Evolve 125 recap & review: The system, shocked

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The show begins at the scheduled bell time with Lenny Leonard and “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi in the ring to welcome us to the show.

Adrian Jaoude vs. Harlem Bravado

Bravado keeping his distance early but Jaoude closes right in. Harlem blasts him with a boot and beats on him for the audacity to take him to the mat, before taking the Brazilian to the mat himself. Adrian back at it, legsweep into an armbar, looking for his opening, wrenching away at the Globetrotter’s wrist and using it as an opening to go after the leg but Harlem cuts him off.

Straight Cash Homie denied, Jaoude decks him with a kick and picks the legs…

Adrian Jaoude wins by submission with the cross heel hook.

An absolutely dominant performance from Jaoude, who’s very quickly become one of the guys I most look forward to seeing in Evolve every month. Not a super lot to this match, but well-executed and a good solid opener. Although, side note, can we get Max Cavalera in to sing over Jaoude’s theme? It’s a good solid Roots-era Sepultura riff, but it ain’t the same without Max’s war bellow over top.

Curt Stallion vs. Kazusada Higuchi

Collar and elbow, a brave Stallion testing his strength against the ex-sumo and very much finding himself wanting. Higuchi locking him down with a hammerlock, shrugging him off when he gets away and gets a shoulder block. To the floor, Kazusada keeps hammering away but Curt stays defiant, refusing to just stay down. Higuchi cuts off a dive with a BRUTAL forearm and moves on to simply trying to tear his head out of socket.

Stallion throwing hands, asking for one back and boy howdy he gets it, crumpling to the mat! But Curt won’t stop, throwing chops, grabbing a cobra twist, shifting to the octopus hold but Higuchi makes the break! German suplex denied, Kazusada throws one himself, and right back to trading strikes with the same effect! Off the ropes… STALLION GETS THE GERMAN SUPLEX ON THE BIG MAN!

Fired up, charging in, big boot, knee strike in the corner, lining him up for a huge hesitation dropkick! Double stomp to the feet, double wrist-clutch DDT… NOPE! Trying a jackknife, Higuchi rolls through, up into the Canadian backbreaker and he shakes it in only for Stallion to escape! Higuchi pasting him with chops, Curt manages to stay on his feet and his eyes fill with fire as his spine straightens with resolve and he gives ‘em back hard enough to get the sumo man’s approval!

Chop for chop, slugging it out, Higuchi with a running lariat, scoop him up, running powerslam… STILL NO! Stallion with the Air Raid Crash neckbreaker… NOT ENOUGH! Curt slips out of a chokeslam, Ode to Luigi… KAZUSADA HIGUCHI KICKS OUT OF THE HEADBUTT! Stallion up top… NOBODY HOME ON THE DIVING HEADBUTT! Higuchi takes his head off with a lariat! Lying in wait, sumo stomp… POUNCE!

Gutwrench…

Kazusada Higuchi wins by pinfall with the Doctor Bomb.

Holy hell this was great. With the early going I was kind of expecting a squash of sorts, but then Stallion refused to die and got the German suplex and I was IN! This is the best stuff. Cannot wait for Higuchi vs. Drake tomorrow, them big boys are gonna tear the roof off La Boom

We get a video package about Josh Briggs’ victory and then the man himself comes to the ring on crutches to talk to us.

He says he was in the most pain he’s ever been and he was worried about ever being able to walk or wrestle again, but we supported him and because of us those worries didn’t matter. But not a lot of folks know what happened to get him out of the building, and they were worried he was going to be stuck there until the show ended, and the crowd did something incredible.

They banded together and parted the Red Sea so he could be carried out, and he hopes we realize how special that is to him. Because of all of us he was able to get to the hospital in time, and no matter what he does in his career, how great it becomes, nothing will be more special than that moment right there, so from the bottom of his heart, he respects each and every one of us more than we’ll ever know.

But as a token of his gratitude, when he comes back, when he’s 100%, he’s going to win the Evolve Championship!

Enter Austin Theory. He runs Briggs down for not even being able to do his own finish without getting hurt and KICKS HIS LEGS OUT FROM UNDER HIM! Austin picks up the crutches and mock hobbles around for a bit, acting like he dislocated his own hip before straightening himself up. BUT JOSH IS BACK ON HIS FEET! HE DROPS THEORY WITH A CHOKESLAM AND SENDS HIM RUNNING!

Beaver Boys (Alex Reynolds & John Silver) vs. the Skulk (AR Fox & Leon Ruff)

Reynolds and Fox to start, jockeying for position with a bit of grappling, AR blocks an Ace Crusher as things get heavy and we switch over to Ruff and Silver. Johnny in control on the mat, choking Leon out but the Skulk man turns it around with an arm drag that counters a one-arm press slam! Trading shots, Ruff busts out a big dive, holding his own but Alex manages to cut him off and get a two count.

Beavers in control, working Leon over, Ruff gets his openings and they cut him off, big nearfall off a press drop into an Ace Crusher! Leon Frankensteiners Silver into Reynolds, reaching, crawling… TAG MADE! Fox in hot, lariats aplenty, flips abound and he completely sells himself out diving flat into the crowd! Coast 2 Coast takes the Meat Man out, back inside for the cover but Alex breaks it up!

Reynolds nails him with a superkick and gets a deep three, double whip but a dropkick from Ruff derails the double-team! Pump kick in the corner, setting Alex up top, Lo Mein Pain denied and Silver gets under him for a powerbomb / leg lariat combo! Leon alone again, flapjacked into an uppercut but Fox is in before they can follow and hits a springboard Ace Crusher on both of them!

Back elbow in the corner, blind tag from Reynolds, strike combo from the Beavers into a German suplex and a jackknife pin… NOPE! Jockeying for position, Lo Mein Pain connects, senton atomico from Ruff, Fox back up top…

The Skulk win by pinfall with the 450 splash from AR Fox on Alex Reynolds.

So this was fun! I’m still not a huge fan of the Beaver Boys but I’m starting to see the appeal– this was basically junk food wrestling, spot after spot after spot after spot. Not as much heart or storytelling as I’d like, and lord, Reynolds still looks SO clunky sometimes, but a solid match.

Anthony Henry vs. Darby Allin (There Must Be a Winner Match)

Henry bails, but Allin won’t let him run and he dives right after him! A trip outside gets Anthony back and fighting, jockeying for position on the apron… SUPERPLEX FROM DARBY BUT HENRY ROLLS RIGHT INTO A BRAINBUSTER! Throat first over the ropes, suicide dive, Henry heads up top to capitalize… NOBODY HOME ON THE DOUBLE STOMP! Yoshi Tonic connects, trading covers, the Lethal Lover gets the Last Supper on!

A kick blocks Darby’s own attempt at his finishing hold, revolution TKO, Tenryu Powerbomb… SO CLOSE! Allin rallies, Henry counters with kicks, double wrist clutch… HE KICKS DARBY’S HEAD IN AMERICAN DRAGON STYLE!

Anthony Henry wins by referee stoppage due to repeated and merciless stomps to the head.

Well, there was definitely a winner!

So, I couldn’t recap that quite as thoroughly as I’d like and it was a bit less epic than I’d maybe been expecting, but it was pure beautiful brutality and I enjoyed every minute of it even if I’m not totally sure how satisfied I am by it. And further, if the Darby title story IS well and truly dropped, I’m glad Henry got to look so dominant here, hopefully en route to a feud with big time babyface champ Josh Briggs once he’s healed up and claims the title.

Post-match, Brandi Lauren attacks Priscilla Kelly and stands tall over her fallen body!

Angelo Dawkins vs. Colby Corino

Street Profits mocking Corino’s size before Dawkins goes to work throwing him around like a sack of potatoes, including a revolution Karelin lift! Stirring the pot, but Colby hits Meteora and gets going, hammering chops, charging elbows! Angelo back at it, Stinger splash, wiping him out with a lariat, pop-up…

Angelo Dawkins wins by pinfall with a spear.

This was fun for what it was but didn’t really amount to much.

Angelo gets on the mic and asks if that’s it and throws down a challenge that JD Drake answers! He says he doesn’t show up to sign autographs, he shows up to put in work, and they’ve never locked horns one on one. He wants somebody with the same heart, grit, and work ethic, and he thinks he’s looking at him. He polls Queens if they want a title match and we’re off!

Angelo Dawkins vs. JD Drake (c) (WWN Championship)

BIG BOYS TRADING CHOPS AND THEN FOREARMS RIGHT OUT THE GATES! Testing strength with shoulder blocks, drop down, leapfrog, HUGE dropkick from Dawkins! Big suplex on the champ and we go to the floor for more clubberin’! Pop-up haymaker connects and I think Drake just knocked Angelo out cold! ONE OF HIS HEADBANDS GOT STUCK TO THE ROPES IN THE PROCESS! Back inside, somehow on his feet but JD slams him and hits a senton to follow.

Trading chops once again, a knee into a sliding lariat is almost but not enough to put Dawkins away. Again clubbing away, stereo lariats, Angelo manages a pop-up drop to get the champ away from him! Spinning Stinger splashes, one-handed bulldog… NOPE! Drake landing shots, Dawkins gets the spear… NOT ENOUGH TO WIN HIM THE TITLE! German suplex from the champ, Dawkins lands on his feet, big right hand, JD hits Drill Bit… STILL NO!

Asking why he won’t die, charging in, Drake thinking Frankensteiner?! NO, DAWKINS WITH THE CHOKESLAM! Gasping, panting, running low in the reserves but their hamhocks still land hard! Champ’s had enough, block a charge with a knee, off the ropes, kick to the gut, Stunner! CANNONBALL! Drake fired up, heading up top…

JD Drake wins by pinfall with the moonsault to retain the WWN Championship.

This was a really good match, just two big boys pasting each other over and over and refusing to give. Dawkins has really developed over his time in Evolve and this match against the Blue Collar Badass is proof of that. Nothing fancy but he’s good for a down-home clubberin’, if you will.

Evolve’s 10th anniversary show is announced for July 13th at the ECW Arena…

AND STOKELY HATHAWAY IS HERE!

He says it’s not what we think, he hasn’t been released, it’s only been a few weeks. WWE and Evolve asked him if he’d return for one day only, and he said sure, on one condition, that he could change the main event to include him, and all parties said “absolutely not”, so given a second option, he wanted to come back to say goodbye. He remembers going to Axxess last year and knowing that he had one chance to impress WWE officials and here he is signed by NXT and that wouldn’t have happened without Evolve.

So here we are, Evolve 125, WrestleMania week, Queens, New York, La Boom, and Stokely Hathaway will probably cease to exist in the next few weeks, so he had to come back to say goodbye and thank you.

Montez Ford vs. Shane Strickland

Ford jumps Strickland during entrances and we’re off! Brawling on the floor, Shane takes control, but Montez gets back inside and takes a sip of his cup before hitting the over-the-post tope con giro! Colby Corino running interference with a chair and the King of Swerve cuts Ford off with ease during the distraction. Wrist control stomps, rolling through into an armscissors, turning it into an arm-trap Fujiwara armbar and wrenching Montez something unholy!

Pressing the attack, grinding him down, but Ford gets a few kicks in and manages to rebound with a strike rush into a back suplex! Standing moonsault for two, Strickland gets a Tiger feint kick in the corner but Ford nails him with kick to block a rolling thunder maneuver! Powerbomb from Swerve, a kick, Montez recovered, thinking about it… EVEREST GERMAN SUPLEX! Falling lariat but Shane pops up into a double stomp before both men end up down and out!

Strickland recovers and turns his wrist tape into ersatz fist tape but Ford falls down and referee Brandon Tolle takes the tape from him before he can strike! Stepping over Ford’s back but the NXT man sinks his teeth into Shane’s fingers! Strickland with a German suplex, rolling thunder Ace Crusher connects this time! Up top, Swerve Stomp… MONTEZ FORD KICKS OUT!

In the corner… FORD GETS DUMPED FACE FIRST INTO THE APRON ON HIS WAY TO THE FLOOR! Montez gets Shane caught up in the ropes, guillotine leg drop, up top…

Montez Ford wins by pinfall with a frog splash.

This was somehow lacking some kind of spark or escalation to make it truly great but it was really damn good all the same. Maybe it just needed the arm work to pay off more? Regardless, these lads put the work in and it was a fun watch even if it was a bit “your move, my move” in places.

Konosuke Takeshita & MAO vs. the Unwanted (Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy) (c) (Evolve Tag Team Championship)

Kingston and Takeshita to start, Eddie happy to wade in and brawl but one chop for the KO-D Openweight Championship sends the War King running! Switch to Gacy and MAO, circling, the DDT man making the choice to test strength before dropkicking Joe to the floor! Taunting, leaving Gacy frustrated, MAO cuts him off on his return and the challengers run a double-team! Joe back body drops Konosuke to the floor and the champions take over, isolating MAO!

Working him over at length, but a dropkick and a big pop-up leg lariat get Takeshita the tag! In hot on Gacy, HUGE flying lariat, Eddie running interference and the DDT man snaps off a DDT, appropriately enough! The tag champs drag him out of the ring to beat on him before MAO hits a tope con giro on both of them! Back inside, frog splash… NOT ENOUGH! Tag to MAO, right hands, a distraction, an eyepoke, a scoop and a slam sets him up… SPLIT-LEGGED MOONSAULT FOR TWO!

German suplex into a cover but Joe breaks it up! Kingston hits a backfist, exploder suplex, another after Takeshita pops right back up but it’s not enough to keep Konosuke down. Back suplex, Takeshita lands on his feet, stereo kicks from the challengers into a straight suplex and a tag, 450 splash… JOE GACY BREAKS IT UP! Crescent kick to follow, handspring caught and Konosuke drops him with a Blue Thunder Driver!

True uranage from Kingston, 360 enzuigiri from MAO, discus lariat from Gacy, match breaking down, everybody doing something cool but MAO kicks out! Uppercuts, MAO with a Stunner to back him off, set up in the corner, he charges into a boot and eats an elbow into a backfist but Eddie’s not legal and the cover comes too late! Powerbomb lift, Gacy off the ropes with a neckbreaker but Takeshita breaks it up!

Trading shots with the former CZW World Heavyweight Champion, Kingston decks Konosuke with a lariat but now MAO is up and fighting mad with chops for both men! Gacy gets his handspring Ace Crusher, Eddie with the backdrop driver, Joe slides in for the cover…

The Unwanted win by pinfall with a backdrop driver from Eddie Kingston on MAO to retain the Evolve Tag Team Championship.

This was a hoot and a half! It got a little slow in the middle section with MAO as face-in-peril, but it got super hot in the last section and overall just ruled. Special shoutout to Kingston making it immediately clear just what a big deal Takeshita’s strikes were from the jump, too, that dude is just incredible.

Austin Theory (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly (Evolve World Championship)

Theory stalling and begging off early, into the feeling out, some extended grappling, reversals and tests of strength and so on, O’Reilly settling on a side headlock as his hold of choice and sticking with it. Cocky Theory wastes his time taunting and KOR keeps the advantage, leaving Austin with an arm injury as he bails to the floor. Back inside, into the striking, rolling thunder attempt… KYLE PICKS HIS LEG INTO A HEEL HOOK OUT OF MIDAIR!

Again Theory is sent running, knee off the apron, back inside and this time the rolling thunder blockbuster connects! Cutthroat choke, back elbow, trying to keep O’Reilly off-balance but again his cockiness is his undoing as a one-foot pin gives Kyle a chance to recover. Not enough of a chance, though, as Theory stays on him and crushes him in the corner, suffocating him.

Double stomp into the pull-up suplex, shockingly close! Overhead elbows into a top wristlock, back suplex but Kyle lands on his feet and starts throwing hard shots. Risen, charging in, just hammering the champ, butterfly jackhammer, float over into a butterfly DDT and then a butterfly Impaler for two! Ankle lock applied, just trying to kitchen sink Theory into defeat, he catches a kick… REGALPLEX ALMOST DOES IT!

Austin gets under him, buckle bomb leads to trading shots, stereo kicks and both guys manage to stay on their feet! Ax, Smash denied, superkick connects and a second one as well but KOR picks the knee into the heel hook. Kicked off, Penalty Kick but Kyle’s going so fast he crashes out of the ring and onto the floor! Trading shots, forearm-for-forearm, wobbly-legged and Theory pulls ahead and hits the Argentine powerbomb… O’REILLY KICKS OUT RIGHT INTO APPLYING A TRIANGLE CHOKE!

DEADLIFT… BUCKLE BOMB! BRAINBUSTER OVER THE KNEE! NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP KYLE O’REILLY DOWN! Theory jawing, saying HE’s the guy that’s gonna shock the system and he can do it all day… ATAXIA COUNTERED! Rolling through, trading pins, no good! Rolling elbow, leg pick, back to the ankle lock, now with a grapevine! THEORY FORCES THE BREAK! Austin decides he’s had enough and grabs the title to leave!

KOR chases out after him and returns him to the ring! Back inside, duck a belt shot, rolling elbow! BRAINBUSTER! RIGHT INTO THE ANKLE LOCK WHEN HE KICKS OUT! Austin kicks him out, Kyle stops himself from crashing into referee Brandon Tolle, DDT onto the belt… KYLE O’REILLY KICKS OUT! Underhook…

Austin Theory wins by pinfall with Ataxia to retain the Evolve World Championship.

So this was another in Theory’s recent line of just excellent title matches, built around his cockiness and cowardice as Kyle O’Reilly outwrestled him at just about every turn. Really good stuff.

Theory goes to attack post-match AND RODERICK STRONG AND BOBBY FISH ARE HERE TO GET KYLE’S BACK AND THEY COLLECTIVELY LEAVE THEORY LYING!

Strong gets on the mic and says they like to have tricks up their sleeves but this isn’t right and Kyle O’Reilly should be your new champion right now. Adam Cole wanted to come but he’s resting up so he can whoop Johnny Gargano. Fish takes the mic and calls Theory out, saying now he understands that the Undisputed ERA is not to be screwed with, and he doesn’t know how many of this realize this, but Kyle and he STARTED Evolve. So although this thing tonight didn’t pan out, the Undisputed ERA will still step in where it’s needed and that is undisputed.

O’Reilly says using the title shot was actually everything Undisputed ERA is all about, but the difference is they’re friends and Austin doesn’t have any, so this is not the last we’ve seen of the Undisputed ERA and he also says the thing.

Overall

This was a hell of a way to kick off WrestleMania weekend for Evolve. All three title matches were great, as was Higuchi/Stallion, and even what might be, at a glance, the biggest letdown of the night in Henry/Allin, still managed to rule just because of how damn violent they were, even if maybe it wasn’t the most satisfying match of the evening.

Storyline-wise, Allin seems about done and Henry is ascendant, Undisputed ERA are looming over future shows (and perhaps doing something at the 10th anniversary show from the sounds of it?), and the Unwanted have proved their tag title victory wasn’t a fluke, even if maybe Corino and Strickland had bad nights at the office by comparison.

Check it out on WWNLive, folks, whether as an individual purchase or at no additional cost through your Club WWN subscription.




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