The show begins bang on time with Lenny Leonard in the ring to welcome us to the show. He begins to hype tonight’s festivities up but JD Drake enters and Lenny cedes the floor to the former WWN Champion.
He says he really doesn’t want to do this, but if it has to happen, he wants to go ahead and do it now, and he calls Anthony Henry out! Henry comes down with a mic of his own, and Drake says they’re brothers, they don’t have to do this-- brothers fight and disagree and they can put this behind them and go back to being the WorkHorsemen and kicking ass all over the place.
Anthony says he means that he goes back to living in JD Drake’s shadow. JD says they’ve spoken about that at length but all he had to do for a title shot when he was champ was ask. But it looks like he’s got something he needs to get out of his system, so Drake is gonna take one for the team, hands behind his back, because he trusts Henry.
Hands behind his back, he sticks his chin out, but Anthony says he’s not gonna punch him in the face, there’s no reason for that, but what he’s going to do is to treat him exactly the way he’s treated him for all of these years... A KICK IN THE GENTLEMAN’S AREA! Henry rolls out of the ring and gets a chair and sets it up in the ring, threading Drake’s head through the back.
Anthony Henry heads up top... DIVING DOUBLE STOMP ONTO THE BACK OF THE CHAIR AND INTO THE NEW AGE ENFORCER’S HEAD!
Henry demands the bell and gets it!
Anthony Henry vs. JD Drake
Henry back up top... JAMES DAMN DRAKE HAS MORE FIGHTING SPIRIT THAN THAT! Following it up with a buzzsaw roundhouse kick... STILL NO! Mounted punches, Drake turtled up to protect himself, referee Brandon Tolle checks on him but the Blue Collar Badass is still in the fight! Anthony ducks a chop, leg kicks, chest kicks, but finally JD gets him by the throat and chops him down!
Both men down and out, fighting to the floor, going chop for kick and then chop for chop! Machine gun chops from Drake but Henry kicks his head off! Chest kicks against the post, but JD comes back with the pop-up apron haymaker! Back inside, Henry regains the momentum, up top, nobody home on the stomp! Anthony’s knee goes out on him... SHINING WIZARD! Following it up, running chop in the corner, against the ropes, and then a lariat leaves Henry wobbly!
Drake follows it up, atomic drop sets up a back suplex, Stinger splash into a big belly-to-belly and a Vader Bomb... NOT ENOUGH! Chest kicks from the Blue Collar Badass, Henry begs off but Drake says he loves him but he can only take so much before laying more chest kicks in! Duck the buzzsaw, leg-feed enzuigiri sets up a tornado DDT attempt but Drake throws him off!
Snap scoop powerslam nearly does it for the Lethal Lover, disdainful strikes, palm strikes to the jaw, backing JD into the corner until he fires back with chop after chop of his own! Forearm for forearm, chop for kick, crescent kick for lariat and both men crumble to the mat! Back to their feet, Drake ducks another crescent kick, Henry slips out of Drill Bit, JD under the double stomp, Stunner denied, Anthony with a snap German suplex and then a Dragon suplex and a series of crescent kicks!
Anthony Henry wins by pinfall with a diving double stomp.
This match was absolutely brilliant! From Henry taking total dickhead advantage of Drake offering his jaw through to the sheer meat-slapping violence to the finishing sequence where two men who have fought by each others’ side for years know the ins and outs of all their maneuvers but Anthony Henry was just that tiny bit quicker... Fantastic, and a prime example of why they’re probably my two favorite indie wrestlers going today. Instant classic.
Post-match, Henry acts like it’s all good and they’re friends again before kicking Drake in the gentleman’s area and stepping on his neck.
Brandon Taggart vs. Weatherman Josh
Josh using his speed against the big man early, but a back elbow turns the tide and Taggart starts laying sledgehammer chops in. Weatherman sidesteps, up top, diving crossbody, caught and into the Bossman Slam! Stinger Splash, rolling elbow, smashing Josh’s face into the turnbuckles. Gutwrench...
Brandon Taggart wins by pinfall with a Doctor Bomb.
Josh has a fun gimmick and I’d be happy to see him in Evolve again, Taggart remains an enjoyable athletic big man, not much of a match but I was into it.
Daniel Garcia vs. Harlem Bravado
Grappling in the feeling out, Bravado with some subterfuge to get a hard boot but Garcia sticks to the grappling and stays the course. Straight Cash, Homie countered into a crossface but Harlem rolls to the floor! Back inside, Dan with the legsweeps, caught with a kick and a DDT in the ropes... NOPE! Bravado pressing the attack, stomps and punches, but Garcia is steeled with determination!
Forearms in the corner, charging lariat gets a big boot, dropkick connects and the Red Death follows with a Saito suplex... NOT ENOUGH! My connection goes dead, and when I get back up, Bravado is celebrating, so...
Harlem Bravado wins.
I mean, not totally fair of me to judge without having seen the finish, but this was a Harlem Bravado singles match. It was fine. I do like what I’ve seen out of Garcia this weekend, though, would very much like to see him become a regular here in Evolve.
Kris Statlander vs. Shotzi Blackheart
Weird girls being weird at each other, into the grappling, Blackheart with a bit of an edge but nothing decisive. Trading pins, Shotzi with a double leg drop, clubbing away, Statlander gets a front chancery takeover into a cover for two. Test of strength, Kris with an unbreakable bridge at first, broken, pin for two! Locking up, wristlock exchange sets up a pair of tijeras for Blackheart!
Cannonball comes up empty, Statlander with a cover, only two. Follows it up with a double leg drop and a standing senton atomico, hard whip into the corner, Shotzi sidesteps, scorpion kick, cannonball in the corner! Looking for a leg submission, Kris kicks her away and they slug it out in the middle of the ring! Rolling elbow, roundhouse kick, Blackheart fired up but Statlander cuts her off with kicks and a Blue Thunder Driver... NOPE!
Off the ropes, big spike DDT... STATLANDER KICKED OUT! Charging in, Blackheart with a boot and a tijeras into the turnbuckles, Tiger feint kick! Up top, nobody home for the diving senton but Shotzi lands on her feet! Off the ropes, Kris catches her... WHEELBARROW GERMAN SUPLEX! Primal scream, fired up, electric chair facebuster! Off the ropes, axe kick... SHOTZI AIN’T STAYING DOWN YET!
Thinking package tombstone, Blackheart reverses to a pin for two! Statlander hits a superkick, headed up top but Shotzi cuts her off... AVALANCHE FRANKENSTEINER! Up top...
Shotzi Blackheart wins by pinfall with the diving senton.
This match ruled! Statlander chipping away at Blackheart’s (relative) home turf advantage, getting more and more, but in the end Shotzi just had her number today. Really good stuff.
Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez vs. Arturo Ruas
Ruas right in with kicks but Gutierrez keeps his distance and dodges ‘em all! Probing leg kicks, Arturo gets a roundhouse kick but not enough contact and Sharkbait stays on his feet. Grappling, Ruas with a leg pick but Gutierrez gets the ropes. Fist bump, Arturo shoots in, struggle in the clinch, Ruas thinking about a cross armbar but Sharkbait gets the ropes!
Gutierrez with a triangle choke out of nowhere but Arturo gives him enough trouble that he can’t get all of it and powerbombs Sharkbait over the ropes and to the floor! Trading strikes, Ruas gets a hard right and Sharkbait crumbles in the corner! Knees, following it up with a fireman’s carry takeover, Anthony still wants that triangle but Arturo keeps him from it!
Palm strikes, taking Gutierrez’ back, jockeying for position, Sharkbait in mount and raining forearms down! Running shooting star press, shifting strategies, suicide dive when Ruas bails to the floor! Springboard crossbody Arturo with a pop-up kick, Sharkbait gives him one back, knee, roll through, Ruas thinking armbar, Gutierrez gets the triangle!
Nowhere to go, Arturo reaching, struggling, desperate, fading, he rolls to his back and Sharkbait rains palms down! Back into the triangle, Ruas holds his shoulders to the mat...
Arturo Ruas wins by pinfall by getting Sharkbait’s shoulders on the mat for a three count during a triangle choke.
Well this was like catnip for me right here! This kind of intense technical grappling isn’t on the marquee here at Evolve anymore, but I still love to see it. And that finish! Great match.
Anthony Greene vs. Curt Stallion (Evolution’s Edge Tournament Finals)
All-out brawling from the jump! In the ring, German suplex from Stallion, Greene catches him with a drop toehold, slingshot senton through the ropes and Curt returns the favor with a suicide dive! Brandi Lauren with a cheap shot, crotching Stallion on the ropes! Anthony with a cover, only two, into the corner, putting boots to the Lone Star. Continuing to toy with him, Brandi with another cheap shot from the floor!
Stallion fired up and fighting back, going chop for chop, inexorably rising each time he falls, goozle gets a throat thrust, Retrosexual up top for a diving elbow, only two! Fired up, Curt with strikes, a German suplex, he’s got him lined up for the running boot! Headbutt in the corner drops him, AG fires back an exploder in the turnbuckles!
Soon enough on their knees and trading forearms, rising to their feet, superkick from Greene and Stallion falls to the floor! Jockeying for position on the apron, AG with an STO! Back inside, ropewalk crossbody misses and Curt drops him with a German suplex! Hesitation dropkick sets up the pull-up DDT, diving splash... NOPE! Underhooks, blocked, sunset flip sets up a double stomp, Greene returns a back roll into a powerbomb!
Drawing Stallion up by the hair, straight right hand, overrotated back suplex and a handful of tights... STILL NO! Looking for the step-up Killswitch, blocked...
Curt Stallion wins by pinfall with an avalanche German suplex, winning the Evolution’s Edge tournament and earning a match against Kassius Ohno next month.
This dragged a little in the middle, which is a bummer because I like both guys a lot and the opening and closing stretches were both hot as hell.
The Unwanted make their entrance and Eddie Kingston gets on the mic.
He says he’ll beat the Skulk’s asses by himself and calls them down!
The Skulk (Adrian Alanis, AR Fox, Bobby Flaco, Leon Ruff, & Liam Gray) vs. the Unwanted (Donovan, Eddie Kingston, Joe Gacy, Karam, & Sean Maluta) (2/3 Falls Match)
Brawling all over the place...
The Unwanted win the first fall by pinfall, taking Bobby Flaco out.
Chaos, chaos, chaos, eventually things settle down with the Unwanted working a five-on-four advantage since Flaco got taken to the back. Leon Ruff spends a long time isolated, Adrian Alanis gets the hot tag and cleans house! Liam Gray assists with a big DDT...
The Skulk win the second fall by pinfall with an assisted DDT from Alanis and Gray on Donovan.
Kingston posts the hell out of Adrian’s leg on the floor! Referees help Alanis to the back while Eddie gets on the mic and tells Fox he’s all out of dojo boys and he’s by himself! Ayla Fox says they had a backup plan... BABATUNDE STANDS WITH THE SKULK! BABATUNDE DESTROYS THE UNWANTED! HUGE POP-UP CHOP MAKES MALUTA REGRET HIS LIFE CHOICES! CHOKESLAM FOR KINGSTON!
Fox directs traffic and posts Eddie’s leg in revenge for Adrian Alanis, but Gacy makes the save! Liam Gray with the suicide dive! Babatunde clubbing away at Karam, they get into the ring for a proper staredown and Karam’s wild enough to go bull moose! Calling the Polish giant a punk, off the ropes... WORLD’S STRONGEST SLAM BUT THE ENTIRE UNWANTED BREAK IT UP!
Big man to the floor, Donovan tries a crossbody, gets caught, Gacy cuts him off! Gray in on Maluta, fast-paced action, Sean up top, frog splash... LEON RUFF MAKES THE SAVE! Kicks, Ruff gets him, Ruff Ride... DONOVAN MAKES THE SAVE! Donovan working him over, low crossbody in the corner but Leon comes back with strikes and a bridging German suplex for a nearfall!
Babatunde with a side slam on Kingston, scooping him up, Eddie slips out and the Unwanted start chopping him down, Backfist to the Future! Ruff up top... DIVING CROSSBODY ON ALL THREE MEN! Liam off the ropes... TOPE CON GIRO! FOX WITH THE COAST 2 COAST! Off the ropes... big air on the suicide dive from AR Fox! Ruff off the ropes... GACY CATCHES HIM WITH THE HANDSPRING ACE CRUSHER!
Karam saves Joe from an Ace Crusher from Fox and follows it up by countering another into a sunset flip powerbomb! Jockeying for position, Fox nails Karam with an enzuigiri and sets him up top... DEATH VALLEY DRIVER! Fox up top, 450 splash... JOE GACY BREAKS IT UP! Matrix evasion, kick Gacy into the corner, boot up, he blocks Lo Mein Pain, blockbuster leaves AR woozy!
Piledriver attempt, reversed, schoolboy, nope, Matrix evasion countered with a pin... NO! Big lariat, Joe gets him up...
The Unwanted win the third and final fall by pinfall with a Liger Bomb from Gacy on Fox to win the match.
So I was a little distracted early and worried this match wouldn’t grab me at all, but the story of Kingston and the Unwanted tearing through Fox’s gang and taking them out by hurting them one by one really drew me in, especially when Babatunde came in for the save. Good stuff, and a better match than yesterday’s six-man for sure.
Post-match, Trevin Adams comes out and offers Joe Gacy an Evolve contract!
Eddie Kingston shoos him off and points out that Joe, like them, wasn’t booked until they won the titles and forced them to book him, and that the boys can sit out there and suck up to the boss the nice way, or they can follow him, join the Unwanted, and earn your contract!
Kassius Ohno vs. WALTER
Ohno offers a handshake but WALTER refuses! Ohno going after the elbow in the early grappling and leaving his mark. WALTER looking to target the neck in return but Kassius blocks and stays a step ahead. Stomp and then a headscissors twist, the Ring General making his mark before booting the erstwhile Chris Hero to the floor! Chops on the floor, lighting Ohno up, but KO ducks one and the Austrian puts his hand into the post!
Straight right hand from that Young Knockout Kid, back inside, working the arm over... WISHBONING THE FINGERS AND HITTING A SENTON TO THE BICEP! Back into the striking, wicked northern lariat from WALTER sets up a German suplex... NOPE! Ohno right back with a Fujiwara armbar, WALTER rolls through, release powerbomb... STILL NO! The Ring General up top, Kassius cuts him off and kicks him to the floor!
Following out after, Ohno takes the pad off the shaft of the turnbuckle and drags WALTER over, putting him face-first into the post! Screwdriver in hand, Ohno heads over and puts WALTER’s thumb into the turnbuckle... AND TIGHTENS IT WITH THE SCREWDRIVER! Back inside, flying elbow, stomping at the hand, KO heads up top, cut off and WALTER climbs up after him...
WALTER wins by pinfall with a back superplex.
Okay so first off the turnbuckle / thumb / screwdriver spot was as brilliant as it was nausea-inducing. As a match, this was, big shock, really, really good, even if it felt like it never quite reached its absolute potential.
Austin Theory (c) vs. Josh Briggs (Evolve World Championship)
Theory in hard with punches, Briggs slams him and returns the favor! Pressing the attack, Austin with the drop toehold, rolling thunder dropkick, back and forth intensity in the early goings! Clothesline sends the champ to the floor and a boot puts him back down, jockeying for position on the apron and Theory spears him! Back inside, clubbing away, Austin with a trip to set up a standing moonsault, only a nearfall!
Wristlock piefaces, Josh refuses to back down and boots the champ in the face! Backbreaker sets up a butterfly backbreaker... NOPE! Both men come right back at it with an intense sequence, ducking and dodging, a blockbuster from the champ the final punctuation mark! Piefacing him, forearms, superkicks, Argentine backbreaker rack... SPUN INTO THE POWERBOMB FOR A NEARFALL!
Back to the floor, Briggs staggered... but he gets an apron powerbomb and nearly the win off of it! Austin with more superkicks, Ataxia denied, big powerbomb... STILL NO! Malfunction at the junction, referee Jake Clemons down and out, another powerbomb from Josh, thinking about Ataxia of his own... KASSIUS OHNO RUNS IN WITH A BOOT! Ataxia...
Austin Theory wins by pinfall with Ataxia to retain the Evolve World Championship.
So this was...
Frustrating is a good word for it.
Let’s start with the positives, this was a damn good match. They wasted no time getting into it, they established a real fun and exciting back and forth storyline for the match with cocky Theory actually kind of being just that good but Briggs refusing to back down.
And honestly, I think if the story had just been that Theory IS that damn good, I would have rolled my eyes but accepted it. But instead, Hero runs in, and it feels like Briggs as Evolve World Champion is still the carrot to the stick that is Austin Theory’s reign, but it’s just not worth the proverbial powder to me. I like Josh Briggs a lot and I’d be happy to see him as champ, but I’m not so excited that I want to sit through another d4+2 months of Theory on top to get there.
It feels like Evolve has had a real problem pulling the trigger on hot young talent for a long, long time now, going back at least to Timothy Thatcher’s title reign when he beat Matt Riddle in three straight. That one WAS worth it in the end because they corrected course, turned Thatcher heel, and had him drop it to Zack Sabre, Jr. in front of one of the hottest Evolve crowds ever, but it feels like it’s been a series of one “too little, too late, too complicated” ever since.
And hell, they lost Darby Allin for all their dithering!
I dunno, folks. Evolve is my favorite wrestling promotion. Tuning in and seeing the purple atom logo screen while I wait for the show to start feels like home to me, but I’m getting really sick of good stories being derailed at climactic moments like this. It’s not quite as bad as late-90s crash TV swerves for the sake of swerves, but it’s close.
Okay, so with that out of the way... this was actually a really excellent show as a whole. Henry/Drake is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the greatest matches in Evolve history, Ruas/Sharkbait was fun as hell, Blackheart/Statlander ruled, the ten-man was chaotic fun, and the main event was, in a vacuum, a really good match too. On a level of just pure wrestling talent, this was a top-tier show.
Storyline-wise, well, the groundhog saw his shadow and we’ve got six more months of Austin Theory casting a pall over everything. That sucks and I’m done talking about it for now.
But on the positive, the women’s division is continuing to develop, we’ve got two feuds for Kassius Ohno so we know he’ll be coming around for a while longer and I ain’t ever turning more Chris Hero down, and Joe Gacy earning a contract is actually a really clever way to spin the Unwanted story so that they can still be heels and against the WWE influence but don’t have to fall apart the second somebody gets signed.
Check the VOD out on Club WWN, folks.