Evolve 10th Anniversary
Date: July 13, 2019
Location: 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Commentator: Lenny Leonard
This one is interesting for a lot of reasons, starting with the fact that it is WWE’s first official head to head competition against AEW, which is running Fight For The Fallen at the same time. Evolve is an indy company that has become an unofficial feeding system for WWE, which has even sent some talent there for Evolve shows. This has been hyped up harder than most Takeovers so it could be interesting. Let’s get to it.
I don’t follow Evolve for the most part so I have no idea what the storylines are going on. I’m sorry in advance for anything I miss or get wrong.
The opening video looks at current WWE stars getting some of their best exposure in Evolve. Names including Cesaro, Tony Nese, Ricochet and Daniel Bryan (who came up with the name of the promotion) among many others.
For those of you who keep track of numbers, this is Evolve 131.
Some of the roster is in the ring with ring announcer Lenny Leonard talking about how these people have earned the right to be here. Josh Briggs grabs the mic and says he wants his match with Anthony Greene to start right now because this is his opportunity.
Josh Briggs vs. Anthony Greene
Briggs is introduced with the caveat that “odds are he doesn’t like you.” Greene on the other hand is described as retro and has a redheaded woman with him. The much bigger Briggs throws him around to start and nails a pair of backbreakers. The threat of what looked like a chokeslam sends Greene bailing to the floor, leaving the redhead (Brandi Lauren) to grab Briggs’ foot to little avail.
Greene knocks him to the floor but gets chokeslammed onto the apron for his efforts. Some right hands have Briggs in trouble and a rope walk spinning crossbody gets two. Greene stomps away in the corner and the fans aren’t pleased, including when Lauren gets in a forearm. Worry not though because she didn’t see anything. A neckbreaker gives Greene two and the fans think Retro sucks. Briggs comes back with a running boot in the corner and another backbreaker into a butterfly backbreaker for two.
There’s a big boot to Greene’s face, followed by a reverse Razor’s Edge flipped forward into a sitout powerslam for another near fall. Greene scores with an enziguri and does it again for good measure, setting up a half crab on Briggs’ long leg. A 450 misses Briggs but Greene rolls him into the corner for two of his own. Lauren gets caught interfering for an ejection but Greene gets two off a super victory roll anyway. Some low superkicks rock Briggs and Greene goes for the leg, only to get pulled into a pop up powerbomb for the pin at 11:49.
Rating: C. It took me a little while to get around the idea of the retro guy being the heel and the big guy (who probably doesn’t like you) being the face but once they got into a rhythm, this was a nice match with the power guy trying to catch the smaller one and finally powerbombing him into oblivion. They didn’t overstay its welcome and that’s what matters most in an opener.
Video on the Unwanted, who have replaced Isaiah Scott (Shane Strickland) with Sean Maluta. They’re not going to let AR Fox and his dojo buddy beat them on the Network because they’ve come too far to lose now. They seem to be a heel stable of outcasts who have banded together.
Sean Maluta vs. Curt Stallion vs. Stephen Wolf vs. Harlem Bravado
One fall to a finish. Wolf jumps Bravado as his shirt comes off and they fight to the floor. Maluta kicks Stallion in the head but Wolf comes back in. Wolf and Bravado head outside for back to back dives from Wolf and Maluta. Back in and Wolf suplexes Stallion for two but gets sent outside by Bravado. Maluta comes back with a forearm to knock Bravado off the ropes before superkicking Wolf out of the air for two. Wolf and Maluta hit crossbodies at the same time but Wolf is fine enough to enziguri Bravado.
It’s a big staredown between Wolf and Stallion with the fans split about their favorite. Wolf clotheslines Stallion into oblivious and everyone is down for a breather. Bravado is up with a Death Valley Driver on Wolf, who bails out to the floor. Maluta nails a Codebreaker on Bravado but there’s no one to cover. Wolf is back in with a release Blue Thunder Bomb on Maluta and Bravado adds Angel’s Wings (or Straight Cash Money Homey), only to get caught with a shooting star press from Wolf for the pin at 9:22.
Rating: C-. The match was almost all action but I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with what was going on and there was little explanation of who was who and their histories together. It was fine enough, but it also felt like it was the token multiman match that every indy show needs to include.
Video on Anthony Henry, who can do a little bit of everything and has MMA experience. In an indy wrestler? You don’t say. Though to be fair, I’ve heard good things about him.
Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas
Ruas is better known as Adrian Jaoude in NXT and Henry is rather popular with the fans. The announcers hype this up as a grudge match as Ruas misses an early spinning kick to the head. Instead he goes for an armbar attempt to send Henry over to the ropes. Henry can’t get an armbreaker either so he hits Ruas in the back of the head and fails at another armbreaker attempt.
Henry’s nose is cut as Ruas drives in some knees in the corner. We get some more of the history between these two, as Ruas was a hot shot prospect but Henry gave him his first loss. Henry straights away some more and gets the armbreaker, only to have Ruas roll him up for two. Ruas tries to pick him up but gets caught in a sleeper. With that broken up, Henry hits one heck of a kick to the head.
Henry misses the ropes on a tornado DDT attempt so it’s a regular version, followed by a top rope double stomp (with Ruas having to roll over so it can hit). An ankle lock on Ruas’ bare foot is broken up and they wind up on the mat for a slap off. Henry hammers him down with right hands but Ruas catches him with a spinning kick to the head for the pin at 9:25.
Rating: B-. I’m usually not wild on having the wrestlers do an MMA style match but these two went with it the entire way and it was a lot of fun as a result. This felt different and the commentary did a much better job of telling me the story here. I’m surprised Henry lost after the video about him but it was a good match.
We recap Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren. They got in a big fight after a match at their last show and tonight it’s No DQ.
Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart
No DQ and they’re in something close to street clothes for a different kind of feel. The bell rings and a woman named Natalya Markova runs in to jump Shotzi after about two seconds. A running spinning X Factor plants Shotzi but she fights back out of the corner as Lauren watches from the floor. Shotzi manages a dive onto both of them and comes up sporting a bloody nose.
It’s time for some chairs but Shotzi takes too long, allowing Brandi to hit a dive into those chairs. The chairs are arranged again but Shotzi blocks a suplex onto them. Lauren’s apron bomb gets two (and a KEVIN OWENS chant), meaning it’s time to yell at the referee over his counting ability. Shotzi’s Cannonball (great band name) gets two but she can’t hit Sliced Bread #2 on the apron.
Shotzi goes outside instead and sets up another chair onto the 2×2 setup they already have, which can’t possibly end well. Lauren is sat on the top chair and Shotzi tries a suicide dive but Anthony Greene comes out to save Lauren, leaving Shotzi to crash horribly. That’s only good for two so Greene hands Lauren a kendo stick. Cue Curt Stallion to fight with Greene as Lauren unloads with the stick for the pin at 9:52.
Rating: C+. The more I see of Shotzi the more I like her and Lauren was no slouch. The interference at the beginning just kind of came and went though I like the idea. The ending didn’t do much for me though as the match just felt like it ended as the guys fought to the back. What we got was rather entertaining though and, again, something different than the rest of the night, which is almost always a good idea.
House show ads.
Colby Corino vs. Babatunde
Colby is Unwanted and has Sean Maluta in his corner. Babatunde is a 7’ monster. Colby, who might weigh 130lbs soaking wet, says he doesn’t care how big Babatunde is and slaps him in the chest, meaning the beating is on in a hurry. A Maluta distraction doesn’t work and Babatunde hits a chop so hard that I thought it was a chair shot. Colby gets in a few more shots but gets tossed into the corner with ease. A great big elbow and a great big splash finish Corino at 3:10.
Rating: D. How in the world is Babatunde still stuck in NXT? He’s got a great look, moved quite well and wrestled like a giant. Unless he just can’t do anything else but squashes, I have no idea why he’s stuck there. Someone with his size alone should be worthy of at least a bodyguard spot.
Post match Eddie Kingston and the Unwanted (reigning Evolve Tag Team Champion) come out to say they have a problem with Baba Booey. They don’t like Babatunde being given everything because he’s a giant football player at a PC. They took out the Street Profits and they’ll take him out too, but here are AR Fox and Leon Ruff with the SKULK to interrupt.
And yes SKULK, not SKULL, which I was apparently dumb enough to think they said at a Wrestlemania weekend show. I was so dumb that one of them complained to me about it on Twitter, because I didn’t know enough about wrestling to see that a bunch of people who dance around with Fox are incredibly valuable and completely necessary (apparently they give him advice, dance and do dives too).
Or that I wasn’t smart enough to think that a show with two titles being defended (as in titles with a history) meant that it had some storyline significance. I was just dumb enough to think that it was supposed to be like WWE and not a bunch of people having fun on a show. But yes, it is completely necessary to have a five person entourage for a two man tag team. Fox and Ruff hit the ring to dive onto the Unwanted, meaning the title match is on. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SKULK??? THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT AND I MUST KNOW MORE ABOUT THEM!
Tag Team Titles: AR Fox/Leon Ruff vs. Unwanted
Eddie Kingston and Joe Gacy are defending for the Unwanted and Fox trained Ruff. This is also under Relaxed Rules, pretty much meaning Fox starts even faster and hits an imploding 450 to take the champs down. Back in and Ruff hits a rope walk hurricanrana on Gacy, setting up some kicks to the face and a low Stunner for two. Kingston comes back in to take over on the much smaller Ruff, followed by a Russian legsweep/STO combination on Fox.
The champs start the hard chops on Ruff in the corner and the cringing is strong. Kingston superplexes Ruff into a powerbomb from Gacy for two but Fox saves him from something else off the top. Ruff’s DDT out of the corner gets two on Kingston and Fox’s springboard Spanish Fly gets the same on Gacy.
Kingston sends Fox outside and puts Ruff on top, leaving Gacy to set up a table on the floor. Fox is back in with a big springboard dropkick and Ruff hits something like a crucifix bomb to bring Kingston back down. A running dive over the top sends Gacy through the table and a 450 to Kingston gives Fox the pin and the titles at 8:21.
Rating: B-. Well of course they won. How could you not with the SKULK out there? This was a nice wild brawl and fast paced enough to make it feel different than the previous brawl between the women. I had fun with this match again, and they still aren’t wasting time out there to make the matches feel long. Good stuff here.
Post match, a lot of dancing ensues.
We recap Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle. They both used to be in Evolve as part of the Catch Point (stable of amateur style wrestlers) and Gulak put out a challenge for this show. Riddle accepted and the match was on.
Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle
Non-title and both are well received. Riddle has Curt Stallion with him while Gulak is in a Catch Point robe and walks through a group of people in Catch Point hoodies. Oh yeah I’d say this is a big one. They start with the strikes until Riddle takes him down without much effort. That’s reversed into a quickly broken ankle lock as the fans sing something I can’t make out. They fight over arm control but Riddle has to break out of the Gulock.
With that not working, Gulak goes to the middle rope but dives int a jumping knee. The Bromission goes on for half a second until Gulak rolls over into a cover for two and that’s a standoff. Gulak’s suplex gets one and it’s back to the boxing as the fans are split here. Riddle nails a powerbomb but his knee to the face is countered into a powerbomb from Gulak. That’s switched into a half crab in an awesome transition, sending Riddle straight over to the ropes.
Back up and now the jumping knee to the face gets two on Gulak, who hits a hard shot to the face of his own and they’re both down. They slug it out from their knees with Riddle getting the better of it and hitting a penalty kick to the chest for two. Riddle grabs his own Gulock but Gulak escapes in a hurry, only to get caught in a triangle. That’s broken in a hurry as well so Riddle hits a fisherman’s buster for two.
Gulak bails to the apron so Riddle grabs a sleeper to pull him to the middle rope for a German superplex, dropping Gulak on his head. After Gulak assures the referee he’s ok, it’s the spinning Broton off the top, which is reversed into the Gulock. Riddle slips out of that in a hurry though and hits the Bro Derek for the pin at 13:38.
Rating: B+. I had a great time with this one and I can see why a stable like this would be a big deal in a company like this (or anywhere). Riddle is someone who looks so goofy on his way to the ring but everything he does in his matches is crisp and smooth, which isn’t something you get out of almost anyone. I had a blast with this and it’s the Riddle and Gulak I’ve heard so much about. Very good match.
Post match Gulak talks about the way Catch Point was formed and puts over Riddle as a great competitor. He tells Stallion to be ready for his match against Riddle tomorrow in a nice little speech.
We recap JD Drake vs. Austin Theory for the WWN/Evolve Titles respectively (for lack of a better explanation, WWN is the governing body and Evolve is a member). Drake is a good old boy from North Carolina while Theory is the next big thing and a star in Evolve. Then he can go main event Takeover instead of the farm boy who sits on the couch all day like Drake does. Drake talks about everything he’s given away to this business, including a wife, missing his kid’s first steps and going through suicidal thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with a culture clash feud.
Leonard introduces a special ring announcer for the next match: Brian Idol, who doesn’t seem to impress the fans. Then the lights go out and Paul Heyman is here instead to a BIG reaction. After a lot of praise and WELCOME BACK chants, Heyman says he isn’t usually up for something like this but he volunteered to come here so he could see the future in action. Nice treat for the fans here and a smart thing to say instead of talking about ECW again.
WWN Title/Evolve Title: JD Drake vs. Austin Theory
Title for title. We get the Big Match Intros (Heyman: “You guys got pyro! We don’t have pyro!”) and we’re ready to go. Drake is a bigger guy and prides himself on being blue collar. Theory hits an early left hand but neither can hit their finishers early on. A dropkick knocks Drake into the corner so Drake comes back with his own dropkick to send Theory outside. Drake follows him with a hard chop to the chest as the announcer explains the rather long history between the two of them (well done).
Back in and Theory hammers away with forearms to the back for two and it’s off to the chinlock (haven’t seen many of those on this show). With that broken up, Theory hits a standing moonsault for two and chokes on the ropes while telling Drake to tell everyone his sad story. Drake fights up and demands that Austin hit him, because it won’t be harder than life has. That means a slam from Drake but Theory is right back up with a running dropkick into the corner.
They head outside with Drake sending him into the ropes and catching Theory with a hard right hand. Drake plants him down back inside for two more and a middle rope Rough Ryder crushes Theory again. A Cannonball misses though and Theory hits a running Blockbuster for his own two. Drake comes back with right hands in the corner but Theory slips down and grabs a torture rack into a spinning powerbomb (really impressive given the size difference) for another near fall.
This time Theory is in shock and we get a MAMA MIA chant. Drake grabs a Stunner, sending Theory jumping higher into the air than anyone I’ve ever seen. Drill Bit (Drake’s double underhook swinging neckbreaker) gets two but Drake is smart enough to stay on him with a moonsault hitting for another near fall. The slug it out with Drake nailing a lariat but missing a second moonsault. Theory hits a series of superkicks and Ataxia (a lifting spinning Downward Spiral that didn’t look great) gives Theory the pin and the titles at 16:24.
Rating: B. Theory is someone with a lot of potential, though I’m not sure how much of a future there is on the main stage for Drake. They sold the heck out of the culture clash here with Drake wanting it because this is what means so much to him and Theory wanting it because he seems like a spoiled prodigy who things he deserves it. That’s a perfectly workable story and the match was very good at the same time.
Post match Theory throws down the WWN Title and steps on it, saying the Evolve Title is what people want to try for, but they have to go through him. There go the lights again (that’s always a problem in this building) and this time it’s….Josh Briggs with a chokeslam to not much of a reaction. That seems to be the end of the WWN Title, which is probably a good idea as the whole thing never seemed necessary.
Video on Briggs, who got into wrestling because it’s a legal way to fight someone.
NXT Title: Akira Tozawa vs. Adam Cole
Cole is defending and this is a homecoming for both. They stare at each other for a long time and it’s an UNDISPUTED vs. TOZAWA chant off. Cole takes him into the corner to start and hits the signature pose. Tozawa takes it to the mat with a headlock and screaming ensues. Back up and Tozawa scores with an enziguri as we hear about Cole not being booked on the first Evolve event despite being in the building. Cole sweeps the leg to send Tozawa’s head into the buckle to take over for the first time.
Some knees to the back keep Tozawa down and we hit that chinlock. For reasons of general arrogance, Cole shouts that he is going to be NXT Champion FOREVER, meaning he has to elbow his way out of a fireman’s carry. Cole gets knocked outside for the suicide dive but is smart enough to move before a second can launch. That’s fine with Tozawa, who hits a big flip dive over the ropes instead. Back in and a missile dropkick gives Tozawa two but Cole scores with a kick of his head.
After the referee tells them both that they have 6:45 to go, they slug it out with with Cole hitting a superkick to put them both down again with Tozawa’s mouthpiece flying out. Fans: “YOWEY WOWEY!” That’s only good for two so Cole grabs the title, drawing out Johnny Gargano for a distraction so Tozawa can roll him up for two. Tozawa’s spinning kick to the head looks to set up the top rope backsplash but Cole gets the knees up. The Panama Sunrise sets up the Last Shot to retain the title at 13:17.
Rating: C+. This felt like any house show main event and there’s nothing wrong with that, though I’m not sure about it going on last. There seems to be a better option to run instead of this, such as the World Title changing hands, but maybe this was something WWE insisted upon doing. Or there’s some big moment for after the match.
Post match Gargano is ready to fight but Cole leaves. Instead Gargano helps Tozawa up and asks the fans to chant for him. Gargano talks about how awesome this is and about how he was in the first Evolve event in this very building. That tells him two things: he’s getting old and wrestling in 2019 is pretty cool. Back in the day, these shows used to close with a question to the fans. Tozawa remembers that question: did you enjoy the show?
The fans give the only chant they can for that and we pause for one fan who can scream for a very long time. The fans are the reason the wrestlers are here but tonight is about the locker room. It’s about the future instead of the past and Gargano wants us to support the company. Gargano says he loves us and it’s a bunch of bowing and shaking hands to end the show.
Overall Rating: B. I had a very good time with this one and that tends to be the case when I watch Evolve. The most important thing was that this didn’t feel like a WWE show but rather an Evolve show featuring some WWE names. It felt like something that paid tribute to the company and that made it a very entertaining night. At the same time, it was a heck of a show with nothing truly bad and some very good stuff in there. Check this one out as it wins the night over AEW pretty easily.
Josh Briggs b. Anthony Greene – Pop up powerbomb
Stephen Wolf b. Harlem Bravado, Curt Stallion and Sean Maluta – Shooting star press to Bravado
Arturo Ruas b. Anthony Henry – Spinning kick to the head
Brandi Lauren b. Shotzi Blackheart – Kendo stick shot
AR Fox/Leon Ruff b. Unwanted – 450 to Kingston
Matt Riddle b. Drew Gulak – Bro Derek
Austin Theory b. JD Drake – Ataxia
Adam Cole b. Akira Tozawa – Last Shot
Remember to check out my website at kbwrestlingreviews.com and pick up the paperback edition of KB’s History Of In Your House (also available as an e-book) from Amazon. Check out the information here:
And check out my Amazon author page with cheap wrestling books at: