For the first time ever, Evolve Wrestling is LIVE on the WWE Network, and that means opportunity. At the Evolve 10th Anniversary Show aka Evolve #131 dreams would be realized, titles would change, and aspiring superstars would have to sink or
swim in front of a worldwide audience.
Before the opening match a video package plays featuring many NXT and WWE stars talking about what Evolve means to them personally. This is a nice way to start the Evolve 10th Anniversary Show, but also the only thing tonight that reminds of a WWE run event. Although it’s on the Network, the Evolve 10th Anniversary Show is seemingly run like an Evolve event from top to bottom.
Josh Briggs vs.”Retro” Anthony Greene with Brandi Lauren
Briggs dominates early until outside interference from Lauren slows his momentum. Greene hits a suicide dive to the outside but is caught with a chokeslam on the apron. Briggs lays into Retro AG with more boots than an Ugz store. Briggs then attempts a Splash Mountain Bomb from the top but it’s reversed into a victory roll. Briggs quickly counters with a chokeslam lift into a massive power bomb for the win.
Post match the audience is shown an Unwanted Video Package featuring Eddie Kingston and his crew. Kingston is a loose cannon and I love it. What a great character. Kingston states, “You may not know us, but you will. You can ask all your little NXT supa-stars about me cuz they know me and they know what I can do. And they will see what the Unwanted can do.” Love it.
4 Way Free Style: Sean Maluta (The Unwanted’s newest member) vs. Curt Stallion vs. Stephen wolf “Leader of the Pack” vs. Harlem Bravado
The pace is fast and furious in this four way. Wolf shows howl long (pun intended) he can fly through the air with an impressive senton. Stallion follows suit. Lots of team work from Wolf and Stallion before they eventually face off. Former CWC competitor Maluta interjects with a flying code-breaker. Wolf continues to impress throughout with a 619 attempt and a blue thunder bomb. The match ends with a series of finishers including a Spanish Fly, Fairy Tale Ending and finally a quick shooting star from the high flying Wolf for the win. This is my first time seeing Wolf and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him moving forward.
Arturo Ruas (formerly Adrian Jaoude of NXT) vs. Anthony Henry
This one reminded me more of an MMA bout than a wrestling match. Early on Henry’s nose is busted or perhaps broken. The ref is constantly checking on Henry throughout. Henry may have been seeing stars throughout the match as Ruas wears him down with multiple grapples and submission attempts. Henry hits several double stomp variations but misses a tornado DDT attempt as he is way too far from the ropes. Nerves may have been high during this one, but the second tornado DDT attempt connects. Just as Henry begins to put a steady comeback together he is met with a vicious spinning kick from Ruas.Ruas does not hook the leg but lays on top of his opponent for the win. I think this one took a lot out of both men.
NO DQ Match: Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart
Right as the match begins there is a sneak attack from Natalya Markova who is apparently working with Brandi Lauren. Brandi stays on outside. Shotzi hits the 619 on Natalya then takes out both of her opponents with with a suicide dive. Shotzi is busted open early (hopefully not another broken nose). Brandi finally hits some offense using multiple chairs. I have to say nearly all of Brandi’s offense was purely based around chair attacks and tossing her opponent into the ring posts.
Shotzi did nearly all of the heavy lifting. Shotzi attempts a Sliced Bread Number 2 attempt on the apron which fails miserably as Lauren is dead weight. Not cool, because I was excited for that spot. Retro Anthony Green emerges out of nowhere to help Brandi and even helps her avoid a diving attack onto 5 chairs from Shotzi. Shotzi absolutely eats it as she flies into five chairs on the outside. It was absolutely brutal. Ouch! After a flurry of Kendo stick strikes by Lauren, Shotzi is unable to kick out. That being said, Shotzi certainly has my respect after this one.
“The Unwanted Son” Colby Corino w/ Sean Maluta vs. Babatunde
The 6’10” giant from NXT towers over the much smaller Corino, son of former ECW Champ, Steve Corino. Babatunde dominates early. Nothing Corino throws at him even phases the big man. Corino is finally able to get some offense by catching Babatunde in the ropes. Corino piles on the quick strike offense, but is met with a massive splash in the corner. Babatunde hits a running elbow drop and a big splash for the quick win.
Eddie Kingston cuts a promo on Babatunde. Kingston says Babatunde did it the wrong way. While he’s a former football player hanging out at the performance center in WWE, his guys did it the right way. He says his PC was 237th Street and even takes a jab at the Street Profits (a team The Unwanted previously defeated). This guy is gold on the mic. The Unwanted make their way towards Babatunde, but AR Fox and Leon Ruff make their way out for their Evolve Tag Team Championship match opportunity.
Leon Ruff & AR Fox vs. The Unwanted – Joe Gacy & Eddie Kingston for the Evolve Tag Team Titles
This is where the Evolve 10th Anniversary Show really picks up. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a two on two tornado style tag match. The pace is fast and smooth like that of an NXT Takeover match. The crowd is really into this one from right the get go. Ruff and Foxx are human highlight reels with dives to the outside, flips, and kip ups. Joe Gacy showcases his amazing agility with a phenomenal back-handspring AceCrusher off the ropes (a personal favorite spot of mine). Kingston hits a superplex into a tandem powerbomb from Gacy. The Unwanted set up for another top rope tandem attack but Foxx hits an incredible Spanish Fly on Gacy. As If this match couldn’t get any better, Gacy sets us a table on the outside. Ruff hits the Ruff Ride on Kingston after Fox hits a coast to coast. Ruff then dives OVER the top turnbuckle onto Gacy and through the table. Fox hits a 450 splash on Kingston for the win.That is how you do a tornado tag match my friends. Congrats to the new Evolve Tag Champs Fox and Ruff.
Matt Riddle w/ Curt Stallion v. Drew Gulak
The two competitors who know each other so well start off with a very technical style as one might expect. Lots of back and forth throughout, with more reversals than The Cha-Cha Slide. Gulak hits a powerful superplex but RIddle is able to kick out. Riddle answers with a “Penalty Kick” but Gulak escapes. These competitors are going strike for strike, hold for hold. Riddle goes for the Bro-mission and arm bar, but Gulak makes it to the ropes. Shortly thereafter hits an amazing deadlift suplex lifting Gulak from the apron over the ropes. Riddle continues to up his game as I’ve really come around on the King of Bros. Riddle goes for a moonsault variation but lands inside of a Gu-LOCK! Riddle uses his strength to lift Gulak and hit the jumping tombstone piledriver for the win! Great match.
Post-Match Gulak grabs the microphone and shows tremendous respect to Riddle. Gulak also warns Stallion to be prepared to fight Riddle at the next event.
Next up, we’re treated to a surprise appearance from as Mr. Paul Heyman is at The Evolve 10th Anniversary Show. The crowd goes bonkers with chants of “ECW” An emotional Heyman states that he is honored and privileged to be at this particular event. Heyman says the he asked to be here because he wants to see the future of this industry. He’s right about that. Heyman gives Evolve the proverbial rub and ring announces the title vs. title matchup.
Austin Theory (Evolve Champion) vs. JD Drake (WWN Champion)
Pre-match Heyman comments on how Evolve has some pyro, and not even WWE has pyro! The crowd chants, “We want Pyro!” something I’ve been clamoring for, well, what seems like for forever!
I digress. Both men go for finishing move immediately to no avail The 300 pounder, JD Drake shows some agility early with a dropkick on Theory. Theory injures his hand on a strike that meets the ring post. The men fight up and down the ramp, but then go strike for strike back in the ring. Theory gets some momentum with a rolling thunder dropkick with incredible height. The big man Drake impresses with a suicide dive and a Vader Bomb!! Theory kicks out!
Theory then hits a rolling thunder blockbuster, but it’s not enough. But wait, did Theory just break his nose? I think the broken nose count at this point may be up to three! Regardless, Theory lifts the 300 pounder and delivers an impressive “Around the World” spinning-slam. Drake kicks out and hits a stunner that Theory hilariously oversells. Drake continues the offense with a cannonball and a moonsault. Theory still kicks out. Both men struggle to get to their feet as they trade punches. Drake misses another moonsault but is invited to a superkick party courtesy of Austin Theory. Theory hits his swinging complete shot finisher, “Ataxia” to win and unite the WWN and Evolve Championships.
“Theory 2 belts” throws down the WWN championship and raises the Evolve title. He states that now everyone has to go through him. The lights go out, and Josh Briggs appears in the ring. Briggs delivers a massive chokeslam and raises the Evolve Title.
The Evolve 10th Anniversary Show main event tonight is…
Akira Tozawa vs. Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) for the NXT Championship!
Before the match starts, you already know this is gonna be a good one. Both of these competitors are so fluid. Lots of back and forth early, and lots of risks taken by the former Cruiserweight Champion. Cole hits some vicious kicks early, but Tozawa answers with quick strikes of his own. In fact, both men hit more kicks than the FIFA World Cup Final — kicks eventually made both men collapse on the mat. Cole hits plenty more offense on Tozawa, but the Cruiserweight continues to kick out. A frustrated Cole grabs the NXT Championship and looks as if he’s going to hit his opponent with it.
Out of nowhere Gargano comes walking down the ramp to the surprise of coal. Keep in mind we haven’t seen Johnny Wrestling on NXT TV for weeks. Akira rolls up the NXT champ off the distraction, but Cole kicks out. Tozawa hits an amazing 360 enziguri and goes to the top. The Challenger misses his diving finisher from the top as Cole gets his knees up. Cole quickly hits the jumping Canadian Destroyer into the Last Shot to retain his title.
Post match, Gargano walks into the ring and seemingly challenges Cole to another match. Cole isn’t having it. Cole exits as Gargano checks on Tozawa. Johnny Wrestling takes the mic and calls for cheers for Tozawa. He goes on to say that, “Profesional wrestling in 2019 is pretty friggin’ cool.” Gargano thanks the crowd for making it all possible. Gargano then goes onto give the proverbial rub to the Evolve roster dropping names like Josh Briggs, Shotzi Blackheart and more. Really nice moment and super classy move by one of the best in the world right now.
Evolve 10th Anniversary Show Final Thoughts: It’s always fun to get a sneak peak at the future of this business. There are apparent flashes of brilliance from guys like: Kingston, Gacy, Theory, Ruff, Shotzi, Fox, and Wolf. It’s funny how we used to see NXT as the future, but let’s be honest — NXT is already top tier. With a flurry of new hungry talent coming out of Evolve, we may have very well just witnessed the immediate future of NXT. As a matter of fact, Evolve may very well become the NEW NXT. Only time will tell.