Thursday, April 4
La Boom, New York
In a matter of days, I will be heading to New York City to enjoy my first ever WrestleMania Weekend. It’ll be three fun-filled days of wrestling, friendship, public transit, karaoke, and all the unmistakable musks that NYC has to offer. Such is the magic of Mania weekend that it can dull even the most potent odors of the Big Apple. So nevermind that hobo piss, let’s watch some pro wrestling!
My first show of the weekend will be the show that I’m previewing here: EVOLVE 125. The show takes place at Noon on Thursday, April 4th at La Boom in Queens, which has hosted many EVOLVE shows over the years. La Boom will also serve as the hub for the majority of the WWNLive events that weekend, including wXw, DDT, and Shimmer. In addition, to EVOLVE, I’ll also be attending said wXw and DDT events (all of which take place on that Thursday), so if you’re at La Boom for any of those shows and want to say hello, please do!
Getting to the preview here, I decided to hop into the Wayback Machine and take a gander at the wrestlers who were on EVOLVE’s pair of 2018 Mania weekend shows, EVOLVE 102 & 103. I wanted to see how many of those wrestlers are going to be on EVOLVE 125. As it turns out, only five of the 23 wrestlers from Mania weekend 2018 will still be around in 2019: Austin Theory, Darby Allin, JD Drake, Anthony Henry, and AR Fox. That’s one hell of a turnover. Granted some of those wrestlers were special guests—Will Ospreay, Daisuke Sekimoto, Munenori Sawa, Chris Brookes, and Mark Haskins—but you still have a bevy of EVOLVE regulars on those cards who are now in absentia for one reason or another: Zack Sabre Jr., Matt Riddle, Chris Dickinson, Jaka, Keith Lee, WALTER, Timothy Thatcher, Jason Kincaid, Odinson, Parrow, Tracy Williams, and Dominic Garrini. DJZ also wrestled on EVOLVE 102 and was a fairly consistent presence in the company over the course of the year, but he recently signed a WWE contract and will not be on EVOLVE 125.
EVOLVE has spent the past six months or so restocking its shelves with a mix of those aforementioned five EVOLVE stalwarts (Theory, Allin, Drake, Henry, and Fox), fresh faces from the independent scene (Shane Strickland, Josh Briggs, Curt Stallion, Eddie Kingston, Joe Gacy, Harlem Bravado, John Silver), and various talent from NXT in recurring or special guest capacities (Street Profits, Fabian Aichner, Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Johnny Gargano, Mustafa Ali). The decision to incorporate the latter into EVOLVE was initially met with a fair amount of derision, including from yours truly, but to say that EVOLVE is suffering would be completely false. The shows are well attended, the crowds are hot, and the wrestling has been pretty solid and straightforward. Is there any substantial online buzz? No, but I commend EVOLVE for weathering the storm. I would say if you’re looking for a show with minimal wackiness at WrestleMania Weekend, grab a pen and circle EVOLVE 125 on your calendars.
The main event of the show will see EVOLVE Champion Austin Theory defending his title against Undisputed ERA’s Kyle O’Reilly. After his match against JD Drake at EVOLVE 124, Theory declared that he had no worthy challengers for his belt for Mania weekend. He was interrupted by a video of O’Reilly, who challenged Theory to a title match at EVOLVE 125. Theory accepted the challenge and will put his championship belt on the line against KOR in La Boom.
It’s not often that we get Kyle O’Reilly in a big-time singles match these days. Since his NXT debut in July 2017, O’Reilly has only wrestled in five singles matches. It makes sense given that O’Reilly is primarily a tag team wrestler with his buddies in Undisputed ERA, but that is certainly not indicative of Kyle’s talents in a singles role. All you have to do is watch his Best of the Super Juniors matches with KUSHIDA, his NEVER Openweight Championship match against Katsuyori Shibata, his wars with Adam Cole, or some of his PWG World Championship bouts to know that O’Reilly is just as fantastic in a one-on-one match as he is in a tag team. Admittedly I’m not as high on Austin Theory, but I do think that he’s capable of having a really good match with the right opponent (such as Darby or Gargano). I’ve rarely seen Kyle O’Reilly lay an egg in a big-time spot, so this EVOLVE Championship match between him and Theory should end up being a great main event.
Speaking of wrestlers from NXT, the Street Profits continue their feud with The Unwanted in two singles matches: Montez Ford will wrestle Shane Strickland, while Angelo Dawkins will wrestle Colby Corino. The Street Profits lost the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship to The Unwanted’s Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy at EVOLVE 123, but gained a measure of revenge at EVOLVE 124 when they teamed up with Velveteen Dream to defeat Kingston, Gacy, & Strickland in a six-man tag match. The celebration was short-lived, however, when Strickland wrapped Ford’s arm in a chair and hit a double foot stomp on it. Now Ford wants revenge on Strickland, while Dawkins wants to whoop some Unwanted ass of his own in his match against Corino.
The Street Profits’ tenure in EVOLVE has been a tremendous boon for them. Since they began to wrestle there, Dawkins and Ford have been able to spread their wings and grow as wrestlers outside of the sterile environment of Full Sail and the Performance Center. Their match quality has gotten better, which has been apparent in both EVOLVE and NXT. The duo was already quite charismatic, but this EVOLVE run has really tightened up their in-ring game and made them much more of a complete package. As far as these singles matches are concerned, the one to watch is Strickland vs. Ford. It’s the best guy in The Unwanted vs. the best guy in the Street Profits, plus there’s the added drama of Strickland having Pillmanized Ford’s arm. I’m not as hyped for Dawkins vs. Corino because, well, they’re not the best guys in their respective teams. But hey, here’s hoping that they prove me wrong!
The final “big element” of the show is the inclusion of wrestlers from DDT Wrestling. DDT will be having its own show, Coming to America, but they will also have some of their wrestlers take part in other WWNLive events. This includes the WWNLive Supershow: Mercury Rising on Friday, but it also includes EVOLVE 125. EVOLVE Tag Team Champions Kingston & Gacy will defend the straps against DDT’s KO-D Openweight Champion Konosuke Takeshita and his tag partner MAO. Elsewhere on the card, Curt Stallion will take on one of DDT’s biggest boys, Kazusada Higuchi. Higuchi will wrestle against JD Drake for the WWN Championship at Mercury Rising, so this match with Stallion should be a… um… a good… uh… warmup…
I’m sorry folks, I need to vent here. It seems that for whatever reason, Kazusada Higuchi is being billed on EVOLVE social media and the WWNLive website as simply “Higuchi.” No first name, just “Higuchi.” My question is why? Why does he no longer have a first name? This is a wrestling pet peeve of mine that has bugged me for so long. There are a host of Japanese wrestlers over the years who come to the United States and have their names shortened to just one word: Tenryu, Omori, Tenzan, Funaki, Tanahashi, Nakamura, Naito, Yujiro, Yoshino, Horiguchi, the list goes on and on. Why does it happen? Do wrestling promoters think that American audiences are so stupid that our brains can only process one Japanese name instead of two? I mean, we’re pretty stupid, sure, but we’re not that stupid! And speaking of stupid, why is Higuchi the only DDT wrestler on these WWN shows who is getting his name shortened? You’ve got Konosuke Takeshita, Daisuke Sasaki, Tetsuya Endo, and Soma Takao all being billed with their full names on the website, while Higuchi is the one who gets the shaft. Is, say, Konosuke Takeshita an easier name to pronounce in full than Kazusada Higuchi? Shit no! In fact it’s probably harder because unless your average Joe knows Japanese pronunciations to some degree, chances are he’ll see Takeshita’s name on the bill and incorrectly pronounce it as “Ko-no-soo-kee.” So Gabe Sapolsky, if by some chance you’re reading this, please give the big lug his first name back. He’s not Prince or Cher or Sting; he’s Kazusada Higuchi and he deserves some goddamn respect!
*hold for crowd applause*
Anyway folks, here’s the full card for EVOLVE 125. I hope to see some of you at La Boom and other events during WrestleMania Weekend!
Postscript: A few days before this preview was published, WWNLive finally added Higuchi’s first name to the event webpages and show poster. While I do appreciate Higuchi getting his first name back, I’m going to keep my rant there for everyone to see because his name should never have been shortened in the first place.
EVOLVE Championship Match
Austin Theory defends vs. Kyle O’Reilly of The Undisputed Era
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match
Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy of The Unwanted defend vs. Konosuke Takeshita & MAO
Grudge Match #1
Montez Ford of The Street Profits vs. Shane Strickland of The Unwanted
Grudge Match #2
Angelo Dawkins of The Street Profits vs. Colby Corino of The Unwanted
Must Be A Winner
Darby Allin vs. Anthony Henry
Special Attraction Match
Kazusada Higuchi vs. Curt Stallion
Tag Team Attraction
AR Fox & Leon Ruff vs. John Silver & Alex Reynolds
Special Challenge Match
Harlem Bravado vs. Adrian Jaoude
Other confirmed wrestlers: WWN Champion JD Drake, Priscilla Kelly, Brandi Lauren