June 23rd, 2018
Most Precious Blood Youth Center
Brooklyn, New York

Josh Briggs def. Bad Bones

Bad Bones is a name that will be very familiar to those who following wrestling in Europe, as he was a longtime member of the wXw roster before he seemingly left the promotion for unknown reasons a few months back. Here, he’s taking on Josh Briggs, who recently signed a contract with WWN after some dominating outings on the last set of EVOLVE shows back in May. This wasn’t a match that I was looking forward to that much (I honestly didn’t know what to expect from it), but it ended up being a very good opener. Bad Bones really took the fight to Josh Briggs in the first few minutes, and was firmly in control until Briggs hit a massive chokeslam on the ring apron after blocking an attempted dive. From there, we got some to see some more back and before action before Briggs finally managed to put Bad Bones away with his “Chokeslam into a Lumbar Check” finisher. This only lasted about nine minutes, but it was entertaining from start to finish. Briggs wasn’t totally dominant here, but he successfully withstood the challenge from a tougher, and much more experienced, opponent. Speaking of which, Bad Bones looked pretty impressive in his own right. He made a good first impression in front of this audience (most of whom probably haven’t seen him before), and if he’s going to be working in the US more often, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in EVOLVE. ***1/2

Up next, we were treated to an in-ring promo from Jarek 1:20, who got a lot of boos from this crowd in Brooklyn. He started off by mentioned the fact that he recently made Jason Kincaid “disappear” from EVOLVE (not sure if that’s just a storyline or if Kincaid’s actually done with the company), and added that he plans to do the same to Darby Allin at EVOLVE 107 the next night. Jarek said that he wants to become the inspirational person in this company, and declared that he will lead EVOLVE into the future. He was then interrupted by Jon Davis (yes, that Jon Davis), who proclaimed that he came here looking for a fight. Davis isn’t exactly dressed to compete, but we get the match anyway.

Jon Davis def. Jarek 1:20

What a completely random addition to the card. Given the participants, I wasn’t very excited to see this match at all, but much like the opener, it ultimately surprised me, in a good way, by the time it was over. This was a very solid bout that was enjoyable to watch for the six or seven minutes that it lasted. Jarek got his fair share of offense in, but Davis really beat the crap out of him at various points. To be completely honest, I never wouldn’t expected a match involving these two to be as entertaining as it was. When it got started, I figured that they were probably using a name from EVOLVE’s past to put Jarek over, but that’s not what happened at all. In the closing seconds, Jon Davis destroyed the street magician with a devastating flurry of offense, and picked up a decisive victory. I guess Jon Davis is back in EVOLVE now? If he is indeed back as a regular, this was a great way to reintroduce him. ***1/4

Adrian Alanis & Liam Grey def. Leon Ruff & Tommy Maserati

We knew there was going to be a Skulk vs. Skulk tag team contest on this show, but we didn’t know who the teams would be until AR Fox introduced them. Of course, these four are the usual members of The Skulk that we’ve always seen, but aside from Tommy Maserati (who was totally squashed by Josh Briggs back at EVOLVE 104), we didn’t know the names of the others until now. Much like the previous two bouts, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these four managed to continue the trend of surprisingly good matches on this card. It was basically a seven minute spotfest, but it was a blast to watch, and the fans in Brooklyn were really into it. All four guys had the opportunity to shine, but Leon Ruff was clearly the star of the match. He busted out some absolutely crazy offense throughout, which the crowd absolutely loved (It’s fair to say that he’s a guy to keep your eye on in the future). Adrian Alanis & Liam Grey eventually got the win, but in the eyes of AR Fox (as commentary pointed out), this was more about getting an opportunity to show off what they could do. This was extremely entertaining tag team affair. ***1/4

AR Fox def. DJ Z

This was actually a rematch from EVOLVE 97 late last year. AR Fox won that first encounter, and he managed to defeat DJ Z once again after hitting him with the Foxcatcher. To the surprise of nobody, these two had a great match that was just as good as their aforementioned first meeting. Their was exciting back and forth action, along with crazy feats of athleticism, from start to finish. When you combine those things with a lively crowd, then you have the ingredients for an awesome singles bout. The fact that it didn’t go too long (clocking in at just under twelve minutes) also worked in its favor. I really like the fact that AR Fox has been winning pretty much all of his matches in EVOLVE as of late with the Foxcatcher. It’s clear that, after his loss to Keith Lee a few months ago (a WWN Title defense for Lee), they’ve been building him up for another title shot (this time against Matt Riddle). Scoring a bunch of victories with this one particular move goes a long into establishing it as a credible finisher that could put Riddle away if Fox is able to connect with it. As for DJ Z, he doesn’t have the best win-loss record in EVOLVE, but you can always count on him to deliver a really to great match, like this one. As a whole, this was a very strong outing from both competitors. ****

Darby Allin def. WALTER

WALTER got a standing ovation from the crowd as he made his entrance. Originally, this singles encounter was scheduled to take place at EVOLVE 103 in New Orleans, but it was postponed after Darby Allin suffered a concussion on a PROGRESS show earlier in the day. This match was highly anticipated, and when the dusted settled, it ended up greatly exceeding expectations. These two had an absolutely fantastic bout that managed to tell an incredible story. As you might’ve guessed, a large chunk of the match featured WALTER just demolish Darby Allin in brutal fashion. He destroyed his chest with chops, and just tossed him around like he was nothing. This was a beating in every sense of the word. However, despite taking an insane amount of punishment by a man that outweighed him by nearly 130 pounds, Darby Allin kept fighting. He would get in spurts of offense here and there, but WALTER would always cut him off. Finally, Allin managed to find an opening when he went after the right hand of WALTER. In the final few minutes of the match, Allin went after that hand every chance he had (even going so far as to headbutt it several times). Through all of this, the crowd in Brooklyn was heavily invested right from the start. Eventually, WALTER tried for his Gojira Clutch, but Allin managed to reverse it into a pin, and scored the massive upset victory (essentially this was the infamous Bret Hart/Steve Austin finish, but without kicking off the turnbuckle). The fans exploded when Allin got the win, and that just capped off what was an incredible match. Both men played their respectives roles to perfection, and they had the crowd in the palm in their hands from beginning to end. WALTER not only showed off just how brutal he can be in the ring, but also his ability to tell great in-ring stories. As for Darby Allin, survival was the name of the game in this particular match. He managed to survive the onslaught just long enough to take advantage of a weakness, and to catch WALTER off guard. This just worked in so many ways, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be remembered as one of the best EVOLVE matches of 2018, if not the very best. ****1/2

Bryan Idol def. Mike Verna

So I only just found out recently that Bryan Idol is the man formerly known as Earl Cooter. Yes, the very same Earl Cooter that’s been hanging around the WWN family of promotions for many years. He appeared in EVOLVE as early as 2013, worked on the infamous WWN China Tour back in 2014, and has gone through a number of different gimmicks (from the original Earl Cooter gimmick, to the bodyguard of Larry Dallas, to now Bryan Idol). He looks to be in much better shape now, so I’ll give him that. Anyway, Idol had a match here with a local competitor by the name of Mike Verna. First off, I thought it was hilarious that Idol barely got any reaction when he came out, while Verna (the local) got a much bigger reception from the crowd when he made his entrance. Nobody cared about Bryan Idol at all. As for the match itself, it was ok. It was far from bad, but there were certainly points where it felt like their were wrestling underwater….or in slow motion (one of the two). I get the idea here was to get Idol over, but to be completely frank, I was way more impressed with Mike Verna here. He’s got a good look, and he appears to have a ton of potential. Aside from a botched hurricanrana off one of the turnbuckles (not exactly sure who’s to blame for that one), Verna was relatively solid, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in EVOLVE again, just to see more of what he can do. While Bryan Idol was the one that got the victory (since he’s getting a push with this new gimmick), Mike Verna, for my money, has a much brighter future. **1/4

Catch Point (Dickinson, Jaka, & Garrini) def. Anthony Henry, Timothy Thatcher & Tracy Williams

So the story here was that enemies of Catch Point (both longtime enemies and recent enemies) were joining forces here to take on the current version of the group. As a whole, this was a pretty solid six-man tag. It didn’t light the world on fire, and a few minutes could’ve been shaved off (it didn’t need to go fifteen minutes), but for where it was on the card, it worked. There was good in-ring action throughout (along with some brawling on the outside), and everyone involved had moments to shine. While the babyface side did have a lot of experience, the commentary team did question their ability to work together against a cohesive unit in Catch Point. In the end, that appeared to be the deciding factor, as a miscue between Anthony Henry and Timothy Thatcher allowed Jaka to roll up Henry for the win. That ending was a tad flat (in my view, anyway), but still, this was a good match overall. ***1/4

Afterwards, Timothy Thatcher gave Anthony Henry an enzuigiri in retaliation, and thus, a singles bout between the two was set up for the next night at EVOLVE 107.

WWN Championship
Joey Janela def. Austin Theory

As it was explained on commentary, Joey Janela and Penelope Ford were brought as the “nuclear option” after EVOLVE officials had become increasingly frustrated with the antics of Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly. The only issue I have with that logic is that Joey Janela isn’t someone that should be considered a “last resort” by anyone. He’s one of the top stars on the independents right now, and any sensible should be banging on his door if he’s available. That slight nitpick aside, this ended up being a really good title bout that featured some good back and action. This was easily Austin Theory’s best match since he challenged Zack Sabre Jr. for the EVOLVE Title back at EVOLVE 100 earlier this year. We did get some involvement from Penelope Ford and Priscilla Kelly, but I was fine with that, since it played into a big reason why this whole thing was set up. Penelope Ford was meant to neutralize Priscilla Kelly, and she did just that late in the match when she took her out with a big crossbody off the top to the floor. Ford also took the WWN Title away from Theory when he went to use it. That distraction allowed Janela to hit a super brainbuster off the top rope, and just like that, it was over. Joey Janela is the new WWN Champion, as Austin Theory’s reign gets cut short at two-and-a-half months. While the finish came off to me as a little flat (I wasn’t expecting that to be the finish, plus Janela slipped twice before eventually hitting the move), the reaction from the fans made up for it. They were behind Janela the whole way through, and when he finally won, they exploded. It was so cool to see a title change where the timing felt just right. In that moment, those fans wanted to see Janela win the title, and they pulled through. ***3/4

This result was certainly unexpected (I wasn’t expecting them to put the title on Janela, even though I was hoping for it) but ultimately, it was probably the right move. Theory hasn’t been having a strong year from an in-ring standpoint, and when he beat Keith Lee for the WWN Title in New Orleans (in a very pedestrian match), it really felt like a step down for that title. Not only does Joey Janela immediately raise the prestige of the WWN Title back to where it was, but he’s instantly a top star in EVOLVE. While one of the voids left behind by the departures Keith Lee and Zack Sabre Jr. was filled by Shane Strickland on the last set of shows, Joey Janela has now filled that other void. Time will tell if he succeeds, but I have full confidence that he’ll do a fantastic job.

As Austin Theory was being carried to the back, AR Fox came out and tried to console his former student, but Priscilla Kelly dragged him off. I really like this story they’re telling here, with Fox as the concerned teacher worried about the path that Theory is currently being led on by Priscilla Kelly. He’s certainly a much better person to “break through” to Theory than Jason Kincaid was. I’m very intrigued to see where this all goes.

EVOLVE Championship
Matt Riddle vs. Shane Strickland

Shane Strickland made an immediate impact in his return to EVOLVE last month when he assaulted the “King Of Bros” after getting himself disqualified in a non-title bout. I was fascinated to see how this match was going to play out. Strickland losing now (after just making his big return last month) would’ve been a bad move, but at the same time, it felt too early for Riddle to drop the title, after he had just won it in New Orleans back in April. Given those factors, a non-finish seemed pretty likely in hindsight, but the way it was executed was very strange.

Now with regards to the main event, it was pretty good while it lasted, though it wasn’t nearly as great as the first encounter between these two at EVOLVE 104. Strickland jumped Riddle during his entrance, and beat him up on the outside for a bit until they finally rang the bell to officially start the match. Strickland continued to dominate Riddle, but the EVOLVE Champion finally managed to mount a comeback, and we got some very solid action before the chaos began. The turning point occurred when senior referee Brandon Tolle got taken out by a Matt Riddle knee after Strickland moved out the way. The two brawled to the back, and Strickland tore down the black sheets that hid away the locker room. The rest of the roster then surrounded Strickland, and forced him back to the ring (Jon Davis carried him on his shoulders as the rest followed closely behind). Strickland dived on them one they got back to ringside, but Riddle put him in choke which he then turned into the Bromission. Some security guys came out to separate the two, and the match seemingly….ended.

I presume this was declared a no contest, but regardless, it’s very clear that this finish was a direct copy of the Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa finish from NXT TakeOver: Chicago not that long ago. The only difference was that the match didn’t end with the heel sneaking out with the victory. Like I alluded to earlier, I understand wanting to do a non-finish in this particular case, but doing a clear ripoff of what we just saw in NXT can only be described as unoriginal. To be honest, based on what happened at TakeOver, I was fully expecting Strickland to come back, attack Riddle during his post-match promo, and win the title, since their bout never officially ended. Then there’s the issue of a second referee just being absent from both situations. We all know there are other referees present on almost any wrestling show you can think of, and they usually come out to continue the match in these types of scenarios. This instance was even more egregious in that regard, since a second referee came out to ringside to check on Brandon Tolle (who did a great job selling the knee strike, by the way). What was the reason for him not taking over the match? It was just so strange, and a very flat ending to what could’ve been a great main event. Again, I totally understand why they went this route, but I just don’t think it came off that well. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

It appears that a number of people have been down on EVOLVE since WrestleMania Weekend in New Orleans. With Keith Lee and Zack Sabre Jr. (two incredible performers) both gone from the company, it’s understandable why some might’ve lost interest. With that in mind, EVOLVE 106 was (for the most part) a really strong show that was a step in the right direction. Joey Janela winning the WWN Title was by far the biggest moment from the event, and him being part of EVOLVE on a more regular basis is exactly the kind of shot in the arm that this promotion needed. In two weekends, they’ve immediately put Shane Strickland and Joey Janela into the open spots left behind by the two men I mentioned earlier, and that’s a really positive sign for EVOLVE moving forward. As for the show as a whole, the first half was incredibly easy and enjoyable to sit through. It featured some entertaining undercard bouts along a phenomenal clash between WALTER and Darby Allin. The second half was definitely a little weaker, but there were still good matches to talk about (even with the main event ending the way it did). The crowd in Brooklyn was also very lively throughout the entire night, and they certainly enhanced this show a great deal. Since the positives of EVOLVE 106 outweigh the negatives, I would say that it’s well worth checking out.