What Is EVOLVE?

EVOLVE (commonly-styled with all-caps, but here-to-fore as Evolve) is a Super-Indie pro wrestling promotion. While headquartered out of Philadelphia, PA, Evolve puts on a majority of its events in venues in other north-east cities (primarily Joppa, MD and Queens, NY).

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Combining top-level independent talent (such as Zack Sabre Jr. and Matt Riddle) and a focus on the athleticism and technical wrestling, Evolve has seemingly taken Ring of Honor’s place in the world of pro wrestling.

In terms of format, Evolve has no tv shows, but instead airs two PPV events on back-to-back nights. They name these shows numerically, and August will see Evolve 90 and 91 happen on August 11 and 12.

Why do people like Evolve?

Simply put, Evolve puts on very good pro wrestling matches, and it manages to allow talent to develop characters while still going light on the sports entertainment theatrics. While the quality of booker Gabe Sapolsky is an on-again-off-again meme amongst fans, 2017 has been a banner year for the promotion.

Most of the year, including WrestleMania weekend, saw Evolve putting on top-to-bottom barn-burners. Unfortunately, the most recent shows have seen a dip in quality, as the promotion’s seen more talent move up to WWE, in a continuing trend.

Also, Evolve features the best talent who works a manager position in the industry right now –- and that includes Paul Heyman – in the phenomenal Stokely Hathaway. Why is Stokely so good? Not only can he jaw with the best of them, but his Twitter account is filled with excellent photoshops working Evolve talent into famous album art. Hathaway represents Timothy Thatcher, as well as the Catch Point faction, which is currently made up of “Hot Sauce” Tracey Williams, Chris Dickinson and Jaka.

So Evolve works with WWE?

I wouldn’t go so far as to call Evolve a farm-system for WWE, but Drew McIntryre, Johnny Gargano, Cedric Alexander and more all wrestled for Evolve before they made it to the houses that the McMahons are building.

Further, talents expected to join the team down in NXT — Donovan Dijak, Lio Rush, and Kyle O’Reilly — all appeared once or more recently in Evolve.

If you want to go back a little bit in time, WWE held Cruiserweight Championship Tournament spotlight matches at Evolve events. Eagle-eyed fans at Evolve 67 spotted Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and William Regal walking out of the show, which featured Chris Hero (nka Kassius Ohno) among many of the above names.

What are the divisions & championships in ROH, and who holds those belts currently?

Evolve features three championships, and one isn’t strictly its own. Its primary title is the (simply titled) Evolve Championship, which is currently held by Zack Sabre Jr.. He won the title from Timothy Thatcher at Evolve 79 on February 25, 2017, ending a 596-day reign.

As the LCD Soundsystem lyrics go, “I was there.” It was one of my favorite matches I’ve seen live.

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Its other title is the Evolve Tag Team Championship, which is currently held by The Workhorsemen, Anthony Henry and James Drake. The duo won the titles on July 8, 2017, in surprise fashion, as the two weren’t signed with the company at the time. They were working in a single-day contract (at the time) capacity, as local talent there to fight then-champs Chris Dickinson and Jaka.

The third title in Evolve is the WWN Championship, which made its debut on April 1, 2017. It was the prize of a six-way elimination match featuring Matt Riddle, Fred Yehi, Jon Davis, Parrow, Timothy Thatcher, and Tracy Williams. Riddle won the title, and is going to defend on August 12 in a match against “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Keith Lee, and WALTER.

Wait, what’s WWN?

The World Wrestling Network (WWN) is the parent promotion of Evolve, Shine, and lesser-known promotions including Full Impact Pro Wrestling (which isn’t watchable) and Styles Battle.

You don’t really need to know that WWN is a thing, unless you’re cursed with needing to access video-on-demand (VOD) content. That was the case when wwnlive.com was the only way to stream the Progress Orlando show.

What’s Evolve missing?

Evolve does not feature any women wrestlers. Sure, Priscilla Kelly shows up to be the American version of Paige and manage Austin Theory, but she’s the only woman outside of ring announcer Joanna Rose who appears in Evolve.

If you asked Evolve, they’d likely say that you can find it in WWN sister promotion Shine. Critics might combat them by saying that this doesn’t stop other indie promotions, such as the U.K.’s Progress.

What about the announcers?

Lenny Leonard does the thankless chores of all the play-by-play and the color commentary. He does it very well, and I don’t think he gets enough credit.

How do you watch Evolve?

So, if you can attend an Evolve show, do it. The tickets are affordable (general admission costs around $20), and it’s always a fun time.

If you can’t, here’s where I talk about the catch to all that goodness.

FloSlam is not a great streaming service, but it’s the only place to stream Evolve PPVs. The biggest flaw of FloSlam is that events take around a whole day — often longer — to hit video-on-demand. So if you’re not watching live, you’re waiting.

And while FloSlam started at $20 per month, new subscribers need to pay $30 per month. so, to explain that, it appears they flip-flopped on new subscription pricing. 

So, while that’s two-times the price of the WWE Network (whose low price is arguably a move to make it impossible for smaller promotions to compete), that’s still less than it costs to stream one ROH PPV, and it includes two Evolve PPVs per month.

Fortunately, Evolve isn’t the only wrestling you get on FloSlam, as Shine, wXw (Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Germany) and International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom (IPW:UK) also stream there. It’s not hard to argue that Evolve is the best of those three.

Watch This Wrestling 28 (7/16–22)

So, so much wrestling. 

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/17
  • AAW: Take No Prisoners Occurred 5/6, hit AAW VOD on 7/17
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/18
  • 205 Live, 7/18
  • A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR TALKING SMACK, REST IN POWER
  • NXT, 7/19
  • Lucha Underground, 7/19
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 2, 7/20
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 5, 7/23
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/24
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/25
  • 205 Live, 7/25
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 6, 7/25
  • NXT, 7/26
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 7, 7/26
  • Lucha Underground, 7/26
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 8, 7/27

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

RIP Daryl

NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

Hiromu Takahashi – along with the fans of New Japan Pro Wrestling – loved Daryl, the stuffed kitty cat that The Ticking Time Bomb carried to the ring. So, as you might expect, Daryl got shredded. The Bullet Club’s Underboss Bad Luck Fale did the dirty work, and it got the biggest heat reaction out of the NJPW crowd I’ve heard in months, maybe years. So, Fale made the most of this, by tweeting the following video.

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Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi

NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17

Prior to its start, the big story of the G1 was the return of Kota Ibushi as Kota Ibushi in NJPW. What does that mean? 

  1. Ibushi isn’t still stuck doing Tiger Mask work.
  2. Ibushi isn’t fighting blowup dolls in Japan’s DDT Pro-Wrestling either.

Why was Ibushi doing all of that, rather than the brilliance we see legit-great stuff under his own name? Well, remember Ibushi’s time in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic? The way Kenny Omega – Ibushi’s long time rival – makes it sound in an interview, Ibushi’s decision negatively effected the chances they had of working more Japan. 

Now, though, Ibushi’s back in Japan and putting his life – specifically his neck – on the line in matches like this Week 1 stand-out with Naito.

Honorable Mentions:

Some notes about the below. If there’s a close-second place match, I’ll bold it, as I do below. And yes, Zack Sabre Jr. Elgin was available a while ago, but its price as a rental on AAW’s VOD service is much more affordable.

  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Michael Elgin, AAW: Take No Prisoners 5/6, VOD on 7/17
  • Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Prince Puma vs PJ Black, Lucha Underground, 7/19
  • Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
  • Large Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

WWE Match of The Week:

Mustafa Ali vs Drew Gulak, 2 out of 3 Falls

205 Live, 7/18

I don’t give 205 Live a ton of awards, but that’s possibly going to change. Now that the going will get the full 10 to 11pm Tuesday night hour (RIP Talking Smack), they’re clearly looking to give that extra time to matches, such as this barn-burner that went a while.

This match continues to tell the story of Gulak’s risk-averse style as a counterpoint to Ali’s high-flying tendencies. Fortunately, the big nasty bump in the match (Drew took a poison ‘rana on the top of his head) doesn’t break the structure of the match, as it could make you think Gulak has a point.

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Redemption of Seth Rollins

Monday Night Raw, 7/17

I have been waiting for this moment forever.

Not only did Seth give Dean get an apology, but also a free shot (which Dean didn’t take!). This is the kind of long-overdue character development that you want from WWE, but rarely expect or get.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 27 (7/9–15)

Because of region-blocking, I’m one of the folks who didn’t get to watch the British J Cup on NJPW World, so while it has tons of stuff that sounds awesome (Riddle vs Ishii included), it won’t be in here.

My PROGRESS binge, if you were curious, is going swell. But with the G1 starting tomorrow, I’m not even sure if I’ll get the J Cup in before August.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Being The Elite Ep. 63, “Hot Topic”, 7/9
  • WWE Great Balls of Fire, 7/9
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/10
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/11
  • 205 Live, 7/11
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/11
  • NXT, 7/12
  • Lucha Underground, 7/12
  • PROGRESS: Chapter 51: Screaming For PROGRESS, 7/15

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/17
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/18
  • 205 Live, 7/18
  • A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR TALKING SMACK, REST IN POWER
  • NXT, 7/19
  • Lucha Underground, 7/19
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 2, 7/20
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

ACH vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page

Evolve 89, 7/9

Sure, this is technically a match, as all comedy matches are. But since the concept of competition was absent, swapped out for flipping the birds to Evolve management, I’m not filing this under the match category.

Still, though, it’s an amazingly fun time. Both men spend the match ripping on tropes, and send Lenny Leonard (one of the best commentary guys in the game) into a fit.

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Walter vs Matt Riddle © for the Atlas Championship

PROGRESS: Chapter 51: Screaming For PROGRESS, 7/15

Sure, PROGRESS’s lack of a live stream creates that same terrible spoilers problem that PWG has, but this match is a banger even if you know who’s gonna end.

This, in part, makes up for a criticism of Riddle I’ve heard over the last week. Some think he has tendency to not sell moves enough, but I gotta say, when he finally does sell hard here, it sure helps Walter seem even bigger for this performance.

Available via Demand Progress.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Darby Allin vs. Timothy Thatcher, Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Fred Yehi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. © for the Evolve World Championship, Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Jordynne Grace vs La Rosa Negra (Shine Nova Championship Tournament First Round Match), Shine 43, 7/14
  • Holidead vs. Ivelisse (Shine Nova Championship Tournament First Round Match), Shine 43, 7/14

WWE Match of The Week:

Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar ©

WWE Great Balls of Fire, 7/9

Before the bell even rung, you knew this match was awesome. Clearly, Brock has bought into Joe in a way he refused to for Ambrose (which almost seems to be vindicated by time?), with the Samoan Submission Machine slamming the beast through an announce table EARLY.

So while the match wasn’t long, it had the strongest effect on me of any on the card. And since it’s not often that a WWE PPV has me screaming, I give this the W.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Exit The Strowman

WWE Great Balls of Fire, 7/9

Did they turn him? No, they did better by allowing Braun to keep his mystique after Roman Reigns attempted vehicular manslaughter on his ass.

Oddly, no video here. Maybe because of the blood? Watch it (again) on the Network, I guess.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 26 (7/2–8)

You’ll notice is that while ROH TV is in my watched list, but it isn’t in my to-watch-list. Why’s that? Their TV shows have been not-great for months and with a massive amount of Progress and NJPW to watch over the coming weeks, I’m trying to use my time more efficiently. Also, I’ve gotten tired of their PPVs and TV episodes not lining up because of their pre-tape schedule.

Also, a belated Best Non-WWE award to The Bachelorette for the Kenny King vs Lee The Racist feud. So while I love Kenny King now, and he won an ROH TV title #1 contender’s ranking this week on ROH TV, that’s still not enough for me to keep watching that show as it is these days. If ROH TV somehow improves its shows, then we’ll see if they can get the rose again.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • Progress: Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Being The Elite Ep. 63, “Hot Topic”, 7/9
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/10
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/11
  • 205 Live, 7/12
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/12
  • NXT, 7/13
  • Lucha Underground, 7/13

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Best of Bros: Keith Lee and Matt Riddle

WWNLive via YouTube, 7/7

This may go as no shock as I am a fan of ~both these guys~, but this is another solid mini-doc from Kenny Johnson. This is the first I’ve seen of a promotion focusing on Riddle’s Altered Bro moments, and the digital effects applied there are great.

Also, this shows off their Evolve 87 match as the must-see it was, as well as giving more spotlight to Keith Lee’s charisma, and attention to the issue of being friendly with someone who’s out to get you. Riddle didn’t show up to aide Lee at Evolve 88, and this could be shown as reason why, with The Bro not wanting his strongest competition at full-strength. Or he’s just a prick like John Cena who doesn’t do anything when his “friends” get attacked.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii, IWGP US Championship Tournament match

New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2

The inclusion of Tomohiro Ishii is one of the things about the G1 Special in the US events that makes me the most jealous, considering The Stone Pitbull didn’t show up at the ROH / NJPW War of The Worlds NYC PPV.

This event gave the LA audience everything I wanted, and then some. Of the matches they got, I preferred his match against ZSJ because you rarely see Ishii in submission matches, and this showed he’s great there too. Also, loved the insane move of ZSJ’s trying to go strike for strike with the walking, talking human version of Ben Grimm aka The Thing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Jay Lethal, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Young Bucks vs ROPPONGI Vice, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm ©, Progress Chapter 50
  • CCK vs BSS, Progress Chapter 50
  • Ethan Page vs Keith Lee, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • Darby Allin vs “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • ACH vs. Fred Yehi for the Evolve World Championship #1 Contender position, Evolve 88, 7/8

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Chad Gable

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

I was split this week on the E’s best match, because both were great, but also predictable. But while I enjoyed Roode being despicable, I cared more about the continuation of Chad Gable’s solo sojourn.

As Gable said in a backstage interview afterwards, the tag division is a little packed at the moment. If they need solid solo matches to get the audiences to care more about American Alpha, so be it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Rap Battle: The New Day vs The Usos

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

The first great rap-related segment in WWE history, and it had bars for days. Haven’t seen it somehow? Find another version than the one below, as WWE left off the best bar.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 25 (6/25–7/1)

With this post, I’ve hit the half-year mark of the Watch This Wrestling project! I don’t know if we’re going to hit 52 editions, because of scheduling changes I made, but after this post goes up, I’m considering these first 25 to be the first half of the year, which I’ll use for a roundup.

The other bit of preamble, anyone else wondering what inspired the WWE to book women’s main events in all three of their major shows this past week? Was it GLOW debuting, or how poorly they did in the previous week? Either way, I hope this emphasis continues, instead of fading away.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/26
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/27
  • 205 Live, 6/27
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/27
  • NXT, 6/28
  • Lucha Underground, 6/28
  • New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1

Upcoming Watch List

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Jaka

Evolve 87, 6/25

I hope that the solid barn-burner that was Evolve 87 doesn’t get lost in the overshadowing nature of NJPW’s #G1USA event, because holy shit it was more consistent than either night of those Long Beach shows. but I loved this match so much.

Why? Because this match showed that Jaka can be a singles wrestler, and a very damn good one at that. The story was simple: don’t sleep on Jaka. Zack Sabre Jr. spent the match evolving from that state of slumber to one of being wide-the-fuck-awake at the guy’s ability.

And to have it end with Jaka, a heel, be sad that he couldn’t get it done, and have it come across as sincere and not ruin his heelishness? Excellent. Love that he was visually stuck inside the moment, which felt natural.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Keith Lee vs Matt Riddle, Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Fred Yehi vs Chris Dickinson. Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Bobby Fish vs Silas Young, ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • Jay White vs Punishment Martinez, ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Juice Robinson, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1
  • Michael Elgin vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1
  • Kazuchika Okada vs Cody, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1

WWE Match of The Week:

Asuka vs. Nikki Cross: Last Woman Standing

NXT, 6/28

First off, the start of this match has a pacing to it that is missing from WWE matches. Sure, they may have just used three headlock tie-ups and a dodged kick, but those moments fit with them analyzing each other so well, that it immediately lent the match some urgency and big fight feel.

I wondered how the stipulation would fit into how the match played out, but since neither is a technical wrestler, it works as a brawl. That also made the finish, an impact move, make sense, even though it didn’t target the legs.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Raw Women’s division in a number one contender’s gauntlet match, Monday Night Raw, 6/26
  • Carmella vs Natalya vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch vs Tamina in a Money In The Bank Ladder Match, SmackDown Live, 6/27

WWE Segment of the Week:

Enzo and Cass Make-up to Break-up

Monday Night Raw, 6/26

This feels weird, but it’s earned. Mostly because of how it succeeded by going completely against the grain. For Enzo to come out there, and humble himself, and own his bullshit, is not what a WWE face does. So often, as a Cageside Seats post pointed out, only the WWE heels make sense, as Cass did last week.

So for Cass to wreck Enzo after his former lil buddy made so much sense, and after falsely forgiving him? That makes Cass a true villain, and it shows they’re going all-in on this.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Dario Cueto finds competition for Son of Havoc

Lucha Underground, 6/28

Not the strongest week for outside the ring content, but this segment had me howling. Why? The show introduced a new character who seems to be from Son of Havoc’s past, one who looks an awful lot like WWE superstar Luke Harper. Not the biggest deal, but it had me screaming.

Lucha Underground can be seen on El Rey and the iTunes TV Store.