The VOD finally went up early on Wednesday, so let’s get right to it, shall we?
Joe Bailey vs. Joe Gacy
Grappling to start, Bailey largely in control and working the arm but Gacy’s able to fight back in with strikes. Bailey matches his intensity but can’t match his strength. Damage taking its toll all the same, Bailey makes his openings, the butterfly suplex into the butterfly lock but Gacy gets a foot on the ropes! Gacy goes back to the power well and after a bit of a struggle...
Joe Gacy wins by pinfall with a sit-out powerbomb.
Fun opener aside from the finish going a little sideways there. Bailey has a huge amount of potential for sure, and I always like seeing Gacy even if I hate trying to recap matches where wrestlers share a name, ha.
Anthony Greene vs. BSHP KNG vs. Colby Corino vs. Curt Stallion
Pairing off, Greene and Stallion to the floor pretty quickly and Corino and KNG go at it full-force! Cycling through, Anthony and Curt go at it, the Retrosexual enjoying his shenanigans only to get pasted by the big man. BSHP in, Stallion dives and crushes Colby before in turn being crushed by Greene! KNG adds to the fountain of dives, but Corino won’t be left out of the fun with a brillo!
Obligatory Tower of Doom spot, BSHP breaks up a pin with a senton atomico and ends up slugging it out with Colby. Anthony joins the fun and gets decked by a KNG flying forearm as a determined Stallion rejoins the fray. Big German suplex for two, BSHP returns the favor and then nearly gets pinned by Greene. Jockeying for position, Corino spears Anthony out of mid-air before planting him with a northern lights bomb in the ropes... NOPE!
Headed up top but Curt cuts him off... HALF NELSON SUPERPLEX NEARLY DOES IT! In the ensuing chaos...
Curt Stallion wins by pinfall with the leaping headbutt.
This was a hell of a lot of fun. I haven’t seen Colby Corino in about a year, and for as impressive as he already was, he’s even moreso now, and Curt Stallion remains just a barrel of fun. KNG and Greene stood out less but still put in good work, it must be said.
Priscilla Kelly vs. Shotzi Blackheart
Slow start, circling and jawing before getting into a bit of light grappling, but soon enough Kelly’s had enough and fires off a slap. Thermostat dialed up, into some lucha libre before getting down and dirty with the striking, neither woman able to get a solid advantage. Blackheart hammering forearms, they only serve to rile Priscilla up and they slug it out in the middle of the ring.
Trading suplexes, both women down and out and when they get going again, TPK steps on the gas with a wicked STO into a Dragon sleeper but nothing’s good for a fall just yet. Shotzi strings a facebuster into an elbow drop, same result, but a cloverleaf proves rather more devastating, forcing Kelly to scrape and claw to get the ropes! Back to slugging it out, Blackheart gets a float over DDT but still can’t put Hell’s Favorite Harlot away!
Going to work on the arm now, the diving senton finds nobody home, jockeying for position in the corner...
Priscilla Kelly wins by pinfall with Osteoporosis.
This was really solidly built and well-executed, a nice back-and-forth brawl that escalated cleanly and efficiently to a finish. Good stuff!
Eddie Kingston makes his entrance and cuts a promo about how hell’s frozen over because he’s here in Evolve and he compares himself to Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher and calls JD Drake out. He says Drake calls this his house, well it’s filthy and he’s here to clean it up!
JD Drake vs. Eddie Kingston
Drake rushes out and we got a clubberin’! Hammering each other with chops and punches, the action spills to the floor and Kingston puts a smile on his face with the double fishhook! Biting, chopping, back in side with an STO and JD is staggered. Eddie bleeding from the nose, Drake fired up, taking chops and asking for more! Continuing to clobber each other at length, a lariat gets the WWN Champion a nearfall!
BACKFIST TO THE FUTURE TAKES THE REF OUT! Drake throwing hands... AND HE TAKES THE REPLACEMENT REF OUT! THEY BOTH SHOVE A THIRD REF DOWN! BACKFIST! EDDIE TAKES OUT A FOURTH REF AND HITS ANOTHER BACKFIST AND HERE COMES THE LOCKER ROOM TO BREAK THINGS UP BUT HE’S JUST BEATING THEM DOWN!
The match goes to a no contest.
This was a hell of a brawl! Eddie Kingston and Evolve are a match made in heaven and this proves it as much as anything, even in its abbreviated running time. Cannot wait for round two!
Montez Ford makes his entrance and Angelo Dawkins spears Kingston from behind! Eddie backs off and the Profits celebrate in the ring. Austin Theory interrupts and says his bag has just enough room for the tag titles in it and the match is on!
Austin Theory & Harlem Bravado vs. Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (c) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)
Theory and Ford to start, bit of light grappling, escalating into pinfall attempts and flips, double kip-up stalemate! Montez ducks a lariat and gets in Austin’s face, backing him into the corner and leading to tags being made. Dawkins takes control with a dropkick, quick tag into Wakanda Forever and the champs are rolling hot! It doesn’t last, however, as Harlem blasts them to the floor and tags Theory in for a beating on the floor.
Running double-teams on Ford, keeping him isolated at length until he’s able to tag Angelo in! The Curse of Greatness clearing house, wrecking both challengers with ease, including snapping Theory to the mat with a spear to counter the rolling thunder! Austin fights back and hits the rolling thunder blockbuster for two and soon enough we got a four-way brawl on our hands!
Ataxia attempted but denied, Ford hits a pop-up Ace Crusher for some separation! Champs get an electric chair, Harlem runs interference, Tower of London and an enzuigiri set up the Argentine powerbomb from Theory... NOPE! Tag back to Bravado, looking to end it but here comes Priscilla Kelly and Austin’s attention is divided enough that he breaks away to order her to go away!
She stands her ground, Dawkins with a spear, tag to Ford, spinebuster sets it up...
Street Profits win by pinfall with the Prophecy from Montez Ford on Harlem Bravado to retain the Evolve Tag Team Championship.
Good solid stuff as the Profits continue to settle into their role as Evolve Tag Team Champions. Nothing particularly special or innovative, but classical tag team action well executed, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Theory and Bravado as a full-time team.
Adrian Alanis vs. Josh Briggs
Alanis in hot to start, raining punches down on Briggs! Josh fires a boot back and dumps Adrian to the floor for a breather. Waiting for Alanis to come back, he does a reverse suicide dive into mounted punches and Briggs has to regret it! Josh comes back, big slam into the turnbuckles but Adrian refuses to stay down, fighting him back every step of the way.
Like say when he explodes out of hard whip into a lariat and keeps the pressure up with charging strikes before flapjacking Briggs into the turnbuckles and hitting a senton for two. Go to Hell blocked, discus lariat connects but the Skulk man is slow to capitalize and can’t finish Josh! Briggs gets Alanis trapped in the ropes and kicks his damn head in!
Even that isn’t enough to put Adrian down, and he manages to slip a headbutt in there to set up a fireman’s carry but Josh slips out, a backbreaker sets it up...
Josh Briggs wins by pinfall with the M5.
So this ruled! Just two big boys clobbering each other, Briggs with a firm advantage but Alanis’ never-say-die spirit carried him shockingly close to a victory and this was a real good match, all told.
Post-match, Briggs and the Skulk get into it a bit but a fight refuses to break out.
AR Fox gets on the mic and tells Adrian that he couldn’t be more proud of him, just like he’s proud of the whole squad. But there’s one that he should be even more proud of, and that’s Austin Theory, but of all his students, he’s the one he’s most ashamed of. On the flipside, Leon Ruff is a star and he wants to give him an opportunity at a teacher vs. student matchup right now!
Ruff mulls it over with the help of his fellow Skulk and the crowd, and he accepts the match!
AR Fox vs. Leon Ruff
A bit of light lucha in the feeling out, both men know each other incredibly well so a lot of counters and evasions right from the jump. When Ruff goes to do the Skulk dance with Fox, teacher seizes on the teaching moment and kicks the crap out of him! Leon fires back, decking AR with a dropkick at the end of a sequence before landing a leaping neckbreaker for two in short order.
Springboard Frankensteiner... FOX GETS DUMPED ON HIS HEAD! He crotches Ruff on the ropes and clobbers him with an enzuigiri to get some breathing room and they end up trading strikes for a bit until AR hits a twisting suplex for another nearfall. Jockeying for position, Fox lands a series of superkicks but Leon hits a German suplex out of desperation that keeps the tide at bay!
Running kicks in the corner, huge rope-hung neckbreaker on the apron and Ruff is fired up! Senton atomico follows... NOT ENOUGH! Looking for a follow-up, Fox rolls to the apron and Leon gives chase, trying for a German suplex off the apron but AR hangs in there. Jockeying for position, slingshot Ace Crusher... SO CLOSE BUT LEON RUFF IS STILL IN THE FIGHT!
Headed up top, senton atomico from Fox... STILL NO! Looking for the straitjacket, Ruff uses every ounce of will to block and AR kicks his head off! Knucklelock, big chop, step-up but Leon cuts the arm drag off and they jockey for position in the corner... AVALANCHE FRANKENSTEINER! Corkscrew somersault senton in the corner... NO GOOD! Looking for another Frankensteiner, Fox counters with a Death Valley Driver... NOT HAPPENING!
AR heads up top and hits a double stomp right to the sternum for another nearfall! Snap suplex, up top again but Ruff cuts him off and clobbers him. Fox knocks him back down and perches, 450 splash, Leon kicks out and German suplexes his mentor into the turnbuckles! Enzuigiri, arm-trap German suplex, still no! Moonsault DDT countered, AR hammering him in the corner, trading kicks, Fox charges in...
AR Fox wins by pinfall with Lo Mein Pain.
This was an excellent match, Leon Ruff is the man. Maybe went a hair too long for my taste, but Fox showing his student enough respect to beat the crap out of him with no phase of toying with him or not taking him seriously enough, just right into the action, was the perfect choice for this to make it (almost) all killer, no filler.
WWN Ambassador Trevin Adams hits the ring while the Skulk are celebrating to offer Leon Ruff a WWN contract! He agrees to the contract verbally and it’s official, he’s the newest full-time member of the Evolve roster!
Darby Allin vs. Roderick Strong
Strong right on Allin to start, grappling him to the mat, but after a bit of that Darby gets fed up and goes for La Casita for two. Roderick responds to this by locking him down with a side headlock, and we get some fast-paced jockeying for position after the inevitable escape. Pin attempts into the Fujiwara armbar, fending Strong Hold off and we’ve got a stalemate!
Roddy hammering heavy strikes, Allin sends him to the floor with a big lucha arm drag and torpedoes himself into Strong with a dive! Fighting on the floor, landing on his feet off a back suplex, passing back elbows one after the other, Darby up top but Strong trips him and puts him back-first into the turnbuckles! Pressing the attack, Allin fights back with punches but Roddy’s able to lay him out and go back to work.
Darby gets up top and dives right into a backbreaker! Blood in the water, Strong gets savage, stepping on Allin’s back and wrenching his neck before stomping his hand! Darby manages to rally somehow after that but Roddy cuts him right off with a Canadian gutbuster and goes right back to brutalizing him, kicking him to the floor. A bit of violence later, the action is back inside and Strong is just punching Allin’s skull in, leaving him glassy-eyed but still refusing to stay down for three.
Gory Special, Darby reverses to a sunset flip, jawbreaker, sidestep, chop block into the Coffin Drop and he’s in with a fighting chance at last! Diamond Dust out of the corner... NOPE! They end up slugging it out on the apron... STRONG HITS AN ALPAMARE WATERSLIDE ON THE WALKWAY! Cover made... DARBY ALLIN LIVES! Jockeying for position, Allin counters a fireman’s carry into a Frankensteiner!
Action on the floor, Roddy on him with chops, but one of them hits a steel support beam after Darby ducks! Allin up top, cut off, jockeying for position... COFFIN DROP ISN’T ENOUGH TO PUT RODDY AWAY! Fujiwara armbar applied, Strong posts to his feel, looking for Strong Hold but Darby gets away and hits his Yoshi Tonic for another nearfall.
Up top again... COFFIN DROP BUT THE KNEES ARE UP! Slugging it out chop for chop, Strong with that signature high knee into the overrotated back suplex, and into Strong Hold on the kickout! Allin reverses to a pin but it’s only good for two, Roddy off the ropes... SICK KICK! END OF HEARTACHE! IT’S OVER!
Roderick Strong wins by pinfall with End of Heartache.
This was brutal in the best way, a direct sequel to the ass-kicking that Darby took against Kassius Ohno at Evolve 117 with the same bright notes of hope and the same sad ending. I continue to be unsure of where Allin is headed ever since his road to the Evolve World Championship got disrupted, but as long as it remains this enjoyable to see him fight from underneath I can try not to let it bother me.
Post-match, Allin lies motionless in the ring and slowly collects himself, on his hands and knees as he considers the string of losses he’s taken lately. Referee Brandon Tolle hits the ring to talk to him and Darby yells to MAKE him leave!
Anthony Henry vs. Kassius Ohno
Both men going hard with knockout blasts out the gates but their sidestep game is on point so a duel of chops it shall be until Ohno lays Henry out with a hard elbow! Anthony firing back with hard strikes of his own, unable to make a dent in Kassius and paying the price in the form of one of those wicked sentons. Another senton, the knees are up and Anthony’s able to clear his head and hammer Ohno in the corner.
Missile dropkick into the kip-up, fired up, more strikes on the floor... AND KASSIUS THROWS A CHAIR AT HIS HEAD! Ohno jawing at referee Jake Clemons, daring him to call for the disqualification as he presses the attack against Henry. Rolling elbow... ANTHONY THROWS THE CHAIR AT HIS ELBOW TO COUNTER! Back inside, stomping away, targeting the elbow arm to neutralize the Knockout Artist’s best and biggest weapon.
Wrenching, tearing, stomping, firing kicks to the bicep, daring Ohno to knock him out and that wakes him up, leading him to absorb further kicks, rise up, and clock the Lethal Lover with a single elbow strike! Henry probing away with kicks in the aftermath and he offers Kassius one free shot to the jaw! When Ohno takes it, he catches the arm and takes him down only for the stomp to come up empty and Kassius hammers him with kicks!
Rolling elbow fakeout into a jab... CRASH LANDING! Senton follows it up but Anthony’s still in the fight. Headbutt square ot the jaw, Henry reverses a ripcord into a backslide and snaps off a tornado DDT but can’t end it. Ohno gets Cyclone Kill for two and Anthony goes right to a cross armbar after kicking out! Ohno makes the ropes and Henry drags him up for punch after punch only to get cut off with a boot.
Looking for the High Tension Elbow, scouted, Henry looking for a German suplex, doesn’t get it, boot lands, off the ropes... NOW THE GERMAN FOR TWO! Headed up top, double stomp denied, Kassius kicks his head off but Anthony gets his brainbuster and follows it with the double stomp... SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE IT! Probing kicks from the Lethal Lover, a rolling elbow gives Ohno a taste of his own medicine and he demands the standing ten count!
Another rolling elbow when he rises, charging in for a knee, taunting... AND KASSIUS DECAPITATES HIM WITH A LARIAT! Piledriver clutch, underhooks... PEDIGREE! IT’S OVER!
Kassius Ohno wins by pinfall with a Pedigree.
Oh, how I loved this match every bit as much as I expected to. No Chris Hero gatekeeper opening where he wrestles the other guy’s match until he gets frustrated, no, this time he just went hard against Henry from the jump. And Henry for his part worked smart early, targeting the arm to reduce the damage the elbows could do, only to lose focus late and play right into Ohno’s game, trying to go shot for shot and put him away with his own elbow.
Plus Kassius not just finishing with a Pedigree to put Henry’s objection to the NXT talent coming in sharp focus, but proving that his strategy was working and the elbow wasn’t going to work... just pitch perfect on every level, and an excellent way to end a year in which Evolve’s identity has been in question.
Ohno gets on the mic and takes a seat on a donated chair with an ice pack on his elbow. He says 2018 is over and he had his first pro wrestling match back in 1998. In 20+ years he’s worked for a lot of companies, and when he went back to NXT he was worried about how he’d be portrayed, but he wants us to all know that WWE and NXT take very good care of him and he feels well-respected.
He talks about how wild 2018 pro wrestling is, and we have so many more choices than he did back when he was opening shows as Wifebeater back in ‘98, and he believes he’s changing pro wrestling for the better. He names a few names of great wrestlers who have come from Evolve on their way to making an impact in WWE, and he puts over how Evolve brings together wrestlers of all styles and disciplines, and he appreciates the ability to come back and perform for us.
So who’s gonna step up and be the next guy like those guys, and he challenges the guys in the locker room and on the indies in general to do so.
This was a great show to close out Evolve’s 2018. None of the things from 117 that left a sour taste in my proverbial mouth and overshadowed the action, just a brace of good to great wrestling matches capped off by one that I think will absolutely stand the test of time in the form of Henry vs. Ohno.
Storyline-wise, Kassius Ohno has well and truly reclaimed his spot as Evolve’s gatekeeper, Eddie Kingston has set himself up as another would-be savior for Evolve (and boy do I look forward to seeing him try), Josh Briggs is one step closer to a match with AR Fox, and Curt Stallion’s established enough to the point where he’s been confirmed for more shows.
Most interesting of all, though, at least in terms of “where do we go from here”, is Darby Allin hitting rock bottom. His story has... well to be frank it’s been something of a meandering mess, as initially it seemed like we were heading towards him winning the Evolve World Championship from Zack Sabre, Jr. three or four title reigns ago. Stalling and sputtering, it looked like maybe Shane Strickland’s reign would get it back on track, but then the NXT invasion happened and here we are, with losses to Ali, Ohno, and Strong putting him back to square one.
The good news is, after this weekend, I feel like if the plan is in fact to have Darby beat Theory, the roof is gonna come off whatever venue it happens in. I just hope fervently that we’re doing that sooner rather than later, is all.
Check the VOD out on WWNLive, folks, whether as an individual purchase or at no additional cost through Club WWN.