November 9, 2018
Monaghan Knights Of Columbus Hall
Livonia, Michigan

Watch: Club WWN

Barrett Brown def. BSHP KNG

After disappearing from EVOLVE cards earlier this year, preliminary matches (featuring ten minute time limits) made their full-fledged return on this weekend of event. The first of those on EVOLVE 115 saw Barrett Brown pick up a win over BSHP KNG (I guess he has a thing against vowels) in around nine minutes. Brown made his return to the promotion back at EVOLVE 114, while BSHP KNG previously appeared at EVOLVE 107. This was a relatively decent contest with fine action throughout. It could’ve been a little better if it weren’t for the weird finish. In the closing moments, BSHP KNG (for some reason) grabbed work boots from underneath the ring and put them on. I guess they were intended to have more impact, I guess? Anyway, Brown avoided a kick from BSHP KNG, and then just….pinned him. The ending was very awkward, but again, the bulk of the match was actually pretty solid. As I said back in my EVOLVE 114 review, Barrett Brown is someone that EVOLVE should be using more frequently, and hopefully this win is a good sign for the future. **3/4

Mike Fierro def. Juntai

I was pleasantly surprised to see Juntai on this show. He used to wrestle under the name Juntai Miller, and (from what I can recall) he was a regular undercard talent in AAW for a number of years, before the promotion turned into a major super-indie. Juntai was put up against a relative unknown in Mike Fierro (he’s so unknown that he doesn’t even have a cagematch profile!!). He basically has the appearance of a slightly taller, slightly thinner version of Jeff Cobb, but with a colorful RVD style singlet. The only thing of note that I could find of him, aside from videos of him on very small indies, was a WWE Tough Enough tryout video from 2015 that was posted to WWE’s YouTube page (this was the version that was hosted by Chris Jericho and featured Hulk Hogan as a judge right before he was fired from WWE amidst the firestorm that erupted around his infamous sex tape). Even though he didn’t make that version of Tough Enough, it wouldn’t shock me if WWE kept an eye on Fierro since then (given his size), and suggested that EVOLVE use him on this set of shows so they could get a better look at him. Anyway, Fierro pretty much dominated this one, and got the win in under four minutes. Juntai actually got a decent amount of offense in, but he was ultimately no match for Fierro. Not much else to say here. **

Four-Way Freestyle – Harlem Bravado def. Adrian Alanis, Jason Kincaid, & Leon Ruff

Josh Briggs was originally scheduled to be in his match, but his arrival was delayed due to bad weather. Thus, Adrian Alanis from The Skulk was given the opportunity to fill in that open fourth slot. This was a fun Four-Way Freestyle that featured some entertaining action from start to finish. Everyone involved had moments to shine, and there was never any real downtime. I generally enjoy these undercard multi-man matches in EVOLVE. They’re never spectacular, but more often than not, they’re usually very solid. Leon Ruff (who got a big reaction when he came out, as he’s apparently from the Detroit area) looked particularly good in this one, and had strong exchanges with his stablemate from The Skulk, Adrian Alanis. Unfortunately for Ruff, he got pinned here after Harlem Bravado hit him with his finisher, which is a version of the Angel’s Wings that he apparently calls Straight Cash Homie. Bravado getting the win here made sense, since he had a shot at the WWN Title the next night at EVOLVE 116. ***1/4

Afterwards, AR Fox and the rest of The Skulk came out the celebrate the efforts of Adrian Alanis and Leon Ruff, but they were interrupted by Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly. They claimed that Fox was leeching off his students, and that he will eventually ruin all of their careers. Theory not only claimed that he should be a future WWE Champion, but also said that he should be the leader of The Skulk. He called for his scheduled match with AR Fox to take place right now, and initial outcome was one that nobody saw coming.

Austin Theory (with Priscilla Kelly) def. AR Fox (with The Skulk)

So this lasted less than two minutes. After a brief opening exchange between Fox and his former protege, Priscilla Kelly jumped Ayla Fox from behind. This distracted Fox, and that gave Theory the opportunity to roll him up (with a handful of tights) for the win. The crowd wasn’t happy, and Fox was distraught. In the moment, it seemed like an odd move, but we soon saw that it was just done to set up the main event.

Before Austin Theory and Priscilla Kelly could leave, AR Fox took the mic and said that this wasn’t how things were going to end. Fox not only challenged Theory to an Unsanctioned Match later in the night, but decided to put the leadership of The Skulk and the ownership of the WWA4 Academy on the line. However, if Fox won, then Theory would be forced to show respect to him and The Skulk. Theory called Fox a desperate man, and accepted his challenge. A fine setup for the main event.

Mustafa Ali def. DJ Z

NXT wasn’t the only WWE brand that sent talent to these EVOLVE events, as Mustafa Ali was brought in from 205 Live for a pair of exciting matchups. The first of those was against DZ J, in an ultra-rare meeting between talents from WWE and Impact Wrestling (it was also a battle between two guys with light up entrance gear). When the dust settled, these two ended up having a very exciting match that featured a ton of great back and forth action. There were some cool exchanges in the opening minutes, where they basically tried to one-up each other. From that point, this really picked up, and the crowd was very much into it. Both of these guys are so incredibly talented, and it can be argued that both are two of the most underrated wrestlers on the planet. DJ Z came close to winning in the final moments, but Ali managed to catch him with a sunset flip to score the win. Although the result was never really in doubt, this was still one of the best matches of the night. Well worth checking out. ****

Afterward, the two competitors showed respect towards each other. DJ Z then got a replica of the WWE Cruiserweight Title out of the crowd and gave it to Ali, who celebrated with it (this was before his title shot against Buddy Murphy at Survivor Series).

Josh Briggs def. Cody Vance

Fortunately, Josh Briggs was able to make it to the show, despite his travel issues. He was given a match here against a guy from a recent WWN Training Seminar named Cody Vance. Briggs won in less than two minutes after hitting the M5. Vance actually got a few shots in, but in the end, he was simply no match for Briggs. Afterward, the fans chanted “One more time”, and Briggs obliged by delivering another M5 to Vance. N/R

SHINE Title – Allysin Kay (c) def. Shotzi Blackheart

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this one going into it, especially since it was my first time seeing one of the competitors involved (I’ve heard a lot about Shotzi Blackheart, but I believe this was my first time seeing her in action). However, this turned out to be a surprisingly solid women’s showcase. Blackheart had the early edge before the momentum swinged in the favor of Allysin Kay. From there, we got some decent action down the stretch before Kay pinned Blackheart with a discus lariat to retain her title. Even though she came up short here, Blackheart looked impressive. She’s got a very unique look, and performed well against an experienced opponent. I mentioned this in a previous EVOLVE review, but given that SHINE is part of the WWNLive Universe, I wouldn’t seeing more showcase matches on EVOLVE shows. There’s no reason not to do it. ***

EVOLVE Tag Team Titles – The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (c) def. The Work Horsemen (Anthony Henry & WWN Champion JD Drake)

The Street Profits were very popular with this crowd in Livonia, Michigan when they made their entrance. Unfortunately, their entrance got cut short when The Work Horsemen jumped them from behind to start off the match. I was very intrigued to see how Angela Dawkins and Montez Ford would do here. Their first bout at EVOLVE 114 against Doom Patrol was good, but not very memorable. This time around, they ended up having the best match on this entire card. In just over fifteen minutes, these two teams put together an incredible bout that had exciting action throughout. After a fast opening exchange, Ford got isolated by The World Horsemen, which built up to a hot tag to Dawkins. The second half of the match was particularly great, and the fans were into it the whole way through. While Drake and Henry were the more experienced team, there was some miscommunication, which obviously worked against them.

The Street Profits retained after Ford hit a Frog Splash on JD Drake. The fact that Ford pinned Drake was pretty surprising in real time, though (as we saw in the aftermath) it appears that was done to set up a WWN Title match down the road. The Work Horsemen delivering in this spot wasn’t much of a shock (Drake and Henry are a really good team), but The Street Profits more than held up their end of the bargain. This was very much an indie style match, and they acquitted themselves well. As I already mentioned, I wasn’t sure about them after EVOLVE 114, but they did a great job in this match. ****1/4

Afterward, Montez Ford got in the face of JD Drake, and made it clear that he wanted a shot at the WWN Title. Drake seemed more than willing to put the title on the line, so I’m sure we’ll get that match at some point.

EVOLVE Title – Fabian Aichner (c) def. Kassius Ohno

I’m still mesmerized by the fact that Fabian Aichner is the EVOLVE Champion. He shocked the world at EVOLVE 114 when he defeated Shane Strickland to win the title, and he certainly had his work cut out for him here in his first title defense, as he went up against Kassius Ohno. The former EVOLVE Champion (who got a big reaction when he made his entrance) was making his first appearance with the promotion since he left for NXT in January 2017. Much like The Street Profits, I was very intrigued to see how Aichner would do now that he’s the top champion in EVOLVE. This turned out to be a very good bout, though it wasn’t quite on the same level as the Mustafa Ali vs. DJ Z or the EVOLVE Tag Team Title match.

At nineteen minutes, it was a tad too long for my liking, but beyond that, this had some really good action throughout. Ohno was very dominant in the first half, as he just beat the crap out of Aichner with vicious elbows and kicks. Eventually, Aichner was able to mount a comeback, and the match became more even when it reached the closing stretch. The “Italian Roughneck” was able to survive some of Ohno’s best shots, and kept on fighting. Aichner ultimately retained his EVOLVE Title, though the finish wasn’t exactly clean. He had a hard time lifting up Ohno for his spinning powerbomb finisher (which he calls “Hasta La Vista”) on the first attempt, but successfully hit the move on the second attempt. It was great to see Kassius Ohno back in EVOLVE, and he showed that he’s still capable of delivering strong performances. As for Aichner, I thought this bout showcased his toughness well, and he survived Ohno’s onslaught to win his first title defense. Again, it wasn’t quite as awesome as some of the other bouts on this card, but it was still very good. ***3/4

Afterward, Anthony Henry came out, and put over the match that just took place, as well as the competitors involved. He then seemed to get frustrated, and started talking about how he felt underappreciated. Henry got in the face of both Aichner and Ohno before leaving (Henry had a match scheduled against Aichner the next night at EVOLVE 116). Ohno then raised Aichner’s hand before both departed.

Unsanctioned Match – AR Fox def. Austin Theory

The Skulk and Priscilla Kelly were absent from ringside when this match got started. I went into this expecting a wild brawl, and that’s pretty much what we got. These two fought all over the building (as much as could, considering they were in such a tight space) and had a pretty fun main event. They certainly could’ve shaved off some time (as it went nearly twenty seven minutes), but this seemed to be the blow off of the feud between these two, so I can forgive the length in that regard. Numerous ladders became involved in this one, and they used them in a variety of brutal ways, both inside and outside of the ring. In the middle of the bout, Priscilla Kelly got involved, and that allowed Theory to regain control. Kelly got her comeuppance later on, as she was attacked by Ayla Fox. Eventually, Fox was able to hit the Foxcatcher on Theory to score the victory and end the feud (for now). I really like the fact that Fox won the match with the Foxcatcher. They’ve done a great job protecting that move. I believe someone did kick out of it earlier this year (it might’ve been Matt Riddle), but for the most part, it’s basically Fox’s last resort finisher. When everything else doesn’t work, he busts out the Foxcatcher.

As for the match itself, these two certainly worked hard, but much like the EVOLVE Title bout that came beforehand, it just fell a tad short compared to some of the other matches on this show. That’s not to say this wasn’t good, however. Even with the length, it was still a lot of really entertaining stuff in it. The ladder spots, in particular, were very memorable. Both men played their roles well, and in the end, the feud (again, for the moment) has reached a satisfying conclusion, with Fox finally beating Theory in a big match. ***3/4

Final Thoughts

While this new era of EVOLVE got off to a shaky start at EVOLVE 114, EVOLVE 115 was a step in the right direction. The show was a little long (ten matches is too much), but for the most part, the matches ranged from good, to really good, to great. It was a particularly strong night for the new champions, with The Street Profits showing that they were capable of hanging in an independent environment by having an awesome match (the best of the night) with The Work Horsemen, while Fabian Aichner had a really solid first title defense against the returning Kassius Ohno. Other highlights included Mustafa Ali having a great match with DJ Z, and AR Fox having an entertaining brawl with Austin Theory. You don’t need to watch everything on this show, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s certainly worth checking out.