Before this Saturday I had never watched an Evolve show, but I had heard of them and I was aware of the ties they have with the WWE.
Thanks to the relationship with WWE a lot of fans were shown the calibre of the talent at Evolve at their 10th-anniversary show, Evolve 131.
1. ‘Retro AG’ Anthony Greene
The opening contest of the night pitted Anthony Greene vs the much larger Josh Briggs, with Greene portraying the heel of the match with his arrogance and manageress, Brandi Lauren, getting involved on his behalf. Greene seemed to have a counter for everything Briggs threw at him, including a backflip out of a chokeslam position, which he finished off with a fakeout of a superkick and proceeded to attack his opponents injured leg. This was followed up by two more chokeslam attempts, both reversed into straight fists to the face before Briggs connected with his finisher to end the match. Greene has fantastic transition ability, shown with a jawbreaker straight into a neckbreaker, as well as a pinning predicament which he immediately transitioned into a half crab after Briggs had kicked out.
There was also a spot where Greene was in an electric chair position on the top rope, setting up for a ‘super’ victory roll, showing great communication between the two performers where he slapped the hands of Briggs to show the move was coming so it could be performed smoothly and fluidly. At only 25 years old, Greene is definitely one to keep an eye on.
2. Stephen Wolf
Picking a winner of the match for this second entry and with the match being a four-way, it would make it hard to pick a stand out. However, Stephen Wolf did stand out, as he was making his entrance and the way he engaged with the fans just showed he’s a star in the making. He then got in the ring and showed what he can do, particularly a tope suicida over the top rope which actually cleared Bravado who was at ringside. Midway through the match, Maluta had Wolf in a front face lock before Stallion came from behind and hit Maluta with a German Suplex, with Stallion sitting up and staring down Wolf created a mini alliance partway through the match. They both got the other two competitors sat in the corners, with Stallion hitting a basement dropkick and Wolf hitting a stalling version of the ‘Hardiac Arrest’ preceded by a forward roll.
They both pinned the other two at the same time, with both receiving a count of two. They stood up, looked down at the Evolve logo on the mat, looked at the crowd, shrugged and engaged in a forearm clash. Wolf reversed an Irish whip by Stallion, following up with a discus elbow to Stallion before he could bounce away from the ropes. Another impressive feat performed by Wolf was when Maluta went to throw him out the ring, with Wolf performing a ‘619’ motion, returning to the ring and hitting a wicked clothesline on Maluta. The finish of the match came when Stallion hit Maluta with a Back Suplex version of the Spanish Fly from the top, Bravado hitting the ‘Straight Cash, Homie’ on Stallion and with Wolf hitting a beautiful ‘Shooting Star Press’ onto Bravado for the win. Considering that Wolf has been wrestling for only 4 years, and has only been with Evolve since April, he has a very bright future ahead of him.
3. Anthony Henry
The second Anthony Henry made his entrance, I could tell this guy was a star. And I was right, confirmed by the announcers when they mentioned his 17-year journey to make it in the professional wrestling world, and further confirmed when the bell rang. I really did want to include both competitors because Ruas was a brilliant antagonist to the plucky babyface, but Henry just pipped him at the post for the more impressive competitor. This would be expected as Henry has 14 years of wrestling experience over Ruas. 30 seconds into the match, Henry was bleeding from the bridge of the nose and just set the tone of the match and from an in-ring standpoint, they put on what is my favourite type of match with heavy strikes and fast-paced offence.
On top of his striking ability, Henry showed incredible submission skills and agility, hitting a strike in the corner and backflipping onto the top rope, as well as transitioning from a pin attempt to an ankle lock, the move that led to the pinfall was a picture-perfect double foot stomp that Finn Balor would be proud of. At one point in the match, both competitors went for a kneebar of their own, but instead ended sitting up and just hitting some brutal slaps to each other, with their legs intertwined. Both men then stood up and just starting laying in the strikes with Henry coming out on top. Unfortunately, Henry did lose after Ruas hit an absolutely brutal spin kick to pick up the victory.
4. Shotzi Blackheart
I seem to really like losers…however, Shotzi was gracious in defeat. Every indie wrestling fan loves a punky wrestler, and Shotzi is one of the punkiest I’ve seen. Bright green hair and tattoos make her stick out compared to her opponent, Brandi Lauren. Her wrestling ability also helps that. She jumps from the start by Natalia Markova being put at a disadvantage straight away but still manages to thwart the attempt and remove Markova from the match.
She starts to get the offence in on Lauren, trying a Shiranui on the apron, but Lauren appears to sandbags it to prevent the move. She also takes an absolutely wicked spill onto five chairs stacked up as she goes for a suicide dive to Lauren, who is sat on the top chair. But Lauren is moved by Anthony Greene causing Shotzi to crash into the pile. She did lose after Greene handed Lauren a kendo stick and just went to town, picking up the three count. Despite her loss, she is a very captivating wrestler to watch and clearly a fan favourite, showing great strikes and fluid wrestling ability.
5. AR Fox & Leon Ruff
I couldn’t decide between Fox and Ruff; these guys are absolutely lightening in the ring and so captivating to watch. From what I gathered listening to the commentators, Ruff was trained by Fox, and you can tell. The styles between the two are so parallel, they work so well together with stereo dives to start this match and multiple stereo kicks to both opponents. Not only did they hit stereo dives, but Ruff also hits an impressive double springboard plancha to the outside, with Fox one-upping him, hitting a springboard imploding 450 splash to the outside.
With opponents as big as Gacy and Kingston, you can expect that they dominated most of this match, targeting Ruff. They did have flashes of brilliance. One move that caught my eye was Fox hitting a seated springboard Spanish Fly to Gacy who was sat on the top rope. The match came to an end with a beautiful sequence of hard-hitting moves, starting with a crucifix slam from the top to Kingston by Ruff, who then decided to Tope Con Hilo over the ring post onto Gacy through a table. Fox hits Kingston with a 450 splash for the win and then follows with the best match-winning celebration I’ve seen in a while with Fox, Ruff and their entourage dancing to their theme music. An absolutely captivating team and the new Evolve Tag Team Champions.
Every single superstar that performed on this show is brilliant, and this exposure will give every person a new lease on life. But these five wrestlers, in particular, are definitely the ones to watch. They are people I, personally, will be keeping an eye on and in my honest opinion, I think these competitors will be in NXT very, very soon.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!