By Big Red Machine
From September 08, 2018


Anthony Henry vs. Josh Briggs vs. Jason Kincaid vs. Jon Davis vs. Harlem Bravado vs. Fašade (w/Dani Mo) - 8.25/10

"Freestyle" is just Gabe's pointlessly complicated way of saying Lucha tag rules and one fall to a finish. As you would expect, the match was your typical six-way spotfest, but it also did a great job of juggling several different stories (Kincaid and Fašade working as a team, Davis and Briggs as the big men, and going back to the Briggs/Davis confrontation several times during the match).

J.D. DRAKE vs. JOEY JANELA (w/Penelope Ford) - 7.75/10

Drake dominated most of the match and got the upset win, which the fans were very into. Penelope Ford was interfering here in completely unprovoked, heelish ways. My assumption is that this will be the genesis of a Janelope heel turn (part of the storyline for them coming in was that EVOLVE officials would have preferred to not bring them in due to their general naughtiness, but thought that they were the unit most capable of taking the WWN Title away from Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly, which they did), but I worry that the fans might not take to it (especially if Penelope's interference keeps being her doing dives and other stuff that gets cheers). It also would have been nice for the announcers to be more condemning of Penelope's behavior (and Joey's clear willingness to benefit from it, which contrasts well with the actions of Darby Allin last month when he challenged Janela for the title and Austin Theory interfered).

STOKELY HATHAWAY JUMPS THE GUARDRAIL - He says he just wants "an opportunity." Doom Patrol come out and Dickinson says he will give his former manager "an opportunity to be a professional wrestler" by wrestling him tonight. He calls for a referee and the desperate Stokely accepts, so we get

STOKELY HATHAWAY vs. CHRIS DICKINSON (w/Jaka) - no rating, fine segment

Dickinson killed Stokely in three moves. This did a good job of generating some sympathy for Stokely and of establishing that Doom Patrol are still going to be heels in a post-Stokely world.

Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka)(c) vs. The Skulk (Adrian Alanis & Leon Ruff) (w/A.R. Fox & the Skulk) - 6.5/10

Doom Patrol jump the Skulk during their festive entrance to start things off. If you were looking to root for some underdogs- or just looking to root for a change to the status quo- The Skulk did a very good job of filling that role you were 98% sure they weren't going to win, and yet the arguments for them winning were so strong that you not only couldn't dismiss it as a possibility, but could convince yourself that they really did have an excellent shot. Unfortunately, they didn't win. I understand that the idea is to make Doom Patrol's reign truly epic so that you can really make the guys who finally beat them, but I think we're almost at a point of diminishing returns here just because of how small the division is. The Skulk members that have been around for a bit like Ruff and Alanis seem like they're on an upward trend, with some new Skulk members coming in who could take their place as they graduate to regular roster members, and this surprise tag title win over Doom Patrol would have been an excellent way to do that. I understand not wanting to basically repeat the same thing they did last year with Drake & Henry and Ruff and Alanis aren't quite at the point where it feels like this failure is going to doom them to a lifetime on the undercard, but this loss does feel like it could well be the beginning of the journey to that point.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly came out and Theory cut a promo on Fox to lead into...

A.R. FOX (w/The Skulk) vs. AUSTIN THEORY (w/Priscilla Kelly) - 7.75/10

Theory kept rolling to the outside to stall instead of locking up, but eventually his ego got the best of him and he started trash-talking members of The Skulk, and while Theory was distracted by his own trash-talking, Fox was able to nail him with a dive. That was an EXCELLENT opening spot. They proceeded to have pretty much exactly the kind of match you'd expect these two to have. Theory won clean.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Decent. Theory demanded that Priscilla "stay in her place" (or something along those lines) and just hold his FIP World Heavyweight Title belt while he did the talking, then proceeded to tell us all that he was not just the best champion in the entire WWN, but also a future WWE Champion. The promo got the heat it was supposed to, but I don't like this mistreatment of Priscilla. The idea that Theory is jealous of her getting WWE exposure through the Mae Young Classic while he isn't getting WWE exposure fits in with character completely, but Priscilla has been a totally unrepentant heel for so long that while I intellectually acknowledge that Theory is treating her disrespectfully and it makes does make me like Theory even less, my response as far as Priscilla goes is not to feel sorry for her but to shrug my shoulders and say that Priscilla has proven through her various interferences on Theory's behalf that she really doesn't deserve that much respect. Frankly, if Theory wants her to just stand in the corner and hold his championship rather than getting involved in his matches, that's a net positive in my eyes because then the matches will be contested on even footing rather than with Priscilla interfering in them.

Darby Allin then came out and sent Theory scampering. He and Priscilla seemed to exchange a look before she got angry and headed to the back with Theory. I really don't want to see those two together because 1) I think Darby is the kind of guy who needs to win without anyone on his side, and 2) I don't want to see Priscilla as a babyface.

Shane Strickland(c) vs. Tracy Williams - 8/10

Strickland worked the arm while Williams worked the leg (which Strickland could have sold better). They also did a good job of planting seeds for spots that would matter later, although having Strickland kick out of a top rope Piledriver was very much a mistake in hindsight (and not just because it felt like overkill that didn't even kill). Lenny Leonard also deserves credit for the way he used Tracy's history in EVOLVE- both here in this building and in championship matches in general) to build up both certain individual false finishes and the overall idea that it would be fitting for Tracy to win the title from Strickland here tonight. I don't know how Strickland makes that sound when he snaps someone's arm like that, and I don't want to know. All I need to know is that it sounds completely terrifying.

Final Thoughts
This was an awesome show from EVOLVE. The show was very short (about one hour and forty-five minutes) due to the combination of the SHINE show earlier in the day and the fact that the main event of Darby Allin vs. The Velveteen Dream had to be dark due to WWE policy on such things with EVOLVE, but Gabe made the most of that time by cutting down to five matches (plus the Stokely thing) and making sure that every single one got the necessary time to deliver (or, in the case of the tag title match to the level it was supposed to, given the circumstances), and the wrestlers all did their part as well by putting on excellent performances up and down the card. If you've got two free hours, you should definitely give this show a watch.

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