas scoop from EVOLVE 82 was true, as Williams – who’d just denied the whole thing – confirms that he’s hired Hathaway to “handle Catch Point’s marketing” so that the crew can focus more on competition. Hathway’s happy at being able to represent the crew, including the EVOLVE tag champs and the WWN champion Matt Riddle… that one seems to make him the happiest.
All of Catch Point head out – bar Riddle – with Yehi in particular enraged by the move. Yehi, who gets a graphic calling him a tag champion (whoops, he lost it the prior night) claims that Tracy Williams has lost his way, and so Yehi’s quitting the group. Dickinson and Jaka don’t have any such qualms as long as “it’s about competition”, which is a really nebulous value… and one that Williams invokes immediately as he demands a match with Dickinson right now.
Is Tracy trying to fight Catch Point to death? Anyway, this gets Yehi out of the group, which can only be a good thing as Catch Point was getting beyond stagnant at this point.
Tracy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson
Plenty of grappling to start us off, as you’d expect from a Catch Point outing, before the tempo raises with some hip tosses and the like as Dickinson seemed to get fed up of the mat-based stuff. Of course, Williams takes it back to the mat as he targeted the individual limbs of “Dirty Daddy”.
It seemed throughout the match that Hathaway was more focussed on backing Tracy Williams than Catch Point as a unit, as he continually cheered “Hot Sauce”, who picked up several near falls in the opening stages. Dickinson mounts a comeback with some chops before a superplex attempt is turned into a DDT onto the turnbuckle by Williams.
The back and forth continues as Dickinson landed a death valley driver into the corner, before they wandered to the outside for a spot of brawling, which leads to a chop battle on the apron. Back inside, a Falcon arrow gets Dickinson a near-fall, before another back and forth strike battle ended abruptly when Williams caught Dickinson in a crossface for the submission. This was fine, but the prevailing Catch Point storyline is now the thing that EVOLVE is going to be beaten with. Williams is clearly positioned as the top dog in the group, despite having no gold, and that should be a story that shouldn’t be too drawn out. ***
Jaka gets the microphone almost immediately, and demands ACH come out for his match right now. I’m not a fan of these run-on segments, but I guess Gabe Sapolsky is, which is why we’re getting these regularly.
Jaka vs. ACH
I don’t want to say that ACH’s matches are becoming patterned, but as a fan, I do feel that there’s some stuff in his repertoire that is perhaps a little exposing. Case in point: the “distract the ref, chop the other guy in the balls” spot…
Jaka starts on top, but ACH quickly matches him hold-for-hold… only for Jaka to use his strikes to keep the faster ACH at bay. An atomic drop and a basement dropkick puts Jaka down for a near-fall, before another series of back-and-forth strikes leads to the distraction nutshot. Yeah, there’s got to be a point where that leads to a DQ when referees get smart to it…
Regardless, Jaka rebounded with a spinning heel kick into the corner, as an Exploder gets him a near-fall, before a surfboard stretch keeps ACH on the mat. A chop from ACH almost takes out the camera, but he’s quickly caught by a Jaka suplex and a deadlift German suplex for another near-fall as the new tag champion pushed for a win. ACH lands a springboard dropkick to take Jaka to the floor for a PK, before a springboard uranage back into the ring gets another near-fall.
A Codebreaker off the middle ropes almost wins it for ACH, before he misses a double stomp off the stop. Jaka rebounded with a spinning heel kick and a pop-up powerbomb… and that’s the win for Jaka! Another abrupt match, but this was fine – nothing spectacular, but perfectly fine for where it was on the show. ***
David Starr vs. Keith Lee
Starr was a replacement for Darby Allin here – and no, ring announcer Joanna Rose didn’t try his laundry list of catchphrases. That was for the best, all things considered.
The match starts with Starr using his pace to try and sneak in some shots, including a chop as Lee tried to coax him into a test of strength. Starr trips Lee into the middle rope for a superkick, but his attempt at a dive to the outside ends with him taking a pop-up powerbomb onto the apron. Yeah, that probably wasn’t a good idea!
Back inside, Lee unloads on Starr in the corner, but “The Product” manages to make a little comeback with a Violence Party of chops and forearms before backdropping Lee into the turnbuckles! For some reason Starr tries to set up Lee for the Blackheart Buster – the over-the-knee brainbuster – but Lee headbutts his way free, then plants Starr with a pop-up chokeslam.
Starr slaps Lee before catching him with an apron DDT, then a lariat as some of the crowd perhaps sensed a huge upset, heightened even more when a Spirit Bomb was turned into a Code Red for a near-fall. However, Starr’s attempt at a Product Placement proved to be fatal, as Lee fought out before dishing out some headscissors as Starr was quickly overwhelmed, taking a Jackhammer for the pin. I doubt the match would have been this short had it been as-advertised, but this was real good all things considered. Now, why aren’t you basking? ***¾
Fred Yehi vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Oh my… this goes in that bracket of matches that looked good on paper, and delivered!
Plenty of ground wrestling to begin with, but unlike Yehi’s ex-Catch Point colleagues, this was grappling to get a win, rather than to get an advantage, as an early Stretch Muffler attempt was thwarted. Yehi quickly moves to his stomps as he continued to wear away on O’Reilly, eventually taking the former ROH champ into the corner… where O’Reilly launched out with a series of kicks and sweeps to leave Yehi on the mat, where Kyle takes over.
Yehi tries to use his fist to hammer away on O’Reilly’s feet, but he’s quickly caught in a wristlock on the mat, before Kyle moves into some ground and pound en route to an armbar attempt. A modified Blue Thunder Bomb takes Yehi down into another kneebar, but he replies in kind as the pair battle back and forth on the same hold, before some more back and forth ends with a Yehi chop block and a figure-four.
O’Reilly fakes out a kick to the head and gets one in the midsection, before a Dragon screw from Yehi seemed to end that offensive spell. A sit-out Fisherman’s buster gets Yehi a near-fall, before he peppers Kyle with a series of kicks from the mat, only to get taken down with a Saito suplex. After escaping a cradle suplex, Yehi gets caught with a Shining Wizard that left both men laying as the Canadian continued to sell his right knee.
A front facelock from O’Reilly takes Yehi to a knee, but a series of forearms wake up Yehi as he drills O’Reilly with a shotgun dropkick to buy himself some more time. Dualling punches and palm strikes leave both men laying as they sell exhaustion even more… at least until Yehi kipped up! Kyle’s forced to elbow out of a full nelson, as he then rolls Yehi down with a Kimura that’s broken with some knee strikes… but O’Reilly gets a brainbuster in for another near-fall. From the kick-out though O’Reilly immediately locks in an armbar, and that’s enough to force Yehi to submit. Wonderful stuff here, both men clicked well and although Yehi’s gone 0-2 for the weekend, this was a fantastic showing with Yehi doing more than hanging with Kyle… to the point where O’Reilly had to crawl his way to the back through exhaustion. ****¼
EVOLVE Championship: Lio Rush vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
Yes, we open with more grappling, but Rush is able to withstand Sabre in the opening stages, breaking free of holds whilst trying to reply in kind. When things settled down though, Sabre grabs Rush’s left arm and wrenches away on it, only for Lio to counter into a front chancery… that Zack easily elbowed free of.
The back and forth continued as Sabre grabs a heel hook as he blocked a PK, but Rush fell too close to the ropes and broke free, only for Sabre to simply boot him in the corner as the champion takes over with his dizzying array of submission predicaments. Rush tries to fire back with kicks to the leg, but that just angers Sabre into an STF attempt, but Zack ends up relinquishing the hold and almost invites another comeback.
Rush ends up trapped in a one-arm choke before the Octopus hold in the middle of the ring bent Lio almost inhumanly. An ankle lock follows, but again Rush is easily able to roll to the ropes to break free, and for once Lio can actually get ahead, hitting a cartwheel to take Sabre to the outside, where a tope leaves the champion laying.
Back inside, Rush aborts a frog splash attempt and immediately gets bulled into the corner with an uppercut… but he manages to spring back with a reverse ‘rana and a tiltawhirl DDT for a near-fall. Unfortunately, Rush took too long to follow-up as Sabre catches him on the top rope with another wristlock, only for Rush to slip out and hit an apron enziguiri for a set up into a frog splash… which was caught and turned into a triangle choke!
A Dragon suplex puts the brakes on Rush once more, before Sabre dragged him into a series of PKs for a near-fall. Out of nowhere, Lio lands a Spanish fly and a frog splash, but Sabre kicked out just in time, and that just enrages Lio as he starts to lay into Zack on the ground with kicks to the chest. Sabre encourages Lio to do it again, so he delivers, before the pair trade slaps, then uppercuts, before the striking suddenly ended with a series of head kicks from Rush… but Sabre wasn’t out of it totally, as he ducked one more kick and snuck in a prawn hold to snatch the winning three-count. A fantastic meshing of styles, with Lio Rush almost getting the title – and yes, we can add this to the list of matches I’d love to see a rematch! ****¼
After the match, Sabre and Rush go head-to-head again before a forced handshake from Rush ended things. Or so we thought, because Ethan Page headed out next with his remaining Gatekeeper. Page tells us a story about how Sabre ended his Gatekeeper’s career after breaking the guy’s arm… which led to Page firing him. Apparently he’s got a new one, and it’s a regular on the New York indy scene in Nick Comoroto, who’ll be named New Not Bald Gatekeeper until Gabe gives them names. Anyway, new Gatekeeper Nick is caught in a wristlock by Sabre, but Bald Gatekeeper rushes in with a Bossman Slam to leave Zack laying, and yes, we’re going to get Sabre/Page down the line.
“I Quit” Match for the WWN Championship: Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle (c)
I don’t know why, but the intro Drew uses for his theme in EVOLVE really reminds me of Groove Armada’s “At The River”… of course, this is his final appearance for EVOLVE, and indeed, the WWN family of promotions, so that kinda telegraphs the result, since we’re not about to see a Madusa moment in NXT. These two had a surprisingly short match over WrestleMania weekend, but with this being in the main event, I doubt it’ll run as short tonight.
We start with the windmill punches before Galloway bailed to the outside for a spot of chopping and brawling, before Riddle was shoved into the ring post so hard, the WWN branding fell off it. A chair’s thrown into the ring as Galloway wears away on Riddle’s bare feet, before a tiltawhirl backbreaker sees Galloway use the champion to obliterate that chair.
This starts a long series of “hit a move, referee asks for a submission” – not exactly helped by referee DA Brewer jumping into that pattern rather than wait for a wrestler to call for the ask. Riddle hits back with an Exploder before landing a back senton onto a chair to get an initial “no” as Drew refused to quit. Galloway blocks a Pele kick and replies with his Claymore kick for another refusal, before wrenching Riddle against the middle turnbuckle for another attempt to draw the submission.
Riddle takes a slingshot into the ring supports, before he reverses a suplex on the floor, then takes a slam onto the side of the apron as Catch Point come out to watch from the stage. Back inside, Riddle’s launched across the ring in a belly-to-belly suplex, before a burst of slaps ended up leading to a short piledriver from the Scotsman… leading to Riddle needing to be revived by the referee in order to get a “no” out of him.
Riddle’s forced to block a superplex, but he can’t counter a spider belly-to-belly from Drew. What Riddle can do is hit the Bro To Sleep before trapping Galloway in a Bromission… but he refuses to give, and instead uses the microphone to beat his way free. Well, that’s different! Just like that, a series of Futureshock DDTs leaves the champion down, but Galloway wants to hit one on a chair before asking for a submission, which Riddle easily shoots down.
Next up is a rope from Galloway, but rather than going all Iizuka and using it to choke Riddle, he instead ties the Bro in the ropes with his best Scout knot, allowing him to fire off a barrage of right hands as Riddle had no way to defend himself. Still, Riddle refused to give up, and that angers Galloway who seems to think that the referee was cheating him again…
The referee does end up untying Riddle, which seemed a little weird, and that quickly allowed the champion to land a Fisherman’s buster, before a series of stomps leads to a triangle choke. Galloway powerbombs his way free then heads for a sledgehammer… but Riddle stands on it and tells him “you’re not Triple H, bro”. Drew uses the sledgehammer on RIddle’s groin, but he refuses to quit, which makes Drew snap once more.
With Drew tied up with the referee, he’s left prone for a Bromission, and just like that, Drew goes out on his back as he left for WWE once again. This wasn’t too bad, but it did hit the tropes of the I Quit match – a stipulation that seemingly was added to have the fans believe there’d be no screwy finish. This was enjoyable, but really suffered from the issues of believability, at least in terms of the result. ***½
After the match, Catch Point hit the ring as Stokely Hathaway tries to cement Riddle as part of the group. Riddle refused to be part of Catch Point, so they left as Drew Galloway beat him down some more, only for Keith Lee to make the save as the show ended with a Bro to Sleep on Stokely. Lee and Riddle had a brief stare down of sorts, with Lee placing the WWN title belt on Riddle… and yes, it’s clear Keith Lee is angling for a title shot… ANY title shot!
Those final three matches all could have stood alone as a main event – and certainly were of main-event length. EVOLVE right now may not be full of storylines that suck you in, but certainly the in-ring product is up there with the best in the world, with plenty of intrigue over where the careers of Messrs Lee, Riddle, Yehi and now O’Reilly now go, particularly given that they’re trying to push the WWN title as hard as as the EVOLVE belt. Quite how they handle this log jam will be interesting to say the least!