By Big Red Machine
From February 18, 2018
KTB vs. DOMINIC GARRINI - 3.5/10
They did some stuff, then Garrini got the win via armbar.
ACE PERRY vs. RAYO vs. DANTE CABENERO - 3.5/10
The announcers point out that everyone in the preliminary matches has been using the same entrance music and explain that this was something EVOLVE did early in its history, and the idea of it is to emphasize at in the preliminaries, it's not about your personality; it's all about your results.
The match was short and spotty. I have already forgotten what happened and who won.
JASON KINCAID vs. JAREK 1-20 (w/Candy Cartwright) - 6.5/10
These guys get to use their own entrance music because they're more established, I guess. It would be quite off-putting to have Kincaid coming out to the generic rock music from before. They had a good match which Kincaid won with the Compassionate Release. Jarek remains at the top of the preliminary pyramid and Kincaid, 1-1 this weekend, will also probably remain stuck in his current state of flux between the main show and the preliminaries... so what have we really accomplished here?
ANTHONY HENRY (& JAMES DRAKE) PROMO - Not so good. Henry called out The End. He came off like someone who is trying way too hard to cut a Professional Wrestling Promo™, rather than a real person calling out some dudes he and his buddy want to fight. The End did come out, so we started off the main show with...
JAMES DRAKE & ANTHONY HENRY vs. THE END (Odinson & Parrow) (w/Drennan) - 5.75/10
Henry was the babyface in peril. He eventually made the hot tag and Drake ran wild for a short amount of time before he, too, got cut off. Henry got tagged back in and went for something off the top but Drennan hit him in the knee with his baton (it's like that thing Marti Belle was using in TNA) to knock him off, then Parrow hit him with a powerbomb for the win.
Despite the praise I gave both of them as workers in my review of last night's show, Henry and Drake as a unit don't come off like a big deal to me, and this match between them and The End not delivering reminds me of the Sting/Flair/Luger triangle in the world title picture in Crockett/WCW in 88-90: Sting and Flair had awesome matches together, Luger and Flair had awesome matches together, but when Sting faced Luger it was meh. Rather than making it feel like the tag division has more depth to it, this match made it feel like the division would be nothing without Jaka & Dickinson. It's not entirely their fault because the match was quite short, but that doesn't mean the feeling doesn't still pop up.
SHANE MERCER vs. FRED YEHI - 6.5/10
Mercer looked decent in defeat. Yehi picks up his second win of the weekend over an up-and-comer, so he seems to have put his losing streak well behind him.
ZACK SABRE JR. vs. CHRIS DICKINSON - 8/10
Dickinson came out without any of his Catchpoint comrades, but with a weird demon mask. I have no idea why either of these things happened. These two had the predictably excellent wrestling match, with Zack needing to use all of his submission skills to overcome the larger Dickinson.
JOE KEYS vs. KEN DIXON - 4/10
This was their "MCW showcase" throw a bone to the local promoter match. It was fine for the time it got.
NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams (w/Stokely Hathaway & Dominic Garrini) - 8.5/10
These two did an excellent job of getting a lot out of a little in the way of weapon use, and supplemented that with stories of Williams working over Lee's head... but in order to do that he needed to work Lee' leg to chop the big tree down... and in order to do that (and sometimes just not lose) he needed help from Stokely and Garrini.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Stokely finally eats a Spirit Bomb! HOORAY!
POST-MATCH SEGMENT #2 - Good. After Lee leaves, The End come out and Drennan says that tonight they will "cut the head off the snake." They go to attack Williams but Dickinson comes out to make the save but gets overwhelmed very quickly. Ditto for Garrini. The fans chant for Jaka, but he is once again MIA. Instead, it was Anthony Henry & James Drake coming out to make the save with some chairs. After destroying The End, they go after Catchpoint a bit to remind us that they are still feuding over the tag belts. Drake & Henry getting to stand tall at the end of this match was definitely a good way to make them feel like an important force in the tag division, but as I said above, once the bell rings, it feels like Catchpoint are the only key players (although the addition of RingKampf should change that a bit).
FOUR-WAY ELIMINATION MATCH FOR AN EVOLVE WORLD TITLE MATCH OVER WRESTLEMANIA WEEKEND:
Jaka vs. Darby Allin vs. Matt Riddle vs. Austin Theory (w/Priscilla Kelly) - 7.25/10
This was shockingly short for a main event they had made such a big deal out of. Early on it was all about Theory being a douche, and because he and Priscilla made themselves into public enemy number one, the others treated them that way. The others didn't quite gang up on Theory in the "we've made an alliance to get rid of you first" kind of way, but rather in a more natural "we all want to get our hands on you" kind of way, where it was all either Theory facing off against someone or running away from them. Darby eliminated Theory with a Code Red, then got eliminated when Jaka took advantage of the ref getting bonked and hit him with a low blow. The part of the match was just a big slugfest between Riddle and Jaka, with Riddle coming out on top.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Riddle cut the big go-home "I'm going to win the title" promo, then Zack came out and they had a face-off.
This was a pretty good show from EVOLVE, but a good chunk of the card felt weaker than it should have, and so did the pre-lims. There was some storyline advancement here as well, but the honest truth is that the Zack vs. Dickinson and Lee vs. Williams matches saved this show from being terrible. Hopefully WrestleMania weekend will be better.