TRACY WILLIAMS PROMO - he tells us Catchpoint is based on competition, and just like we're going to see new faces in Evolve this year, Catchpoint also has some new faces. He says that Chris Dickinson and Jaka are going to prove that Catchpoint is the best. This was an effective little segment as it both reinforced that Williams is the leader of Catchpoint now and makes it feel like there is some subtle pressure on Jaka and Dickinson to prove that they deserve the spots in Catchpoint that Williams granted them. Jaka saying "let's do this!" was a nice little touch to make him feel like more of a babyface, which is important because 1) no matter which side of the line they're on, Catchpoint can often feel a bit... cold, which can sometimes make them hard to relate to as babyfaces, and 2) because Jaka and Dickinson (especially Dickinson) spent a chunk of last year as the de facto heels in the Darby Allin story, so it was a good idea to do a little something to make them (well... at least Jaka) seem more likable.
PETER KAASA vs. JAKA (w/Catchpoint) - 6.25/10
This was a fairly run of the mill match until Peter Kaasa tried to do a moonsault off of the second turnbuckle but the turnbuckle snapped and Kaasa didn't quite get the whole way over and seemed to land with all of his weight right on his face. The finish came quickly after that, but it involved a powerbomb, which doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd do to someone you think might have legitimately injured his head and/or neck, so it's possible that the Kaasa was okay and they just figured they should go to a finish quickly so that the ring could get fixed.
While the ring was getting fixed Lenny Leonard hyped some upcoming shows and then pitched us to a...
JASON KINCAID VIDEO PACKAGE & PROMO - Kincaid is doing Kendrick's meditation/one with everything gimmick from TNA, but done right. The promo was... "effective" is the best word to use, I think. He let us know who he was facing tonight (DUSTIN) and built his opponent up a bit, then explained to us what the consequences for him would be if he were to win or lose. He got the information out there effectively, but due to the style of the promo, I did not find it to be entertaining or engaging in any way.
After that they sent us to an...
AUSTIN THEORY VIDEO PACKAGE - This started off with a short interview with Trevin Addams (taped at some point over the course of the Style Battle S01E01/FIP Everything Burns 2017 weekend) in which it was announced that Theory had signed a WWN contract and would be debuting with EVOLVE next month. He cut a short generic "I'll earn everyone's respect" promo. Then we got some highlights (also all from that same weekend). He looks... decent. I'm sure he'll be fine, but he also doesn't strike me as someone who will rise beyond the midcard.
ANOTHER TRACY WILLIAMS PROMO - not so good this time.
The promo itself was pretty bland (blah blah Catchpoint is about opportunity blah blah), which wasn't helped by the fact that it was basically the second time we had seen this segment. If they had been able to go straight through from the end of the last match into Tracy's promo into Dickinson getting his turn to say "I want my match now!" this would have been fine because it would have just been a little transitional bit to make the matches flow together instead of having downtime with an empty ring, but because of the time they needed to take off to repair the ropes, it pretty much felt like they were starting the show over with take two of this segment, and the doubling up like this made the promo feel even more bland. It also felt kind of odd for Tracy to not address the rope breaking in some way- if you don't want him to be making jokes then maybe have him just say something like "Even the ropes breaking won't stop Catchpoint" or whatever. The fact that these guys had to go to the back and then come back out made some sort of mention of it almost feel necessary to make it feel like this wasn't them restarting the show (which contributed to the issue I laid out above).
DARBY ALLIN vs. CHRIS DICKINSON (w/Catchpoint) - 5/10
REALLY great match for the time it got. As always, Darby Allin's match is a mix of some creative stuff and a bunch of stuff that makes you certain he will be retired from wrestling by age thirty, assuming he hasn't died first. Allin got the roll-up victory here, not only finally beating Dickinson, but also getting his second victory since earning his Evolve contract, breaking a five-match losing streak.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - great
Dickinson is frustrated and assaults Allin but Catchpoint run in and pull him off. Tracy Williams tells him "that's not what we do" and Jaka eventually manages to calm Dickinson down... and all the while, Darby Allin is crawling up the ramp a la Bob Backlund.
JASON KINCAID vs. DUSTIN- 6.75/10
Another good showing for Kincaid. His look, character, and style of movement all contribute to him feeling like a rather unique talent. Meanwhile DUSTIN continues to remind the world that he can be more than the clown known as ChuckTaylor.
ZACK SABRE JR. vs. ETHAN PAGE (w/the Gatekeepers) - 7.5/10
Zack came through the crowd to get the drop on the Gatekeepers to try to take them out so that they wouldn't interfere in the match. Props to Lenny Leonard for immediately noting that this is not typical Zack Sabre Jr. behavior but rather something unique to this "grudge match" atmosphere. They had a great back and forth match with Zack working the arm while Page worked the back. Lenny Leonard di a great job of putting over how important it was to Zack to win this match, which Zack eventually did with a triangle choke.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - I think we just fell into Bizarro-World. Zack refuses to break the hold. The Gatekeepers come in to try to save Page but Darby Allin runs in and takes them both out with low blows from behind. Then Allin stared creepily into Page's eyes as Zack choked him into unconsciousness. Zack finally broke the hold when the referee again called for the bell, but Joanna Rose then announced to us that this indicated that the referee had reversed the decision and awarded the match to Ethan Page via disqualification.
ACH vs. MATT RIDDLE - 8/10
See how Lenny Leonard manages to bring up that ACH is a fan of anime without making a joke out of it. Not only that, but he brought it up for a relevant reason (the name of ACH's brainbuster is a reference to an anime that he enjoys) rather than because he is a lazy commentator who brings the same superficial things up in every match that a wrestler has. That's why Lenny Leonard is a good commentator- something that ROH USED to have. Good riddance, Corino. Hopefully Kevin Kelly will be next.
So yeah... ACH was awesome, as you'd expect, and super-over in his home market... but Matt Riddle was even more over than ACH was, bro! This match made me excited to see ACH again. It's not that he was having bad matches in ROH, because he wasn't. It's just that he wasn't being given the time to have matches that showed you what a special talent he is. I have full faith that this will never become the case as long as he is working for Gabe.
MATT RIDDLE BRO-MO (not a typo) - good.
He's got his Progress Atlas Championship and that's cool and all, but Bro can't help but notice that he is the only member of Catchpoint who doesn't have a WWN belt, but he vows to change that in 2017. I can't help but notice that Jaka and Dickinson don't actually have WWN belts, either. I'm not sure if this was an oversight on Riddle's part, or if it was intended to start an angle between them where he doesn't really accept them as members of Catchpoint.
DUSTIN ATTACKS MATT RIDDLE WITH A CHAIR - then he cut a promo to build up their no DQ's match tomorrow night. More interestingly, though, he gave a shout-out to Drew Galloway in his promo, which hopefully means that we will see Galloway back in Evolve soon.
EVOLVE WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Catchpoint (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi)(c) vs. Jeff Cobb & Timothy Thatcher (w/Stokely Hathaway) - 7.25/10
I love the dynamic between Thatcher and Stokely, and the change it shows in Thatcher. Stokely had added some stereotypical "ching-ching" money sounds to a new jazzed up version of Thatcher's entrance music (well... "jazzed" up probably isn't technically correct, but you know what I mean). He's even the one wearing the belt and doing all of this posing while Thatcher just marches right by him to the ring as if he isn't even there, because competition and wrestling is THE ONLY THING that Timothy Thatcher cares about.
Stokely also gave Cobb a Dream Team shirt to where, and Cobb surprisingly put it on. Thatcher and Cobb worked surprisingly well together. Especially so when your thinking going in is that Catchpoint aren't losing the belts and Cobb and Thatcher are facing of for the Evolve World Title tomorrow night and this isn't the main event which ups the possibility of a non-100% squeaky clean finish and thus you're expecting the finish to be some miscue between Cobb and Thatcher leading to Thatcher getting pinned in order to build up to tomorrow's match and also set up another challenger down the line for whoever walks out of San Antonio as champion... but the finish here was Yehi making Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher tap 100% clean. Lenny Leonard pushed the idea that perhaps his very long layoff due to the concussion he suffered at Evolve 72 is causing him to suffer from ring rust and thus the title might be in jeopardy tomorrow night. That builds the title match up even better than the standard miscommunication finish would, and it's 100% clean! I f*cking love this company! If ever there was an opposite of TNA booking, it's Gabe Sapolsky.
LARRY Dallas COMES OUT TO STIR UP TROUBLE - and boy does he. His questions result first in Stokely cutting a promo blaming Cobb for the loss, claiming that Cobb "gave up on the team." Then Cobb cut a promo saying he would take the Evolve World Title from Thatcher tomorrow night, then asked Thatcher "when did you become Stokely's bitch?" which caused Stokely to immediately suck up to Thatcher and offer the title belt to him. Awesome segment.
CHRIS HERO vs. KEITH LEE - 6.75/10
Early on in this match, Hero hit the ropes, and the top rope broke. I think this is the second straight Chris Hero match I have seen that happen in (the previous one being AAW Unstoppable 2016). They disposed of the top rope entirely, then proceeded to hit each other really hard for a while. Some cool stuff happened, which eventually resulted in Lee getting Hero down and climbing to the second rope- i.e. the top remaining rope- to hit his moonsault. When he tried, the second rope broke, too, and Lee fell backwards and landed right on top of Hero, who thought he was rolling out of the way of a moonsault. Things got better once they started hitting each other with some moves rather than just doing the hitting, but ultimately the match was disappointing for such an important spot for both men.
CHRIS HERO PROMO - meh. It was mostly him saying generic stuff and then putting over Lee and advising him to find his "killer instinct." Then Zack Sabre Jr. came out to build up their match tomorrow night, promising to show Hero "killer instinct," which could play into his actions earlier. He also said that once he beats Hero tomorrow night "Kassius Ohno can piss off to Florida."
Another great show from Evolve. They did job of making all of the new and newly-focused-on talent feel important and booking seems like a sign of good things to come, but this show will be most remembered as part of Hero's final weekend, and that part of it, unfortunately, fell short.