#AndNEW: Austin Theory Cements His Place on Top, New Tag Champs Crowned at EVOLVE 131

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Austin Theory Evolve
Credit: @WWE

On Saturday, EVOLVE Wrestling held its 10th Anniversary Celebration, EVOLVE 131, live from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia and live on WWE Network. The historic show delivered on every promise the wrestlers and Gabe Sapolsky had made prior to. They were going to leave everything they had in that ring, continuing to show why, as Paul Heyman himself said in a special ring announcing appearance, “EVOLVE is the future.” That especially goes for new EVOLVE champs, Austin Theory and the Skulk (AR Fox and Leon Ruff).

EVOLVE 131 featured several marquee matches, among them, two featuring NXT superstars wrestling against 205 Live mainstays (Adam Cole vs Akira Tozawa and Matt Riddle vs Drew Gulak), and two featuring Evolve title defenses. In both of those defenses, EVOLVE’s landscape shifted as new tag team champions were crowned in the Skulk and the WWN Championship was unified with the EVOLVE title under brand new titleholder, Austin Theory.

#AndNEW: The Skulk Triumph Over the Unwanted

Joe Gacy and Eddie Kingston wanted nothing to do with AR Fox and his so-called “dojo boy” Leon Ruff. They didn’t have a choice though as Fox and Ruff, one of EVOLVE’s newest prospects having received his contract at EVOLVE 118, emerged victorious in a four-way elimination at EVOLVE 130, defeating the Beaver Boys (Alex Reynolds and John Silver), Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts and Randy Summers) and most importantly, the then-tag team champions, the Unwanted (Eddie Kingston and Joe Gacy).

Following Babatunde‘s victory over the Unwanted Son, Colby Corino, Kingston and Gacy came to ringside to cut a promo. Alongside, fellow Unwanted member, Sean Maluta, the champs looked ready to storm the ring for a three-on-one but were stopped by the arrival of their opponents. Accompanied to ringside by Ayla and the remaining members of the Skulk (Adrian Alanis, Liam Gray and Tommy Maserati), Fox and Ruff hit stereo suicide dives before the bell even rang. Making their presence known early, Ruff and his trainer, Fox, showcased their high-flying abilities and innovative offense from beginning to end with both men hitting incredible top rope maneuvers throughout.

Gacy and Kingston tried to rely on their strength advantage as they had previously when defeating the Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins), but Ruff and Fox were just too quick and too clever in the end. After working over Ruff and looking to have the match won on several occasions, Fox found his way back into the action at just the right moment. The match lasted a little over eight minutes with the end coming when Ruff neutralized Gacy on the outside allowing Fox to hit Kingston with a 450 Splash for the pin.

For Fox, who has been one of the unsung revolutionary high flyers of his generation, this marks his second title in EVOLVE and first since he became the promotion’s inaugural champion in 2013. Fox held the title for 324 days after defeating Sami Callihan at EVOLVE 19: Crowning the Champion. One of EVOLVE’s earliest stars, Fox made his debut for the company at EVOLVE 6: Aries vs Taylor, and has wrestled at least one match per year with Evolve since. Now, the 31-year-old veteran is a staple with the company, leading a group of young, up-and-coming talents such as Ruff, who made his pro debut in 2017. While this is Fox’s second title in EVOLVE and 17th overall, it marks Ruff’s first. But with the way the young star shined on Saturday, it will certainly not be his last.

#AndNEW: EVOLVE Runs Through Austin Theory

Austin Theory and JD Drake were no strangers to each other when they met in an EVOLVE/WWN title unification match on Saturday. The two had wrestled thrice before in EVOLVE, with Drake holding a 2-1 edge over the self-proclaimed Unproven One. The most recent time they met, Drake demanded to put his WWN title on the line at EVOLVE 124. Theory lost, but claimed afterward that he didn’t give it his all given that his own title wasn’t on the line. Going into EVOLVE 131 however, Theory assured Drake and the fans that nothing and no one would stand in the way of him defending the only belt that truly mattered, his EVOLVE Championship.

Drake and Theory absolutely battled, hitting each other with everything they had and then some. The match went a little over 16 minutes and even on a card with Riddle facing Gulak and Cole defending his NXT Championship against Tozawa, it was this one, that received the most fan acclaim after all was said and done. Kicking off with a special ring introduction by Paul Heyman for both of Evolve’s “reigning, defending, undisputed” champs, Theory controlled the early-going. Drake found his intensity soon after as both men began to really hit each other with some top-level offense. Not to mention the story-telling as the blue-collar, underdog Drake, showed heart and determination against the cocky villain who used his mouth throughout the match to explain why he was the better man. Toward the end of the match, Drake hit some huge moves, but Theory kicked out every time. Several superkicks and a devastating finisher later, it was Theory who got the better of Drake.

Following the match, Theory took the mic and dropped the WWN title to the ground, stepping on it as he spoke. Theory made his point clear. As champion, anyone chasing their dreams, would have to go through him to do so. “Austin Theory is the measuring stick of EVOLVE. Austin Theory is the standard of EVOLVE. Austin Theory is the real superstar,” Theory said before the lights went out. When they turned back on Josh Briggs was in the ring, reiterating a message he had made clear in recent weeks, that he was coming for EVOLVE’s so-called measuring stick.

Just 21, Theory is already someone who is being looked at as one who might be fast-tracked to WWE. Having debuted in 2016, Theory joined EVOLVE full-time a year later and quickly rose within the ranks of the promotion and the WWN family. He is a former two-time WWN Champion, and Full Impact Pro World Heavyweight Champion. Additionally, he’s won five other titles in his career, including his coveted EVOLVE title. He’s been a focal point of the company since 2017, and in the last two years, has gotten showcases matches almost every time an NXT superstar has come back to the promotion, including against Roderick Strong, Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano. And now, with no one else but him in possession of a singles title, it’s clear, that the next era of EVOLVE is going to be the Austin Theory era.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can watch the replay of EVOLVE 131 on the WWE Network anytime.

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