After a hot show in Queens, EVOLVE returned to Brooklyn for the second half of their January double-header, featuring a mouthwatering non-title match between WALTER and Zack Sabre Jr.

With Style Battle’s series finale having taken place earlier in the day, we’re still at the Saint Finbar’s Catholic Church Gym, with Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi hosting from the ring, as we open up with the prelims!

Brody King vs. Darby Allin
As strange as it is for Darby to be busted all the way down to the prelims, I do like this gimmick… particularly since he took it as a punishment.

Darby wasn’t exactly rushing into action, as he paced around King before slapping him in the face. It’s returned as Darby tricks King to the outside before launching into him with a tope as his frustrated side came out. For some reason Darby’s set up a chair, and after King clumsily lands in the chair after a dropkick from the apron, Allin crushes it with a tope con giro!

On the outside, Allin grabs a hammerlock’d guillotine, but King charges him into the apron to break free. A Coffin Drop back inside doesn’t work as King counters into a German suplex for a near-fall, and it’s all King from there, as he lit up Darby with chops, only to take a tornado suplex as the Seattle native fought back. A Fujiwara-ish armbar takes Brody into the ropes, but on the outside Darby tries it again, before he took himself into the crowd with another tope, this time knocking King off the guard railings in the process.

Darby’s still in the stage of throwing himself and whatever he can think of at his opponent, to get the win, as witnessed by a Coffin Drop from the top rope into the crowd, but aside from that and those armbars, there was very little in the way of Allin actually trying to finish things. Allin ended up getting choked into a supporting column as the match just broke down into a brawl in the crowd, but rather than the referee start a count, he just watched on as Allin was Beel thrown over the guard railings.

Back in the ring, King flips Darby with a lariat, but Darby doesn’t stay down, and as we enter the final minute, Allin’s back to that armbar. Brody stands up out of it and pulls Darby into a Tree of Woe for a cannonball as Allin’s chances were running out, as a release back superplex ensured that the match ended with both men on the mat. A time limit draw’s the official result, and this was… meandering. I like how Allin’s forcing himself to rebuild, but he probably should find a way to produce results in time limited matches, especially when the gimmick is that he never tried a single pinfall attempt once! **¾

Snoop Strikes vs. Jarek 1:20
I’m starting to get an ear for EVOLVE’s chiptunes – Jarek’s using a soundalike of Mudvayne’s “Happy?” here as I swear we get a clone of Don Callis on commentary. Yeah, it’s for Candy Cartwright… whose role as an assistant is quickly neutered when Jarek asks the ref to disrobe him.

You had one job, Candy…

Jarek, whom commentary notes is already stagnating on these prelims, tries to get a jump on things, but Snoop used his pace to get an early near-fall with a wheelbarrow bulldog. He’s quickly backdropped onto the apron though, before Jarek counters a slingshot into the ring into an Ace crusher as the magician looked to capitalise.

That earlier landing on the apron seemed to jar Strikes’ knee, giving Jarek something to target, as witnessed by a hard slam into the ropes as Strikes’ knee recoiled off the strands. There’s more bad magician puns, as Jarek had no sleeves to put anything up, and quickly gets a German suplex for his troubles, before Strikes nearly lands on his own head while delivering a Blockbuster.

Jarek kicked out from that, before shoving away Sliced Bread and punching out Snoop for a two-count. Snoop rebounds with an armdrag and a back cracker in the ropes, following up with a frog splash for an eventual two-count. His attempt to counter a slingshot saw him kicked away in the ropes, crotching Strikes on the top before he was pulled down into a Dominator for the win. Decent enough, but Jarek’s got a LOT of developing to do on these prelims – the act just doesn’t seem ready for the main EVOLVE roster, as it’s clear that they’re trying to pivot back to his regular indy gimmick. **½

Wheeler YUTA vs. KTB
We’ve seen YUTA a few times on Beyond, while KTB is quickly becoming a prelim regular for EVOLVE, and there’s a clear size difference on hand here.

KTB tries to use his power to wear down YUTA early on, but Wheeler’s got pace as he avoids a charge, before hitting a springboard armdrag in the opening exchanges. The power game quickly comes back when KTB just press slams YUTA to the floor, before he lands a release Falcon arrow as YUTA tried to make it back to the ring.

A sliding lariat from KTB gets a two-count, as does a brainbuster, but Wheeler tries to fire back with chops, only for KTB to hit harder. YUTA keeps trying to snatch the win, with a springboard dropkick taking KTB outside for a springboard senton… and back inside for a crossbody, but it’s nowhere near enough. Just like that, KTB replies with a fireman’s carry takedown, before YUTA tried to escape a Quebrada… except that was the finish, and YUTA takes it on his head as KTB took the win. Decent enough, and pretty much a squash for KTB, who I have a feeling is being prepped for something big in EVOLVE. **¾

We switch to the regular crew for the main show – Timothy Barr as ring announcer, with Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi on commentary. But first, Austin Theory hits the ring as he has a promo… the crowd are on his back almost instantly as he bragged about leaving Zack Sabre Jr. laying the previous night.

It’s a cookie cutter promo as there’s no real story between Theory and Sabre… but Austin does have one he wants to tie up: he wants to put the issue with Jason Kincaid to bed after the latter had spent the better part of the year trying to “save” Theory from himself.

Austin Theory vs. Jason Kincaid
Theory meets Kincaid in the aisle with some clubbing blows, before Kincaid fires back with a springboard forearm and the over-the-ropes stomp as we get action before the bell even rings!

Theory keeps up by throwing Kincaid into the apron, and now the bell goes as Theory rolls him inside. An early TKO attempt is blocked as Kincaid fires back with a stomp, before Theory again shows his power by catching a ‘rana attempt outside… and turning it into a swing as Kincaid’s whacked into the apron!

It’s pretty much all Theory, but Kincaid finally snaps and launches into a comeback, taking Theory into the corner before a springboard’s knocked away with a forearm! An attempted suplex into the ring sees Kincaid counter back with a Stundog Millionaire, dropping Theory across the top rope, before coming in with a neckbreaker and a rebound kneedrop.

Kincaid’s offence continues with a facebuster for a two-count, before headbutts and clotheslines knock the youngster down… only for Theory to rebound with a forearm instead. Theory nearly nicks the win with the cross-legged brainbuster (Kenny Omega’s Aoi Shoudou), before he heads up top to mock Kincaid… only to be pulled down away from a top rope stomp and into a Falcon Arrow for a near-fall.

The two end up on the top rope together, with Theory teasing a superplex to the floor, only to be shoved down as Kincaid went for – and missed – a Del Rio double stomp. Kincaid screams in pain as he lands, with officials suddenly rushing out to tend to him, as if you needed any indication it was a work. They stop the match, but Theory and Priscilla Kelly continue to beat down on Kincaid, despite Theory having been awarded the match via stoppage. Clearly not the end of the feud, and a rather flat ending all told. **¾

Timothy Thatcher vs. Fred Yehi
They dug out the remixed version of the RINGKAMPF theme for Thatcher here, and we’ve a rematch from almost a year ago at EVOLVE 78 in Thatcher’s final days as champion. We’ve already beaten the dead horse that is “rudderless Fred Yehi”, but to be fair, on his own, Thatcher’s pretty much in the same boat as the “have creative” and “have nots” in EVOLVE stick out quite clearly.

Save for the guy singing the RINGKAMPF theme, there’s not much reaction as Thatcher tried to end things with a quick submission before being forced to the outside by a retaliating Yehi. In the ring again, Yehi keeps Thatcher grounded before jawing with the crowd as he changes his style a little.

Thatcher ties up Yehi’s legs as he pulls him into a bow and arrow hold, but it invariably leads to a pinning attempt before Thatcher’s armbar attempt ends in the ropes. Yehi drags Thatcher outside as he tries to switch things around again, suckering Timmy into some stomps, as the nasty side of Timmy was quickly snuffed out. A modified surfboard stretch saw Yehi try to keep Thatcher down, before he switches into a backdrop suplex for a two-count that generates… silence. For some reason there’s chants of “David Starr”, ending when Thatcher gets the rebound belly-to-belly off the ropes as the Brooklyn crowd seemed to vary between “mild claps”, “slight booing” and silence in terms of their reactions.

Thatcher tries to wear down Yehi by throwing him into the apron, before a grounded chinlock and some gutwrenches earned him a near-fall. Yehi’s straight back with a powerbomb, before Thatcher cuts him off with a backdrop driver and a butterfly suplex as this crowd barely mustered an applause. Again, Yehi comes back with a release German, before he steals Thatcher’s RINGKAMPF scarf ahead of another comeback. See, the power really is in that thing! After a stomp, Yehi nearly snares the three-count with a Fisherman’s suplex, before going back to the German suplexes and an eventual wheelbarrow roll-up.

Yehi tries for a Koji clutch, but it’s escaped as he switches to those up-kicks, only to try the Bret Hart finish to escape a rear naked choke. That’s only enough for a two-count as Yehi’s next pinning attempt by way of a backslide ends up being escaped by Thatcher, who applies the Fujiwara armbar for the quick submission. Decent enough from bell-to-bell, but there’s something majorly wrong in EVOLVE – look at Thatcher here compared to in wXw, and it’s like night and day. Maybe that long run as champion has made him untouchable here? The lack of crowd reactions to him certainly didn’t help liven things up, that’s for sure. ***¼

Tornado Tag: Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Dominic Garrini) vs. The End (Parrow & Odinson)
After yesterday’s impromptu no-DQ match, which saw Parrow take The End’s first loss, we’ve got this tornado tag, which guarantees more insanity. Sadly, EVOLVE didn’t play The End’s music on loop a la New Jack, and we eventually get to The End tearing through Catch Point… at least until Odinson clotheslined the ring post by mistake.

In the ring, Parrow’s forced to withstand a mounted sleeper from Garrini, breaking it up by simply bumping onto his back, as Williams then capitalised by flying… only for Parrow to catch him. Williams tries to land a missile dropkick, but it barely staggers Parrow, who replies with a buckle bomb as Odinson hits the ring for a massive pounce that the camera missed.

Williams is left isolated as The End continued the beatdown on him, going two-on-one with forearms in the corner before Hot Sauce evaded a flying Odinson. The numbers game quickly takes over though as Williams eats another buckle bomb before Odinson’s Exploder left him down… as Garrini again gets knocked off the apron as The End continued to isolate.

Eventually we get the bumbling “bad guys attack each other” spot as Garrini mounts a comeback, but Parrow’s size allows him to snuff it out, only for Garrini to Dragon screw him down into an ankle lock. Williams launches off of a doubled-over Parrow to dropkick Odinson to the outside, before throwing in a crossface to Parrow as well… but Odinson’s dropkick blasts away Garrini as Parrow powers free. Bloody hell, that’s impressive.

Garrini’s left laying as a pumphandle driver from Odinson left him down, ahead of an avalanche from Parrow, only for another pounce to get turned into a triangle armbar on Odinson. Williams tries for one of his own, but it’s broken up as the pair lift up and turn it into a Super Collider instead. The End follows up with a powerbomb/back cracker that looked off, before seemingly forgetting to make the pin, as Parrow eventually folded up Williams for the three-count. Well, this keeps the End’s rivalry with Catch Point going, while solidifying Williams and Garrini as the Catch Point B-team. A fun brawl, but I’d like to see The End perhaps wiping out some others in proper matches for a while before going for the tag titles… ***

Jaka vs. Matt Riddle
With recent (non-title) wins over Zack Sabre Jr. and Keith Lee, Jaka’s showing a LOT of potential… all he needs to do is escape the tag team stigma he’s currently got. Regardless of the result, this match against the former WWN champion Matt Riddle should keep Jaka’s credentials high.

A prolonged opening tie-up sees Jaka try for an early roll-up as the pair decide to swap duelling chants of “Bro” and “YEOW”. It’s very corny, and thankfully it’s stopped as Riddle goes into some snapping gutwrenches, before he corners Jaka for a series of forearms. Jaka hits back with a cannonball into the corner, but it barely gets him a two-count as Riddle looked to have tweaked his knee.

Rather than go for it, Jaka rips away on Riddle’s face, before nailing a suplex for a near-fall as commentary notes the irony of Riddle using rope breaks when he’d recently been campaigning to do away with them. Chops from Jaka lead to him taking Riddle down for some ground and pound as the EVOLVE tag champion looked to keep Riddle down and as far away from his usual game as possible.

A crossbody off the top from Jaka is met with a dropkick from Riddle, before a bicycle knee and a Fisherman’s buster gets Riddle back in it for a near-fall. Riddle keeps up with some back sentons, crushing Jaka repeatedly until he leapt into some raised knees… Riddle tries to hit back with a German suplex, but it’s no-sold… as was Jaka’s receipt… and wash, rinse, repeat! Eventually Jaka elbows free as he took RIddle down, before awkwardly running into a Bro To Sleep, as a roundhouse kick again left both men down.

Both men sit up to beat the standing ten-count, leading to Yehi biting an up-kick from Riddle and countering with a knee to the face… followed by a thrust kick as the near-falls kept a’coming. Riddle escapes a choke bomb and locks in a sleeper, but Jaka escapes and gets the pop-up powerbomb for a near-fall, before working his way into a Sharpshooter after watching Riddle kick-out.

Eventually, Riddle’s able to roll through into a knee bar, before following up with a knee and a tombstone slam for a near-fall. The Bryan Danielson elbows follow as Riddle looked to be building up to a Bromission, but Jaka bites free, before taking a powerbomb… but he blocks a knee from Riddle, who ends up trapping him in the Bromission anyway for the submission! Easily the best thing on this card so far – enjoyable back-and-forth, and I’m calling this now – if Jaka leaves Catch Point, he’s going to be a breakout star in EVOLVE this year. ****

WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I notice that I’m saying “this is my graps” a lot whenever WALTER is involved… this isn’t for Sabre’s EVOLVE title, which may tip off the result.

Sabre’s gone back to his old song here, since I guess the American crowd didn’t know what “scaring a Tory” meant… He starts by trying to back away from WALTER, as the Austrian ended up backing him into the corner at the start, before WALTER just threw him to the mat with a side headlock takedown. It’s all power in the opening stages as WALTER was low-key dominating the EVOLVE champion thanks to the size difference that was in play.

Sabre’s forced back in when he takes WALTER into the ropes to force a break from a front facelock, before taking WALTER into close range for some kicks to the legs. Eventually a test of strength sees Sabre take WALTER down after taking out the knee, but der Ringgeneral is back in it as he flattens Sabre’s attempt to bridge up out of a test of strength.

Then we go to the strikes. Oh holy hell. Those massive chops take Sabre down with ease, before they switch up to slaps and boots as WALTER was more than happy to return whatever fire was getting thrown his way. Sabre does manage to sneak back in as he tried to go for the arm, stomping on WALTER’s forearm… before another chop knocks him back down. Plan B, anyone?

That guy’s still singing Symphony No. 9 as WALTER continued to play along with Sabre’s attempt to wait for the big guy to punch himself tired… while throwing in the odd submission attempt. They head outside, where WALTER’s more than happy to keep throwing in chops before launching Sabre into the ring apron, and this is looking like a real mis-match, with Sabre’s odd shot getting wiped out with ease.

Back inside, it’s more of the same, with WALTER obliterating Sabre with chops until the champion tries another comeback, bouncing off of him with a back elbow before launching into a tornado DDT out of the corner. A PK helps Sabre come back in, but WALTER ends up catching one and landing a slap, only for Sabre to slowly work in his submission game, grabbing an Octopus hold until it’s hiptoss’d free.

A massive shotgun dropkick from WALTER makes Sabre recoil into the corner… as does a boot to the head as Sabre’s quickly caught in a Gojira clutch, followed by a RINGKAMPF German and a butterfly suplex for a two-count. Another powerbomb’s slipped out of as Sabre goes back to the Octopus hold, adding in some joint manipulation for the hell of it, before WALTER just flipped him around as if he was going for the sit-out tombstone.

Sabre escapes again, then sidesteps a dropkick from WALTER as the champion finally got a foothold into things, kicking away some clotheslines before a brief slap battle sent both men down. An attempt at the Euro Clutch almost saw Sabre fall into the Gojira clutch, before escaping that… only for WALTER’s next crack at a powerbomb to get turned into another guillotine, which he counters effortlessly into a butterfly suplex as the fluidity of this left the crowd in awe.

More strikes from WALTER leave Sabre rocked as the champion again gets suckered into that game, before he counters a clothesline into a cross armbreaker. WALTER rolled it into a pinning attempt, but that just made it easier to apply a triangle armbar… but with the free hand WALTER clubs his way free and after nailing a powerbomb… Sabre’s up at one?! Bloody hell! It’s false hope though, as WALTER goes for a Ricola bomb, switching it into a regular powerbomb at the end as this war ended with another loss for Sabre. Yep, very much my graps! ****½

Barely as soon as the match finished, Darby Allin hit the ring to challenge Sabre to “one more match”. Hell, he couldn’t even beat Brodie King earlier… and that might have been going through Tim Thatcher’s mind when he confronted Allin. WALTER’s displeased too, as he admonishes Darby… and the death wish is shown as Darby shoves WALTER, before he’s met with a big boot and a Gojira clutch as WALTER put him in his place.

WWN Championship: Chris Dickinson vs. Keith Lee (c)
Our sole title match of the day sees Keith Lee put his WWN title on the line against Catch Point’s bruiser… with the winner going straight into a defence against AR Fox at EVOLVE 100.

Dickinson’s out in a Darth Maul mask for… reasons. He’s also had a clean shave, which is such a jarring look, and not-at-all “Dirty Daddy”-like. The match starts with Dickinson trying to rush Lee, but he’s quickly shoved away and booted down, before realising that he may have better chance with chops and kicks…

But a single Keith Lee forearm drops him. As you were then.

The blurry hard camera almost obscured a Keith Lee moonsault, but Dickinson catches him out of the corner with a Pazuzu bomb for a near-fall, as Dickinson wears down on a grounded Lee with stomps. Lee’s back to his feet for a forearm though, only for Dickinson to throw some knees as he tried to keep the champion down.

Some shots in the corner keep Lee restrained, before Dickinson grounded Lee with a modified cloverleaf, as the WWN champion looked far from dominant. Just as I say that though, Lee reverses a whip and throws a double-handed chop into Dickinson before Beel throwing him across the ring, only for a charge into the corner to miss as Dickinson threw in a missile dropkick… and was then caught flying again as Lee ended up throwing a knee or two.

Eventually Lee goes for a clothesline, but Dickinson clubs his way free, sparking a striking battle that the Dirty Daddy was always going to struggle to win out. We’re back with chops, that sting Dickinson’s chest, but some kicks take Lee into the corner for an avalanche clothesline before Dickinson runs into a one-handed spinebuster for a near-fall. Lee tries to follow up with a moonsault, and this time he connects for a near-fall, before a long set-up for Ground Zero sees Dickinson slip out into a small package for a near-fall!

A diving enziguiri follows as the challenger picks up another two-count, before he’s caught playing to the crowd as Lee stands up and catches him with a Spirit Bomb for another near-fall. Lee’s next effort is to go to the ropes again, but Dickinson catches him, and instead of going for another Pazuzu Bomb, we get a super reverse ‘rana! Holy hell, men of that size should not be that agile…

Lee somehow kicks out at two after that, before slipping out of a Fireman’s carry to waffle Dickinson with some elbows. A headbutt follows as he then slumps onto Dickinson for a two-count, before Lee dragged himself back into the corner… but again he’s caught on the top rope, with Dickinson eventually fighting his way up into a superplex for a two-count! Frustrated, Dickinson keeps going, peppering Lee with body shots before running into Ground Zero, and that’s it! A bit of a sudden finish, but another fantastic, hard-hitting match to close us out. ****

So Keith Lee’s facing AR Fox in his next title shot at EVOLVE 100, but there’s one more challenger as Tracy Williams heads out and takes advantage of the worn down Lee, powerbombing him out of the corner with a slight assist from Stokely Hathaway before issuing a challenge for EVOLVE 101.

EVOLVE 99 was pretty much a show of two halves – the prelims and the first half were alright, but utterly forgettable fare. The final three matches are all worth your time, and if you’re a fan of the hard hitting stuff, then the top two are bouts you need to find time for in your life. When EVOLVE is good, it’s really good… but while they’re still rebuilding, there’s still the odd tweak here and there to make in terms of the roster (I’d like to see more variety in the prelims, for instance), they’re more than over the bump they had towards the end of 2017.