Review: EVOLVE 96- Keith Lee vs. WALTER

To round out the series of articles about EVOLVE I have now chosen to review and in some small manner also compare one of the latest EVOLVE shows to the […]

To round out the series of articles about EVOLVE I have now chosen to review and in some small manner also compare one of the latest EVOLVE shows to the first one. 

EVOLVE 96 was touted as the beginning of a new chapter for the company. As has been discussed in previous editorials the promotion has seen various changes since its inception in 2010. Everything from the loss of the points system, adding of championships, the closing of Dragongate USA and becoming a feeder system to WWE. In some ways it has devolved, mostly when it comes to talent. The new chapter is supposed to, at least, bring new talent to the surface once again. The show was structured in three parts; the first with showcases of new talents, the second with various EVOLVE matches, and thirdly a double main event.

I have taken thed liberty of grading the matches on storytelling, action and moves, as well as an overall score.

The show opens with Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi detailing how the show is going to proceed. Leonard is to me the voice of EVOLVE and it is nice to see that he has managed to remain with WWN for such a long time. He is also, in my humble opinion one of the best commentators active today. He knows the names of the moves ad calls the action with the right amount of excitement. Knowing moves is one the big issues for me and it is what makes people like Mauro Ranallo and Mike Quackenbush stand out. They say that the preliminary matches are there to showcase new talent.

Joey Lynch vs. Dominic Garini

This match comes out of the gate quickly. Garini attacks Lynch with a kick and from there it goes on to be a hard hitting affair. Garini is an MMA fighter and has been trained at the AIW school. He is legit and one can seew it, even though he does not quite have the look of a wrestler. The commentators, Trevon Adams and Timothy Bar, make a point of remarking that Garini is only a year and eight months into wrestling while Lynch has been doing it for fourteen and a half years. The match is nothing to spectacular and ends with Garini putting Lynch in the Mighy Mouse Submission.

Storytelling: 2

Action: 3

Moves: 3

Overall: 3

Shane Mercer/Kyle the Beast vs. Stevie Fierce/Matt Knicks

These tag teams show off some quite common gimmicks which at first makes one assume that it will be a run of the mill match. Mercer and Kyle the Beast showcase their tag team skills with quick tags and several power moves, remeniscent of War Machine. Mercer hits a Moonsault Fallaway Slam for instance. The match is okay, but Mercer and KIB would have benefitted from a team more on their level.

Storytelling: 3

Action: 3

Moves: 4

Overall: 3.5

Stephen Wolf vs. Jarek 1:20

Jarek comes out with some form of illusionist gimmick and plays off it very well in his moveset. It begins with your standard chain wrestling. Wolf shows great agility, like an ACH or Shane Strickland. There are a lot of moves, counter moves, innovative moves and near falls. This is by far the best match of the prelim ones. Jarek 1:20 wins with Domino.

Storytelling: 4

Moves: 4

Action: 3

Overall: 3.75

Featured Card

Non-Title Special Attraction Match

EVOLVE Champion Zack Sabre Jr. vs. DJZ

Sabre Jr. comes to the ring and says that he won the title in February  and that he’s going to end the year as champion. He also says that there are no new stars until they prove themselves against him. DJZ comes out in his futuristic outfit. The match starts out being very technical. Sabre works over DJZ’s legs and arms. DJZ tries some high flying moves, gets caught in an armbar. Very innovative match. Zack Sabre Jr wins with a pinning combination. This could have been better if DJZ would have done those lucha moves he’s been doing on instagram.

Storytelling: 4

Moves: 4

Action: 3

Overall: 3.75

Special Attraction Match

Jason Kincaid vs. AR Fox

Interesting dicotomy between the solitary and subtle Kincaid and the flamboyant Fox with his hype train. Good fluid moves from both competitors. I did have a hard time with Fox in the beginning of his tenure with EVOLVE and DGUSA. It was very obvious that he was being pushed to the moon, and thet he would win most tournaments he was a part of, but after an absence from the promotion it was nice to see him again. Kincaid with inovative offence. Fox hits the Lo Mein Pain followed by a 450 splash for the win.

Moves: 4

Storytelling 3

Action: 4

Overall: 3.75

 Battle Of The Breakout Stars

Darby Allin vs. Austin Theory with Priscilla Kelly

Darby Allin attacks quickly with some impressive moves. Theory catches Allin and slams him into the ringpost. Theory hits his finisher, Allin kicks out. Theory tries it from the top, but Allin reverses into a crucifix bomb. Both these athletes brought everything to the table. The commentators focused on the fact that Theory had an impressive win-loss record. Allin plays the part of tortured outsider very well, whereas Theory is the popular stud. Both these guys have a bright future ahead of them.

Allin wins w/ Last Supper

Storytelling: 4

Moves: 5

Action: 4

Overall: 4.5

Jason Kincaid cuts a promo on Austin Theory, talking a bunch of gibberish. Amounting to that Theory should leave Kelly. She attacks him. Kincaid goes for a punch on Theory but Kelly steps between them and stops it. Kincaid leaves.

EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match

Jaka & Tracy Williams with Stokely Hathaway defend vs. James Drake & Anthony Henry

It is interesting to point out here that Jaka is the only one who looks different. The other three look like your avergae wrestler. This might be part of why Williams has been seen as boring without his Chikara gear. Chris Dickinson is not around to defend his half of the titles. He’s suspended because he snapped at an earlier event. The match starts off hot like most of the matches of the evening. A lot of good and innovative moves. As the match gets going The End interfere and takes everyone out, but Dickinson also comes to the ring and takes out The End. Henry and Drake attack Dickinson and everyone fights.

The End stand tall.

Action: 4

Moves: 3

Storytelling 3

Overall: 3

No Rope Break Match

Matt Riddle vs. Fred Yehi

I must confess that I am not much impressed with Riddle. He seems to be getting a lot of traction within the indys, but I fail to see why. He isn’t very carismatic or fun in the ring and lacks the proper personality. Fred Yehi on the other hand has done the opposite. I saw him at Style Battle earlier this year and the way he moves and his strikes is quite entertaining. The match sstarts with some grappling. Riddle uses the ropes for help. The crowd calls for Yehi to remove his shoes and he does. They move over to a quicker pace. They also move to higher impact moves. Riddle locks in the Bromission for the win. This evens the score between the two, making one assume that they will face each other yet again.

Action: 3

Moves: 3

Storytelling: 4

Overall: 3.25

WWN Championship Match

Keith Lee defends vs. WALTER

I was not quite sure what to think of this matchup. I am familiar with Keith Lee, but have no experience with WALTER. Apparently Austrian he come to the ring to Wagner and dressed in a military coat, very like the ones SS soldiers would wear. Both of these guys are huge and knwoing Lee I would guess that they both will pull off some spectacular moves.Starts with some matwrestling. Two big guys facing eachother. They start slow with a feeling out process. They pick up the pace, but slow it down again. WALTER works over the arm of Lee who has to fight from underneath. The challenger dominates most of the match with both of them hitting dropkicks as well as sick kicks. WALTER tries to put on a sleeper hold, his finisher maybe, but Lee fights out of it. The match ends in several slaps to the chest, but never really gains any intesity. Something is off between the two of them.

Lee wins eins with Ground Zero, quite from out of nowhere.

Action:2

Moves: 2

Storytelling: 3.5

Overall: 2.75

AR Fox comes out and lays out his credentials and challenges Lee. Fox’ crew attacks Lee but he takes them out. He then cuts a promo. 

If one were to compare the first EVOLVE show with Ibushi and Richards in the main event, this latest one falls quite short. All the things that made EVOLVE unique and interesting to start off with has all but vanished. Maybe it is the depletion of talent, maybe it is the make up of matches or something different, but it is evident that this is not the EVOLVE I fell in love with. The question is then; should I do like so many WWE fans and continue to watch a sub par product and whine about it, or do I move on?

C. Marry Hultman runs the website W.A.R.G that promotes popular culture in society, as well as the Wretling Guild podcast with his buddy Nick Anderson.

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