December 16th, 2018
The NYWC Sportatorium
Deer Park, New York
Watch: WWN Live
Joe Gacy def. Joe Bailey
We have a battle of the Joe’s in this opening contest, as both of these men were looking to bounce back with a win after suffering defeats the night prior. The match ended up going about seven minutes or so, and it was pretty decent. Bailey controlled things early with his technical wrestling skills, but Gacy managed to control things for a bit as well, and we got a more even affair down the stretch. Eventually, Gacy was able to put Bailey away after hitting a sitout powerbomb, but not without some difficulty. He had some trouble lifting Bailey up at first, and that did hurt the match a little bit, in my eyes. This was probably the weakest bout from these two EVOLVE shows, but it was still perfectly solid for what it was. Gacy has already been announced for the next set of shows, so it looks like we’ll be seeing more of him in EVOLVE going forward. **3/4
Four-Way Freestyle – Curt Stallion def. Anthony Greene, BSHP KNG, & Colby Corino
It looked like Colby Corino was wearing some kind of Colony knockoff outfit. Anyway, I went into this to be an entertaining spotfest, and that’s exactly what it was. There was a lot of fun action from start to finish, and everyone involved had opportunities to shine throughout. We saw plenty of of dives and crazy spots in this one, including Curt Stallion hitting Corino with a huge half-nelson suplex off the top rope. Not sure if I’d be going that far in a match like this, but it got a big reaction from the crowd, so it worked in the moment. Stallion would end up winning the bout a short time later after hitting a headbutt on Anthony Greene. This was exactly what it should’ve been, and it was cool to see Curt Stallion get a win after an impressive performance the night before against AR Fox. He’s also been confirmed for the next set of EVOLVE shows, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Stallion in 2019. ***1/4
Priscilla Kelly def. Shotzi Blackheart
Shotzi Blackout had a solid outing against SHINE Champion Allysin Kay back at EVOLVE 115, so she got another opportunity here, as she took on Priscilla Kelly. Up to this point, this was the longest match on the show at eleven minutes or so, and it was a relatively good bout. It didn’t blow the roof off by any means, but there was solid action right from the opening bell. Even though I haven’t seen a ton of Shotzi Blackheart, I like her more every time I see her. The fact that she has a really unique look also helps her stand out. I could say the same things about Priscilla Kelly. Of course I’ve seen her a lot on EVOLVE shows, but I haven’t seen her wrestle that much. I certainly would like to check out more of work (especially now that she’s spent some time wrestling in Japan). My only other comment would be that Kelly seemed to show no signs of being impacted by what happened the night before with Austin Theory. The commentary team talked about it, obviously, but I would’ve worked that story into the match a little bit. Kelly could still win, though the story could’ve been that getting fired by Theory was impacting her actual performance in the bout. Regardless, this was still a good match. As I’ve said in previous EVOLVE reviews, if you want people to be more aware of the SHINE brand, then doing one showcase bout on EVOLVE shows could certainly help a little bit. ***1/4
Non-Title – WWN Champion JD Drake vs. Eddie Kingston – No Contest
Before this match began, we got a quick promo from Eddie Kingston. He said that he’s here to “pop the houses in the territory by Bruiser Brody and Abdullah The Butcher”. Kingston then called out JD Drake, saying that you don’t call a guy like him out. He proclaimed that Drake’s house (EVOLVE) is filthy, and he’s here to clean it up. Drake then ran out and we got a brawl to jumpstart this match. Ultimately, it didn’t go very long, as we got a no contest after about five minutes after both men took out three different referees. It’s a shame the match ended that way, because it was pretty entertaining while it lasted. They basically beat the crap out of each other for five minutes, mostly with chops and strikes. It was honestly a blast to watch. Kingston’s been announced for the next set of shows, so I’m hoping that we get a rematch between these two. It has the potential to be really good, if it gets an actual finish. ***
After JD Drake and Eddie Kingston were finally separated, Montez Ford came out by himself, and taunted Kingston. However, this just served as a distraction, as Angelo Dawkins snuck up from behind and tackled Kingston. The Street Profits then danced for a little bit until Austin Theory came out with Harlem Bravado. Theory noted that he got rid of some “worthless baggage” (Priscilla Kelly) the night before, before mentioning that he wanted to add some more gold around his waist.
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles – The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (c) def. EVOLVE Champion Austin Theory & Harlem Bravado
This match took a minute or so to get going, but once it did, it ended up being a fairly solid tag team contest. The Street Profits had the edge early, but the heels soon took control after they managed to isolate Ford. He eventually made the hot tag to Dawkins, who nailed Bravado and Theory with a couple of big spears. The action picked up in the closing minutes, with the heel side showing off some good teamwork. However, things soon came undone for them when Priscilla Kelly came out to ringside. Her presence at ringside distracted Theory, and that allowed The Street Profits to regain the advantage. They retained their EVOLVE Tag Team Titles a short time later after hitting Harlem Bravado with spinebuster/frog splash combo (which they call “The Prophecy”). They could’ve cut out three minutes or so from this, but as a whole, this was a perfectly fine midcard tag team bout. It did progress the Austin Theory/Priscilla Kelly story a little bit, so there’s that as well. ***1/4
Josh Briggs def. Adrian Alanis (with AR Fox & The Skulk)
The night before at EVOLVE 117, Briggs earned a victory over Leon Ruff, and got into a brief confrontation with Adrian Alanis afterward, which helped set up this match. When the dust settled, these two managed to put together a short, but entertaining hoss battle (the second on this card). Alanis went right after Briggs as soon as the bell rang, and he even managed to bust open Briggs in that opening flurry of offense (he was bleeding from the mouth a little bit). Briggs did manage to fight back, and at one point, managed to connect with a nasty bodyslam into one of the turnbuckles. Alanis put forth a good effort, but Briggs ultimately got the win after hitting him with the M5. This was a lot of fun to watch. Two big dudes just beating the crap out of each other for eight minutes. You really can’t go wrong with that. ***1/4
Afterward, AR Fox got in the face of Josh Briggs, and as I said in my EVOLVE 117 review, it appears that those two are on a collision course. Once Briggs left, AR Fox took the mic and talked about how proud he was of everything in The Skulk. He mentioned how disappointed he was in Austin Theory, before turning his attention to Leon Ruff, who’s arguably been the most impressive member of The Skulk. Fox wants to see how hard Leon Ruff can go, and challenged him to a singles match right now. After talking it over with the rest of The Skulk, Ruff accepted, and we have a match!
AR Fox def. Leon Ruff
Apparently, AR Fox was originally scheduled to face Fabian Aichner, but Aichner suffered some sort of “undisclosed injury” at EVOLVE 117. This new bout proved to be a more than suitable replacement, as Leon Ruff took his trainer to the limit before AR Fox eventually put him away with the Lo Mein Pain. These two had a really good match that was easily the best of the night, up to this point. There was plenty of exciting action from start to finish, which wasn’t much of a shock, considering who was involved. This was a perfect example of getting someone over in defeat. It was always going to be a showcase for Leon Ruff, but in addition to seeing some of his unique offense, he showed off his toughness as well, as Fox had to inflict a ton of damage to put him away. My only real critique would be that the match might’ve been a tad too long at fifteen minutes. You could’ve shaved two or three minutes off, and it would’ve been just as good. That minor complaint aside, however, this was a very strong match as a whole. AR Fox came out on top, but Leon Ruff had another impressive performance. ***3/4
While The Skulk was celebrating after the match, WWN Ambassador Trevin Adams came out, and officially offered Leon Ruff a WWN contract. It was a big moment for Ruff, who signed his contract in the ring. As I mentioned previously, Ruff has easily been the most impressive talent from The Skulk, and I’m very curious to see what he does in 2019.
NXT Tag Team Champion Roderick Strong def. Darby Allin
Darby Allin came into this match on a bit of a losing streak, as he lost in his previous two EVOLVE outings to Mustafa Ali and Kassius Ohno. Unfortunately for Allin, that losing streak was extended to three, as Roderick Strong picked up the victory here after hitting the End Of Heartache. This was a great singles contest that took over the match of the night honors from the AR Fox/Leon Ruff match that came before it. I was really looking forward to this bout coming in, as Strong always excels whenever he’s in the ring with a smaller opponent that he can toss around the ring. For the most part, this match met those expectations. We got some entertaining exchanges in the opening minutes, but once Strong took control, he just started beating the crap out of Allin. He dished out various backbreaker variations, stretched him out, and at one point, just dropped Allin back first right on the elevated entrance ramp. Despite taking all of that damage, Allin didn’t give up, as he used his speed and agility to stay in the fight. He also tried a few submissions, and even went after Strong’s hand after Strong ended up chopping the support beat outside of the ring when Allin moved. However, Allin’s best efforts weren’t enough, and he took several of Strong’s signature moves before finally getting pinned. I have no real complaints about the match itself. It totally delivered. That being said, I’m a little concerned with Darby Allin’s current direction.
After what happened at the end of EVOLVE 117 the night prior, it’s clear that Austin Theory vs. Darby Allin for the EVOLVE Title (with Allin probably winning the title) is the ultimate destination. While it’s great to see Allin get these showcase matches against WWE talent, he lost all of those matches. I hope that they start to give him some more wins before he does challenge for the EVOLVE Title. We’ll see what happens in 2019, but hopefully things start going in the right direction for Allin. ****
Afterward, Darby Allin just….sat in the ring for a while. He was clearly upset after suffering yet another loss. Some referees and other officials finally were able to convince him to leave the ring.
Kassius Ohno def. Anthony Henry
This is a feud that’s been simmering ever since Kassius Ohno returned to EVOLVE back in November. After having some verbal confrontations with Anthony Henry at EVOLVE 115 and EVOLVE 116 (which helped set up this bout as more of a friendly affair), things boiled over at EVOLVE 117 when Henry attacked Ohno after his match with Darby Allin. Henry wasn’t happy with the fact that these NXT names were taking the top spots in EVOLVE, and he was looking to make a statement here with a win. Unfortunately for Anthony Henry, that didn’t come to pass, as Kassius Ohno ultimately emerged victorious.
This was a very good match, but it wasn’t quite as good as Darby Allin/Roderick Strong. I would say it was about on par with AR Fox/Leon Ruff, though I would put that match over this one, if I had to pick. These two went right after each other to start, and we got some solid brawling (both inside and outside of the ring) in the opening minutes. After blocking a rolling elbow with a chair (which didn’t cause a DQ), Henry started going after the arm for a bit. We got more back and forth between these two down the stretch, and it looked as though Henry was potentially on the verge of victory. Then, Ohno just hit Henry with (of all moves) a Pedigree, and that was it. I have to admit, that finish made me laugh. After complaining about NXT guys taking spots at the top of EVOLVE cards, Henry gets put in his place with Triple H’s finishing move. It’s funny, yet sad at the same time. The match itself was still very good, but the finish actively detracted from it, in my view. ***3/4
The show finished off with a long post-match promo from Kassius Ohno. He had some fun with the fans before thanking them for their support. Ohno mentioned his career starting in 1998, and how he’s wrestled for so many companies all over the world. He mentioned the fact that people were worried about him going back to NXT, but said that they’ve taken good care of him, and that it was great to be part of a company (WWE/NXT) that appreciates and values him. Ohno then mentioned the various names that have wrestled in EVOLVE over the years (Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black), before turning his attention to the current roster. He asked who in EVOLVE was going to step up next, and challenged the roster (along with the rest of the independents) to step up their game.
EVOLVE 118 was very similar to EVOLVE 117, in that while we didn’t get anything that truly stood out as must-see, we got a lot of matches that ranged from good to very good. Once again, Darby Allin had the best bout on the card, this time with Roderick Strong. If I could recommend one thing to check out from this show, it would be that match. Right behind Allin/Strong were two really strong matchups in AR Fox vs. Leon Ruff and Anthony Henry vs. Kassius Ohno (even though we got a laughable finish in the latter). The rest of the undercard featured a number of entertaining bouts, including two hoss battles and a wild four-way spotfest. Some of the matches went a little longer than they needed to, but as a whole, EVOLVE 118 was a solid wrestling show from top to bottom.