As I mentioned in my Heat Index preview for EVOLVE 131, I’m not all that familiar with the majority of the wrestlers in the brand, let alone do I have memories to look back on for the 10th anniversary celebration. In many ways, I was coming into this event with a blank slate for at least 60% of it—something refreshing for the WWE Network.
But with anything in life, if you don’t give something a chance, you’ll never know whether or not you like it, so I knew I had to check this out and give it my time of day (or at least, as much as I could, given the timing of being on at the same time as AEW’s Fight for the Fallen and before Extreme Rules…yeesh…)
So without further ado, I present to you my reactions and thoughts on each of the matches for EVOLVE 131 that I noted as I watched the event, as well as a general review of the overall event.
The Future is Now Showcase Match: Josh Briggs vs. Anthony Greene with Brandi Lauren:
- Awkward start to just have people in the ring and go into a match after a promo.
- So Josh Briggs is if Josh Bredl lasted past Tough Enough, as far as his looks go.
- Anthony Greene looks like if you put Pac, Peter Avalon and Joey Mercury into a blender.
- I dig that Briggs legitimately seems like he knows this could be his big break and that he wants WWE to notice him.
- Did Brandi Lauren get that fanny pack from Michael Hayes?
- “Retro sucks” – tell that to marketing nowadays, where half of everything is just Member Berries.
- Decent opening match. Briggs strikes me as someone to pay attention to for the future more than Greene. I’d be game for Briggs going to NXT.
RESULT: Josh Briggs wins by pinfall.
Four-Way Freestyle Match: Curt Stallion vs. Sean Maluta vs. Stephen Wolf vs. Harlem Bravado:
- Very curious why Sean Maluta still never got signed, but Raul Mendoza was. Maluta keeps being brought back sporadically, so that’s even stranger.
- Curt Stallion is thin and wiry. I kind of can’t ever imagine Vince McMahon wanting to sign him.
- Stephen Wolf carries himself like he’s already in WWE. I like that. “The Leader of the Pack” and all. I could see him going to 205 Live and being an asset there.
- Admittedly, the match is leaving me wanting more. I don’t want another 5 minutes of enziguris and superkicks. Switch it up, guys.
- Glad that Wolf won. He and Maluta were the two who stood out to me here. Harlem Bravado and Curt Stallion might have something, but I didn’t really see it.
RESULT: Stephen Wolf wins by pinfall.
Grudge Match: Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas:
- It’s pronounced “HOO-ahs”? You learn something every day. I’ve been saying “ROO-ahs.”
- All I’ve seen of Ruas ahead of time was his squash matches as Adrian Jaoude on NXT. It’s strange (but refreshing) seeing him be the focal point here, instead of the loser. He has a lot of energy, which is good.
- This is a bit sloppy, but I like how it’s got more of a “bitter feud” vibe to it with the two of them wanting to beat each other up, rather than perform a series of maneuvers. It’s more of a fight than a dance like some other matches tend to be.
- Henry seems like a good hand, overall. He should be someone they give a closer look to.
- Nice kick at the end.
RESULT: Arturo Ruas wins by pinfall.
No Disqualification Match: Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart:
- They really cut that video package off weird at the start.
- Physical appearance alone, Brandi Lauren looks like they should have her in the Mae Young Classic and sign her to NXT.
- For that matter, Shotzi Blackheart carries herself like she wants to be a star. Bring her into the mix, too.
- No idea who Natalia Markova is, but the more, the merrier.
- OUCH. That dropkick to the chair/face. (Why are you fans chanting ECW? Ugh.)
- Where did Markova go?
- GODDAMN! Shotzi jumping into those chairs! Screw that!
- At the moment, this is my favorite match. Thumbs up, for sure. This is definitely going to be better than Bayley/Bliss/Cross at Extreme Rules.
RESULT: Brandi Lauren wins by pinfall.
Special Challenge Match: Babatunde vs. Colby Corino:
- Stop cutting off the audio so abruptly!
- “I don’t think that was perspiration, I think that was Colby Corino’s soul.” LOL
- Not too much to say about something that’s mostly a squash.
RESULT: Babatunde wins by pinfall.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match: Eddie Kingston and Joe Gacy (c) vs. AR Fox and Leon Ruff with Ayla and The Skulk:
- So they definitely went partially into the crowd by accident.
- What are The Skulk? Or what is The Skulk? Or who are The Skulk? How? Why? When?
- Kingston strikes me as manager material.
- Ruff and Fox are pretty entertaining and could be good additions to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, if they ever do that again.
- Yeah, I’m not digging The Skulk on the side, but I’m cool with Fox and Ruff.
RESULT: AR Fox and Leon Ruff win the titles by pinfall.
Catch Point Reunion Match: Matt Riddle vs. Drew Gulak:
- So Catch Point has its own Spirit Squad?
- I fucking love Drew Gulak. I hated this dude at first, but he won me over multiple times. I want him to be a WWE lifer who eventually is a primary coach at the Performance Center. This guy’s mind for the business is awesome.
- Good match, but to be honest, after watching all of Fight for the Fallen and the other matches before this, I’m underwhelmed from what I thought this could potentially be.
RESULT: Matt Riddle wins by pinfall.
Winner Take All: EVOLVE Champion Austin Theory vs. WWN Champion JD Drake:
- Fill me in on Bryan Idol. This makes no sense to me as an outsider to EVOLVE.
- Oh hey, Paul Heyman. Neat.
- “Oh my god, you guys got pyro. We don’t have pyro!” LOL
- Wait a minute, EVOLVE doesn’t have any count-outs???? First off, why did I not notice that before? Second, why is that a thing?
- 21 years old, Austin Theory definitely has a big future ahead of him.
- If they mention potato chips again, I’m going to have to get some.
- Selling that stunner like you’re Scott Hall or The Rock, eh Theory?
- Very glad Theory won. That felt like it needed to happen.
RESULT: Austin Theory wins by pinfall.
NXT Championship Match: Adam Cole (c) vs. Akira Tozawa:
- Ouch…Tozawa’s head hitting that turnbuckle.
- I like matches like this, where someone like Tozawa gets a chance to shine in a different role than how he’s been used on 205 Live.
- Hey there Johnny Gargano. You’re not going to be as useful of a distraction as you think you might be, because Tozawa can’t possibly win this.
- Told ya.
RESULT: Adam Cole wins by pinfall.
For a federation that is below NXT on the food chain, this was a good show even without the WWE Superstars involved. If this wasn’t on the WWE Network, though, I wouldn’t have watched it, and I would have probably enjoyed it more if I hadn’t already sat through hours of AEW (but that’s not EVOLVE’s fault). Hands down, my favorite match of the night was the women’s match, so take that for how you will. This was no NXT TakeOver event, but it was good enough for a watch and gave me some insight into some talented people who could be popping up in WWE or AEW in the future.
What did you think of EVOLVE 131? Was this just as good or better than AEW Fight for the Fallen? Are there any major prospects you could see being big superstars in WWE’s future? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!