By Big Red Machine
From August 12, 2018
SAIEVE AL SABAH vs. JAKA (w/Stokely Hathaway & Dominic Garrini) - 6.25/10
There were one or two rough spots, and the match never really felt like it got out of second gear aside from one series of spots and nearfalls, but it was still an acceptable opener. Al Sabah picks up another win, this time proving that his pin over Jaka in a four-way in his EVOLVE debut was not a fluke as Jaka has claimed. Stokely was upset with this loss, but took focused his anger into a promo on Tracy Williams to build up tonight's main event.
DARBY ALLIN vs. BRYAN IDOL - 4.75/10
Idol jumped Darby to start things off. He got his sh*t in, then Darby made his comeback and won. This was fine for the time it got.
JON DAVIS vs. JOSH BRIGGS - 6.5/10
These two don't like each other, so they hit each other very hard. A lot. They brawled everywhere until the referee eventually called for a double DQ because they wouldn't take it back to the ring.
ANTHONY HENRY vs. WALTER - 7.75/10
WALTER ignored Henry's offer of a handshake. Based on the way WALTER has been acting towards him lately, I'm shocked Henry even offered one. The match was intense and the fans were really into it, but the ending felt a little abrupt. I think that if the match had gone a bit longer (and with more sustained offense by Henry leading into the finish) that it would have done a better job of making you feel like WALTER really truly escaped only by the skin of his teeth.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great! More heelish behavior from WALTER continues this feud, as this time he accepted Henrys offer of a handshake and even raised Henry's hand... and then put him in the Gojira Clutch. J.D. Drake came out to make the save, then cut a GREAT promo on WALTER which he then transitioned into a set-up for...
MATT RIDDLE vs. J.D. DRAKE - 8.5/10
I thought that their choice to just start off with a "take turns standing there and letting the other guy chop you" contest was a big mistake, as it totally killed the intensity that Drake's promo had built up. These guys did do an excellent job of recovering that lost intensity, though, and did an excellent job of both telling the "both men are determined not to stay down" story as well as highlighting Drake's athleticism. The match was awesome and the crowd went totally nuts for it, but I just don't see the point of having Riddle win in his final match with the company, and doubly so against a guy who would really be elevated by the win.
EVOLVE TITLE MATCH:
Shane Strickland(c) vs. DJ Z - 8.25/10
I did not like Lenny Leonard using Hero and Galloway's WWE names when running down the list of former champions. If they had used those names in EVOLVE then that would be one thing, but they didn't. Referring to guys by their WWE names makes EVOLVE feel desperate for attention, IMO.
The crowd was really into DJ Z as a babyface and Strickland was an excellent heel. Strickland worked over both DJ Z's midsection via Swerve Stomps and his arms via submissions and other such things. The match was awesome, but I don't think anyone ever quite bought either the idea of DJ Z as the Evolve Champion or the idea of Strickland losing the belt in his first defense, which hurt things a bit.
FOUR-WAY SCRAMBLE FOR THE WWN TITLE:
Joey Janela(c) (w/Penelope Ford) vs. Darby Allin vs. Austin Theory (w/Priscilla Kelly) vs. A.R. Fox - 7.75/10
They announced before the match that the title can only change hands if Janela is the one who is pinned or made to submit. Darby Allin was not originally scheduled to be in it, but came out and said he wanted a shot because he wasn't content to be second on the card. Due to the above rules about the title changing hands apparently only Janela's consent is necessary for Darby to be added to the match. Janela said he respected Darby for the "war" they had last weekend, so he was fine with Darby being in the match. I would have much rather had Joey also say that he appreciated Darby not only taking advantage of Theory's interference in that match and going after Theory instead, and that sacrificing a major advantage in a title match in order to preserve the integrity of the championship is what has convinced him that Darby deserves another shot. (Or something along those lines. The point is that it gives a better reason for Darby to get a title match than "the champ respects you" as well as reminds us all that Darby has issues with Theory as well.)
The Skulk and Ayla had come out to the ring with Fox but Fox send them to the back after Austin Theory made a big stink about their presence. The announcers portrayed this as another case of the "spoiled brat" Theory "getting his way," as well as Theory disrespecting The Skulk, all of whom were trained by A.R. Fox right alongside him.
The match itself felt like a thirty-five minute masterwork of storytelling and big spots that someone then had to edit down to ten minutes, and while they did an excellent job making sure that the stories all came through well and we got the big spots, it just felt like everything happened in way too short a time to really feel like they were complete stories.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Austin Theory pulled Fox out of the ring and ran him into the post. Tommy Maserati attacked Theory (and got beaten up in the crowd) while the rest of The Skulk checked on Fox.
CAREER VS. CAREER HANDICAP I QUIT MATCH:
Tracy Williams(career) vs. Stokely Hathaway(career) & Chris Dickinson - 8.5/10
This was definitely the sort of big blow-off that this feud deserved. They told three good stories here: Tracy's injured eye, Catchpoint's numbers game, and Stokely being a coward, and wove them together very well. This was violent (there were some well-earned "YOU SICK F*CK!" chants), dramatic, and had the necessary game-changer feel that a match with these stipulations needs to have.
THE LOSER'S GOODBYE SPEECH - Classy and fun. I'm going to miss him in EVOLVE a lot.
This was one hell of a show from EVOLVE, with really strong wrestling up and down the card. Then throw in the historical nature of the show being the last one for both Matt Riddle and the loser of the main event, and it becomes one that any EVOLVE fan can't miss. Things definitely feel like they're heating up creatively, with a lot of feuds feeling like they are just that one spark away from exploding. Hopefully some of those sparks will fly during the next weekend of shows.