February 17 2018
We’re in New York at La Boom. 100 EVOLVE’s? Where does the time go?
Darby Allin vs. Jarek 1-20 vs. Jason Kincaid
It’s weird to me that Darby Allin did such an outstanding job of main eventing an EVOLVE show and has, from a character stand-point, put himself back in the prelims. Then he couldn’t beat Brody King. It feels weird putting him in with Kincaid and the magician, neither of whom are on his level. At least he’s booked in something interesting tomorrow but he can lose that spot if he loses tonight. Triple threats often feel a bit ‘dancy’ and that’s very much the case here. Everything looks very pre-planned. There’s some cool looking spots but I can’t get past the nature of the contest. Jarek 1-20 is on WWE’s radar because of his gimmick. They’re always looking for something different and he offers a genuine secondary point of interest as a magician. A conjuror of cheap tricks. I do dig his Sleeping Beauty punch. I imagine WWE would want him to do more gimmicky moves like that. Allin stands out here, because he’s fucking nuts. Allin wipes out Jarek with a big flip and his figure four pin takes out Kincaid for the win. This wasn’t good until Darby took over.
Final Rating: **
Post Match: Jarek tells Allin he’s a fluke and if they wrestled one on one he’d lose. Darby punks him out and the crowd chant “magic sucks”. “This is Darby Allin’s company” says Darby into the microphone. It damn well is too. He’s their guy. EVOLVE need an identity. A guy who is EVOLVE through and through and that’s Darby Allin.
Fred Yehi vs. Dominic Garrini
Yehi is “angry, pissed off and short”. He’s also coming along great in the technical stakes. Yehi is a right little bastard and he stomps on Garrini’s exposed feet. I’m still not convinced there’s much value in going into bouts barefoot. Garrini is a big prospect but it’s clear he’s not on Fred’s level. It’ll be interesting to watch him develop. He has a lot of the same attributes that Matt Riddle had when he first entered the business. I’m not convinced he has anything approaching Riddle’s all-round game and charisma though. You can see his thought processes and he telegraphs whether a move will connect or not. Yehi puts him away inside eight minutes. This was fine.
Final Rating: **1/2
Anthony Henry vs. Tracy Williams
I’ve mentioned how I feel about Hot Sauce before. How he’s one of these guys that doesn’t feel special in any way. He’s a perfectly solid technician but I don’t feel a character or personality there. Henry is a guy who’s been bubbling under on the US scene for years and years and is an example of how segmented American wrestling can be. He spent years beavering away in Georgia and North Carolina, fine-tuning his skills, and he only really broke out last year after 8-9 years in the business. It does make you wonder who else is hidden away in the US Indies, not able to escape the regional nature of the American scene. Anthony Henry is really good. He’s intense, has a good look and a presence. He shows good fire in this hard-hitting contest and he’d be a good talent for a Japanese promotion to use. I could see him in NOAH, easily. Some of the rope work in this is both innovative and exciting. Real thought has gone into the processes. Tracy unloads some major bombs in this including a wrist-clutch backdrop driver and a swank piledriver. Big Stoke jumps on the apron, collides with Hot Sauce and Henry superkicks him for the pin. Excellent little match here. Did lots for Henry, even though the crowd were pro-Williams.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: The End turn up to attack Catch Point. This segues right into…
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c) vs. Odinson & Parrow
I’m really not into the whole ‘brawl around the building’ nature of this stable vs. stable storyline. They keep this one in the ring but maintain the same style. Dickinson throws a bunch of chairs in and the match is thrown out. Urgh, whatever. I continue to not give the slightest of fucks about this storyline. They brawl around for ages afterwards just to run my interest levels absolutely into the ground.
Final Rating: NR
James Drake vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle cuts a rare promo, asking for a match with no rope breaks. Riddle’s take on wrestling is that rope breaks are bullshit. Drake has weight issues. I’ve addressed those before but where his extra baggage comes in handy is when he’s unloading chops and such and he can put his mass into those spots. It makes him a genuine threat to a more established talent like Riddle. The chop battles in this are brilliant. There are times around this where Riddle relies on his established formula (no selling a German suplex, once again) but the strike battles are wonderful. Refreshingly different. I wish Riddle went to war with people more often, rather than try and put together what is considered by seasoned wrestlers as a structured match. When you’re a special talent you’re allowed to break the rules. Look at Brock Lesnar. The simple fact of the matter is that Riddle can do it all and he barely works out and smokes weed all the time. Bastard. I like how much abuse Drake absorbs here. Refusing to back down and flipping Riddle off. “Hit me bitch!” I love the intensity and the match is borderline reckless. The Drake cannonball is ridiculous. Matt is a brave guy. He’ll take whatever the fuck you want to throw at him but damn. The crowd get very into this and I can’t blame them. Riddle traps Drake under the bottom rope and keeps pounding him with strikes until the ref stops it with Drake unresponsive. I like the MMA style referee stoppage and the no rope break stuff was good. If you like your action hard-hitting you’ll dig this. Riddle is quickly building a catalogue of work on the Indies that compares to Hero’s last year out in the wild before going back to New York (or Florida, I guess).
Final Rating: ****
Keith Lee (c) vs. AR Fox
Keith is the second WWN champion, having taken the belt from first champion Matt Riddle in a belter at EVOLVE 94. This is defence number four. Fox is an unlikely contender as he is out-sized and has a huge power disadvantage. There are two avenues of attack; high flying and cheating. He goes for flying first, in all fairness. Fox’s EVOLVE character is a winner. His entourage and wife in tow while he dances. Dancing whenever he gets even the slightest advantage over Keith Lee. AR Fox has a belief in his abilities and that’s why it’s believable that he can come after Keith’s belt. I much prefer my Keith Lee matches to involve Keith mangling his opponent, as it’s realistic, but with that opponent getting in plenty of hope spots. That’s what this match is. They establish what Fox can do early and have him as a threat, making it believable that he can win. Plus Fox has won matches due to outside interference so that issue exists for the champ. The distraction remains just that, with the posse staying out of the match, and Fox does the hard work himself. Especially in countering Ground Zero into a roll up. AR keeps surviving the big spots, including the Spirit Bomb. AR gets his shit in too, hitting two 450 Splashes with Lee busting out those last gasp kick-outs.
It ends suddenly with a tug-o-war. Keith overpowers and hits Ground Zero to retain. This was another great match. Keith bringing in too much for Fox to deal with. Too much power, too much energy. AR brought everything in his locker and it wasn’t enough.
Final Rating: ****
Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs. Austin Theory
Sabre has been a strong champion for EVOLVE and the variety of opponents has helped. I loved the Darby Allin defence and this is another up and coming opponent, keeping the theme of ‘established guy vs. up and comer’ on this show.
Sabre is coming up on one full year as EVOLVE champion and while it’s unlikely that Theory will beat him here it’s a good storyline. It’s easy to forget how quickly Theory has evolved from rookie to main event. He debuted in May 2016. Most guys, 18 months into their careers, are not main eventing. As with the last match there is an outside interference aspect with Priscilla Kelly being in Theory’s corner. Unlike with the AR Fox team Kelly has no issue with interfering all the time. Theory has the power advantage but that’s about all he’s got. Sabre is the superior technician and has the experience advantage, by a mile. Theory is limited by competent. Everything he does looks good, even if the moves involved are very basic. That’s probably the best way to go about wrestling. Get good at the basics and then layer in your character on top of that. Rather than learning some wacky moves and littering your matches with them, botching half the time. Theory is a throwback in that regard. Sabre chains submissions and controls Theory once they’re on the mat. It’s a lesson in wrestling for young Austin. His early successes dismantled by Sabre’s technical skill. Sabre gets too cocky though and feels Theory is so inferior to him that he can just piss about. This is Theory’s route back into the contest. Unfortunately for Austin, he’s even cockier.
Priscilla Kelly plays a big role in Austin’s near success; sneaking in a missile dropkick at one point. She wants that gold more than Theory! Sabre’s technique is consistently superb here. The vicious PK, into a pin, into an kneebar is great stuff. It gets a wee bit scrappy down the stretch but Sabre takes over and transitions from one submission to another until Theory has had enough and taps out. Excellent showing from Austin Theory here, although as per usual it’s the Zack Sabre Jr show.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Sabre’s celebrations are cut short by Matt Riddle. Sabre tells him to get in line. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” says Riddle, directly quoting from Dumb and Dumber. Sabre leaves but Theory jumps Riddle.
This show finished very strong. Last three matches were all very good. It’s not in New Japan’s league of finishing the show with three massive matches but they were close.