7/13 EVOLVE 10th Anniversary WWE Network Special Report: Fann’s report on Cole vs. Tozawa, Riddle vs. Gulak, Theory vs. Drake, Babatunde vs. Colby Corino

By Rich Fann, PWTorch contributor



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FANN’S EVOLVE 10TH ANNIVERSARY REPORT
JULY 13, 2019
PHILADELPHIA, PA.
 AT 2300 ARENA
STREAMED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK

Announcer: Lenny Leonard

The show kicked off with a profile of Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and Drew Galloway, who each talked about their contributions to EVOLVE and their thoughts of the promotion ten years in as highlights played of each in the promotion. The show then cut to Lenny Leonard, surrounded by the Evolve talent, who departed the ring. Josh Briggs remained in the ring, and announced that he would be taking his opportunity and dared his opponent Anthony Greene.

(1) Josh Briggs vs. “Retrosexual AG” Anthony Greene (w/Brandi Lauren)

Greene and Briggs met in the ring, but that did not last long, as Briggs began to toss Greene around the ring. Briggs and Greene then spilled outside the ring, where Briggs choke slammed Greene onto the ring apron. While the crowd chanted “Josh Briggs” Brandi Lauren tended to Greene. In that time, Greene was able to recover and hit a superkick on the apron as well as a springboard cutter.

As Greene took control, Leonard mentioned the road Greene took to get an EVOLVE contract. Lauren was able to get in a shot to Briggs’ throat. Greene then ran into a lariat by Briggs, and a series of Yakuza kicks in the corner left Greene on wobbly legs. A Briggs backbreaker only resulted in near fall. Briggs was then shocked by Greene kicking out of his reverse Razor’s edge into a sitout bomb. Greene hit an enziquiri, which only enraged Briggs, until the second had the big man on wobbly legs. Green then slapped a half crab on the 272 pound Briggs, who made it to the ropes for a break up.

Greene rolled through a 450 attempt as Briggs moved away, then hit another enziguiri and a snap german to the second rope. AG then climbed to the top rope again, but ate a right hand from Briggs, who then set up for an avalanche version of his reverse razor’s edge. Lauren held Greene’s leg, which resulted in her ejection from the ring. While this occurred, Greene hit a second rope roll for a close 2.9.
Briggs then nailed Go To Hell, and after a series of reversals hit his Choke Bomb for the win.

WINNER: Josh Briggs in 11:53 by pinfall (***)

(Fann’s Analysis: Really good opener – Briggs’ size and AG’s movement was a great matchup, and their match was a solid introduction to the non WWE talent on the show.)

A video package from EVOLVE 130 played, and highlighted the Unwanted (Joe Gacy, Sean Maluta, Colby Corino & Eddie Kingston) and their quest to take over EVOLVE.

(2) Curt Stallion vs. Sean Maluta vs. Stephen Wolf vs. Harlem Bravado

This match was under first fall wins rules. After all the competitors had a brawl in ring, the action spilled outside, where Stephen Wolf hit a tope con hilo, Stallion hit a Frosberry Flop and Maluta hit a somersault senton to the collected wrestlers outside.

Back in ring, Bravado pulled the ropes open as Wolf ran to send him flying outside. Bravado hit a combo neck breaker and ddt on both wrestlers. The action then broke down into each wrestler paired off, with Wolf and Stallion teamed together. Both went for stereo covers, and both Maluta and Bravado kicked out.

Wolf and Stallion chants began in the crowd as the two fan favorites squared off with forearms, kicks and rolling elbows. After the ring cleared again, Wolf went to the top rope, but was cut off by Bravado. Maluta went to take advantage, but Stallion hit a top rope springboard Spanish fly, and incapacitated them both.

In the din, Wolf (still on the top rope) hit a shooting star press for the win.
WINNER: Stephen Wolf 9:21 by pinfall (**)

(Fann’s Analysis: Lots of action, with Maluta and Wolf really stood out throughout.)

A preview of Anthony Henry and his style aired.

(3) Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas

Both men went for knockout shots early, with Ruas going for more ground based assault and Henry went for kicks. After a ref break, Henry went for the arm bar and Ruas reversed. At some point in the exchange, Ruas looked to have broken his nose.

Ruas went for a leg trap, but was reversed into an arm bar. Ruas then lifted Henry and slammed him onto his head, getting a near 3 count. After a flip, Henry got to the top and nailed a top rope dropkick onto Ruas – followed up with a stomp and another armbar attempt. The story mid match was Henry, who wanted to send a message to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Ruas took a powder to escape, but Henry followed, and nailed a running knee from the apron to the floor.

Back in the ring, Ruas hit a pair of knees to the head, then a front kick for a near fall. Ruas then ducked a kick, nailed a kick of his own and a German suplex for a near fall. At this point Ruas was frustrated with Henry’s resilience and slammed the mat several times.

Henry twice attempted a tornado ddt, hitting the second attempt – and followed with a top rope double stomp, which Ruas kicked out of. Ruas was then put in an ankle lock by Henry, and rolled through into a knee bar. This transitioned to both men slapping one another and getting to their feet before they sent bombs to each other. Ruas then hit a wheel kick for the flash KO pin.

WINNER: Arturo Ruas in 9:50 by pinfall (***3/4)

(Fann’s Analysis: Really good transition into something different than what was shown on the show thus far. Ruas’ style is something that is similar to early Rusev, but with the strong Jiu-Jitsu background he can be a nice change of pace on the NXT roster. Henry was awesome in his role as well – and the finish being a flash knockout pin – complete with Henry’s sell of the arm twitch – was phenomenal.)

A video aired of the history between Brandi Lauren and Shotzi Blackheart – No DQ Match

(4) Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren

The bell rang and Natalia Markova hit Blackheart from behind. “You wanted a no DQ match, you got it” shouted Lauren as the pair assaulted Blackheart. Blackheart began to fire back on Markova, as Lauren sat outside the ring to watch the fight. Blackheart hit a top rope dropkick to Markova, who fell outside as well.

With both opponents on the floor, Blackheart hit a suicide dive and landed on the pair. With both on the ground, Blackheart grabbed several chairs from under the ring. “E-C-W” chant rang out as Lauren attempted a suplex onto the chairs, but was stopped by Blackheart. A superkick to the head put Lauren onto a chair, and Blackheart followed with a flying clothesline. Because the rules were no DQ and not falls count anywhere, Blackheart tried to get Lauren back into the ring. After an exchange, Lauren hit a powerbomb onto the apron and rolled Blackheart into the ring for a two count. Both women then went to the apron, where Blackheart attempted to Shirunai on the apron, but Lauren bent awkwardly and both tumbled to the floor. Back on the floor, Blackheart searched for more chairs to assail Lauren with, as the ref checked on Lauren, who twisted her neck in the aforementioned apron move.

When Blackheart went to dive onto Lauren, Anthony Greene came out of nowhere to save Lauren, which resulted in Blackheart taking a nasty bump onto five chairs. Stallion then hit the ring to remove Greene, but Lauren found a kendo stick under the ring to hit Blackheart with multiple times and then got the pin.

WINNER: Brandi Lauren in 9:47 by pinfall (***)

(Fann’s Analysis: Good match that got ugly late between the neck bending on the shirunai and then the chair bump. The refs escorting Blackheart to the back immediately was not a good sign.)

After the match, a preview of upcoming EVOLVE shows aired.

(5) Babatunde vs. Colby Corino

Corino opened with a few hits to Babatunde’s chest, which did nothing. Corino then was thrown around the ring, outside of the ring, and then had his soul chopped out of his chest. Babatunde attempted to return to the ring, and Corino hit a knee to the head. With the ref distracted, Maluta hit a superkick and Maluta staggered into the ring and ate a springboard swanton from Corino.

On the top rope, Corino leapt into a double choke, and was thrown into the corner. Babatunde then squashed the younger Corino in the corner, slapped his chest again and nailed a splash/elbow combo for the win.

WINNER: Babatunde in 3:11 by pinfall (**)

(Fann’s Analysis: Babatunde slapped that man so hard I screamed. This was a squash of the best kind, and Corino was a great foil for the much bigger opponent.)

Immediately after the match, the Unwanted hit the ring to jump Bababtunde, and declared he was overrated and was protected by the PC. “My PC was 137th street” yelled Kingston. Before they could jump Babatunde

AR Fox & Leon Ruff hit the ring to start their tag match.

(6) The Unwanted (Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy)(c) vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff – EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match

The match started outside the ring, then back in, with AR Fox on the top rope and hit an imploding 450 to the outside and crashed to the fence/floor area. The ref immediately ran to Fox to check on him, and Fox popped up to the cheers of the crowd.

With the action back in ring, Leonard announced that the tag rules would be relaxed and it would be more of a free for all in this tag match. Kingston and Gacy double teamed Ruff for a near fall and Kingston was beside himself with Ruff who dared to kick out.

Kingston and Gacy began to bully Ruff in the corner, and hit a superplex/powerbomb combo for only a two count. Gacy was now beside himself, and before another tag move, AR Fox returned to save his partner. Ruff hit a spinning DDT on Kingston as AR Fox hit a Spanish Fly on Gacy for a two count.
Kingston hit a head and arm suplex assisted with a Gacy lariat for another two count. Gacy left the ring to set up a table to finally destroy the plucky Ruff. Fox then hit a coast to coast to drop Gacy, and Ruff followed with a dive from the corner through Gacy and the table. AR Fox nailed a 450 on Kingston for the win and the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles.

WINNER: AR Fox in 8:20 by pinfall (***1/2)

(Fann’s Analysis: Really hot match and a great finish. Kingston and Gacy got a great audience to show off his skill and AR Fox and Ruff did really well as their foils.)

Post match, a celebration broke out with the new tag champs and their friends.

The outstanding Catch Point / Riddle video from 2016 aired, and highlighted Matt Riddle and Drew Gulak’s approach to wrestling, the Catch Point philosophy and Riddle’s challenge to Gulak prior to Evolve 131.

(7) Matt Riddle (w/Curt Stallion) vs. Drew Gulak (WWE Cruiserweight Champion) – Non Title Match

Before the match, both wrestlers EVOLVE accolades, their relationship and Catch Point as a stable/philosophy. Riddle was flanked by his protégé Curt Stallion, and Gulak entered with a Catch Point entourage.

Both men started at the bell to test one another. As the pair grappled, Leonard reminded of Riddle’s laissez-faire attitude not gelling with Gulak’s approach to Catch Point. After a few attempts, Riddle took advantage with a hammerlock, as Gulak attempted to counter via wrist control and an attempt at a Gu-Lock was met with a Riddle arm bar. It was for naught, as Gulak was near the ropes.
Back to their feet, Riddle backed Gulak into a corner and hit a few forearms and kicks to the body. Gulak took a chance with a move off the ropes and ate a knee, which got a one count. Riddle went back to the arm and half of the Bro-mission, which also only got a one count for Gulak. Separated, the fans cheered both men.

The pair then switched to a striking battle, and a suplex from Gulak ended that quick. A cravate then slowed the match down for the Philadelphian, who turned the cravate into a snapmare and then a head scissors. Riddle at this point began to attempt to slip out and a penalty kick was missed on the way out, to the chagrin of the “Original Bro”. The pair exchanged powerbombs, with Gulak’s duck of a Riddle knee opened the door for a half crap follow up. Riddle reached desperately for the ropes, and got them.

Riddle then hit a knee for a near fall, and followed with a senton. Riddle went to the top, but Gulak recovered and popped up for a belly-to-back superplex, which only got a 2 count. A roll through led to a Riddle penalty kick, which only got a two count. Riddle at this point looked enraged, and the pair exchanged shots in the middle of the ring. Gulak went for a dragon suplex but Riddle reversed into a Gu-Lock of his own, and then a triangle after Gulak escaped and rained punches from the mount. Riddle then hit a fisherman buster with roll up for a near fall.

Gulak went the apron for some air, but Riddle snuck behind him for a deadlift german suplex back into the ring. Riddle then went to the top for a somersault senton. However, Gulak slipped into the Gu-Lock, and Riddle reversed that into the Bro Derek for the win.

WINNER: AR Fox in 13:39 by pinfall. (****1/4)

(Fann’s Analysis: That match was everything a Riddle – Gulak EVOLVE match should be – great grappling, passion and a desire to win “the right way”. The finish hit in a way that made both men look like a million bucks and this by far was the match of the night so far for me.)

Post match, Gulak ruffled the hair of and the men celebrated their time as members of Catch Point, and as Cruiserweight champion it was an honor. Matt Riddle then did the Catch Point salute, and Gulak said he hoped that Stallion was up to the challenge of being Riddle’s protégé.

A video aired of JD Drake and Austin theory. Bryan Idol then entered the ring as special ring announcer, who coughed several times before the lights went out. When they came on, Paul Heyman was in the middle of the ring. Heyman was greeted with “E-C-W” chants, and he thanked the crowd. He then mentioned he doesn’t do appearances, and didn’t get invited to the show because he doesn’t ever accept. This time however, Heyman said he asked to be there – and the reason was the EVOLVE roster was the future.

A fan attempted to chant, and Heyman shut him down quickly. Heyman wanted to announce the next match.

(8) Austin Theory (EVOLVE champion) vs. “The Blue Collar Badass” JD Drake (WWN Champion) – Winner Take All EVOLVE / WWN Championship Match

The pair squared off, with Drake and Theory going for their finishers early. An Irish whip attempt by Theory was stopped by the girth of Drake and then a dropkick by Drake sent Theory to the floor. Drake attempted a dive through the ropes but was met with an forearm by Theory. Theory tried to follow up with an elbow to the head, but Drake ducked and Theory hit the post.

Drake chopped Theory twice and reddened the chest of the EVOLVE champ. An attempt at a powerbomb was countered by Theory into a backdrop on the floor. Back in the ring, a lateral press only got a one count. Theory got Drake in the corner and chopped him, getting the bigger man fired up. Theory cut off Drake however, and then hit a snap suplex for a two count. Theory then preened and hit a back suplex followed by a delayed standing moonsault for a two count.

A desperation clothesline by Drake got both men to the ground, after Theory berated him with “tell us another sad story” after each of Theory’s punches. Drake followed up with a quick powerslam and both men again returned to the mat

After Theory took a powder to the outside, Drake dove to the outside. Back in the ring, Drake hit a Vader Bomb for a two count. After another series of reversals, Theory hit a rolling blockbuster for a two count. Another attempt at Ataxia was failed by Theory, and Drake got the EVOLVE champ in the corner and rained a pair of chops upon him. Drake then attempted a superplex, but Theory snuck under and hit 3 Seconds Around the World for a 2.9 count. At this point a “Mamma Mia” chant rained down.

Another rolling blockbuster was countered by a mega Stunner by Drake, and then his Drill Bit – which Theory kicked out of. Drake then climbed to the top rope and hit a moonsault for another near fall. Both men then began to trade chops and blows in the center of the ring, with another Ataxia attempt stopped by Drake, who missed a moonsault. After five superkicks, Theory hit Ataxia for the pinfall and the WWN Title.

WINNER: Austin Theory in 16:30 by pinfall (***3/4)

(Fann’s Analysis: While it appeared this was a coronation for Theory, Drake was not ignominious in defeat. That was a great job by both men – and the finish was a little wild, but got the job done.)

Post match, Theory stepped on the WWN title and declared the EVOLVE championship was the gate to where you wanted to go. The lights again went out, and when they came on, Josh Briggs was behind Theory and chokeslammed down the double champion.

Afterwards, a video package highlighted who Josh Briggs is and what he does in EVOLVE again.

(9) Adam Cole (champion) vs. Akira Tozawa – NXT Championship Match

“Undisputed” / “To-za-wa” battle chants dueled to start the match. After an exchange in the corner, Cole backed out and led another “Adam Cole bay bay” chant.

After a few headlock exchanges, Tozawa slipped into a octopus hold. As the match progressed Leonard mentioned Tozawa’s DG-USA history and Cole’s EVOLVE history. Cole snatched the legs of Tozawa off the middle rope and Tozawa took an ugly fall. The ref checked on Tozawa, who shrugged him off and ate a Cole running boot.

Cole then preened and told Tozawa he sucked, which fired up the challenger who rained forearms onto Cole. Cole then elbowed Tozawa to get out of a Samoan drop, which led to Cole leaving the ring. Tozawa hit a tope suicida, then followed with a running senton from the apron to the floor. Tozawa got his ankle trapped in the fence. Back in the ring, Tozawa hit a missile dropkick for a two count as the fans chanted with him.

Cole then hit an enziguiri and a backstabber for two. Cole hit another kick and an fireman carry neckbreaker for a two count. After a pair of kicks, Tozawa hit a kick of his own, then ate a Cole superkick and both men collapsed. A “Zowie Wowie” chant took over the 2300 Arena.

Tozawa was the first to his feet, getting to the top rope. Both men fought there, until Cole fell off. Cole superkicked Tozawa and hit a Ushigoroshi for a near fall. Cole said “I don’t need this” and went for a steel chair. Johnny Gargano ran from the back and stopped Cole, which left Cole open to a Tozawa roll up for a near fall. Tozawa went for a top rope senton, but Cole got his knees up.

Cole hit a Panama Sunrise and a Last Shot for the win.

WINNER: Adam Cole in 13:21 by pinfall (***1/2)

(Fann’s Analysis: Really solid main event. Tozawa became a believable challenger as the match progressed, despite the injury early in the match.)

Post match, Cole told Gargano “I’m the champ, you’re on my time” and left the ring. Johnny Gargano asked for the mic and said he appreciated the “Johnny Wrestling” chants but he wanted to give love to Tozawa. Gargano talked about being at the first EVOLVE show and ten years later being in the ring and live on the WWE network (which got some boos). Gargano said wrestling was cool because of the fans in the audience. Gargano and Tozawa had one question – did the fans enjoy the show, which led to a “Yes” chant and one particularly rowdy fan howling with joy. Gargano said there would be no Tozawa or Gargano without the fans – and to support the wrestlers in the back like they did Gargano and Tozawa. The fans then chanted “We Love Wrestling” and the show closed with Gargano’s theme.

Overall thoughts (8.5): Outstanding show top to bottom. A great way to celebrate 10 years of EVOLVE with a great mix of old talent and new. A little strange to have the NXT Championship as the main event, but given the carrier of the match it makes sense. Only concern were a few of the spots that crashed and burned and the health of the competitors afterwards. On the whole, a great show and definitely seek this show out on the WWE Network.


Contact Rich at pwtdive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.

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