STEPHEN WOLF PROMO - Good. He catches everyone up to speed on his feud with Harlem Bravado, reminding the people in the building that the last time he was in this building he beat Harlem, but then Harlem attacked him after the match with a guardrail. He mentions that there currently are no guardrails set up… because EVOLVE officials don’t want that specific type of post-match attack to happen again, I guess? Wolf says that now that he is finally getting a singles rematch with Harlem (this got put off for many months because Wolf broke his leg), he doesn’t want to wait any longer than necessary. He demands that tonight’s show open with…
HARLEM BRAVADO vs. STEPHEN WOLF - 6/10
On commentary, Trevin Adams told me that Stephen Wolf “wants to represent his culture in a way that it has never been represented before” and “wants to be an example for his people.” Umm… what? I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything like that before, and I’ve seen every single EVOVLE show he’s been on. If this were actually so important to him, you’d think that he’d have at least mentioned it once or twice. Hell… I don’t even know which culture Wolf is a member of. He could be a light-skinned African-American, he could be Hispanic or a member of some First Nations tribe… or maybe he’s some shade of LGBT, or perhaps he’s an adherent to a religion that hasn’t had much representation in pro wrestling. I have no idea because he hasn’t ever mentioned it once.
I’m harping on this because every time I hear an announcer say something like this out of the blue, it just drives me nuts. It comes off as so phony (for the reasons I listed above- even if it’s the shoot truth, if you don’t make it important in kayfabe it comes off as fake you when you just bring it up out of the nowhere), and thus exploitative, and seems to come as a result of an announcer who doesn’t know what to say to get us to like Stephen Wolf, so he says generic crap. We the fans are supposed to like Stephen Wolf because he’s a skilled up-and-comer who works hard, doesn’t cheat, and treats his fellow wrestlers as well as the fans with respect unless they give him a reason not to. We are not supposed to like him because he wants to be a representative of an underrepresented minority and change our perceptions of said minority. I’m not saying that you can’t want fans to like someone because he or she wants to be a representative of an underrepresented minority and change our perceptions of said minority. What I’m saying is that if you want that to be the reason we’re supposed to like someone, you need to MAKE THAT PART OF HIS OR HER STORY, (and no, that doesn’t mean you need to do cheap heat racist heel angles. You just have to present the desire to represent hos or her people well as one of the character driving factors to be successful and moral.)
The match was fine for what it was. I’m fine with them not going so long if they were going to do a heel finish, but I really do wish we’d see guys like Wolf be given more time for their matches. Said finish saw Harlem grab a guardrail base from under the ring and go to hit Wolf with it, but his real plan was to let the referee take it away from him so he could hit Wolf with a low blow, then hit Straight Cash Homey for the win.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn’t like it. Anthony Greene came out and beat Wolf up. Referee took Wolf to the back. Brandi Lauren and Jessi Kamea made their way out to the ring, with Brandi calling Wolf a “loser” as he and the gaggle of referees supporting him passed by them. Brandi is such a great heel.
Brandi and Jessi proceeded to give us an explanation for their seemingly unlikely alliance. Apparently Jessie was very impressed with Brandi when Brandi went to NXT for a tryout so they kept in touch, and… now that Jessi has been booked into EVOLVE by NXT, they’re going to hang out, I guess. Brandi says that this is no longer “my women’s division” but now “our women’s division.” My guess is that the way this will play out is that Brandi has found someone in NXT she can suck up to in order to try to get her foot in the door, but I’m less clear on what Jessi’s real motivation is here. Unless, of course, she just wants to hang out with her friend Brandi, but that seems kind of underwhelming. If they had said that she wanted a shortcut to the top of the division or something like that then it would make a little more sense to me.
Anyway, they decide to go pick on a random fan who is sitting close to the timekeeper’s table. Said fan is apparently “a wrestler from the Chicago area” whose name I didn’t catch. On the one hand, I want to give them credit for using the lack of guardrails due to the Wolf/Bravado issue to make this woman (who is here as a fan) sitting so close to something that would normally be blocked by the guardrail feel less forced, but at the same time, it’s just so wacky that they would go pick on this random woman out of the crowd when they’re stated goal is to prove their superiority over the other female wrestlers in the company (i.e. Avery Taylor, Natalya Markova, and whoever else is still around now that Shotzi and probably Reina Gonzalez are gone).
Anyway, they mock her, which is seems too naïve to notice. Then Brandi just boots her in the face, and they start stomping on her. I don’t care if she happens to be a wrestler, she is here as a fan. This has to warrant a suspension at the very least. Avery Taylor and Natalya Markova ran out and chased the heels off, then checked on the injured woman (whose name I now clearly herd as “J. Raves”). Also, apparently she is here to “help with production” as part of paying her dues, so they didn’t attack a fan (it would have been nice if they had made that clear before), but they still attacked a member of the crew for no damn reason, which still deserves a severe punishment.
AVERY TAYLOR & NATALYA MARKOVA vs. THE IN CROWD (Brandi Lauren & Jessi Kamea) (w/Harlem Bravado & Anthony Greene) - 4/10
Apparently, Brandi was on NXT this week as one of the women fawning over Damian Priest, and she has been bragging about it non-stop. Part of me thinks is this dangerously close to exposing that segments like that are put-ons and not authentic, which would greatly damage the characters (even if we are generous and rather than interpret this as all being NXT-organized “segments,” we presume that Priest went out and found hot chicks to be walking with him while he cut a promo or whatever, it still exposes Priest as not the being the pussy-magnet he claims to be). Another part of me, however, likes the idea of Brandi Lauren being willing to do just about anything, including pretending to be a Damian Priest groupie as a way to get close to him, in the hopes that it will eventually put her in a position where the end result will be her somehow managing to worm her way into NXT. Also, at least she’s not bragging about showing up and getting her ass kicked that like the announcers normally put over EVOLVE wrestlers as doing (“appearing” on NXT really isn’t worth bragging about if said appearance is you getting a big kayfabe opportunity and failing miserably by getting completely squashed).
Oh yeah. The match. The babyfaces won clean in a few minutes.
Trevin Adams plugged the NXT meet-n-greet going on at this moment on the stage at the back of the venue. He managed to mispronounce Tommaso Ciampa’s name (he said “Chai-ampa”).
BRENDAN VINK vs. LEON RUFF (w/the Skulk) - 5.75/10
Before the match, Vink cut a promo getting over his story. He’s offended to be the third match on the card because he thinks he should be getting a title shot. These two did a great job with their “big and strong vs. small and fast” story, but the match was disappointingly short. This is yet another of those matches where I really think they should be giving it no less than fourteen minutes so that the loser can still look very good in defeat.
BRENDAN VINK PROMO - He once again insisted that he deserved to be the next challenger for the Evolve Championship.
DENZEL DEJOURNETTE & JON DAVIS vs. THE SKULK (Adrian Alanis & Liam Gray) - 7/10
See… that right there is the type of match I want the Leon Ruffs and Curt Stallions and Stephen Wolfs and Anthony Gutierrezes or EVOLVE to be given the time to have. This was a great fourteen minutes that did a heck of a job making the new team of Jon Davis & Denzel Dejournette look like a tag team that can hang with- and, in this case, even beat- a top team in the division. That being said, the booking here has me a little worried, as Alanis & Gray are headed into a tag title match on the next weekend of shows, so why are they losing? I guess it can set Davis & Dejournette up as #1 contenders if Gray & Alanis win, but if you beat teams who either are or at least feel like they should logically be the #1 contenders (or the champs, for that matter) too often, it brings the whole division down. I think this is the third time this has happened in this division in the past six shows (Besties in the World beat Ruff & Fox to earn a title shot, then, after winning the titles they lost a non-title match to Gray & Alanis).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Dejournette went to check on Liam Gray but Jon Davis told Dejournette that Gray was fine and shepherded him to the back, telling him “we’re here to win matches.” This makes Davis seem just that little bit like a heel that I think is necessary here because our other babyface tag teams are both made up of members (or trainers) of the Skulk and thus all best friends, so it’s nice to have a team that feels different (because, quite frankly, the only difference to me between Gray & Alanis and Ruff & Fox is that Ruff & Fox mare much better. Personalities are all the same).
MANSOOR vs. ANTHONY GREENE - 7.25/10
Again… THIS is the type of match I want to see the up-and-comers being given the time to have.
ALYX SKY vs. VIPRESS - 3.75/10
EVOLVE’s graphic had Sky’s name spelled Alex. I don’t know if that’s her changing or name, or them making a typo. I hope it’s the former, both because typos like that are embarrassing, and because randomly changing a vowel in your name to a y in an effort to seem cooler is extremely stupid.
Speaking of Alyx (or maybe it’s Alex) Sky, it has come to my attention that her nickname is actually “deaf-defying” rather than “death-defying” as I misheard at EVOLVE 144, so I hereby retract my criticism of her nickname.
Her opponent tonight is Vipress, the “Empress of Evil.” If she’s going to call herself that, she might as well throw in “Queen of Cliches,” too. She does have kind of cool-looking, very supervillain-esque entrance gear, though. She lost cleanly to Sky in a few minutes.
RELAXED RULES MATCH:
Joe Gacy vs. Colby Corino - 6.75/10
This went about ten minutes, which I guess is fine if you’re done with Colby (which, based on the commentary, they’re pretty clearly not), but if this is going to continue, babyface Colby should have at least lasted longer. Then again, I thought Colby got screwed a little bit when he was giving Gacy the old ground-and-pound and the ref actually pushed Colby off of Gacy so he could check on Gacy, which allowed Gacy to recover. The reason the ref couldn’t see Gacy’s face and “had” to get Colby off of him was that Gacy was shielding his face with his hands, but doesn’t the very fact that Gacy was doing so tell us that he’s still conscious and able to defend himself?
J.D. DRAKE vs. JAKE ATLAS vs. CURT STALLION - 7/10
Here is another match that I really wish would have gotten more time. They did a bunch of three-way stuff. One thing that I really did like was the finish. Far too often nowadays you’ll see someone hit a finisher on the floor because they want to do a spot on the floor and figure that doing a finisher will make get a bigger pop… but, of course, they’re on the outside so there is no pin afterwards and the finisher on the floor winds up having the same result as if it was any other move. IN this match, Drake hit Stallion with a Drill Bit on the floor, then rolled him into the ring and pinned him for the win.
JOSH BRIGGS vs. A.R. FOX (w/Ayla Fox & the Skulk) - 8/10
Once again, Keith Lee was out here to play ring announcer for the main event. He put everyone over. Unfortunately, he said something that was apparently funny enough to make Josh Briggs smile, which is very against character for Briggs.
At one point the Skulk yanked Fox out of the ring when Briggs had a hold of his leg, right in front of the referee. This probably should have been a DQ, or at the very least gotten them ejected from ringside. The referee failed to do his job correctly and took no action, so Briggs took the law into his own hands and kicked their asses.
Briggs worked over Fox’s back while Fox worked over Briggs’ neck. Fox took a few very big bumps, including a chokeslam off the top onto the apron, after which he tumbled to the floor. They bought him A LOT of time to sell this, but even so I still wasn’t a fan of him popping up after Briggs was able to roll him back into the ring and being the one to get the next spurt of offense in. Fox picked up the shocking win here. Briggs has now lost four out of his last six. Yes, one was a DQ and he was given outs two other times, but it’s still a little shocking to see a Gabe-booked champion lose so much.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Ah. Okay. So Briggs losing here actually does two things, not one. Obviously, it sets Fox up as the presumptive #1 contender, but that fact gives Brendan Vink a reason to come out here and be pissed off, because he thinks he should be the #1 contender, and now someone else seems to have cut to the front of the line.
Vink interrupted the nice moment of respect between Fox and Briggs to get in Briggs’ face, yank the title out of his hands, and throw it. Fox grabbed him but Vink floored him with a boot. Briggs grabbed Vink by the throat for his finisher but Vink managed to escape and rolled out of the ring.
The In Crowd showed up to back Vink up, so I guess they’re not done trying to recruit him. J.D. Drake came out to cut toff the heels’ escape, I guess, but really this just distracted them for a moment so that Bobby Flacco of the Skulk could come at them with a huge dive. Then the babyfaces beat the heels up in a fight that was about twelve on three. Briggs got back into the ring and put Fox over huge on the mic, then declared that he would defend the title against Fox at the next show. Lenny Leonard told us that EVOLVE officials had a bunch of contingency plans in place depending on who won which matches, and this fits in with their plans very nicely, so they’ve made the match official.
On the whole I thought this was a good segment, but I think it would have been a lot better without that middle part. As I said, the babyfaces won a very unfair fight, it feel took away the heat Vink just got by disrespecting the title and attacking Fox, and it was one of those segments that felt like it only happened so we could get a bunch of dives (and thus the pops they invariably get) in at the end of the show. Compare this to endings like Gabe did in ROH at Night of the Butcher II and it’s less memorable and not as great cousin at the end of Chaos at the Cow Palace, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Those were show-ending brawls with a bunch of dives, too, but those felt like their purpose was to enhance the tapestry of the various interwoven stories being told. This was just a bunch of spots.
This was a relatively solid show from EVOLVE, but as you’ve probably guessed, I thought it could have been greatly improved by giving some of the undercard matches with up-and-comers more time. At this point I would normally say something looking forward to the next show, but… well… who the hell knows when that will happen at this point.<