Best described as a sprint, EVOLVE 107 was a fun show with plenty of short matches and storyline progression throughout.
We’re back in Melrose for EVOLVE’s latest trip to the Boston area, with AR Fox and Matt Riddle being our televised main event on a show that featured WALTER vs. Adam Cole… for the live crowd only. The show opens with Lenny Leonard telling the crowd that Joey Janela had won the WWN title the prior night, and we’re straight into action.
Josh Briggs vs. Dominic Garrini
I howled when I saw this match. The Establishing of Briggs continues here, and this is a little weird given how much Stokely Hathaway was putting over Briggs on commentary the prior night.
A running kick decks Garrini for a two count right out of the gate, and this is like a 90s WWF squash as he whipped him into the corner and hit a spinning side slam for another two-count. If it were a decade earlier, it’d be the M5 and that’s your lot… but Garrini comes right back with a suplex into the corner, then some Wrecking Ball knees and a butterfly suplex for another near-fall.
Garrini manages to surprise Briggs with an arm triangle choke, but Briggs powers out… only for Garrini’s leap over to turn into a mounted rear naked choke. A back bump splats Dominic as Briggs frees himself, then lands a series of elbows and a running boot into the corner, before a gutbuster picked up a near-fall… you can probably guess how this one ends. Despite going for a mounted Kimura, Garrini can’t force Briggs to give up, nor can he from another guillotine as he kept going for submissions, but that guillotine’s countered into the M5 chokebreaker as Briggs keeps up his winning streak. A decent squash, but after a bright start this is now no win in the last five matches for Garrini, who’d probably on his way with The End were it not for the Catch Point link. ***
Post-match, Stokely fanboys over Briggs, before offering him a spot in Catch Point. Briggs takes the contract and leaves… I can only hope he doesn’t sign it, as that group isn’t exactly on fire these days.
Adrian Alanis vs. Bshp Kng
We’re interrupted by a fire alarm during Adrian Alanis’ entrance, which everyone ignores and just chants “burn it down” to!
Alanis is probably the stand-out from the Skulk, just because he’s got some size to him… but in another good move, the rest of the Skulk now have t-shirts with their names on the back (although Adrian’s cut off the sleeves so his now reads Adrian Alan. Oops!). That’s good in the sense we know who they are, bad in the sense they still don’t have their own identifiable characters.
Alanis’ opponent, Bshp Kng, hates vowels, and has no entrance music, presumably because of the fire alarm. We eventually get going with Kng trying some shoulder charges, but they barely budge Alanis, who takes down Kng with great ease… much to the delight of the Melrose crowd. Probably shouldn’t have worn those Yankees tights in Boston, eh? From there, Alanis runs into a boot in the corner, but comes in with a uranage backbreaker as Kng tried to escape the ring for some respite… it didn’t work as Alanis brought him back in, only to run into a huge forearm.
Kng gets a near-fall from that, only for Alanis to come back with a Snake Eyes-like move and a back senton as he regained the upper hand. At least until Bshp’s back with a spinebuster that nearly ends it, following in with a dropkick as neither man seemed to be able to hold onto anything… as seen when Kng senton bombs onto Alanis’ knees and gets rolled up for the win. This was alright, nothing special, and one of those matches that did little for either guy. I spent a fair bit of the time wondering if there’s a stable on the indys looking with similarly named guys to Bshp… like Rk Pwn, Qn Knght or anything else vaguely chess related. Chckmt. **
Post-match, AR Fox trash-talks Matt Riddle… but that’s our televised main event.
Jarek 1:20 vs. Darby Allin
Hey, it’s kinda-Mudvayne… or is it just the instrumental version? Their two prior meetings – in a singles match and a three-way – were both won by Darby, so here’s to the hattrick! Especially since Candy Cartwright nearly gouged out Jarek’s eyes while removing his plethora of chains!
Allin takes down Jarek early on with some ground and pound, before working into a La Magistral for an early two-count as the pair went at each other thick-and-fast. A shotgun dropkick! A monkey flip! Jarek’s flying and barely getting a foothold in this match as Darby looked to end this early with a Last Supper and a corkscrew plancha, but to no avail.
Eventually Jarek catches Darby up top and trap him in a Tree of Woe for a top rope legdrop, before struggling to get him out of the corner and into a Blue Thunder Bomb. A Quebrada from Allin barely misses Jarek, but those ground and pound punches don’t, before Darby did a nice transition out of a boot choke in the corner… and we have the fire alarm again! The crowd want Jarek to use his magic to stop it.
Instead, he drops Darby across the turnbuckle irons from the apron, then thrown down to the mat before he missed with a top rope elbow with a nasty landing. Darby fires back with a sunset flip for some near-falls, ending just in time for the fire alarm to stop! It tries to restart as a spin-out Dominator nearly puts Darby away… so he tried again with an avalanche Dominator, but Darby lands too close to the ropes and manages to save himself from being pinned.
Jarek responds by putting Darby in another Tree of Woe, but his Coast to Coast dropkick misses as Darby heads up and hits some Coffin Drops for the win. A bit of an abrupt finish, but this was fine considering how distracted everyone was by the fire alarms throughout. Given his recent streak, that’s Jarek in the same box as Dominic Garrini in my mind, possibly about to suffer the same fate as The End? ***
Anthony Henry vs. Timothy Thatcher
Now Anthony Henry’s singles career in EVOLVE gets going, and it’s a match that’s really tantalising on paper!
Henry shoots right out of the gate with a big boot as he took Thatcher into the corner… following in swiftly with a tornado DDT as the former EVOLVE tag champion tried to end this early. Thatcher hits back though, and again when Henry tried to chop him as the pair weren’t exactly holding back. A single leg crab causes some pain for Henry, but he tries to escape… and gets kicked some more as Thatcher instead grounded him for some fish-hooking.
Henry manages to counter a gutwrench with a Dragon screw, but he gets dragged into an inside cradle as Thatcher’s right back in with strikes! Those are returned in kind as a low dropkick from Henry keeps both men on the mat, before he got up and tried to kick out at Thatcher’s leg. Problem was, Thatcher had the same idea and goes back to those gutwrenches, before Henry scurried to the outside as he was caught in an ankle lock.
Back in the ring, Thatcher keeps up the pressure, and walks through some slaps as Henry manages to score with a takedown and return the ankle lock favour. They counter, counter and counter, almost ending with a Henry roll-up before an uppercut from Thatcher puts him back in control, as do those repeated slaps… but his knee gives way at the worst possible moment, allowing Henry to score with a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall.
That knee problem gave Henry something to aim for, as he traps Thatcher in the ropes with a Dragon screw, before pulling Thatcher into the ring post as he built up to a ring post figure four. Thatcher’s able to come back with an enziguiri and a Saito suplex, before his butterfly belly-to-belly nearly ends it… so he transitioned into a Fujiwara armbar, before stuffing Henry’s attempt to escape and hit a Dragon screw. They’re countering, countering and countering again, this time with Henry rushing in for a PK before a back suplex hits.
Henry looked to go up top, but he almost gets caught… shoving away Thatcher before scoring with a double stomp for a near-fall, as the ankle lock again followed, eventually grapevining the legs for what has to be considered an upset. A nice, establishing win for Henry, who I’d like to get a few Ws under his belt – and a more established finish, rather than repeatedly going to the ankle lock. ***¾
WALTER’s immediately out to check on Thatcher… then boot away Anthony Henry, just because he can. I love me some badass WALTER, as does this crowd, it seemed!
FIP World Championship: DJ Z vs. Joey Janela vs. Austin Theory (c)
This was contested under FIP’s usual no-DQ rules – and I have to say, we’re either getting Austin Theory getting a win back, or there’s going to be a lot of rumours starting here! It was originally a one-on-one match, but Theory took the mic and claimed that last night’s WWN title loss to Joey Janela was a fluke… while saying that he’d always be the face of WWN if he had the FIP title. I think he meant to add “lower brands”.
That brings out Janela, who wanted the opportunity to humiliate Theory twice in one weekend. So we have our three-way… much to the chagrin of Priscilla Kelly. Theory and Janela get us underway with some brawling as they spill to the outside… only to be interrupted by DJZ whose tope con giro takes them out and gives him a nice seat on the guard rail! Back in the ring, a neckbreaker from DJZ keeps Theory down, only for the champion to respond by launching DJZ to the outside.
Stomps from Janela blindside Theory, who decides to go back outside for respite… just as DJZ returned to trip Janela and almost score the win. A springboard missile dropkick from Theory got him back in it, as did a hard Irish whip that sent Janela face-first into the turnbuckles. DJZ’s gone again as Theory continued to wear down Janela, using a grounded chinlock before a standing moonsault met nothing but Janela’s knees, right as DJZ returned to the ring as we had a brief Parade of Moves!
A tope from Janela wrecks the guard rails – and both of his opponents – while Penelope Ford takes advantage of the whole “no rules” thing with a crossbody off the top into Theory! Not to be outdone, a senton from Priscilla Kelly into Ford followed, before DJZ used a funky backslide/clutch combo to get near-falls out of Theory and Janela at the same time! DJZ goes a little too far with a rolling DDT to Janela and Theory, which gets blocked as those two go back at one another, culminating with a death valley driver by Janela into the turnbuckles that almost ended things.
DJZ’s back to catch Janela with a lungblower, before he ate a TKO as Theory tries the whole double pin thing for himself. A top rope ‘rana from DJZ is our latest “almost!” moment on Theory, but Joey Janela comes up with an avalanche brainbuster to DJZ… only for Theory to stack up the pair of them after the landing to steal the pin. Oh man, they repeatedly made it look like Theory was going to leave without any gold here, and this crowd was BITING for all of it. Another fun sprint of a match that showed another side of Austin Theory – from generic heel to a panicked, opportunist. ****
One short interval later…
Saieve al Sabah vs. Jon Davis vs. Bad Bones vs. Jaka
Sabah is a regular in another WWN “brand”, ACW… and this is his debut for EVOLVE. In an otherwise generic four-way.
Jaka instantly rolls to the outside as he lets Sabah and Davis start off… and it nearly ends early with a back suplex from the returning Davis on Sabah. Bad Bones is next to be targeted with some chops, as Jaka again watched on from the floor, trying to avoid even being involved. Davis does well, pairing up Bones and Sabah for a DDT/neckbreaker combo that almost ends things… only for Jaka to come in and break it up.
Sabah, who must have been boiling in his full-on flak jacket and hoodie gear, gets taken outside by Jaka as the Revolving Door Effect kicks in, with a nice twist as Jon Davis sparked a German duplex to Bones and Jaka at the same time! A crossbody from Sabah’s caught and turned into a swing-out backbreaker from Davis, who throws Sabah back into a Downward Spiral head-first for a near-fall as the Bad Bones was forced to break up the cover.
Jaka’s back to kick away at Davis, as the Revolving Door returns with Bad Bones coming in with a slam and chops to Jaka… who tries a dive to keep Davis outside, but gets caught and dumped onto the apron with a uranage. Bones and Sabah are on top and get caught by Davis as a double superplex just left Davis prone for a big splash from Jaka as another near-fall followed.
We’ve another Parade of Strikes ending with Sabah kicking Bones off the apron and into Davis, before Saieve suplexed Jaka and went outside with a corkscrew senton to Bones and Davis! Returning to the ring, al Sabah gets wiped out with a leaping knee from Jaka, before a slingshot spear from Bones led to another Parade of Moves, with Davis seemingly edging forward at least until he took a half-nelson suplex from Bones!
Jaka and Bones go at it next, with a superkick from Jaka taking the German out, before Sabah elbowed Jaka and hits a corkscrew Blockbuster out of the corner for the upset win! This was fine – a well-paced four-way, but it just being thrown out there gave me little reason to care. It’s a debut win for Saieve… let’s see where he goes from here. ***
Catch Point Rules: Tracy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson
I noticed this on EVOLVE 106, but clean shaven Tracy Williams looks like Anthony Henry minus the tattoos from a distance. It’s the next step in the Tracy Williams vs. Catch Point feud, and of course we’re under Catch Point rules, with three rope breaks allowed and a 20-count on the floor.
They didn’t use much of that though, as Williams burned his rope breaks instantly with a hattrick of punches to the face, before some more from the ground and pound counted as a foul for the DQ. Short, sweet and effective, especially as it built up to Williams threatening to lay out Stokely Hathaway, only for Dickinson to recover and dump him with a suplex as Catch Point gradually came out to save Stokely from the Hot Sauce beating. Eventually Josh Briggs comes out, but he didn’t sign that Catch Point contract and clears the ring with chokeslams… so we’ve got Briggs & Williams vs. Catch Point? Alright then!
The post-match stuff lasted longer than the match itself!
No Rope Breaks for EVOLVE Championship: AR Fox vs. Matt Riddle (c)
These two are tied at 1-1 in prior EVOLVE matches, with Fox winning the last match between the pair back in January. Fox and his Skulk do a nice mock-up of a boxer’s entrance, complete with shadow punching and Vaseline…
We start with Riddle aiming to kick away at Fox’s legs, and it should be noted that AR is doing his best to shadow the champion, out in just shorts and bare feet. It’s almost like he forgot his gear at just the right moment!
A Judo throw from Riddle takes Fox down into an early rear naked choke, but Fox escapes and found his way into an ankle lock as he was forced to crawl to the outside. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to try and match a former UFC fighter’s style when your own works well? They throw fists for a while, but a dropkick from Fox connects as Riddle’s forced to rethink things… and give Fox a brief chase around the ring!
Back inside, Fox tried a takedown but gets blasted with hammerfists as Riddle looked for another cross armbreaker, but Fox is finding himself in difficulty yet again. Fox shoves away a superplex attempt and catches Riddle in the ropes for a slingshot Blockbuster before he went for a cross armbreaker of his own! Except Riddle easily escapes it…
A running kick knocked the champion loopy, but Riddle returned with a knee on the apron before dumping Fox into his Skulk with a Fisherman buster! That looked brutal! Another one follows in the ring for a near-fall, as Riddle comes back with some forearms in the corner, leading to a Superman punch and an Exploder as Riddle looked to be comfortable. The back senton follows for just a one-count, before a gutwrench suplex continued to keep Fox in trouble.
Fox finally returns fire with an enziguiri and a small package driver, but Riddle’s able to get up at two. Riddle misses with an up kick, and eventually wrestles his way into a Bro to Sleep, but Fox counters and hits a slingshot cutter before catching Riddle in a Dragon sleeper! Despite getting to the ropes, Riddle can’t get a break and has to roll to the floor as his own rules nearly worked against him… but Riddle drags himself towards the aisleway and in perfect place for a tope con giro over the ring post!
That’s capitalised on with a 450 splash by Fox, but Riddle barely gets up in time… a Foxcatcher follows, but it’s still not enough. Another 450 connects, but Riddle rolls to the outside for cover. He’s back in as he tries another Bro to Sleep, which is escaped, so he sandwiches Fox with some knee strikes either side of a powerbomb, before some hammer elbows force the referee to wave off the match. A violent ending to a hell of a fun sprint – almost a MMA-like finish, you could say. ****¼
Almost instantly after the match, Austin Theory hits the ring and decks Riddle with a TKO, as the recently-unseated WWN champion stood tall and declared that he was the true face of EVOLVE. Hey, he actually got heat, before AR Fox returned and confronted Theory… who powdered after the Skulk tried to confront him. Seems we have a rogue trainee!
In the end, Riddle accepts Theory’s unspoken offer as he partied with the Skulk as the show went off the air… as the live crowd witnessed Adam Cole vs. WALTER.
Weighing in at under two hours (after you fast forward through the interval), EVOLVE 107 was an absolute breeze to watch, Pretty much everything was good (save for the “trainee” match), which helps things… and it definitely looks like EVOLVE’s in a reboot phase that is actually working for them. EVOLVE now has a little over a month off, before returning for a hectic August that sees them have four shows across two weekends in association with PROGRESS’ US tour… which could make for a lot of tired crowds, or some shows that continue this progression! For the first time in a while, EVOLVE is becoming a must-see promotion outside their usual bubble – and with Club WWN now posting the shows days after the live stream (rather than weeks), it may well attract more new eyes or lapsed fans.