Evolve 130 recap & review: Stand tall and shake the heavens

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The show begins as always with Lenny Leonard in the ring welcoming us to the show and hyping up Evolve 131 being live on WWE Network.

Harlem Bravado hits the ring and complains about not being on the show tonight and declares that he’s gonna be in the opener, and if he can’t make a statement tonight, he’ll gladly leave Evolve forever!

Adrian Alanis vs. Harlem Bravado vs. Stephen Wolf

Wolf and Alanis immediately teaming up to run Bravado off, then Stephen nails the Skulk man with a series of kicks and strikes in the corner to take control. To the floor, Harlem trips Wolf up and Adrian dives on both guys! Back inside, Alanis uses his power to keep the Leader of the Pack on the back foot, but again Bravado plays spoiler.

Harlem going two for one, nearfalls ensue but he can’t put Wolf away! Blasting Adrian off the apron, keeping the pressure up but he still can’t manage a victory. Alanis back in and hammering Bravado with strikes, underhooks, no good, jockeying for position and the big man lays him out with a discus lariat just in time for Wolf to springboard back in!

Cut off, Tiger Driver connects… Stephen kicks out! Up in a backbreaker rack, Bravado with the save, off the ropes and Adrian nails him with a spinebuster. Senton, but the knees are up! Harlem and Wolf at it, the Leader of the Pack hits a moonsault, heads up top, springboard crossbody but it’s no good! Alanis in, Bravado exploders Wolf into him in the corner!

Death Valley Driver almost does it but Stephen breaks up the pin! Off the ropes… TOPE CON GIRO! Back up top, shooting star press but Wolf can’t capitalize! Harlem hits a blatant low-blow on Wolf and another on Alanis and referee Jake Clemons has no choice…

The match goes to a no-contest due to gentleman’s area shenanigans.

So this was a fun opener! Bravado playing spoiler to each of them only for them to both spoil him when it seemed like he might win, a good structure, well-executed, and while a no-contest finish in a three-way is always a little weird, it worked as the statement Harlem promised.

Post-match, two more guys from the Skulk get in the ring but Harlem nails them both in the groin before hitting Straight Cash, Homie on Wolf.

Brandi Lauren vs. Natalia Markova

Markova in charge early, stringing together some combination offense, Ace Crusher into a basement dropkick but Anthony Greene plays spoiler! Lauren with a boot to the face and stomps, covers coming up empty so she just goes for a straight up choke! More choking, over the ropes now, Natalia coming back with knees but Brandi whips her hard into the corner to take control back.

Back and forth striking, spinning wheel kick, Markova still with the momentum edge, X-Factor gets two! Up in the turnbuckles, Lauren with the comeback…

Brandi Lauren wins by pinfall with a diving swinging neckbreaker.

Oof, bit of an awkward landing on the finish there. Anyway, this was solid– it never quite got into gear but they worked reasonably well together and it was an enjoyable match for sure.

Brandon Taggart vs. Josh Briggs

Taggart full of fire early, looking to test himself against Briggs. Collar and elbow, shoving match, shoulder blocks, chest-to-chest, all the standard big man stuff and they end up trading boots! Josh taking control off a series of biels, going for a goozle but Brandon fires off elbows to block! Pressing the attack, firing off chops and more wicked elbows as Briggs gets fired up and shrugs them off.

Going for the corner boot… TAGGART NAILS HIM WITH AN ELBOW OUTTA NOWHERE! Briggs with the comeback, elbow, dump him to the floor, back in and he clobbers him with a flying elbow! Corner boot connects this time, back suplex gutbuster gets a nearfall! Josh counters a discus lariat with a crossbody, backbreaker follows, no good, jockeying for position in the corner… BRANDON TAGGART BLUE THUNDER DRIVER ALMOST DOES IT!

Off the ropes, northern elbow, so close! Taggart trying to put it together, drawing him up, float over another Blue Thunder Driver, goozles, blocking them again and again, straight right to the jaw, goozle…

Josh Briggs wins by pinfall with a chokeslam.

This ruled. Taggart has SUCH snappy elbows and I’m very glad Evolve brought him back here. Just a great 2019 indie hoss fight that brought the athleticism without going overboard.

Curt Stallion vs. Sean Maluta

Jockeying for position in the feeling, soon enough looking for flash pins but Maluta’s had enough and lays a hard chop across Stallion’s chest! But Curt can play that game, too! Sean briefly in control after, missile dropkick gets a nearfall, but Stallion fires back with hard forearms in the corner. Back and forth, Maluta with an Air Raid Crash for another nearfall, chaining kicks, the Samoan Dragon running hot but Curt levels him with a lariat!

Gourdbuster counters, Shining Wizard… so close! Samoan drop, pressing the attack, corner boot, another but Stallion has it scouted! German suplex, around the corner for a boot, corner knee, setting Sean up for the hesitation dropkick! Stomps to the feet, pull-up DDT… NOT ENOUGH! To the floor, Maluta with a cannonball off the apron, back inside for a frog splash… STILL NO!

Kawada kicks, Curt lands a wicked headbutt, staggered but still standing, roll-through, into the turnbuckles, jockeying for position, sidestep the Codebreaker, double stomp, roll-through again, blocked, to his feet, Air Raid Crash… COUNTERED INTO A CRUCIFIX FOR TWO! Curt throws himself into it…

Curt Stallion wins by pinfall with the Ode to Luigi.

Good back and forth match, and even watching on VOD that crucifix counter at the end nearly got me. A rematch with some kind of real throughline would probably be really, really good.

Babatunde vs. JD Drake (c) (WWN Championship)

Testing strength to start, Babatunde with an edge there but Drake has speed and evasion on his side. Nonetheless the NXT man gets him to the floor, big pop-up apron chop and then back inside, more chops! Just two big boys pasting each other in the middle of the ring, Babatunde gets a nearfall off an elbow drop and JD is looking vulnerable. Up top, jockeying for position, and Drake boxes the giant’s ears!

Putting him off his equilibrium, chopping away at his neck, setting up the cannonball! Vader Bomb follows, only two! Wild chopping frenzy, on their knees… here comes the Unwanted! The match gets thrown out!

The match goes to a no-contest.

So, bummer about the finish but this was great fun while it lasted– two big boys chopping away at each other is hard to mess up, and they delivered with aplomb here. Rematch, please!

The Unwanted take Drake out, Babatunde gets Eddie Kingston up but Joe Gacy pulls him away and the big boys club away at the tag champs!

After they run the champs off, Austin Theory calls Drake out and says he defended his title last night and he’s the future of wrestling and the real superstar here.

Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez vs. Steven Pena

Intense grappling to start, Sharkbait in control, shifting to striking, Pena able to block a lot of them but a roundhouse catches him off-guard! But a dive puts Steven in control, back inside, chaining attacks together but he can’t put a fall together just yet and Gutierrez is able to fire back with a wicked knee into a standing shooting star press!

Trading palm strikes, Pena lands a hard backfist! Boot for knee, off the ropes, standing Spanish Fly into a triangle… IT’S OVER!

Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez wins by submission with a Spanish Fly transitioned into a triangle choke.

This Sharkbait guy, my word! Sign him and sign him right now! He trips my 2014-2017 Evolve-as-technical-wrestling-paradise sense so hard, and the more of that flavor we can get back in 2019, the better.

Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas

Before the bell, Ruas gets on the mic and tells Henry to just go home. But if he wants to stay here and take a chance, he’ll do it. Anthony with a shove, Arturo knocks him down and knocks him loopy with a knee strike! Crossleg heel hook, referee Brandon Tolle pulls them apart and Henry rolls out of the ring clutching his knee!

The match never got going.

Josh Briggs comes down and he wants a rematch!

Arturo Ruas vs. Josh Briggs

Briggs charging in, Ruas ducking and dodging, bodyscissors takedown into the kneebar but Josh gets the ropes! Briggs slings Arturo into the corner, across the ring again, but he gets caught into the armbar in the ropes on the charge! A big boot knocks Ruas to the floor after! Arturo lands a knee strike when Briggs tries to dive off the apron, follows it up with a back suplex onto the apron!

Kneeling toehold, wrenching it in, stomping the ankle but Briggs rallies with a corkscrew elbow after some jockeying for position! Boot in the corner gets ducked and Josh eats a 540 roundhouse kick… NOPE! Repeated strikes to the ribs, cartwheel dropkick, still only two! Another boot from Briggs, another two count! Arturo working over the legs, blocking the M5 with a kick to the knee but Briggs goozles him…

Josh Briggs wins by pinfall with a chokeslam lift powerbomb.

So I’m a little disappointed to lose out on Henry/Ruas because I was real fired up for that one, but a) that’s now been announced as happening at Evolve 131 on the WWE Network, and b) this was great. Just scrappy back and forth action with Ruas always coming back to the leg but just not quite focusing hard enough on it to get the win. Good stuff, and hopefully the beginning of Josh’s road to winning the title in September.

Anthony Greene vs. Tyler Breeze

Greene with a head of steam early, Breeze stalling but Brandi Lauren is able to play decider and let her man Hot Shot Tyler over the top rope. Back inside, pressing the attack, elbows, but AG wastes time taunting the crowd and Breeze is able to get a superkick off! But Greene remains in charge, stomping away with a vengeance in the corner, evil intentions on his mind!

Tyler ducks a Bronco Buster and starts his comeback, again Lauren running interference, trading pinfalls and this time Brandi clocks him in the face with a right, schoolboy… BREEZE KICKS OUT! Spear misses, underhooks…

Tyler Breeze wins by pinfall with the Unprettier.

Between his Evolve matches and his retro challenge run in Beyond, has anybody had more big, cool matchups in 2019 than Anthony Greene? I just watched him wrestle the Patriot last night, for Christ’s sake. The Patriot! Anyway, this was, shock of shocks, a real good match that my recap doesn’t quite do justice to.

Beaver Boys (Alex Reynolds & John Silver) vs. Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts & Randy Summers) vs. the Skulk (AR Fox & Leon Ruff) vs. the Unwanted (Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy) (Elimination Match)

Kingston and Silver to start, shifting partners, the Unwanted in control, out for Milk Chocolate and then the fountain of dives begins! Back inside, Fox with evasions, handspring to block the Ace Crusher but Summers superkicks his arm out from under him! Ruff tags in, a combination ending in a lariat nearly eliminates him! Reynolds in, Milk Chocolate wipe him out in turn but can’t eliminate him!

Meat Man legal, buzzsaw kicks, roll-through a backslide and he just destroys Randy with kicks into a brainbuster! Beavers capitalize…

Beaver Boys eliminate Milk Chocolate by pinfall with the double Emerald Flowsion.

Unwanted right in, taking charge but Silver ain’t going down without a fight! The Skulk in for the champs, stereo offense, stereo frog splashes but the knees are up and we get stereo nearfalls! Superkick Party! Chaining strikes on Fox, Ruff saves his mentor, trading pins…

The Skulk eliminate Beaver Boys by pinfall with Ruff Ride from Leon Ruff on Alex Reynolds.

Tag champs taking it right to Leon, but the Skulk turn up the heat and take flight to turn the tide! Coast 2 Coast, Ruff Ride…

The Skulk win, last eliminating the Unwanted by pinfall with a 450 splash from AR Fox.

This was chaotic as hell and a lot of fun– I’m never gonna love the Beaver Boys, exactly, but this kinda match, where they can just… DO stuff and the technical details don’t matter as much, this is where I like them best. And the fountain of dives here is just, it’s some real peak prime-years ROH back when a fountain of dives was still a new innovative thing stuff. A thing of beauty, really.

Post-match, the Unwanted lay the Skulk out for their trouble! Babatunde makes the save, his chest black and blue! He chops the tag champs down and Colby Corino makes the save for his stablemates! AND HERE COMES SEAN MALUTA! HE’S WITH THE UNWANTED!

Austin Theory vs. Roderick Strong

Grappling to start, back and forth, Strong with a bit of an edge and Theory decides to move on to striking. Trading chops, action to the floor, Austin managing to put Roddy into the barricade and raining punches down on him. Capitalizing in the ring, hard whips, drop toehold into the turnbuckles sets up a rolling thunder dropkick for two! Trading strikes, Strong rallies, Olympic slam hits hard but can’t put him away!

Jockeying for position, Theory lands a superkick and follows it up with the crossleg brainbuster over the knee… NOPE! Roddy turns the tables, Strong Hold, Austin slips out with upkicks! Rolling thunder blocked, superplex, roll-through, counter into the Argentine powerbomb… STILL NO! Trading shots again, elbow into a superkick, Theory running hot, underhook but Roddy counters Ataxia into a knee! GIBSON DRIVER! STRONG HOLD! IT’S OVER!

Roderick Strong wins by submission with Strong Hold.

Great match! And that finishing sequence, that’s some prime Roddy of the likes I haven’t personally seen in a while, reminded me very much of his best in the world level Evolve run back in 2014-15 where he was just perfectly on top of his game. And again, credit to Theory, who’s maturing nicely as a wrestler and was able to keep up shot for shot.

Post-match, Roddy promos on Theory briefly before pledging that he’ll win the NXT North American Championship and Fish and O’Reilly will win the NXT Tag Team Championship.

Overall

The first half of this one was okay, but the second half, hoo boy, it delivered and delivered big! From Sharkbait killing it to the three very different and very good singles, to the frenetic action of the tag eliminator, this was a high octane slice of pro wrestling action.

Storyline-wise, we’ve got a couple big pieces in place for Evolve 131 on WWE Network next month— the Unwanted’s war against NXT influence carries on against Babatunde (and the addition of Maluta to get their numbers back up has me quite interested!), Drake and Theory are going winner takes all, and Henry/Ruas is set to go to a fever pitch now after Arturo’s brutal attack here.

Check the VOD out on the World Wrestling Network, whether as an individual purchase or at no additional cost through your Club WWN subscription, folks.




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