After months of war, something had to give: either Stokely Hathaway or Tracy Williams would be gone from EVOLVE as they main evented with an I Quit handicap match with their careers on the line.
We’re just outside of Detroit in Livonia, Michigan as EVOLVE’s busy August partnering up with PROGRESS came to an end. Lenny Leonard doesn’t have flight issues this time, as he’s opening the show up with Ron Niemi, while Timothy Barr’s providing ring announcing. At the top of the show they announce that because DJZ beat AR Fox yesterday, his match with Shane Strickland is now for the EVOLVE title.
Saieve al Sabah vs. Jaka
Not being pedantic or anything, but what does “child of the 8th day” mean? Would be nice to know…
Anyway, there’s some hecklers for Stokely Hathaway at ringside… and we’ve got… boxing ring bell dot MP3? Eh, it works. Jaka starts by restraining al Sabah early on, but the newcomer’s able to score with an armdrag as the back and forth started early. Saieve’s pulled out of the corner as Jaka then stopped himself short of a dropkick, but he can’t avoid a second as Saieve took him into the corner. A neckbreaker across the top rope succeeds, as does a clothesline off the top, but it’s barely enough for a near-fall, and Jaka responds by dropping al Sabah throat-first into the ropes as the tag team champion started to take over. Jaka’s slaps keep Saieve in the corner, as does a spinning heel kick, before a T-bone capture suplex just sent al Sabah flying out for a near-fall.
Jaka nearly finishes him off with a DDT, but Saieve’s able to kick out, which just earned him some more uppercuts before he was able to low bridge Jaka to the outside. Saieve looked to follow him, baseball sliding to the floor before a moonsault almost saw him crash into the front row… but al Sabah’s able to kip up nevertheless! A corkscrew body press back inside gets a near-fall, before Jaka responded with a slap ahead of Saieve’s suplex/kip-up combo.
A corkscrew elbow just about hits as al Sabah gets a near-fall, but Jaka’s able to come back… only to see his choke bomb countered into a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall. Jaka’s able to score with a superkick for a near-fall, then again with a short-arm lariat, only for another choke bomb to be wriggled out. Al Sabah looks to be a little early for a knee as Jaka instead kicks him to continue his offence, before a superplex gets shoved away. Al Sabah springs out of the corner with a Whisper in the Wind for a near-fall, before he goes back up to hit a twisting Blockbuster… and there’s the upset! Catch Point’s night gets off to a bad start, in what was a decent outing for Saieve, who’s still got those rough edges on him as seen with some of the slips. Apparently Dominic Garrini was out there at ringside, but I just ended up confusing him for ring crew at the end. ***
Post-match, Stokely Hathaway berates Jaka for “not being on the same page”, before vowing that he’ll not lose his career in “dead ass” Livonia.
By the way, this was seemingly al-Sabah’s EVOLVE farewell, as barely a week later he tweeted that he’d asked for, and been given, his release from EVOLVE. Three wins from five appearances wasn’t that bad a run, especially considering the losses came against AR Fox, and in a tag match where he was by far and away the lowest profile guy in the match, so we shall see where he pops up next.
Bryan Idol vs. Darby Allin
Last here at EVOLVE 106 when he beat Mike Verna in New York, Bryan Idol doesn’t have any swagger to him today, or any promos… instead he looks to be “jobber fodder”, especially since Darby beat Matt Riddle the prior night. He’d better be.
Idol jumps Allin at the bell, taking him into the ropes and to the outside as Idol looked to strike while the iron was hot. Unfortunately the crowd just labelled him a “Penny Ziggler”, complete with a derpy look on his face… which just had him dump Allin with an over-the-knee brainbuster. Some knees to Allin’s face follow, then a butterfly suplex, before Darby just leaps over him in the corner, before launching out into a tope on the outside! Idol pulls Darby into the ropes then spears him back to the outside as someone was bumping for his opportunity. Back inside, Idol remains on top of Darby, but after a back superplex effort was elbowed away, Darby follows in with a Coffin Drop and the Last Supper for the win.
This was decent, but if you’re a new face and throwing all of your big guns at a guy… only to lose quickly after taking a move that’s not really a killer finish, that doesn’t say much about you, eh? **
Jon Davis vs. Josh Briggs
Ooh, another hoss fight! Briggs is all over the relative veteran Davis early, booting him to the mat for just a one-count, before Davis responded by pulling him into a spinebuster for a near-fall.
They spill to the outside briefly, but it’s Davis who edges ahead with a clothesline to send Briggs onto the apron. Remaining on the outside, Briggs and Davis exchange chops as the crowd get a closer view, at least until Davis’ backdrop on the apron put Briggs down hard… but not for long as Briggs gets back up for a leaping lariat. The pair exchange clotheslines and unpleasantries in the corner, ahead of a spin-out backbreaker from Briggs for a near-fall, but it’s Davis who strikes next with a forearm and a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two-count of his own. Davis takes the match back to the apron, but his death valley driver attempt is escaped as Briggs eventually chokeslams him onto the edge of the ring instead.
Briggs looks to fly, and avoids the chandelier in the room to hit a crossbody for a two-count, before Davis dropped out to avoid the M5 chokebreaker. Another crossbody from Briggs is caught into a Gunnslinger by Davis, but it’s barely enough for a one-count. A German suplex sends Briggs rolling to the floor, where he’s again joined by Davis as the brawl continues… and with EVOLVE having ditched the concept of a count-out, it’s at the referee’s discretion. So with Davis and Briggs brawling through the crowd the bell suddenly rings – referee Jake Clemons has had enough, so this match is thrown out as a double DQ. Yeah… I get the finish to keep the story going, but this match never really got into gear, which was a bit of a shame. **¼
Anthony Henry vs. WALTER
On the prior night, WALTER overcame JD Drake… and booted Anthony Henry, which makes him a hero in this crowd’s eyes.
WALTER wants no part of Henry’s offer of respect, booting away the hand before catching an early kick from Henry, who looked to be instantly reworking his game plan. They roll to the mat as WALTER looked for a gutwrench powerbomb, but instead he just deposits Henry on the apron with the greatest of ease. It’s like men against boys here with Drake having to scramble for the ropes as the Austrian looked to stretch and submit him. Perhaps trying to chop der Ringgeneral wasn’t the smartest of ideas, as WALTER just shrugs them off before putting his knee through Henry’s gut. A crossbody’s easily caught as Henry then opts to kick away at WALTER’s legs, but to no avail as a leapfrog and a big boot left the former tag champion on the mat once again. European uppercuts follow next as Henry tries to kick away… but he’s just swatted down with a slap as a Boston crab forced Henry into the ropes.
The bully-boy tactics continue as WALTER just tosses Henry to the outside, but after getting free, Henry uses the ring to hit a dive… but instead all he gets is a massive chop. Thanks for coming! Henry’s tossed into the crowd as WALTER’s just had enough of him, but an attempted powerbomb into some chairs ends with Henry grabbing the ropes and stomping on WALTER as he returned to the ring to land a missile dropkick… then take a shotgun dropkick into the corner. Tit for tat, WALTER always wins.
At least until Henry resumes working on the leg, forcing WALTER to throw an elbow to get himself some distance, only for Henry to go back to the leg with a low dropkick. Things built up into a Figure Four as Henry manages to keep WALTER down, but the Austrian’s threatens to roll it over before he just dismantled the hold, stomping on Henry’s head as he got free.
WALTER keeps up with a Gojira clutch then a standing uranage slam for a near-fall, before a brainbuster dumped Henry for a nearer-fall. Chops and slap see the pair go tit-for-tat once more, before Henry counters a powerbomb into Code Red for a two-count… and could the upset be on? Nah, WALTER catches him up top with a chop, before he outlasts a double stomp and a roll-up, only to catch Henry with a small package for the win. An excellent outing – Anthony Henry lasted a lot longer than folks would have expected, but WALTER continued his winning run as he seems to be picking up steam in EVOLVE. Towards what though… ****¼
Post-match, Henry again offers a handshake, and it’s accepted before WALTER locks in another Gojira clutch. JD Drake makes a save, clotheslining WALTER to the outside, which perhaps isn’t the way I’d have ended this, but eh. Drake wants WALTER to finish what they started last night… but WALTER’s down on the floor, so he’ll take his scheduled match now.
JD Drake vs. Matt Riddle
WALTER stares down Matt Riddle in the aisle, but they exchange a fist bump as we have Riddle’s final EVOLVE match before he left for WWE (don’t worry, he’s advertised for some more). Although saying that, “NX-Bro” really didn’t work as a chant.
Drake starts with a chop, bringing us back to their match at EVOLVE 100… so of course, Riddle reciprocates, and we end up with a flurry until Riddle ducks and takes Drake into the corner, following in with a series of forearms as the big guy struggled to get out. Riddle misses a leaping forearm and ends up eating a lariat, before rolling to the outside as Drake follows him around the ring with more chops. Of course, Riddle has some of his own, but he ends up getting thrown into the ropes from the floor, rebounding into a forearm as Drake once again took over. A caught kick led to an Exploder from Drake for a near-fall, but Riddle’s back with another flurry of strikes that led to an overhead kick and a Fisherman’s buster that nearly put Drake away.
Some back sentons are next, with Riddle hitting one off the middle rope, but it’s barely enough to put Drake down for a one-count… so Riddle keeps hitting the back sentons, including one as Drake was sitting up. Kicks and chops trap Drake in the corner again, but he’s able to rebound as he scored a sliding lariat for a near-fall, only for Riddle to pop back with a Bro to Sleep and a German suplex… except Drake’s right back up!
Drake’s got a flurry of chops of his own, and an overhead belly-to-belly… which Riddle’s up from as he just knees Drake into the corner. There’s a flying leg lariat out of Drake as we seem to be edging towards the finish line, with Riddle able to score with a powerbomb and a Tiger knee for a two-count. They keep going, with Riddle just about hoisting up Drake for a tombstone slam, but it doesn’t get the pin… so we’re back to throwing huge strikes. Drake’s looking to go beet red as he throws his overhand chops, before he pulls out something untoward… a bloody Destroyer! That takes Riddle into the corner for a cannonball, with a top rope moonsault almost getting the win… but Riddle somehow kicks out! We’ve another moonsault off the top, which also hits for a near-fall as Drake couldn’t get the match over the finish line…
A third moonsault’s stopped as Riddle gets up and catches Drake… but he’s instead met with a ‘rana as Riddle has to throw a knee instead. Another knee’s caught and met in kind as Drake hits is powerbomb/knee combo, ahead of a… Styles Clash?! Riddle somehow kicks out at two from that, so we’re into some ground and pound from Riddle’s guard… only for Riddle to escape and catch Drake in the Bromission for the eventual stoppage. Good lord above, they topped their match at EVOLVE 100, with what JR would have called a slobberknocker. This was a slice of Matt Riddle at his best, although if this was a passing of the torch, I’m not quite sure if Drake has the same appeal. Heck, until recently he’d been off of EVOLVE shows! ****½
EVOLVE Championship: DJZ vs. Shane Strickland (c)
This was originally slated to be a non-title match, but was turned into a title match after DJZ’s recent impressive outings.
We have a tentative start, with Strickland taking DJZ into the corner before they went to the mat, with Strickland working over the arm, only for the challenger to rebound with a ‘rana and a jumping back elbow out of the corner. DJZ’s lucha-inspired offence takes him into a roll-up for a near-fall, which seemed to scare Strickland into backing off a little.
DJZ’s wise to Strickland’s headscissors as he keeps him on the mat for an armbar, looking for several submissions over the champion as he floated over Cattle Mutilation into a surfboard arm stretch. Strickland thought he’d gotten back in, but he’s just powerbombed out of the corner, forcing him to cower to the outside once more, where he sidestepped a dive attempt as DJZ instead dove across the corner to hit the champ. The pair remain outside, but it played into DJZ’s hands as he knocks Strickland into a chair ahead of a crossbody… but Swerve hits back as he caught DJZ in the ring apron after avoiding a baseball slide, giving him free reign to stomp on his challenger. Back in the ring, Strickland keeps up the stomps, before taking him into the corner so he could deliver a Saito suplex out of it for a near-fall.
Strickland keeps DJZ restrained with a strait-jacket choke, but DJZ flips over to reverse the hold as the exchange ends with a neckbreaker from the challenger. A Quebrada’s next as DJZ picks up a near-fall, and again from a nice reverse DDT after DJZ used the ropes for some extra momentum… before his crossbody attempt just saw him land in Strickland’s knee. Undeterred, DJZ’s right back on top as he catches him in a double armbar, but Strickland escapes and hits a discus lariat… only to get spiked with a reverse ‘rana as neither man was able to maintain an advantage for long. A roll-through into a DDT nearly wins it for DJZ, but Strickland gets a foot to the rope… so he’s just put back in the corner for some more strikes, until he fakes out DJZ for a knee to the head.
Strickland’s caught up top not long after though, with DJZ looking for a superplex, but instead he’s met with elbows that knocked him back to the mat before he headed back up… and eventually took Strickland down with a top rope ‘rana. Another rolling DDT’s caught as Strickland catches him in a scissored armbar, almost getting the submission, but DJZ gets the rope with his last gasp.
DJZ rolls onto the apron, but that’s perhaps the worst place to be as Strickland joins him there, throwing chops before he ends up tripping his foe onto the apron as a Swerve stomp to the floor perhaps finished off his challenger. Strickland throws DJZ right back in and heads up for another Swerve stomp, flattening him like a Goomba for… a two-count?! The crazy eyes return as Strickland looks for the killshot (ahem), snapping DJZ’s arm between his legs before the armbar forced the quick submission. This was a really good title match, with Strickland having to fight to retain – but given the way EVOLVE handles title challengers, I wouldn’t be too shocked if this were the end of DJZ’s little push for the time being. ****
WWN Championship Scramble Match: AR Fox vs. Austin Theory vs. Joey Janela (c) vs. Darby Allin
Just as a reminder, since they did this match over WrestleMania weekend without explaining it too well… in these scrambles you need to pin the champion to win the title. I guess that’s what makes it different to a regular multi-man match. That and it’s got a built-in cheap way out. Darby Allin came out after the introductions and insisted he be added to the mix after he’d made light work of the former Earl Cooter earlier in the show. Joey Janela was fine with that, so we have ourselves an announced four-way freestyle… which I think doesn’t have scramble rules, except commentary quickly clarified that Joey Janela has to take the fall to lose his belt.
Once the ring clears, we’re straight in with dives, with Janela diving into Theory… Darby Allin into them, then finally AR Fox into the pile as everyone just went crazy. Janela tries to keep Fox on the outside, because he’s about to senton into the pile, while Darby Allin Coffin Drops off the top rope as we still keep going! Fox’s over-the-corner senton connects as all four guys were left laying in the aisle.
Returning to the ring were Fox and Janela, but the WWN champ’s quickly wheelbarrowed into the corner… before Allin returned to keep the wacky Parade of Moves going. Darby’s quickly dumped with a gutwrench powerbomb by Theory, before Janela went right after the man he won the title from, chopping him into the corner, only to be interrupted by Austin Theory, who went right after his trainer. AR Fox’s conflicted and refuses to trade shots, instead opting to dive into Janela on the outside as Darby Allin hits the ring and lands a springboard crossbody onto Theory. Austin kicks out at two, so Allin leaps onto Janela, who’d been rolled back in, for another two-count, with Fox breaking the count as Darby tried to get the W…
A Code Red from Allin to Janela’s good for a near-fall, but he’s caught up top by Austin Theory as we got an avalanche rack bomb… while the cameraman missed AR Fox’s 450 splash onto Janela. Theory tries to steal the pin on Janela, looking to regain his title, but Joey kicks out and takes the match onto the apron as he eventually dumped Theory with a death valley driver. More stuff, with Fox leaping off the apron into a senton, but he rolls into the ring and into a package piledriver that saw Janela get a near-fall, which was the cue for Priscilla Kelly and Penelope Ford getting into a catfight at ringside. Ayla Fox returns so she could hit a tope into them both, and while Joey Janela stares in disbelief, he’s caught with a springboard cutter by Fox.
Kelly comes into the ring to act as a human shield for Theory, which sort-of works as Theory’s able to hit back with a buckle bomb, only for Darby to continue a Parade of Moves with a flip stunner. Fox is back with a spider German out of the corner to Darby, who then takes Ataxia by Theory as Fox was thrown into the corner… and Austin not going for the pin was a bad idea as Fox sets his sights onto his former student. Fox unloads with a series of kicks to Theory, then finishes him with the Foxcatcher… and that’s the win! AR Fox gets the W, but Joey Janela remains the champion after a frantic ten minute scramble. A match that was perhaps too frantic – live, this would have been a joy to watch, but they packed far too much into this, with some stuff getting barely caught or entirely missed by the production crew. Enjoyable, but a little too breathless for my tastes. ***½
Post-match, Austin Theory remains a sore loser as he pulls Fox outside and throws him into the post before the Skulk chased him to the back.
I Quit Handicap Match: Stokely Hathaway & Chris Dickinson vs. Tracy Williams
The months-long Catch Point story comes to an end… or at least, the latest chapter does here. Either Tracy Williams or Stokely Hathaway will be forced to leave EVOLVE for good after this one, and with “Hot Sauce” having been worn down in recent shows with screwdriver attacks, he’s not only going into this with a numerical disadvantage, but with a quite obvious physical handicap too.
We started with Dickinson and Williams going at each other, trading chops and elbows before Stokely Hathaway dove in to try and trip Williams. It sort-of worked as Williams is taken down as Hathaway went to the back in search of something… tables! In the meantime, Dickinson rakes at Williams’ eyes as the former Catch Point leader was taken up top… only for him to shove Dickinson down.
Hathaway’s back in play as Dominic Garrini gets involved… but he too is elbowed off the top rope, and sent crashing through the table that Hathaway had literally only just set-up. Plan C, Stoke? It wasn’t needed yet, as Dickinson lands a superplex as he demanded the referee asked if Williams quit… “with a little more enthusiasm”. Stokely finally gets involved as he dropkicked a chair into Williams in the corner, before Dickinson looked to keep him there… jabbing the chair into Williams’ gut, but it’s Williams who manages to turn things around… until he’s hit with a low blow. Dickinson goes back to the eye, before a teased Shield Bomb ends with Williams getting up and… dropping Dickinson with a death valley driver onto the side of a ladder.
Williams goes straight for a crossface, and there’s no rope breaks here to save him… but there was a Stokely Hathaway who had another screwdriver, only for Williams to disarm him, right as Dickinson got in with a chairshot to the back as the numbers game came back into play. There’s a bow-and-arrow hold as Dickinson tried to make Williams quit… until an eye rake from Hathaway inadvertently broke it up. They try and throw Williams into a chair, but he baseball slides out and throws Dickinson into the chair… but he doesn’t have the upper hand for long as Jaka comes out to restore the numerical advantage, right as Hathaway was about to get caught in a crossface.
That drew duelling “thank you/fuck you” Jaka chants… but he didn’t last long as Williams DDT’d him into the top turnbuckles before dropping him with a butterfly suplex into two chairs. I think that’s all of the run ins done, but Williams’ focus on Hathaway cost him as Dickinson lands a half-nelson suplex, before he tries to jab a chair leg into Williams’ eye as Hathaway grabs another table. Eventually that table’s put into the ring, and used on Williams as his head was run into it… and it feels a little elementary at this point. Perhaps, too elementary? Dickinson looks to Pazuzu bomb Williams through the table, but he slips out and goes back after Hathaway, only to run into a back body drop as Williams was launched across the table and into a ladder that was bridging into the corner. Ow.
The ladder’s used again as Williams is battered on the table, but he’s able to sneak back in with a low blow before scoring with a piledriver that drove Dickinson through the table. Tellingly, he rolls to the floor as the referee tries to get the submission out of both men for some reason. Nobody submits, so Williams goes back after Hathaway, who had tried to sneak out… but first, he’s got a bag from under the ring, and we know what that means in wrestling. Thumb tacks!
Hathaway’s back with a screwdriver as he tried to save Dickinson from being thrown into the tacks… but Williams mounts the back with a rear naked choke, only to get back bumped into the tacks. Well that was daft! The crazy eyes return as Hathaway looked to use the screwdriver, but Williams reapplies the choke… and just like that, Stoke says those two words, and that is that! With his back like a pin cushion, Tracy Williams has vanquished Stokely Hathaway… and that’s the end of Catch Point. Or is it…? This was a plunderiffic as you’d expect, with plenty of weapons and run-ins… then again, we’d be more than a little annoyed if this were a straight up wrestling match featuring a manager, especially with the build. Well worth watching if only for the history of it in EVOLVE’s storylines. ***¾
Post-match, Chris Dickinson shoved down Stokely, who rolled into the ring for his final, tear-filled farewell, where he (uncharacteristically) thanked the fans as his career in EVOLVE came to a close.
EVOLVE brought their quartet of shows in August to a close with an event that, when it got going, found its groove and excelled. Yeah, those first three matches weren’t any great shakes, but those final five matches were something else. At the moment, EVOLVE seem to be on a hot streak, yet aren’t getting that much buzz outside of their regular fanbase. Perhaps it’s because longer-term followers have felt burned by the constant turnover of the roster, or maybe it’s because there’s a feeling that EVOLVE’s going to hit a proverbial brick wall sometime soon… but in the meantime, get on board, as EVOLVE are in a rich vein of form right now.