It’s your boy, Pastor Shawn Puff back for another Apostle review for all the smarks out there. This time I was live in Melrose, Massachusetts for EVOLVE 146. I never miss an EVOLVE show and I definitely never miss the opportunity to be there live when they come to Massachusetts. This time around, Rhea Ripley, Tomasso Ciampa & Keith Lee were all in the building for meet & greets, pictures and autographs before and after the show…
Per usual, I had the chance to talk with a bunch of talent on hand and enjoyed a great show. Ciampa even came out and sat a row behind me to take in some of the action at times as well as Ken Doane who I mistakenly took for Dominic Dijakovic and told I loved his match at TakeOver: Portland only to be told he wasn’t on that card, in my embarrassing gaffe of the night. But anyway, without any further ado, it’s time to bask in the glory of The Smark Side.
It seems like every EVOLVE show lately has started with Gabe Kapolsky getting blindsided by someone from the back interrupting him. This time would be different, however, as Stephen Wolf requested time at the start of the show. Wolf hit the ring and called out his opponent for tonight, Harlem Bravado.
They wasted no time in getting into it and since there were no ringside barriers tonight, they took the action into the crowd early on. It was a fast-paced and solid match that really set the tone for the rest of the night. Bravado got the pinfall and he was joined in the ring by his partner in crime in The In Crowd, Retro Anthony Greene, who immediately took the boots to Wolf while he was laid out on the mat. – 2.5/5
Brandi Lauren came out from the back along with the newest member of The In Crowd, NXT superstar Jessi Kamea, who joined them less than 24 hours earlier by helping Brandi pick up a win at EVOLVE 145 in Queens. They talked about how this is their ring and approached a fan in the crowd who happened to be a wrestler from Chicago, no doubt a future EVOLVE signee, who said she was looking forward to fighting Brandi in the future. This led to a superkick that knocked her out of her chair by Brandi followed by Avery Taylor and Natalia Markova rushing out from the back to make the save.
Originally, Kamea was scheduled to take on Avery Taylor in a one-on-one match but it became a tag-team match instead. This is a bonus since any opportunity to see more of Brandy Lauren is alright by me. They started out kind of slow but these ladies showed why they’re the future of women’s wrestling. Brandy just has it. She can work the mic, she’s a dangerous competitor and she has a body to die for. Avery Taylor is most certainly a future star and she really showed out in this one, putting her toughness and athleticism on display.
This was my first up-close look at both Natalia Markova & Jessi Kamea, (I wouldn’t mind being closer to any of these four) and I was impressed with both of them. It ended a little quicker than I would have liked it to have as none of these ladies are hard on the eyes. We got to see a little bit of what each of these ladies brings to the ring, but in the end, Taylor got the pin and the W for her team. – 2.25/5
Next up NXT upstart Brendan Vink made his way to the ring and complained about being the third match on the card. He claimed that he should be fighting for the EVOLVE Championship and that he didn’t ask for this match so he wasn’t responsible for what was going to happen to Leon Ruff tonight.
The Melrose crowd was fully behind Ruff, but that didn’t help him much. Vink showed off his strength and power by tossing Ruff around the ring like a rag doll for the majority of this one. Ruff tried to use his speed to his advantage but it really didn’t work well for him as Vink seemed to just be toying with him the entire match. It wasn’t long before Ruff caught a big boot that nearly tore his head off of his body and Vink improved to 6-0 in EVOLVE while the SKulk helped Ruff to the back, carrying part of the way. – 2.5/5
I guess the Skulk were reattaching Leon Ruff’s head as none of them came out to the ring with Adrian Alanis and Liam Gray for their tag team match against Denzel Dejournette and his mystery partner, reigning FIP Florida Heritage Champion, Jon Davis. For any of you who don’t know about Jon Davis, you need to check him out. He is a beast in the ring. Alanis and Gray earned themselves a shot at the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship along with fellow Skulk members, AR Fox and Leon Ruff after they battled to a double pinfall draw in Queens at EVOLVE 145 and had to be the favorites coming into this one. That is before we found out who Denzel’s partner was going to be.
Dejournette’s in-ring style reminds me of a young Shelton Benjamin while Davis is just straight out brutal. There were a couple of botched moves in this one but nothing to make you turn away. Dejournette and Davis showed unbelievable chemistry and could be a very formidable team in EVOLVE. The finish came when Denzel reversed a hurricanrana attempt by Gray into a torture rack of sorts on Davis’ shoulders, into a spinning sitting powerbomb with Davis getting the win. The big question here is, does this put Dejournette & Davis in line for a title shot now? – 3/5
The first half of the show ended with NXT and Saudi standout, Mansoor taking on Retro Anthony Greene. Mansoor came out to a huge pop from the Massachusetts crowd. Why he isn’t featured more in NXT is beyond me. Also, I need a Retro AG / Zicky Dice tag team in my life. Just sayin’. Book it, Gabe!!
Mansoor showed off his athleticism here with some impressive moves. Greene might be the best heel in EVOLVE right now in my opinion. Half of the crowd was behind Mansoor and the other half was behind AG, who made his name on the New England indy circuit. This was evident by the “Mansoor / AG” chants during the match. We had a lot of false finishes here and it kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. When the final bell rang, it was Mansoor who had his hand raised after a great match that had the crowd begging for more. – 3.25/5
After stretching my legs and getting some fresh air (it was hot in there tonight), the second half kicked off with a women’s match pitting Alyx $ky against the Serpent of Evil, Vipress. This one was a very quick squash match that saw $ky pulling out the win. I found it to be rather sloppy and pretty slow and plodding for a quick match. Add to it that Vipress looked extremely green and this was easily my least favorite match of the night. If you weren’t back in your seats from the intermission, you definitely didn’t miss much. – DUD
At EVOLVE 145 on Saturday night, former partners in the Unwanted, Joe Gacy and Colby Corino squared off in a grudge match that saw Corino pull off the upset and score a pinfall victory over Gacy. This was a rematch contested under “relaxed rules”. I’m still not positive what “relaxed rules” means, but I’m pretty sure it involves no count-outs as these two went at each other on the outside for the first three to five minutes of the match.
Corino looked really good coming off of his victory at 145 and I have to admit, he has improved a lot since he first arrived on the EVOLVE scene. These two tried to kill each for the entirety of this match and it was fun to watch. Corino was looking for back to back wins and put his body through hell in order to do so. Gacy wasn’t having it on this night, however, and made sure he got out of there with a pinfall victory. Rubber match, anyone?? – 2.75/5
Now here is where they turned it up a notch. JD Drake was originally scheduled to face Curt Stallion, but instead, it turned into a triple threat as Jake Atlas was added to the card. Atlas, the first openly gay wrestler signed by the WWE back in October of last year, is the definition of athletic and agile. Curt Stallion is a rising star and it’s no wonder the King of Bros, Matt Riddle gave him his stamp of approval. He might not be the biggest guy in the ring but he certainly can work his ass off. And then there’s JD Drake. One of the best workers on the roster, he reminds a lot of Arn Anderson. Ironically, he hit a spine buster early on that was arguably better than Arn’s and don’t get me started on his chops. Let’s just say, they rival the Nature Boy’s. WOOOOOO!! It’s clear why he was one half of the team known as the Workhorsemen along with Anthony Henry.
This match was absolutely sick. Atlas and Stallion had beet red chests no longer than three minutes into it from Drake chopping the living shit out of them both. The action remained hot and heavy throughout with Atlas and Stallion both flying around the ring. This was most definitely the match of the night up until this point and the crowd really let them know it multiple times during the match. Chants of “This is awesome” and “Fight Forever” echoed throughout the Melrose Memorial Hall and with good reason. If you choose one match to watch from this card, this is the one to see. Drake got the pinfall on Stallion and the fans rewarded the three of them with a standing ovation for an absolutely tremendous match. – 4/5
Now it was time for the main event, but wait!!! What’s this? Keith Lee made an appearance in the ring to allow the EVOLVE crowd to bask in his glory!! He took the mic and talked about how he can’t come back to EVOLVE and just sign things and that he had an opportunity last night that he decided to continue into tonight and that is to announce the main event for the evening. Of course, I got it all on video and left it here for your viewing enjoyment. Bask…
Only in EVOLVE baby!! You’d think they’d want to bring the crowd down after that last match and before the main event, but nope. They extended that high even more. This was great! I just need to find out how to book Keith to introduce my wedding party when I get married.
AR Fox is a legend and Josh Briggs will be one when it’s all said and done. Incidentally, Josh’s wife was sitting right behind me and I overheard one of their friends say that she always makes him sandwiches and if Briggs didn’t win, no more sandwiches for him. That would be enough motivation for the fat kid inside of me for sure.
These two went at it and Briggs even took on the entire Skulk at ringside after they interfered and pulled Fox to safety on the outside of the ring. The moves these two pulled off on each other had me sore just from watching them. It was an all-out war. Briggs might have hit the single best chokeslam that I’ve ever seen. The height he got Fox up to for it was amazing. Then, as if he read my mind and had to prove me wrong, he decided to one-up the last chokeslam with a chokeslam from the top rope to the ring apron on the outside. HOLY. SHIT.
Not to be outdone, Fox hit a cutter over the top rope, to Briggs on the ring apron down to the floor. Fox was flipping and flying all around for this one and so was Briggs. In the end, Fox picked up the win over the current reigning EVOLVE Champion. Guess that means no sandwiches for Josh. – 4/5
After the match ended, Brandon Vink came out and attacked Fox and Briggs. This brought the rest of the Skulk as well as JD Drake out to fend off Vink, who claims he is the next EVOLVE Champion. Once Vink was cleared from the ring, Briggs got on the mic and announced how much of a legend AR Fox is, how great the match they just had was and that he wanted to do it again, this time for the title. Briggs said he would give Fox an opportunity in Michigan at EVOLVE 147 for the EVOLVE Championship.
Overall, EVOLVE 146 was a solid show. While it wasn’t AEW Revolution or NXT TakeOver: Portland, it most certainly wasn’t Super Showdown either.
It was a very entertaining night, that crescendoed with a pair of amazing matches sending the crowd home more than satisfied. EVOLVE will be back in Melrose on June 12th and I’ll definitely be in attendance. But before that, Gabe & Trevin will be in Michigan and Illinois on March 14 & 15 for EVOLVE 147 & 148 and then it’s onto Tampa for WrestleMania weekend. I’ll have reviews for all of these for you either right here or on my podcast, Smarks, Spotmonkeys & Superkicks where ever you listen to your podcasts. Until next time, I’m your boy Shawn Puff and this has been The Smark Side.
Overall = 2.75/5 Bibles