Snoop Strikes vs. Jason Kincaid vs. Brody King vs. Jarek 1-20 (w/Candy Cartwright) - 6.5/10
Timothy Barr, being typically bad at his job, accidentally introduced Jarek's "Lovely Assistant" as "Casey Cartwright" instead of Candy Cartwright. The match was all action and was NUTS for the time it got. It was a perfect little opener, allowed everyone to shine, and had a finish that looked AWESOME. Jarek was setting up for his finisher on Strikes but Strikes reversed it with a Sunset Flip, but then Kincaid came off the tope rope with the big double-stomp onto Strikes and pinned him, getting that win he has so desperately needed in order to stay on the roster.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Jarek gave Candy Cartwright a subtle signal and she climbed up onto the apron, distracting Kincaid so Jarek could get into position to attack him from behind (misdirecting your attention is a key part of any lovely assistant's job, after all), but Kincaid either heard or sensed it coming and turned around in time to stop Jarek's simply by stunning Jarek with his quickness... but rather than punch back, Kincaid forgave Jarek because that's what spiritually-centered people like Jason Kincaid do. This segment did a good job of advancing the beginnings of a feud between these two (Jarek was extremely frustrated as he and Candy walked to the back), but I've been waiting almost an entire year now for Kincaid to snap and no matter how it seems like he'll be to doing so, it never happens, and that's getting a little annoying.
OPENING SEGMENT - Great. We open with Chris Dickinson already in the ring and calling out The End, challenging them to an anything goes fight. Lenny Leonard noted that this wasn't on his format, which both tells us viewers at home that missing Dickinson' entrance and probably the beginning of his promo wasn't a technical malfunction as well as playing up Dickinson's rash and impatient personality.
Out soon behind Dickinson were his tag team partner Jaka and their manager Stokely Hathaway, with Stokely's bodyguard Dominic Garrini and (former, if she's on a WWN show?) ROH wrestler Faye Jackson. I have no idea what Faye's relationship to any of this is. Stokely tells Dickinson that now isn't the time for this. Instead, he hypes up Jaka's match against Keith Lee later tonight and Dickinson's challenge for Lee's WWN Title tomorrow night. He tells Jaka that he has a very important job tonight, which is to soften Lee up for Dickinson, and because of this, Stokely is giving Jaka his private dressing room tonight, where Faye Jackson will help him... um... prepare for his match, I guess (although anyone who has seen Faye wrestle will know that Faye's ability to help someone prepare for a match is limited to being a walking reel of footage of what not to do).
Stokely then announces that he is about to acquire RINGKAMPF as his clients! Does this seem a bit out of character for RingKampf? Sure. But that's exactly what I said early last year when Stokely claimed he was about to become the manager of Catchpoint, and yet here he is as the manager of Catchpoint. RingKampf came out and they did their stoic pose, and Stokely went up and did it with them, standing right between them, until WALTER and Thatcher both (literally) gave Stokely a sideways look, and he shrunk into the background. I was rolling on the floor laughing.
Stokely handed WALTER a contract... and WALTER ripped it up and told Stokely to beat it. This got Stokely upset, and Dickinson got upset when WALTER told him that RingKampf are coming for their Evolve World Tag Team Titles. Once Stokely seemed to be about to get himself into a spot of trouble by trying to get into WALTER's face, Garrini jumped in to support Stokely, and Tracy Williams came out to try to calm his guys down. Then everyone figured that because they're all already out here, we might as well jump right to...
RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) vs. CATCHPOINT (Tracy Williams & Dominic Garrini) (w/Stokely Hathaway & Chris Dickinson) - 8.75/10
I'm a huge fan of the idea of starting off the year with something that is designed to 100% deliver in the ring (and if you can make it feel like an important moment then that's all the better), and this match definitely did that. This was sixteen awesome minutes of wrestling, submissions, suplexes, and striking. Especially from WALTER, who just came off like the biggest possible beast. There was an interesting dynamic at work here where the fans would boo Thatcher (and thus cheer whenever Catchpoint was working over his arm) but they loved WALTER and wanted to see him beat the sh*t out of Catchpoint so they would cheer when Thatcher made the hot tag even though they had just been cheering Catchpoint beating him up.
As RingKampf were making their way to the back, they walked by Chris Dickinson tending to the fallen Williams and WALTER said something to Dickinson which caused Dickinson to shout back at him, which did a fine job of building a bit more anticipation for RingKampf's eventual challenge for the tag titles.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Once RingKampf left, The End's music started to play and they all went after Catchpoint, with Drennan taking Garrini's leg out with a chair. Jaka came out to make things three-on-three again. Jaka, Williams, Drennan and Odinson all brawled to the back, leaving us with Dickinson and Parrow in the ring. A referee then came out and Timothy Barr declared that we were now witnessing a...
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS MATCH:
Parrow vs. Chris Dickinson - 7.5/10
These guys had a sick brawl with lots of chair use. Dickinson got the win with a Pazuzu Bomb onto a big pile of chairs. Dickinson got the win because he's challenging for the WWN Title tomorrow night, so to let The End come out of this with at least some heat in this feud, Drennan and Odinson came out after the match and attacked Dickinson and Odinson nailed him with some sort of sick headroppy driver move onto the same pile of chairs. Catchpoint arrived moments too late to make the save, but they were at least able to force The End to retreat before they could do any more damage to Dickinson.
MATT RIDDLE vs. A.R. FOX (w/his Hype Train) - 7.25/10
There was some entertaining mockery of each other before match, although how good-natured it was is left up to interpretation. Both guys worked the head, though in different ways, with Riddle relying more on strikes and submissions while Fox relied more on maneuvers like DDTs and drivers. Riddle had control of the majority of the match, but Fox managed to hit him with a SICK combination of a Canadian Destroyer, Yakuza Kick, Lo Mein Pain and a 450 Splash to definitively defeat Riddle on his birthday. This finish felt like a real death combination, and Riddle sold it as such.
A.R. FOX PROMO - Good. He notes that he just beat the first WWN Champion, and said that he wanted a shot at the WWN Champion- whoever that may be at the time- when EVOLVE returns to this building next month for Evolve 100.
On commentary, Lenny Leonard teased a major surprise talent announcement for WrestleMania weekend, saying that we would find out who it is at the beginning of tomorrow's show.
FIP RULES MATCH FOR THE FIP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Austin Theory(c) (w/Priscilla Kelly) vs. Fred Yehi - 7.5/10
"FIP Rules" apparently means that "there are no rules," so how the hell do you win? As I'm sure you can tell, I HATE that stupid, clichéd phrase. In this case the whole idea is doubly confusing because if I remember correctly, the FIP World Heavyweight Title can actually change hands on a count-out, so telling me that this match is under "FIP Rules" and thus "there are no rules" seems contradictory.
Yehi was even more angry and pissed off than usual, pacing around and trying several times to get his hands on Theory and/or Kelly before the match even began. It reminded me of Eddie Kingston before his big blow-off with Chris Hero in CZW, but without the army of people between them. In the month since we've seen Theory last, he has cut his hair short and gotten himself totally shredded. He's also started to smile more, so as a result he actually looks as confident and cocky as the announcers tell me he is rather than the odd mix of cocky and lemon-faced that he usually is. It's a vast improvement.
The story of this match was that the presence of Priscilla Kelly basically made it two-on-one most of the way through. At one point Jason Kincaid came out to try to talk to Austin Theory and get his message through to him, which caused Priscilla to yell at Kincaid. At a later point Kincaid stopped Theory from using a chair on Yehi, so Kelly slapped him. Kincaid looked like he was finally about to snap but Theory knocked him off the apron and into the barricade before he could do anything. By the time he got up, Theory had managed to hit Yehi with his new finisher that he debuted on the last show and got the win. After the match, Kelly and Theory mocked Kincaid, but he once again managed to find his center and merely went to the back rather than snapping.
I know the majority of my review on this match has focused on Jason Kincaid and Priscilla Kelly rather than the two men in the match because that was where the crux of the interesting story seemed to be, but please don't think Yehi and Theory didn't bust their butts to have a great match because they did. It was well-paced, exciting, told the story of Kelly's interference being the difference maker very well, and even had a cool callback to their match at the previous show. I hope they have another match at some point down the line.
KEITH LEE vs. JAKA (w/Chris Dickinson) - 8/10
A.R. Fox & Friends distracted Lee several times, allowing Jaka to recover. Jaka eventually won with a big series of strikes. After the match, Chris Dickinson grabbed a mic and said that he would win the WWN Title from Lee tomorrow night. He then told Fox that he would give him a title shot at Evolve 100 if he wants one.
EVOLVE WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr.(c) vs. Darby Allin - 9/10
Zack has new music. Darby has written the word "champ" all over the left side of his body. Also, he got it tattooed on the inside of his mouth. Darby is a little nuts.
Zack dominated the match, but just about every time Darby got offense in, it led to a totally believable false finish. The story here was that both guys- especially Darby- did everything they could within the rules to not lose. Darby kicked out of all of Zack's stuff and both guys managed to kick out of the other's unbeatable roll-up. They really made you feel that Darby would die before giving up, and for all we know that might have been true because Zack won the match via referee stoppage when he had Darby in one of his wacky and yet sick-looking submissions that also allowed him to repeatedly stomp on Darby's head. Go watch this match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Austin Theory comes out and attacks the exhausted Zack. Kincaid comes out to tell him off but Kelly and Theory make fun of him. He finally snaps and beats up Theory and hits him with a whole bunch of double stomps, exacerbating the damage that Yehi had done earlier with the same maneuver. Kincaid eventually snapped out of it and looked very unhappy with himself for having lost control.
This was kind of disappointing. With the way the idea of Kincaid snapping has been built up, I was expecting bloody murder. But if this was intended to just be a "preview" of what happens when Kincaid snaps and there is a full, more permanent snap coming at a later date then I guess this is fine. At least it finally happened, after a whole year of building it up.
An AMAZING show by EVOLVE to start off the year. People would be talking about this as a Show of the Year contender if not for that pesky Tokyo Dome show last week and its crazy match quality. Still, this show was nuts and you need to make sure you watch it.