EVOLVE’s return to La Boom saw the promotion welcome some new faces for a night crammed full of singles matches, run-ins and a fantastic main event…

We open with Lenny Leonard, Ron Niemi and… Stokely Hathaway in the ring. Stoke’s got Catch Point with him, and similar to last time, once Hathaway’s run through some of the matches tonight, this leads to an instant opener, with Catch Point newbie Dominic Garrini taking on Rayo.

Dominic Garrini vs. Rayo
We’ve seen Rayo a few times, but never in any prominent roles… here he’s a warm body as Stokely tried to make the “unmarketable, marketable”. It’s a squash. Garrini charges Rayo with a flying knee at the bell, before a double-leg takedown and a Kimura got the submission. So quick. I’m a sucker for these establishing squashes – exactly what Garrini needed for his day one.

This bleeds into our next match as Chris Dickinson wants to go right now… his opponent tonight, is Jason Kincaid. Hey, at least Catch Point’s making sure that ring announcer Timothy Barr’s not being overworked.

Chris Dickinson vs. Jason Kincaid
Dickinson mauls Kincaid at the bell as the tag champion takes him down… and survives some near-fall attempts as Kincaid manages to mount a comeback of sorts.

Some headscissors take Dickinson onto the apron, where he’s met with an up-and-over stomp from the “enigma” Kincaid. They have a wander around ringside, as Dickinson shoves down a chair before suplexing Kincaid from the floor and onto the stage instead. Kincaid returns the favour with a dropkick off the stage onto Dickinson, but another dropkick back inside is stopped as Dickinson simple turns it into a Samoan driver for a near-fall.

The “Dirty Daddy” keeps up the pressure from there, going for a superplex as he sent Kincaid crashing into the ring once more, before he threw a bunch of kicks and started wearing down Kincaid some more, surviving some comeback flurries in the process. A drop toe hold from Kincaid takes Dickinson back into the corner, following up with a face-washing boot and a tornado DDT as the tag team champion looked to be on the defensive.

Kincaid’s offence came to a shuddering halt when he missed a stomp off the ring post, and although he’s able to avoid a knee in the corner and hit a Tree of Woe to Dickinson, it still never felt like Kincaid was convincing in this match-up. When Dickinson blocked a Shiranui, Kincaid’s time looked to be up, and although he kicked out from an Oklahoma Stampede, a Pazuzu Bomb into the corner proved to be the final mark as Kincaid took a hell of a whiplash bump in the corner ahead of the pin. Enjoyable stuff, but yeah… Kincaid blows hot and cold for me, and this was a cold one. ***

Some context now – in the days before this show, EVOLVE had been promising “The End” – with some videos and a “hacked” email message, It turned out that “The End” wasn’t the closure of the company, as some had surmised, instead it was the arrival of some new faces: Odinson, Parrow and Drennan hit the scene and laid waste to Dickinson and Kincaid. A sit-out tombstone from Parrow left Dickinson flat out before Kincaid was Pounced by Odinson, and finished with a release F5.

My thoughts on this… this trio been working as a team in FIP, so this isn’t a case of three totally new faces, and more of a “call up” if you treat the WWN group of promotions as a tiered system. I liked how The End were in and out pretty quick, and didn’t do the cliched promo… although WWN having the same commentary team throughout meant that any sense of mystery was quickly quelled when Lenny Leonard was able to ID everyone.

Brandon Watts vs. Austin Theory
It’s an EVOLVE return for Watts, who’s perhaps better known for his stint in Beyond. As opposed to his prior one-shot back in 2015 as one half of “Milk Chocolate”. Yeah.

His chances aren’t too good here either, as he’s up against the guy EVOLVE’s slowly strapping a rocket to, in the form of Austin Theory, who’s cementing his bad guy status by slowly growing facial hair. Watts bumps well for Theory from the off, getting taken down with a shoulder tackle before landing a dropkick as Theory’s rocking.

Theory quickly responds with a forearm and a huge release suplex, but he’s taking his time going through Watts, working the arm and then grabbing a chinlock. Yeah, this isn’t going to be a squash, but Theory still needs to work on not making things look so even. Things like a blasting forearm help, as Watts dropped like a stone from it, but much like with Keith Lee on the last show… there’s no killer instinct.

Watts is able to make a brief comeback, hitting an enziguiri and a tornado DDT, before a thunderous crossbody almost led to the win. After some more pinning attempts Theory got back into it, stuffing a wheelbarrow and turning it into a Roderick Strong-esque backbreaker before the Theory KO gets the win. Decent, but I’m not digging Austin Theory in this “drawn out squash” stage. He needs a big win soon, or at the very least, tighten up and intensify these matches. ***

After the match, The End returned again, but this time Theory escaped the brunt as he fed Watts to the proverbial wolves. Hey, at least they’re establishing The End pretty big on their debut, but I’m hoping this isn’t going to be a theme after every match tonight.

Jarek 1:20 vs. Darby Allin
After doing the annoying “hey, I think you’re only worth five bucks” bonus tripe on the last few shows, we’ve got the in-ring debut of Mini Chris Hero… sorry, Jarek 1:20. Is that how much he’s worth? $1.20?

Of course, Allin was one of the victims of the “public bonus”, and he’s pretty popular in New York it seems The anti-Theory, in that he’s getting the push but actually has some explosiveness in him… Jarek tries to restrain Darby with a cravat early, but Allin’s got more in his locker than that, and after flipping away he grabs a Fujiwara armbar that forces a swift break in the ropes. A rescued headscissors sees Jarek cartwheel away, but a springboard armdrag helps Allin stay in it, rolling into a pinning attempt then another armbar as Jarek forced another rope break.

Jarek plays to the crowd and ends up getting wiped out with a tope from Allin who launched himself onto the stage… only to get thrown off… and rebound with a springboard crossbody that Jarek rudely stops with a superkick as Allin took a nasty spill on the way down. That sparked some offence from Jarek, who threw Darby into the railings before pulling off a Matt Cross-esque elbow drop off of the ringpost.

Back in the ring, Darby tries to break free, but ends up slingshotting himself into an Ace crusher for a near-fall. That seems to wake up Allin as he unleashed a flurry of palm strikes before leaping over Jarek en route to an O’Connor roll and a corkscrew crossbody off the ropes as he keeps racking up those two-counts.

A German suplex sees Darby land flat as Jarek snuffed out the Seattle native, following up with a left hand to the head for yet another near-fall. Jarek puts Darby in a Tree of Woe, and crushes him with a leg drop as Allin tried to escape out, but we’re still nowhere near done, and that’s shown when Darby countered a Gory stretch into a sunset flip to nearly steal it.

It’s back to the strikes for Allin, who busts out a shinbreaker before grabbing the Last Supper to nick the win… a pretty decent showing in defeat for Jarek, who I’m glad has ditched the “WWN executive” gimmick, although that magician’s act isn’t so great. ***¼

The crowd are screaming at Darby to leave – they know what’s coming. The End. Allin tries to get the jump on them, but there’s too many and they’re too big… Parrow powerbombs Darby from the floor into some chairs on the stage. Jesus Christ that’s impressive. Attempted help from security is snuffed out when Parrow hits a release Shock Treatment onto the apron, before the poor security guard took a Doomsday version of Ilja Dragunov’s Torpedo Moscau. Yep. Statement made once gain.

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle as we get the looping EVOLVE title card as things are cleared up…

Fred Yehi vs. Tracy Williams
This was the first time these two had met since Yehi left Catch Point earlier in the year… and it’s fair to say that Yehi has been treading water since. Williams is out with Dominic Garrini, which makes me think that’s a pairing they’re going to be going with in the future… another Catch Point war? Dear God, that had better be some way away…

They start off like a house on fire, trading shots before Yehi tries to take the match to the mat… right in place for some stomps. Commentary notes that if Williams wins, he’ll get a shot at Zack Sabre Jr’s EVOLVE title… while if Yehi wins, he’ll get it sometime never. That could have done with being a little more defined, lads!

There’s plenty of mat-based grappling as he camera cuts away from Hathaway getting into it with someone in the crowd. Considering Williams is a bad guy, there’s a lot of the crowd chanting for him, but that doesn’t equate to any kind of booing when Yehi starts to get off his stomping offence. Stomps and chops become the order of the day, at least until Williams is able to take him into the corner.

From there, Williams gets just a one count from a clothesline as he took over on Yehi… but those shots get returned, before Yehi escapes a suplex as he goes back to the chops. Hey, there’s some Tenzan-like Mongolian chops before the up-kicks and a German suplex left “Hot Sauce” out… and there’s the boos.

A back cracker follows as Yehi gets close… but his attempt to sneak in a Koji clutch quickly ends when Williams slips out, and we’re back to the strikes. Yehi almost won with a Fisherman buster, but Williams gets up just in time, only to get taken up top once more… where he counters a superplex into a DDT onto the top turnbuckle.

Williams chains that into a regular suplex for a two-count as he went for a leg grapevine. As Yehi tried to kick away, Stokely Hathaway gets on the apron to distract the referee… for reasons, as nothing happened there. All it did was lead to Dominic Garrini saving Hathaway as Williams pulls the ropes into Yehi before landing a clothesline and a guillotine choke for the eventual ref stoppage. A weird finish, with a distraction that did absolutely nothing… kind of symptomatic of the match really. Some decent stuff, but it never felt like it got going. ***

Oh hey, Jaka’s out. I wonder what’s going to happen? He calls out The End as he’s fed up of the interference, but instead he’s getting… Zack Sabre Jr. Fair enough!

Jaka vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Jaka jumps Sabre at the start of this non-title outing, clearly taking out some frustrations in the absence of The End.

Back in La Boom in June, Jaka pushed Sabre but came up short… and it looked to be a similar story this time as Sabre was going for submissions… only for Jaka to bite his way free as he took Sabre straight outside with an Exploder. Jaka doesn’t rest on his laurels though, and follows Zack to the outside, throwing some chops in among the crowd, only for Sabre to break free and blast him with a PK from the apron.

Sabre goes for Jaka’s knee in the guard railings, and it’s back to those legs as a single-leg crab segues into a heel hook… but Jaka’s able to use his free leg to kick away to freedom. It’s surprisingly even between these two though as they trade shots and chops, but Jaka can’t even get a one-count when he goes for a pin as Sabre responds by paintbrushing him with a slap. Another kneebar follows from Sabre, but a rake to the eye gets Jaka free again… and this time he goads Sabre into another strike battle… one that Jaka ends up losing out on as Sabre grabs another submission attempts. Jaka’s again able to free himself with some heel kicks, but a suplex attempt’s countered as Sabre again grabs a guillotine, before changing that into a suplex in the end.

Jaka comes back with a spinning heel kick into the corner before an Exploder and a diving knee nearly secure the upset. He tries to go to the well once too often as the Exploder’s countered into an Octopus, but Jaka shrugs it off and hits a release German suplex for a solid two-count on Sabre.

Yet again Sabre hits back with a submission, pulling Jaka from a triangle choke into a double armbar on the mat until a rope break’s called. There’s more of the same as Sabre tries a Euro clutch after countering an attempted choke grab, before Jaka’s running uppercut left both men laying. Way more strikes and kicks follow, with paintbrush-like slaps downing Jaka ahead of a PK… but Jaka’s back up and eventually grabs the choke bomb for the shock win! The hell?! Jaka snatches the win… and that’s Sabre’s first loss since he won the belt. Well then! A phenomenal match, and perhaps Jaka’s coming out party in EVOLVE… but it’s a shame that as tag champion, this won’t build to anything immediate. ****

Priscilla Kelly wanders out once Catch Point leave. I think the crowd would rather have seen The End again, especially when she started to circle the ring and stroke the chest of Sabre. Yep, we’re getting Sabre vs. Theory at some point… even though the kid’s nowhere near ready.

Last Man Standing for WWN Championship: Keith Lee vs. Matt Riddle (c)
These two have had quite a few battles against each other, including a hell of a sprint at the Cockpit for Rev Pro a few months earlier… and an even better outing last time EVOLVE were at La Boom. It’s going to take something special for this to not be great…

We start with back-and-forth forearms as champion and challenger try to end it early with a knockout. That’s not happening this soon, although Riddle was able to hit a backdrop suplex. Which Keith Lee instantly pops up from so he can throw both hands into the champion’s chest. Ouch.

Another German suplex to Lee’s no-sold as Riddle stared down the monster, as we’re back to the thunderous forearms and chops. Some elbows from Lee sink Riddle to his knees, but the champion’s able to hit a Bro to Sleep and a German suplex, which finally puts Lee down on his back. Lee’s able to rebound as he catches a back senton and turns it into a Spirit Bomb, wiping out Riddle with ease, as we’re back to those strikes, with Lee again edging ahead with a massive forearm, before climbing the ropes… but his attempt at a moonsault ends when Riddle pulls him down into a German suplex!

Riddle manages to chain together some sentons as a quartet of those left Lee down for some Yehi-like stomps, which led to him pulling his challenger into a triangle choke. A knee strike’s shrugged off as Lee smashes Riddle with the Ground Zero, but he’s unable to capitalise with any kind of pinning attempt as the standing ten count starts, with Riddle needing until the count of 8 to get back up.

He’s then sent straight back down with a forearm, but Riddle fires back from the mat as Lee seemed indignant at that attempt at a fightback, eventually dropping Riddle with another forearm. Another crack at the moonsault follows, and it connects as Lee avoids some of the Hallowe’en decorations in the venue. Not content, Lee tries for it again, but it’s cut off as Riddle counters into a Ligerbomb, but it’s not enough to get the ten-count.

There’s kicks from Riddle, then leaping knees, before Lee’s attempt at a suplex gets switched into a guillotine choke as the champion eventually countered into a Fisherman buster. A series of forearms into the corner continue to stun Lee, as Riddle tries to lift him up for a superplex, but instead he gets caught as a Spirit Bomb off the top planted Riddle in the middle of the ring!

Somehow Riddle gets back to his feet, only to get booted outside instantly, before Lee drags him back onto the apron… but a knee strike puts a stop to whatever Lee had planned as a Fisherman’s buster spiked Lee on the corner of the ring. Back in, Riddle tries to capitalise with a flying back senton, which almost gets the full ten count… but Lee barely gets back up and surprises Riddle with a pop-up roaring elbow, before hitting… Bro to Sleep? He stole his move!

Lee tries to finish off Riddle from the top rope, hitting an avalanche Ground Zero, but it left both men laying… only for Keith Lee to narrowly beat the ten count to claim the title! Well, chalk up another classic between those two, as Keith Lee gains perhaps the biggest title of his career to date. So much hard hitting, without too much spamming of the “oh, is he going to beat the count?” trope. ****¼

I see that EVOLVE’s starting to develop a theme here. One of their shows having a steady first half, then blowing it all away to close it out. The appearance of new faces, and the lack of some is showing that the promotion is, if you pardon the pun, evolving without the FloSlam bucks – doing their best to grow in spite of adversity.

The appearance of The End may have been an almost-overplayed hand, but they had to establish that new trio in one night, so needs must. At least we’re not getting a laundry list of new faces losing on their first night in… oh. Yeah. Just Dominic Garrini got a W in his first match. Nevermind. Long-term planning and all that!