JOE BAILEY vs. JOEY GACY - 5/10
Gacy got the win, which we were told means that Bailey won't get another shot in EVOLVE for a few months.
Anthony Greene vs. BSHP KNG vs. Colby Corino vs. Curt Stallion - 7.25/10
Anthony Greene is the type of goofball I really don't want to see EVOLVE booking. This got "THIS IS AWESOME!" chants from the crowd. I wouldn't go that far, but it was certainly a whole level above what I'd expect from a preliminary match, given the ten-minute time limit they're saddled with. Everyone looked good, aside from Greene's dumb comedy early on. While I'm on that note, I should note that BSHP KNG hasn't done anything stupid for the past few shows, so I should probably take him off of my poop list.
PRISCILLA KELLY vs. SHOTZI BLACKHEART - 6.75/10
Mechanically this was very good, but it never clicked with me the way that I think Gabe intended it to, simply because I'm having trouble seeing Priscilla Kelly as a babyface. Sure, Theory firing her as his manager was a dick move, but she hasn't actually done anything to redeem herself for all of her own heel actions (nor even acknowledged that she was wrong in doing them). There has been no mea culpa from her, and thus I have been given no reason to forgive her.
EDDIE KINGSTON PROMO - Interesting. Eddie hit on two different notes here. The first was a kind of generic heel "big star coming into a little promotion" thing, comparing himself to Abdullah the Butcher coming into a territory to pop some houses. He is a big star, and thus he is unhappy that J.D. Drake called him out (calling Drake "country boy" was a good touch).
The second note- and the far more interesting one- was counted in the way Eddie transitioned from Drake's reason for calling him out ("you say this is your house?") to what I believe is Eddie's mission statement in EVOLVE at the moment: "well your house is filthy, and I'm here to clean it up." If my theory that Eddie's presence at last night's show- and specifically the reason for his run in- were at Anthony Henry's request, then that would likely make the "dirt" the NXT guys (and especially the ones without much indy cred like Aichner and the Street Profits) whose presence has greatly annoyed Henry. And when you consider the fact that in tonight's main event Henry faces off against one of those NXT guys who just so happens to be Eddie Kingston's mortal enemy... well... I suspect we'll be getting some answers tonight.
EDDIE KINGSTON vs. J.D. DRAKE - no rating, meh segment
Drake charged out to the ring and charged right at Kingston to start things off hot. They then just took turns hitting each other a bunch until Kingston grabbed Drake's WWN Championship belt. The referee stopped him from using it so Kingston attacked the referee. They kept fighting and a second referee came out and accidentally got nailed by Drake when he tried to get between them. The third ref got hit by both guys at the same time (I hate that spot) and the fourth ref got hit by Kingston. The jobbers ran out from the locker room to hold everyone back, although by the time they got there, Kingston had put Drake down with two straight Backfists to the Future. Kingston took the jobbers down as well, at which point the Street Profits' music hit and Montez Ford came out holding both Evolve Tag Team Titles... which was all intended to create a distraction so Angelo Dawkins could come out of the crowd and get the drop on Kingston. The plan worked and Dawkins took Kingston down, which allowed another group of undercard guys to come drag Kingston to the back.
This was one of those times that I thought the booking went a little overboard. I see how the pieces all fit and why (at least to my best guess) Gabe wanted things the way they are: a no-finish here sets up for a bigger Kingston vs. Drake match down the line, and the fact that Kingston did knock Drake could be used to set up for making it a title match without Drake actually doing a job to set it up, and Kingston had to know the referee out first because he's the heel, while Drake needed to knock one out, too, so that there is a reason the office can consider the finish is a no-contest and not Kingston getting DQed, and the Street Profits stuff mirrors Kingston's attack on them last night, as well as letting Kingston get taken out by them to build up that feud, but without it being quite fair so that the big scary heel hasn't actually be beaten. But at the same time, this just felt like overkill- especially on the ref bumps- and Kingston felt like he got taken down way too easily to retreat.
EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits(c) vs. Austin Theory & Harlem Bravado - 8/10
I... honestly have no idea why this is a title match. The announcers said that Theory was allowed to choose a partner and choose Harlem Bravado makes sense, but I'm not sure why such a situation even needed to arise. I got a good laugh out of the Street Profits mockery of the grandiose ring entrance Theory insisted that Timothy Barr give him.
The match was awesome, being built off of a great babyface in peril heat segment with some excellently-constructed cut-offs before the hot tag. The other thing that worked in this match's favor is that I think that Aichner's Evolve Title loss last night made people think that this "NXT guys in EVOLVE" experiment might be over, so they were biting harder on the nearfalls than they otherwise might have in a title match with zero build. The only thing here I didn't like was the finish, which saw Priscilla Kelly come out and stare at Theory dejectedly and Theory get distracted by her, which led to him not helping Harlem follow up on a combination and then not being there to save Harlem when Ford pinned him after hitting the Frog Splash.. It really wasn't so much a bad finish so much as a very un-EVOLVE finish. Which I guess is fine when don't do it very often, which EVOLVE doesn't.
JOSH BRIGGS vs. ADRIAN ALANIS (w/A.R. Fox, Ayla Fox, & The Skulk) - 5.75/10
A decent brawl, but a little disappointing. Briggs got in A.R. Fox's face after the match (as well as getting in the face of Leon Ruff, who he defeated last night), so at least he's got some direction now.
A.R. FOX PROMO - Fine. He says that even though Adrian Alanis didn't beat Josh Briggs, he still couldn't be more proud of him, and the rest of his students... except for Austin Theory, but instead, Austin makes him ashamed. He says he is proud of how hard Leon Ruff fought last night, and so suggests that they wrestle each other right now (Fox was supposed to wrestle Fabian Aichner but Aichner got injured last night), Leon accepts and management is okay with it, so we get...
LEON RUFF vs. A.R. FOX - 7.5/10
Ayla Fox and The Skulk were at ringside, supporting both parties. The crowd in the building LOVED this match, but to me, there was just something off about it for most of it. I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but things just weren't clicking. Either way, though, it was an excellent showing for Ruff, even in defeat, and marks a second win this weekend for Fox, who I'm sure is headed towards Austin Theory and his newly-won Evolve Championship.
TREVIN ADAMS OFFERS LEON RUFF A WWN CONTRACT - Didn't they say last night that he had already signed a contract? Maybe this was a ceremonial thing or maybe I misheard, or maybe Lenny Leonard wasn't supposed to say that. Either way, this came across as a big deal for young Leon, and his friends and the crowd were all happy for him.
DARBY ALLIN vs. RODERICK STRONG - 8.5/10
This was basically what you'd expect from these two, with Roddy destroying Darby's back with backbreakers and Darby, in his few moments of offense, working over Roddy's arm for the Fujiwara armbar. There were the expected chops and roll-ups and spot where Darby takes a scary bump where it looks like he almost dies. Darby's selling was, as usual, wonderful, and he still got over in defeat by looking like the single toughest motherf*cker on Earth. AWESOME match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Darby was almost crying in the middle of the ring after his loss, and put his face down and stared at the WWN logo. When referee Brandon Tolle tried to get Darby to leave the ring so they could move on to the next match, Darby got extremely angry and even took a swipe at Tolle, but did eventually leave. Lenny Leonard wondered if Darby was taking this string of losses dangerously hard on himself.
KASSIUS OHNO vs. ANTHONY HENRY - 7.5/10
The referee was fine with them using chairs on the outside. Ohno used it first, throwing it at Henry and then daring the referee to disqualify him, which could be used to set up the idea Henry thinks the NXT guys are getting special favors, and Henry's use of the chair- throwing it at Ohno's elbow as he went for an elbow strike was the starting point for their story of Henry working over said elbow and arm. Both of these ideas did or could go somewhere useful for the storyline, so this doesn't annoy me quite as much as guys just doing using weapons for the sake of using them, but it still annoys me a hell of a lot. EVOLVE is the place I go to escape that BS!
That aside, they told their story very well, with Henry being the young punk trying to outdo the veteran at his own game, simply because he can and offering Ohno "free shots" and stuff like that. They also did a spot or two that played off of the Ohno vs. Riddle finish from TakeOver and Ohno sold very well. I had totally forgotten what it was like to see him selling for an extended period of time, as he's usually the major aggressor in his matches. In what I'm sure will be one of the more over-analyzed details of this match, Ohno pinned Henry after hitting him with a Pedigree. Whether there was really anything deeper behind it other than it's a move Ohno can do with an injured arm and it gets the "OOOOH SH*T THEY REFERENCED TRIPLE H!" pop I don't know, but it certainly feels like an ominous note to end this particular year on. I'm not saying I think there is really anything more behind it, but it certainly stirs up some inherently... disappointed... emotions in me.
KASSIUS OHNO PROMO - I really didn't like this. Ohno basically said he's happy with the way he is being used in NXT so don't worry about him, then he put over the general state of indy wrestling right now. He also put over a lot of the former indy talent in WWE, noting how many of them had competed in EVOLVE, and then challenged everyone in indy wrestling to step their game up so they could be the next Daniel Bryan or Aleister Black or Johnny Gargano. This was very odd and kinda-sorta not quite kayfabe and really didn't fit in with the environment of the rest of the show.
This was a pretty darn solid show from EVOLVE in the ring and the storylines continue to move along, but it really feels like they've hit a point where something big needs to happen. They only have a few shows left before WrestleMania weekend, and I really can't think of anything they have that resembles a major match. Maybe Kingston vs. Drake for the title could get there, but it really feels like they're running out of time. The booking is mechanically solid, but it feels like they are in something of a holding pattern rather than moving things forward at a pace set to peak by their biggest shows.