By Big Red Machine
From February 17, 2018


Jason Kincaid vs. Darby Allin vs. Jarek 1-20 (w/Candy Cartwright) - 6.5/10

Darby Allin is scheduled to compete in a four-way tomorrow night against Matt Riddle, FIP World Heavyweight Champion Austin Theory, and one half of the Evolve World Tag Team Champions Jaka... but if Darby loses tonight's fall, then his spot in that match will go to whoever it is that beat him, representing a massive jump up the card for both Kincaid and especially for Jarek.

Darby was just sitting on the floor, not wrestling. The announcers pushed it as Darby almost forfeiting the match to "punish" himself for failing to win the Evolve World Title (similar to how Darby has asked to be in preliminary matches even though management said he still deserves a main roster spot). He eventually got up and wrestled, but the announcers described him as "not even trying to win, just throwing himself" at his opponents, which to me kind of feels like the old, pre-"I need to prove my worth as a technical wrestler by winning the Evolve World Title" Darby Allin rather than something entirely new for his personality.

They had a very good three-way with lots of good three-way spots and guys mostly working over each other's heads that ended when Darby pinned Kincaid with hi Gibson Leg Lock roll-up thingy.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Jarek got a mic and got in Darby's face and told him "you just got lucky," and that if they faced off in a singles match "you would lose, just like you did to Zack Sabre Jr." Darby got angry and punched Jarek in the face, then cut a promo declaring that, just like the past 99 EVOLVE shows, his loss to Zack was in the past, and vowing that, after the next hundred shows, "everyone will know that this is Darby Allin's damn company."


They had a very good wrestling match. Yehi snaps his losing streak by picking up a win here via double underhook DDT. The finish came very abruptly, and the announcers pushed it as such.

FRED YEHI PROMO - Kind of weird. He talked about how he controlled the match and beat Garrini and so on and so forth... and the he said "I was the Spanish Inquisition and he was an unfortunate victim of religious persecution." That was certainly a comparison I didn't expect. He also finished off by repeated describing himself as "savage," which is Jaka's nickname, so that's bad form on Fred's part for trying to steal it.

ANTHONY HENRY vs. TRACY WILLIAMS (w/Stokely Hathaway) - 7/10

Faye Jackson came out with Stokely, only for them to exchange kisses on the cheek and then her to just head to the back. These two had a really hot brawl with lots of work on the head from both guys, and between that, the dueling chants (as Lenny Leonard noted, in Tracy's home town), and the fact that Henry got the win here, this felt like a big step forward for Anthony Henry. The win in question came after Henry survived a Piledriver and managed to get to the ropes to break Tracy's crossface, at which point an angry Stokely jumped up on the apron to yell at the referee, and one spot later Tracy charged at Henry but missed and Stokely and Tracy bumped heads, allowing Henry to roll Tracy up for the win. They did a great job of making it feel like Henry's win wasn't a fluke despite the fact that it came from two heels bonking heads, while also making the head-bonking feel relevant because it led to the...

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good tease. Stokely and Tracy well at each other, with Stokely wanting a handshake to signify that everything is good but Tracy not giving one. The rest of Catchpoint came out to try to calm everyone down, but then The End's music started playing almost immediately, so we got a brawl that transitioned into our...

CATCHPOINT (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. THE END (Odinson & Parrow) - no rating, counterproductive segment.

It never really stopped being the brawl it started as. They all got chairs so it became a double DQ. Then the guys who had brawled to the back came back out and more brawling happened. Drennan managed to corner Stokely in the ring and pulled out a baton but Tracy Williams took the blow for Stokely. Drennan went after Stokely again but this time Jaka & Dickinson were able to make the save and hit Drennan with the Death Trap so it was Catchpoint standing tall at the end, with Catchpoint handshakes being exchanged all around, including between Tracy and Stokely.

I see what Gabe was going for here, but I thought it would have been much better to have Drennan take Stokely out. Another non-finish in this feud is disappointing (especially on such a big show), but it feels less like a stalling tactic if the heels come out of it standing tall and with some heat at the end. Taking out Stokely would not only accomplish this, but it would create a reason to delay any public sign that Tracy and Stokely have gotten over their issues.

MATT RIDDLE PROMO - He thanks everyone for coming out and supporting EVOLVE, and suggested that, in the spirit of "evolving" professional wrestling, that his match against James Drake tonight be one of his cool new "No Rope Breaks" matches, bro. James Drake came out and said that he never backs down from a challenge, so their match is now a...

Matt Riddle vs. James Drake - 8.5/10

This was your strong-style match for tonight, with both guys turning the other's chest to hamburger, punctuated by some big suplexes (which I wished they had sold more, but fighting spirit comes with the territory, I guess). Riddle got the win via referee stoppage (while in the ropes, so that's how the stip played into things), but Drake had several extremely close nearfalls, including one false finish that I think everyone I the building and everyone watching at home bit on. Riddle showed Drake respect after the match, and the fans were all chanting his name. This was a MAJOR step forward for James Drake.

Keith Lee(c) vs. A.R. Fox (w/his Hype Train) - 8.5/10

Lenny Leonard summarized the crowd support situation thusly: "There's an entire building full of people chanting for Keith Lee and about eight people outside the ring chanting for A.R. Fox."

The story of this match was the big babyface giant taking on the obnoxious wasp that kept buzzing around and stinging him. Lee overcame distraction tactic that felled him at Evolve 98, and overcame everything Fox could throw at him (which was a hell of a lot) to retain to his title. They did great job of making you feel like Fox was slowly chopping down the tree that was Keith Lee all throughout the match without ever making you forget that it was Lee who was the babyface... even though Fox's posse didn't get physically involved at all.

Zack Sabre Jr.(c) vs. Austin Theory (w/Priscilla Kelly) - 8.25/10

There wasn't much of a story here other than two guys who very badly didn't want to lose, and the crowd liked one of them and hated the other. The match still worked, with Zack kicking out of everything Theory (and even Kelly) could throw at him, and picking up the win with one of his absolutely sick submissions.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT #1 - Fine. Zack began to cut a promo but was interrupted by Matt Riddle. Riddle predictably wants a title shot. Zack points out that they are 1-1 in EVOLVE, so he'll happily give Riddle a title shot... once Riddle earns #1 contendership. Zack walked off, but Riddle was perfectly fine with his answer.

Priscilla Kelly then distracted Riddle so Theory could get the jump on him from behind but Riddle sensed it coming and got the better of the first exchange. Kelly then jumped on Riddle's back to distract him and Theory was able to lay Riddle out with the Theory-KO. Theory cut a promo declaring Riddle to be the past and himself to be "the future of EVOLVE Wrestling."

Final Thoughts
Another GREAT show from EVOLVE. While the undercard was a bit underwhelming, the top half of the card delivered the action we expect from EVOLVE, the booking definitely helped this milestone show feel like the promotion is moving into the future, with most of the guys who have been populating the undercard for most 2017 feeling like they're taking big steps forward tonight (Kincaid is a notable counterexample, but his losing is at least part of a story).

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