EVOLVE’s latest return to New York saw the return of a few friends as PROGRESS’ finest were in town!
Thankfully there’s no hour of looping video before on the VOD, so we’re straight into action at the ELMCOR Centre. Except none of the camera crew are ready, so we’ve got an awkward long shot as the Troll Boys come out together for their singles match.
Ethan Page vs. ACH
Without sounding old or grumpy… why? Why is this match happening? Storyline wise, all we’ve had is Page and ACH piss around in a singles match, then again in a tag match (which they won) the prior night. So… why?
They pretend to not know they’re wrestling each other, and we’ve got another comedy match… unfortunately, bad micing means that we miss a lot of the one liners. We do get to hear Page trying to sell ACH’s ring-worn shirt… and they get $25 for it. Unfortunately these shenanigans with ACH getting paid almost let to him getting counted out!
In the ring, they exchange shoulder tackles as commentary derided what we were seeing. ACH kips up from his shoulder tackle, whilst Page flops like a dying fish in his efforts. Next up is some endless backflips as I’m sure they’re just trolling spotfests, but this time ACH lands an Ace Crusher out of the corner and does a familiar pose to celebrate…
Page rolls outside and tries to get the crowd into it, but the dive’s stopped with a spinebuster as Page goes for the People’s Elbow again. This time, he remembers to put on an elbow pad, and actually hits the move! A Spinning Dwayne’s attempted, but ACH avoids it and tries to hit a super roaring elbow… and connects!
Both men collapse to the mat as part of Lenny Leonard’s soul dies. They threaten to fight forever, which leads to some body slaps back and forth that turns into a game of pattycake. I’m dead. Page falls for a chop to the balls from ACH, before a single finger poke knocks down Page for a one-count!
Enraged, Page gets back up with a tombstone, but of course ACH stands back up! Then he kneels down holding his head before the two hug it out. A Rainmaker finger poke from Page ends up getting the win, and this is a match which you’ll not be on the fence for. I’m not rating this, as everyone’s mileage will vary greatly.
Darby Allin vs. Timothy Thatcher
A rematch from EVOLVE 89… just because, with Thatcher winning in Georgia after a weird finish. It’s more of the same here to begin with as Thatcher turfs Allin outside in the opening stages.
Thatcher doesn’t want Allin in the ring with him, and Darby decides he wants to wipe out Stokely… doing so with a tope con hilo that almost went badly wrong as Allin clipped the rope, changing his trajectory massively. Now it’s Darby keeping Thatcher out, but the experience of Thatcher eventually gets him back in… and into the path of a springboard armdrag.
Allin goes back to form with a Coffin Drop off the top, which the camera barely catches, but at least this crowd is into it. Perhaps EVOLVE should just stick to New York? Thatcher gets tired of Allin slapping him, and starts fighting back… dropping Allin arm-first on the apron. A slam knocks the cameraman as Thatcher keeps up on the injured arm.
Back in the ring, a series of gutwrench suplexes drops Allin for a near-fall as a bunch of knees have Thatcher continue his methodical dismantling of the crash test dummy, using a rear chinlock and sleeperhold that Allin fights out of. Nevermind, he springboards off the ropes into another sleeper…
Allin powers up but flips out of a WALTER-esque German suplex before a springboard off the bottom rope leads to a crossbody… but Thatcher again gets an armbar in to force Allin to the ropes as the hard camera clearly shows the aforementioned Austrian in the aisle with Gabe Sapolsky.
Thatcher cuts off Allin again as he went up top, clubbing Darby with a series of forearms to the back. For some reason Thatcher takes his time to ponder his next move as Stokely Hathaway shoved a chair into the ring… and Allin flies in with another Coffin Drop before Thatcher can do anything. A dropkick takes Tim down as Allin chops the leg, then springboards off the ropes for another near-fall, before Code Red nearly gets the win.
From the kick-out though, Allin traps Thatcher in the bridging Gibson lock pin… and that’s enough for the shock win! Another loss for Thatcher then, and it was a good effort – even if not a convincing win for Darby in the end. ***
Darby heads to the back, and walks past WALTER… who doesn’t seem to be too thrilled at his RINGKAMPF partner. Apparently Thatcher tells Hathaway he’s got to leave, and so Thatcher leaves with WALTER for Germany, where RINGKAMPF shall ride again!
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Fred Yehi & Jason Kincaid vs. James Drake & Anthony Henry (c)
The mish-mash super-teams continue with a tandem that I could never ever believe as being together in any situation outside of this match. At the very least EVOLVE could try and cover this by saying it’s a Lethal Lottery or something.
The Work Horsemen jump into the challengers at the bell as commentary goes a little weird – we’ve got Ethan Page and ACH replacing Lenny Leonard. Instantly, ACH asks if Drake is Husky Harris, and you can tell what’s going to be taking front and centre stage here. In the ring, Kincaid dumps Henry with a wheelbarrow’d stunner for a near-fall, but Henry blocks a ‘rana and turns it into a buckle bomb.
Kincaid keeps up with a powerslam into a double stomp on Henry, before Henry and Yehi threw forearms at each other. A head kick’s ducked and met with a headbutt from Yehi, who went to the stomps and chops before a low dropkick takes Henry out.
Henry’s kept cornered as the challengers keep him at bay with more stomps, but James Drake wanders into clothesline them both and drag Henry into the right corner for an easy tag. Kincaid’s whipped into the ropes for a clothesline to the back of the head for a near-fall, and commentary is making this match really hard to get into, especially when Ethan Page is comparing James Drake to Takeshi Morishima.
Eh, there’s still been worse commentators.
Yehi kills Drake with a low dropkick as we get some screaming. Damnit Glen, stop coaching people like that! Chops follow from Yehi, but Drake returns the favours before delivering a death valley driver into a Henry powerbomb. Kicks from Henry draw more mirth from commentary before Yehi flips out of a Kudo Driver and drops the champs with separate German suplexes.
Another double stomp from Kincaid takes Henry onto the apron for the flip-over stomp on the apron… but Henry rolls away and PK’s him through the ropes instead. Kincaid blocks a tope and turns it into a Tower of London on the damned floor!
Drake flies next with a tope con hilo, wiping out Kincaid as Henry took him back in… but Kincaid recovers to crotch him on the top rope, only for thing to switch up as Kincaid sunset bombs him to the floor! That looked brutal! Back inside, Kincaid gets a near-fall out of the ringpost double stomp, but a head kick from Henry ends up being the beginning of the end as he catches Kincaid’s springboard with a Spanish Fly before a double stomp and a Drake moonsault sealed the win. The Drake/Henry team’s starting to grow on me – perhaps their best outing to date… and my God Ethan Page killed me on commentary. Well worth watching, but your milage may vary with the commentary. ***¾
After the match, Yehi and Kincaid have a confrontation – with one lone fan screaming “turn heel”… but to no avail. They shake hands, and that’s all we’re getting.
Austin Theory vs. Mark Haskins
Theory’s out with Priscilla Kelly, as always these days, whilst Mark Haskins technically made his EVOLVE debut here.
Haskins tries to go for the Star Bar early, but Theory makes the ropes as the pair move into a slugfest, ending when Theory’s attempt at a sunset flip is stuffed and met with a PK. A slingshot dropkick into the corner follows as Theory fell for Haskins’ tope misdirection, eventually falling into the guard rails as the former PROGRESS champ went airborne.
It’s all Haskins for a spell, getting a two-count out of a double stomp… and I have to laugh when someone gets a “Let’s Go Theory/Let’s Go Haskins/Let’s Go Theory/Boo The Heels” chant going. Theory starts to make inroads, stomping on Haskins before landing a brainbuster for a near-fall as an attempted fightback is easily snuffed out when Haskins gets clubbed to the mat with relative ease.
A rear chinlock keeps Haskins down, as the producer decides to show us a long shot of Baby Baron Corbin’s rear end… eventually Haskins makes the ropes to escape a cravat, but he goes straight back to it, throwing some knees in the gut to add some variation. It’s effective, but not very engaging to watch.
Haskins gets back and trades shots to free himself, before finally knocking Theory back with a leaping back kick. Theory sweeps the leg, but misses a standing moonsault as Haskins gets the Star armbar in, but Theory’s able to get to those ropes for a break. A leapfrog sees Haskins avoid Theory, who manages to come back in with a dropkick as a second one leads to Haskins rolling him up into a death valley driver for a near-fall.
A big boot from Theory looked to set up for something else, but he rolled into another Haskins armbar, then a crossface, as Theory again makes the ropes to keep his match alive. Theory stuffs a roll-up into a Sharpshooter, instead hauling up Haskins into a Theory Driver/Rack Bomb for a near-fall. A half-nelson backbreaker and a standing moonsault follow as Theory edges ahead.
For some reason Priscilla Kelly gets involved, as she enters the ring whilst Theory has the ref distracted… and drops Haskins with the worst stunner this side of Joel Allen! A Shoudou from Theory only gets a near-fall – and thankfully they’re not going the route of “Austin needs help from his valet to win”. I hope.
Can someone get Gabe Sapolsky a monitor so he’s not having to watch in plain sight?
Theory looks to finish off Haskins with a death valley driver on the apron… but instead the roles reverse as Haskins dumps the rookie instead, as Priscilla Kelly stands on the apron to stop Haskins from rolling in. She gets involved again, throwing herself at Haskins with a springboard plancha… which Haskins sidesteps as she takes out Theory instead.
Back inside, some kicks from Haskins lead through to the torqued Sharpshooter… and there’s the submission! So… I’m not exactly thrilled that they’re even teasing Austin Theory having help from Priscilla Kelly – who’s not been established as any sort of threat in the WWN family (SHINE Nova title aside). But hey, this was a solid match as Theory continues his in-ring development… I just wish they kept it a straight match. ***¼
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks)
This is a rematch of one of the show-stealers from the WWN Supershow over WrestleMania weekend – and what would unfortunately be TK Cooper’s last full match for a while, as he broke his ankle on the PROGRESS show later that day.
Catch Point jumped the Kiwis at the bell, but Banks and Cooper quickly got into things, blasting Jaka in the corner with a big boot ahead of Banks’ double-stomp! The Kiwi Buzzsaw keeps up with his high-speed topes into Jaka, then Dickinson, then back to Jaka again in the aisle as TK decides to get involved… but he’s caught and brought down with a top rope Falcon Arrow!
Commentary tells us that Dickinson and Jaka had a point to prove as they had been undefeated across the WWN until losing to the Kiwis… and it was Cooper who was kept isolated as Dickinson pounded on the back of his head before he tried to wrench off TK’s wrist.
There’s the expected heel shticks from Catch Point as they try to incite Banks into the ring whilst continuing to dissect TK. Finally TK gets the tag to Banks, who unloads on Catch Point with kicks to the chest, before dumping Jaka with a German suplex. The trip up into a cannonball comes next, as TK returns to catch Dickinson up top with a superplex. Jaka capitalises with a big splash, but for some reason the ref counts Jaka’s pin… until Banks breaks it up!
Things break down into a Parade of Moves, with Jaka drilling TK with a flying knee…a receipt comes with a superkick as Jaka was dealing with Banks before all four hit pump kicks at the same time to leave us with a pile of bodies in the ring! Dickinson gets up first to lay into the Kiwis with chops, but he falls to a Slice of Heaven and an axe kick before a Fisherman driver from Banks set up for a springboard 450.
Dickinson gets the knees up as TK came up short, and it’s all Catch Point for a while as a pair of dropkicks to a hung up Cooper in the corner gets a near-fall. That’s the prelude for Death Trap, but Banks cuts it off and pulls Jaka of the top for an assisted DDT for another near-fall.
Banks and Cooper plant Jaka with a double stomp belly-to-back piledriver, but somehow Jaka gets out at two, before he tried to shrug off a barrage of superkicks. Eventually they wear him down, but he pops up and hits a double chokeslam?! Catch point return with a powerbomb to Banks, but TK backdrops Jaka to the floor… only for Dickinson to try for a Pazuzu Bomb… but Dahlia gets up on the apron to try and stop it.
Dickinson tries to drop her in, and instead shoves TK into her… TK takes the high/low, and that leaves him open for the Death Trap doomsday chokeslam for the loss. No surprise, this was a really good tag match, and in isolation does a lot for them… but it sure does make you scratch your head about what happened the prior night! ****¼
WWN Championship: Tracy Williams vs. Keith Lee vs. WALTER vs. Matt Riddle (c)
With Zack Sabre Jr. still away for the G1, the WWN title is our main event – and for some reason, we get to see Ethan Page and ACH dancing to Keith Lee’s theme. I get them “hijacking” commentary, but why would production cut to them if their antics weren’t meant to be “approved”? It’s the details, Gabe…
We’re under four-way rules, so it’s one fall to a finish… and expect plenty of broken-up pins!
WALTER and Lee start by squaring up, in a callback to the end of EVOLVE 90, but that’s broken up quickly… only for Williams and Riddle to get dealt with pretty quick as the big guys square down again. Wash, rinse, repeat, as this time we get WALTER and Riddle tussling again ahead of their PROGRESS Atlas title match later in the weekend.
A chop from the Austrian leaves Riddle down as WALTER decides to make this a super chop party! Williams and Riddle get into a brief scuffle as they try to beat down Riddle, before Lee breaks it up… and yes, it’s “everyone gang up on the big guy” season! Things calm down as Williams catches a kick from Riddle and goes for an ankle lock, but that’s broken up as WALTER gets rid of the pair of them so he could bask in some glory.
Finally we get WALTER and Lee, starting with shoulder blocks before Riddle and Williams try to interfere. That’s quickly broken up as it’s back to the big lads! A Gojira clutch from WALTER leads to a slapped away rope break and a German suplex… but Keith Lee gets back up and tosses WALTER like he were nothing! WALTER gets back to his feet only for a double clothesline to take them both down, and we’re back to Riddle and Williams.
Forearms, chops and kicks… oh my! Riddle keeps hold of the advantage, chopping Williams on the top rope ahead of a superplex, but that’s countered into a DDT on the turnbuckle before Williams scrapes a near-fall out of a back suplex. Riddle returns with a Fisherman’s buster before trapping WALTER in a triangle choke… only for Williams to drag Lee into a crossface rather than break it up. Instead, WALTER broke it all up by powerbombing Riddle onto “Hot Sauce” and that’s us back to square one!
Williams unloads with chops on everyone as he tries to state a case, but he’s quickly triple-teamed away, and we’re back to Riddle trying to take out the big lads. It’s impressive and loud, I’ll give them that! A double handed chop from Lee derails WALTER, who manages to come back with a big boot to Riddle… before learning the lesson of 2017. YOU CANNOT GERMAN SUPLEX RIDDLE. Unless you’re doing it in tandem with someone else… GOOD LORD KEITH LEE!
Williams tries – and fails – to pick up the pieces like a vulture, earning himself a one-armed chokeslam and a pounce from Lee. Period! WALTER gets fed up of Lee asking people to bask in his glory, and so drags him down with a Gojira clutch, only for Riddle to break that up with a back senton off the top! Again, Williams tries to capitalise, this time with a crossface to Riddle, only for WALTER to break it up.
Riddle avoids a powerbomb, then manages to mount WALTER, taking him down with some Danielson elbows before Keith Lee wanders in. A Benadryller forearm is ducked, and Riddle wears down on Lee again, only for Williams to come in and piledriver Riddle for almost-a-three count! Another crossface follows from Williams, but Riddle slips out and traps him in the Bromission – and with Lee and WALTER still down, there’s nobody for the save, and Riddle retains! A hell of a main event here, with a good mixture of big lads throwing bombs at each other and Tracy Williams trying to sneak a win. ****½
Compared to the prior night, EVOLVE 91 was a massive upgrade. The hottest crowd in recent memory, mixed with matches that looked good on paper and delivered gave us EVOLVE’s strongest showing in a while… and a reminder of how this good this promotion can be. Perhaps it really is time to ditch Florida?