JOSH BRIGGS vs. "BAD BONES" JOHN KLINGER - 6.75/10
Rather than the usual Ron Niemi, Lenny Leonard is joined tonight on commentary by STOKELY HATHAWAY! The match was a solid opener in which both men were given the chance to show what they could do. Bad Bones did a great job of getting the crowd behind him and did a great job in the tough underdog role without ever feeling small in comparison to Briggs' enormous size. Briggs won this hard-hitting match, which will only increase Stokely Hathaway's desire to sign him.
JAREK 1-20 PROMO - Fine. He said he would be the future of the company and vowed to make Darby Allin disappear form EVOLVE after their match tomorrow night. This got great heat, with the fans constantly chanting for Jarek to "DISAPPEAR!" Then Jon Davis showed up and said he wanted to fight so we got...
JON DAVIS vs. JAREK 1-20 (w/his lovely assistant Candy Cartwright) - 5.75/10
The story of this match was Jarek working over Davis' neck while Davis used his strength to just throw Jarek around and beat the crap out of him. Davis got the win, which shocked me, as I figured he was only coming in to give Jarek an establishing win, which is something Jarek really feels like he needs. Candy Cartwright screaming in horror as Davis beat the sh*t out of Jarek was wonderful. Actually, all of Candy's antics were great. I can't think of a better valet anywhere in wrestling at the moment.
ADRIAN ALANIS & LIAM GREY vs. LEON RUFF & TOMMY MASERATI - 5.75/10
A.R. Fox did the ring announcing for this match, and he and Ayla remained at ringside to cheer everyone on. He and Ayla stayed at ringside to watch the match, and in a rather hyperactive manner. The match was a series fun, fast-paced spots, with some very Skulk-esque wackiness mixed in at times. After the match, Fox called out his opponent for tonight, leading into...
DJ Z vs. A.R. FOX (w/Ayla Fox & the Skulk) - 7.75/10
These guys had a GREAT match. The story of the match was Fox working over DJ Z's head, but the thing I loved most about the match was the speed at which they worked. They felt like they were going at about four fifths of normal speed, which gave you just enough time to appreciate the fluidity of every movement. The Skulk were great on the outside, both in causing one or two distractions at key moments and also as being cheerleaders for Fox. I laughed my ass off at them responding to chants of "BOTH THESE GUYS!" from the (extremely hot) crowd by trying to get them to chant only for Fox.
DARBY ALLIN vs. WALTER - 8/10
Darby charged at WALTER even before the bell rang, eager to start things off. He nailed WALTER with a big dropkick, sending WALTER to the outside, then went for a dive... and WALTER caught him and slammed him into the ringpost and all of a sudden I remember that the best Darby can hope for in his match is to be able to walk afterwards, because between his own style and, WALTER's style, and Darby having more heart than brains, he's probably going to spend the entire match being throwing around.
The next few minutes saw WALTER give Darby a beating so vicious that when WALTER finally went to pin him after a chop, it felt like a completely believable false finish. Darby eventually managed to find an opportunity to get some damage in on WALTER's hand, and went back to that whenever he could to slow down WALTER's onslaught. I might have said before that Darby has more heart than brains, but he's got a hell of a lot of heart, and it was all on display here. This match was Darby engaging in an extremely believable fight for his very survival against a dominating force, and these two pulled it off expertly.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - WALTER showed the same edge he showed after his match with Matt Riddle at Evolve 97, which reminded me that WALTER should be owed a shot at the Evolve World Title which Riddle now holds as a result of his non-title win over then-champion Zack Sabre Jr. at Evolve 99.
MIKE VERNA vs. BRYAN IDOL (w/Natalya Markova) - 5/10
At this point, Gabe should bring Markova in for every show just to have her randomly manage whoever the heel is in the post-intermission popcorn match. She's done it for three straight shows now, so why not keep the streak going? These guys had a fine match for the time they got, with the crowd being very into the babyface Verna.
ANTHONY HENRY, TIMOTHY THATCHER, & TRACY WILLIAMS vs. CATCHPOINT (w/Stokely Hathaway) - 7.5/10
Williams jumped the bell on his former comrades to kick-start the match. They never lost any of that starting intensity, having a great six-man tag team slugfest. Catchpoint won when Henry accidentally hit Thatcher, leading to Catchpoint pinning Thatcher. Henry tried ot apologize after the match, but Thatcher hit him with an enzugiri.
WWN TITLE MATCH:
Austin Theory(c) (w/Priscilla Kelly) vs. Joey Janela (w/Penelope Ford) - 7/10
The story here is that because her first suspension didn't teach her a lesson and she kept interfering in Austin Theory's matches at last month's shows, EVOVLE officials wants to suspend Priscilla Kelly again for this weekend (and possibly longer) but Austin Theory threatened to walk away with the WWN Title so EVOVLE officials gave in and didn't suspend Priscilla. What they did do, however, was book Theory to defend his title... and not just against anyone, but someone who they didn't want to bring in because they're not too fond of him, but who they thought had a good chance of beating him. That someone, of course, is Joey Janela, and one of the reasons they think he has a good chance of beating Austin Theory is that Joey, being a bad boy, is willing to resort to the same dirty tricks as Theory, including bringing Penelope Ford along to counter Priscilla.
I wasn't too happy with the ref seeing the interference by Kelly, but as the story sets up, Theory losing by DQ but retaining the belt just continues the same bad status quo that EVOLVE officials are trying to change by hoping Theory loses the belt so I can accept the DQ not happening, and I can similarly then accept the referee not DQing Janela when Penelope got caught dong the exact same thing right afterwards because she was brought in to neutralize Priscilla Kelly's influence on the match.
The story of this match played into that, with Penelope equaling and then neutralizing Priscilla's attempts to interfere and Theory's other attempts at cheating. Janela worked over Theories head while Theory tried to win with the Theory-KO. Short match but the crowd was very into it and they had some excellent nearfalls. Janela won the title, which was quite the surprise, but makes sense from a storyline point of view, as we don't want Theory to constantly be able to pull the kind of crap he did when he used the power being champion gives him to avoid Priscilla getting suspended again.
After the match, A.R. Fox and Ayla came out to the entranceway to say something to Theory but Kelly yelled and pulled Theory right past them.
NO ROPE BREAKS FOR THE EVOLVE WORLD TITLE:
Matt Riddle(c) vs. Shane Strickland - 6.5/10
Strickland attacked Riddle from behind while he was high-fiving fans during this entrance. They had a good match for a while, making fine use of the "no rope breaks" rules and Strickland working over Riddle's arm that he injured last month... and then it took a downhill turn for the weird and kind of stupid.
First we got a ref bump, after which point they brawled to the back. The crowd was understandably unhappy with this because we had no way of seeing what was happening. They emerged from the curtain somewhere along the side in the back of the stands, at which point Strickland seemingly purposely pulled the curtain down, exposing the "locker room." And I say it that way because all this really did for me was expose the fact that the "locker room" is just a cordoned off portion of the same room hidden behind a curtain.
Yes, I realize that they're running these small (probably cheap) buildings, but I want to be able to at least pretend that there are actual locker rooms. I want to be able to pretend that the curtains are just up there to make things look nicer, or that behind the curtains is where they keep all of their fancy sound equipment. This killed that suspension of disbelief for me, and made the promotion feel more small-time than it has since its earliest days.
The collection of midcarders who were sitting back there in the "locker room" got angry at Strickland so they surrounded him and Jon Davis picked him up and carried him back out to the ring. Strickland did a big dive onto all of them to take them out. Riddle was able to choke Strickland out while also kicking him with his heels soon after that, but we still had no referee to make the call. A second referee had come out to check on the fallen branded Tolle, but at no point did he try to make an official decision on the world championship match going on in the ring. And meanwhile- even though no one had made any sort of determination that the match was over- people were pulling Riddle off of Strickland and took Strickland to the back, so we apparently got no finish in our main event Riddle vs. Strickland match. Again.
I defended this last time due to the idea that at least the DQ- and the match in general, and the aftermath- were important to establishing Strickland as a new main event heel. This time, I can't support it. Not only is it disappointing, but the Janela title win would have made for an excellent main event tonight, but instead of a big tile change in a top-name indy star's EVOLVE debut, we got a title match with no finish. I understand that you can't do the curtain coming down if it's not the main event, but to that I say "then find some other way to have a non-finish."
This was a very good show from EVOLVE, but one that definitely tapered out at the end just when it felt like things were going to really get going. This was definitely a step down from last month's awesome shows, but hopefully they'll right the ship tomorrow night. I would like to mention the Klinger vs. Briggs match as something of an unexpected bright spot; not because I didn't think these two had the ability in them, but because of how quickly both seemed to have caught on with the fanbase here in New York. We'll see how the Boston-area crowd responds tomorrow at Evolve 107.