January 13th, 2017
Woodside, Queens, New York
Four-Way Freestyle – Jason Kincaid def. Jarek 1:20 (with Candy Cartwright), Snoop Strikes, & Brody King
This was the only prelim match on the show, though there was a minor stipulation involved. If Jarek 1:20 got the win here, then he would’ve taken Jason Kincaid’s spot in a Four-Way Freestyle on the main card of EVOLVE 99 the next night.
Of course, that particular situation came about after Kincaid wrestled Jarek 1:20 to a ten-minute time limit draw in a prelim bout on EVOLVE 97. This was a very entertaining four-way with plenty of action from start to finish. It went about six minutes or so, which was the perfect length for a match like this. The two new prospects who made their debut here were Snoop Strikes (who was trained by Jay Lethal) and Brody King. Both looked impressive, and as a whole, everyone involved had chances to shine here. Kincaid would ultimately get the victory after hitting a diving double stomp on Snoop Strikes, who had just hit a Code Red on Jarek 1:20. This was a fun way to kick things off, and I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of these two new prospects. ***
The show proper actually got started with an in-ring promo from Chris Dickinson. He wanted a fight with The End right now, but Stokely Hathaway and Jaka soon come out to calm him down. Hathaway took the mic, and said that they’ll take care of The End, but tonight, they have bigger things to worry about. He said that Jaka will beat Keith Lee tonight, and that Dickinson will take Lee’s WWN Title the next night in Brooklyn. In preparation for his match later, Hathaway said that he was going to let Jaka use his private dressing, and Faye Jackson leads him to the back. Then, Hathaway calls out Ringkampf, saying that it was time to bring them under the Dream Team banner. They come out, and WALTER contemplates signing the deal, but decides to rip it up instead. Tracy Williams runs out to calm down the rest of Catch Point, and with Garrini already out there, it was time for the official opening match. This was a fine segment to open the show, as it firmly established that Timothy Thatcher would no longer be associated with Stokely Hathaway or the Dream Team.
Ringkampf (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) def. Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Dominic Garrini with Stokely Hathaway)
It’s about time that we’ve seen Ringkampf as a team in EVOLVE. Ever since I saw them for the first time in wXw, I’ve always felt that they’d be a perfect fit in EVOLVE. Of course, we’ve seen WALTER make a couple of appearances in the second-half of 2017, but this is the first time that we’ve seen Ringkampf in tag team action in EVOLVE, and it’s against a group that (at least when Drew Gulak was the leader) that’s very similar. This was a very good tag team encounter that featured everything from mat wrestling, to great teamwork (particularly from Ringkampf) to hard strikes and suplexes. WALTER was, of course, awesome as usual, chopping the crap of Catch Point and just tossing them around left and right. As for Thatcher, while he still received some boos from the crowd in La Boom (he’s not exactly a popular man in that building), he was pretty good here, and even played the “babyface in peril” role for a few minutes. My immediate reaction when I initially saw Ringkampf in wXw is that Thatcher is much more tolerable in a tag team environment. It’s just a better role for him, to be completely honest. When it comes to the Catch Point team, I thought this was easily Dominic Garrini’s best performance to date. He was very impressive throughout, and he never felt out of place at any point during his various exchanges with Ringkampf. With regards to Tracy Williams, he was very solid as well, but he would end up eating the deciding pinfall after WALTER hit him with a devastating powerbomb. It was mentioned recently on the Everything Evolves podcast that it looks like Williams is being downgraded a bit, and when you look at his record that appears to be the case, as this was his third straight loss (not counting a tag team match that ended in a No Contest at EVOLVE 96). The fact that he took the fall here over Garrini, who only just started with the company a few months ago, was very interesting. As a whole, I would say that this was a very strong tag team affair. ***3/4
After Ringkampf had left the ring, The End ran out, and attacked the already weakened members of Catch Point. Jaka soon came running out to save his teammates, and eventually, everyone but Chris Dickinson and Parrow brawled to the back. Dickinson started going after Parrow with a chair, and then a referee appeared to make this an official match….
No DQ Match – Chris Dickinson def. Parrow
Dickinson wanted a fight with The End, and although he was facing only one of their members here, it was good enough for him. This was actually the first time that anyone from The End has been in an actual match in EVOLVE. These two had a short, but fun brawl that went all over the place. Dickinson (who wrestled the entire match in Zubaz pants) actually dominated the first few minutes of this one, going to town on Parrow with a chair and a broom. Parrow soon took control once the brawl turned to the stage. Once they got back to the ring, more chairs became involved, but Dickinson would emerge victorious after giving Parrow a devastating Pazuzu Bomb onto a pile of chairs. This was pretty short (clocking in at just over eight minutes), but it served its purpose. Dickinson continues to be the only one who can effectively take the fight to The End, who suffered their first major setback here in Parrow’s EVOLVE in-ring debut. ***
Afterwards, the rest of The End came back out and attacked Dickinson. Odinson hit a move that nearly dropped Dickinson on his neck, on the aforementioned pile of chairs, before the rest of Catch Point made the save.
AR Fox def. Matt Riddle
This was actually a rematch from EVOLVE 70 in October 2016. Riddle picked up the win on that occasion, but AR Fox came into this match on a roll, after earning two victories at the last set of EVOLVE events in December. AR Fox was accompanied by his crew (which included his wife), while Riddle was showered with “Happy Birthday” chants from the crowd. These two had a very good back-and-forth contest that featured plenty of action. At around eleven minutes or so, it got just the right amount of time, and there really weren’t any dull moments to speak of. AR Fox’s crew only got physically involved once, but that didn’t hinder the match too much, since Riddle thwarted their attempted interference. There were actually some pretty cool spots in this one, including Riddle countering a swanton bomb attempt by AR Fox into a choke. There was one spot towards the end where Riddle seemingly had the match won, but was too close to the ropes when he went for a pin. I assume that will continue to play into the “Matt Riddle wants to get rid of rope breaks” story. In the end, AR Fox picked up the win after a series of big moves, which included a Canadian Destroyer from the top rope, Low Mein Pain, and a 450 Splash. Once again, this was a very good match, and for AR Fox, this was his third straight win in EVOLVE. ***3/4
Afterwards, AR Fox takes the mic to gloat about his victory over the first-ever WWN Champion. He claims to be Mr. WWN, and proclaims that he wants his shot at the WWN Title at EVOLVE 100 in February.
FIP World Heavyweight Title – FIP Rules – Austin Theory (with Priscilla Kelly) def. Fred Yehi
At EVOLVE 97 last December, Fred Yehi’s 562 day reign as FIP World Heavyweight Champion (the longest reign in the history of that title) came to an end at the hands of Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly. A rematch was quickly signed for this show, but it would take place under FIP Rules. For those who might not be aware (and I don’t blame anyone for not being aware, because nobody pays attention to FIP), it’s essentially an Anything Goes Match. While this was generally a good match, I thought it was going to be a little better. Priscilla Kelly did get involved several times, but it’s nice to see a manager actually take advantage of a stipulation. If there aren’t any rules, then why wouldn’t you interfere at almost every opportunity. Of course, that essentially made this a handicap match, and every time it looked like Yehi was going to put Theory away, Priscilla Kelly would get involved. That did hurt the bout to an extent, but again, the interference was well within the rules. The wrestling itself was solid throughout (although Yehi did hit a Canadian Destroyer at one point, which wasn’t the best choice since we just saw a Canadian Destroyer from the top rope in the previous match), but this just didn’t go beyond “good”, at least in my eyes. Jason Kincaid did come out at one point (he’s in a feud with Theory), but he proved to be inconsequential here. Ultimately, Yehi just couldn’t overcome the interference, as after Priscilla Kelly dropkicked a chair into his face, Theory hit Yehi with his new finisher, Attacksia, for the win. ***1/4
Non-Title Match – Jaka (with Chris Dickinson) def. WWN Champion Keith Lee
La Boom has been very kind to Jaka in the last year or so. He had two great matches against Zack Sabre Jr. in this same venue, and on this night, he had another big singles bout against WWN Champion Keith Lee. This came about after Catch Point attacked Lee at EVOLVE 97 in December. While the previous bout only fell slightly below my expectations, this non-title encounter fell well below my expectations. This was a fine encounter between these two, but it could’ve been so much better. The action throughout the body of this match was good. However, this one never reached that level of excitement that the Jaka/Zack Sabre Jr. bouts had. It never felt like things got into that next gear, and even if they were going to, that was ruined when AR Fox and his crew came out on the stage to distract Keith Lee a couple of times. This proved to be costly for the WWN Champion, and Jaka caught him with a spinning kick for this non-title victory. The commentary team did put over this win for Jaka as a big deal, and while it was to an extent, the result would have a much bigger impact if AR Fox hadn’t distracted Keith Lee, which led to the finish. Again, the match as a whole was good, but it could’ve been so much more. My hope is that the rematch (and I assume there will be, but with the title on the line) will be an improvement over this first encounter. ***1/4
Chris Dickinson takes the mic after the match, and said that he was going to take the WWN Title from Keith Lee the next night in Brooklyn. He then said that, after he wins the title, AR Fox would get the first title shot.
EVOLVE Title – Zack Sabre Jr. def. Darby Allin
Both men used brand new entrances themes here, and I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of either of them. To be completely frank, they were actually pretty bad (but that’s just me). The match itself, however, was far from bad. It was an awesome main event which was easily the best bout on the entire show.
What made this one so interesting was that it was basically a twenty minute squash match. Zack Sabre Jr. spent most of the match twisting and contorting the body of Darby Allin in a variety of ways. Not only that, but there were a number points in the bout where Sabre clearly wasn’t taking Allin very seriously, as he slapped him or taunted him with light kicks. Allin (who not only had the word “Champ” painted all over one side of his body, but even had it tattooed on the inside of his bottom lip) took a ton of punishment from the champion at this one, but he just wouldn’t quick. He would kick out of some of Sabre’s signature moves, like the European Clutch or the Penalty Kick, and had spurts of offense on numerous occasions, but for the most part, it was a dominant performance from Zack Sabre Jr., who eventually won via referee stoppage after he nearly twisted Allin into a pretzel while also kicking him in the head repeatedly. Even though Allin was thoroughly dominated, this was a star-making performance for him. The match itself told a great story, and both competitors played their roles brilliantly. With that win, Zack Sabre Jr.’s title reign will officially reach the one year mark. ****1/4
Afterwards, Austin Theory interrupted Zack Sabre Jr.’s celebration when he attacked him from behind and hit him with a Theory-KO. Then, Jason Kincaid came out, and got in the face of Theory. He dodged an attack by Priscilla Kelly, and then went to town on Theory, hitting repeated double stomps to the gut of the FIP World Heavyweight Champion. A broken and beaten Austin Theory was left in the middle of the ring as the show came to a close. The commentators pushed this as Kincaid finally “snapping” after months of trying for months to peacefully convert Theory back to the side of good. While I get what they were trying to do, this was a pretty flat ending to this show. Kincaid is a very talented in-ring performer, but from a storyline perspective, these last two months haven’t been good for him. This flat angle comes off the heels of a very Bray Wyatt-esque promo that Kincaid cut on Theory at EVOLVE 96. It was pretty clear that Theory has two new matches set up for the future, but I’m way more interested in Theory’s potential shot against Zack Sabre Jr. for the EVOLVE Title. What sucks is that I’m sure the eventual Austin Theory/Jason Kincaid match will be pretty good, but the story doesn’t exactly have me excited for it.
EVOLVE’s first show of 2018 was a relatively good show from start to finish. The main event for the EVOLVE Title was definitely the best match on the card, while also being a breakout performance for Darby Allin. Elsewhere on the card, you had two very strong bouts in the form of Catch Point vs. Ringkampf and AR Fox vs. Matt Riddle. The rest of the undercard featured a number of solid matches, despite the fact that some of them were disappointing, to varying degrees. You also had a couple of storyline developments (some good, some….not so much), and as a whole, this was a fine way for EVOLVE to kick off 2018.