31st Oct2018

‘WWE Evolution 2018’ PPV Review

by Phil Wheat


Welcome to our WWE Evolution review, right here on Nerdly. I’m Phil and this is the first WWE Pay Per View to feature an entirely female line-up. A huge night for the WWE but one that was marred by the focus more on Crown Jewel during the lead up to the event.

Match #1: Trish Stratus & Lita def. Mickie James & Alicia Fox

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

WWE Evolution kicked off with a blast from the past, as Trish Stratus & Lita defeated Mickie James & Alicia Fox in a remarkable showcase by the two WWE Hall of Famers. Trish & Lita, who provided one of the very first sparks of the Women’s Evolution, used uncanny teamwork to take down two fellow pioneer Superstars. Historical significance and good vibes aside, the result extended a skid for Alexa Bliss, who was subbed out of this match for Alicia due to an injury but was a constant presence in Fox & Mickie’s corner. The Goddess made much of Trish & Lita’s veteran status before the match — there was a hearing-aid jab — but the Hall of Famers caught fire and forced the involvement of Alexa, who tripped Lita off the top rope to disrupt a potential moonsault and gave her squad the advantage.

Mickie & Alicia wisely focused on overwhelming Lita, but a fresh Trish got her squad right back in the thick of it with a Stratusfaction bulldog to Mickie. A last-ditch interference from Alicia went south when Lita dropped her with a Twist of Fate and administered a two-for-one Moonsault to Mickie and Alicia, and a Chick Kick from Trish to James brought the match to a close. The Attitude Era may be back for one night only, but there was something larger at work than just nostalgia. Stratus debuted in the same building as a valet 18 years ago. That she returned, victorious, in the opening match of an all-women’s pay-per-view wasn’t just a trip down memory lane. It was a sign of how far the Women’s division has come … and, maybe, that Trish & Lita have a little more in them.

My Take: This was the perfect way to kick off a women-only PPV. Not only did it feature currrent WWE stars but two women who pioneered women’s wrestling in the Attitude era – pushing away from bra and panty matches to actual wrestling. And the crowd were HYPED. Lita and Stratus got to pull out their well-known moves in what was one hell of a crowd-pleaser. Even Alicia Fox managed to keep on point, instead of going “full Fox” and kicking and scremaing around the ring. It may not have been the cleanest or tightest match of the night but it was an amazing display. Plus the right team won.

Match #2: Nia Jax won the Women’s Battle Royal to earn a future Women’s Title opportunity

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Nia Jax mostly hasn’t sniffed a championship opportunity since losing the Raw Women’s Title to Alexa Bliss over the summer. Thanks to the events of WWE Evolution’s Battle Royal, that’s about to change: The Irresistible Force outlasted Superstars from WWE’s past, present and future to stand tall and claim the all-important prize of a future Women’s Title Match. She had to get past one of her closest friends to do it, too. After a wild match that included the entire field tossing The IIconics, a dance break featuring Carmella and Ivory (who was the last veteran standing), a titanic confrontation between Nia and Tamina, and Zelina Vega nearly stealing the win by hiding until the competition had thinned, the match came down to Nia and Ember Moon, the hybrid competitor who helped bring Jax back from injury and was looking like a favorite down the stretch — especially after she eliminated her old NXT rival Asuka, a development even Ember seemed shocked by. Tossing The Empress of Tomorrow fired up The War Goddess to world-beating levels, but she unfortunately let her emotions get the better of her against The Irresistible Force. The former NXT Women’s Champion took the fight to Nia, only to be stuffed with a spinebuster and tossed over the rope.

My Take: Battle Royal’s, by their very nature, are usually a messing affair. However not this one. There was a clear story being built in this match – highlighting under used current talent and showcasing a number of former WWE stars; eventually building to a showdown between the trio of Ember Moon, Tamina and Nia Jax. The fact that this came down to something of an “old vs. new” match made for some great action and further the careers of the likes of Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose who, in the early going, were on fire! The fact that Tamina was left to mix it up with Nia Jax had the audience, and me, rallying for a match between these two female powerhouses – who wouldn’t want to see a clash of these two Samoan superstars on another PPV? It would make for superb storytelling – especially if they played up the heritage angle. I would’ve like to see Ember Moon take the win but I can understand why Jax won – after all its about time Rousey got an actual challenge for her title.

Match #3: Toni Storm def. Io Shirai to win the 2018 Mae Young Classic

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Toni Storm has finally arrived. After a bitterly disappointing semifinal exit from the 2017 Mae Young Classic, the five-tool “Aussie Storm” defeated Japanese icon Io Shirai in a hard-hitting tournament final at WWE Evolution to win the 2018 all-women’s tournament. In a match that encompassed the entirety of both competitors’ very deep arsenals, Storm came at Shirai looking to keep The Genius of the Sky from taking flight, but Shirai — deservedly counted among the best competitors in the world — surprised her opponent by grounding Storm with submissions. The high-flying came soon enough, however: Storm scaled the turnbuckle, and Shirai capitalized on her position with a dropkick that knocked the Australian to the outside before following up with a gorgeous moonsault. Storm, however, had a specialty of her own: Suplexes. The Lightning Down Under dumped Shirai on the ring apron with a belly-to-back that slowed her opponent’s momentum … or so she thought. Shirai kicked out of the first Storm Zero of the contest and surged back in a major way, dropping the Aussie with a 619 in homage to Rey Mysterio before stepping over her, Iverson-style, en route to an Asai Moonsault attempt. But Storm got her knees up as Shirai swooped down, and she pounced moments later with a second Storm Zero to win the match and the Mae Young Classic.

My Take: A match that, on paper, would steal the show, the Mae Young Classic final did not disappoint. Even if it was outshone by a match later on the card. Toni Storm and Io Shirai really went at it – with some great traditional wrestling to kick off eventually building into a series of big signature moves from both competitors. Both ladies seem to be given free reign to show off just what they can do – something which was also significant across the rest of the PPV card. This was a women’s pay per view that let the women show what they can do…  And Shirai and Storm shone.

Match #4: Sasha Banks, Bayley & Natalya def. The Riott Squad

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

A few years ago, just down the road from the Nassau Coliseum, Sasha Banks and Bayley had a match in Brooklyn that helped turn the Women’s Evolution from a spark to a supernova. At WWE Evolution, The Boss and The Huggable One fulfilled the promise of that match, teaming with Natalya — a standard-bearer for WWE’s past and present — to defeat The Riott Squad in a thrilling Six-Woman Tag Team Match. The match wasn’t borne out of some long-standing grudge — The Riott Squad essentially targeted Natalya in recent weeks, and The Queen of Harts brought in some backup — but on a night as historic as Evolution, bragging rights clearly counted for a lot: Banks, Natalya and Bayley came roaring out of the gate, and it took a canny bit of timing from Sarah Logan to give the Squad their first leg up when she baseball-slid The Huggable One ribs-first into the ring post.

From there, The Riott Squad kicked into overdrive and delivered one of their best performances since their debut. The dastardly trio tagged in and out in short bursts to keep each other fresh while, on the other side, a combination of chicanery and the comparative freshness of The Riott Squad seemingly left Sasha, Bayley & Natalya with one or more team members out of action at a time. The Squad also cannily exploited their opponents’ histories, with Liv Morgan (the stealth MVP of the match) bull-rushing Sasha Banks into Bayley to break up a potential pinfall in an apparent attempt to reignite old tensions between The Boss and The Huggable One. The effort didn’t work: Bayley later covered the prone Banks and took the brunt of an airborne attack from Ruby Riott. It took a long time for Sasha, Bayley & Natalya to get on The Riott Squad’s level, but when they did, the end came fast and furious: After dispatching Ruby and Logan with a double Sharpshooter, Natalya caught Morgan on the turnbuckle with a cascading powerbomb. Bayley quickly tagged in to follow up with a “Macho Man” elbow drop, and Banks put the cherry on top with a Guerrero-esque Frog Splash for the win.

My Take: Easily one of the best tag matches on ANY recent WWE pay per view, this three-on-three match really let The Riott Squad show just how good they REALLY are. The trio put on a clinic, tagging in and out in quick succession and picking apart their competition. Even if they ultimately lost the match these three were the real winners – they’ve never looked better: more cohesive, more hard-hitting and honestly, more impressive, than the baby face trio of Bayley, Sasha and Natalya. Even though Sasha seems to be the WWE women’s wrestling golden girl at times. If the WWE can get The Riott Squad’s creative right these three will undoubtedly DOMINATE the division both in style and skill.

Match #5: Shayna Baszler def. Kairi Sane to become the new NXT Women’s Champion

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

In many ways, NXT is the cradle of the Women’s Evolution, so it’s fitting that Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler’s NXT Women’s Championship Match — the first such defense of the title on a WWE pay-per-view — was an epic confrontation that ended in historic fashion when Baszler defeated The Pirate Princess to become the first-ever two-time NXT Women’s Champion. And she did it with a little help from her friends. Baszler, who insisted her title loss to Sane was a fluke, didn’t hesitate to try to put the match away early, attempting the Kirifuda Clutch at every turn and mangling The Pirate Princess’ arm with a grisly combination of keylocks and stomps. Sane had already tapped into her own killer instinct to take the title in the first place, so she was able to fight back and keep it close. Unfortunately, the damage to her arm took some of the power out of Sane’s maneuvers, and she attempted to compensate during a scrap outside the ring by dumping The Queen of Spades over the barricade and into the front row, where the women of NXT were watching. This was a mistake.

Among the individuals Baszler had collided with were Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, two of Baszler’s fellow Four Horsewomen of MMA. Unwilling to let this slight slide, they quickly got involved, grabbing Sane by the hair, cutting off her momentum as she went to attempt the InSane Elbow, and, in Duke’s case, landing a cheap shot that sent The Pirate Princess stumbling into a Kirifuda Clutch that did its work and put her to sleep to give Baszler the victory. While Sane stirred back to consciousness, The Queen of Spades embraced Duke and Shafir outside the ring, walking back up the ramp with her friends at her side and her title in her clutches. Clearly, she was under no illusions as to why and how she reclaimed the NXT Women’s Title. She also didn’t care.

My Take: A mix of submission wrestling, hard striking and high spots, this match was the proverbial clinic. The pair sold their roles perfectly – Baszler really hitting the heel persona, even moreso with the interference from her friends Duke and Shafir (the other half of the MMA Four Horsewomen). I get why Baszler won, after all champs are always better when pursuing titles – the underdog story is very powerful – I’m just glad Baszler’s win was through cheating. It sold that badass attitude and made Kairi still look strong.

Match #6: SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch def. Charlotte Flair (Last Woman Standing Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Had WWE Evolution happened a year ago — had it happened six months ago, really — Becky Lynch might have waltzed into a match at Charlotte Flair’s side with a megawatt smile, a snappy pun and a plucky attitude that persisted whether she won or lost. But it didn’t happen six months ago; it happened now. And this Becky Lynch came in with a dead-eyed stare, the SmackDown Women’s Title in her grasp and Charlotte across the ring from her in a Last Woman Standing Match. And this Becky Lynch didn’t hesitate to capitalize on all three of those things. The Irish Lass Kicker plumbed the hitherto-untested depths of her own sadism to turn the Nassau Coliseum into the ECW Arena, brutalizing her former friend with Kendo sticks and chairs in an effort to keep Charlotte down past the count of 10. Charlotte rose to the occasion (or sunk to Becky’s level, depending on how you look at it), smashing Lynch through a table with a Swanton bomb and threading her legs through a ladder for a torturous variation of the Figure-Eight Leglock.

The longer the match went on, the more it seemed to favor Charlotte, who grew more and more incensed as the minutes tick by. The six-time champion chopped Becky back to the ring when the champ tried to take a walk, rose from underneath a pile of rubble with a red-faced “Is that all you got?!” and tanned Lynch with a Kendo stick as she pursued her around the ring. Becky, visibly running out of tricks, still had one more than her challenger. When Flair set up a table on the outside and laid Becky out for a moonsault, The Irish Lass Kicker instead rose up and powerbombed her opponent through the pine, a maneuver that was narrowly enough to keep her down for the count. Some, of course, may be surprised at Becky’s cruelty, or even that she retained. After all, she was facing a Flair, and one who has certainly proven herself worthy of the name. But in many ways, everything over the last few months led to this exact match with this exact result: Ever since she turned on Charlotte at SummerSlam, Becky made it very clear that she would do anything to be SmackDown Women’s Champion. In a match where she could do anything, the truth may be that Charlotte Flair never stood a chance.

My Take: Wow. Just wow. This was easily the match of the night, with both women putting themselves through the ringer to deliver a match that will be talked about for years to come. Not only was this a Last Woman Standing match but it was also no holds barred – nothing was off limits and these two women took that to mean literally try and kill each other! The finisher – Becki power-bombing Flair through a table from the ropes to the floor looked vicious and really worked to cement the end of the match – after all the two women had already been through hell, so it needed something extra-strong, and extra “ow” to end it.

Match #7: Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey def. Nikki Bella

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Ronda Rousey emerged from the main event of WWE’s first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view with a swollen face, a scratch on her cheek and a title defense she could be proud of, having withstood every single thing Nikki Bella threw at her. And make no mistake: Nikki Bella threw quite a bit at her. It was truly vintage Nikki in the final match of WWE Evolution. The pushups, the sequined snapback, especially the interference from her sister Brie. For a “Do Nothing Bella,” the longest-reigning Divas Champion in history certainly did a lot in her longshot bid for the Raw Women’s Championship, and for a while, it seemed like she did enough. Thanks in large part to Brie’s constant interference, Nikki halted Ronda’s momentum each time The Baddest Woman on the Planet began to pull away, and as the match progressed, the idea of Nikki Bella handing Ronda Rousey her first WWE lost didn’t just seem possible, but probable. Nikki dedicating the match to Rousey’s mother, AnnMaria De Mars, only further salted the champion’s wounds, as The Fearless One continued an offensive press that brought her to the brink of winning the title.

Rousey, who made a show of refusing to end the match in its opening moments — the implication being that the punishment would continue for as long as she wanted it to — found herself in an unusually defensive posture as a result, booting Nikki away from her in a guard against the ropes. Once she dispatched Brie by throwing her over the announce table, however, The Baddest Woman on the Planet fought her way back into the match. And after she hauled Nikki off the top turnbuckle via a small package in a truly creative display, Rousey finally decided she’d had enough. The champion locked in her signature Armbar and Nikki submitted almost immediately, bringing an end to one of the more unlikely, but impressive, challenges Rousey has fielded thus far. (Pointedly, Battle Royal winner and future challenger Nia Jax was watching on a monitor backstage). The Baddest Woman on the Planet did not skimp on the reveling after the fact, slapping skin with the WWE Universe as she did laps around the ring and eventually celebrating with the entire Women’s division at the top of the ramp as Evolution went off the air.

My Take: Less of a damp squib than I expected it to be; this still wasn’t on par with many other matches on the card. However it was still a solid match – and the Bella’s actually make for great heels.

Final Verdict: 4/5

A superb first all-women’s pay per view that, hopefully, will lead to more. And lead to more women’s matches on regular PPV’s too. Everyone was given a chnce to shine and everyone grabbed it. Without a doubt one of the best WWE PPV’s in ages! More please.


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