EVOLVE’s latest reboot continued with another strong show out of New York that gave us some returns, some new feuds, and a hot main event that ended with a whimper…
We’re not in La Boom, but the Most Precious Blood Youth Center in Brooklyn, with Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi on the call. Guess what? We have new captions, and they are finally readable, so we know for sure it’s Timothy Barr and not Timothy Baaa doing ring announcing…
Josh Briggs vs. Bad Bones
This was technically Bad Bones’ debut in EVOLVE, although the former wXw champion had done a dark match back in 2016 for the promotion.
Bones catches Briggs unaware with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, as we’re treated to a veritable United Nations of flags in the arena while the German worked over Briggs in the corner. Briggs gets a boot up as Stokely Hathaway was also on commentary scouting, but Bones is quickly back in control with a knee to the gut and a Falcon arrow that earned him a near-fall. Briggs heads outside and gets met with a low-pe, then a missile dropkick as Bad Bones was really proving to be a test for the newcomer Briggs. Another low-pe followed, but Bones gets caught and chokeslammed onto the edge of the apron, which was the turning point as a spinning side slam back inside almost gets Briggs another W. A leaping lariat from Briggs takes Bones into the corner, following up with a big boot and a gutbuster, before he was forced to weather a storm of chops from Bones… which he cuts off with a forearm and an elbow.
Another pump kick and a German suplex gets Bones right back in it, as he followed in with a second German before he ran into the clutches of Briggs, only to counter a chokeslam into a lungblower! More kicks leave Briggs down and out, before a flying lungblower was caught… Bones escapes the catch though, before running into a spinning backbreaker that almost ended the match.
Bones remained determined, as he tried to suplex Briggs to the floor before a slingshot spear was blocked with a boot. The second time was the charm though, as Bones came close to victory, only for Briggs to kick out and smash him with the M5 chokeslam backcracker for the win. A really fun back-and-forth match – designed to highlight Briggs, and it did exactly what was needed. ***¼
Jarek 1:20 was introduced complete with his Mudvayne-a-like theme. He’s been off the shows since “falling off the card” after losing a string of dark matches. Remember those? I miss when EVOLVE had those 10-minute undercard matches, it actually gave the openers a sense of meaning. Jarek reintroduces himself as Candy Cartwright stood there screeching… He reckons he made Jason Kincaid disappear (to Japan… so he bought a plane ticket?), and he threatens to do the same with Darby Allin tomorrow. Jon Davis appears, as Lenny Leonard tells us he’s returned to EVOLVE, but thankfully Davis tells us who he is, having been gone for almost a year.
Jarek 1:20 vs. Jon Davis
So it’s the man with a big match tomorrow versus a returnee. For some reason Timothy Barr’s feeling the need to explain the colour of wrestler’s gear, as EVOLVE’s seemingly going back to their original MMA-ish roots. Can’t wait to see those win/loss records appearing again!
Jarek’s a nuisance early on, and Davis is having none of it, taking Jarek repeatedly into the corner as he ragdolls the magicians. A back suplex dumped Jarek for a one-count as Candy shrieks along with the bumps and chops, before Jarek scored when he hung Davis in the ropes, returning in with a neckbreaker for a quick near-fall. Jarek keeps Davis on the mat with a grounded sleeperhold, but the big man fights back… only to get caught with a cutter for a near-fall. A crossbody off the middle rope’s caught as Davis drills Jarek with a backbreaker and a flatliner for a near-fall… and it’s all one-way traffic from there as Davis lived up to the slogan on his t-shirt, establishing dominance over Jarek, before getting caught with a tornado DDT as the magician nearly conjured up a win.
From there, Jarek walked into the path of a spinebuster, before countering a rack bomb with some headscissors, only for a huge lariat to drop Jarek for the win. Well, that was certainly a way to bring Jon Davis back with a bang… and it’s yet another loss for Jarek whose days in EVOLVE may well be numbered on this form. **¾
AR Fox brings his trainees out for a tag match… there’s four of them, but no graphics (save for “AR FOX w/ AYLA & THE SKULK” as we have to contend with EVOLVE’s awful microphones and my memory to identify these guys. They’ve all done WWN stuff before, if you were one of the dozen who watched Style Battle…
Adrian Alanis & Liam Gray vs. Leon Ruff & Tommy Maserati
So, it’s a trainee tag match, and we start with Maserati and Gray rolling around the ropes from a tie-up. An early crucifix from Maserati nearly ends the match, before Gray decided against cheerleading and went for a headlock takedown… only for Tommy to counter out of it.
Maserati returns with a springboard armdrag as but a blind tag brought in Leon Ruff who scored with an armdrag of his own, before Adrian Alanis came in to be the hoss of the match. He stuffed a Slingblade from Ruff, before pushing away a leapfrog as Ruff bounced off the ropes for a ‘rana! That was nice stuff and that got a few of the crowd on their feet as AR did laps around the ring. Maserati and Ruff score with dropkicks to take Gray and Alanis to the floor… they return as Alanis has to fight out of a roll-up, as he finally scored with a lariat to Maserati. Gray’s back with a slam to Maserati as Ruff hung himself in the ropes for reasons… right as Maserati was kept in the corner amid a series of quick tags and mudhole stomping. Alanis shows off his power again with a backbreaker, before a big boot dropped Tommy… who was finally able to avoid a back senton.
Liam Gray pulls Ruff off the apron – which confused everyone as he stayed on the apron and was nearly knocked off by his own partner… in the melee, Ruff gets tagged back in and hits a springboard clothesline as he mounted a spirited comeback. A springboard cannonball sandwiches Gray before Gray and Maserati launched into a series of kicks with a backflip short DDT almost putting away Alanis. Alanis backs up into the corner as Ruff looked to score with something, but it’s countered into a Burning Hammer/gutbuster before a splash from Gray sealed the win. This was all-action, but it felt to be missing something – something you typically get from an exhibition match, particularly among folks with no individual characters. **¾
We’re into the EVOLVE special here as AR Fox hits the ring, demanding to have his match… now!
AR Fox vs. DJZ
Once the ring clears of the trainees, we get going as DJZ did his usual shtick of taking down his opponent and signalling for airhorns.
Next up, DJZ thought he’d caught Fox with an Ace crusher, but Fox turned it into a headstand as he countered with a nice legdrop instead, sending DJZ to the outside… where he returned to the ring and lands some headscissors ahead of another bloody airhorn and a teased dive. Fox only delays the dive as a baseball slide dropkick through the ropes took Fox into the barriers, before DJZ used the ring apron as a platform for a step-up ‘rana on the outside.
Ayla Fox distracts DJZ as she steals his helmet and mocks the DJZ intro… and it works as AR had recovered to hit a Coast to Coast dropkick to keep DJZ on the floor, before placing DJZ on the apron for a brutal guillotine legdrop. That’s enough for a near-fall, but DJZ nicks in with a backslide before Fox rolled through a sunset flip as we were all about the pinning attempts. A chinbreaker and a Slingblade keep DJZ down, before a senton bomb saw Fox crash and burn, but he’s able to recover… as DJZ flips off the apron to avoid a dive. DJZ gets his dive in as his slingshot plancha wiped out Fox and his Skulk… then returns to the ring with a nice flying wheelbarrow takedown that turned into a tornado reverse DDT. A spin-out reverse DDT leaves Fox down for a near-fall, but he rolls up for a neckbreaker and gets caught by Fox, who turned it into a powerbomb for another close-call, before a rolling cutter and a springboard cutter left DJZ trapped in the middle of the ring for a modified Dragon sleeper.
DJZ makes it to the ropes, but Fox had control, looking for his Foxcatcher, and instead taking a superkick as a Quebrada caught Fox in the ropes… but DJZ couldn’t get the cover as his own feet were in the ropes. Sensing victory, DJZ climbs the ropes, but gets distracted as he falls to Lo Mein Pain for another near-fall, before a 450 Splash took Fox into DJZ’s knees for another two-count! We’re back with the flying as a corkscrew moonsault from DJZ misses, and that left him prey for the Foxcatcher as AR won this insane sprint. A shade over ten minutes long and all kinds of fun – this was breathless at times but didn’t feel like “movez” for the sake of doing moves. Go out of your way to watch this one! ****
Darby Allin vs. WALTER
I predict a murdering… and so did Darby, as he leapt into WALTER with a shotgun dropkick and a tope at the bell as he sensed some urgency… but WALTER shrugs it off and charges Darby into the ring post before returning to the ring, as he wasn’t in the mood to start off with a brawl.
WALTER was in the mood to keep Darby from the ring though, as he boots him off the apron, before slicing through Allin with a chop after he’d dared to throw one. The murdering continued as WALTER tosses him into the turnbuckles, before ragdolling him with a gutwrench powerbomb… GOOD GRIEF! Darby tries to fight back, but he gets caught between the ropes for some clubbering forearms to the chest… and it doesn’t get any easier for him on the floor. CHOP! Allin’s thrown back into the ring as duelling chants rang around the room, just as Darby tried to fight back… but his dropkick is caught and turned into a Boston crab! After reaching the ropes, Darby tries to chop WALTER, and you can guess how that goes, as der Ringgeneral looked more annoyed than anything else.
Another chance came for Darby as he takes WALTER into the corner for some elbows, but he’s caught and trapped in another Gojira, before a massive release German suplex pancaked Allin for another two-count. More chops flatten Darby, who’s just getting worn out here, but he’s still got enough to take down WALTER with a low dropkick and some stomps, before a cannonball off the top just about took down the Austrian on the outside! There’s yet more chops, but Darby avoids a backdrop suplex on the apron as he sensed a chance… but he’s snapped off WALTER’s back to the floor as he was going for a rear naked choke. Still, Darby’s able to target WALTER’s hand, throwing it into the ring post as he tried to prevent more chops… but he then followed that up by just bouncing off of WALTER with a crossbody off the top. DOH!
A shotgun dropkick sends Darby careering into the corner as WALTER tried to get the win, but a powerbomb’s turned into a Code Red for a near-fall out of nowhere! There’s more of the same as Darby continued to get ragdolled, and chopped, before another Gojira clutch was escaped… with Darby nearly winning with an O’Connor roll. With WALTER on the mat, Darby punches the hand, but WALTER gets to the ropes to force a break, only to get caught in a Fujiwara armbar.
That too is escaped, so Darby locks in a guillotine choke, which WALTER tries to punch out of ahead of a butterfly suplex and a murderous lariat. But still Darby kicks out! He goes back to the Austrian’s hand, but WALTER has another one that he used to try and swipe Darby away with, only to send himself into the ropes… as he gets caught with a Quebrada into a stunner. Darby tries for a Coffin Drop, but it’s caught and turned into another Gojira as WALTER opts for more clubbering blows, before yet another Gojira attempt… which Darby flipped back on, and somehow he sneaks out with the pin! This was a tremendous David vs. Goliath sprint – a little bit of a banana peel finish, but there wasn’t any other way Darby was winning this one. Phenomenal stuff… and only exacerbated with WALTER booting him afterwards in frustration. ****½
Mike Verna vs. Bryan Idol
A huge pop for Verna here, who’s making his EVOLVE debut against a man who appeared at the last show to make a challenge that really went nowhere as the match he wanted in FIP apparently got delayed.
Idol was out with Natalia Markova, as EVOLVE seem to have a thing for female managers on this show… I’m not sure why Idol’s on these shows. It’s not like he’s getting much buzz, nor indeed bookings outside of his own FTW promotion. The former Earl Cooter took down the sometimes-Sloan Caprice early on with a tie-up, only for Verna to return the favour with some snapmares and a waistlock takedown, but Idol’s back in with a punch as we go to the boo/yay punches and chops. Verna wins out on those, but his clothesline misses as Idol takes him down into a rather cluny cross armbreaker attempt.
Idol tries a crossbody, but he’s caught and met with a slam before Verna chopped him in the corner, before taking him up for a top rope ‘rana that spiked Idol on the way down. On the outside, Idol’s search for a breather quickly ends by way of a Verna tope, but Idol comes back by hanging Verna in the ropes as he mounted a comeback of sorts. Verna’s on the outside after a dropkick, and he’s met with a tope too… but not quite as crisply this time. Some wonky rope running leads to a back elbow from Verna, as Idol hit back with a slingshot Downward Spiral out of the corner, before a double-jump moonsault misses. Idol tries for something again, but his ‘rana’s caught and turned into a buckle bomb by Verna, who then slammed him into the corner as he looked to close this one out. It’s only good for a near-fall, so Verna heads up top again… but he misses a senton bomb before falling to Cross Rhodes as Idol took home the win. As a pre-show match, this’d have been fine, but as something meant to highlight Idol… it just exposed him in my mind, as he stood out like a sore thumb on the card. Was he only here as a favour, perhaps? *½
Tracy Williams, Anthony Henry & Timothy Thatcher vs. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson, Jaka & Dominic Garrini)
Billed as a six-man grudge match, this was basically “Catch Point versus everyone who’s had beef with them”… minus The End (whom commentary confirmed were gone from EVOLVE) or the newly-renamed JD Drake.
We’ve a jump start as Catch Point were taken to the outside, and this is already an arena-wide brawl. When the bell goes, Henry’s in the ring to dump Garrini with a scoop slam before Jaka gets rid of him with some knees as Timothy Thatcher replaced him in a match that looked more like a patterned four-way than a trios match. A spinning heel kick traps Thatcher in the corner, before Dickinson and Williams came in… with the “Dirty Daddy” keeping the heated pace of the match going.
Williams finds himself cornered in the wrong corner, but of course once Garrini comes in he’s able to fight back as he dumped Garrini with a suplex before bringing in Thatcher, then Henry to work on Catch Point’s ineffective goon. A STF from Thatcher adds the pain for Garrini, who needed Jaka to try and make a save, and it eventually worked as Catch Point took over on Henry for a spell. Dickinson and Jaka double-team Henry – who’s apparently now a singles wrestler… but commentary openly calls out the irony of him “debuting” as a singles guy in a tag match. An enziguiri from Henry looked to give him an opening, but Dickinson interferes and looked to keep the status quo as a backdrop suplex on the apron left Henry on the floor. We’re back to the wild brawling around the ring.
The match gets a little hard to follow due to just how much is going on when they leave the ring… but what we did catch was a nice sheer-drop brainbuster from Dickinson that nearly put away Henry. The pair fight on the top rope, but Henry can’t be stopped from a double missile dropkick to the tag team champions as the match wandered back into “what the hell is happening?” territory. Tracy Williams is in and cracks Jaka with an elbow, before he leaps off the top into a DDT on Jaka… but Chris Dickinson kicks away the cover to keep the match going. Thatcher tags in and clocks Jaka with an enziguiri and a butterfly suplex, but Garrini breaks it up before he found himself caught in a rear naked choke by an angered Thatcher. Anthony Henry’s back in to catch Jaka in a STF, while Tracy Williams completes the trio of holds with another STF to Dickinson… but the submissions don’t bring a result, as Dickinson escaped and powerbombed Williams onto Henry.
In the end, Henry tries to head up top but gets crotched… he recovered to go for a double stomp, but he mistimes it and lays out Thatcher with it, before an enziguiri and a roll-up from Jaka was enough to get the win. This was decent… at times it was really hard to follow, but it didn’t feel like a blow-off… rather a first step in a feud between Henry and Thatcher, with the latter getting caught with an enziguiri afterwards. ***
So, with The End gone, Henry and Drake split-up… who’s next for Catch Point? Or indeed, EVOLVE’s threadbare tag team division?
WWN Championship: Joey Janela vs. Austin Theory (c)
We’ve finally got an EVOLVE debut for Joey Janela, who had been taking shots at WWN when he was used “only for Style Battle” earlier in the year… and he’s wandered into a title match!
Meanwhile, Austin Theory’s added a new wrinkle to his character in him bullying the ring announcer into giving him a nickname. “Legend… Epitome… Limit Breaker… All Day…” those are all just words! Theory starts by taking Janela into the corner, but there’s a lot of counters and escapes as the champion tried to get hold of Janela. Some headscissors on the mat are escaped by Janela, who goes for the arm as the feeling-out process continued, with Janela struggling to contend with Theory’s size… at least until he kicked him to the outside for a dive!
Back inside, Priscilla Kelly offered a distraction, which worked to a degree as Janela was sent shoulder-first into the ring post by Theory, giving the champion something to target. A standing moonsault’s good for a near-fall as Theory had control, grounding Janela with a chinlock… but Joey escapes and chops Theory into the corner, before he ran into a drop toe hold as he became acquainted with the same corner.
A big dropkick’s good for a near-fall for Theory, who tried to take Janela off the apron, only for a low dropkick through the ropes to send Austin outside as well, as Janela followed up with a brutal death valley driver onto the apron! From there, the pair go back and forth with forearms, before a jack-knifed powerbomb almost led to a title change. Janela boots Theory into the corner for a running bicycle knee, but he can’t follow up because Priscilla Kelly traps him in the ropes… before Penelope Ford returned the favour! Amid all that, Janela gets a near-fall from a roll-up and a superkick, before he heads up and misses a double-stomp, allowing Theory a chance to come in with a TKO for a two-count of his own. Theory goes for the title belt… which the producer seems to think was better to show that Penelope jumping onto Priscilla on the outside, as we return to Janela almost winning with a package piledriver… so they amp up the pressure, with an avalanche TKO from Theory getting even closer.
Theory’s got his belt again, but Penelope Ford disarms him on the top rope… allowing Janela to catch him up there with… OHMYGOD AVALANCHE BRAINBUSTER, and that’s good enough to crown a new champion! What a debut, eh? As a match, it was really good without ever threatening to crack through to the next level for me – not helped by some production choices… but that loss for Theory certainly is interesting, eh? ***¾
On his way to the back, Austin Theory’s stopped by AR Fox, who’s disappointed at his trainee’s loss…
No Rope Breaks for EVOLVE Championship: Shane Strickland vs. Matt Riddle (c)
After the DQ finish at EVOLVE 104, Strickland’s got his title shot… and the newly-aggressive King of Swerve jumped Riddle before the bell, choking him with his own ring jacket.
Strickland posts Riddle as the pair finally enter the ring, with Riddle not exactly backing down in a battle of forearms, only to get kicked in the head as Strickland comes into the ring with a slingshotted German suplex for a near-fall. The onslaught continues with knees and clotheslines as Strickland took Riddle into the corner for another running knee, before he pulls him out and into a back suplex for another two-count.
Some ground and pound keeps Riddle on the mat as Strickland’s keeping the champion neutered, mixing ground and pound with shots to the arm as Riddle was left face-down and defenceless on the mat… but Riddle eventually comes back in with a powerbomb sandwiched either side of some bicycle knees for a near-fall as the tables turned. A back senton from Riddle keeps it going, as do some rolling gutwrench suplexes, before a bridging German almost ended the match. From the kick-out, Strickland keeps hold of the ropes as Riddle tried to roll those Germans together, instead opting to take Strickland down into a Bromission, then a rear naked choke or anything that’d force a submission… Strickland gets to the ropes, but Riddle’s title rules means they count for nought! With Strickland on the apron, he’s subjected to a barrage of elbows before he caught the arm and worked over it, before hauling Riddle over the top rope and onto a slam on the apron.
Back inside, Strickland goes up top for a double stomp that almost led to the title change. Strickland tries to go for the arm snap again, but Riddle escapes that and instead goes for a rear naked choke that segued into another Bromission attempt, only for Strickland to flip out and eventually lead to a ref bump as he stepped out of the corner, just as Riddle leapt in with a Tiger knee. Oops.
With no referee, this turns into a massive brawl, heading around ringside with kicks to the chest of Strickland on the apron, before they headed backstage – and beyond the reach of the cameras. We get a glimpse of them on the stage as they wrecked the tarped off area that separated the crowd from the locker room… and there’s a guy in his underwear who runs off to save his modesty! There’s still no referee as Strickland got into it with Jon Davis, before he was carried back to ringside as we seemingly had no alternative referees, nor anybody who cared enough to tend to him! The locker room eventually dumps Strickland back in the ring to “finish what you started”… instead Strickland just dives onto the pile that took him there. Riddle drags him back into the ring by his hair, as another Bromission eventually had Strickland out as the locker room tried to separate them. Hey, there’s a second referee, and the match just seems to stop as Riddle’s pulled off of Strickland… and as Shane’s carried to the back, we have a non-finish. That sucks, although I get what they were going for, that should not have been the main event if this is what the show was going to end on. ***
EVOLVE 106 was a really good show that threatened to derail in the second half. Much like the last PROGRESS show we saw, this was a show that peaked in the first half and never managed to get back to those heights after the AR Fox/DJZ and WALTER/Darby matches… but the fact that just about everything here was a sprint made this really easy to watch. I’ve lost count of how many reboots EVOLVE have had, but this one doesn’t seem to have had the long, drawn-out spell with a lot of names waiting to be slotted into place.