ANTHONY HENRY PROMO - Didn’t like it. He says that he has sacrificed everything for the fans but hasn’t ever gotten anything in return, so he now isn’t going to give the fans anything. He said this all in a manner designed to sound dry and emotionless, with the only bit of emotion coming at the end when he said “get my opponent out here. Let’s do this” in a manner that made it clear that he just wanted to get his match over with and go home. I think Henry succeeded in conveying the idea well, but I’m not sure the idea is a good one, as it inherently made a segment that I was excited for- it seemed like Henry was about to tell us why he cost his best friend J.D. Drake the Evolve Title at the previous show- and made it into something boring.
ANTHONY HENRY vs. K.C. NAVARRO - No rating, very odd segment
Henry laid down and told Navarro to just pin him… and it wasn’t a trap. Henry just let himself be pinned. The execution here was top-notch, with the referee hesitating before the three and Henry insisting that he keep counting. After the three, Navarro did some celebrating, at which point Henry got up and kicked his ass, including using J.D. Drake’s signature Drill Bit. Lenny Leonard told us that the other referees were in the back restraining J.D. Drake because they are under strict instructions not to let anything happen that could jeopardize our big J.D. Drake vs. WALTER main event.
Gabe definitely has a plan here (or at least I really hope he does), and it will be rather interesting to see where this goes.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Avery Taylor vs. Vanity vs. Brandi Lauren vs. Natalya Markova vs. Alex Gracia - 5.75/10
A note for Lenny Leonard: If you’re going to tell me that there is a “very personal issue” between Taylor and Markova then TELL ME WHAT IT IS!
The match had some sloppy parts but on the whole was fine. I thought that Tower of Doom Doomsday Device-style spot they did was cool, but then having Brandi go for the pin on each of the downed women and basically rolling into the next pin with each kick-out made the whole thing feel like… well.. a spot, rather than something spontaneous and unscripted. Shotzi being the only one of them to kick out at one would have made more sense if she hadn’t taken a bigger bump than the two women who were the bases for the Doomsday Device, both of whom had to kick out at two.
It was nice to see one of these random matches with a bunch of non-regulars actually get some time (about ten minutes) and nice to see the women actually get some time for once, but even more than that, it was nice to see someone who isn’t Brandi or Shotzi get the win. One the reasons that I have had a lot of trouble caring about these women’s matches is that the entire division has been built around the Brandi vs. Shotzi feud, making everyone else feel like place-fillers. Avery Taylor picking up the win here makes her feel important; like someone who I might actually start seeing more than often than just when EVOLVE swings through her home region.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Brandi attacked Taylor after the match and told her to “stay out of my division!” If this leads to Brandi vs. Taylor then I’m fine with it. If not then I would honestly rather Brandi or Shotzi had just won the match than having been given false hope that someone new would be added to the mix, only to have it immediately crushed.
ARTURO RUAS vs. JOHN SILVER - 6.5/10
I absolutely adored the fact that Ruas was still selling the hand that Pete Dunne worked over to the point where Ruas had to tap out on NXT just two days before this, and Silver did his best to work it over as well. Ruas won a good competitive match cleanly.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Anthony Gutierrez came out and complimented Ruas on his technique, but suggested that Ruas could learn a thing or two by watching him. Ruas had a GREAT “I’m laughing because you’re so beneath me that it’s not worth my time to beat you up for your arrogance” response to this and walked off. I really want to see Ruas vs. Gutierrez.
EVOLUTION’S EDGE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND ELIMINATION MATCH:
Anthony Gutierrez vs. Curt Stallion vs. Daniel Garcia vs. Karam - 6/10
More solid stuff. Stallion picked up the win, which was a little disappointing to me because any of the others would have benefited a lot more. Garcia had a good showing here in his EVOLVE debut, but the other two were eliminated relatively quickly, which disappointed me because I have grown to like both Gutierrez and Karam quite a bit and was looking forward to seeing them get some actual time.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very good. Austin Theory cut a promo making fun of Stallion and saying that Stallion could never beat him. Stallion responded by saying that he was looking forward to proving Theory wrong.
AUSTIN THEORY vs. BABATUNDE - 4/10
Since we last saw him, Babatunde has bought himself some sunglasses. Theory stalled a lot and then tried to walk out, but his way was blocked by The Unwanted, who don’t like Babatunde much, either. They have a new member, a man named “Donovan,” who was apparently “in the main event of an EVOLVE recruitment camp” (Lenny Leonard’s words, not mine. I was confused, as I didn’t realize the recruitment camps were kayfabe shows) but lost the match- and the spot on the EVOLVE card- to Anthony Gutierrez. If I had to guess, having The Unwanted show up early like this is Gabe trying to signal to the crowd not to get their hopes up about this match because it’s going to have a rather unsatisfying conclusion.
Yup. After a few minutes of okay big man vs. little man stuff, Babatunde hits his big splash on Theory and then The Unwanted run in for the DQ. The Skulk came out to brawl with The Unwanted. Theory sneaked off during the chaos and Maluta brawled away with Babatunde, leaving us with an…
EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
A.R. Fox & the Skulk (Leon Ruff & Liam Gray)(c) (w/Ayla Fox & the Skulk) vs. The Unwanted (Eddie Kingston, Joe Gacy, & Donovan) - 7/10
I have no idea why the belts are being defended in a six-man tag. Donovan is replacing Colby Corino because the Skulk are sneaky and didn’t want their opponents to be able to prepare for them. This was exactly the match you would have expected, with lots of fast-paced action and a nice long babyface in peril heat. I could have done without some of the overly-cute stereo spots, though.
IF HARLEM BRAVADO LOSES, HE WILL NO LONGER BE A FULL-TIME MEMBER OF THE EVOLVE ROSTER:
Harlem Bravado vs. Adrian Alanis - 7/10
Harlem has been told that he must win both of his matches this weekend in order to maintain his regular spot on the roster. Alanis is also desperately in need of wins, so this is quite the high-stakes match-up. Harlem managed to pick up the clean win here in a great match. It was really nice to see these two really given the time to deliver.
EVOLUTION’S EDGE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND ELIMINATION MATCH:
Brandon Taggart vs. Big Game Leroy vs. Sean Maluta vs. Anthony Greene (w/Brandi Lauren) - 5/10
Big Game Leroy’s gimmick is that he plays his Nintendo Switch during matches. This is not a gimmick that should have gotten within 50 feet of EVOLVE (or any company that isn’t a total joke). Anthony Greene, who is supposed to be a despicable heel whose ass we want to see Curt Stallion kick as revenge for turning on him… did a spot where he and Leroy kept doing go-behinds on each other while snatching the Nintendo Switch out of each other’s hands.
Greene got the win, setting him up for a match against Curt Stallion in the finals tomorrow, which shocked me, as it seems like it would have been a better idea to use this tournament to build up a new star and as an excuse for him to duck Stallion for another weekend before booking that match, which was going to be booked at some point soon regardless of the outcome of the tournament.
JOSH BRIGGS vs. KASSIUS OHNO (w/Harlem Bravado) - 5.5/10
This was a disappointing, slow-paced seventeen minutes. A slow pace is fine, but the match still has to feel like it is building, and this one never did. It felt like they stayed in the same 1.5 gear the entire match.
The booking of this match was, quite frankly, baffling. Briggs is heading into an Evolve Title match tomorrow night that has been built up as much as anything has been built up all year in this company, and he does a job the night before? COME ON! Briggs is already theoretically a main eventer. He’s not going to gain any sort of rub or anything else by losing to Kassius Ohno. All it does is hurt is momentum, and once again make it feel like guys under WWE contract almost never lose (and certainly not cleanly). A BIG mistake by Gabe here.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Ohno offered Briggs a handshake but before he could accept it, Austin Theory attacks Briggs from behind. Ohno tries to pull him off so Theory attacks Ohno. Briggs pulls Theory off of Ohno and starts to beat him up. Ohno tries to pull Briggs off of Theory and gets elbowed in the face by Briggs for his troubles. Briggs and Theory brawled to the back. I guess this sets up a Briggs vs. Ohno rematch as well as an Ohno vs. Theory match, but it felt very cliched and inauthentic.
J.D. DRAKE vs. WALTER - 8/10
Exactly the hoss-fight I think everyone expected. These guys had fantastic intensity and put together a simplistic but excellent match. Drake lost, which makes perfect sense with his recent losing streak, but the fact that Drake was taking the loss here makes Briggs’ losing to Ohno even more frustrating as together they doubly reinforce the “NXT guys never lose” issue, as opposed to splitting things 1-1.
Anthony Henry came out and mockingly clapped for Drake after the match.
This was a disappointing show from EVOLVE. There were some great matches and an excellent main event, but the booking often felt highly questionable, and I think there were just too many matches on the card for a show that was only going to run two and a half hours. Hopefully tomorrow’s show will be better.