WWE Evolution: Recognizing Three Alternative Stars of the Show – by Mike Sanchez

I was really looking forward to the WWE Evolution PPV this week and I have to say, the show didn’t disappoint. Leading up to the show I worried that if a match or two were duds or the event didn’t really click that it would be dismissed as a tick-box exercise in WWE equality that went wrong. World Wrestling Entertainment would shrug their shoulders and say to the fans ‘Oh well, we tried and it didn’t work. No point in trying again’. However, that wasn’t the case and the feedback from the majority of fans and online contributors was that it was a success. I’m happy both for WWE and the incredible female talent that stole the show. Hopefully, this can be an annual event and a highlight of the WWE calendar.

While the majority of the positive feedback was about the incredible Smackdown Women’s Title match between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, I personally had three highlights of my own besides the obvious. I think it would be wrong to call them ‘unsung heroes’, as many fans will and already have said what I’m about to, but I think it’s important to give credit where its due, so here are my three alternative stars of the night:

Michael Cole

I don’t think Cole gets half the credit he deserves from the WWE fan base. His crime in many eyes is not being Jim Ross, and that isn’t his fault. To think that WWE were going to have an all-female announce team was wishful thinking. That’s not to say there aren’t talented female announcers, but if WWE wanted the PPV to be a success, they needed to have a safe pair of hands in commentary and Michael Cole is one of the safest. He was the only male talent on screen (aside from the refs) and had a significant influence on the show. Not once did he take any spotlight or cause any controversy, he was the play by play guy who did what he does best and call the action. He gave ample time for Beth Phoenix and Renee Young to talk at length, frequently asking them questions for their take on the action.

I think what speaks most for Cole’s talent is that we hardly notice he’s there, nor did his inclusion in the announce team cause any controversy. By having him on the team, it showed that WWE were taking the PPV seriously and weren’t passing it off as a gimmick. Sure they could’ve gone with an all-women team, but that would’ve been risky, and as much as I enjoy Renee’s work, I think it would’ve been a stretch to expect her to anchor the whole PPV on her own. This was a risky event that needed to be a success for WWE Women’s wrestling to move to the next level, and as much as Renee would’ve given her all to make that happen, I think Cole’s inclusion steered the commentary brilliantly through the event. Well done to him.

Mike Chioda

Our illustrious leader, John Canton, has already touched on this in his Smackdown review, but I have to echo his words when it comes to the most experienced ref in WWE. Similar to the announce team above, it would’ve been easy for WWE to have a female ref for every match, but they didn’t and with good reason. Mike Chioda has been with WWE since the late 1980’s and has considerable experience. The Becky vs Charlotte match for the Smackdown Women’s Title was always going to be the main event of the show (sorry WWE, the Bellas ain’t a main event in my eyes) and with the level of the match and the weight I carried for the fans, it needed the most experienced ref in the game.

Mike Chioda has big-match experience and it showed, although subtly and to the untrained eye, you would never notice how involved he was and the important part he played. Go back and watch it again and you’ll see how he manages the match brilliantly, always looking out for Becky and Charlotte while weapons, chairs and ladders were in play. His keen eye and ring awareness saw him nudge a chair to Becky while she was in a ladder/figure four combination so she could escape, but the biggest proof of his experience for me was right at the end of the match when he carefully watches Becky set up Charlotte to be slammed through a table on the outside of the ring. He leans in and grabs Becky’s costume, holding her steady so she won’t be pulled off the ring apron with the momentum of throwing Charlotte with a Powerbomb. That image shows how important Mike Chioda was to the success of the match and I think the unappreciated effort that all refs put into the matches.

Mickie James

I heard a wrestling commentator online refer to Mickie James as the ‘Ring General’ for her match and they weren’t wrong. Mickie was truly superb in the tag match that saw her pair with Alicia Fox against the legends Trish Stratus and Lita.

Both Trish and Lita know their way around a wrestling ring, but one must remember that it has been a considerable amount of time since both women were regularly active in the squared circle. With Alexa Bliss reduced to a ringside role, and Alicia put into the match at the last minute, it needed someone with experience and knowledge to manage the match from the canvas and Mickie was that person. She ran the ropes, set up the spots and generally ran the show from the moment the bell rang. It’s important to remember that even though Lita and Trish were the draw for the match itself, Mickie was the one who had a massive influence on how well received it was and how good the match went. Her spots with Trish was great and we were treated to a quick flashback of their epic feud leading to WrestleMania 22 in 2006. Again, like Mike Chioda above, it’s the small nuances and movements that many fans miss that make what she did so special. The long-time WWE fan knows how good Mickie is and what she brings to the table and it was an absolute pleasure to watch her work yet again and bring such an important influence to a great PPV. Perhaps she should be rewarded with a title shot?

Kudos to everybody involved with WWE Evolution, but I just thought we needed to give a nod to the unsung heroes of the show as well, especially some WWE veterans that helped make the show what it was.