Johnny Gargano shocks Adam Cole while Austin Theory tops JD Drake at EVOLVE’s 10th Anniversary Special
PHILADELPHIA — The NXT Championship remains in the grasp of The Undisputed ERA, while one of EVOLVE Wrestling’s top titles sits around a new waist following a historic night of action at EVOLVE’s 10th Anniversary Special.
The event — which was EVOLVE’s 131st show, but was the first-ever to be live-streamed on the award-winning WWE Network — introduced the WWE Universe to the company’s roster of hard-hitting, up-and-coming athletes, as well as featured EVOLVE alumni currently on NXT and 205 Live.
Check out the full results below:
Josh Briggs def. Anthony Greene (with Brandi Lauren)
Josh Briggs vowed to make the most of first WWE Network opportunity, and he wasn’t lying. The burly brawler pounded his way past “Retro” Anthony Greene in a match that brought the fans inside Philly’s famed 2300 Arena to their feet.
Despite the illegal attempts by Brandi Lauren to swing the match in favor of Greene (efforts that eventually got her ejected from ringside) and Greene’s own tenacious attack on his opponent’s knee, Briggs’ smashmouth offense proved too much to counteract. The 270-pounder overcame the obstacles, demolishing the self-proclaimed “old-school wrestler with a new-school feel” with a slew of backbreakers, big boots and a knee to the face before scoring the three-count off an emphatic chokeslam-powerbomb.
Stephen Wolf def. Curt Stallion, Sean Maluta and Harlem Bravado (Four-Way Freestyle Match)
Each wrestler would have benefited from having a set of eyes in the back of his head in this dizzyingly paced free-for-all, as attacks came from every direction from the opening bell. Shortly after the melee began, Stephen Wolf, Sean Maluta and Curt Stallion hit dives to the floor in rapid succession, while Bravado, the veteran of the group, sagely picked his spots throughout the contest, exploiting openings as he found them.
The popular Wolf pulled ahead after a chaotic series of moves landed Bravado at the base of the turnbuckles, squarely in Wolf’s drop zone. “The Leader of the Pack” then soared off the top rope with a picture-perfect Shooting Star Press, and with Stallion and Maluta still reeling from the big hits that occurred moments before, Wolf was free and clear to snare the pinfall victory.
Arturo Ruas def. Anthony Henry
Technique and grit were in high supply when NXT Superstar Arturo Ruas faced fellow martial artist and grappling guru Anthony Henry in an intense grudge match. Although Henry’s sophisticated takedowns and airtight submissions threatened to end Ruas’ night in a loss, the Brazilian Superstar — who has extensive experience in Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai and capoeira — outgunned the former MMA fighter once the fight turned into a slugfest. After a brutal exchange of open-hand strikes, Ruas turned out Henry’s lights (and nearly tore off his head) with a ferocious spin kick for the win.
Brandi Lauren def. Shotzi Blackheart in a No-Disqualification Match
After Shotzi Blackheart and Brandi Lauren’s last match in EVOLVE descended into bedlam and ended in a No-Contest, Blackheart requested their return bout be fought as a No-Disqualification Match. By the time the ref counted to three, however, Blackheart would come to regret that decision.
Immediately after the toll of the opening bell, the powerful Natalia Markova charged the ring and blindsided Blackheart in an attack apparently premeditated by Lauren and Markova. Amazingly, Blackheart overcame the two-on-one disadvantage by wiping out both women with a suicide dive, and then she turned extreme, using steel chairs to batter Lauren.
Blackheart's subsequent attempt to go high risk misfired, however, after Anthony Greene created a momentary distraction, causing Blackheart to crash and burn into a pile of chairs at ringside after she dove head-first through the ropes. Looking to even the playing field, Curt Stallion returned to the ring to clear Greene from the fray, but by then, Greene had already passed a Kendo stick to Lauren, which she fervidly used to pummel Lauren en route to a three-count.
Babatunde def. Colby Corino
Babatunde’s got serious chops — literally and figuratively — as The Unwanted’s Colby Corino found out. The son of former ECW Champion Steve Corino had the unenviable task of facing NXT’s resident monster, who enjoyed an immense size advantage over the young Corino. “The Unwanted Son” hoped that the ringside presence of stablemate Sean Maluta would neutralize the size disparity, but he found no such luck. Babatunde nearly collapsed Corino’s chest with an overhand chop, and after a brief but highflying rally by Corino, he followed up with a gigantic elbow drop and splash for the pin.
As Babatunde celebrated his win, the other members of The Unwanted -- EVOLVE Tag Team Champions Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy -- entered the arena. The notoriously outspoken Kingston ridiculed Babatunde, claiming the big man has had “everything” handed to him at the WWE Performance Center. The group was on the verge of jumping Babatunde, but before they could pounce, out came Kingston & Gacy’s challengers, AR Fox & Leon Ruff, ready for their crack at the tag crowns …
AR Fox & Leon Ruff (with Ayla & The Skulk) def. The Unwanted’s Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy to win the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
AR Fox & Leon Ruff raced off to an incredible start against the rough-and-tumble Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy, relying on fearless, high-risk attacks from the sky to put the champions on their heels.
With all four competitors having agreed to wrestle under “relaxed rules,” there was no tagging in or out of the match, only a whirlwind of action that never let up. That seemed to play into the hands of “The Unwanted King” and “The Unwanted Maniac” when they took over with ferocious double-team moves. Yet, anytime Kingston & Gacy were on the brink of closing the book on the challengers, Fox & Ruff found a new gear, taking down their larger foes with innovative moves at the 11th hour.
Gacy introduced a table in the final stretch of the match, but it came back to bite him in brutal fashion, as Ruff flipped over the top rope and onto Gacy, sending both men crashing through the hardwood. Fox quickly took advantage, downing Kingston with a 450 Splash to rip the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles from The Unwanted and etch a new chapter in the championship’s prestigious history.
Matt Riddle (with Curt Stallion) def. WWE Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak in a Catch Point Reunion Match
Before coming to WWE, Matt Riddle and Drew Gulak were once uneasy allies in EVOLVE’s Catch Point faction. Returning to their roots at the company’s milestone 10-year anniversary, the two Superstars threw down in an epic battle that embodied not only Catch Point’s tenets of “competition, opportunity and respect,” but also EVOLVE’s exciting brand of wrestling.
Riddle and Gulak’s familiarity with each other was plain to see. The WWE Cruiserweight Champion avoided several of The Original Bro’s key moves and created incredible counters, such as when he stopped Riddle on the top rope, only to take him down with a perilous belly-to-back superplex. Later, Riddle dished out some psychological warfare, employing Gulak’s own Gulock signature hold against him, although it fell short of scoring a submission victory.
Gulak scored retribution later on, catching Riddle in his own Gulock when The Original Bro came off the top rope with a twisting splash. The stunning reversal was met in kind, however, as Riddle snaked out of the move and contorted Gulock into position for the “Bro Derek,” the same slam that brought Riddle victory at Takeover: XXV, to defeat the Cruiserweight Champion via pinfall. Although he lost, Gulak was gracious in defeat, calling Riddle a “hell of a competitor” and clasping hands with The Original Bro with a handshake made famous by Catch Point.
Paul Heyman made a surprise appearance, calling EVOLVE Wrestling “the future”
As Bryan Idol, the guest ring announcer for the Winner Take All Title vs. Title Match, struggled to get on with the match introductions, the lights went out, and when power was restored, Paul Heyman, the extreme mastermind behind the Philadelphia-based ECW, was standing in the ring.
Saying he was “honored and privileged to be back home” at the arena that ECW made famous, Heyman praised the EVOLVE Superstars and called them the “future” of the sports-entertainment industry before taking over ring-announcing duties for the Title vs. Title Match.
EVOLVE Champion Austin Theory def. WWN Champion JD Drake to win the title (Winner Take All Match)
Austin Theory is young, brazen and now, without a shadow of a doubt, the face of EVOLVE Wrestling.
The reigning EVOLVE Champion added the WWN Title to his collection after overcoming champion JD Drake in a thrilling, back-and-forth battle. The path to victory was anything but easy, as “The Blue Collar Badass” turned Theory’s chiseled chest into mincemeat with devastating chops and pushed Theory into retreat with his bruising offense. Nonetheless, the EVOLVE Champion stayed resilient, repeatedly threatening to hit his Ataxia signature move on the 300-pounder.
As Drake continued to push the pace, the EVOLVE fans grew louder with each near-fall he claimed. He scored two-counts off a moonsault and the Drill Bit, but Theory escaped a second moonsault attempt, resulting in a rough landing for Drake. Theory then blasted the WWN Champion with three superkicks in a row before finally landing the Ataxia to dethrone Drake.
Afterward, as Theory crowed about his triumph and his status as EVOLVE’s “real Superstar” (all the while stepping on his newly won WWN Title), Josh Briggs arrived to the ring under the cloak of darkness and thrashed Theory with a chokeslam, making it clear that Theory’s path ahead as a dual champion contains plenty of perils.
205 Live’s Stamina Monster gave Cole a tough test to be sure, trapping the champion in the Octopus hold, ramming him with a heat-seeking suicide dive and plowing over him with a cannonball splash. Although Cole scored with several big hits — including clobbering his challenger with a superkick as Tozawa sailed off the top rope — Tozawa stayed focused on the prize. The threat of Tozawa was so immense that Cole nearly resorted to hitting Tozawa with the NXT Title in a last-ditch effort, but his underhanded plan was undone by a shocking avenger in the form of Johnny Gargano!
Johnny Wrestling, who hasn’t been seen since losing the NXT Championship to Cole last month, got the titleholder’s attention, enabling Tozawa to roll up The Panama City Playboy for a heart-stopping near-fall. Tozawa followed up with German suplexes (one snap, one deadlift), but Cole got his knees up when the Cruiserweight went for a top-rope senton, causing Tozawa’s spine to bend in different directions. Cole then wrapped up his defense with the Panama Sunrise and the Last Shot to retain the title.
Gargano confronted Cole after the bell and indicated he was feeling froggy, but The Undisputed ERA front man instead sought high ground. With the NXT Champion out of the picture for now, Gargano grabbed the microphone, offered his assessment of the event (“Professional wrestling in 2019 is pretty friggin’ cool!”) and savored the moment along with Tozawa as the EVOLVE fans chanted “We love wrestling,” a fitting end to a historic night.