September 7th, 2018
MCW Arena
Joppa, Maryland

Watch: WWNLive

Jaka def. Leon Ruff

The show kicked off with a match designed as a preview of the EVOLVE tag title bout that would take place the next night. It went just over eight minutes, and it ended up being a solid opening contest. Leon Ruff got in some offense but, for the most part, Jaka dominated. Even though Ruff has the most potential out of the various members of the Skulk in terms of in-ring ability, Jaka was clearly presented as being a level above him, and honestly I don’t have any issue with that. Everyone in the Skulk is talented, but they have a ways to go before they become serious threats to beat guys higher up the card. We did get some interference towards the end, as Chris Dickinson ran out and attacked the other members of the Skulk just as it looked like Ruff was building some momentum. This distraction allowed Jaka to take advantage, and he got the win with the Jaka Bomb. ***

Afterwards, Doom Patrol continued their assault on the Skulk after the bell. At one point, Dickinson powerbombed Ruff onto Alanis, but AR Fox finally ran out to make the save for his students. Fox took out Dickinson and Jaka with a springboard double, but then he was attacked from behind by Austin Theory. After hitting Fox with Ataxia, Theory took the mic and turned his attention to the Velveteen Dream. He said that he’ll take him out just as easily as he took out AR Fox, before adding that he’ll own this building after tonight. Not only did this build up to the dark match main event, but Theory’s attack on Fox helped build up their singles bout for the next night.

Facade & Jason Kincaid def. Joe Gacy & Steve Pena

Hey look, it’s former CZW World Heavyweight Champion Joe Gacy! He teamed with Steve Pena (both men apparently impressed as a tryout seminar earlier in the day) to take on two men who were making their returns to EVOLVE. Facade popping up isn’t a total shock (since he finds a way to wrestle pretty much everywhere), but I was surprised to see Jason Kincaid back in EVOLVE, since it seemed like he was written off after an attack by Jarek 1:20 at Mercury Rising in New Orleans back in April. Since then, Kincaid spent some time with DDT in Japan, where he formed this team with Facade (they’re both part of a larger stable in DDT led by Shigehiro Irie). Now the tag team match itself was relatively decent, with some fine action throughout. There were a few sloppy moments here and there (mainly from Facade, but that’s no real surprise), but for its spot on the card, this was fine for what it was. Kincaid would ultimately get the win for his team after hitting a super double stomp off the vertical support column that was right next to the ring. I know a lot of people are down on Kincaid in EVOLVE (especially after the feud he had with Austin Theory that went absolutely nowhere), but I’ve got no problems with Kincaid coming back as part of a tag team with Facade. EVOLVE is in serious need of tag teams right now since the division really only consists of two teams currently so at this point any new additions are welcome. **3/4

After the match, Joe Gacy attacked Steve Pena. Gacy looked solid in this tag team bout, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him get more opportunities in EVOLVE if just to fill out the roster at this point.

JD Drake def. Harlem Bravado

Harlem Bravado hasn’t been seen in EVOLVE since June of 2016. While his brother Lancelot Bravado has seemingly dropped off the map since then (according to CAGEMATCH, he had a grand total of one match in 2017, and has nothing listed for 2018), Harlem has kept himself busy. He spent a lot of time wrestling the UK earlier this year (in some lower profile UK promotions), and even challenged Nick Aldis for the NWA strap back in February. Harlem went up against JD Drake here, and these two managed to put together a very entertaining match, with some fun back and forth action throughout. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but it proved to be a pleasant surprise on this card. They did a bit early on where Harlem didn’t want any chops, but after getting a chop in on Drake, he quickly got his comeuppance. Harlem put forth a good effort, but Drake emerged victorious after hitting the Drill Bit. This was a nice rebound win for Drake after suffering a pair of losses to WALTER and Matt Riddle on the previous two EVOLVE events. There were one or two rough points, but aside from that, I really enjoyed this. I don’t think Harlem Bravado is a guy I would push in EVOLVE, but he’s a good talent that can be used in a role that’s similar to what Jon Davis is doing at the moment. He can work with talents that the company wants to push in order to help get them over. Plus, (much like Davis) Harlem does have that history and credibility with the promotion as a former regular and tag team champion that a win over him won’t be seen as beating a nobody. ***1/2

Priscilla Kelly def. Aja Perera, Dementia D’Rose & Kiera Hogan

This was billed as a SHINE showcase, to help build interest in their SHINE 53 iPPV that would take place the next day at La Boom right before EVOLVE 113. However, this was really meant as a showcase for Priscilla Kelly, who got the win after hitting here finisher, the Osteoporosis, on Kiera Hogan. The result was never in question (as Kelly is the only one that’s actually on the EVOLVE roster), but the other three competitors did get moments to stand out, and the match itself was relatively decent. To be honest, I’m a little surprised that we don’t see more SHINE showcase bouts on EVOLVE shows, given that both promotions are part of the larger WWNLive Universe. It can also add variety to some of these EVOLVE events (plus, it would be a nice reminder that SHINE is a promotion that does still exist). You don’t have to do this on every since EVOLVE card, but maybe every couple of shows. There’s nothing really preventing you from doing that (aside from the availability of certain talents). Anyway, this was perfectly fine. **1/2

Darby Allin def. Anthony Henry

Both of these men were coming off of big matches on the previous EVOLVE weekend in the Midwest. Darby Allin picked up a huge win over Matt Riddle at EVOLVE 110, while Anthony Henry had a strong outing against WALTER at EVOLVE 111. Additionally, this was actually a rematch from EVOLVE 70 back in October of 2016. Allin got the win on that night, and he managed to defeat Henry once again after catching him in the Last Supper following a Coffin Drop. This was easily the match of the night, and it was much better than that aforementioned first encounter almost two years ago. It only went about twelve minutes or so, but they packed in a lot of good back and forth action. Allin had the early advantage, but Henry soon turned the tables, and just kicked the crap out of him at various points. It’s almost like Henry morphed into dickhead heel Davey Richards for a few minutes. Henry also targeted the side and back of Allin, which had a big rash on it (according to Lenny Leonard, Allin got hit by a car at the airport that morning). Despite taking that beating, Allin was able to fight back, and ultimately came out on top. It should be interesting to see where Darby Allin goes from here. While it appears that Allin is going to become “the guy” in EVOLVE (his rise to that position in only two years or so is an incredible story), they do run the risk of losing what made him special, unless they change his character a little bit. It’s a situation that’s similar to the one we saw in New Japan a few years ago with Tomoaki Honma. We’ll see what happens in the coming months, but as for this match, it was pretty great, and I’d love to see them face off again in the future. ****

Afterwards, Anthony Henry begrudgingly shook Darby Allin’s hand.

Then, just as they were getting ready for intermission, a wild Stokely Hathaway appeared! He took the mic and claimed that he was a man of his word (with regards to the stipulation of the main event at EVOLVE 111). Hathaway can no longer work in EVOLVE as a manager, but said there are other opportunities available. He proclaimed that he wanted to be the ring announcer, though he never got the chance, as several referees escorted him away. I thought Stokely Hathaway was done with EVOLVE after EVOLVE 111 (possibly on his way to NXT), but based on what happened here (and the next night), it looks like he might be sticking around, at least temporarily.

Tracy Williams def. Jon Davis

Speaking of Stokely Hathaway, Tracy Williams ended his feud with Stokely Hathaway (and Catch Point as a whole) after winning the aforementioned EVOLVE 111 main event, which was a Career vs. Career Handicap I Quit Match. He would be challenging for the EVOLVE title the next night at EVOLVE 113, but he had to get through Jon Davis first. These two had a pretty solid match, though it was nowhere close the bout that came before it. There was some brawling on the floor early on, and the exchanged between the two were good throughout. Davis proved to be a tough challenge for Williams, but the former EVOLVE Tag Team Champion kept fighting, and even busted out some new tricks in his arsenal (including a swinging DDT/Guillotine choke combo). Towards the end of the bout, Davis went for a moonsault, but he missed. Williams then quickly followed up with a cradle to score the victory. At the time, it was a predictable result, since Williams was getting a title shot the next night. However, given the news that came out after these shows, maybe Davis should’ve gotten the win here. ***1/4

Jon Davis attacked Tracy Williams afterwards, and said that while Williams won the match, he won the fight. He did the same thing after a loss to Anthony Henry at EVOLVE 109, so I guess that’s part of his character now.

Josh Briggs def. Chris Dickinson

The issues between Josh Briggs and the Doom Patrol date back to EVOLVE 107, when Briggs turned down an offer to join the group. This got off to a quick start after Briggs was jumped by Dickinson during his entrance. A brawl ensued on the outside, and both men use a chair on each other. Dickinson took control after tossing Briggs into the ringside steps, and once they got back in the ring, they ended up having a good match. They later went back to the outside after a Death Valley driver on apron by Dickinson, but Briggs recovered and managed to hit a Dickinson with a chokeslam onto the ringside steps. Eventually, Briggs came out on top after hitting Dickinson with the M5. These two had a fun brawl, though it didn’t really stand out as anything particularly special. ***1/4

WWN Championship
Joey Janela def. AR Fox

I believe this was originally scheduled to be Joey Janela defending against Austin Theory, but the card ended up getting changed a bit after the Velveteen Dream was added. Instead AR Fox got the title shot which made perfect sense since Fox scored a big non-title win over Janela back at EVOLVE 108. Additionally, the Skulk added a new female member named Dani Jordan, who (as you probably would’ve guessed) is another AR Fox student. That original encounter between these two at EVOLVE 108 was great and I went into this expecting to be around the same level. Unfortunately it fell short of those expectations, but that was mainly due to all of the shenanigans that we saw in the final few minutes. The referee got inadvertently taken out during a reversal sequence. Then, inexplicably, the Skulk got into the ring and started attacking Joey Janela. Now while they were totally free to attack Janela at that point (given that the referee was down), it was a totally out of character move from the Skulk. For the most part, the Skulk never really got involved in AR Fox’s matches in a heelish manner (as in blatant interference). They’ve been presented as this fun loving group that follows AR Fox around, but now all of a sudden, they become (essentially) nothing but evil henchmen for their trainer? This made absolutely no sense. I suppose this served as a catalyst for Penelope Ford to get involved, but if you really wanted that, there were other ways (better ways) that you could’ve gotten there. Then, after everyone not involved in the match cleared the ring, AR Fox clocked Janela with the WWN Title belt. I guess you could argue that Fox was desperate, but that really doesn’t wash either, since Fox has been presented as a babyface over these last few months.

What sucks is that all of these shenanigans took away from a match that was on its way to matching their previous encounter at EVOLVE 108. Since I’m someone who really appreciates effort in the ring, I’m not to say that this match wasn’t any good just due to the interference. The work that these two did before the referee got taken out was very strong, and if they managed to go through the entire match without outside involvement, it could’ve been the best bout on the card. Alas, that didn’t come to pass, and Janela successfully retained his title after hitting Fox with a spinning package piledriver. This was a pretty solid title bout, but it could’ve been much better than it ended up being. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

This was the first EVOLVE event of the post-Matt Riddle era, and when the dust settled, it ended up being a mixed bag. Nothing on this show was downright awful (even the worst bout were average), but only one match truly stood out from the bunch, being Anthony Henry vs. Darby Allin. If you’re short on time, it’s really the only thing on this card that I would say is worth checking out. Most of the other bouts were fine to good, but they were never close to being great. JD Drake vs. Harlem Bravado would probably be the second best match of the nigh. The main event was certainly a contender, but it was severely hampered by overbooking in the final few minutes. A fine outing from EVOLVE, but far from their best show this year.