January 14 2018
We’re in Brooklyn, New York at the Saint Finbar Catholic Church Gym. I dropped into EVOLVE for EVOLVE 98, my yearly stop off to see how EVOLVE is doing, and enjoyed myself so much I’m back for EVOLVE 99. It’s taken a lot longer to get around to this because I’m back at work and I had a backlog (already). Three weeks into the year and I already have eight shows on the schedule, not including the inevitable next puro dump, which should add another half dozen shows to that stack. The more wrestling I watch, the more wrestling I feel like I’ve missed.
Brodie King vs. Darby Allin
Weird that Darby has gone from main event to opening prelim contest. Bit of a fall from grace. He cuts a promo saying he deserves to start back at the bottom.
As action gets underway comms announce Munemori Sawa is on WWN’s WrestleMania weekend. Darby wrestles in a hoodie and like a maniac. He’s so fast and comes across as a genuine nutcase. It takes King out of his game, which is all about power and dominance but he looks totally overwhelmed by Darby’s persona. Allin definitely made himself into a big deal in EVOLVE last night and he continues to do that here. When it doesn’t matter where you are on a card because it’s YOU that’s the star…that’s a big career step up. Unfortunately the booking doesn’t favour Darby and they go ten minutes with Brodie getting the rub of a draw against newly minted main eventer Allin. Darby is definitely the stand-out here with reckless dive after reckless dive. Time limit expires after ten minutes, because we’re in the prelims, and the crowd fucking loathe that outcome.
Final Rating: **1/2
Snoop Strikes vs. Jarek 1-20
Jarek has a magician gimmick, which I didn’t even notice at EVOLVE 98. His ‘assistant’ is Candy Cartwright.
This is also a prelim match.
“Is he an escape artist?”
“I haven’t seen him escape these prelims yet”
Not sure I like Snoop Strikes’ name. It’s a bit like being called Bono Kicks. Or Stormzy Punches. Jarek goes after his leg to stop all the flipping. Snoop does a half-decent job of maintaining the leg story by selling. Someone in the crowd starts a really catchy “We Hate Candy” chant and nobody joins in. Come on lads. At least try and have a good time. Jarek takes the win, thanks to psychology and such.
Final Rating: **1/4
Wheeler YUTA vs. Kyle the Beast
I’ve never heard of Wheeler YUTA but it looks like he fell out of a Tron cosplay convention. KTB looks like he should be Scottish. He reminds me of Jack Jester. KTB has a big size advantage and dominates the offence, although he doesn’t seem particularly driven. You’d expect the guys in the prelims to go hard and fast. Some of his strikes are tidy. Wheeler is just a warm body for him to mangle, although he does occasionally utilise speed and flips. KTB wins with a “Lionsault”, which just about clips the fallen YUTA. This was fine.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: Austin Theory
He suggests he’s in line for an EVOLVE title shot and then calls out Jason Kincaid so he can get Kincaid out of his way.
Austin Theory vs. Jason Kincaid
I’ve not seen much of Kincaid and he impresses me in the early going. He has a lot of weird looking flips. He didn’t do much for me in the four-way at EVOLVE 98 but he’s more impressive here. Meanwhile on the floor Priscilla Kelly is so much better than Candy Cartwright in every possible way. She’s worked hard on that gimmick and her look and she’s a star in the making. Everything she does at ringside enhances Theory and makes him look like a bigger deal. The match has a few timing issues.
In particular it seems to be Theory waiting on an out of position Kincaid. Kincaid’s whole approach to wrestling is on the edge of sanity. He has some wacky ideas, that remind of Chris Kanyon with Jeff Hardy’s lack of concern for his own body. Not all of it clicks but there’s enough stuff in there to make him one to watch. Kincaid misses a double stomp on the apron and goes down selling his knee and the referee calls it. Theory confirms it’s a work by stomping on him but it’s Kelly who again wins me over by going completely nuts on Kincaid. She’s great. The story was better than the work here.
Final Rating: **1/2
Timothy Thatcher vs. Fred Yehi
Ringkampf Tim Thatcher is the best Tim Thatcher. Fred is a chap that enjoys a bit of mat grappling so we do that and it is good.
They perhaps settle into a pattern of slow-paced grappling a little too quickly, especially as the opening two minutes are so good. When they hit the slower stuff it’s very methodical and a painful reminder of Thatcher’s dismally dull title run. It’s still fresh in the memory. Yehi is the one who knows when to force the pace. Especially when he nicks Thatcher’s Ringkampf scarf and goes on a rampage. When Tim is forced into a higher gear his defensive wrestling kicks in and that’s when the match gets really good. I do enjoy the logical flow of the match where one move logically leads to another, which includes Yehi attempting a backslide but getting countered right into the Fujiwara Armbar and Thatcher wins. The lull in the middle of this one was substantial but it started and finished brilliantly.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Tracy Williams & Dominic Garrini vs. Odinson & Parrow
Catch Point are having issues with The End and that’s why it’s tornado rules. I don’t have much interest in the feud so it’s tough to get into this and it’s even harder when the EVOLVE camera boys miss half the big spots. You just get a reaction shot of someone sprawled on the canvas, or something happening just out of view.
Hot Sauce and Garrini do some decent tag stuff but for a tornado match I expect more carnage and it doesn’t happen. Or it might, but the camera crew miss it. It’s also disjointed as fuck, just rambling from one spot to the next. Garrini is easily the star of the match, popping off submissions out of nowhere. Hot Sauce manages to pin himself going after a triangle but the ref decides not to count it. It doesn’t make any difference as Odinson & Parrow hit a couple of tag moves and win anyway. This match had a number of failings. Some of them on the company and their mediocre production. The rest on the boys, especially the heels who told a weird story. I don’t know the manager’s name (I think it’s Drennen) but I don’t rate him at all. Brian Kendrick looking fucker. And this is the match that leads into intermission!
Final Rating: *3/4
Matt Riddle vs. Jaka
Riddle has created this aura around him and his matches. He’s a special wrestler with a great personality. Everything he does feels special. Jaka has to bring a lot of aggression, to stop himself being steamrollered. If this was taking place in any other promotion Jaka would have no chance at all but he’s an EVOLVE regular so they create a story where they’re close, in terms of talent. Riddle’s timing is exquisite. Especially when he’s landing strikes. He moves into position so quickly that he leave it super late and still connect. So Jaka is never left waiting around for a moment. It’s upon him perfectly. Riddle has developed a distaste for German suplexes and his persistent no-selling of them is perverse. I’m not sure I like it at all. They beat the crap out of each other and the crowd finally comes to life. Riddle is fantastic and Jaka hangs in there. It never ceases to amaze me that Riddle has been wrestling for only a couple of years. He’s so far advanced already. The finish is sensational with Riddle jumping on Jaka’s back and elbowing the fuck out of him. Jaka collapses into the Bromission and has to tap out. Jaka got his nose busted with one of those elbows. This fucking rocked! When they got into it with the strikes and Jaka hung in there it was awesome. Riddle is different class and has grown up in EVOLVE. It’s gotten to the point where he’s too big for this promotion.
Final Rating: ****
Zack Sabre Jr vs. WALTER
Europe has invaded here. These two had a banger at PWG during All Star Weekend and this starts hot and heavy. WALTER is so big and scary. Sabre has been a dominant EVOLVE champion but WALTER is not only powerful but he is technically savvy too.
Sabre has to up his game with a ridiculous bridge on his neck to lift WALTER’s entire weight. Sabre needs to do freakish things to throw WALTER off his game but even when he does with slaps and stuff WALTER just kicks his ass. There’s some sensational stuff like WALTER stomping on Sabre’s chest and then panicking, realising he’d left his leg in there and trying to get away, caught in a kneebar. Like when Brock Lesnar lost to Frank Mir. But WALTER isn’t Lesnar. He has too much power and he can strike like a motherfucker. Sabre keeps making the same mistake; trying to make WALTER lose his temper. It just doesn’t work. WALTER is cold and calculating and when he strikes you, you stay struck. Sabre makes a few poor choices from a sports entertainment perspective too. I don’t agree with his bumps off the chops. It makes the chops look fake, when the noise tells me otherwise. I love WALTER refusing to take a second PK and grabbing the leg. It’s in the follow up from that where Sabre gains some actual traction with his myriad of holds. However he persists in trying to upset WALTER and for that he is decimated. Sabre’s plan B appears to be to get WALTER to punch himself out and drag the match on until WALTER is simply too tired and can’t carry his own weight around. Which is why so many of his submissions involve WALTER carrying Sabre’s full weight, like the Octopus. It’s a sly strategy from Zack but WALTER is just too much for him. The near falls at the finish, where Sabre’s tricks run headlong into WALTER’s brutality is all so good. It’s perhaps a notch below the PWG match because it lacks the pacing and the hot crowd but it’s still awesome. Sabre fights to try and get a triangle, which he clearly feels he’s been building to (weakening WALTER’s arm, chipping away at his stamina), but WALTER powerbombs him to hell and gets the win. This surely sets up a WALTER title match.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Darby Allin runs in to ask for another title match and WALTER, on seeing this disrespectful display, fucking murders the little bastard. All while Tim Thatcher, who’d come out to celebrate, looks on smirking. You don’t mess with Ringkampf. The mat is sacred.
Keith Lee (c) vs. Chris Dickinson
EVOLVE have a weird habit of putting on these ‘main events’ that cannot possibly live up to the semi-mains. The show has already been stolen
Luckily Keith Lee is one of the most charismatic men in wrestling so I’m here to bask in his glory. Unfortunately they have Dickinson ‘take it to the champ’ instead of fighting from underneath and I struggle to get into it. To be fair, I’d find most things hard to get into if they had to follow WALTER-Sabre. It doesn’t help that EVOLVE’s horrible production is there in spades. The hard-cam going out of focus and being left there for a while is virtually unforgivable. Not even WWN can ruin Keith Lee though. His presence towers above any production snafus. It would be fair to say this is not one of Keith’s most memorable matches although Dickinson tries very hard. The match peaks with a reverse super rana from Dickinson, although the execution wasn’t quite there. Basically Dickinson struggles to make his work suit the main event slot. Some wrestlers are perfectly fine but just can’t step up to the Big Match Feel. It leaves Keith with too much to do on his own. This is in evidence at the conclusion as Keith throws himself into Ground Zero while Dickinson just runs into it off the ropes. It wasn’t a bad match by any stretch of the imagination but it was a total anti-climax after WALTER-Sabre. Good but nowhere near great.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Stokely Hathaway gets in Keith Lee’s face and Hot Sauce has to save him. Keith Lee vs. Catch Point members isn’t a feud I’m into. Mainly because the only good one in Catch Point is Big Stoke.
If you’re cherry picking then head right into the last three matches. You’re not missing a whole lot on the undercard. If I’m carrying on with EVOLVE I’ll probably do the same, skip over the prelims and just get into the meat of the show. It’s not particularly long if you skip the early stuff. Obviously WALTER-Sabre is the big match here. It’ll be a big match for EVOLVE down the line when Sabre defends his title against WALTER and I have no idea who’ll win that match. EVOLVE do continue to do good things in wrestling although as far as companies go they would be destroyed if they lost their top guys (Riddle, Keith Lee, Sabre, WALTER). There isn’t anyone with that big match charisma outside of those guys and Dickinson is a prime example of trying to slot a guy in there when he’s not that good. He’s a solid hand but he’s not a main event.