The show starts just a few minutes after the scheduled bell time with Lenny Leonard and “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi in the ring to welcome us to the show and hype the card up. Or at least that’s what I assume they’re doing because the audio’s down for the first minute or so.
Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts & Randy Summers) vs. Task Force (DMC & Mikey Spandex)
Summers and Spandex to start, Milk Chocolate in control soon enough, working over with a bit of lucha libre and traditional tag wrestling before Task Force get a turn, wicked knee from DMC into a German suplex from Mikey at one point that nearly takes it. Watts in on DMC, the tide turns, fighting to the floor and the Tony Nese-trained Brandon Watts takes flight!
Back inside, diving guillotine leg drop, fighting Spandex off, DMC knocks Summers down, but a malfunction at the junction later...
Milk Chocolate win by pinfall with a crucifix pin from Brandon Watts on DMC.
Solid tag team action to start here-- nothing terribly memorable but good work.
Post-match, Task Force jump Milk Chocolate and put boots to them!
NXT’s Babatunde makes the save?! He shakes Task Force’s hands and refuses to let go, crushing their hands in his iron grip! Stacking them up in the corner, hard whip, overhand chop and he just continues destroying them, including an elbow drop and a big splash! Babatunde turns his attention to Milk Chocolate and holds his hand up a maximum wingspan for a high five.
Summers jumps and misses, but Watts high fives the big man!
Brandi Lauren vs. Lacey Lane
Testing strength to start, Lauren tries to get mean and Lane gets into the lucha libre, step-up arm drag, pressing the attack. To the floor, Brandi trips her up and sets to choking her in the ring and grinding her down with a reverse chinlock. Lacey fights from underneath, kicking her way to an opening and taking Lauren back outside to beat her up a bit before returning to the ring.
Dropkick gets a shockingly deep cover, jockeying for position in the corner...
Brandi Lauren wins by pinfall with a neckbreaker.
A little rough around the edges with an abrupt finish, this wasn’t great but it did the deal. Lacey got to show off her lucha skills, Brandi got to be mean, everybody played to their strengths and it worked out okay.
Kona Reeves is here with a live microphone. He gets an, uh... “warm” welcome and talks about how he came to see what kind of competition was here but all he saw was chickens in the parking lot. He doesn’t want to be here in this filthy city and none of the people here deserve the Finest, so he’s outta here.
Except he gets interrupted by Colby Corino, who says Kona has the spot he dreams of having and if he’s gonna come in here and badmouth talent, he can prove that he’s the Finest right here right now, unless he’s chicken!
Colby Corino vs. Kona Reeves
Corino looking to snap off an early win with pinning predicaments but Reeves keeps his distance before shooting in for waistlock takedowns. Full nelson reversed into a pin but Kona presses the attack after kicking out, biel reversed into a Skayde Special... NOPE! Into the ropes, back elbow, Colby with the clutch back body drop to the floor! Slingshot dive through the second after a fakeout!
Going for a trust fall senton but Reeves catches him and slams him into the apron! Hammering his back into the hard corner of the ring, Kona takes things back inside and works Colby over at length in the turnbuckles. Corino with a close nearfall off a folding press, Reeves off the ropes with a boot... NOT ENOUGH! Back to the waistlock takedown, Kona with a straight suplex for another two count.
Colby with chops, Reeves returns a backbreaker for his trouble and follows it up with a rear chinlock but Corino manages to sling him out to the apron. Up top, Kona dives and gets cut off with a kick to the gut! Huge right hands from the Unwanted Son, palm strikes, forearms in the ropes, back body drop to the apron but he lands a gamengiri and heads up top... METEORA ISN’T ENOUGH TO PUT KONA REEVES AWAY!
Off the ropes, pop-up, slip through, sunset flip, only two! Catch the boot, crescent kick but Reeves rolls to the floor! Colby rolls him back inside but gets the middle rope kicked into his midsection and the Finest follows it with a knee! Hammerlock...
Kona Reeves wins by pinfall with Kona Rush.
Okay, so Reeves going over Corino isn’t what I would have picked here but this was a fun showcase for Colby, both his pure athleticism and his gritty fight-from-underneath underdog babyface vibe, which is a bit weird given that he’s part of a heel faction but I’ll allow it.
Adrian Jaoude vs. Anthony Henry
Henry turns down a handshake and they get to it, Jaoude just a little bit faster than Anthony’s first attempt at taking him down. Into the lockup, jockeying for position and they end up in the ropes and the break is forced. Adrian with a single-leg takedown but he can’t get a followup hold! Henry with a single-leg of his own, into the takedown, ankle lock, Jaoude makes the ropes!
Adrian gets an armbar, hanging onto it, shifting to a wristlock, looking for the Jim Breaks Special, shifting to a knuckle lock but Henry takes him down into a heel hook! Rolling to the apron, refusing to break, he pops Jaoude one in the face and starts hammering him with wicked knees! Straight suplex from the Lethal Lover into a cross armbar attempt but the Brazilian keeps his hands clasped!
Guillotine choke, sticking on him, they get into the striking and Adrian nearly takes the match after a kick to the face! German suplex off the ropes, roundhouse kick can’t do it for Henry either! Heading up top, perched, double stomp comes up empty, leg pick into the cross armbar but Anthony keeps his hands clasped! Grip broken, Henry rolls through into an eye poke!
Jaoude throwing blind haymakers, backing Henry in the ropes, referee Jake Clemons counting, they won’t stop brawling...
The match goes to a double disqualification draw!
Okay so this was an absolute hoot and I can’t wait for the rematch! Equally matched, in striking and in grappling, two dudes digging deep to find a way to be better for just as long as it takes to get a pin or submission, Henry cutting corners with the eye pokes... This is the kind of match that Evolve is built on, excellent stuff. GIVE. ME. THE. REMATCH.
They keep brawling and security rushes the ring to separate them! Jaoude breaks free and rushes in and they’re still throwing hands! Pulled apart, they get back at each other one last time!
Curt Stallion vs. Shane Thorne
Thorne takes Stallion’s beloved Kairi Sane t-shirt and stomps on it before the bell!
Test of strength, Shane counters with a handful of hair and gets at it, locking Curt down with a wristlock for a good beat. Out of it, dropkick, diving crossbody, they end up fighting to the floor and Thorne takes the momentum right back with a back suplex into the bar! Back inside, big cannonball in the corner, kicks thudding into Stallion’s ribcage and back.
Curt stands up straight and lays the overhand chops in, each one returned with an uppercut that knocks him down until he ducks one and hits a German suplex for separation! Thorne heads to the floor, Stallion with a suicide dive, back in and up top... and Shane just cold yanks him into the turnbuckles! Cannonball comes up empty, Curt with the hesitation dropkick into the pull-up DDT... NOPE!
Jackknife, roll-through, Air Raid Crash neckbreaker, still only two! Thorne stalking after, to the second, jockeying for position... DRAGON SUPERPLEX ISN’T ENOUGH TO KEEP SHANE THORNE DOWN! On their knees and to their feet, strike for strike, chop for chop, Stallion raining palm strikes down into a rolling elbow but Thorne decapitates him with a lariat!
Powerbomb connects, fired up, chickenwings, Curt reverses to a small package for two! Headbutt, Shane catches him...
Shane Thorne wins by submission with the Wing Clip.
Hot take time-- after seeing his former partner’s underwhelming outings in New Japan of late and comparing them to this match tonight, Shane Thorne > Mikey Nicholls. This was a really fun match and Thorne has definitely found a rich vein to mine with this cocky asshole heel character, and of course Stallion’s killing it like always. Real good stuff!
Adrian Alanis vs. AR Fox vs. Leon Ruff
Right away full-bore out the gates, Ruff nearly getting a German suplex on both other men! Ducking and dodging, blocking and sidestepping and they stalemate! Fox with an impromptu alliance with Leon to dump Alanis, off the ropes, so fast, hard to keep up with, kip-up into an enzuigiri and AR is forced out! Adrian in, hossing Ruff around, short-arm Black Hole Backbreaker!
Charging in, big uppercut sets up sliding knees... NOPE! Fox back in, laying down the law, Ace Crusher but Alanis rolls away! Trading Matrix evasions with Leon, Twister connects! Headed out on the floor to deal with Adrian, cravate neckbreaker to put him down, back in and the cover gets two on Ruff! Elevated half nelson backbreaker sets up an inverted DDT but Leon Ruff ain’t going out like that!
AR pressing the attack, Ruff slips out for a German suplex and Adrian returns for spinning Blue Thunder Drivers on both his opponents into a senton on Fox! Pop-up into a powerslam... NOPE! Looking for a suplex, Leon adds a blockbuster and turns it into a DDT and all three men are down and out! Ruff has the crowd behind him, he’s got his sights in on Alanis, step-up Codebreaker and Adrian rolls to the floor.
Off the ropes, AR trips him up and climbs up top... COAST 2 COAST THROUGH THE ROPES! RUFF COMES IN WITH A SENTON ATOMICO OFF THE TOP AND TO THE FLOOR! Back in, Fox gets Alanis caught up in the ropes and charges in... BELLY TO BELLY PUTS AR INTO THE REST OF THE SKULK AT RINGSIDE AND ADRIAN FOLLOWS IT UP WITH A BIG MAN SUICIDE DIVE! Alanis gets Fox up on the apron, AR floats into the ring and hits an Ace Crusher over the ropes!
Ruff and Fox back inside, Leon with an enzuigiri and a neckbreaker over the knee, legsweep puts him in the ropes, rolling neckbreaker... ALANIS BREAKS IT UP WITH A SENTON! Chops into the corner, shotgun dropkick takes Fox out, pop-up countered into a knee and Ruff charges to follow it up only to get belly-to-belly suplexed into AR in the corner! Adrian with underhooks, Tiger Driver... LEON RUFF KICKS OUT!
Argentine backbreaker rack, Ruff slips out but gets enzuigiri’d into the corner. Fox back up and at ‘em, Stunner denied, to the apron, right hand, up top, nobody home on the 450 but he rolls through into a double Ace Crusher and stacks his students up. Senton atomico connects, back up to follow it... ADRIAN ALANIS KICKS OUT OF THE 450 SPLASH?!
Thinking Foxcatcher, Alanis using his strength to block so AR hits a roundhouse kick that sends him staggering. Adrian to the second, Fox cuts him off, pump kick to keep Ruff down, Lo Mein Pain... BUT LEON WAS RIGHT BEHIND HIM WITH A GERMAN SUPLEX! Missile dropkick from Adrian, Ruff is quick to capitalize...
Leon Ruff wins by pinfall with a crucifix driver on Adrian Alanis.
Okay so this was almost too fast for me to keep up with in the recap but it was SO good. Stereo mentor vs. student stories, with the added layer that Ruff has earned a WWN contract and thus has a safe roster spot but Alanis, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t and so a big win for him here might have made the difference in getting that, and it’s just... they made magic here.
Eric Bugenhagen makes his entrance for his performance.
He circles around ringside a few times air guitaring and interacting with fans before getting on the mic and informing us that he came to rock... AND EDDIE KINGSTON BLINDSIDES HIM AND BEATS HIM DOWN! He cuts a promo between stomps about how this is why HIS professional wrestling is dead and Angelo Dawkins is here and their match is off and running!
Angelo Dawkins vs. Eddie Kingston (Falls Count Anywhere Match)
Already out on the street within the first minute of the match! And the Street Profits theme is still playing while they brawl, New Jack-style! Alas, the music cuts out and they return to the bar. Fighting their way back to ringside and finally back in, Kingston with a boot before snapping off a DDT! Choking him out with a vest, running boot in the corner but finally Dawkins gets away.
Spinning Stinger Splash into a fallaway slam, off the ropes... POUNCE! Eddie decides discretion is the better part of valor and Dawkins follows him onto the stage. Kingston with a two count, but Bugenhagen has recovered and joins in! Angelo charges...
Angelo Dawkins wins by pinfall with a spear.
So this didn’t run as long or as hot as I’d hoped, but c’mon, it’s the Orpheum and they brawled into the street, I ain’t mad.
Post-match, Dawkins celebrates with the crowd and jumps off the bar.
Austin Theory (c) vs. Raul Mendoza (Evolve World Championship)
Mendoza offers him a handshake and Theory returns a head pat and we get into the grappling. Raul turns the heat up with some lucha libre, arm drags, legsweeps, double dropkick into a double kip-up stalemate! Arm wringer, slide under, Frankensteiner into a drop toehold, pick the arm, La Casita, rolling the champion around the ring before pinning him... NOPE!
Both men dizzy, Mendoza fires off a huge chop and goes back to the arm. Whip across, back body drop to the apron, springboard countered with a forearm! To the floor, Austin lays him out and takes a breather while the referee checks on him. Back inside, cover for one, hammer whip puts him hard into the turnbuckles but Raul won’t stay down!
Wristlock stomps, Austin follows with chops, springboard stomp into a pull-up suplex! One-arm cutthroat choke, trying to wear Mendoza down, clubbing away at him, kidney shots, German suplex but Raul lands on his feet! Off the ropes, enzuigiri connects, strike rush, off the ropes, lariats connect, dropkick and Theory is staggered in the corner!
Charging forearm, whip reversed, slide through, roundhouse kick from the apron, springboard dropkick! To the floor, suicide dive, back in, Mendoza gets a desperation suplex off for two! Raul up top, nobody home on the 450 splash! Frankensteiner blocked, Theory reverses to a buckle bomb and follows it with a crossleg neckbreaker over the knee... NOPE!
On their knees, slugging it out, Mendoza fired up as they get to their feet and keep throwing forearms. Duck a roundhouse, Austin cracks a big one, charging into the corner, to the second but Raul hits a cartwheel enzuigiri to keep things even! Avalanche Frankensteiner... NOT ENOUGH! Theory reverses a pumphandle into a victory roll for two, Ataxia blocked, side cradle, only two!
Mendoza picks the legs, inverted cloverleaf swing! He falls down and adds the bodyscissors, Theory’s got nowhere to go! Austin crawling, reaching... HE’S GOT THE ROPES FOR THE BREAK! Austin hangs him over the second rope throat first, superkick, underhook...
Austin Theory wins by pinfall with Ataxia to retain the Evolve World Championship.
This was a really good match but it didn’t quite connect with me for whatever reason. It’s very much in the vein of Theory’s other big singles matches this year, and Mendoza was great, so I’m not one hundred percent sure where it failed but it never quite got as good as I wanted it to be. Still a good match, though.
Austin gets on the mic to crow about his open challenge and calls Roderick Strong and Undisputed ERA out, saying he beat Roddy *and* Kyle O’Reilly, so he’s 2-0 against TUE. He brushes Bobby Fish off as unimportant before calling Adam Cole out for a non-title match next month.
JD Drake (c) vs. Shane Strickland (WWN Championship)
Feeling out, Strickland trying to keep Drake from bringing his strength to bear and JD doing everything he can to keep him from getting control over his arm. Shane changes gears, trying to taunt the champion and get him to make a mistake, slapping him, stealing the title belt, giving him the run-around and catching him with strikes when they return to the ring.
Drake fires back with those heavy-handed chops, and soon enough the action is on the floor again, where Strickland wraps the Blue Collar Badass’ arm around the post! JD fights back, vicious strikes on the floor, repeated headbutts, choking his challenger on the floor! Back inside, cover for two, scoop and a slam, big splash, keeping the King of Swerve on the back foot.
To the floor again and again Strickland takes advantage, laying the champion out with a superkick! Wrapping his arm around the support beam, back inside, still no! Dissecting the arm, seated armbar with the fingers tucked behind his own head for maximum leverage! Shift to a cross armbar, kicks to boot, but Drake gets the ropes and forces the break!
Shane throwing chops as JD rises, resolve stiffening his back, throwing chops of his own but Strickland catches on and turns it into a seated armbar! Maximum extension, the Blue Collar Badass screaming agony but he’s able to keep some leverage when Shane goes back to the cross armbar! Posting around, an upkick staggers Drake and sends him into the ropes.
Back body drop puts the challenger on the floor but he cuts a dive off with a gamengiri! Flying triangle, Drake posts to his feet... DEADLIFT POWERBOMB! Up for a second, Strickland floats over, sunset flip denied but he goes right back to the armbar! JD posts into a pin and Shane’s forced to give it up! Drake charges in... LARIAT! Both men down and out, helping themselves to their feet up the ropes.
Drake charges in with a chop, overhead belly-to-belly suplex, to the second... DIVING LEG LARIAT BUT HE CAN’T CAPITALIZE! Back on their feet, arm limp at his side as he throws chops, JD lands a spinning spinbuster... STILL NO! Headed up top, Shane cuts him off, jockeying for position, another leg lariat but this one comes up empty! Knee to the back of the head, he tucks the bad arm into JD’s tights and dropkicks it!
Double knee armbreaker, putting the work in but he can’t keep the New Age Enforcer down! Elbows to the shoulder but JD posts up and slings him off. Underhooks, his arm gives out and he can’t hit Drill Bit! Charging in, duck under the dive, scoop into the Emerald Flowsion one-armed! Back to their feet, hanging off each other, running on fumes but Drake is able to shrug off a slap!
A return slap puts Strickland on his knees! Trading chops, trading slaps, trading punches, Shane hits an inverted stomp shoulderbreaker! Ode to Jim Breaks but Drake fights away from the broken arm stomp! Short-arm back elbow, northern lariat, Shining Wizard... STRICKLAND’S STILL IN IT! Underhooks, this time Drill Bit works but Shane slips away and knees him right in the jaw!
Headed up top, JD cuts him off with a Shotei, jockeying for position, Strickland drills him with an avalanche maneuver... NOT PUTTING THE BLUE COLLAR BADASS DOWN LIKE THAT! Knee strike, Drake rolls outside... SWERVE STOMP TO THE FLOOR! Back inside... A SECOND SWERVE STOMP ISN’T ENOUGH! DRAKE KICKED OUT! Knee pad down, running knee, same result!
Back to the arm, the short armscissors is on but JD posts around and stands up, raining stomps down to force the break! Both men go for lariats at the same time, and again, champion thinking JML Driver but Swerve reverses! Tiger feint kick to the midsection, rolling thunder-- COUNTERED INTO THE STUNNER! Cannonball! Underhooks...
JD Drake wins by pinfall with Drill Bit to retain the WWN Championship.
This was incredible, folks. It might have run a little long, and I might have wished for the moonsault instead of Drill Bit given the focus on the arm, but it’s an excellent match and Drake’s work selling the arm is off the charts. And if, as reports that Mania weekend was his last full weekend of indie dates are true, an excellent bookend to Strickland’s Evolve career, going out on the same kind of epic, arm-oriented match he came in on against Matt Riddle.
Post-match, Eddie Kingston and Colby Corino jump the WWN Champion but Anthony Henry makes the save, chair in hand! He helps his pal to his feet after running the Unwanted off and hands him his title belt.
This was a little bit weaker than your average 2019 Evolve show in the ring for me, with Henry/Jaoude, the Skulk three-way, and the main event being the best matches and Dawkins/Kingston and Theory/Mendoza both falling a bit flat. But dang if Drake/Strickland wasn’t good enough to put the whole show on its back and swim out halfway across the Atlantic!
Plus Henry’s mean streak has taken a turn with all the eye pokes (which stand in firm contrast to his saving his pal Drake to end the show in a very interesting way) and his brawl with Jaoude, Theory has his sights set firmly on Adam Cole, and we got a brace of interesting new NXT talent, all of whom I’d be happy to see again (but most especially Shane Thorne, who I think is on to something here), so the future seems pretty bright right now.
Check the show out on WWNLive, folks, whether as an individual VOD purchase or at no additional cost through your Club WWN subscription.