Finally, the indies continued to have a really solid 2017. Gabe Sapolsky has been in the game for a long time, and the one thing that he continues to exceed at, probably much to his chagrin, is rebuilding his rosters around new talent and managing to keep his shows fresh and entertaining while his promotions act like a revolving door to the WWE. One thing he has had trouble with in the past, in my opinion, is keeping his shows to a manageable length. There have been many an Evolve or ROH show in the past that felt like it lasted about 7 hours. This month, and the last few months to be fair, Gabe has really bucked this trend. At Evolve 78 and 79, every match lasted exactly as long as it should have, which is a rare thing in pro wrestling now a days. He’s using the next group of big indy names, guys like Fred Yehi, Matt Riddle, Keith Lee and Jaka to tell great stories and have great matches and is keeping the shows to a manageable length. It would be easy to have talent like Evolve has and say “go out there and everyone have a long match of the year” and you would end up with a 5 hour plus show. Gabe also did a much better job with Style Battle this month. The show was much more enjoyable and included a spectacular Sami Callahan vs. Drew Galloway match. I put that around ****1/4 and really thought it was a great showcase of both guys. I do think Style Battle would benefit from getting out of Florida, as the venue and crowd didn’t do the show any favors, but after a disappointing first show in the jungle, this was a much better showing.
Evolve 78 was a good show, not a great one, but it helped set the stage for the great show the next night. That’s not to say that there wasn’t stuff worth watching on the show. Matt Riddle vs. Anthony Henry, Darby Allin (who is slowly becoming my wife’s favorite wrestler) vs. Austin Theory, Drew Galloway vs. Jeff Cobb, and Timothy Thatcher vs. Fred Yehi were all in that ***1/2 to **** range and are all worth checking out. The best match on the show was easily Zack Sabre Jr vs. Keith Lee. A battle of the current big time indy star in ZSJ vs. the next big thing in indy wrestling Keith Lee. Lee is a freak of nature, and every time he goes out there he gets better and better. I had this at ****1/4 and watched it again the next morning. The best part of the match is the future it sets up. The story was simple: how does Sabre beat a guy if he can’t take him down and put him in holds? That story became even more important after Evolve 79.
Evolve 79 was easily the best Evolve show in the last few months. Every match from top to bottom was super easy to watch and entertaining. Allin and Ethan Page had a super-hots toryline driven match that helped build towards the future of the company. The tag division was furthered without a single tag team match on the card in the opening four-way, which was a throwback to the amazing ROH 4 ways of the past, and in the Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams match, which was another great match for Lee. Now Lee has defeated Yehi and Williams in singles matches, so maybe he should get a partner and go for the titles. The other side of Catch Point, Dickinson and Jaka, are on a roll in the tag division and Dickinson won the four-way that included Yehi. Cobb and Jaka had a great match that really helped showcase Jaka. The semi-main event, Matt Riddle vs. Drew Galloway, was a fight between two guys who could make an argument for the best guy on the indies right now. I think everyone needs to catch them live now because it’s unlikely either is still on the indies this time next year. This was a hard hitting **** match that helped improve the standing of both in the WWN universe and helped keep both strong for the WWN title match coming Mania weekend.
However, if you are making an argument for the best guy on the indies today, the argument in my mind begins and ends with Zack Sabre Jr. He proved here why he deserves that title. I am not a Timothy Thatcher fan. I found a majority of his title run boring and when they read the list of guys he defeated, it read like a who’s who of guys who would have been better as champion. That said, Thatcher had an amazing weekend portraying the guy who was desperate to hang on to his title and seemingly knew that his time was running out. He showed a new level of desperation in his matches and managed to turn his usually somewhat boring grapple fuck style into a benefit and made his holds and moves look a lot more savage than usual. Zack Sabre Jr has done a great job of mixing the British style with some good striking and he really turned his intensity up over the weekend. The match between these two was a great story of a guy desperate to win the title and a guy desperate to keep the title and the levels that each guy was willing to sink to in order to succeed. The brutality of the finishing move really put an exclamation point on that story. Sabre’s win sets up no less than 4 upcoming title matches that will all create great interest and should help sell tickets. ACH, Keith Lee, Thatcher and Ethan Page all have legitimate reasons for a title shot and should all have amazing matches with Sabre. How does he counter ACH’s flying? How does he counter Lee’s size? Can he match Thatcher’s desperation? And how low will Page sink to win the title? With one match, Gabe has set up a year plus worth of stories. And it helps that the match was ****1/2 and a legit match of the year contender.
Finally, to conclude my month, I visited the fine folks of Beyond Wrestling once again. If you aren’t supporting your local indy, you really need to find a way to get out and do so. Any show where you can stand at ringside and watch the show while slapping the ring is worth the price of admission. The level of talent on this show was something else. From top to bottom, this was one of the most fun cards I have ever attended. I need to watch the show back to rate the matches, but there were no less than four matches live that I felt were right in the **** range. Keith Lee and Jaka had an amazing fight. It was just two big guys hitting each other and doing some amazingly athletic moves for men their size. Jaka had a great weekend in my mind and took a big step up towards becoming one of the go to indy guys.
Michael Elgin and JT Dunn had a war of attrition that ended with both guys looking super strong and left the fans thirsty for a rematch. Sami Callahan and Rex Lawless had a hard hitting solid match that really opened a lot of eyes to Rex Lawless. Matt Riddle and Donovan Dijak continued their feud in a tag team match. The interactions between the two were really great and that has the potential to be one of the best matches of Mania weekend. The main event of Zack Sabre Jr vs. Jon Silver was a real treat. Both guys went 100 miles per hour and there was some really solid suplexes, submission work, and delivered to a level that I didn’t think Silver was capable of. I think he’s going to be a guy to watch out for if he starts working bigger shows.
For the second month in the row, the show was stolen by Joey Janela, this time in a mixed tag with Penelope Ford as his partner. They took on Veda Scott and Ryan Galeone. I am not usually a fan of intergender matches, and there were some spots here that were a little cringe worthy, but Joey did such a good job of making this entertaining that, by the end, I was so into the damn thing and it was really the most entertaining match on the show. The rest of the show was fun as hell too and this is worth the $9.99 on their Beyondemand service through YouTube.
That’s it! That’s all the wrestling I watched this month! I know, some of you are saying “why didn’t you watch NOAH!! Where’s the Dragon Gate damnit!!” I get it. I have a list of things to catch up on. Is there anything else I missed? Have a link of something I need to see? Hit me up on twitter @OMGlancy and let me know! I’ll be back soon with more awful wrestling! Uncensored 2000! Some 1994-1996 WCW WWF!! Maybe even some ECW. Until next time, thanks for reading!