WWE – Evolution 2018 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 190 minutes approx.
The Women’s Revolution in WWE continues with another history making event, this time one of two Holy Grails for them – their own PPV! Granted it was a concession for being left off the two Saudi Arabia shows but let’s be frank, the ladies have earned it through their hard work in taking the bull by the horns and making what seemed like a hokey publicity gimmick work.
Big Steph made the announcement on RAW on July 23rd (referred to on TV thereafter as Steph’s Big Announcement – no really, not THE Big Announcement but “Steph’s” Big Announcement, because, as we know, the WWE narrative is Steph invented women’s wrestling) that this PPV was happening, bringing the women from RAW, SD and NXT onto the stage to celebrate.
Trivia note: Nikki Cross was the only NXT wrestler there as the others were subject to travel woes and didn’t make it on time. Oops!
Unfortunately they didn’t promote this show too well, preferring to focus on the second Saudi Arabia show Crown Jewel which wasn’t a smart move given the controversy and negative press it had garnered. It is also for this reason the show relied on the NXT production team as the usual gear was en route to the Middle East, hence the stripped back entrance way, different camera work and direction, which frankly made a refreshing change from Kevin Dunn’s tired presentation.
Held on October 28th 2018 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York before a legit sell out of 10,900 fans, with commentary from Michael Cole, Renee Young, and Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix. Lilian Garcia was brought back as ring announcer along with JoJo and Kyla Braxton and there was a female referee in Jessika Carr.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
To open the show they had metal guitarist Nita Strauss, who also played Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme at Wrestlemania 34, showing off with some shredding and Van Halen-esque squeals in the ring whilst some Joan Jett wannabe screamed “Evolution” into a mic on the entrance stage.
Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox
Originally to be two singles matches, Trish vs. Alexa Bliss and Lita vs. Mickie, it was soon realised that the veterans would be a bit rusty for a full match so a tag match was made but then Alexa suffered a concussion, so her spot went to Alicia Fox. Despite being a little sloppy in places (mostly down to Fox), the two HOFers looked pretty good here and the fans were happy to show some love for this nostalgia trip so all in all this was a fun opener to the show.
20 Women No 1 Contender Battle Royale
They promised 50 women for this PPV but there were only 38 (40 if you include Alexa Bliss and Brie Bella), most of them crammed into this Battle Royale and many of the spots taken up by “legends”, such as Alundra Blayze, Molly Holly, Ivory, Torrie Wilson, Maria Kanellis(!), etc. A couple of them lasted a long time (clue: one is married to the Undertaker) but as the prize was a future title shot, this was really about the current stars.
In some ways it was sad to see the likes of my Goddess Asuka, Ember Moon and Nia Jax be lumped into this match when they could have had a high profile match elsewhere but those are the breaks. This was another instance where the hot crowd made it more enjoyable. Look out for Carmella’s botched head scissors on Ember and Zelina Vega hitting the floor head first and being KO’d when eliminated! Ouch!
Mae Young Classic Tournament Final – Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm
Presumably, the fans in attendance didn’t watch the tournament on the WWE Network as they were at their quietest during this match – a shame as it was technically the best worked match of the night to top off a superb tournament. However, this wasn’t the planned final – Tegan Knox was meant to be here but suffered an injury during her quarter final match against Rhea Ripley, giving Ripley the de facto win instead, meaning the other matches had to be changed too.
Storm is a well travelled wrestler from New Zealand, almost a veteran at just 22 years old, competing everywhere including Japan where she tussled with Shirai before. Shirai was due to join WWE at the same time as Kairi Sane except she had a concussion at the time of her medical. Better late than never!, Both worked hard and won the crowd over in the shortest match of the night with hard hitting power moves and Shirai’s high flying. Good stuff!
Sasha Banks, Bayley & Natalya vs. The Riott Squad
This was a last minute addition to the card based on the various permutations of attacks by the Riott Squad on the three faces. Great work bell-to-bell following the old school six person tag match formula. Not really much else to say except this was a lot of fun and was a good showing for Squad members Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan who haven’t really had much chance to make names for themselves.
Sadly, there was a bit of a botch when Sasha went for a flip dive but didn’t quite get over the ropes but otherwise the work was crisp enough all round.
NXT Women’s Title Match – Kairi Sane (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Having finally bested bitter rival, former UFC fighter Shayna Baszler at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV for the NXT Women’s title Kairi Sane defends the belt in this rematch. This was the second victory the Pirate Princess has over the Queen of Spades, the first dating back to the Mae Young Classic final of 2017, while Baszler has a count out win from a short TV rematch.
Like their prior matches, this was a mix of hard hitting strikes and submission grappling worked a steady pace to show off Kairi’s tenacity and Baszler’s brutality. The only match on the show with some McBooking to the finish which took the wind of the sails a bit (no pun intended) but it served a purpose for future storylines. Good match as ever between these two.
SD Women’s Title Last Woman Standing Match – Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Yes, this should have been the main event but Rousey is considered by WWE to be the bigger mainstream name so it is what it is. Becky’s popularity had sky rocketed at this point yet they still were trying to portray her a heel on commentary, despite the fans chanting her name before she even came out!
After Becky took a DQ loss against Charlotte at Super Showdown, SD GM Paige booked a No DQ match for SD Live! which ended in a double count-out hence the stipulation for this rematch. As you might expect it was insane, running close to 30 minutes and making use of the relaxed rule to cause some major mayhem. A couple of spots were exposed (Becky couldn’t reach a chair at one point so the ref had to discreetly slide it to her) and a table didn’t break (natch) but, women or not, this was a heck of a violent brawl and a tough act to follow…
RAW Women’s Title Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nikki Bella
…and follow it they couldn’t but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the wrestlers’ part. So, why Nikki Bella? Storyline wise it was because she and sister Brie turned on Rousey after teaming with her against the Riott Squad because they resented her as Johnny (Joanie?) Come Lately champ. The real reason was more likely that Nikki is in two crossover TV shows and is John Cena’s ex.
Luckily despite being a long night and coming off the previous match the crowd stayed with this one getting behind Rousey as a star, whose work is remarkable for some with such limited experience (although her matches are rehearsed ahead of time). A fun way to close what was a great night of wrestling.
I’ve made no secret that I’m a fan of women’s wrestling, going right back to when the likes of Chyna, Trish, Lita, Molly Holly, Victoria, Ivory and Jazz were bringing something different to usual line-up of whichever blonde Barbie doll Vince McSenile was drooling over. I’ve watched a lot of Japanese women’s wrestling, especially the now defunct GAEA promotion, and have championed the current NXT and WWE female rosters, hands down the best talent they’ve ever had.
This show may have been a self-congratulatory night for the McFamily, which was my concern heading into it, but this was about the women, not them, and the fans in the arena felt the same way, making this a great show to watch. This made the women work harder and frankly, there isn’t a bad match on the card and the booking pretty much made sense throughout.
Plus it seems Vince McSenile wasn’t directly involved in this show from being pre-occupied with the Crown Jewel event which was also a boon, allowing the commentators to call the show without his inane orders being barked through their headsets. All of this contributed to making the show over deliver and exceed the low expectations set by the underwhelming promotion it received on TV.
Call me biased if you wish but this was my favourite WWE show of the year hands down and, unlike the Saudi Arabia events where I opined the women’s presence was missed, I didn’t miss any of the male wrestlers at all here. So, what was once considered a gimmick has become a fully fledged reality and with Becky Lynch currently the hottest thing in wrestling today, maybe that elusive final glass ceiling of the main event at Wrestlemania might happen, sooner than we think….
Best match – Last Woman Standing Match
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black