Continuing our EVOLVE catch-up, October saw the promotion make their Connecticut debut as a slew of new names were given a chance to shine.
Sadly, we didn’t get the dark matches, which included the wonderfully-named Nutrious X. I wonder if he’s related to Juvenile, Tracer and Robbie? As seems to be the norm in the post-FloSlam world, we’ve got Lenny Leonard in the ring with Ron Niemi as those two are handling commentary. Timothy Barr’s filling in for Joanna Rose on ring announcing once again.
Shane Mercer vs. Mikey Webb
Both guys have around five years experience under their belts, and they’re both getting EVOLVE debuts here.
Webb started out by taking down Mercer in a chinlock, but Mercer used his size to easily stand up and shove away Webb as the Kentuckian tried to edge ahead. He had to absorb a little more offence before flinging Webb across the ring, sending him corkscrewing from a release Exploder. Webb somehow comes straight back with a guillotine as he went for a tornado DDT, but Mercer powers out again, hitting an X-plex for a near-fall.
Again though, Webb manages to fight back, pulling Mercer through the ropes into a Rocker dropper for a near-fall of his own, before planting Mercer into the corner for a hanging neckbreaker. An attempt at a death valley driver’s lost by Webb, who has to make do with a pump kick and a sunset bomb into the corner as those two-counts kept coming. Webb’s lungblower keeps Mercer on the back foot, but a pop-up powerbomb attempt is countered into a big slam. An attempt to follow up with a press slam is countered by Webb into a DDT as the crowd slowly got behind the pair, ending when Mercer wiped out Webb with a big lariat, before taking Webb up top for an avalanche fallaway slam.
That’s escaped though, as Webb slips out and eventually pulls Mercer away as he drops him into the corner with a death valley driver for a near-fall, but an attempt to finish off Mercer with a Shiranui’s blocked, as Webb’s forced to regain his composure ahead of a moonsault crossbody… which Mercer rolls through before taking Webb to the middle rope for a moonsault slam for the win! Holy crap, that’s an impressive finish, but that’s gonna be tricky to do against a bigger guy. A fun opener, but Mercer’s got a fair bit of polishing to do. Like getting rid of that gear… ***
They’re not able to bask in their success for long though, as The End hit the ring and laid into Webb and Mercer. Heck, Drennen even gets a shot in, taking out the referee as Parrow’s sit-out tombstone and Odinson’s release F5 completed the carnage.
Brandon Watts vs. Jarek 1:20
After coming up short against Austin Theory the prior night, Watts has another chance, this time against EVOLVE’s annoying bonus giver. Jarek’s slowly morphing into his regular magician gimmick, as he’s now being called “the Illusionist”, and comes out with a pack of cards. It’s one step away from that old WCW jobber the Gambler, folks!
We opened with a lucha-style series with leapfrogs and rolls throughs, before Jarek cartwheeled out of some headscissors… my word, this is an easy crowd! Watts offers a hand in the name of sportsmanship, but it’s kicked away as the two go back at it, with Jarek getting sent outside with a dropkick. On the apron, Jarek avoids a move as he instead shoved Watts into the ringpost, following up with that flagpole elbow drop off of the ringpost. Back inside, Jarek keeps control, countering a slingshot spear into a twisting neckbeaker before grounding Watts again in a chinlock.
Eventually Watts is able to muster up a comeback, elbowing away a running boot before landing an enziguiri to take Jarek outside for a baseball slide dropkick that took Jarek over the row of seated fans. Inside again, a tornado DDT gets a two-count for Watts, before a frog splash crossbody goes a little awkward, with Jarek rolling through and knocking down Watts with a left-handed punch.
The pair continue to go back and forth, with Watts landing a back body drop, only for Jarek to come straight back… and leap backwards into a back stabber from the middle rope. That looked wonky, but it worked… unlike a back superplex effort, which Jarek elbows away, knocking Watts into a Tree of Woe as he follows up with a legdrop and the Sweet Death (sit-out Dominator) for the win. This was fine as an exhibition for Jarek, but there’s plenty to be done here in terms of polish. **½
Cyrus Satin vs. Dominic Garrini
Satin’s the guy who Fred Yehi obliterated at EVOLVE 93 in the opener that was so short that commentary didn’t get a chance to make it from the ring to their positions before the match as stopped. I don’t rate his chances here either… Garrini flies in with a knee at the start, but Satin avoids it… before Garrini hit it at the second attempt. One backbreaker follows, before he pulls Satin into a cross armbreaker for the quick submission. Splat!
Stokely Hathaway cuts a promo to hype up Tracy Williams’ title shot against Zack Sabre Jr. later tonight. Somehow, I don’t think he’s got much chance of winning the big one here tonight.
Jason Kincaid vs. Austin Theory
Continuing the tales of “Kincaid needs to string wins together to stay on the mains how”, he’s back for another crack against Austin Theory, whom he lost to at EVOLVE 90. Kincaid tries to tell Theory that this match is about “brotherly love and respect”, so of course, Theory attacks him from behind to get us underway.
Kincaid eventually uses some slow-mo headscissors to take Theory down as the crowd at least seemed to be into this, but the methodical pace didn’t help things. Some cartwheels help Kincaid reverse a wristlock, before he rolls away from an attempted standing moonsault by Theory, as the spiritual one hits a rope-walk rana to take Theory outside. An attempted die from Kincaid’s stopped though as Theory again takes over, releasing Kincaid with a suplex back inside… but we’re still dealing with a methodical, more WWE-like pace as we need Kincaid to miss a charge into the corner, sending himself flying to the floor, to wake up the crowd. A little.
In the ring again, Theory traps Kincaid in a chinlock, before Kincaid escaped and tried to trap him in a crucifix pin… only for a right hand from Theory to get him a similar result. An attempt at the TKO ends with Kincaid slipping out into an armdrag, before he went for a rolling pin and eventually a tiltawhirl into another roll-up as Kincaid tried to wear down Theory just by making him kick-out.
Kincaid tries for a ‘rana, but had to make do with a rewind facebuster after Theory’d lifted him onto the top rope. A stomp off the top misses though, and Theory replies by shoving him into the ring post, before a buckle bomb and a cross-legged over-the-knee brainbuster picked up a near-fall. From there, Kincaid counters another TKO into a Stunner, following up with his ringpost stomp before tying up Theory with the Compassionate Release.
Priscilla Kelly gets involved as she raked Kincaid’s eyes as the ref was out of position, and all that’s left is the TKO for the win. Well, they’re finally having Kelly interfere for her charge, but this match dragged badly. I don’t know if it’s just their chemistry, but that’s two matches in EVOLVE where they’re not meshed well – for my liking, Austin Theory just isn’t showing enough urgency. Whether it’s the casting, or the style, his “total package” seems to have a few pieces that’s been forced into place, if you get my awkward jigsaw analogy… **½
After the match, Theory slaps Kincaid in the face, as does Priscilla Kelly, and that seemed to anger the otherwise calm Kincaid… who takes another TKO to end things.
Darby Allin vs. Keith Lee
Oh God, someone’s going to go full crash test dummy today. It’s a first-time meeting here, and since Keith Lee only just won the WWN title, there’s only one result I can really see.
Allin tried his best from the start, laying into Lee… but a big armdrag’s stuffed as Allin instead has to hit and run… and hope he doesn’t get thrown around. He does manage a high-velocity tope con giro after Lee missed a charge to the outside… but as soon as they get back inside, Darby tries for a Coffin Drop, and gets obliterated with a Pounce from Lee.
Yeah, that looked like an awkward landing.
That was the turning point, as Lee starts to club away on Allin, before throwing him with ease… and it’s pretty much men against boys as Allin entered that crash test dummy mode, as he’s thrown across the ring with such ease. Allin tries to hit back with some dropkicks, before landing that lucha armdrag as he manages to take Lee off his feet… for a one-count.
Somehow Darby manages to counter a powerbomb into a Code Red for a near-fall, but that just angers Lee as he chops away at the Seattle native some more, only to get taken down again with a flying ‘rana. A back senton knocks Lee flat out, as does a Coffin Drop, but Allin can’t roll Lee over in time and only gets a two-count from all of that.
Darby escapes out of a fallaway slam, but ends up taking a headbutt as Lee again showed that lack of the proverbial killer instinct – taking his time between leathering Allin with clotheslines and the like. The Benadryller rolling elbow still doesn’t lead to a pinning attempt though, and it takes another slap from Darby to prompt Lee to hit the Spirit Bomb for the win. Decent enough, and I like how they’re keeping in Lee’s Achilles heel still… but in spite of Darby’s fightback, this was one sided. ***¼
Our next match was meant to be a number one contender’s match for the EVOLVE tag titles. There’s a red flag already since EVOLVE don’t usually call them out as such… sure enough Catch Point hit the ring, as Chris Dickinson decided to call out The End. Of course, they don’t appear, Jaka steps in and makes this a three-way elimination match for the tag titles.
Elimination Match for EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Gymnasty Boyz (White Mike & Timmy Lou Retton) vs. Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy) vs. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c)
The Gymnasty Boyz are the opposite side of the spectrum to OTT’s Gymnasties – in the fact that while OTT’s pairing were skinny, these two don’t look like they’re regulars at a gym. Perhaps that’s the joke?
The champions jump everyone at the bell, with the Gymnasty Boyz taking a pounding from Dickinson. Meanwhile, the Ugly Ducklings are taken apart by Jaka, and we’re quickly into that revolving door format as Jaka gets laid out in the ring as the Ducklings work up into an assisted moonsault for a near-fall. There’s stereo topes across the corners next from the Ducklings, as they take out both sets of opponents, before a missed double stomp led to a knee to White Mike in the corner. Retton rushes in with a big boot to Lude, but Killjoy’s back to make the save as the Gymnasty Boyz almost led to an elimination.
Hey, Ron Niemi… cool it with the puns.
Dickinson comes in to lay out Retton with a kick to the head, before Jaka crushes him with an avalanche in the corner… but somehow Retton’s able to hit a leaping knee before he falls away from Killjoy’s attempted reverse ‘rana. Instead, Retton dumps him with a pumphandle driver for a near-fall. Retton crashes and burns with a shooting star press, then eats the reverse ‘rana from Killjoy as the concept of tags was clearly alien. Lude comes in and gets swung around in a front facelock by White Mike, but that’s quickly followed up when Jaka dumps Mike with a chokebomb for our first elimination.
We’re left with the Ducklings against Catch Point, and Killjoy tries his luck… but ends up taking a Jaka spinebuster before a pair of knee drops force a near-fall. Dickinson comes close with a roll-up, before the Ducklings hit some enziguiri, then stack up the champions in the corner for an assisted cannonball for another two-count!
Lude and Killjoy try to follow up off the top rope with double stomps and a frog splash, but Dickinson breaks up that cover. The “Dirty Daddy” tries to get involved again, but he sidesteps a moonsault off the apron as Jaka crashes into Killjoy with a tope on the outside… and after some vicious boots from Dickinson things looked to be elementary. Even more so when Dickinson dumped Killjoy with a powerbomb, ahead of the Death Trap doomsday chokeslam as the champions retained. Perfectly decent wrestling, but both challengers looked nowhere near their level… in spite of their hype. Good gimmicks though. ***
Chris Dickinson went to underscore his point after the match, threatening to keep beating up their defeated opponents until The End appeared, but Stokely Hathaway came out to calm him down.
Paradise Alley Pro Wrestling Championship: RJ Rude vs. Richard Holliday (c)
When you help EVOLVE with a venue in a first-time city, you get some favours. Having your promotion’s title defended on an iPPV is one of those. We’ve got a different ring announcer for this – a top-knot in a suit.
RJ Rude, came out first with a title belt, but it’s not the one that’s on the line as he’s currently PAPW’s Intercontinental champion. So, is this like PAPW’s Hogan/Warrior WrestleMania 6? RJ is “the Pop Punk Kid” apparently, but he looks about as pop punk as (redacted analogy). Commentary does compare him to a young Joey Janela… presumably pre-deathmatch days, while Holliday’s gimmick isn’t quite as obvious.
Holliday starts with a headlock, before letting Rude go, and that costs him straight away as RJ went for one of his own. Holliday tries to escape, but it leads to a takedown as the challenger clings onto the headlock, only for him to get sent outside. There’s some walk-and-brawl around ringside, with RJ getting thrown into the apron, before Rude reverses a throw into the ringpost, as he followed up with a cannonball off the apron.
Back in the ring though, a distraction from Holliday’s manager, Eric Essex, allows Holliday back into things… and he easily catches Rude’s crossbody, turning it into a backbreaker and a fallaway slam for a solid two-count. A schoolboy goes a little wonky as Holliday recovers into an over-the shoulder backbreaker, but Rude eventually slips out into a backslide for a near-fall as the challenger eventually eats a butterfly backbreaker for another two-count.
That back gives out as Rude went for a death valley driver, but he’s able to rush back with a superkick and some knees in the corner, before a superplex attempt is fought out of. Rude’s able to hit a Samoan driver, only to take too long to make a cover as Essex pulls out the referee, using that stock heel manager tactic. With the ref distracted, Holliday pulls RJ into the turnbuckles, before hitting the Market Crash (no idea how to describe it) for the win. Pretty basic stuff, but this was what it was, sticking out like a sore thumb on the rest of the card. **¼
Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle
We’ve a dual main event, starting with a rudderless Fred Yehi going up against the recently-deposed WWN champion. At least the match should be good, but both these guys really need some direction.
Both men hold a win over the other in prior singles matches at EVOLVE, and it’s Riddle who starts off on top, tripping Yehi as the pair grappled on the mat. A waistlock takedown gets Yehi on top, but Riddle’s able to reverse it as the cagey feeling out process continued unabated. Yehi scrambles into the ropes after Riddle grabbed a chinlock, and from the restart it’s off with some chops, before Yehi starts to stomp on Riddle’s bare feet. It has more effect than usual, unsurprisingly, but Riddle’s able to reply with some gutwrenches as he took Yehi into the corner.
Yehi’s back with a back cracker though, then a stomp to the back of Riddle as he avoiced a leg sweep attempt. Both men end up outside trading chops, but it’s Yehi who edges ahead again with more stomps, before Riddle retaliates with a series of kicks to the chest on the apron. Back inside, Yehi continues to take a beating, with Riddle getting some payback for those earlier stomps, until Yehi counters with upkick. Fred learns the hard way that you can’t German suplex Riddle, as it’s no-sold and met with a Bro to Sleep, then a bridging German for a near-fall for the former WWN champ.
Another kick and a back senton keeps Riddle ahead, but Yehi got up at one as his latest comeback began, as a back-and-forth strike exchange ends with another German suplex from Riddle. Forearms from Riddle end with him taking a low dropkick before he’s yanked up off the mat into a Dragon suplex… and it seems Matt isn’t impervious to those! From the near-fall for that, Yehi rolls into a Koji clutch, but it’s almost his downfall as Riddle rolled back for a near-fall.
Riddle can’t stay on his feet though, collapsing as Yehi capitalises with a powerbomb, before Yehi blisters him with a chop that almost gets the win. Retaliation comes in the form of a ripcord knee strike from Riddle, who follows in with the tombstone slam for a near-fall, before he looked to pull Yehi into a Bromission… but those elbows to the head end with Yehi getting to the ropes, before Yehi burst back in with an Exploder into the corner!
Riddle tries to escape a superplex from Yehi, and eventually shoves him into a Tree of Woe… which Yehi capitalised on with some upkicks. After a ‘rana, Yehi goes back to the Koji clutch, and despite grabbing the ropes, Yehi pulls him back into the middle of the ring, only for Riddle to stand up out of it. The Koji clutch spam continues though, and Riddle eventually passes out as the referee waves off the match. A really good match from bell-to-bell, but the lack of colour and direction for Yehi is really hurting him in the ring, and with crowd interaction. He needs a storyline or something, fast! ***¾
EVOLVE Championship: Tracy Williams vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
This is threatening to become an annual event – Sabre has one prior meeting with “Hot Sauce”, in EVOLVE… exactly a year ago to the very day. Sabre won that match at EVOLVE 70, and you’d expect the same today as well, especially since you’d not think they’d change the title in a new city.
Much like the prior match, we’ve a cagey opening spell as Williams and Sabre roll on the mat but can’t get an advantage going, so they stand up. Second time seemed to be the charm as Williams was able to tweak Sabre’s ankle, before a rope break forced a restart, as Sabre turned things around with his usual search for a submission as the momentum swung back and forth.
Williams’ heel hook is met in kind as they tried to see whose heel would give first, but it was the challenger who kept the upper hand as commentary suggested that Sabre was starting to crack, after having lost to Jaka the prior night. Sabre’s able to get back in with a swift upkick and a sweep of the leg, leaving Williams on the mat. A mounted Kimura attempt sees Sabre abort things, as he’s instead lifted into a wacky knee breaker as Williams goes right back to the knee bar attempt.
The two tee off on each other with boots to the face next, but it’s Williams who’s showing signs of tiring as Sabre just paintbrushes him with a strike before turning around into a clothesline that was never ever going to end the match. Sabre replies with a full nelson that he seamlessly switches into a leglock as Williams tried to escape… but a cross armbreaker from the challenger keeps the fluidity going.
A back suplex from Williams and a sliding forearm nearly gets the shock result, but Sabre pulls himself back up… and ducks a punch as he tried to close the distance on his challenger, eventually landing a Northern Lights suplex before floating over into an armbar. Some near-falls from both sides keep the match going, as a low dropkick from Williams almost took Sabre flying into the corner.
Williams keeps on top with a brainbuster for a near-fall as he goes right back to the leg lock, only for Sabre to slip free and grab an Octopus hold… but that too is countered as Williams somehow turns it into an ankle lock. Elbows free the champion, as does a PK out of the corner… only for Sabre to try and spring out of the corner, and into a Williams crossface! Sabre powers free, and counters into some joint manipulation, bending Williams’ wrist back on itself until the challenger nailed a Saito suplex for some more freedom.
After both men got back to their feet, Sabre and Williams began to pepper each other with all kinds of strikes, until Sabre snuck in another cross armbreaker… Williams tried to counter out into an ankle lock, but this time Sabre’s smart to it, and the Euro clutch countered the counter well enough to snatch the pinfall win! Sublime mat work from both guys – and while the style may not be to everyone’s taste, this was a fine war of technical attrition. One to watch if you’re a fan of the Sabre style of wrestling… and maybe one to skip if you are not. ****
After the match, Stokely Hathaway enters the ring to console Tracy Williams… but we forgot about someone. Or something… The End’s music hits, and Stoke quickly runs away as Drennan, Parrow and Odinson hit the ring to wipe out “Hot Sauce”. Dominic Garrini tries to help, but he too falls to the numbers game until the rest of Catch Point, and the EVOLVE locker room for that matter, makes the save. Perhaps a little too soon to have The End face off with the rest of the company en masse, but it’s always fun to end with a little chaos from time to time. Even if it meant Darby Allin doing a Coffin Drop from a basketball hoop.
JESUS CHRIST, DARBY!
The End are sent packing, as Jason Kincaid declared “that was the beginning.” Cute. The typical post-show “thank you” to the fans followed, and that’s it for the show!
EVOLVE 95 was a show that definitely showed that the company was in the middle of a rebuild. So many debutants thrown out in one night tends to be the give away… but unfortunately, very few of them seemed to fit in either. Both sets of challengers for the tag titles looked a million miles away from EVOLVE’s in-ring standards, while it’s fair to say that the rest of the newcomers haven’t quite established themselves either. The promotion would take a month off as they’d return in December with a pair of shows that would ensure that EVOLVE ended 2017 on a high.