February 17, 2018
La Boom
Woodside, Queens, New York

Watch: WWN Live / Photo: Twitter.com/ScottLesh724

Triple Threat Match – Darby Allin def. Jason Kincaid & Jarek 1:20 (with Candy Cartwright)

This was the only preliminary bout on this particular card, and when the dust settled, it ended up being a pretty enjoyable contest. It clocked in at just under six minutes, and not only featured some entertaining action throughout, but also served as a continuation for some of the storylines going on in EVOLVE (Kincaid’s mini-feud with Jarek 1:20 in the prelims, Darby Allin putting himself back in the prelims after losing to Zack Sabre Jr. last month).

Jason Kincaid looked the best of the three, as he showed off some of his incredibly unique offense. While his character arc over the last few months has left a lot to be desired (his feud with Austin Theory), he’s still an awesome performer to watch in the ring because of the things he can pull off.

Darby Allin was crazy as always, and he was involved in a few insane moments here (he even got a noticeable cut on his back). Jarek 1:20 was fine, though he did have one really big botch during the match, as he screwed up his springboard whoopie cushion move (I think that’s the best way it can be described) and took a hard fall on the floor.

Darby Allin eventually caught Jason Kincaid in his Last Supper pinning combination for the win. What made Allin’s victory even more important was the fact that his spot in the Four-Way Freestyle the next night at EVOLVE 101 (which would end up being the main event) was on the line. Aside from that aforementioned rough patch, this preliminary bout was a ton of fun to watch. ***1/4

Afterwards, Jarek 1:20 took the mic and called out Darby Allin. He claims that Allin got lucky, and said that if they went one-on-one, Allin would lose, just like he did to Zack Sabre Jr. at EVOLVE 98. Allin responded by punching Jarek 1:20 right in the face as the fans in La Boom chanted “Magic Sucks”. Allin then took the mic and said his loss to Zack Sabre Jr. is in the past, and proclaimed that, after the next 100 EVOLVE shows, people will know this promotion as Darby Allin’s company.

Fred Yehi def. Dominic Garrini

EVOLVE 100 officially kicked off with the first of three “Future Is Now” matches, pitting established members of the EVOLVE roster against rising stars. In this case, Fred Yehi went up against Dominic Garrini, the newest member of Catch Point. The opening few minutes of this one seemed like a throwback of sorts to the “grapplef*ck” era of EVOLVE (hard to believe that I described something from 2015-2016 as being a throwback), as we saw these two have some grappling exchanges on the mat.

However, the pace picked up a bit once they stood up and started trading strikes, suplexes, and submission attempts. This seemed to be a pretty even bout, for the most part, but in the end, Yehi managed to score the victory after a butterfly suplex. The finish seemed to come out of nowhere, since the butterfly suplex has never really been an established signature move for Yehi, but still, this was a entertaining contest overall. A fine match for its spot on the card. ***1/4

Afterwards, Yehi took the mic. He noted how he was the WWN MVP of 2017, but seemed upset at his placement on such an important show for EVOLVE, against a guy who wants to take his spot. Yehi said that he proved tonight that he was the better man, adding that he’s in a class of his own. He then calls himself a “Savageweight”, which I guess is his new nickname (like how Pete Dunne is the “Bruiserweight”). Time will tell if “Savageweight” is something that will catch on.

Anthony Henry def. Tracy Williams (with Stokely Hathaway)

Here we had the second of the three “Future Is Now” matches, though it’s a little odd that it go that designation, since both competitors are former EVOLVE Tag Team Champions. Regardless, this was a really strong bout that featured some great back and forth action from start to finish. I didn’t know what to expect here, in terms of match quality, but these two put forth an incredible effort here. The intensity was there right from the opening bell, and they never slowed down at any point. There were plenty of hard strike exchanges throughout this one, and fans really got behind both guys by the end of it.

The only negative about the match was the finish. After Henry got a rope break to escape a crossface submission by Williams, Stokely Hathaway hopped up on the apron and started arguing with the referee. After seeing this, Williams tried to turn his attention back to Henry, but he got knocked into Hathaway, who fell off the apron. This moment of confusion allowed Henry to hit a high kick, and pinned Williams with a rollup to secure a major singles win.

Now I understand that there had been some dissension amongst Catch Point that was built up in some of the EVOLVE mini-docs, so with that in mind, the finish does make perfect sense. It fits the story they’re trying to tell. However, I still thought that it took a little bit away from this one. I was fully prepared to go **** until the finish, but that minor gripe aside, this was still a really good match. It was a strong outing for Henry, and even know he’s known as a tag team wrestler, I hope he gets more singles opportunities in EVOLVE. ***3/4

After the match, Stokely Hathaway tried to explain himself to Tracy Williams. He offered a handshake, but Williams seemed hesitant. This moment of tension brought out Chris Dickinson & Jaka, who tried to calm them down, but as soon as they hit the ring, The End’s music hit, and predictably, a brawl broke out. Drennen brawled to the back with Tracy Williams, which left Dickinson & Jaka in the ring with Odinson & Parrow. After Odinson gave Dickinson a Death Valley Drive off the apron, to the floor, onto Jaka and Parrow, a referee finally came out to officially start the scheduled title bout between the two sides.

EVOLVE Tag Team Titles
Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c) vs. The End (Odinson & Parrow) – No Contest

This didn’t go very long. The two sides had some fine exchanges before the match got thrown out about four minutes in after Dickinson and Parrow through a bunch of chairs in the ring. I’m not totally shocked to see that this went the way it did. It wouldn’t make sense for The End to lose this quickly (if they’re truly being pushed as this new force in EVOLVE), but it was also too soon to take the titles off Catch Point, especially since they’ll be defending them against Ringkampf in New Orleans (plus, seeing Dickinson & Jaka vs. WALTER & Timothy Thatcher is way more interesting than Ringkampf vs. The End). This seemed like the first chapter in a longer series, so I fully expect a rematch down the road, probably after ‘Mania Weekend. **

The chairs that got tossed into the ring were immediately used. Jaka gives Parrow a nasty unprotected chair shot to the head (these chairs were the flimsy plastic ones, but still). Odinson kicked a chair into the face of Jaka, and this was followed by Dickinson kicking a chair in the face of Odinson. Drennen and Tracy Williams then came out, and they were still brawling with each other. Anthony Henry suddenly showed up and hit a big dive from the top rope, to the floor, onto Catch Point and The End. This left Stokely Hathaway as the last man standing. He started swinging a chair in the ring, but soon got cornered by Drennen, who pulled out a baton. It looks as if Hathaway was done for, but then Williams dove in from of him and took the blow from the baton. Even with that, it seemed like Hathaway was still in trouble, but Dickinson & Jaka soon made the save, and took out Drennen with Death Trap. After The End had retreated, Hathaway offered Williams a handshake again, but this time, Williams accepted, and Catch Point stood tall. Obviously (as I just mentioned) the issues between Catch Point and The End are far from over, and despite the tension amongst the group leading up to these shows, it looked (in the moment) that Catch Point was fully united once again.

No Rope Breaks Match
Matt Riddle def. James Drake

Matt Riddle continued his push for more matches involving No Rope Breaks, and when he issued this challenge to James Drake, the former EVOLVE Tag Team Champion accepted without hesitation. When the dust settled, this bout completely blew away any expectations I had coming in. These two had an absolutely awesome battle that was easily the match of the night. This was a brutal affair that featured several insane chop exchanges. They were hitting each other so hard that Riddle’s started bleeding relatively early in the match! Both men went all out, and the fans in La Boom loved every second of it. They were on fire in the second half as these two continued to go at it with strikes and suplex. I’m not sure if people thought Drake had any chance to beat Riddle here, but he came close on a few occasions.

The No Rope Breaks stipulation didn’t play too much of a factor, to be honest. They played it up early on, and then right at the very end when Riddle tried to go for a pin in the ropes. Eventually, Riddle managed to get the win via referee stoppage, after just clubbing Drake in the head with a series of heavy blows (it was a very UFC-esque finish). Once again, this was an incredibly bout that featured great action right from the opening bell. While he came up just short, there’s no doubt that James Drake was made in EVOLVE with this match. Much like his tag team partner Anthony Henry, I hope that Drake gets more singles opportunities in the future. ****1/2

Afterwards, the two men embraced, and Riddle raised the hand of Drake, who got a standing ovation from the crowd in La Boom.

WWN Title
Keith Lee (c) def. AR Fox

Of course, AR Fox came out with his wife and his entire posse. The first-ever EVOLVE Champion made his return to the promotion late last year, and immediately set his sights on the WWN Title. I had a feeling that this was going to be good, but just like a number of other bouts on this card, it exceeded my expectations. This was an incredible championship match that had some great action and awesome moments throughout. They did a good job using the obvious size difference as part of the story, but what impressed me the most about this one was how it was paced.

It really felt like a bigtime championship contest, that slowly built up as the match progressed. There was some very good drama throughout, and it looked like AR Fox might’ve had the title won on a few occasions, even though most probably predicted a successful defense for Keith Lee (personally, I bit on the second 450 Splash from AR Fox as the finish).

The second half was particularly strong, with some great nearfalls, but in the end, it only took one Ground Zero for Keith Lee to capture the victory, retaining his WWN Title in the process. This was one of Lee’s best title defenses to date, but AR Fox had an excellent outing here as well. Obviously he was a big player in the early history of this promotion, but honestly, this might’ve been one of his best performances in EVOLVE. His posse also played their roles pretty well on the outside. They never got physically involved at any point, and in reality, just their presence alone was enough to be a distraction for Lee.

From start to finish, this was a fantastic semi-main event that was just as good as the match that came before it, but in different ways. ****1/2

From 1 to 100: The Story and Evolution of EVOLVE Wrestling

Zack Sabre Jr. (c) def. FIP World Heavyweight Champion Austin Theory (with Priscilla Kelly)

This came about after Austin Theory attacked Zack Sabre Jr. at the end of EVOLVE 98. While it wasn’t quite as good as the two bouts that came before it on the card, this was still a pretty great main event. There was some very solid back and forth action in general, but the second half of the match was particularly good. Theory nailed Zack Sabre Jr. with a lot of his signature offense (including two Theory KO’s), and in general, he really took it to the champion. However, Zack Sabre Jr. targeted the legs of Theory throughout, and ultimately, that led to Theory’s downfall when he was forced to submit after being locked in (what Lenny Leonard described as) a banana split. We were all wondering how Austin Theory would do in this situation against one of the best wrestlers in the world, but he acquitted himself well here. He played his role as a young, cocky, arrogant heel perfectly, and proved that he can be a main event player in the future.

At the same time, there was never really a moment where I thought Theory had a chance to win. I don’t think anyone thought that Keith Lee or Zack Sabre Jr. were losing their respective titles here, but the Keith Lee/AR Fox match managed to create moments where it looked like AR Fox might pull out the win. I never really got that sense in this EVOLVE Title bout (and to me, the crowd wasn’t as invested in this one, at certain points, compared to the previous two matches), but it was still a great main event. ****1/4

Afterwards, Zack Sabre Jr. took the mic, and was about to give a speech when he was interrupted by Matt Riddle. He complimented Zack Sabre Jr. on his successful title defense, but then said that he wants the EVOLVE Title. Sabre takes the mic back, and notes that they’re 1-1 in EVOLVE (in non-title matches). He’ll give him a title shot….if he works for it. Riddle responded with the “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” line from Dumb and Dumber, but is then confronted by Priscilla Kelly. Austin Theory tries to attack from behind, but Riddle dodges it, and goes for the Bro-2-Sleep, but Priscilla Kelly jumps on Riddle. This allows Theory to recover and hit Riddle with the Theory KO. Then Theory took the mic and called the Riddle the past. The fans in La Boom chanted “You tapped out” and “You just lost” throughout this promo. Theory then concludes by saying that he’s the future, nobody can touch him, and proclaims himself to be a legend. So two different Matt Riddle matches were set up here, and while it looks like his EVOLVE Title bout against Zack Sabre Jr. could happen on the Mania Weekend shows in New Orleans, I’m not sure when his match with Austin Theory will happen.

Theory’s promo itself wasn’t the worst promo I’ve ever heard, but it didn’t really stand out either. It just seemed like a generic heel promo.

Final Thoughts

I know we’re only two months into 2018, but it’s going to take a truly amazing event to dethrone EVOLVE 100 as the best EVOLVE event of the year. While the EVOLVE Tag Team Title bout wasn’t much (it mainly served to set up a future meeting between the two teams), the rest of the show was fantastic. The undercard was mostly solid, with Anthony Henry vs. Tracy Williams being the standout. Then you had the last three matches, which were all awesome. James Drake had a breakout performance against Matt Riddle, while Keith Lee had a very strong title defense against AR Fox, who also had a great performance in his own right. The main event was very strong as well, though just a small notch below the two bouts that came before it. As a whole, EVOLVE 100 featured an incredible night of wrestling, and I couldn’t think of a better way for the promotion to celebrate its centennial show.