PRISCILLA KELLY vs. BRANDI LAUREN - 2/10
This rating is a reflection of the very short length of the match rather than an issue of the quality of the work. I almost rated it as a segment since its real purpose was to set up for the post-match segment, but it was still a non-squash with a clean finish so I felt the need to rate it as a match. This went literally just as long as was required for the announcers to get over Brandi's character and then tell us how we were supposed to feel about Priscilla Kelly, which is that she is this great manager who could really help Darby Allin's career and who we're supposed to feel sorry for because Austin Theory threw her away after she helped him win the Evolve Championship.
I've noted before that while I agree that Priscilla's feelings of being thrown away by Theory- and any resentment we fans might have towards him for doing so- are valid, I am having a tremendous amount of trouble with the idea that I am actually supposed to like her at this point, as she has not once issued any sort of mea culpa acknowledgement of her own wrongdoing in facilitating Theory's rise to the top via helping him cheat. Theory dismissing her after using her to get to the top is an indictment of his character, but it is not in any way an endorsement of hers. In a promotion with a booker who has such a great track record for displaying real nuanced human behavior in situations like this, it's disappointing to see that this angle is apparently now the standard pro wrestling "the switch has been flipped from evil to good and thus we all trust and like Priscilla now."
Anyway, Priscilla won with a roll-up. Brandi attacked her after the match but Darby Allin came out to chase her off. Darby was then attacked from behind by Anthony Henry (who has painted his face up to look like Darby), so we transitioned into...
ANTHONY HENRY vs. DARBY ALLIN - 5/10
This, too, went just long enough to get over its major ideas- that henry has not only painted himself up to look like Darby and dressed like him, but he is also trying to use Darby's moves. Darby was able to out-Darby Henry, so Henry got frustrated and counted a Darby Allin dive with a chairshot for the DQ.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Very good. Henry continued to beat Darby with a chair until Priscilla Kelly came out to protect Darby's body with her own. Henry was conflicted as to whether or not to just hit Priscilla with the chair. After seeming like he had finally come to the conclusion not to do so he changed his mind and went back to do it, but by this point his tag team partner James Drake had come out and was able clam him down a bit and get the chair away from him.
Drake managed to convince Henry to head to the back... but that's when Priscilla Kelly decided that it would be a good idea to go slap Henry in the face. Priscilla went back over to check on Darby and help him up while Henry fumed. He aimed a superkick at Priscilla but she got out of the way and the superkick accidentally hit Darby, mirroring what happened at the end of Evolve 122 when it was Darby getting out of the way of a Henry superkick, resulting in it hitting Priscilla. Henry realized what happened and pounced on Darby and started beating him up again, then locking him in a Dragon Sleeper while Drake and some referees tried to pull him off. They finally got him off, and as he was lead to the back, Henry ranted about how much he hates Darby.
HARLEM BRAVADO vs. JOHN SILVER - 6.5/10
A good match for the time it got, telling the story of Silver's power vs. Harlem's reach advantage. Harlem came out on top, getting that win he needed to stay in EVOLVE, while Silver impressed for the second straight night. The commentary mostly did a very good job of framing a match between two guys who mostly feel like non-roster undercard space-fillers as something worth caring about, although Ron Niemi did go too far for me with one his claims. I can accept that while spending a bunch of time wrestling in the camps in the UK last year Harlem Bravado established himself as a singles competitor. Claiming he established himself as "one of the best singles competitors in the world," however, is utterly ridiculous.
ADRIAN JAOUDE vs. WHEELER YUTA - no rating, decent squash
CURT STALLION vs. LEON RUFF - 7.25/10
They started off a little rough (no pun intended) with some exchanges that looked slightly off, but by the end this turned into a great showcase for both guys. Stallion worked over Ruff's neck and did a good job of getting his presoanlity over while Ruff was a great babyface. They had one little sequence towards the end that absolutely blew the roof off of the building. It's not often you get a "HOLY SH*T!" chant for someone merely getting his fingertips on the ropes to break up a pin.
ADRIAN ALANIS vs. ANTHONY GREENE vs. LIAM GRAY vs. MIKE ORLANDO - 4.5/10
Spots happened. The crowd was a lot more impressed by this match than I was. Also, Greene grabbed a balloon from the ceiling and gave it to a fan, which made the crowd go wild for some reason. Alanis picked up the win, which it really felt like he needed from a kayfabe point of view (and I wouldn't be shocked if giving him this win was the only reason this match was booked to begin with).
JOSH BRIGGS vs. A.R. FOX (w/Ayla Fox) - 8/10
This was an awesome brawl, mixing in elements of the expected power vs. speed match a well as a story of Fox throwing everything he could at Briggs but Briggs still kicking out, and when Fox finally went for Lo Mein Pain, Briggs blocked it and countered it into a Super M5 for the win. Unfortunately, Briggs appear to have hurt himself pretty badly on the move, and medical personnel attended to him in the ring for a very long time afterwards.
WWN TITLE MATCH:
J.D. Drake(c) vs. Austin Theory - 7.75/10
This was a very good "clash of personalities" match, but I was hoping for more from champion vs. champion. I also could have done without Drake doing a Stunner and Theory taking a ridiculous Rock-esque bump for it. Drake retained his title cleanly, now settling him up to challenge for Theory's title.
AUSTIN THEORY PROMO - Good heel stuff. He claimed he was only giving a 50% effort and that he only gives a 100% when he defends the Evolve Title, which he insists is the title in the WWN. He says that there is no competition in the EVOLVE locker room good enough for him, and no competition in NXT that is good enough for him, either. Lenny Leonard told Theory that he was sent a video that Austin might want to see, and they played it on the big screen.
UNDISPUTED ERA VIDEO - Kyle O'Reilly cut a promo on Theory saying he would challenge Theory for the Evolve Title at Evolve 125 over WrestleMania weekend. The others were there in the background, being entertaining.
Theory- who had previously referred to O'Reilly as "dead weight," was unhappy with this, but insisted that he would defeat O'Reilly.
THE STREET PROFITS & THE VELVETEEN DREAM vs. THE UNWANTED (Eddie Kingston, Shane Strickland, & Joe Gacy) (w/Colby Corino) - 7/10
This was decent for a twelve-minute main event six-man tag, but considering the names involved and the situation, I found it disappointing. The Unwanted need to be in matches where they are given the time to prove that they can go at an EVOLVE main event level, both in kayfabe (to justify their claims about being overlooked for the NXT guys and top EVOLVE names like J.D. Drake, Darby Allin, and Anthony Henry), and outside of kayfabe, to prove to us fans that guys like Kingston and Gacy and Colby can deliver to the level we expect of big names in EVOLVE. They weren't quite given the chance to do that here. Them losing to the NXT guys (even if the guy taking the fall, Strickland, is rumored to be on his way out the door) similarly hurts that claim. Very disappointing booking here from Gabe (if his hands were tied by WWE, the solution was to just not book this match in the first place).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. The Unwanted attacked the Street Profits and TVD after the match. Strickland does a Pillmanzier variation on Ford's arm. This all felt like it was done to get heat on the heels in lieu of having them actually win the match like they should have.
This was a pretty good show from EVOLVE, despite some disappointment towards the end. It easy to sit through, and pretty much everything that was given the time to deliver did, and everything that wasn't was kept short and sweet. They claimed to have a "record crowd," although that could just be for this building. The building looked a lot fuller than usual and the crowd definitely sounded louder than usual, which also added quite a bit to the show. WrestleMania is next, and I will hopefully be in attendance.