Chris Hero's last moments in an independent wrestling ring were spent telling the audience not to underestimate how far a little support can go.
It was a timely message given where Hero stands in his career. He had what he hopes to be his final independent match ever against Zack Sabre Jr. on Saturday afternoon at EVOLVE 77. The match itself was as predictably great as you would expect. It was indie wrestling's standard-bearer facing off against the person who may now be the best unsigned talent in the world.
Hero passed the torch to Sabre at the end of their excellent main event. The match was great, but the finish brought it up to another level and made it an early contender for EVOLVE's Match of the Year. Sabre withstood a barrage of offense before he finally got the win.
He survived a massive tombstone piledriver, kicked out of a Pedigree at one, and transitioned a Gotch piledriver into a submission after Hero had already dropped him on his head twice.
The animosity between the two ended after the match as they both put each other over. Speeches like the one Hero gave have become commonplace with WWE signing so many indie wrestlers, but either because it felt so genuinely sincere or because Hero returning to NXT seemed so in doubt after he had already been released by the company previously, this felt like something special.
Before mentioning the need for support in both wrestling and life, Hero brought up that he's only getting this opportunity to return to WWE because of what's happened in his time away from the company. He claimed that it's not only because of the matches he's had, but because of how the fans have supported him and the wrestlers he's gotten a chance to work with.
An angle to set up the next challenger for the EVOLVE Championship was done in the middle of the speech, with Sabre and ACH both wanting a shot at Timothy Thatcher's title. Thatcher's manager Stokely Hathaway tried to deny them both a shot, but Thatcher came to the ring and pointed at Sabre to indicate his next challenger. Sabre told ACH that he would give him the first shot once he wins.
Sabre's win in the main event was his second of the night, as he also opened the show by picking up the victory for his team in a six-man tag. An angle with Ethan Page and The Gatekeepers played off of their continuing feud with Darby Allin, and what was originally supposed to be a singles match between Allin and Barrett Brown saw them team up against Page and his Gatekeepers in a handicap match.
But the odds were evened pretty quickly. Sabre joined the match to thank Allin for his help in fending off The Gatekeepers last night. The match was incredibly fun, with Sabre showing off his aggressive side that would continue in the main event and Allin defying death as usual.
At one point in the match, Allin even hit a Coffin Drop off of a pillar onto a pile of bodies. Sabre got his first submission victory of the night when he tapped out one of the Gatekeepers (Blaster McMassive).
The night's other best match was a wild brawl between Matt Riddle and DUSTIN. They fought their way through the crowd and expertly utilized weapons to enhance the no disqualification match. DUSTIN suplexed Riddle onto the merch table without it breaking, so he followed up by hitting a dive through a table later.
DUSTIN tried to cover Riddle in the ring, but he kicked out at one. Following a DDT onto a chair by DUSTIN, Riddle came back with a suplex of his own through a massive pile of chairs before finally covering DUSTIN after hitting a flurry of strikes.
Thatcher was able to find a new challenger in the main event segment only after defeating Jeff Cobb to retain his title. The two had a solid match with good arm work in the end that resulted in Thatcher trapping Cobb in a pin for the win.
But their match had the difficulty of following Riddle vs. DUSTIN, while also continuing the trend of Thatcher working his usual style in a title match when the crowd wanted to see something different. They were clearly into Cobb and would've liked to see him on offense for more of the match, giving him a good ovation after.
ACH also got another nice reception in his home state for his second EVOLVE match. After losing against Riddle last night, ACH was able to get his first win for the company after beating Fred Yehi with a brainbuster.
Yehi's loss was the only one that Catch Point suffered on the night. After Laredo Kid got a bit of shine early in their match, Tracy Williams quickly submitted him with the crossface after leveling him with a forearm.
Chris Dickinson & Jaka were also victorious against Jason Kincaid & Sammy Guevara, before Larry Dallas again tried to stir up trouble after the match by asking if Dickinson & Jaka should get a shot at Williams & Yehi's titles. The segment ended with a strange promo from Kincaid that left Catch Point having to stop Dickinson from attacking him.
Final Thoughts --
This was an excellent show. Hero's farewell would be must-see regardless of what else happened, but the rest of the card delivered as well. Riddle vs. DUSTIN and the six-man tag opener were the other standouts on the show.
Hero's exit leaves a hole on EVOLVE shows going forward that will be impossible to fill. The company has still been able to maintain its quality with the loss of so many other wrestlers, but EVOLVE is definitely still entering a new era without Hero, Drew Gulak, Johnny Gargano, and others.
The wrestlers they've added recently are talented, but it remains to be seen if they can consistently put on the level of matches that those guys did.
EVOLVE 77 results --
- Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Chris Hero
- EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher defeated Jeff Cobb to retain his title
- Matt Riddle defeated DUSTIN in a no DQ match
- ACH defeated Fred Yehi
- Chris Dickinson & Jaka defeated Jason Kincaid & Sammy Guevara
- Tracy Williams defeated Laredo Kid
- Darby Allin, Barrett Brown & Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ethan Page & The Gatekeepers