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EVOLVE 66 results: Cody Rhodes makes his return to professional wrestling

On a show that felt more like a prelude to tomorrow's card in Brooklyn than one of their standout events of the year, Cody Rhodes made his return to professional wrestling on Friday night at EVOLVE 66.

Rhodes faced Zack Sabre Jr. in his first match since leaving WWE earlier this year in the show’s main event and was able to defeat the highly touted British star after tapping him out with a leg submission.

In a promo after the match, Rhodes said he previously claimed that he didn’t take the safe bet after leaving the WWE, but it was EVOLVE and the crowd that actually bet on him. He said he grew up in front of the fans and existed in the shadow of his father, but he was fine with it because he loved that shadow. After the loss of his father, he didn’t know what to do without that shadow until this match.

During the promo, Rhodes refused to join Drew Galloway’s crusade against EVOLVE. Galloway had implied that he and Rhodes had similar interests as Galloway led a group of disgruntled wrestlers against EVOLVE because of their relationship with WWE, but Rhodes said that he has no interest in the past.

Rhodes took everything that Sabre had to offer during the match, always coming back and refusing to be defeated. Rhodes was clearly motivated for the match, and it was solid but far from spectacular. He now turns his attention to tomorrow's match against Chris Hero in Brooklyn, which may be the biggest test Rhodes faces in his post-WWE run.

Hero has somehow improved on his previous stellar resume of work to turn in what is easily the best year of his career. He’s had so many great matches against so many opponents and worked so many different styles. He’s managed to make it work against almost every opponent thrown at him. And if Rhodes is going to truly shine outside of WWE, it’s going to be in this match.

Timothy Thatcher will also enter tomorrow’s show with something to prove after retaining his EVOLVE Championship against Matthew Riddle.

Riddle has shown this year that he’s not only someone with tremendous potential; he’s actively among the best wrestlers in the world already. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Riddle was only a good worker. He has a combat sports background from his time in mixed martial arts and is an excellent athlete. But it’s mind-blowing that he grasps so many of the little things already.

Riddle knows how to work the crowd better than most veterans and already has a defined character. And his ability to realistically sell offense was fully on display in this match. He made you believe that every hold Thatcher was applying and every strike he was dishing out was causing legitimate pain.

This was the best match of the night, and Thatcher was able to pick up the victory by submission with the no holds barred rules allowing him to keep hold of an armbar on Riddle as he tried to escape to the floor.

This felt like the right opportunity to put the title on Riddle before the match, and I’m still not sure that Thatcher retaining wasn’t a missed opportunity. But there is more story to be hold here with Riddle and his Catch Point stablemates.

Thatcher has had a disappointing year as champion, though it has included standouts like his match against Riddle tonight and against Hero at EVOLVE 62. And it feels like tomorrow’s match against Gulak is finally time to switch the title and move on to Riddle eventually challenging Gulak for it.

Gulak competed earlier in the show in one of the night's best matches against Tony Nese in a WWE Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight match. Their styles meshed well with Nese constantly using his athleticism to escape Gulak’s attempts to ground him. The finish to the match came when Gulak was able to pick up the victory with a well-timed sunset flip.

In the show’s opener, Cedric Alexander followed up his Match of the Year candidate against Kota Ibushi in the CWC two weeks ago by taking on TJP in another tournament spotlight match.

Alexander has become accustomed to opening EVOLVE shows after facing Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, and Fred Yehi in openers on the company's three previous events. And he put in another good performance in a more than solid match against TJP, but it didn’t live up to the great matches that he had against Gargano and Ciampa previously.

TJP worked on Alexander's leg all match and picked up the victory with a submission targeting it.

Also on the show, Jigsaw and Peter Kaasa defeated the Catch Point team of “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams and Yehi in a shocking upset. Williams slapped Yehi after the match, but it was only to fire his partner up. Yehi responded by laying out Jigsaw with a rolling elbow then hitting Williams with one. The two Catch Point members flashed their group’s symbol and shook hands after the loss.

And in a disjointed brawl full of physicality, Ethan Page picked up a win over one half of the EVOLVE Tag Team Champions when he pinned DUSTIN (the former Chuck Taylor) after hitting a package piledriver.

There was a lot to like on this show, with Thatcher vs. Riddle standing above the rest. But it was far from EVOLVE’s best show of the year and felt a lot like the appetizer to tomorrow’s main course in Brooklyn.

That show starts at 3 p.m. ET and features Thatcher defending his EVOLVE title against Gulak, Rhodes vs. Hero, Riddle vs. Tommy End, and Sabre vs. Alexander as the highlights of the card.

EVOLVE 66 results:

  • Cody Rhodes defeated Zack Sabre Jr.
  • EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher defeated Matthew Riddle to retain his title
  • Drew Gulak defeated Tony Nese
  • Ethan Page defeated DUSTIN
  • Jigsaw & Peter Kaasa defeated "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi
  • TJP w/ Stokely Hathaway defeated Cedric Alexander