WrestleMania Weekend: Evolve 103 Review

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Let’s get stiff. Credit: Evolve

Evolve’s second show of the weekend kicked off with some sad news. The match I was looking forward to most, Darby Allin vs WALTER, had to be changed as Darby was injured earlier in the day. It’s kind of a miracle that doesn’t happen more often over this weekend. You’d think these wrestlers would be dropping like flies. Anyway, it’s still a decent card with a few potential show-stealers and an eye-popping main event.

Austin Theory defeated Keith Lee to win the WWN Title and retain the FIP Title

Sending a big fight out early is a classic Gabe ‘Mania weekend tactic. If one of the wrestlers has a booking elsewhere, it allows them to get there in plenty of time and, with the opener going out live on Facebook, it might entice a few late buys. Although as I wrote this, 24 people were watching it so that might not have happened.

One of the bestest things in the entire world is watching Keith Lee pluck people out of the air. Austin Theory went for a Rolling Thunder DDT at one point, so Lee got underneath him to thrust him into the air. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t stay up there long. He makes it look like anyone could do it and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.

Despite that inconvenience, Theory had a strong showing here. He battled to get Lee off his feet and was wrestling smart. There was no chance he was going to win a power contest with Keith, so he was picking his spots, taking the legs out from underneath him or using Lee climbing to the second turnbuckle to set him up for Three Seconds Around The World.

In the end, Theory didn’t just wrestle smart, he got dirty too. With the ref knocked off balance, he low-blowed Lee and followed up with a TKO for the three. That’s a massive result as the young star gets a win over one of Evolve’s stars and picks up a belt in the process. I do wonder whether this hints towards Lee signing with WWE. After Galloway last year I might be getting paranoid, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Worries aside, this was fine. It felt short while the ending was a bit sudden for a ‘big’ match. I imagine most will like it while none will love it.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Timothy Thatcher defeated Dominic Garinni

Wow, who guessed that Thatcher would come out and demand this was made an Exploding Ring Match? Then that moment when he shoved a firework up Garinni’s arse? That was brutal.

You all know none of that happened. Although there were some stiff strikes involved. The finish came when Thatcher repeatedly slapped Garinni in the face before finishing him off with The Butterfly Suplex. This can’t have gone much over five minutes and was clearly intended to put Big Tim over strong. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have any problem with that. Long live Big Tim.

Verdict: Three Stars

AR Fox defeated Chris Brookes, Jason Kincaid and DJZ

What the fuck happened to Jason Kincaid? Did I miss him having a breakdown? Bloody hippies going mental.

Jarek tried to jump Kincaid during his entrance and was chased off. I forgot to mention that he cut a promo at the start saying he was going to take someone out. Now you know. Can he not just do a magic trick? It wouldn’t help, I’d just like to see one.

I had no idea Brookes was on this card, that’s exciting. It took him all of a minute to start shoving his finger in people’s ears the dirty bastard.

Unsurprisingly, this was a bit all over the place, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  People were diving all over the place, with each one seemingly trying to one-up the last. While there wasn’t much in the way of intricate storytelling, it was jolly good fun.

Annoyingly my stream started playing up halfway through and I spent part of it watching it play out very slowly, picture by picture. I came back in time to see AR Fox pin Brookes with a Fisherman Brainbuster.

The section I missed aside, what I saw was sloppy in an entertaining way. Brookes felt a bit out of place in among the flippy boys, but the other three had fun jumping over things. As a man with simple tastes, it got a thumbs up.

Verdict: Three Stars

Chris Dickinson defeated Mark Haskins

This was going to be Dickinson vs Banks until Banks picked up an injury at Progress. He worked Mercury Rising later the same day, so it wasn’t too serious.

Mark Haskins is Mr Reliable, so if you need a replacement, he’s rarely going to be the wrong choice. When was the last time that you saw Haskins crap the bed? It doesn’t happen often.

He and Dickinson were a natural pairing and presented a very different proposition from the previous match. The flips were replaced by stiff kicks and technical wrestling. The main storyline was Dickinson focusing on Haskin’s leg, taking it out from underneath him and locking it up whenever he got the chance.

It would be pivotal in the finish as Haskins looked to have his Sharpshooter locked in. Unfortunately for him, his leg wasn’t up to it as it collapsed from underneath him. Dickinson wasn’t going to let an opportunity like that go to waste, and a few seconds later Haskins was tapping to the Figure Four Ankle Lock.

Two talented wrestlers went out and did what they do and it just so happens that they are damn good at what they do.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

WALTER defeated Tracy Williams

As mentioned above, Darby being taken out of this dampened my enthusiasm for it greatly. However, by the time WALTER had started chopping the shit out of Williams, I quickly forgot about that. I just love watching that big man murder people.

Not that Williams got steamrolled. In fact, he began to chip away at WALTER. His strikes were finding their mark too which allowed him to follow up with a big backdrop suplex. When that didn’t work, he hit a pair of DDTs (one onto the top turnbuckle) and a splash for a two count.

It was a valiant fight, but it was to prove a futile one. Following that near fall, Williams made the mistake of trying to choke WALTER out. Putting yourself that close to The Ring General for more than a few seconds is never a good idea. He powered out and locked in a Gojira Clutch, this one was over.

I started off in a grump because I’d wanted to watch Darby being sacrificed to WALTER. However, by the finish, I was delighted with what we got. Williams went out there looking to impress and WALTER, well, he impresses just by virtue of being WALTER.

Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars

Munenori Sawa defeated Jaka

If WALTER vs Williams was about two men exchanging massive strikes, then Sawa vs Jaka was about two men exchanging lightning fast ones. This was no less stiff or brutal than the fight that came before, but it came from a very different style of wrestling. It was about speed rather than power.

It also allowed Sawa to show off a little bit more personality There was a point where he laughed in Jaka’s face right before being kneed in the head, there’s a manic streak to the Japanese star that was allowed to shine here. Particularly when he and Jaka were on their knees and began beating the crap out of each other. Going from slaps to punches to headbutts.

This could be twinned with the match before it. Both went around the same amount of time and were spectacles of endurance as the men involved set out to hit each other as hard as possible. It was a lovely pairing to slide into the middle of your show.

Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars

After Sawa left The End attacked Jaka keeping the upper hand on him even when Chris Dickinson and Dominic Garinni came to his aid. They eventually surrounded Stokely Hathaway and were about to end (pun intended) him when Tracy Williams came down and Catch Point regrouped to chase them off. Catch Point are on the same page, for now.

Matthew Riddle defeated Daisuke Sekimoto

Sekimoto seemed perturbed by Riddle not wearing boots and when the ref explained it, insisted on taking his off as well. I love little touches like that, it set up Sekimoto up as a man of honour and made this feel like a big deal. On top of that, Riddle announced that all of his title defences will feature no rope breaks. I hope Sekimoto speaks enough English to have understood that. Otherwise, he was perplexed during this.

Much like Sawa, Sekimoto was given a chance to show more personality here. Early on he challenged Riddle to a sumo contest using his bulk to bully Matt. To contest his size, Riddle started kicking his legs and forcing this to the ground. Flooring a man that thick is no easy task, though.

Which meant that they eventually started smacking each other. Riddle went all out in selling those blows, dropping to the ground after just one Sekimoto strike. When someone as dominant as Riddle sells like that you instantly buy someone as a monster. On a night filled with gruelling stiff matches, they had the gruelliest stiffest match of them all.

I also thought they did a great job of incorporating the no rope breaks gimmick. It’s not something I’ve seen done before, and I was unsure of it, but on a few occasions, it was nicely integrated into the action. None more so than when Riddle ended a sequence by choking Sekimoto as he was wrapped up in the ropes.

In the end, Matt dived into his MMA background for the finish. Two knees followed by some hammer fists on the ground forced the ref to bring things to an end. That’s one hell of a way to make your new champion look like a badass.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Overall Show

An enjoyable outing from Evolve even if you’d struggle to call it a spectacular one. Nothing was awful while at the same time only the main event passed over into great.

I think Evolve’s problem over the course of the weekend was that they were being outshined by the weird and the wonderful. Being good only gets you so far if there is something new and exciting happening across the road.

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