The show opens just a few minutes after our scheduled bell time with Trevin Adams (filling in for Lenny Leonard, who’s on vacation) and “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi in the ring to welcome us to the show and toss us right into the action.
Curt Stallion vs. Josh Briggs
Using their strength against each other, two big strong lads, but Briggs is just that little bit stronger. Turning up the heat, Stallion with a damn Sasuke Special to take things back into control, but trading boots ensures the advantage doesn’t last. Backbreaker combos from Josh, a straight suplex, targeting the lumbar region but Curt’s got some gas in his tank and grabs a Cobra Twist on the big man.
Shift to an octopus hold, Briggs in the ropes, decks him with a back elbow, huge release Blue Thunder Driver and just mauling him with grounded punches! Lone Star returns the favor with boots, hesitation dropkick, wicked DDT spikes him on his dome and a roll-through into the Buck Off... NOPE! Jockeying for position in the turnbuckles, steel of the ring squeaking... AVALANCHE POWERBOMB REVERSED INTO A FRANKENSTEINER AND A STANDING DOUBLE STOMP NEARLY PUTS BRIGGS AWAY!
Off the ropes, Josh with a boot but Stallion rolls to his feet, defiant! Right hands! Headbutt! Two can play at that game! Briggs puts him up top again... INVERTED SPANISH FLY! Trading forearms, slugging it out, Curt reverses M5 into a pin but can’t end it! Boot connects, Briggs has the goozle...
Josh Briggs wins by pinfall with the M5.
Hell of an opener! They just beat the hell out each other here, mile-a-minute action, pure escalatory violence. Fantastic stuff.
Joe Gacy vs. Trey Williams
Gacy right on him out the gates, throwing him around and clobbering Williams with forearms! Trey with some lucha libre but Joe hits a springboard Ace Crusher for two! Pressing the attack, more big suplexes and slams but Williams slips away, Rough Ryder comes shockingly close! Off the top, nobody home, Gacy takes his head off with a lariat! Alabama Slam, calling for it...
Joe Gacy wins by pinfall with a sitout powerbomb.
Good solid match, mainly a showcase for Gacy but Williams got some good licks in and I’d certainly welcome him and his brother Jon to stick around Evolve and build the tag division up a bit.
Post-match, Gacy decks Jon Williams with a headbutt, Alabama Slam... and a powerbomb for him as well!
Harlem Bravado vs. JD Drake
Locking up, Bravado trying to outwrestle the WWN Champion but he gets thrown aside and switches gears to try striking. That doesn’t work, so it’s back to the side headlock, letting go just often enough to try and keep JD off balance, but all that does is get him sent to the floor with a huge double chop. Brawling on the floor, trading chops into the second row and Harlem takes flight to pull the advantage!
Huge tope con giro but Drake is back at it with a slam into the apron. Bravado recovers enough to snap off a DDT and get a two count, pressing the attack, locking him down with a cravate but JD slings him off and hits his tilt-a-whirl Flowsion! Big chops crack out across the arena, senton to follow it up and Harlem rolls away for safety. Jockeying for position, springboard leg lariat... SO CLOSE!
Headed up top but Bravado clings to his foot and blocks the climb. Chop right in the side of the neck, scoop lift and the Lawn Dart! Harlem slips in with an uppercut, Tower of London connects! Disdainful stomps, going forearm for chop, and Bravado comes off the ropes right into a huge chop! Returning the favor with a boot, fired up, German suplex but JD rises right up... SICK KICK! LARIAT! NO!
Up to the second, Vader Bomb... NOT ENOUGH! Up top foor the moonsault but once again Bravado rolls away. This time Drake pulls him up from the apron. Harlem’s able to box his ears to block, sunset flip powerbomb! Fired up, Mafia kick, fireman’s carry into the Death Valley Driver... NOPE! Underhooks to follow, Blue Collar Badass trying to block, reverses, sidestep, boot, Stunner! CANNONBALL!
Now up top... NOBODY HOME ON THE MOONSAULT! Underhooks, reversed into a bridge... DRAKE GOT HIM!
JD Drake wins by pinfall, reversing Straight Cash, Homie into a bridging pin.
I rather prefer Harlem’s work as a tag team with his brother Lancelot, but this was a good showing for him here against the Blue Collar Badass, Bravado taking a more scientific approach only for Drake’s power game to annihilate him and pick him off with an exceptionally well-timed counter. Good stuff.
Aja Perera (c) vs. Priscilla Kelly (Shine Nova Championship)
Kelly looking for an early pin to no avail, bit of lucha action, drop downs and leapfrogs, handspring headscissors from Perera put her in the corner for a forearm and a snap suplex. Going chops for forearms in the corner, Aja with the whip, up and over, Priscilla nails her with a kick for a one count. TPK hangs her up in the ropes, hard dropkick, pressing the attack further with kicks and pinfall attempts.
Grinding Perera down with a series of chinlocks, the champ fights out, strikes, off the ropes and Kelly hits an STO for two! Sliding Ace Crusher into a knee, Aja right back into it, right hand in the corner sets it up, springboard reverse STO... NOPE! Jockeying for position over a suplex and Perera gets a guillotine choke! Priscilla to her feet, ramming her into the corner to try and break, superkick into a bicycle kick... NOT ENOUGH!
Mounted punches, nobody home on a missile dropkick, Aja with a deadlift Tenryu Powerbomb... ONLY TWO! Hammerlock applied...
Aja Perera wins by pinfall with Down to Earth to retain the Shine Nova Championship.
A bit rough around the edges but this was a solid, enjoyable match.
Anthony Henry vs. Eddie Kingston
Right into the striking, Henry pulls ahead, legsweep into a knee drop and mounted forearms into an early attempt to end it with the armbar but Kingston gets the ropes and bails to the floor! Anthony heads right out to meet him, trading shots, kicks in the front row but back inside and Eddie turns the tide, kicking Henry’s leg out from under him. DDT the leg, kicking the knee, snap suplex right into a shoulder kneebar!
Running boots to further soften the FIP World Heavyweight Champion up, raking the face, a short burst of machine gun chops, folding the legs up for the standing inverted cloverleaf! Spiking Henry’s knees into the mat on the break, to the second rope but the Lethal Lover gets a gamengiri in! Jockeying for position, Kingston taking full advantage of the bum knee but Henry gets a dragon screw out of the corner anyway!
A second dragon screw, forearms while Eddie’s staggered, rolling elbow and a Penalty Kick... NOPE! Grabbing a kneebar but Kingston has the ropes to the force the break! Trading chops, Anthony with vicious kicks even though the leg is clearly bothering him. Trying to shake some life back in it, Kingston’s own knee gives out on a powerbomb but after Kawada kicks he gets it off... ONLY TWO!
Figure four leglock in the center of the ring, Henry flagging but not failing, wrenching at the leg to try and break free and a slap gets Eddie to break. Raining down slaps, upkick staggers him and they end up trading right hands! Roundhouse kick, Kingston to the floor, staggering and glassy-eyed, Eddie spikes Henry with a chair from the floor and the referee has no choice...
Anthony Henry wins by disqualification.
So this ruled. Really smartly built around the dueling leg injuries, and I am HERE for Eddie Kingston just brawling the hell out of everyone. Finish is a bummer in a vacuum but it develops a story-- Eddie is more concerned with inflicting pain than he is actually winning matches.
Post-match, Eddie hammers at Henry with the chair, wrapping his leg around the post and sandwiching it into the steel!
Austin Theory comes out and cuts a promo putting himself over and talking about how he’s gonna beat Darby and mocking Henry, questioning if he can even make it to tomorrow after the beating Kingston put on him. Darby comes down and he wants to do it now, so we’re doing it now!
Austin Theory (c) vs. Darby Allin (Evolve World Championship)
Allin with a Diamond Dust almost immediately! Theory bails, Darby follows him with a suicide dive, Coffin Drop.... ALMOST! To the floor, Darby takes the turnbuckle cover off... AND JAMS AUSTIN’S FINGERS INTO THE STEEL! Wrenching his hands over the ropes from the apron, Theory yanks him away and gets some separation. Throwing Allin into the corner, back to the floor, shaking his hand as he hits Darby, trying to will life back into it.
Snap suplex on the floor, bulldog headlock into a back suplex into the apron but Allin refuses to fall to the ground. Theory with another slam, this time into the ring steps, up on the apron... CROSS-LEG BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON DANGERRROUS! Pressing the attack inside, release Doctor Bomb sends Allin halfway across the ring and he hits it again for good measure! Cover for two!
Ataxia reversed, Darby jockeying for position and he gets the Fujiwara armbar! Up top, Theory comes to meet him, Allin wrenches the injured fingers into an armbar and follows with the Yoshi Tonic... NOPE! Slugging it out, Austin with a right but his hand is still hurt and it may be more trouble than it’s worth when Darby bites the hand! Boots up in the corner, waistlock, O’Connor roll, tornillo on the kickout, back to the armbar!
Shift to a hammerlock with a reverse chinlock, Theory rises to his feet and rams Allin into the corner a few times but Darby will not let go until het gets a head of steam and runs into the corner full-on! Standing ten count, Austin recovers first, buckle bomb, brainbuster over the knee... STILL NO! Argentine backbreaker rack, pausing before the powerbomb but it gives Darby a chance to recover!
Trading shots in the corner, Theory gets him back up... AVALANCHE SPINNING ARGENTINE POWERBOMB! SLOW TO CRAWL INTO THE COVER AND DARBY ALLIN’S DREAM LIVES TO FIGHT ON! Lining Darby up for Ataxia again but those damn fingers are his weak spot! Leg pick, cross... LAST SUPPER CAN’T PUT THEORY AWAY?! Rolling thunder dropkick, underhooks, Ataxia... DARBY KICKED OUT AT ONE, MY GOD!
Superkicks, Ataxia a second time... It’s over. The dream is dead.
Austin Theory wins by pinfall with Ataxia to retain the Evolve World Championship.
Well I’m gonna need a minute for my heart rate to return to normal here! Holy hell, what a match. Not super stoked at Darby losing for the one hundredth time, but this was Theory’s best match and one of Allin’s top couple as well. The throughline of Darby working the fingers, always just a bit of torque away from resuming control... this was not perennial underdog Darby Allin barely scraping by.
The was a man who may have been underneath for portions of the match, but he was NEVER down and out, and always in control of his own destiny right up until that second Ataxia hit. Fantastic match, and I look forward to the rematch on WrestleMania weekend.
Priscilla Kelly comes out after the match and tells Darby she knows how to beat Theory and she’ll help him, but he walks off, skeptical.
And now we take our intermission.
Adrian Alanis vs. Damyan Tangra vs. Kavron Kanyon vs. Leon Ruff vs. Liam Gray vs. Takuri (Scramble Match)
Apologies in advance, folks, these multi-man Skulk matches are always hard to keep up with for the recap.
All-out chaos to start, pairing off, Alanis takes care of his man first and starts wreaking havoc, soon joining forces with Ruff and Gray to beat on some of our less established Skulk lads. Tangra slips away, Leon and Liam hit stereo superkicks on Adrian to wipe him out! Damyan and Ruff going at it, a kick takes Leon out of mid-air on a leap! German suplex denied, Tangra after the leg but Ruff gets away!
Gray in, pumphandle suplex, Takuri in snaps off a headscissors takeover and a heel kick and he runs Alanis off in turn! Wristlock overhand chops on Liam, clearing the ring with a superkick! Leon in, headscissors, flying forearm, Finlay Roll into a moonsault and a leaping neckbreaker! Exploder gutbuster into a press drop from Kanyon, enzuigiri, slingshot and he wipes Damyan out.
Liam diving crossbody, suicide dive, tope con giro, frog splash but Adrian breaks it up with a senton! Off the ropes, pop-up powerslam, big man fired up! Takuri slips away, eats a shotgun dropkick into the corner, Ruff in with a jumping knee! Lining ‘em up... ALANIS BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPLEXES LEON INTO TAKURI! Adrian off the ropes... BIG MAN SUICIDE DIVE! Kavron off the ropes, Takuri trips him up, Poetry in Motion tope to the floor!
Gray’s got him lined up, Kanyon cuts him off... POWERBOMB OVER THE ROPES AND TO THE FLOOR! Ruff with a dropkick and then he takes flight with a springboard senton atomico! Back inside, the match breaks down, trading kicks and knees, Adrian with a rolling elbow to mix things up!
Kavron headbutt on Takuri, package piledriver 2 sleep, Leon breaks it up! Liam spikes Kanyon with a double underhook DDT! Tangra in with a hell of a DDT, Alanis breaks it up with a senton! Damyan charging in, caught into the Hard Knock! Duck a kick from Takuri, fight out, roundhouse kick connects, fireman’s carry into the Dream Maker! Crescent kick... LEON RUFF SENTON ATOMICO TO BREAK IT UP!
German suplex, Ruff in control...
Leon Ruff wins by pinfall over Takuri.
Hard to keep up with, but mile-a-minute fun! Not a huge amount to say about a match like this, but if you watch it, you will enjoy it.
Adam Cole vs. Shane Strickland
Grappling early, back and forth, shifting into the lucha libre, running the ropes and Cole fakes out a knee bad enough to shake Strickland! Test of strength, Shane takes charge and goes to work on the arm, wrenching and tearing, and into an exchange that ends with Swerve faking Adam out with a knee! Strickland in control, but a trip to the floor soon changes the tone.
Cole laying punches in, neckbreaker connects, he slings Shane around a little and poses before running the ropes a few times for the reverse chinlock. Continuing to target the neck, fireman’s carry neckbreaker over the knee, Strickland fires up and fires back, sheerdrop brainbuster for two! Keeping the press on, German suplex into a rolling thunder Ace Crusher... NOPE! Disdainful kicks and slaps, dragging Adam up but he throws a few elbows for separation. Enzuigiri into a lungblower, aggravating that head and neck area. Swerve looking to rally but upkicks and a trip into the turnbuckles end that thought, big knee... ONLY TWO! Slugging it out, handspring evasion into a fakeout and a jumping stomp from Strickland, but he gets fancy and rolls right into a superkick from Cole and both men are down and out!
The knee pad is down but Swerve ducks the knee! Lariat connects, Adam rolls to the apron, Shane drags him up, jockeying for position, stomp off the apron! Swerve Stomp to the floor! Back inside... SWERVE STOMP BUT COLE KICKS OUT! Back up top and struggling for control, Adam knocks Shane to the mat... AND STRICKLAND LEAPS RIGHT BACK UP FOR AN AVALANCHE FRANKENSTEINER!
Going for another stomp... SUPERKICK COUNTER! BRAINBUSTER OVER THE KNEE CAN’T QUITE PUT HIM AWAY! Off the ropes...
Adam Cole wins by pinfall with the Last Shot.
This one felt like it took a little longer than I’d like to really get going and the arm/neck stuff didn’t matter quite as much as I’d like, but a very good match all the same.
Post-match, Austin Theory returns and calls Cole out, saying he’s sorry but since he’s back in Evolve he had to come let him know that he’s his role model. Not just Adam, but the entire Undisputed ERA. But... they’ve been on kind of a slump, haven’t they? They don’t have any titles, and Austin has a title, so why not move some of that dead weight like Kyle O’Reilly aside and let Theory into the stable?
Cole gets on the mic and says he’ll make him a deal-- he’ll give him a call the second he hits puberty. Adam walks off and Theory looks like he’s gonna cry, it’s great stuff.
AR Fox & DJ Z vs. Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (c) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)
Z and Dawkins to start, bit of mat grappling, neither man with a firm advantage and Angelo transitions into trying to use his power game. DJ’s superior speed keeps him out ahead, trading taunts and a cheesed-off Dawkins gets the tag. Pressing the attack on Ion, quick tags, but Zema manages to outsmart them and leave Montez lying! Tag to Fox, Ford uses a handshake as a fakeout and bowls him over!
Fast-paced ducking and dodging, stereo dropkicks from our super-team and the match breaks down. Profits on the floor, trying to fire each other up, and Montez heads back in to really take it to DJ Z. Quick tags, grinding him down, he starts to rally and Dawkins cuts him right off with a Hot Shot and a huge uppercut! Wakanda Forever for two! Cravate applied, resuming the grind down, but Zema’s able to turn up the speed and make the tag!
Fox in hot, double dropkick into a two for one sale on strikes, pass Angelo to the floor, take Ford’s leg out from under him and a senton / dropkick combo clips both of ‘em! Perching, diving crossbody, still only two! AR refusing to slow down, skin the cat senton into a wheelbarrow snapmare! Nobody home on the 450 splash but the springboard Ace Crusher hits both champs and nearly puts them away!
Dives wipe the Profits out, back inside, Fox springboard... DAWKINS SNIPES HIM DOWN WITH A SPEAR! Ford Gallon Throws DJ into another spear... NOPE! Zema reverses a powerbomb into a Frankensteiner, superkick takes Dawkins out the rest of the way, AR 450 splash, Montez off the top... FROG SPLASH FOR THE SAVE! Electric chair on the floor... TOPE CON GIRO BLOCKBUSTER DOOMSDAY DEVICE TAKES FOX AND THE SKULK OUT!
Street Profits win by pinfall with a Doomsday Device variation on DJ Z to retain the Evolve Tag Team Championship.
Another very good match, and much like Cole/Strickland it didn’t have quite as strong a throughline or as hot a start as I might have liked, although it also finished quite strong. Plus it was interesting to see the Profits working a little heel here against hometown hero Fox-- no cheating or anything, but their cutoffs came a little quicker and across the corner than I might have otherwise expected.
Post-match, Ford gets on the mic and says he’s got something a little serious to say-- they immediately agreed when they were offered a chance to come to Evolve and saw that everyone in the back works their ass off. Wrestling is an art, competitiveness and emotion, and they thank us... but as tradition says, this is ATL, right? He plays their music before playing the Skulk’s new music and inviting them into the ring to celebrate together.
This was a damn good show, with three great matches on it in Stallion/Briggs, Kingston/Henry, and Theory/Allin, plus a Drake/Bravado that over-delivered and a pair of co-main matches that, while not the most substantial contests of all time, were still quite enjoyable. I wish the show had been structured differently, with Kingston/Henry and Theory/Allin as the one-two closing punch instead of Cole/Strickland and the tag titles, but that’s a minor quibble, really.
Storyline-wise, I’m impressed, because I thought there was no way I’d ever get sucked back into Darby’s quest for the gold after he got jerked around so much, but damnit here I am. I’m still not sure the journey was worth the proverbial powder, but they got me for one more story beat. Plus we’re headed towards Henry and Kingston going at it again, potentially in a no-DQ match or maybe a tag with Eddie finding a partner, so that’s exciting.
Check the VOD out on WWNLive, folks, whether as an individual purchase or at no additional cost through your Club WWN subscription.