CURT STALLION vs. COLBY CORINO (w/The Unwanted) - 4.5/10
Stallion won a short match. Having The Unwanted lose their first match was a very odd decision (especially if you were just going to do a quick post-match attack afterwards), and doubly so considering that their whole thing is proving that EVOLVE/WWN was wrong to not want them which would have been symbolized perfectly by Corino beating WWN's news signee, Curt Stallion.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Kingston distracts Stallion so Gacy can attack him from behind and dump him over the top rope. Kingston tells Stallion that he is on their sh*t-list because WWN made a big deal out of signing him to a contract. He then challenged the Street Profits to put their titles on the line in their match against them tonight. The Street Profits came out and The Unwanted bailed. Montez Ford cut a promo making fun of Kingston while agreeing to put the titles on the line. Angelo Dawkins then cut a promo saying that they would successfully defend their titles tonight.
DARBY ALLIN vs. JOSH BRIGGS - 5.5/10
The match was pretty short, considering the names involved... but there was a reason for that. The story here was that Briggs had Darby's primary weapon, the Coffin Drop, completely scouted, and was able to reverse it every time Darby went for it, resulting in lots of pain for Darby and Briggs cutting him off rather quickly every time Darby started to get some offense in. The final time this happened, Briggs put together a string of big moves after reversing the Coffin Drop and pinned Darby cleanly.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Priscilla Kelly came out and offered Darby her hand, and this time Darby decided to go with her.
ADRIAN JAOUDE vs. RORY GULAK - Squash
Jaoude got to show off what he could do and came across as an extremely dangerous competitor, equally capable of winning by knockout, submission, or sneaky roll-up.
A.R. FOX & LEON RUFF (w/the Skulk & Ayla Fox) vs. THE WORK-HORSEMEN (Anthony Henry & J.D. Drake) - 8.5/10
An excellent tag team match that went almost twenty-five minutes. Ruff was the babyface in peril, and definitely showed why he is the guy from the Skulk who Gabe has chosen to elevate to full roster member status.
Fox & Ruff picked up the win with Fox pinning Drake to set himself up for a WWN Title match, which seems like a fine match for WrestleMania weekend. There were two miscues between Henry and Drake that contributed to this loss. The first was the ref getting distracted telling Henry to get out of the ring after Henry hit a move on Ruff to stop him from breaking up a pin that Drake had on Fox, resulting in Fox having enough time to recover and kick out before the referee actually got around to counting to three, even though he had clearly been pinned for more than three seconds. The other was an attempted double-team move gone wrong when Fox moved out of the way and Henry hit Drake, setting up Fox hitting his finisher and getting the win. One other notable spot saw the now-heel Henry roll Fox up and grab the tights for illegal leverage but the referee spotted this after the count of two and refused to keep counting (and G-d bless them the EVOLVE crowd cheered for the heel getting caught cheating!), so Henry and Drake are definitely headed for a break-up (and for real this time, as opposed to last summer's "we're going to go our separate ways now" only to get thrown back together right away because they were pretty much half of the tag team division on their own).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Good. Henry started to walk out on Drake after the match but stopped and came back and they posed together and showed each other support, although they did a great job of making it clear that they (and especially Henry) were really just going through the motions and there was no real feeling of reconciliation between them.
EVOLVE TITLE MATCH:
Austin Theory(c) vs. John Silver - 5.75/10
Theory's stupid gimmick where he interrupts the ring announcer needs to stop. This wasn't supposed to be a title match but Theory decided to take it one (misusing the term "open challenge" for WWE heat) because he thinks that the combination of beating Adam Cole and the people in the EVOLVE locker room he has already beaten have proved that he is well above everyone else, so he is giving a title shot to a new guy. He also called Silver (who is short and bearded) a "leprechaun" because it's St. Patrick's Day weekend.
The announcers did a good job of using Theory's promo to draw a contrast between him and J.D. Drake, who has insisted on putting his WWN Title on the line tomorrow night when he and Theory face off, noting that Theory has not reciprocated. They also did a good job of trying to get us to think that Silver might actually have a chance here by noting that people had just shown up in EVOLVE and shockingly won titles right away in the past (although using some concrete examples like Aichner, the Street Profits, the Work Horseman, and Chris Hero would have made it even better). This played into the match itself, where the story was that Silver dominated the match and seemed to have all of Theory's big moves scouted, but Theory still managed to hit Gataxia and then just get the win, cutting what seemed like it was on its way to being an excellent match off at the knees.
HARLEM BRAVADO vs. SHANE STRICKLAND - 7.75/10
Strickland worked over Bravado's arm and got the win. This continued the story of Bravado having impressive showings but not coming out on the winning side. The announcers stressed to us that he has it the point where he really needs to win in order to keep getting booked, so it looks like tomorrow night might be his last shot.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Interesting. Kingston and Gacy came out to celebrate with Strickland. They cornered Harlem Bravado, but Kingston then seemed to give Bravado some slight encouragement and let him go on his way unmolested. The announcers alternately described this as Kingston "giving Bravado a pass" and "a pat on the back." All of a sudden Harlem's match tomorrow night got a lot more interesting.
Kingston then called out "Bert and Ernie of the Sesame Street Profits." They came out and a brawled started, which transitioned into our...
EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Street Profits(c) vs. The Unwanted (Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy) (w/The Unwanted) - 7.25/10
This was a great brawl with lots of emotion. The finish saw Strickland nail Dawkins in the back of the head with a knee while the referee was distracted and Ford chased after him, leaving the downed Dawkins alone with the two (also downed) Unwanted members. When everyone recovered, it was only a matter of time before The Unwanted were able to get the win.
The heels left with their belts and Ford came back, realizing what had happened. The fans thanked the Street Profits, as often happens at the end of title runs in EVOLVE (especially ones where the champion(s) is/are babyfaces at the end), but the announcers seemed to play it up like this was the Street Profits' goodbye.
THE VELVETEEN DREAM vs. ORANGE CASSIDY - 5.75/10
For the time that they were actually having a match this was good, but all of that time spent with Cassidy not doing anything while TVD beat him up a bit was completely dull and felt very weird. The clash of personalities aspect certainly worked, but Cassidy's personality just doesn't fit in EVOLVE at all. This match was pretty clearly Gabe booking TVD against someone who was expendable and in a spot where the fans would be sent home happy rather than disappointed by the cheating heel title victory in the semi-main.
This was a good show from EVOLVE, but I think a lot of the credit for that goes to Henry & Drake vs. Fox & Ruff, Strickland vs. Bravado, and (to a slightly lesser extent) the tag title match, as the rest of this show mostly short "move the storyline along" matches. Those are fine, but you can't have too many of them on one show, especially if you are a promotion that likes to push itself on work-rate.
One other thing worthy of comment here is that I think the announcers have finally found a way to talk about the NXT guys without making EVOLVE seem like a step down from WWE. Pushing them as guys who are unhappy that they're not getting booked on NXT TV and so they have come here to EVOLVE to prove themselves (and, perhaps, prove WWE wrong for not booking them on TV) sets EVOLVE up as an equal (or even higher) level of competition to NXT, rather than portraying it as NXT sending their guys to EVOLVE and the NXT guys then winning all the time. This sort of thing really only works with guys who aren't used on TV much, so you can't really use it to explain the presence of an Adam Cole or a Johnny Gargano or a Velveteen Dream, but for cases like those where the guy is only coming in for a weekend, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with something.