EDITOR’S NOTE: There is a spoiler here for NXT UK and is marked as such.
This past Sunday night was WWE’s first ever all women’s pay-per-view called Evolution. While other promotions feature an all women roster (Shimmer and Shine most notably), this is the first time WWE has put all the focus on their women Superstars. The event was held in Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, NY, a venue with a lot of wrestling history. I personally saw my first wrestling show in this very arena. While there is no former WWE show to compare this too, it is interesting to note that this show was held less than a week before WWE Crown Jewel, another one of the Saudi Arabia shows that bars women from competing. I was at Evolution in person, so my review will be from an in person point-of-view.
The crowd at Evolution was a nice mix – I saw fans of all ages, genders, and races. There were women cosplaying as their favorite superstars – I noticed women as Alexa Bliss, Nikki Bella, Carmella, Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey, Asuka, and Trish Stratus. There were also tons of shirts for women superstars, some from WWE Shop, and others from back in the day or from independent sites. The merchandise tables only had merch from women superstars, in both men’s and women’s cuts. Sadly, they did not have anything from their new Curvy Collection (women’s cut shirts in plus sizes).
SPOILER: During the pre-show, the audience at home saw footage and interviews from the red carpet, along with promos for the upcoming matches. The audience at the Coliseum saw Rhea Ripley defending the NXT UK Women’s Title against Dakota Kai. While the NXT UK show has not showed Rhea winning the title, her holding the belt is known to the WWE Universe. The match itself was short, but fun. The crowd seemed fully invested in the match, and I am personally excited to see more of Rhea once her title defenses start to air on the WWE Network. My rating: B+.
The show opened up with rock legends Nita Strauss (in the ring) and Lzzy Hale (on the ramp) shredding their guitars with Lzzy also singing about Evolution. It was hard to hear from my seats in the 200 level, but the crowd popped when they realized who was performing.
The first match up was the tag team match of Trish Stratus & Lita (Team Bestie) versus Alicia Fox & Mickie James (with Alexa Bliss). Lillian Garcia, former ring announcer, was here to announce this match. Trish came out first to a huge pop from the crowd, followed by Lita who got an even louder pop. Alexa then came out to cut a brief promo making fun of Lita and Trish’s age. Alicia and Mickie came out to Mickie’s music. During the match Lita and Trish both received “you still got it” chants, and when Alicia Fox botched a save there was one of the loudest boos of the night. Lita performed a Twist of Fate on Alicia, followed by a moonsault on both Alicia and Mickie. Mickie was then on the receiving end of a Chick Kick from Trish, who then pinned Mickie for the win. For the most part the legends in the ring looked good, with the exception of a Stratusfaction that looked sloppy. Fun Fact: Trish debuted 18 years ago in Nassau Coliseum. My rating: B+.
Next up was the Women’s Battle Royal. Each woman had her own entrance, which was a welcomed departure from former battle royals. Lilian Garcia came back to announce this match as well. Every woman came out by herself, with the exception of The IIconics. The IIconics cut a promo on their way to the ring, and this saw them as the first ones eliminated. The new stars circled around the legends, and then the all-out brawl happened. One thing I noticed about the audience was that there were no “Rusev Day” chants for Lana, nor did any of the other women get their significant others mentioned (something the crowd normally does). Some of the bigger pops from the match were when: Mandy Rose eliminated Sonya Deville; when Nia and Tamina gave a shout out to their cousin Roman Reigns; when Ember Moon eliminated Asuka; and when Zelena Vega appeared again towards the end to try to eliminate Nia and Ember. The crowd popped when Nia won, though I think they would have been happy with any of the three final women winning. Fun Fact: Michelle McCool became the first Diva’s champion in Nassau Coliseum. My rating: B+
Next up was the finals of the Mae Young Classic: Toni Storm versus Io Shirai. Toni was in the 2017 Mae Young Classic, coming up short in the semi-finals. This match was a chance at redemption for her. Io was looking to make a name for herself in WWE, after taking the Japanese wrestling world by storm. Before either entered the ring, there was a shot of Jessika Carr on the screens. Jessika is the first woman referee WWE has, and received a nice pop from the crowd when she was shown. Both women received healthy pops from the crowd, and I would estimate the crowd was 50/50 on who they wanted to win. These women received the first “this is awesome” chant of the night. After a lot of back and forth that made both women look strong, Toni won. Both women were very emotional after, especially when Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and NXT Trainer Sara Amato came out to give both women roses. In one of the sweetest moments of the night, Toni and Io were hugging and crying in the ring, even as Toni helped Io to her feet. You could tell there was true respect and sportsmanship from both women. My rating: A+
The 3 versus 3 match was next up. Riott Squad came out first and they were all dressed as horror movie villains. Then Sasha came out, followed by Natalya then Bayley. There was a small pop when Bayley’s Buddies came up. The crowd was firmly behind Sasha, Bayley, and Natalya, though there was a small boo when Sasha’s hometown Boston was announced (unsurprising because the event was held in Yankee territory). When Natalya and Sasha Banks performed the Hart Attack there was a nice pop, and it was a great reference to Natalya’s late father. After a back and forth match, Liv Morgan of the Riott Squad got hit by a triple finisher – first a power bomb from Natalya, followed by a dive by Bayley, then a frog splash from Banks. Banks pinned Liv for the win. The match made every woman in it look strong, which is always a nice thing. My rating: A.
The NXT Women’s Title match was next. The match itself, Kairi Sane versus Shayna Baszler, is a rematch of the finals of the 2017 Mae Young Classic. Jessica Carr was back to referee the match. The crowd was roughly 70/30, for Kairi. This match took the crowd a bit to warm up to, but once they got into the match, they got loud. Shayna holding Kairi up by her arm and then dropping her to the ground got one of the bigger pops, as did Kairi doing an elbow drop to Shayna on the ground. The latter move got an “NXT” chant from the crowd. Shayna’s fellow Four Horsewomen, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, got involved in the match, helping Shayna win and become the first 2x NXT Women’s Champion. Kairi did not tap to Shayna’s submission hold. Rather, she passed out and could not answer the ref’s call. My rating: A+.
The hottest match of the night was Becky Lynch versus Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a Last Woman Standing match. The only way to win was to incapacitate your opponent so bad they could not get up for a ten count. The crowd was firmly behind Becky, with the loudest boos of the night going to Charlotte as she entered. According to a friend who was watching at home, the Network made it seem like the crowd was booing Becky and cheering Charlotte during the pre-match package. Despite booing Charlotte when she came out, the crowd did cheer with her chops and when she cleared off an announce table. The crowd was so against Charlotte that there were times my friend and I thought the crowd would riot if Becky didn’t leave with the belt. Some chants included “boo the woo” and “you deserve it” when Becky was burying Charlotte. The match ended with Becky power bombing Charlotte through a table, incapacitating Charlotte for a 10 count. Rating: A.
After this match there was a graphic shown for WWE Crown Jewel that was booed so badly they took the graphic down after only a few seconds. This showed a lack of foresight on the production team – the crowd did not want to see a graphic for a show women cannot compete in during Evolution.
The final match was Ronda Rousey versus Nikki Bella (with Brie Bella). The crowd was firmly on Ronda’s side during the entrances, while during the match there were some “let’s go Ronda/let’s go Nikki” chants. From my seat this was the only time I heard sexist chants going on. A group of men were chanting “Cena left you” to Nikki, as well as yelling “beat her [Nikki] like Cena should have.” This was the only time I felt uncomfortable during the event. Thankfully, my friend Pat yelled at them to “shut the eff up.” The match itself was great, though I would have put it before Charlotte and Becky. Nikki looked strong, getting Ronda with the Rack Attack 2.0. Ronda ended up winning after getting Nikki in the arm bar, despite numerous interferences from Brie Bella. My rating: A-.
Overall Evolution was one of the better PPVs and cards I have seen in a while. There was a feel of an NXT event to it, with the way the ring was set up (no LED screens on the posts or ringside). The barriers were the metal ones instead of the thicker ones. I fully enjoyed myself, and hope this was not a one off event. Seeing the women leave it all in the ring was wonderful and this event celebrated women of the past, present, and future. Overall PPV rating: A-.