“Wrestlemania Weekend” has become a major phrase in the lexicon of the wrestling community. Whether you are a devoted WWE fan or a diehard of the independent scene, there is plenty to take in during the days leading up to the Showcase of the Immortals. As you prepare to dive in to some of the things being offered up outside of a WWE ring, let The Lady J be your guide.
EVOLVE Wrestling, whose first show happened in January of 2010, is the wrestling promotion at the heart of the World Wrestling Network family. In the days leading up to Wrestlemania 33, EVOLVE will be producing two shows (EVOLVE 80 and EVOLVE 81) and a Super Show (Mercury Rising) that will include wrestlers from EVOLVE, Progress and SHINE wrestling. Whether you’ll be heading over to the Orlando Live Events Center on Thursday and Friday or just tuning in live on Flo-Slam, make sure you’re briefed on all things EVOLVE:
There have been five EVOLVE Champions since the title debuted in 2013, including current champion Zack Sabre Jr, who will make his first title defense against EVOLVE new-comer ACH at EVOLVE 80. But before ZSJ there was the longest-reigning champion in the title’s four year history, Timothy Thatcher, who held the belt for 596 days. If the sheer number of days isn’t impressive, consider this: Thatcher successfully defended that title 22 times before eventually succumbing to an incredibly driven Zack Sabre Jr. at EVOLVE 79 in New York City. Now, Thatcher’s manager, Stokely Hathaway, is on the warpath. After receiving no re-match for the title, and instead being booked in two of what Hathaway called “mid-card” matches, the enraged mouthpiece decreed that a special Night of Appreciation would happen at Mercury Rising to honor EVOLVE’s longest-reigning champion of all time. Hijinks surely to follow.
After Catch Point faction leader Drew Gulak left EVOLVE for greener pastures late last year, two new members were added: Chris Dickinson and Jaka. Not long afterwards, things started to go sour. Faction member Matt Riddle became engrossed in his feud with Drew Galloway (which will come to a head in a grudge match on Thursday). After successful tag team wins at EVOLVE 75, 77 and 78, Chris Dickinson and Jaka have their sights set on tag team gold. The only problem is the belts are currently held by their Catch Point teammates Tracey Williams and Fred Yehi, who won the titles in a four way tag match at EVOLVE 73. Though Williams and Yehi will have to successfully defend their titles against Donovan Dijak and Michael Elgin on Thursday’s show while Dickinson and Jaka will be focused on singles matches against Timothy Thatcher and Jason Kincaid, respectively, trouble is brewing for Catch Point. The Friday show pits Riddle and Yehi against one another, while Mercury Rising will see both men and Williams vying for the brand new WWN Championship in the main event while Jaka and Dickinson work on their tag abilities against Progress stars Travis Banks and TK Cooper. Will Catch Point survive or will Mania weekend prove to be every man for himself?
At EVOLVE 76, Keith Lee lost his debut match against the exiting former EVOLVE Champion Chris Hero. When Lee reappeared at EVOLVE 78 and 79, he made a much stronger showing, conquering Zack Sabre Jr. the night before ZSJ won the EVOLVE title, and then taking a win over one half of the current EVOLVE Tag Team Champions in Tracey Williams. After proving himself against these two formidable grapplers, Lee will be facing much different competition in Orlando as he is set to take on high-flyer Ricochet on Thursday and fellow heavyweight Donovan Dijak on Friday. If Keith Lee keeps tearing through his opposition, he seems like a clear #1 contender for either the EVOLVE Championship, or perhaps, even the yet-to-be-crowned WWN Championship.
All Ego Ethan Page has had an annoying problem lately, and that problem’s name is Darby Allin. After interfering in a series of Page’s matches, Allin was “dealt with” by Brian Cage, a frighteningly powerful friend of Page’s, via count out after Cage threw Allin from the ring through several rows of seats onto the stage at La Boom in New York City. Still, Allin came back. At EVOLVE 79, back in the Big Apple, Page and Allin faced off in a match that saw Allin carried out of the venue in a body bag by Page’s Gatekeepers. Now with Allin in his rearview, Ethan Page is set to take on Atlanta-based EVOLVE newcomer Austin Theory on the Thursday Mania show. However, a 40 second clip on YouTube that appears to show Darby Allin escaping from his body bag might prove to be disastrous for Ethan Page. When you consider that All Ego is already scheduled to face off against arguably the most violent man in all of Progress, Jimmy Havoc, on Saturday’s Mercury Rising, if Allin shows up to exact revenge the one in the body bag at the end of the weekend might just be Ethan.
Thursday, March 30th
Bell Time: 8pm
Friday, March 31st
Bell Time: 4pm
Mercury Rising Super Show
Saturday, April 1st
Bell Time: 8pm
Available Live via Flo-Slam
Lady J is a freelance writer and podcaster based out of the Washington D.C. area. She specializes in feminist wrestling critiques on her blog and hosts a Lucha Underground and indie wrestling review podcast, The Facelock Feministas. She’s on Twitter @theladyjsays.