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 117 (live from Queens, New York) and Evolve 118 (live from Deer Park, New York), and as always, I’m here to give you the low down on what’s going down.
Evolve 117 (Saturday, Dec. 15, at 6PM Eastern)
Fabian Aichner defends the Evolve World Championship in triple threat action against Austin Theory and a returning Roderick Strong. It’ll be Strong’s first match in Evolve since leaving for NXT in the fall of 2016, and he’s jumping right back into the fire and looking for gold to complement his NXT Tag Team Championship. Aichner and Theory both have established their bonafides well, Theory having held both the other major singles titles in WWN and Aichner taking an impressive victory over Kassius Ohno last month in addition to his shock win over Shane Strickland that earned him the title in the first place.
So the stage is set, pitting the champion’s power/flying hybrid game against Roddy’s striking and unimpeachable instinct for chaining maneuvers together and Austin’s speed and youthful vigor. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see any of these three men walk out with the atomic belt strapped around their waist, folks.
The Street Profits wager their Evolve Tag Team Championship against JD Drake’s WWN Championship as they do battle once again against the WorkHorsemen. Their first match was excellent and proved that Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford can hang with anybody in Evolve but it seemed like it was bound to be a one-off until the debacle with LAX getting pulled from these shows lead to some re-shuffling, and here we are!
Adding a bit of intrigue, a unique wrinkle on this one compared to the last is that if Drake is pinned or submitted, whichever of the Profits puts him away will win the WWN Championship. But don’t you dare for a second think Anthony Henry has nothing to lose here, because the chip on his shoulder keeps growing and growing as he looks to establish himself as the next top guy in Evolve only to get stymied again and again. A defeat here is only going to make it worse, and woe betide the man he runs into next in such a scenario.
Darby Allin faces Evolve’s final boss as he goes toe to toe with Kassius Ohno. As Evolve’s relationship with NXT has deepened, Allin has found himself pulled away from his quest for the Evolve World Championship and into, as WWN themselves put it, “an unofficial trial series with WWE talent.” He fell to a determined Mustafa Ali last month, but can he put the arguable greatest indie wrestler of all time away?
A history of victories over the likes of WALTER, Timothy Thatcher, and “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams says Darby can, but the man formerly known as Chris Hero is the biggest mountain there is to climb inside of an Evolve ring, and it’ll take every ounce of Allin’s skill, derring-do, and sheer tenacity to keep him down for the three count.
Curt Stallion debuts against WWN mainstay AR Fox. Stallion is a tall standout hailing from the great state of Texas, and to some degree he reminds me of a young Drew Galloway, both visually and stylistically. Will he have the same success as Galloway and score a big win against a top star on his first night in Evolve?
Both Josh Briggs and Leon Ruff have stood out in recent months, and now they’re going head to head. It’s a classical David and Goliath matchup, only this Goliath is quite capable of hurling his body into you at high velocities and with significant amounts of rotational momentum!
Plus preliminary matches of BSHP KNG vs. Joe Gacy and Harlem Bravado vs. Joe Bailey. KNG, Gacy, and especially Bravado are well known to Evolve audiences, but Bailey is a newcomer from the United Kingdom. All four men are looking to make a mark and start a hot streak that will keep them around for a long while to come.
Evolve 118 (Sunday, Dec. 16, at 8PM Eastern)
Assuming he makes it out of the triple threat with the title around his waist, Fabian Aichner will defend the Evolve World Championship against AR Fox. Aichner’s victory over Strickland proves he has what it takes to take a guy like Fox down, but you can never count the first Evolve Champion out, especially not when he’s riding high off a huge victory over perhaps his greatest student, Austin Theory.
This one’s gonna be pyrotechnic, full of sound and fury and signifying everything as both men dig deep and pull out all the stops. I fully expect to see AR’s technical side on display in a big way as he seeks to neutralize Fabian’s power game, but in any case, mark my words— if the Ohno match is where Aichner proved he belongs in Evolve, this match is where he proves that he’s got the staying power to be champion for a long, long time.
Likewise, should they retain, the Street Profits will face a superteam of Austin Theory and Harlem Bravado with their Evolve Tag Team Championship on the line. Up until this point, the Profits will have only faced “real” tag teams as well as the mentor/student pairing of Fox and Ruff, so this presents a new challenge for them. While I tend to believe the old axiom that a great tag team will beat two great singles stars every time out, Evolve’s tag division has long been built on these kind of superteams, and the idea of featuring regular teams, last seen in the dying days of Dragon Gate USA, has only really cropped up again in the last year or two.
But... even with precedent on their side, I can’t imagine that Theory and Bravado will be much more than speedbumps on the Profits’ road into 2019. Bravado is a tag team specialist, yes, and one half of the longest-reigning DGUSA Open the United Gate Champions with his brother Lancelot, but one cannot simply replicate the tag chemistry created by brotherhood, even with a partner as talented as Austin is.
Roderick Strong’s return weekend concludes with a special challenge match against Darby Allin. Allin and Strong are more alike than they might first seem— while Roddy has rather more regard for his own well-being, they both find themselves eminently adaptable to any situation they find themselves in in the squared circle.
Will we get the daredevil vs. the Messiah of the Backbreaker, or perhaps Allin will bring his technical wrestling to bear against Strong’s hard-striking, high-impact exchanges? Or perhaps it’s Roddy that will go technical while Darby leans on his superb lucha libre acumen? Anything’s possible in this one, all I know is it’s gonna be nuts.
They exchanged words at Evolve 116, and now Anthony Henry and Kassius Ohno will exchange blows. I’m not gonna even try to hide it, folks, this is the match I’m most looking forward to all weekend. When I think about Chris Hero’s time in Evolve, first and foremost I think of three series of matches he had, against Timothy Thatcher, Matt Riddle, and Zack Sabre, Jr., and make no mistake, with hard strikes and intense grappling in the inimitable Evolve style, this match will follow right in those footsteps. I can’t wait!
Priscilla Kelly and Shotzi Blackheart meet in a Shine showcase match. We head into 2019 with the promise of more women’s action on Evolve cards, and this is as fine a prelude as any! TPK has long stood in Austin Theory’s shadow in Evolve as she guides him to victory after victory, but she’s a hell of a competitor in her own right, and she and Blackheart are definitely the right kind of talent for this showcase match.
It’s HOSS ACTION as Skulk standout Adrian Alanis clashes with Josh Briggs. Alanis has joined Leon Ruff in being a breakout star amidst the chaos and excellence of the Happiest Gang on Earth, and so it’s only natural that he follows Leon in running head-first into grumpy ol’ Josh. Adrian looks to make his name, and Briggs looks to send a message as he makes a bee line for the Skulk’s mentor AR Fox in 2019.
Plus preliminary action in the form of Joe Gacy vs. Joe Bailey and a four-way freestyle pitting BSHP KNG, Curt Stallion, Leon Ruff, and a debuting Colby Corino against one another. That scramble will be one to watch, folks— Corino’s had a rough go the last year or so but he’s incredibly talented and working with three other very talented youngsters and it had oughta be a real hoot.
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