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Evolve 115 & 116 previews: A Hero returns!

Gabe Sapolsky on Twitter

Yes indeed, ladies, gentlemen, and assorted nonbinary folks, it’s time for the World Wrestling Network to come back in to your home with Evolve 115 (live from Livonia, Michigan) and Evolve 116 (live from Oak Lawn, Illinois), and as always, I’m here to give you the low down on what’s going down.

Video Roundup

Evolve 114 Recap: Evolve Changed Forever

Evolve Mini-Doc: The Hard Road of JD Drake

Evolve 115-116 Update

Evolve 115 (Friday, Nov. 9, at 8PM Eastern)

Fabian Aichner shocked the world when he upset Shane Strickland to win the Evolve World Championship last month, and now he’s got an even bigger hill to climb in the form of a returning Kassius Ohno. The man better known to Evolve as Chris Hero isn’t just a former Evolve Champion, he’s arguably the greatest indie wrestler of all time and the least beatable man in World Wrestling Network history. In his last run with Evolve, Ohno was the gatekeeper to end all gatekeepers, and victories over him were both few and far between and guaranteed to shoot his opponent clean into the main event.

Making matters worse for Fabian, he’s already lost to Ohno on NXT television, and in fairly short order at that. He shocked the world against Strickland, but there may well be no way to swerve Kassius out of a victory here with the odds stacked so firmly in his favor, and Aichner may go down in the history books as not just the least expected Evolve World Champion, but the shortest-reigning.

NXT’s Street Profits defend their freshly won Evolve Tag Team Championship against former champs the WorkHorsemen. Comprising WWN Champion JD Drake and FIP World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Henry, the WorkHorsemen are one of the best teams on the independent scene, but in Evolve they haven’t teamed in months and indeed, there’s been a bit of friction between them as they compete for singles opportunities. Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford by comparison are a well-oiled unit that upended the longest-reigning Evolve Tag Team Champions the Doom Patrol on their first night.

No matter how you slice it it’s two of the best teams in the world today going head to head, and in the new Evolve anything seems possible.

#1 contender to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship Mustafa Ali comes to Evolve to face his old Chicago rival DJ Z in singles action. 2018 pro wrestling is pretty wild, isn’t it? Ali is just visiting but needs momentum on his way to his Survivor Series clash against Buddy Murphy, and DJ’s Evolve career has largely meandered without any real momentum, so a victory against Ali would instantly make him a top player going forward. (And, perhaps, catch the attention of 205 Live general manager DRAKE MAVERICK?)

Shine Champion Allysin Kay will be in action defending her title against Shotzi Blackheart. Whenever Evolve comes to the Detroit area lately, hometown hero AK-47 leaps into action and this month is no different. Blackheart is an accomplished competitor in her own right and this had ought to be a very enjoyable match, but Kay fought for five long years to win the Shine Championship and it’s going to take a hell of a lot to loosen her grip on it, folks.

It’s one last round of teacher vs. student as AR Fox takes on Austin Theory. There’s a yet-to-be-named stipulation attached to this match, so you know they’re gonna leave it all in the ring... and around the ring... and in the crowd... and maybe even around the merch area and out in the street! Last time out, Theory stemmed Fox’s tide and snapped off Ataxia out of nowhere for the win, but he won’t be able to repeat the same trick twice even before we consider the impact a stipulation might bring.

Leon Ruff, Harlem Bravado, Josh Briggs, and Jason Kincaid will clash in a four-way freestyle. Originally scheduled as a #1 contender’s match to determine who would challenge Fabian Aichner later in the evening, with Hero’s return that stipulation is no longer in play, but you have to think whoever wins this will get shot into contendership sooner rather than later.

Plus more with Barrett Brown and others. And given Evolve’s NXT connection, you never know who might show up, folks. (Let’s just hope that if Dan Matha comes back he’s tweaked either his gimmick or his wrestling, eh?)

Evolve 116 (Saturday, Nov. 10, at 8PM Eastern)

The mentor/student tag team of AR Fox and Leon Ruff are set to challenge the Street Profits, and as long as Dawkins and Ford retain the night before, the tag titles will be on the line. Leon Ruff brought the fight to former champs the Doom Patrol alongside his Skulk partner Adrian Alanis at Evolve 113 and very nearly managed to win the titles then and there. Now he’s teaming with his teacher and former DGUSA Open the United Gate Champion Fox and so the happiest gang on Earth stand an even greater chance of taking home the gold.

But if they have the chance to earn that gold, they’ll be facing a Street Profits team that’s bested the Doom Patrol and the WorkHorsemen, the two defining teams of the Evolve tag division of the last year and change. Defeating a team with that kind of momentum is tough for any team, but for a pairing that, while very familiar with each other through their teacher/student relationship, have only ever tagged once before, well... it’s gonna be a tough row for Fox and Ruff to hoe.

JD Drake defends his WWN Championship in triple threat action against Harlem Bravado and Austin Theory. It’s a partial rematch of the wild six-way ladder match that Drake won the title in, to which, allow me to digress for a moment. The six men in that match all impressed Evolve management such that they’re being rewarded with title matches— Drake and Henry are taking theirs for the tag titles tonight, Bravado and Theory took this match, Fox took the tag title match we just discussed, but Darby, Darby’s got a golden ticket for any match of his choice.

Anyway, much like that ladder match, this one should be controlled chaos, but I wouldn’t bet against the Blue Collar Badass retaining here.

It’s the heart of 205 Live against the heart of Evolve as Mustafa Ali finishes his weekend out with a match against Darby Allin. Both men are cut from similar cloth, risk-taking flyers that nonetheless have very strong mat games, and both throw themselves bodily into their wrestling. It’s a natural matchup, it’s going to be absolute war, and a victory for Allin could be exactly what he needs to guarantee a little momentum in his quest for the Evolve World Championship when he cashes in his golden ticket.

Shane Strickland gets a chance to claw his way back up the ladder when he goes to war with Kassius Ohno. If Ohno regains the Evolve Championship, this will be a title match. Strickland seemed poised for a long reign with that title when Aichner pulled the rug out from under him, and here he goes from the frying pan into the fire against one of the most dominant wrestlers in WWN history.

But after he made no less than Matt Riddle his whipping boy, doing so much damage to his arm that there was a months-long delay between his signing with WWE and debuting on NXT television on his way to winning that title, if anybody can take Hero out, it’s the King of Swerve.

Anthony Henry gets another chance to make his case as the most underserved man in Evolve as he takes on Fabian Aichner in non-title action. Henry has been scraping and clawing since arriving in Evolve over a year ago and putting in strong performance after strong performance but has somehow found himself not quite advancing to the next level. Whether Aichner is still champion or not, whether WorkHorsemen reclaim the tag titles or not, this is one more chance for the Lethal Lover to get the job done.

And against a man like Aichner whose power / flying hybrid wrestling style so nicely compliments Henry’s grappling / striking style, it’ll be a hoot to see it happen.

Freelance Wrestling get a showcase match as Isaias Velazquez defends their championship against former champ GPA. Both men are incredibly talented and would fit right in as regulars here in Evolve, if Velazquez perhaps a bit moreso due to his intense and grappling-and-hard-striking-oriented wrestling style. If you don’t know either of these guys, I can almost guarantee you’ll walk away with at least one new favorite between them, folks.

Jason Kincaid has a special challenge match against Josh Briggs. Briggs got knocked off by Darby Allin last month, can Kincaid be David II: David Harder or will Goliath win this round?

And much like the night before, more matches will be added featuring Barrett Brown among others.

Like what you read?

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