Before I start, I want to say that one of the first things that needs to be mentioned is that the quality of the stream was perfect. There was some audio mixing issues right at the beginning where the theme music was blaring and you could barely hear Lenny Leonard, but they fixed that by the end of the second match. Picture quality wise, this was a great show and if they can keep it up for the whole weekend, FloSlam is going to have a great week.
Now, on with the show!
The show kicked off right away with Drew Galloway in the ring cutting a very good promo on Matt Riddle. He ridiculed Riddle’s laid back persona and said that he could insult his cat(!) and Riddle wouldn’t even fire up on him. This brought Riddle out and, true to his reputation, Riddle almost laughed off the accusations. Once they started wrestling, this was a hot match and a great little brawl. They fought outside and beat the hell out of each other. The end came early, and it was surprising to say the least. Riddle got a table out and tried… something, but Drew moved and proceeded to deliver a piledriver through the God damn table. Drew rolled Riddle in, got a two count, hit the Future Shock DDT and another piledriver for the decisive three. The match was really short, under 10 minutes, but it was all action and fast paced. I’d probably go around ***1/2 due to the length only, but it ended exactly when it should have for a few reasons. First of all, it sets the pace for the weekend. If a HUGE match like Riddle and Galloway can end in less than 10 minutes, any match can. Secondly, and more importantly now a days, it ended when Galloway hit shit that should have ended the match. A piledriver through the table, his finish, and another stiff piledriver should end a match, and it did. I was thoroughly pleased with this match.
After the match, Chris Dickinson and Jaka, Riddle’s fellow Catch Point members, came out to help Riddle to the back. Conspicuous by their absences, maybe, were Fred Yehi and Tracy Williams.
I had a notebook with me while I was watching this show, because I wanted to jot down notes and I was drinking so I wanted to make sure I noted everything. So when Timothy Thatcher comes out for his match against Dirty Daddy Chris Dickinson, my first note read: Timothy Thatcher, FUCKING UGH. This was a typical Thatcher match. They started with some Grapple Fuck before Dickinson took over and hit some actual entertaining high impact offense. The thing with Thatcher is that he is REALLY good at the wrestling aspect of the game but is TERRIBLE at everything else. He’s so stoic and just boring at times. No emotion, no anger, nothing. Just stoned face and emotionless. Even Dean Malenko would say “hey man, show some emotion.” Here is my note from when Thatcher won with the Saka-otoshi: Come the fuck on! I know Dickinson is a tag guy, but there’s no reason he should have lost here to the man that killed the main event scene in Evolve for 500 plus days. The match, technically, was good. ***. But it was just the typical boring shit from Thatcher. That’s the enigma with Thatcher. He’s so good and so awful at the same time. Oh, and they threatened to add Thatcher to the WWN title match on Saturday. I now have nightmares that he only lost the Evolve title to win the WWN title. Dear God no.
The next match was scheduled to be Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid in a preview of Evolve 81’s Catch Point vs. High Flyers match. Before the match started, Lio Rush made his return to Evolve a day early and this was turned into a three way. This match was a spectacle. There was just too much to describe. All three guys, including Jason Kincaid who I am not a huge fan of, looked fantastic and had a chance to shine and hit their signature stuff. Rush stood out, and he should have with this being his big return. He picked up the win after an amazing sequence that culminated with a huge frog splash. ***1/2 from a match standpoint, but worth going out of your way to see some of the spots and moments of the match.
The Gatekeepers squashed a team called Blonde Black and Neon, who might be the most indy tag team on display this weekend, in glorious fashion. This was similar to a Road Warriors match on NWA Saturday Night in the mid 80’s and it was amazing.
Afterwards, Ethan Page cut a very good promo inserting himself into the Evolve title scene and called out his opponent, Austin Theory. Theory is young and green, but he put on a good performance here against Ethan. There were some rough spots, as Page isn’t really the guy to carry a young guy to an amazing match, but there was enough good stuff her to make this an enjoyable match. Page won the match in a dominant fashion, as he should have, but Theory looked good in defeat. ***
After the match there was some weird stuff with some guys dressed like orderlies, girls, and Darby Allin making his return out of the body bag he was put in at the last Evolve show. In February. Apparently Darby was in that bag for over a month. Look, this was all a little hokey and kind of bullshit, but I love Darby Allin and the anything goes match between him and Page at 81 should be nuts, so I’ll give this a bit of a pass, but yeah, it was a bit wacky.
Fasten your seat belts from here.
Ricochet vs. Keith Lee was everything you could hope for from a match with these two. The beginning of the match was great, with Lee dragging Ricochet around the ring and Ricochet finally getting angry and yelling “I’m a grown man!” From there Ricochet tried a series of dropkicks and he staggered Lee, but Lee came back with one dropkick of his own and Ricochet went down. After that, it was off to the races. Anyone who thinks that Ricochet can’t work or can’t hang with a heavyweight needs to watch this. His selling was amazing and he bumped his ass off. He took two absolutely insane throws out of the corner, as high as anything I’ve seen in wrestling not named Scott Hall. This whole match was just a masterpiece in getting both guys over. I think a majority of the people watching assumed Keith Lee would win, but the ending of the match told such a great story that I didn’t mind Ricochet winning. Lee was dominating with power moves, and he got a two count off an absolutely huge Spirit Bomb. Since he only got two, he got a bit frustrated and decided to go away from his power and tried a moonsault. The moonsault missed, and Ricochet hit a Benedriller that got two, a springboard 450 that got two, a shooting star press that got two, another shooting star press that Lee countered with a hand to the throat, a series of big kicks, and finally a 630 to get the win. The 630 is Ricochet’s magic bullet, something he uses only when all else fails, and the fact that he had to pull that out to beat Lee was a huge moment and helped make Lee look like a star even in defeat. And Lee lost because he went away from his game. When this match ended, I said it was going to take a hell of a match to top it this weekend. Little did I know. ****1/4.
The Evolve Tag Title match between Catch Point and the indydream team of Michael Elgin and Donovan Dijak has seemingly been met with mixed emotions. There are some people that hated it, thought it didn’t click, and had it around *. There are others that loved it. I fall into the latter camp. I thought it was great, although I think it will be even better when I watch it in a vacuum. The first half of the match suffered because the crowd was still buzzing from the last match. I know that’s how it was in my house. And I am probably one of the biggest fans of all four of these guys. After a while, the match really started to get going and the crowd started to get into it and by the end it was firing on all cylinders. Everyone knows that Michael Elgin goes by Big Mike, so Donovan came out with a white t-shirt with “Tall Don” in black letters and I really hope he is selling those the next time he is in Worcester. The last few minutes of this match was fast paced, hard hitting action and worth going out of your way to see. I’m hesitant to give it a star rating simply because I was a little distracted in the beginning, but I feel like it was right around **** and can’t wait to watch it again in a week or so to see if it is better or worse.
After the match, Larry Dallas, noted shit stirrer, came out to try and play up the dissension in the Catch Point camp. Williams brushed him off, but Dickinson pushed the issue and demanded the title shot that he and Jaka are surely due by this point. Jaka calmed Dickinson down but was sure to mention that he wants the shot too before leaving. I could see some miscommunication on 81 leading to Catch Point losing and Dickinson and Jakabeating SPPT at the Supershow to cement their place as the number one contenders to the Evolve title. When they finally go with that match, it should be amazing.
The main event was an Evolve title match between champion Zack Sabre Jr and challenger ACH. Remember earlier when I said a hell of a match would be required to top Ricochet vs. Keith Lee for match of the weekend? Well, it took an hour. ZSJ and ACH are obviously wrestlers of very different styles. You could argue that they are each among the very best of those particular styles. ACH falls into the high flyer category a lot of times, but he does a hell of a lot more than that. His striking is really good and his selling is top notch. He’s a super all around performer. ZSJ is arguably the best technical wrestler in the world right now and he is becoming much better at adding suplexes and strikes to his arsenal and has developed into the guy on the indy scene. What was unique here was that the crowd was solidly in the corner of ACH. ZSJ, usually a huge babyface in Evolve, didn’t miss a beat and went from friendly technical wizard to evil technical warlock and stretched ACH and put some extra OOMPH behind all his holds and strikes. Every time ACH would get some momentum going, ZSJ would counter into an armbar, and this played into the end of the match. ACH finally got a run going and went up for the 450 but ZSJ caught him in an amazing armbar. ACH tried to power out but ZSJ hit the penalty kick and locked in the Young Boy Killer for the submission victory. This was just a sublime match worth going out of your way to see. The replay is up on FloSlam as I type this, and this is worth your $20 if you aren’t already a subscriber. *****. I went back and forth on whether or not to give this the full five stars, but at the end of the day I couldn’t find one flaw with the match in my eyes, so I had to go all the way with it. I can’t wait to watch it again.
This was a lot like a NJPW show. A good but not amazing first half and a second half featuring amazing match after amazing match. I think this show benefits by being the first big show of the weekend. These guys are all fresh and not beat up, so they were able to go in at 100% and deliver amazing matches. The streaming quality was great, the match quality was great, and this was a great way to kick off Mania week. I’ll be back later with a review of Joey Janela’s Spring Break, as long as FloSlamcan get it up soon, and more all weekend long! Hit me at @OMGlancy to talk about all the graps!!