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Cook’s Tale of the Tape: EVOLVE 131 vs AEW Fight for the Fallen

We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.



We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.

People my age & over know all about World Championship Wrestling, Saturday Night’s Main Event & WCW Saturday Night back in the day, but the sport of kings has been taking that night back recently. It started with the NXT TakeOvers, then AEW & New Japan joined in the fun here recently. And you old school ROH fans know that the Saturday shows were always the A shows of a weekend.

This Saturday’s going to be pretty big. AEW is presenting their Fight for the Fallen event in Jacksonville with some pretty interesting matchups. Meanwhile, WWE has decided to let their Double A affiliate, EVOLVE, have their 10th anniversary show air live on the WWE Network. Correctly, they figured that a semi-indy fed booked by Gabe Sapolsky would have a better chance of making a dent in AEW’s streaming numbers than anything else they could throw out there.

Which card should you spend your Saturday night watching? That’s why I’m here with the Tale of the Tape!

Women’s Singles Match

EVOLVE: Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart

F for the F: Brandi Rhodes vs. Allie

I’m a big Shotzi Blackheart fan. She works hard and has green hair & a punk style and I’m a fan of it. She’s howling like a wolf and I dig it. I looked up Brandi Lauren and she was in TNA at some point and I have no memory of it. Larry Csonka’s reviews of her recent EVOLVE efforts don’t give me much hope.

Allie is pretty great. She managed to get herself over in Impact Wrestling during a time when nobody was getting over. Because she was a great worker. She delivered when it mattered. Whether you want to call her Allie or Cherry Bomb or whatever, she’s been one of the best workers on the distaff side of things since she broke in. Brandi Rhodes isn’t as much of a natural. She’s had to work at it, and she probably started too late to be one of the best female workers of all time. The lady works hard though. She’ll likely come up short here because Allie needs to be the person AEW’s women’s division is built around, but Brandi will bring the fight.

Advantage: F for the F

Top Featured Tag Team Match

EVOLVE: Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff

F for the F: Cody & Dustin Rhodes vs. The Young Bucks

I love me some Eddie Kingston. He’s one of the best talkers this business has seen over the past two decades. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us, most of his career has been unproduced. I also love me some AR Fox. That guy can do some incredible things. His Lucha Underground stint showcased it for those that didn’t know, and when I watched some of his CZW stuff years afterward I wondered how he didn’t get signed by somebody.

I’m not as big on Young Bucks matches as some are, but they’re an incredible team. I am huge on Cody & Dustin. The Rhodes Family isn’t as big as some wrestling families, but if you want to talk about quality over quantity, they’ve got it over most. Anything they’re involved in, I’m all about. Cody is awesome, & Dustin is still incredible after however many years. They both got the gene for story-telling from their old man & use it in different ways. Cody has probably thought about this match since the moment he met Nick & Matt Jackson, and I expect them to have the best match on Fight for the Fallen. Cody’s streak of having the best match of a show he’s on will continue.

Advantage: F for the F

Match Featuring A Man Named Adam


F for the F: HANGMAN ADAM PAGE vs. Kip Sabian

We’re talking about two Adams that I’m buying all the stock of. Page looks to be the future top guy in AEW and I’m all about it. He’s got the look, the understated charisma, and he can deliver in the ring. He carries himself like he’s a Rhodes or a Windham, so I’m all about building a promotion around him.

But I would also build a promotion around Adam Cole. The guy’s had it ever since he stepped into a ring. Wherever he goes, he becomes a top guy because he is the top guy. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Shawn Michaels since Shawn Michaels. If I was booking NXT, I would keep the NXT Championship on Adam Cole until the second he gets called up.

Basically, the choice here comes down to opponents. Tozawa is awesome & I’ve never seen Kip Sabian wrestle.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Match Featuring Two Guys Smarks Like

EVOLVE: Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle

F for the F: Kenny Omega vs. Cima

Omega vs. Cima seems like a Japanese dream match. A guy that made it to the top of New Japan and reinvented their main event style taking on the guy that trained most of the people in the secondary promotions. I have no doubt it will be pretty great.

I’ve already seen Gulak & Riddle go at it on a random NXT episode. It was absolutely amazing. Two guys that knew how to technically wrestle putting on a freaking clinic. It was GRAPPLEFUCK at its best. I know Riddle is the favored son in some circles, but from where I sit, Drew Gulak just might be the best wrestler in the world today. Add in Riddle with his oddness, and it can’t possibly suck.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Best Match I Can’t Find A Parallel For

EVOLVE: JD Drake vs. Austin Theory

F for the F: Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky vs. Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix

I saw a lot of Austin Theory on The Wrestlers, and he seems like a good kid with a world of potential. I’ve never heard of his opponent. On the other side, you have the two most exciting Mexican wrestlers against two American veterans that will know how to put them over while being fun at the same time. This isn’t really a fair comparison.

Advantage: F for the F


EVOLVE: 2300 Arena, Philadelphia

F for the F: Daily’s Place Ampitheater, Jacksonville

Advantage: Everybody marks out for the ECW Arena. The bingo hall at Swanson & Rittner. That place has seen so much wrestling that the history is ridiculous. I’ve watched so many shows from that venue that I couldn’t even begin to tell you the best or worst matches. I can understand why Gabe would mark out for running a show there.

I get more enjoyment from shows in different places. My favorite ROH venue ever is a tent they held a show in when they got kicked out of a venue while still having KENTA booked. KENTA in a Tent-a was pretty awesome. This AEW venue is something connected to the Jaguars stadium and also shares space with a practice facility. If I’m going to see pictures of crowds, I’d like to see them in unique places.

Advantage: F for the F

Probable Announcers

EVOLVE: Lenny Leonard

F for the F: Excalibur, Jim Ross, Alex Marvez or maybe GoldenBoy?

I’m higher on the AEW announce team than most. Exaclibur does a good job of carrying things no matter who he’s with. JR seems more emotionally invested with AEW than he has with anything else he’s called in ages. Marvez wasn’t great in the first thing he called ever, but I’m sure GoldenBoy is on AEW’s speed dial.

EVOLVE has Lenny Leonard. Apparently Ron Niemi joins him on occasion, but it’s mostly Lenny. I always liked Lenny on ROH shows before he got replaced during the HDNet era. Simple commentary is the best for me, and Lenny brings that.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Level of Importance

EVOLVE: It’s their 10th anniversary celebration, available to more people than ever. Sapolsky calls this their Barely Legal, which sounds ridiculous to me. But I’m older & more bitter than the people on his roster. They may buy in. Either way, it’s the biggest show in the company’s history. They need to deliver.

F for the F: The proceeds are going to victims of gun violence. That’s a bigger deal than anything else I typically mention in my columns, and if this “feud” took away from those proceeds I would feel guilty. I doubt it will, as it’s the gate in Jacksonville going to the cause, and not anything from streaming. If you live in Jacksonville, go to the show.

These AEW shows leading up to the TNT debut are tests. Which are important in their own right, but not the most important show in the history of a company that started in 2010. If EVOLVE delivers here, they could get some more WWE Network & developmental love. If they tank, Gabe might not even get a job for himself. AEW is in the trial & error phase here, EVOLVE can’t afford any errors.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Sticking It To The Man

EVOLVE: Gabe might try to tell you otherwise, but he’s totally co-opted now. So is my good friend TJ Hawke. He’ll tell you otherwise as well, but they’re all serving at the behest of the man.

F for the F: They’re bringing money to victims of gun violence. People that give money to WWE are giving money to gun violence.

Advantage: F for the F

Final Score: F for the F 5, EVOLVE 4

It’s a close call, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, AEW’s Fight for the Fallen gets the edge over EVOLVE’s 10th anniversary celebration. People will try to argue otherwise, but the numbers never lie.

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Greg DeMarco’s Good, Bad, & Ugly: WWE Smackdown On FOX (November 3, 2023)

It’s the go-home show for WWE Crown Jewel, and Smackdown is in full force! As is Greg’s Good, Bad, & Ugly review!



WWE Smackdown John Cean Solo Sikoa

It’s the go-home show for WWE Crown Jewel, and Smackdown is in full force! As is Greg’s Good, Bad, & Ugly review!

WWE Smackdown On FOX sends us home for the Crown Jewel premium live event, so it has to be strong. But is it? Maybe it’s Good. Possibly it’s Bad? I sure hope it isn’t Ugly.

Let’s find out!

If you haven’t checked out Mitchell’s Results & Review for this episode of Smackdown, go and check it out now!


  • Roman Reigns & LA Knight In Ring Promo – Last week LA Knight got the better of Roman, so it made sense for Roman to get it all back this week. And he did just that. “Redneck Cosplay of my cousin” was a fantastic line from Roman Reigns, but “I ain’t here to finish something” from LA Knight got a bigger reaction from me. Roman calling himself the megastar was also a phenomenal line. Good stuff all around.
  • Kevin Owens vs. Austin Theory – Kevin Patrick keeping “The 150 million hit man” schtick going for Austin Theory is so great. Milk that for all it’s worth! “What is your issue with Kevin Owens’ face?” “LOOK AT IT, MAN!” Absolutely brilliant shit. “How’s that feel, idiot?” Grayson Waller should be on commentary every week, for every match. And this match, by the way, was really good. Austin Theory has settled into his current role, showing he understands the WWE cycle. And Owens is Owens.
  • Backstage Series Of Events – We had the Bianca Belair interview where she was attacked by Damage Ctrl, followed by The Street Profits & Bobby Lashley running into Logan Paul and then B-Fab. Flowed well, no issues for me.
  • Chelsea Green & Piper Niven vs. Shotzi Blackheart & Charlotte Flair – No surprise that Charlotte Flair was the partner, and no surprise that Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn made an appearance. This was a perfectly fine TV match–didn’t set the world on fire, but also wasn’t Bad or Ugly. This was a step in this story, and an effective one.
  • The Brawling Brutes vs. Pretty Deadly in a Good Ol’ Fashioned Donnybrook! – Shout out to Sheamus, whose return I look forward to seeing. With Ridge really coming into his own, we’re to the point where all four of these guys range from good to great to fantastic on any given night. Putting Pretty Deadly into any “manly fight” is always guaranteed entertainment. Really, Pretty Deadly in anything is typically guaranteed entertainment. Pretty Deadly picking up the win was not a shock, although I’d have loved to see Butch and Ridge Holland pick up a win here. Given the rules (or lack thereof) of this match, Pretty Deadly basically won clean here.
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Logan Paul Crown Jewel Weigh-In – A very effective way to pretape something, which saves time as part of a double taping. It was essentially a go home promo, but done in a different way. I liked it. It also smoothly transitions into the rundown of the card by the commentary team, which I always appreciate.
  • Bianca Belair vs. Bayley – If you know me, you know that Bianca can be hit or miss for me. She can’t “work with anyone,” but she can definitely work with Bayley. Bayley, of course, is money with anything she does. Both women delivered a main event quality match, and no one should complain that Bianca Belair won. She’s challenging for the Women’s Championship in less than 24 canon hours, so she needs to win. Bayley is a made woman, losing here doesn’t hurt her one bit.
  • “Just Enough Nick” Nick Aldis Usage – Triple H has done an amazing job of establishing Nick Aldis. Three weeks in and he already “belongs.” Much of that is attributed to how Aldis carries himself. But they are also using him to the right degree. It’s not too much, but it’s also not too little. Adam Pearce could miss two weeks of Raw and when he shows back up, it all makes sense. For Aldis, he needs to be very present, but not overbearing or “shoved down our throats.” They have the right balance.


  • Solo Sikoa & John Cena In Ring Promo – John Cena, lost voice and all, completely buries Solo Sikoa. He “cooks” Solo, as promised. And, as Cena does, he makes Solo look like crap. Bargain Basement Tazz Rip Off? C’mon man, you’re better than that. But here’s the real problem: what happens if Solo loses? Cena made him look like a loser, and then proves that he is? Solo has to win this match. If he doesn’t, and Cena is gone, then Solo is left out in the cold. And you don’t want to do that to Solo Sikoa at this point of his career.


  • Misstep for Theory – Referencing Halloween as if it hadn’t already happened. You can edit this episode–c’mon, man!
  • Kevin Owens’ Crotch Chop – C’mon, man! We’re better than crotch chops in 2023.

The Verdict

  • Good – 8
  • Bad – 1
  • Ugly – 2

In all honesty this was a damn good show. Milwaukee showed out considering they’d already seen 2 hours of Smackdown before this was taped. Good on them, and good on WWE for a great go home show for Crown Jewel.

Interesting of note – the pictures for this show that are posted to the WWE website are uploaded in the order the matches and segments were recorded, not the order in which they aired. Just a little tidbit that I found interesting.

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Greg DeMarco’s Wrestling Ratings Report: Monday Night Raw (10/30/2023) & WWE NXT (10/31/2023)

Greg DeMarco takes a look at your Monday and Tuesday night TV ratings. What do they mean? Do they matter?



WWE NXT Halloween Havoc Night 2 Carmelo Hayes Ilja Dragunov

Greg DeMarco takes a look at your Monday and Tuesday night TV ratings. What do they mean? Do they matter?

Settle in for a look at this week’s ratings for WWE Monday Night Raw and WWE NXT Halloween Havoc Night 2! Both were up against some stiff competition–let’s see how they fared!

WWE Monday Night Raw (October 30, 2023)

  • Hour #1 – 1.466 million viewers, .44 demo rating, #6 for the night on cable
  • Hour #2 – 1.450 million viewers, .46 demo rating #5 for the night on cable
  • Hour #3 – 1.256 million viewers, .39 demo rating, #8 for the night on cable

WWE Monday Night Raw for October 30, 2023 faced some stiff competition on Monday night. You had Monday Night Football as normal–which aired on both ESPN and ABC–along with the usual peripheral shows (Monday Night Football Postgame, Monday Night Football Kickoff, SportsCenter, and the Monday Night Countdown, which factored into the Top 10). 6.851 million people watched Monday Night Football on ESPN, a number that more than doubles when you factor in ABC.

What does it all mean? It means that outside of Monday Night Football–on cable–WWE Monday Night Raw was the top rated show. If you take away all things NFL, Raw finishes #1, #2, and #3 for the night. Viewership did drop off for our 3, but that’s the 10 PM hour that sees kids go to bed and people checking on the Monday Night Football and World Series games.

Speaking of which, that’s another factor to consider–the World Series! 8.126 million people watched the World Series on FOX (not really that good), with another 8.356 million watching Monday Night Football on ABC (yes, more than the World Series) for a decent-at-best Lions vs Raiders match-up.

In summary, it was another successful night for WWE Monday Night Raw, which was the go-home edition of the program. You can check out my Good Bad & Ugly look at Monday’s Raw, where I gave the show an overall “Good” rating. Haven’t watched yet? Give Mitchell’s live coverage a read.

Listen to this week’s edition of Bandwagon Nerds!

WWE NXT Halloween Havoc Night 2 (October 31, 2023)

  • Entire Broadcast – 674 thousand viewers, .20 demo rating, #6 for the night on cable

WWE NXT (Halloween Havoc Night 2) for October 31, 2023, had to deal with a myriad of external factors this week. First is the most obvious–it was Halloween! Many people had plans, Trick-Or-Treat escapades and more. That right there will be a detriment to any ratings results. Add in two live NBA games, each drawing over a million viewers for TNT. Combine it all together and WWE NXT was the top rated program that wasn’t sports programming on TNT or ESPN. Hell, the entire Top 12 consisted of ESPN and TNT sports programming, plus NXT.

It’s easy to call this a failure since viewership was lost week over week. But that’s very shortsighted. The fact remains that NXT was among the most watched programming for the night, holding its own against live sports and sports-peripheral programming.  If you’re WWE and USA Network, you’re nothing but happy with these results.

NXT, of course, featured the second week of Halloween Havoc, headlined by Ilja Dragunov defending the NXT Championship against Carmelo Hayes in the third match of their trilogy. Along with that you had The Creed Brothers in a Tables, Ladders, and Scares (Chairs) match with Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo, Lola Vice vs. Kelani Jordan in the finals of the Women’s Breakout Tournament, and much more.

I’d call the Tuesday program a ratings success. My Good, Bad, & Ugly review of NXT Halloween Havoc Night 2 is available here, where I called it “Good” overall. If you haven’t seen the show yet, check out Mitchell’s play-by-play.

As the weeks roll on, I will compile some historical data and look more about week-over-week (and beyond) patterns in all of my ratings reports.

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