August 5th, 2018
Melrose Memorial Hall
Anthony Henry def. Jon Davis
Both of these came up short in their respective bouts at EVOLVE 108, and were looking to bounce back with a win here. Ultimately, Anthony Henry emerged victorious in what was a pretty solid opening contest. There were some smooth exchanges in the first few minutes, but then they spent much of the second half trading hard strikes. Henry regained the advantage late after hitting a pair of dragon screws (right out of Tanahashi’s playbook), and got the win when he caught Davis in a jackknife pin. The finish was a little awkward, because Henry couldn’t flip all the way over for the pin initially. Also, it looked the referee actually counted to four as Henry was trying to flip over, but that’s only a minor complaint. Otherwise, this work perfectly as an opener. ***1/4
Afterwards, Anthony Henry wanted a handshake from Jon Davis, but he got a stiff clothesline instead. Davis then took the mic and said that while Henry won the match, he won the fight.
Up next, we were supposed to see Saieve Al Sabah go up against the new EVOLVE Champion Shane Strickland in a non-title affair, but Strickland wasn’t dressed to complete. Strickland said that he hurt his ankle in the Hardcore War with Matt Riddle the night before, and decided to take the night off. He told Sabah that they could wrestle some other time, but added that Sabah isn’t on his level. This brings out AR Fox and The Sulk, and Fox said that while Strickland is making a bunch of excuses, he’s the hardest working man in wrestling. Fox then declares that he’ll take on Sabah right now, and it looks like we’ve got a new match.
AR Fox def. Saieve Al Sabah
This was slightly below the opener, in terms of match quality, but it was still a solid match from start to finish. It featured some decent action throughout, and served as another showcase for Sabah. He’s still got a lot of work to do (in this bout, he did a dive onto The Skulk that didn’t look very good at all), but as I’ve mentioned previously, he’s got potential. AR Fox would end up getting the win after hitting the Lo Mein Pain. I really liked that Fox won with that move. He’s been using the Foxcatcher lately as his primary finisher, but it’s cool to see him win with other moves (like his old finisher) to show that he’s got multiple ways to beat someone. It’s a very New Japan-esque move, in that regard. ***
AR Fox & The Skulk celebrated afterwards, but then The End ran out, and the two sides started brawling. Of course, this was classic “Paul Heyman Special”, as the brawl led straight into the next match.
Lucha Libre Rules
AR Fox & The Skulk (Adrian Alanis & Leon Ruff) def. The End (Drennen, Odinson, & Parrow)
I have no idea when this actually started, as I didn’t hear the bell ring at any point. Lenny Leonard pointed out that the bout was being contested under Lucha Libre Rules, meaning tags weren’t necessary. The End dominated early on, but The Skulk managed to fight back, and ultimately got the win after AR Fox hit a 450 Splash on Drennen (another winning move established for AR Fox, by the way). This only went about five minutes or so, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. There was nonstop action from beginning (whenever it officially began) to end, and the fans were really into it. This was a big win for The Skulk, and I’m sure they’ll be getting more opportunities going forward. In my EVOLVE 108 review, I mentioned that there’s basically no tag team division in EVOLVE at the moment. Well, after this victory, I could easily see The Skulk getting into the mix for the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles, since Chris Dickinson & Jaka are in desperate need of challengers. **3/4
JD Drake def. Dominic Garrini (with Stokely Hathaway)
After getting a big win in a Four-Way Freestyle the night before at EVOLVE 108, JD Drake followed that up with a victory here over Dominic Garrini to move to 2-0 on the weekend. This another relatively short, but very solid match on this card. Drake went after Garrini straight away, and from there, we got some good back and forth action between these two. At various points, Garrini tried to use submissions and strikes to keep Drake down, but in the end, Drake got the win after hitting the Drill Bit. This was another fine showing from Drake, and it was good to see him get some wins ahead of two big matches with WALTER and Matt Riddle on the next set of EVOLVE events. ***1/4
Afterwards, Stokely Hathaway berated Dominic Garrini for the loss, and sent him to the back before bringing out Chris Dickinson & Jaka. Hathaway tells Dickinson to watch what Jaka does to Josh Briggs, because he wants him to do the same thing to Tracy Williams later tonight. He then tells Jaka to take care of Josh Briggs after he turned down the opportunity to join Catch Point at EVOLVE 107.
Josh Briggs def. EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Jaka (with Stokely Hathaway & Chris Dickinson)
In a funny moment, Briggs knocked down the EVOLVE banner as he came out. This continued the trend of solid matches on this card. It wasn’t that long (at just over eight minutes, it was actually the longest bout on the show, up to this point), and it didn’t set the world on fire, but as a whole, it was good. Jaka seemed to be in control for sizable chunk of this one, and mixed in some submissions (primary an armbar) with his usual offense. He wasn’t able to keep Josh Briggs down for the count, however, as Briggs eventually got the victory after connecting with the M5. This was the biggest win yet for Josh Briggs, as he continues to make his was up the card. ***1/4
As various referees helped Jaka to the back, Chris Dickinson attacked Josh Briggs from behind, and Stokely Hathaway soon joined the beatdown. This led to another instance of the “Heyman Special” as Tracy Williams ran out to make the save, which led right into his match with Chris Dickinson.
No Holds Barred Match
EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Chris Dickinson (with Stokely Hathaway) def. Tracy Williams
This served as a preview of the Career vs. Career Handicap I Quit Match that was scheduled for the following weekend at EVOLVE 111. It was also the first standout bout on this show. These two just beat the crap out of each other in what was a brutal No Holds Barred Match. A metal trash can became involved pretty quickly, and it was used multiple times by both Dickinson and Williams. The biggest spots in the match involved two massive pieces of plywood. The first piece was brought out by Dickinson and Hathaway, and it was placed across one of the corners to create a platform. Dickinson would go on to give Williams a piledriver on this platform, and shortly thereafter, set the plywood up in another corner and gave Williams a Pazuzu Bomb into the plywood (it didn’t break either time, but that just added to the brutality). Later, Hathaway brought out a second piece of plywood, and created a bridge on the outside between the apron and the guardrail. Of course, this backfired on Catch Point, as Williams gave Dickinson a piledriver of his own onto the plywood. Both were sent crashing to the floor as the plywood actually broke this time. The final moments of the match saw Hathaway get more involved, as he used a screwdriver on Williams to breakup a crossface. Then, when Dickinson had Williams in a crossface of his own, Hathaway hopped in and attacked the eye of Williams with the screwdriver, which led to Williams giving up. This was a brutal affair from start to finish, and served as a great preview of aforementioned bout in Detroit. There were a number of crazy spots with the trash can and the pieces of plywood, and both guys really worked hard. I know that EVOLVE 111 as already occurred (as I type this), but this match got me excited to see how that Handicap I Quit Match actually turns out, so in that regard, it did exactly what it was intended to do. ****
Catch Point continued their beatdown afterwards, but Josh Briggs ran out to make the save.
Matt Riddle def. FIP World Heavyweight Champion Austin Theory
Austin Theory attacked Matt Riddle at the end of EVOLVE 107, which set up this singles encounter. When the dust settled, this turned out to be really good. Riddle absolutely blitzed Theory in the opening minutes, but Theory (who was without Priscilla Kelly one again) was able to turn the tables after Riddle hit his hand hard on the ring post when Theory avoided a chop. Theory would go on to target that injured hand, though it wasn’t enough to put the former EVOLVE Champion away. Once Riddle was able to mount a comeback, we got an entertaining closing stretch that featured some very solid back and forth action. Theory tried his best, but Riddle proved to be too much for him. Riddle KILLED Theory with a series of knees, before jumping on him with hammer fists for the referee stoppage. This wasn’t quite the match of the night, but it was still a very strong bout. ***3/4
Joey Janela (with Penelope Ford) (c) def. Darby Allin
Darby Allin came into this main event on a three-match winning streak (the longest streak of his EVOLVE career), so the momentum was on his side. He put up an incredible effort, but in the end, he came up just short, as Joey Janela managed to retain the WWN Title. These two put together an awesome main event! There was great action right from the opening bell, and both men really worked their asses off here. Janela came off like an absolute superstar (like he always does), while Allin continues to be an outstanding underdog. Of course, these are two guy who are known for putting their bodies on the line, so we saw a number of big spots in this bout. At one particular point, towards the end of the match, Janela just killed Allin on the apron with two devastating moves (the second move was a Death Valley Driver, but on the first one, it looked like Janela dropped Allin straight down on his head on the apron). They went all out, and the fans were very much invested in both guys. While they wanted Allin to win, they were also behind Janela, so there was never a situation where the crowd turned on one of them. The only blemish in this match was Austin Theory, who got involved about midway through the bout as he attacked Janela while the referee was checking on Allin. He wasn’t out there long, as Allin soon disposed of him with a Coffin Drop to the floor. Aside from that, this match was nothing short of excellent. I don’t think this main event was as awesome as Darby Allin vs. WALTER from EVOLVE 106, but it was certainly in the upper echelon of EVOLVE matches in 2018. ****1/4
EVOLVE 109 was a show that was really lifted up by the second half. While the first four or five matches were all relatively solid, none of them stood out that much. Fortunately, things really kicked into high gear with the final three bouts. Chris Dickinson/Tracy Williams was great, Matt Riddle/Austin Theory was really good, and Joey Janela/Darby Allin was fantastic. If you’re short on time, I would definitely recommend checking out those last three matches, but if you do have some time, watch the whole show. It clocks in at just over two hours, so it’s a very easy show to sit through.