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Evolve 128 recap & review: Webb comes up short, Ohno takes a shortcut, and Henry gets short with Drake

World Wrestling Network

The show begins with Lenny Leonard welcoming us to the show and hyping up the card as always.

Anthony Greene vs. Steven Pena

Pena with an early lead, taking it to Greene in the corner, tearing his bandana off and getting a rise out of the Retrosexual. AG hammering him with chops, bit of back and forth as Steve cuts him off, hungry for that contract. Hammering hard strikes, forcing Greene to try and squeak it out with flash pins and just plain turtle up when that doesn’t work.

Anthony back into it with a big flying forearm, laying lariats in, a big nearfall off a superkick into a kind of side chickenwing powerbomb! Pena fires back with a Go 2 Sleep, a Backdrop Driver... NOPE! Jockeying for position in the corner, Steve hammering with strikes, AG knocks him down and walks the ropes...

Anthony Greene wins by pinfall with a 360 ropewalk crossbody.

This was a solid opener that heated up nicely by the end of it. A little TOO slow and steady early for my tastes, but not bad at all.

Adrian Jaoude vs. Harlem Bravado

Jaoude cocky in the feeling out, offering Bravado a free shot at a leg and immediately countering and rolling through into a front chancery. Into a cross armbar, too close to the ropes, and now Adrian offers to fight Harlem with one arm behind his back! Jockeying for position, Jaoude with a fireman’s carry takeover and Bravado plays Inoki to his Ali and finally turns the tide after an upkick and a bad landing on a float-over.

Action heads to the floor, Harlem taking full advantage of the environment and remaining in charge back in the ring. Crossleg brainbuster... only two! Going after the leg with vigor now, kicking it out from under him repeatedly, jawing at him while offering his jaw up but Jaoude kicks him away from a spinning toehold and lays strikes in! Big cartwheel kick connects and he’s hurting but immediately moves on to mounted punches!

Bravado drawing him back up, forearm to the back of the head, chop block into a half-crab and Adrian’s screaming agony but refuses to stay down! Pressing the attack with strikes, Harlem’s fired up but Jaoude catches him...

Adrian Jaoude wins by pinfall with a reverse roundhouse kick.

This was really fun-- cocky is a good look for Jaoude, and Harlem has just enough veteran cred to make the story here really believable and interesting. I will say, not to get overly deep into smart mark nitpick territory, but I would have liked a bit more adjustment to his offense to sell the leg injury-- I can easily buy a burst of adrenaline covering the pain, but there were just one too many “oh yeah my leg hurts” moments here for me.

Brandon Taggart vs. Juntai vs. Leon Ruff vs. Stephen Wolf

Ruff and Wolf with an impromptu alliance early on, taking care of Taggert together, but our newbie gets a big comeback on Leon after the Skulk man gets some moves in. Stephen takes care of Brandon on his own, Juntai in, a couple dives, back inside for a “everybody do something cool” type segment punctuated by a HUGE powerbomb from Taggert on Ruff!

Juntai in with a wicked kick, Wolf stops the followup, springboard moonsault takes Brandon off his feet but Leon breaks it up with a Swanton in turn! Juntai back into it, snap Dragon suplex, he runs into a knee and Ruff takes full advantage...

Leon Ruff wins by pinfall with the Ruff Landing.

So this was fast-paced, frenetic, and very enjoyable. This is my first time seeing Taggert and he was impressive here, a great base for the flippy boys with some solid power moves, would certainly not mind seeing him in an Evolve ring again.

Post-match, Adrian Alanis gets on the mic and admits he dropped the ball against Babatunde last night but Liam Gray was laughing at him the whole time. Liam begs off but Alanis has a surprise opponent for him...

Babatunde vs. Liam Gray

Gray dodges the big man and takes his shot, which Babatunde shrugs off and smiles as a result of. Liam firing away, punch combos, duck a lariat, big overhand chop hurts him more than it does the NXT star! Babatunde gets him in the corner, Gray again with the overhand chop but soon enough the big man takes him to the floor. Just chopping the Skulk man to the earth, goozle onto the apron for a chop so hard he ends up in the ring!

Back inside, just having his way with Liam, off the ropes...

Babatunde wins by pinfall with the big splash.

A bit more depth than the Alanis match from the previous show, Babatunde’s got a real aggressive charm to him. Still rough around the edges-- the chokelift apron chop took two tries, and you can occasionally see the gears turning in the big man’s head, but I’m excited to see what’s next for him.

Post-match the Unwanted hit the ringside area and beat the Skulk down before Eddie Kingston calls Babatunde out to remind him that they don’t think that NXT talent belong in Evolve. They make like they’re going to attack before backing down and remembering they’ve got a tag title match later tonight.

Ace Perry vs. Curt Stallion

Some tight grappling in the feeling out, little bit of scientific mat wrestling, a little bit of lucha libre and Stallion takes control. Grinding him down, working the arm but Perry takes control back before they put their hair up and square up, South Jersey Lesbian Squad represent! Slugging it out, whereupon a headbutt leaves both men down and out!

Back on their feet, back to slugging it out, Ace running hot until Curt cuts him off and hits the hesitation dropkick! Perry counters the pull-up DDT into a northern lights suplex in the corner and turns it into a rally! Running dropkick, wicked spike basement reverse STO... NOPE! Rolling thunder Codebreaker, still just a two count, a second attempt, reversed, jockeying for position, outside and back in, Stallion reverses a third try into the Air Raid Crash neckbreaker for two of his own!

Perry with a German suplex, Curt pops up, Matrix, HUGE Ace Crusher... STILL NO! Springboard senton atomico, the knees are up, Stallion follows it up by setting him up top... HALF NELSON SUPERPLEX SETS THE FINISH UP!

Curt Stallion wins by pinfall with the Ode to Luigi.

If Evolve doesn’t book Ace Perry on next month’s shows something has gone incredibly wrong. Hell of a debut-- Stallion is already, in his short Evolve career, a guaranteed match of the night contender every show, and here Ace was with him every step of the way. Fantastic stuff, very indie main event style, but that’s not a bad thing.

”Spyder” Nate Webb makes his entrance and orders the sound guy to kill the generic music playing and says the higher powers can’t stop us from hearing the song we want to hear, and he ends up leading the crowd in a singalong of Teenage Dirtbag before Austin Theory attacks!

Austin Theory (c) vs. “Spyder” Nate Webb (Evolve World Championship)

Theory going for a cover right away, no dice, Webb reverses Ataxia and hammers the champ with punches and chops! To the floor, they fight out into the merchandise area and the cameras lose track of the action. When they get back on track, it’s Theory in charge, throwing Webb into a stack of barricades leaned against the wall. Again the camera is poorly placed but we can just about see Austin blast Nate in the face with a water bottle!

Spyder returns the favor with a chair, looking for a piledriver, blocked, Theory lands a suplex! Back to ringside, Webb gets a reverse STO on the concrete but referee Brandon Tolle takes his chair away in the ring. Jockeying for position, Austin decides to bail but Josh Briggs appears to block his exit! Back in, Nate gets the half nelson STO... NOT ENOUGH!

Up for Soylent Green, Theory lands on his feet, puts Webb throat-first into the ropes, underhook...

Austin Theory wins by pinfall with Ataxia to retain the Evolve World Championship.

So this was a little underwhelming due to having to do so much of the hardcore brawling on the floor-- I can’t help but feel like it would have been better suited to being an unsanctioned match or some other kind of no disqualification stipulation where they could have brought the ultraviolence where the cameras could more easily catch it. But... it was “Spyder” Nate Webb wrestling for the Evolve title, so I can’t complain TOO much!

Natalia Markova vs. Shotzi Blackheart

Blackheart howling, Markova denies the handshake, feeling out and Shotzi breaks her bridge with a senton for two! Slick wristlock upkicks into a pin for two before Blackheart starts grinding her down with a side headlock and then a grounded octopus hold. A big boot turns the tide, pressing the attack with strikes in the corner, Stunner gets a nearfall.

Jawbreaker combo into an enzuigiri, Shotzi back in the fight, exploding out of the corner with a sunset flip, no good! Natalia with a big lariat, again just two, following with chest kicks, Blackheart catches one but eats a pump kick and an X-Factor... NOPE! Shotzi with a comeback, turning X-Factor of her own, not quite enough but she’s fired up, WICKED senton in the corner, up top, nobody home on the dive!

Markova nails her with a forearm, calls for it, reverse roundhouse gets a dragon screw but the second try lands true for a nearfall. Natalia comes up empty with a diving splash, Blackheart connects with a Tiger feint kick, up top...

Shotzi Blackheart wins by pinfall with the diving senton.

So this was a little rough around the edges, mainly thanks to Markova feeling a little hesitant at times-- whether just a bad night at the office or a failure of chemistry I wouldn’t want to guess. But it was still a good showcase for Shotzi, so mission accomplished in that regard!

Post-match, all business Brandi Lauren runs in to beat Shotzi down! Blackheart recovers, Lou Thesz Press off the apron into mounted punches! They brawl until referees show up to separate them, and then they break free and brawl some more! And then just as you think they’re going to be successfully escorted out, they brawl one more time!

Josh Briggs vs. Kassius Ohno

Ohno opens up with an offer-- he knows this is a dream match for Briggs, and they can either wrestle and have a dream match, or he can end his career. Josh gets right up in his face and it’s pretty clear what he wants, but Kassius says he’s here to have a dream match and they get into the grappling. Ohno working his way through holds, Briggs plays the same game, and eventually Kassius gets into a position where he’s got Josh by the injured leg and lets go after making sure he knows what kind of danger he’s in.

Back to the grappling, moving into feats of strength and the erstwhile Hero offers himself up for shoulder blocks but of course it’s a fake-out and he nails Briggs with a boot! Josh with a big man Frankensteiner, Ohno to the floor, block a boot from the apron, big right hand and the Knockout Artist is on the back foot! Following after him on the floor but Kassius lands one of those knockout elbows!

Chops and boots, Josh can give just as good as he gets but when the action goes back in the ring Ohno’s right on him with knee drops, taking the pad down after the first. Adding some arm work to the mix, stepping on Briggs’ face and busting him open at the mouth, KO just punishing him at length here. Josh fired up after Hero rips his shoulder brace off, slugging it out, big crossbody... NO!

Trading strikes, going shot for shot with the greatest indie wrestler of all time, catching him with the backbreaker into the butterfly backbreaker... NOT ENOUGH! Cravate, Briggs reverses... GO TO HELL ISN’T ENOUGH EITHER! Exchange of boots, Josh up top... MOONSAULT COUNTERED INTO AN ACE CRUSHER BUT JOSH KICKS OUT! Both men down and out, Ohno with the first shot as they trade staggering forearms!

Cyclone Kill, both men down again and they slowly sit up. Ohno floats out of the first M5 and breaks the second, rolling elbow, rolling elbow, Death Blow countered into a chokeslam... KASSIUS OHNO AIN’T NOTHIN’ TO MESS WITH! Wristlock, looking to capitalize, kicking his face in, a second, Ohno catches the boot, kick to the hamstring of the injured hip...

Kassius Ohno wins by pinfall with a rolling elbow to the back of the neck.

I was expecting this to be very good and it absolutely lived up to those hopes. From the kitchen sink grappling early where Hero made it clear he could take Briggs’ leg out if he needed to, to Josh’s spirited rallies, to the finish where the indie vet and arguable greatest of all time made good on his promise from earlier and went right for the hip for the win, this was some real prime gatekeeping Chris Hero action and it makes me miss the days when we got these kinds of matches every month here in Evolve.

The Unwanted (Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy) (c) vs. WorkHorsemen (Anthony Henry & JD Drake) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)

Gacy and Henry to start, Anthony’s grappling against Joe’s striking. At least in the early goings, the grappling wins and Henry immediately shifts to his own striking. Kingston tags in, gets worked over by the challengers a beat but the champs aren’t afraid to get a cheap shot in there to turn the tide and do so. Quick tags keep the Lethal Lover down but eventually Drake gets the tag and comes in hot, taking both guys on at once with ease!

Truck Stop nearfall, Kingston breaks it up, Henry with the save as the match breaks down! Challengers running double-teams, Vader Bomb... NOPE! Double lariats, JD still in control but harder and harder to keep it and he tags out. Anthony in hot with kicks, sending Gacy to the floor and then stomping him on the apron! Up top, Eddie cuts him off and then gets into a chop battle with Drake!

Match breaks down again, challengers running those slick combos of theirs, spinning TKO into a Shining Wizard, kicks and a cannonball in the corner, Henry down, Drake up top with the moonsault but only takes his own partner out! Tag made but Anthony gets the crescent kick on Kingston! Gacy comes in, handspring Ace Crusher sets him up...

The Unwanted win by pinfall with a Backdrop Driver from Eddie Kingston on Anthony Henry to retain the Evolve Tag Team Championship.

Really good match, and in particular I love the way the throughline of Henry being so isolated for most of the match paid off, both relative to the finish here and relative to the overall arc of the WorkHorsemen’s relationship with each other over the last year or so through Henry’s heel turn and obsession with Darby Allin.

Post-match, Henry gets in Drake’s face and yells at him about missing the moonsault. JD jaws back but cooler heads prevail and the two partners leave without coming to blows.

Adam Cole vs. AR Fox

Grappling to start, turning the thermostat up, a series of blocked hip tosses take them to the apron and then Cole hip tosses Fox hard onto the apron! Back in the ring, pressing the attack, targeting Fox’s back and neck, neckbreakers and hammer whips, off the ropes into a reverse chinlock. Adam prowling after a pump kick, trading shots, jockeying for position over a suplex and AR gets his Twister off!

Slugging it out, Matrix evasion into an enzuigiri and Fox is running hot. Back body drop puts him on the apron, a sweet little slingshot to trip him up, rolling thunder Sling Blade for two, 450 splash comes up empty! Ace Crusher denied, but a mule kick out of the corner sets up a successful one... NOPE! Kick combo into another one, springboard... COUNTERED INTO A LUNGBLOWER AND FOX ALMOST CAN’T KICK OUT!

Brainbuster denied, AR with a Codebreaker, drawing him up and Adam reverses to the brainbuster on the knee... STILL NO! Off the second, Panama Sunrise blocked, countered into a back body drop after a struggle, shotgun dropkick, up top... AND HE STILL HITS THE COAST 2 COAST EVEN AFTER COLE BAILED TO THE FLOOR! Back inside, pump kick in the corner, Lo Mein Pain denied!

Cole hits Panama Sunrise... AR FOX FINDS THE WILL TO KICK OUT! Last Shot ducked, schoolboy for two, reverse a suplex into a small package, reverse, no fall! Front kick for enzuigiri, Matrix evasion, superkick connects, northern superkick, off the ropes...

Adam Cole wins by pinfall with Last Shot.

This was a hoot! Just two vets with some history busting out their greatest hits in a way that goes down real nice and easy-- it’s a little bit of a junk food match for sure but I enjoyed the hell out of it.


Evolve 128 was a borderline great show-- I kind of want to push it across the line on the strength of Ohno/Briggs alone, to be honest, but Webb/Theory was just barely weak enough that I can’t quite go there. But Perry/Stallion was really strong in a way that surprised me and the two closing matches were both also really, really good in their own right.

Storyline-wise we have a lot of stuff moving here. I’m not super fond of Josh Briggs being on a losing streak on his way to the title, I feel like Evolve has done that a little too much in recent memory. But in the pure positive column, the friendly tension amongst the Skulk and their loose alliance with Babatunde against the Unwanted is really interesting, the tension in the WorkHorsemen’s partnership could go some fun places (Henry/Drake for the WWN title would be, as the kids say, a banger), and my word the brawl between Blackheart and Lauren should lead to a really fun no DQ match sooner rather than later!

Check the VOD out on the World Wrestling Network, whether as an individual purchase or at no additional cost through your Club WWN membership.

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