Image: JJ Williams
With Johnny Gargano and TJ Perkins bidding farewell at EVOLVE 69 last month, Saturday night's show represented something of a new era for the company.
But for the EVOLVE Championship, there was unfortunately only more of the same. Timothy Thatcher continued his lackluster title reign with one of its lower points in a title defense against Ethan Page at EVOLVE 70.
Prior to the show, EVOLVE did a good job effectively promoting the match and made it feel like a big deal. It even felt like there was a real possibility of Page winning the title. But, like most of Thatcher's recent title defenses, the match was again placed in the mid-card and it failed to deliver.
Thatcher won the match and regained his title after tapping Page out with the Fujiwara armbar. Many of the early parts of the match were rough, and the finish was convoluted with interference and multiple ref bumps. A couple of near falls near the end that worked fairly well were the only redeeming parts of the match.
It seemed that Thatcher had taken a more aggressive turn, if not outright went heel after his title defense against Drew Gulak in August. But that wasn't really evident here.
There have undeniably been high points in Thatcher's title reign, but it feels like it has overstayed its welcome. After a compelling feud with Catch Point, I'm not sure where Thatcher goes from here after beating Page.
What's next for Page isn't clear either. And having him lose in his first match after his angle with Gargano at the conclusion of EVOLVE 69 seems illogical. They had spent months building to Page revealing that his attempts to regain Gargano's trust were all a ruse, and he seemed to be positioned as one of the top heels in the company as he aligned with The Gatekeepers.
Page losing immediately after that angle felt like an undeniable step backwards. And it undid a lot of what EVOLVE had been effectively building with him. He's someone that really needs to be booked well and needs to have a clear direction to thrive.
After being positioned as the new face of the company at EVOLVE 69, Matt Riddle got an opportunity to reaffirm that decision in the main event of EVOLVE 70. And Riddle again proved that he was the only correct choice to carry Gargano's torch. Riddle defeated AR Fox, who filled in for an injured Drew Galloway, with the Bromission in what may have been the match of the night.
By the end of the show, Riddle was realigned with his Catch Point stablemates. DUSTIN hit the ring to attack Riddle after the main event, and Fox joined in on the beat down after the loss. An injured Galloway even made his way into the ring before Gulak, Fred Yehi, and Tracy Williams cleared the ring. Gulak asked Riddle if he was still with Catch Point, and Riddle told him that he never left.
Gulak and Williams were also involved in the other two best matches on the show. Gulak took the loss against Chris Hero after being hit with a roaring elbow to the back of the head, and Williams was defeated by Zack Sabre Jr. after he submitted to a double armbar.
Despite having his thumb broken by Thatcher earlier this year, Stokely Hathaway attempted to recruit the champion to the Dream Team after TJP moved on to WWE. But Hathaway seemed to still be looking for his next client after Thatcher left without giving an answer to Hathaway's proposal.
Earlier in the show, The Gatekeepers looked impressive in their first EVOLVE tag match since aligning with Page as they dominated Bunk and Funk. And Darby Allin was equally impressive as he again showed his athleticism and willingness to do anything inside of the ring in a win against Anthony Henry.
Ahead of his match with Sabre on Sunday's show, Yehi picked up the win against DUSTIN after submitting him with the Koji clutch. And in a match where both made their EVOLVE debut, Nathan Cruz defeated Jason Kincaid. Cruz's win was put over on commentary as a continuation of EVOLVE's relationship with PROGRESS Wrestling, where Cruz regularly wrestles. PROGRESS will present shows, including a co-branded supershow with EVOLVE, on the World Wrestling Network over WrestleMania weekend next year.
The title match was a low point that the show couldn't quite overcome. Riddle vs. Fox, Hero vs. Gulak, and Sabre vs. Williams are all worth watching but nothing was at the level where you need to go out of your way to see it. EVOLVE return with another show on Sunday night, with Thatcher vs. Gulak, Hero vs. Riddle, and Sabre vs. Yehi as the show's highlights.
EVOLVE 70 results:
- Matt Riddle defeated AR Fox
- Chris Hero defeated Drew Gulak
- Zack Sabre Jr. defeated "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams
- EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher defeated "All Ego" Ethan Page to retain his title
- The Gatekeepers defeated Bunk & Funk
- Fred Yehi defeated DUSTIN
- Nathan Cruz defeated Jason Kincaid
- Darby Allin defeated Anthony Henry