It’s been a tough month for Evolve. Between leaked emails and broken relationships, the focus has moved away from the ring and towards the shenanigans behind the scenes. A move that I can’t imagine they are that happy about. However, with a big main-event between Keith Lee and Matt Riddle, there was a chance that Evolve 94 could start to correct that slide. Let’s dish out those stars.
Dominic Garinni defeated Rayo
That was quick. Garinni kills him in seconds. There’s not much more to say.
Chris Dickinson defeated Jason Kincaid
Dickinson followed the same tactic as Garinni by going straight after Kincaid. It’s a smart piece of storytelling as it makes Catchpoint feel like a team all working from the same songbook.
This was a fun sprint. Kincaid has a great move-set, and he’s never dull to watch. He’s a wrestler who excels when taking a beating and makes the people he’s in there with look strong, which was very much his job here. He got a few flashy spots in, but this was a showcase for Dickinson, and he looked solid. I struggle to get emotionally attached, but between the ropes, the guy can go.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Post-match The End came out and destroyed both wrestlers. They’re made up of Odinson, Drennen and Parrow, men I know nothing about.
Austin Theory defeated Brandon Watts
Another fast match both regarding the pacing and the time. The focus was on Austin Theory but, like Kincaid, Watts shone while taking a beating. There were a couple of moments where he perhaps oversold Theory’s offence (there was a shoulder block that sent him spinning through the air), but he did his job well and had a few sweet moments himself.
Theory is a guy with a lot of upsides, but from whom I want a bit more. He was fine here, but when given the opportunity to shine fine doesn’t feel like enough.
Verdict: Two Stars
Once again The End hit the ring for a beatdown. Theory escaped, but Watts fell victim to them. They are going all in on making these guys look dangerous tonight.
Darby Allin defeated Jarek 1-20
I gave Watts and Kincaid credit for taking a good beating, but few people get the crap beaten out of them better than Darby Allin. He might not have a long wrestling career, but damn it’s going to be exciting.
All of which made him starting this match-up with some grappling an interesting story-telling beat. It’s a sign of his growing confidence in the ring, and it’s a simple but effective way of getting that across. It was only when Jarek 1-20 (stupid name) showed himself to be an equal (if not better) grappler that Allin went back to what he does best.
It was also when this match got interesting. The use of the stage raised the brutality, and they worked in the space between it and the ring nicely. Jarek hitting a superkick to a flying Allin was particularly vicious.
Sadly, just as the match felt like it was heating up, it was over and done with as Allin picked up the victory with the Last Supper. It was fun while it lasted, but it didn’t have the time to shine.
Verdict: Three Stars
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Once again The End comes calling. Allin managed to hold them off for all of two seconds before they powerbombed him on the stage. They then proceeded to beat up some ‘production’ staff. Nasty men.
Tracy Williams defeated Fred Yehi
A hot start from the former partners as they threw strikes before going to the mat. This was a ground and pound opening which could have taken the heat off, but there was enough aggression behind it to stop it going damp. It helped that whenever the strikes did come both men were leaning into them.
My main take from this match was that Fred Yehi is rather good. He takes that hard-hitting grapple-fest style but twists it enough to stand out on a roster where a lot of people work that way. Even the slight variations to his strikes add so much to his game.
The finish came via a Stokely Hathaway distraction which allowed Williams to steal the win. This was a fun match while it lasted, but the finish soured it a bit. It’s playing into a broader story, though, so we can’t be too harsh.
Verdict: Three Stars
Jaka stormed the ring to call out The End for attacking Dickinson. Sadly, he didn’t get his wish and instead Zack Sabre Jr made his way to the ring. There is little to no downtime between these matches, and it makes this very easy to watch.
Jaka defeated Zack Sabre Jr in a non-title match
It might not have been who he asked for, but Jaka used his anger to come out hot against ZSJ. This was another match where the blows sounded stiff, and Zack hit a wicked looking Penalty Kick on the outside.
Back in the ring, Zack began to grind down Jaka as he went after the leg. Enough has been said about Sabre’s grappling that I probably don’t need to add any more, but he is of course wonderful. On this occasion, Jaka was able to fight out, and he and Zack went back to trading blows. There was a slap exchange which made you wince just to watch it never mind what it must have been like to be involved.
All of this worked to set up the story of the match. Zack was looking to go to the mat, while Jaka wanted to stand up and trade blows. Both men are capable in the other’s world, but to truly succeed they wanted to be playing in theirs.
In the end, Sabre would be drawn into another strike exchange with Jaka in which he would gain the upper hand. However, just when it looked like he might come out on top with a couple of vicious slaps followed by a PK, Jaka bounced up and hit a heel kick followed by a sit-out powerbomb to get a win over the Evolve champ. This was easily the best match on the show to this point and a massive victory for Jaka.
Verdict: Four Stars
Keith Lee defeated Matt Riddle in a Last Man Standing match for the WWN Title
I don’t like Last Man Standing matches. However, I do like both of these men so I was intrigued to see if they could make it work.
Continuing the theme of the night we started with a strike exchange as they exchanged elbows before Riddle hit a suplex. Lee popped straight back up and tossed Riddle across the ring. Matt tried again, this time with a German but Lee wasn’t staying down. The message was clear; you ain’t outmuscling Keith Lee.
This was all part of a fantastic opening stretch where Riddle tried everything to hurt Lee, but at best caused superficial damage. Even the Bro 2 Sleep followed by another German only put Keith down for a few seconds as he caught Riddle off a bro-ton attempt and hit a colossal powerbomb instead.
If I covered everything they threw at each other during this stretch, we’d be here all day. It was a mixture of incredible agility and pure power. Lee was able to absorb the kind of damage that would have downed twenty lesser men and Riddle was more than happy to give it to him.
The problem is that the stipulation (as it always does) got in the way. A ref counting to ten is not exciting. It doesn’t have the thrill of a pinfall, and it broke the flow. I know both guys need a break when working this style, but the Last Man Standing stip isn’t the way to let them have it. It even took away from the finish as no one seemed to think it was incoming despite a Ground Zero from the top. Without the classic 1-2-3, everyone forgot it was likely to end.
Despite all my complaints, there’s a reason Riddle and Lee are two of the hottest wrestlers in the world right now, and a bloke counting couldn’t ruin what was still a fantastic match. Keith Lee is a star and Evolve putting a title on him is a smart move after the chaos of recent times.
Verdict: Four Stars
I’m by no means an Evolve devotee. In fact, I think this is the first full show I’ve watched since WrestleMania weekend. However, with their recent issues, I wanted to give them a shot and see what was actually happening in the ring. All things said I enjoyed it. It didn’t really take off till the final two fights, but when it did, it flew. I don’t know if this was enough to turn me into a full-time lover of Evolve, but I’ll definitely be checking out 95 in the next couple of days.