#1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Besties in the World vs. the Skulk (Adrian Alanis & Liam Gray) (w/the Skulk) - 6/10
A solid opener.
BRENDAN VINK vs. COLBY CORINO - 4.75/10
Starting this weekend, EVOLVE has a ten-count on the floor. I really, truly hope they actually enforce this rule instead of doing what everyone else does and just ignore it when they want to do cool stuff on the outside.
Vink is from NXT and his gimmick is that he’s an arrogant big guy. I was hoping that they would actually give Colby a win here to help him prove himself to Kingston but I guess not. It will be interesting to see if Eddie just kicks him aside at this point. Colby has gotten quite good at playing the babyface underdog and it’d be a shame to see him go, but also frustrating to see him not go anywhere, which is what it has felt like has happened with him in EVOLVE for the past few months. Then again, the same thing also happened with him in ROH a few years ago, so maybe there is an issue where people are uncomfortable pushing him too hard.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. A manager named Mr. Ruder came out with his charges, J-Rocc and Vipress, both of whom look like goofs but he talks them up like they are huge deals. Rocc just looks like an old goofball, and Vipress would look fine if she wasn’t dressed like a supervillain. He tries to recruit Brendan Vink to his stable. He was interrupted by the faction of Anthony Greene, Harlem Bravado, and Brandi Lauren, who tried to recruit Vink to join them instead. He said he’s used to people fighting over him, but all he wants is the Evolve Championship, so he walks off (despite Mr. Ruder’s entertainingly baseless pleas that he can get Vink a title shot). Ruder then blamed the other heel faction for ruining things for him. Barbs were exchanged, and the result was an agreement to add a match to the card right now, and that match was…
J-ROCC (w/Mr. Ruder & Vipress) vs. HARLEM BRAVADO (w/Anthony Greene & Brandi Lauren) - 3.25/10
Fun fact: J-Rocc was apparently EC3’s trainer. I would have thought the Carters could have afforded better (I firmly believe that they brought someone in to train Ethan in a wrestling ring they built in the gym of one of their mansions rather than sending EC3 to wrestling school the normal way like some sort of commoner).
Anyway, Harlem won a short match cleanly.
REINA GONZALEZ vs. SHOTZI BLACKHEART - 3.5/10
This is Shotzi Blackheart’s last weekend in EVOLVE, thankfully. I await the day when our division isn’t about around someone whose entire gimmick is that she screams a lot and does a “look at me, I’m so tough” move-set. Also, no more lectures about how Shotzi is EVOLVE’s Stephanie McMahon, matron saint of the women’s division. If the EVOLVE women’s division were interesting then maybe this wouldn’t be so annoying, but its entire direction has been Shotzi and the idea that mean Brandi Lauren is “keeping other women out” through unseen and unspecified means. You need to give me something material or specific, or else it’s really hard for me to care about any of this.
Anyway, they did their usual stuff. Reina worked on Shotzi’s back and looked like she might have things won after a HUGE lariat, but instead went to go hit Shotzi with her cowbell right in front of the referee. Again. WHY? Wouldn’t actually beating Shotzi do a better job of sending the message that Shotzi isn’t good enough for NXT than just beating her up (never mind doing so the same way you did last month and Shotzi didn’t listen to your message)?
Fortunately, the referee was able to stop her this time, but I nearly had a heart attack when Shotzi rolled Reina up off of this, because that sort of finish is just about as annoying as the DQ would have been. Unfortunately, we then had Reina get angry at the referee about a count, at which point Shotzi grabbed the cowbell and hit Reina with it for the blatant DQ. If you wanted to do a no DQs match between these two, why not just use last month’s DQ as the reason for it? Why waste time the show’s time, the promotion’s money, and the viewer’s patience by doing yet another DQ tonight, first?
EVOLVE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
A.R. Fox & Leon Ruff(c) vs. Matt Sydal & Andrew Everett - 7.75/10
We got an NXT referee in this match. Trevin Addams asked “how cool is that?” The answer, of course, is not at all because HE’S A F*CKING REFEREE! I’m not saying that referees aren’t important parts of the presentation, but they’re not stars, so no one cares which promotions a referee works in.
That “Stunner your opponent so he falls backwards and gives his partner a Stunner” spot was executed well enough to actually make it look plausible. MAJOR props to Sydal and especially Everett for that. This was a GREAT match between two sets of high-flyers that never once felt spotty while always keeping the level of athleticism high. The tag division has definitely picked up some of the slack workrate-wise in EVOLVE recently.
EXTREME RULES MATCH:
Curt Stallion vs. Anthony Greene (w/Brandi Lauren) - 8.5/10
This was an AWESOME weapons match with tons of hatred. Harlem Bravado interfered but was countered by Josh Briggs getting revenge on him for trying to prevent him from winning the Evolve Title from Austin Theory, Brandi Lauren got bumped, and we got a nice, clean, definitive finish to this match and hopefully this feud. This feud has probably been EVOLVE’s best of the year, and it’s very refreshing to see a feud that took guys who were nothing but highly touted prospects when it began and has them both feeling like they are firmly entrenched in the upper midcard (or maybe a little higher, in the winner’s case) when it ends.
CAMRON BRA’NAE vs. NATALYA MARKOVA (w/the Unwanted) - 1.5/10
Colby Corino is at ringside as a member of the Unwanted. This was decent for the time it got; the problem is that it only got about two minutes.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Eddie Kingston cut a promo about “cutting the dead weight” from the group. The moment that phrase left his mouth, Colby Corino preemptively attacked him. Colby put up a decent fight but was overwhelmed by the numbers game. Kingston then cut another promo, transitioning us into…
ARTURO RUAS, ANTHONY GUTIERREZ, & BABATUNDE vs. THE UNWANTED (Eddie Kingston, Joe Gacy, & Sean Maluta) (w/Natalya Markova) - 6.75/10
Trevin Addams told us that Joe Gacy had trouble getting to the building and only got here an hour ago, and thus his team was at a disadvantage because the other team had a chance to strategize together and the Unwanted didn’t. Two thoughts here:
1. Doesn’t Gacy own a cell phone? Couldn’t he have just called and had Kingston put him on speaker when they were doing their planning?
2. WHY WOULD YOU TELL US THIS?! Why would you say something that takes what had previously been presented as a completely even match and changes it so that the babyfaces now have an unfair advantage? Just because something is the shoot truth doesn’t mean you should bring it up on commentary!
Anyway, this was a solid six-man tag. Gabe finally found a way for Babatunde to have a match that wasn’t either a squash or a DQ, and wasn’t short, either.
EVOLVE TITLE MATCH:
Josh Briggs(c) vs. J.D. Drake - 8/10
This was the expected awesome hoss fight. The only negative was the finish. They tired to have Briggs go for this chokeslam onto the knees but Drake counter it and Briggs counter the counter in midair by turning it into a spinebuster. And that’s exactly what happened, but no one was expecting it to be the finish since a spinebuster isn’t Briggs’ finisher.
TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. WALTER - 8.25/10
The match was the expected intense greatness with all of the awesome submissions and big strike exchanges you’d expect.
This was a great show from EVOLVE. Despite some frustrations early on, it feels like they’re really getting their legs under them again in terms of multiple quality matches per show, and we got some good booking bits to make me start caring about things again (babyface Colby!). The main event did feel rather throwaway, but I can cross my fingers and hope the result somehow winds up mattering in wXw.<