EVOLVE’s busy month continued as the promotion hit Chicago’s Cicero Stadium for their latest double-header with PROGRESS.
You know the score. Timothy Barr on ring announcing, Trevin Adams introducing him, while Ron Niemi joins Trevin on commentary as Lenny Leonard is stuck in traffic. First up is a pair of “co-pro” matches for EVOLVE’s Facebook pre-show.
ZERO1 USA World Junior Heavyweight Championship: Gary Jay vs. Jake Parnell (c)
Well, it was announced as the X-Division title, but Tim Barr’s about three years out of date as the belt was renamed the ZERO1 USA World Junior Heavyweight Championship in July 2015! Then again, the belt does still look like a knock-off of the old NWA-TNA X-Division belt, and has “MID WEST X DIVISION” on it, so let’s just call it a massive identity crisis for the strap, eh?
At least put a sticker on it like 3CW… Jay lost the belt to Parnell back in May, so it’s a chance to be a two-time champion. Trevin Adams mentions that Jay’s torn his face open in the past thanks to a turnbuckle hook, and he starts by decking Parnell with a discus elbow, before sending him outside for a tope. Parnell sweeps the leg to dump Jay on the apron, before a flying double stomp off the apron squashes the challenger, who tries to mount a comeback with a superplex, and succeeds as the pair crash to the mat. They get back up, trading slaps and chops, with Parnell edging ahead with a big lariat for a near-fall.
Jay tries to get the win with a roll-up, then with a tornado DDT for a near-fall, before he tried to chop through Parnell… only for the champion to respond in kind with some elbows. A pop-up knee sets up Jay for a sliding forearm for a near-fall, before he went back to the chops… which just opened him up for another lariat as a folding powerbomb out of nowhere gets the win. This was fine, if not a little rushed at under five minutes long… I’d have preferred a longer match, but with the limitations this was perfectly acceptable wrestling. **½
So, the Cicero Stadium looks to be an indoor basketball stadium – so as much a stadium as Dublin’s National Stadium that OTT runs sometimes. Pro: the hard camera is facing the sold out seating area on the floor. Con: the general admission seating is decently attended, but folks are sat so far apart it looks sparse. But hey, at least it’s easier to spot the more famous faces in the crowd (Hey Eddie, Hey Jim!)
Freelance World Championship: Matt Knicks vs. Isaias Velazquez (c)
We’ve seen EVOLVE partner up with Freelance in the past. Velazquez is back as champion after he overcame a serious neck injury about a year ago – and he’s getting a decent reaction in front of a pro-Freelance crowd.
They swing and miss at each other early as they exchange armdrags… until Velazquez put on the brakes and went for a roll-up as the speedy exchange resulted in a stand-off. A handshake leads to Knicks getting taken into the ropes, where he’s drilled with an elbow, before he’s lifted onto the apron as the pair continued their quick-fire exchange of kicks. Knicks ends up on the outside where he ducks a PK, then heads back inside for a slingshot backcracker that almost ended the contest. Shots from Knicks keep the champion on the back foot, but Velazquez kicks his way back into it and throws a knee to the face, before the springboard enziguiri out of the corner draws a near-fall.
Velazquez looked to go for the Blade Runner, but instead takes a DDT as Knicks came close himself, before he caught a charge into the corner and dumped the champion with a German suplex. A powerbomb from Knicks gets countered into a backslide that rolls through into a knee, before the Blade Runner-like DDT puts away Knicks for the pin. A decent back-and-forth match, but pushed for time it was a match that crammed a lot in – without all of it necessarily landing with this partisan crowd. **
Josh Briggs vs. Jon Davis vs. Anthony Henry
Two of EVOLVE’s latest hosses are back at it, and we’ve got some added spice after Jon Davis took his loss to Anthony Henry at EVOLVE 109 rather badly.
Briggs goes straight for Henry with a backbreaker as we’re already into Revolving Door territory. Poor Henry thought he was back in it with a ‘rana on Davis, but it’s just countered into a powerbomb on Henry as the two hosses went at it, trading boots and elbows before Davis’ swinging side backbreaker gets a near-fall.
Henry tried to get involved, but he’s swatted away like a fly by Davis, as the hosses go toe to toe again… at least until Henry comes back in with some kicks. Davis puts him in his place with a punch as the crowd really don’t want to see Henry involved, even if it is as human ballast as Briggs suplexed him into Davis for a two-count. There’s a big boot for a cornered Davis from Briggs, before Henry gets his feet up… and runs into a pair of backbreakers as the massive Briggs nearly took the win.
Henry finally manages to get in some offence as he kicks and elbows away at Briggs, before catching Davis with an enziguiri, then uses him to push off for a tornado DDT on Briggs. The crowd’s finally getting behind Henry now as the Revolving Door returns, leading to a twist on the Tower of Doom as Henry’s spider German suplex set off a superplex! He keeps up with a missile dropkick to the big guys, before taking them outside for a some lap of honour kicks, only for Davis to stop him with an apron powerbomb. Ow. In the meantime, Briggs is back inside so he can launch himself into Davis with a tope across the corners, before returning inside as Davis counters with a German suplex and a lariat for a near-fall, broken up by Henry’s double stomp… a move that allowed the former tag champion to steal the pin. Another short match, but the constant action meant this flew by. ***
DJ Z vs. AR Fox
Fox has a spot in the WWN title scramble tomorrow, so you’d expect he’ll be looking to build up momentum going in for that.
We’ve an even start as both men looked to score an early fall, before the pace started to quicken, with the pair trading strikes as DJZ had issues with his air horn. Not a euphemism. Fox manages to take over from there, hitting an armdrag off the ropes before a dive had to be aborted, with DJZ returning to the ring to resume the tit-for-tat offence, and actually edging ahead as his air horn finally worked. Again, not a euphemism.
DJZ moonsaults off the apron as Fox looked to dive into him, and it was the former X Division champion who pulls off a dive as he wiped out Fox and his Skulk. Fox’s 619-like spin kick on the apron keeps DJZ down for an Orihara moonsault to the floor, before Ayla Fox went into the ring to do a dive – complete with Liam Gray blatantly distracting the referee… who fell for it. Of course, Ayla only crashed into AR as DJZ keeps the upper hand, heading back into the ring for a crossbody as things broke down a little with Fox catching himself in the ropes. A springboard moonsault nearly puts Fox away as DJZ goes right back to him with an armbar, switching up the submissions as Fox had to make it to the ropes to get free.
Fox manages to rebound as he draped DJZ in the ropes for a Coast to Coast, which connects flush with his head for a near-fall, before he pulls DJZ out of the corner and into a Blue Thunder Bomb to keep the momentum going. Fox heads up top again, but gets caught as he has to take DJZ down with a gamengiri ahead of a 450 splash… which misses as DJZ couldn’t capitalise, and ends up taking some nice headscissors through the ropes for a near-fall from Fox.
Lo Mein Pain looked to be next, but DJZ catches Fox with an eventual rebound reverse DDT as he sprung off the ropes for a near-fall. A roll-up DDT doesn’t work as Fox puts on the brakes, and rolls through DJZ for a two-count, before he sits down on a La Magistral as the pair looked for frantic pinning attempts. There’s a springboard cutter from Fox as he put the brakes on… only to get caught with a roll-up out of nowhere as DJ Z snatched the win. This was a fun little contest, with plenty of frantic cation between the pair, but to me it felt like it was lacking a certain something. Stakes? ***¼
JD Drake vs. WALTER
Ahem. HOSS FIGHT! Drake gets a negative reaction because of his work in Freelance, and I think Chicago is here to see WALTER kill him.
The early exchanges were rather muted, with Drake getting trapped into the corner before WALTER took him down to the mat as commentary highlighted the Austrian’s recent losing streak. Drake’s drawstring comes loose as WALTER began to toy with him, but it’s way too soon for that as Drake throws a chop… and we know what that’s going to lead to. Drake ducks one as he gets in WALTER’s face, following up with a shoulder tackle as Drake took the lead… and then he gets trapped in a Gojira clutch as WALTER ends up with an impressive leapfrog and big boot on the recently-renamed Drake. God, that was impressive.
Drake tries to deadweight WALTER in a slam, but to no avail as the Austrian hits it, then a knee drop for a two-count, before he took Drake into the ropes for some Sheamus-like clubbing forearms. Oof. Drake manages to catch one of them and sneaks in another chop, and you know he’s gonna pay… but first, he’s taken outside as WALTER just stomps on his head as they brawl around ringside, leading to Drake fighting to avoid a backdrop suplex on the apron.
It kinda works, as he manages to sucker WALTER into a charge that saw him bounce off the ring post, allowing Drake to return to the ring so he could dive back onto the Austrian with a tope. WALTER’s back up quickly though, catching Drake up top for an avalanche butterfly suplex, before he’s back to toying with his foe, giving and receiving elbows before they traded up to lariats, with both men finally knocking each other down. Lenny Leonard finally appears on commentary after his travel woes, right as the two hosses exchange elbows, leading up to a snap back suplex and a cannonball from Drake as he collected a near-fall. Oh, nevermind, WALTER cracks in with a chop as he turns the tables with ease, turning Drake into a Boston crab right by the ropes as we get a quick break. We’re back to chops, with WALTER’s ringing around the Cicero Stadium, with Drake’s not that far behind before Drake again lands a lariat for a near-fall on the Austrian.
Drake again looked to go airborne, and was again caught by WALTER, but he’s able to roll through and land a superkick. Wash, rinse, repeat, except this time WALTER pulls him down into a German suplex before Drake hits a dropkick… and he’s STILL going for that moonsault, this time landing it at the third time of asking. Except WALTER had rolled away, and replies with a shotgun dropkick before he easily powerbombed Drake for a two-count. We’re back to the clubbering to the chest as a Gojira clutch drags Drake to the mat, forcing the referee stoppage as Drake passed out. Sometimes you can’t beat two big lads laying into each other, eh? Very much “my graps” as they say! ****
Post-match, WALTER boots Anthony Henry in the face, because why not?
Tracy Williams vs. Jaka
So last week, Tracy Williams had a screwdriver repeatedly jabbed in his eye by Stokely Hathaway, so here he’s all bandaged up, with an eye patch too. Which medical commission is letting him wrestle with one eye and a head injury? Get Chris Nowinski on the line, stat!
Williams starts out hot, taking Jaka into the corner as commentary notes that Stokely Hathaway isn’t as dapper as usual because the airline lost his luggage. In among the clubbering, Williams suplexes Jaka and ties him down for a Key lock, then for a Fujiwara armbar as he looked to save as much strength as possible for the I Quit match the next day. Jaka eventually makes it to the ropes, as the match spilled outside with the pair trading chops around ringside, before an Irish whip sent Williams into the guard rails. Back in the ring, “Hot Sauce” nails a superplex for a near-fall, but Jaka’s right back on the eye after blocking a crossface, as the obvious bullseye became obvious. A running knee from Williams, then a dropkick puts Jaka back in the corner, as Williams tried to hit the DDT onto the turnbuckle… but Jaka fights free and goes for a spinebuster… except that’s countered into a DDT before Williams headed back up for a splash to collect a near-fall.
An armbar from Jaka sees him try to get back in, but Williams lifts him up for a knee breaker, before running in with a lariat for a two-count. Jaka tries to nick in with a spinning heel kick, but Williams catches it and turns it into a knee bar as Stokely Hathaway provides a distraction for the referee… allowing Jaka to rake the eyes and hit a choke bomb for the win. Until Jaka went for the cheapshot, this was pretty one-sided for Williams, which wasn’t the kind of match I was expecting… surely with the injury that’d have been a better role for, I don’t know, Dominic Garrini? Still, this was fine. Nothing more, nothing less. ***
Speaking of Garrini, he and Chris Dickinson hit the ring and join in a beatdown of Williams, with Stokely Hathaway joining in… with his screwdriver again! Referees break it up and get Williams to the back as Hathaway vowed that he’d end Tracy Williams’ career tomorrow at EVOLVE 111 the next day.
Hathaway wants a warm-up match for himself and Dickinson, and out come the Skulk… who have been cannon fodder so far in EVOLVE.
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson, Dominic Garrini & Stokely Hathaway) vs. The Skulk (Tommy Maserati, Leon Ruff & Adrian Alanis)
There’s another person in the Skulk in the form of Shawn Dean, but he’s only on the floor along with AR and Ayla Fox.
The Skulk’s jumped by Catch Point at the bell, as they’re thrown to the outside… well, everyone but Tommy Maserati, whose shirt gets ripped apart for some chops. Dickinson nearly puts away Maserati with a snap suplex, but Tommy fights back with some kicks before a Slingshot backbreaker stunned Dickinson briefly. He tries to go out for a tag, but Dickinson catches him with a powerbomb instead as Stokely Hathaway comes in to try and continue on Maserati… who was really stalling here. Sorry. Garrini’s brought in to chop through him, then clear the apron as Maserati tries to fight back, but to no avail as Garrini uses some palm strikes before he caught a kick and dumped Maserati with an Exploder.
Dickinson returns to the fray, and quickly lands a Pazuzu bomb as Hathaway wanted in to score the win… in comes Stoke, but rather than make a cover, he goes for a Stokely Elbow, which misses! That gives Maserati the chance to tag out to Alanis, who clears house, Pouncing through Dickinson before getting met with an enziguiri. Alanis kands a spinebuster for a near-fall as the ring threatened to fill, but it quickly clears as Leon Ruff bounces off the ropes for a ‘rana instead. We’ve a mini Parade of Moves next as Ruff edges ahead, before he too gets dumped with a suplex from Dickinson… and yet again Stokely Hathaway wants in. Dickinson lifts up Ruff for a Doomsday Device, but instead Ruff slips out and shoves Dickinson into Hathaway, before scoring with a roll-up! I was getting shades of “Horowitz wins!” here, but this was more of a match to sew dissension within Catch Point ahead of the big match tomorrow. A win’s a win for the Skulk though, but I can’t see this being a springboard for them. **
After bowing out at EVOLVE 109, Shane Strickland’s in action next… in a tag!
Joey Janela & Saieve al Sabah vs. Shane Strickland & Austin Theory
Huh, EVOLVE’s getting behind al Sabah, eh? Priscilla Kelly’s back from the Mae Young Classic (with a t-shirt to prove it), while Austin Theory’s refusing to come out until his music plays. I swear there was a brief look of disapproval fired her way…
After ducking him last week, we get Strickland against al Sabah to start us off, with the pair flipping around to try and avoid each other’s strikes, before we got duelling punches and kicks to leave each other sore. Strickland eventually makes contact, as Saieve’s forced into the corner as we get the customary “both men tag out” situation… but Austin Theory wants no part of Joey Janela, as he hurriedly tags back out.
Still, that allows Janela to lay into Strickland with chops as Theory leaps off the apron. When Austin gets back up, he’s punched right back down though, before Janela forcibly tagged him in as those two finally went back at each other. Janela goes all Stone Cold with a Thesz press and punches, only to be met with a leg sweep as Theory promptly moonsaulted into Janela’s knees as Janela and Sabah combine to hit standing and assisted moonsaults onto the former WWN champ.
Saieve backflips over Theory before he hits that suplex/kip up and a corkscrew diving elbow for a near-fall, before a blind tag brings Strickland back in… as the ring filled up pretty quickly. There’s a hectic exchange that ends with al Sabah eating duelling roll-through dropkicks from Strickland and Theory, which led to the EVOLVE champion working over al Sabah, pulling him up out of the corner for a back suplex for a near-fall. Theory’s back in for a slingshot stomp and a Fisherman buster for a near-fall on Saieve, who manages to hit back with a suplex. After throwing Strickland out, al Sabah leaps for a tag, but he’s tagging thin air as Priscilla Kelly pulled Janela off the apron, before similarly laying out Penelope Ford as al Sabah was again left isolated. Eventually Saieve’s fightbacks produced a result as he enziguiri’d away Theory before diving to tag in Janela, who goes right after both opponents with clotheslines.
The match spills outside again, as Austin Theory is thrown into the crowd… and although he comes back with a chair, it’s Janela who uses it as he steps up off it into a cannonball on Theory in the crowd. A dive for Strickland’s next from Janela, who keeps up being Stone Cold with a Stunner, before a superkick drew a near-fall. Janela has to abort a knee off the top rope, before he cowered from a Theory punch as Swerve Theory worked into a sweet rolling blockbuster onto Strickland’s knees for a near-fall. Bad guys shouldn’t have impressive moves! Still, al Sabah dumps both men to the outside so he can dive on them with a Sasuke Special, as the tables again turned, only for Priscilla Kelly to stop things as she trips Janela in the ropes. That leads to a Benny Hill chase, which bled into a Parade of Moves, ending with duelling boots from Sabah and Strickland as all four men were left laying. For some reason Penelope Ford wasn’t around… because she’s gone up top for a crossbody to Kelly, before a snap death valley driver from Janela nearly put away Strickland.
Janela tries to finish off with an avalanche brainbuster, but Theory gets a blind tag in as Janela instead eats a Doomsday Stomp, before he’s rolled up into Ataxia for the win. A very energetic tag, and despite being in there for the lion’s share of punishment, you get the sense that al Sabah is definitely the latest product EVOLVE has their eye on. ***½
At EVOLVE 111 they’re doing a four-way with Janela in the match – but it’s one of those that Janela has to be pinned or made to submit to lose the belt.
Darby Allin vs. Matt Riddle
So, this was originally going to be Darby Allin’s latest shot at the EVOLVE title… but Matt Riddle losing it the prior weekend put a stop to that, meaning their last ever meeting wouldn’t be for any hardware.
There’s a respectful handshake before the bell, but Matt Riddle quickly slips into gear with a ragdoll-like waistlock takedown on Darby, who replies by trying for a waistlock… which maybe isn’t the best route to go with against a former MMA fighter. A cross armbreaker from Riddle’s broken up when Darby rolls him up, before Riddle spilled to the outside and into the path of a tope.
Darby follows Riddle around the ringside area, as be looked to Coffin Drop onto him on the apron… but Riddle moves away, giving us a sickening thud as that one guy cackled. Yeah, that was NOT a good landing. Riddle tries to take advantage, peppering him with kicks as Allin was left reeling. Back inside, a back senton’s good for a near-fall as Riddle keeps up on Allin with a series of chops in the corner, then an Exploder out of it as Allin was really struggling. Another back senton gets a near-fall for Riddle, but Allin does manage to sneak back in with a springboard crossbody before he tries some submissions, with an armbar and a guillotine proving fruitless.
A Bro to Sleep and a bridging German snap Allin’s comeback though, as Riddle resumes kicking seven shades of you-know-what out of Darby. There’s a shotgun dropkick into the buckles as Allin keeps up, following through with a floatover stunner before he moonsaulted into a tombstone slam for a near-fall. Another back senton’s good for a two-count for Riddle, as he began to spam those…
There’s a twisting suplex off the top from Riddle as Allin thought he’d caught the former champion, but Allin ended up needing the ropes to save him… and since rope breaks are in play here (remember that storyline?) we continue. More stomps from Riddle keep Allin down, as does a Fisherman’s buster, while Riddle started to get more than a little cocksure about himself. Of course, in wrestling bragging like that just prompts a comeback, with Riddle and Allin trading right hands and chops, only for Riddle to sucker in Allin into a ripcord knee, a powerbomb and a Tiger knee… somehow only for a near-fall?!
Riddle’s arrogance began to show as did his frustration, stomping Allin to the outside as the crowd finally turned on the former champ, who looked to head after Allin on the floor, but he ends up kneeing the crowd barriers, spilling into the crowd as Darby followed him in with a senton off the ring post! Riddle looked to jar his elbow on the way back to the ring, but he’s able to catch Allin on the top rope in the search for an avalanche Bro to Sleep… but instead it’s countered into a crucifix bomb that almost gave Darby the win! After a Coffin Drop, Riddle kicks out at one and begins to fire back with a flurry of strikes, but his up-kick’s caught and turned into the Last Supper for the win! On paper this’d have to be an upset, despite the sea of rumours around Riddle’s future… and in hindsight, it was a gutwrenching win as Darby picked up the victory, but his plans for it being a title victory ended up being for nought. ****
Post-match, Riddle put over Darby’s heart and ability as he brought the show to a close… As the first half of another double-header, EVOLVE 110 was a solid show – but one that didn’t get the chance to stick its head out above the pack. It’s usually the case when you’ve got a much bigger second show, but there was nothing on here that stunk; rather a few matches that could have done with being made longer or dropped altogether, as EVOLVE keeps up their recent run of brisk, watchable graps.