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EVOLVE 71 recap: Matt Riddle vs. Chris Hero


Image: JJ Williams

Following an at times lackluster outing at EVOLVE 70, Sunday night saw EVOLVE present what might have been the company's best show of the year.

While everything on EVOLVE 71 was good, the most surprising bright spot was Timothy Thatcher taking on Drew Gulak in the show's opener. The iPPV portion of the broadcast opened with Thatcher and Gulak in street clothes ready to go at it after a segment with William Regal before the show started, and Thatcher showed the fire that's too often been lacking in his EVOLVE matches.

Thatcher and Gulak brawled throughout the arena, and outside of it, in a very good match. And it was Gulak who picked up the win in the non-title street fight after he caught Thatcher in the ropes with a dragon sleeper.

I wasn't sure what the direction for Thatcher was after getting a decisive win over Ethan Page on Saturday night, and I'm still not sure where his title reign goes from here, but the Thatcher that faced Gulak on Sunday night was the best version of him. Thatcher had teased a more aggressive turn in his match against Gulak in August, and we saw a lot of that in this match.

And we got some idea of what's next for Thatcher after the match, as he accepted Stokely Hathaway's proposal to join the Dream Team. The pairing is an obviously odd one, but having Hathaway at Thatcher's side should provide an interesting element to his character and present a more clear direction.

After losing to Thatcher on Saturday night, Page also got back on the right track at EVOLVE 71. Page got a clean win over Sami Callihan in a hard-hitting sprint after hitting a package piledriver.

Before his match against Callihan, Page promised to bring utter chaos to EVOLVE. And he managed to do so later in the show. Along with The Gatekeepers, Page came out to attack Zack Sabre Jr. after Sabre beat Fred Yehi in an excellent mat-based match. Sabre was stating his intent to challenge for Thatcher's title when Page hit the ring to lay him out.

In what was likely the best match on the show, Matt Riddle once again delivered in the main event after being positioned as the new face of EVOLVE following Johnny Gargano's departure. It was a battle between two of 2016's most impressive wrestlers as Riddle faced off against Chris Hero, and Hero came out on top after hitting an elbow to the back of the head following an excellent finishing sequence.

After the match, Catch Point was more united than ever as they saved Riddle from a beat down at the hands of Hero, DUSTIN, and Drew Galloway.

What made EVOLVE 71 so impressive was the depth of the card. And that was on display in the second match of the night as Catch Point's Tracy Williams took on Jason Kincaid. The two had a really good match, with Williams getting the win after hitting a big piledriver. Kincaid looked especially good in the match while showcasing some unique offense, and he's someone that should definitely find a place on future EVOLVE cards.

The show also saw DUSTIN defeat Darby Allin. But if there's anything the match will be remembered for, it's Allin's death-defying Coffin Drop trust fall off of one of the arena's pillars. It's going to take a lot to fill the void on the card left by Gargano and TJ Perkins, but having new regulars like Allin is helping to alleviate some of the burden.

The Gatekeepers also again managed to look impressive as they won in a quick squash against Joe Coleman and Eric Locker.

Final thoughts:

EVOLVE 71 was everything that Saturday night's show wasn't. It was one of EVOLVE's best outings of the year, and the depth of the card even after the loss of Gargano and Perkins was impressive. Every match was worth seeing, with Riddle vs. Hero and Sabre vs. Yehi being the show's most obvious highlights. But picking the match of the night off of this card will really depend on personal preference.

EVOLVE 71 results:

  • Chris Hero defeated Matt Riddle
  • Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Fred Yehi
  • DUSTIN defeated Darby Allin
  • "All Ego" Ethan Page defeated Sami Callihan
  • The Gatekeepers defeated Joe Coleman & Eric Locker
  • "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams defeated Jason Kincaid
  • Drew Gulak defeated EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher in a non-title street fight