By Big Red Machine
From August 24, 2019
OPENING BIT - We start off with Lenny Leonard in the ring with two wrestlers behind him. Lenny bashes us all over the head with the whole “pipeline to NXT” thing, then tells us that the two wrestlers in the ring impressed not just WWN officials but NXT officials as well at a recent seminar, so we are going to have a match where the winner gets a contract. Both guys got the chance to cut short promos before the match, and both were good.
WINNER GETS AN EVOLVE CONTRACT:
Karam vs. Anthony Gutierrez - 5/10
These guys had a FANTASTIC match for the time they were given and both looked extremely impressive. Speaking of impressive, this Karam fellow has only been wrestling for five months, and he’s already this good.
CAMRON BRA’NAE vs. SHOTZI BLACKHEART - 5.5./10
I’m sorry, but that stupid helmet makes it impossible for me to take Shotzi seriously. This was fine for the time it got. Bra’Nae was very impressive in defeat.
Can someone please tell Lenny Leonard or Gabe or whoever that not one single fan gives a sh*t if these referees were some who “impressed WWN officials” in a seminar. They’re referees! We don’t care if they’re just some schlub off the street. We just care that they know the rules and enforce them correctly. And while we’re on the subject, I don’t even care if you found the various wrestlers because they impressed people in seminars. EVOLVE seems to have forgotten that the fans watching at home are not wrestlers looking to get booked. We’re just people who want to enjoy a wrestling show and immerse ourselves in the kayfabe universe.
BRANDON TAGGART vs. ADRIAN ALANIS (w/the Skulk) - 4.75/10
These guys had a mediocre hoss fight. Lenny Leonard impressed upon us the importance of victory for both men (basically, they need to start winning or else they won’t get booked anymore), and Taggart himself was rather vocal about his belief that he deserved a WWN contract. Alanis picked up the win, but Taggart got his shoulder up somewhere between 2.9 and 3.1, so he was yelling at the referee after the match. Also after the match, we got a…
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. The Unwanted came out and attacked the Skulk, then cut a promo bragging about beat up A.R. Fox’s students and warning him that” “anything goes” in tonight’s main event (which Fox already knew, but I guess Maluta thought it made for a good line, anyway).
ARTURO RUAS vs. STEPHEN WOLF - 6/10
Ruas got the win in a good fast-paced striking battle. I really love Ruas’ style, and Gabe is giving him opponents who can compliment that style well with their own. The thing that I will always remember this match for was a kind of scary spot where Wolf went for a standing shooting star press and I don’t know if one if Wolf veered off course of if Ruas got his knees up too early or if this was what they intended to do, but Ruas got his knees up just as Wolf’s head was passing by and kneed him right in the head to counter the move.
CURT STALLION vs. ANTHONY GREENE (w/Brandi Lauren) - 6/10
A good heated brawl with ref shenanigans that enhanced the story rather than hurt it (and also provided an opportunity for Shotzi Blackheart to run out and go after Brandi Lauren to build up to their match tomorrow night). Greene wins by DQ when the ref wakes up and sees Stallion using the chair that Greene had been trying to use on him. Stallion didn’t care and gave Greene another chair shot for good measure. He told Greene that Greene deserved those chair shots, and that things were not over between them.
J.D. DRAKE vs. KUSHIDA - 7.75/10
These two had a hard-hitting match and pulled out all of their big stuff. Just once I’d like to see the small guy not be able to slam the big dude by the end, just to make the size difference feel more real. Drake takes a third straight big loss here, and n9ow has to head into his EVOLVE Title match tomorrow night on a losing streak.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Touching. ALEX SHELLEY came out to surprise KUSHIDA and cut a promo talking about their friendship and putting him over.
IF THEORY LOSES, HE MUST SHAKE HENRY’S HAND; IF HENRY LOSES HE MUST KISS THEORIE'S BOOTS:
Anthony Henry vs. Austin Theory - 7.75/10
They did a pre-match segment cutting promos on each other to set up the stipulation. They both worked over the other’s leg. Henry, being the babyface, was the one who took most of the damage, and if he had sold better, I would have given this an 8. Henry getting the big win over the champion here definitely felt like the big deal that it should, and it creates a much-needed second challenger so that Briggs taking the belt doesn’t feel like quite as much of a foregone conclusion.
Shockingly, Theory was a man of his word and did in fact shake Henry’s hand. He tried to get it over with quickly but Henry wouldn’t let him go and challenged him to a Evolve Title match. Theory looked satisfyingly unhappy being forced to swallow some of his own medicine by Henry here.
JOSH BRIGGS vs. MATT RIDDLE (w/Curt Stallion) - 7/10
Riddle doing Goldberg’s big spots because of shoot heat between them is the kind of thing that usually annoys me, but at least in this case the jackhammer works over the opponent’s midsection, which is the part of the body Riddle had been targeting already.
The match was shorter than I was hoping for. It was basically the opening of an awesome match and the last few minutes of an awesome match without the middle. Like I said above, Riddle worked over Briggs’ midsection. Riddle won when Briggs passed out in the Bro-mission. I don’t understand why Gabe keeps jobbing his top guys out to WWE guys.
ANYTHING GOES MATCH FOR THE EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLES:
Leon Ruff & A.R. Fox(c) (w/Ayla Fox) vs. The Unwanted (Joe Gacy & Sean Maluta) - 7/10
Ruff and the Foxes coming out here doing their usual Skulk dancing routine after their opponents launched a cowardly assault on their buddies earlier was absolutely terrible. From the way the match started I can, with hindsight, see an argument that it was something the champions did on purpose to lure their opponents into a false sense of security, but I still didn’t like it. This was mostly a weapons and big spots match. Ruff got taken out earlier on so Fox had to fight on his own until Riff was able to get back into things. This was definitely a main event-level match (although perhaps just barely so), but it’s nothing you haven’t seen a million times by now, either.
This was a solid show from EVOLVE, although I’d prefer it if had been a bit better in the ring. The booking continues to be mix of “very good” and “what the f*ck is Gabe doing?” depending on the angle. I’m getting more than a little sick of these “only in EVOLVE” matches (which basically means it’s a WWE-contracted guy vs. an indy guy), and I greatly wish that the NXT involvement was toned down to only “full time EVOLVE” guys like Ruas and to bringing a big NXT name when there is a specific story to be told with that person/that that person’s involvement in particular will enhance.