It was the end of an era for EVOLVE, as their latest weekender rounded off in New York…
We’re at LaBoom in Queens, New York, as Drew Galloway and Matt Riddle’s feud finally comes to a head, whilst the crowd also booed at the mere mention of Zack Sabre Jr being in a title match. Hmm…
ACH vs. Jason Kincaid
Already out of the gate, this crowd is hotter than we had in Joppa… we start with ACH and Kincaid cartwheeling around the other’s opening strikes, before Kincaid pulls the straps down! In the opening minute… Kincaid headstands out of a wristlock by ACH, before a springboard-assisted armdrag sends Kincaid to the outside… and onto the guard railings to meditate. A leapfrog from Kincaid sees him land in an atomic drop, but he comes back with a leg lariat before a faked-out dive and a low dropkick takes Kincaid onto the apron for a springboard dropkick from ACH.
ACH levels Kincaid with a PK off the apron, before the tables turn again with a clothesline through the ropes and a rolling neckbreaker from Kincaid, who follows up with a roll-over the ropes stomp onto ACH. A Matrix-style evasion sees ACH get on top, but he tries again for a PK and it gets caught, with Kincaid catching him on the apron with a dive off the stage and through the ropes into a dropkick.
A rebound Shiranui gets a near-fall off the ropes from Kincaid, whose back elbow off the middle rope is turned into a German suplex, before a pair of lariats and a brainbuster gets ACH the win. Decent enough for an opener, nothing too flashy, but nothing bad either as ACH continued his push towards an eventual title shot. **½
Anthony Henry vs. Austin Theory vs. Chris Dickinson vs. Fred Yehi
Oh god, it’s that wXw overdub again!
We start with Henry and Yehi getting rid of Dickinson and Theory at the bell, before those two paired off in a rematch from their Style Battle draw in January. Priscilla Kelly appears at ringside for some reason, and she sees Theory try for the Theory Driver on Henry, who counters with a ‘rana instead. Henry then takes a massive German suplex for a near-fall from Dickinson, as this descended into a fun spot-fest.
A standing moonsault gets Theory a two-count on Henry, before the Catch Point duo double-teamed Theory, ending with a neckbreaker/powerbomb that led to Dickinson and Yehi arguing over who’d get the pin. They end up taking a missile dropkick from Henry, who gets a near-fall out of a tornado DDT to Dickinson, before Henry’s dive is caught with Yehi dragging him into a German suplex.
Henry retaliates with a snap German suplex off the ropes, but Yehi goes back to the stomps, before eventually swapping sunset flips with Dickinson for a bunch of near-falls. The Catch Point pair dish out Exploder suplexes for all, before Dickinson powerbombs Henry into smithereens, before a Samoan driver would have won it, had Theory not broken up the pin.
A dropkick from Yehi knocks Dickinson and Theory off the apron as they were going for a powerbomb, before Henry kicks and delivers a brainbuster to Yehi for another near-fall. Yehi comes back with a trip into the Koji Clutch… but Henry holds on as Chris Dickinson delivers a Border Toss to Theory, who’s still bent over after Dickinson scores the pin. A fun ending to a solid four-way – I’m not usually a fan of these spot-fests, but this was pretty decent. ***¼
Jaka vs. Jeff Cobb
In a surprise for me, both these guys were roughly the same height – although Cobb was noticeably larger, which gave him the advantage when it came to shots.
Jaka tried to get a cover from an elbow drop early, but barely got a one-count from it, before he managed to hurl up Cobb for a Samoan drop! Cobb replied with a one-armed, delayed superplex that was equally impressive, as was that standing moonsault that earned a near-fall. A second one misses as Cobb was drilled with a knee strike after landing, before Jaka pulled off a German suplex for another near-fall.
Cobb’s taken outside, where he’s levelled with a tope from Jaka, who tries again with a pescado… which is caught, only for him to escape a Snake Eyes attempt as the pair threw bombs at each other with forearms and headbutts on the floor. Back inside, they keep slugging it out, before Cobb catches a punch and just tosses Jaka across the ring with a pumphandle fallaway slam, before he shrugs off a German suplex and delivers an instant receipt. Which Jaka pops up from too.
A superkick dazes Cobb, but he comes back with a pop-up German suplex that’s as impressive as all hell, but Jaka comes back with a spinning heel kick and spinning backfists, only to get caught off the ropes with the Tour of the Islands slam for the win. Massively impressive here – big lads throwing bombs and each other around like it was going out of style. Well worth a watch! ***¾
Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams
Much like Zack Sabre Jr the prior night, Williams was forced to try and use his lack of size as an advantage… but Lee’s agile too, so the only real difference here was speed as Lee shrugged off some shots and took down “Hot Sauce” with a leapfrog and then a dropkick.
From there, Lee takes Williams into the rope to work on his arms, before he dumps Williams on the top turnbuckle – which just gets him an armbar in the ropes as Williams utilised the five-count to add some pain. Did that do much? Not really… Lee replies with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall once Williams rejoined the fray. We see a neck crank as Lee wears down Williams, whose attempted comeback is rudely interrupted by some more clubbing shots.
Lee hits a double chop to a cornered Williams, and that seems to wake up Williams… at least until his shots earn him a Spirit Bomb (a Last Ride-esque powerbomb), but Lee isn’t able to make the cover. Williams gets taken to the corner, but he fights out of a superplex attempt, punching the big man to the mat as he flies in with a missile dropkick!
A lariat gets Williams a near-fall, before Lee hits back with a chokeslam as he caught Williams off the ropes. Lee heads up for a moonsault, but Williams gets up and brings him down with an Angle-ish Slam to collect another two-count as both men try and end this. Williams blocks a clothesline and tries for an armbar, only for Lee to pick him up into the Ground Zero slam… and that’s it. My word, in his first three matches in EVOLVE, Keith Lee is getting the mega-push – give him time, and he’ll be EVOLVE’s unstoppable monster at the top of the pile. Size, power and agility is a tough package to beat. ***½
Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page
Oh, poor Darby’s going to die. Especially since he came out wearing a mask of Ethan Page’s face. Page gets streamers for some reason, and then the feed freezes. Delightful!!
Allin charges at Page, who just drops him with a clothesline, before Darby flips out of a package piledriver and low bridges Page to the floor. He Coffin Drops onto Page and the Gatekeepers outside, almost wiping out the set in the process, before a diving dropkick keeps Page at bay.
Allin tries to climb onto the apron, but gets yanked back-first onto the stage as some fans get an up-close-and-personal view of things, watching as Page gorilla presses Allin from the stage into the ring post. Yep, Darby’s gonna die. After rolling him back in, Page gets a near-fall, before he signals for – and gets – a pair of handcuffs. How’s this not a DQ?
Page handcuffs Allin’s hands behind his back, before launching Allin upside down into the turnbuckles. This crowd seems to enjoy Page obliterating Darby, who mounts something of a comeback… before taking a back body drop which had to have hurt with those arms restrained. A Tanned Sheamus follows, as a knee to the midsection ends another comeback… and Allin somehow knocks down Ethan with a headbutt.
A no-hands ‘rana takes Ethan down as Darby headbutts away on Page, then lands a dropkick to knock the Gatekeepers off the apron. Allin climbs the turnbuckles, but gets caught by a resurging Page, who brings him down with a powerslam off the top rope… but still, Darby kicks out!
All that’s left from there is the RK-Ego and a powerbomb, and that’s it for Ethan Page. Pretty much a one-sided squash, but this was fun as hell. **¾
After the match, Page gets the microphone and continued to mock Allin. He noted that the only time Allin won was when he capitalised on Zack Sabre Jr’s work, and so now was the time for Ethan to take out the trash. The Gatekeepers wheel in a bodybag, and I’ve got mid 90s Undertaker flashbacks here… those things freaked the hell out of me as a kid! Ethan asks Darby why he hates him, when he should be grateful for Ethan since it was his beatings that made him a name in EVOLVE. They finish off zipping up the bodybag, and that’s it for Darby Allin today! Page declares that he’ll be the next EVOLVE champion, and that’s it for him too!
Matt Riddle vs. Drew Galloway
Of course Matt’s got his Atlas title with him.
Riddle kills Drew with a knee strike at the bell as this almost ends in record time, but Drew kicks out, only to take an Exploder and a back senton for a near-fall. Galloway comes back with suplexes of his own as he stomps on Riddle in the corner, only for Matt ro recoverand send him outside, where Drew takes some chops against the stage.
Galloway comes back with a tiltawhirl backbreaker from the floor to the stage, before another one onto the apron is blocked as Riddle lands on his feet and runs in with a knee strike instead. For some reason Galloway’s sneaking under the ring, but that’s just a ruse to pull Riddle into the steel supports, as the crowd barriers get used to deliver some Snake Eyes.
Back in the ring finally, Galloway stomps away on Riddle’s head and feet, before shocking him with a short piledriver for a near-fall. Riddle gets back to his feet as he trades massive strikes with Galloway, sending the Scotsman into the ropes, before he sees an upkick blocked and met with a diving dropkick. A suplex gets countered into a Fisherman’s buster as Riddle gets a two-count, before more strikes lead to Galloway catching RIddle in an inverted fly swatter.
Galloway tries for a Futureshock DDT, but it’s turned into the Bro To Sleep – which is successful at the second attempt – for a two-count, before Drew blocked a back senton with his knees. Drew goes up top and lands the Air Raid Crash off the middle rope, but somehow Riddle kicked out at two, before he countered a Futureshock into another roll-up.
A springboard kick from Riddle gets blocked, as he then countered a tombstone piledriver into the Bromission, and with Galloway not quitting, the referee calls off the match and gives the win to Riddle. A fun war as you’d expect from these two – but this is far from the last match, given that Galloway attacked him almost immediately after the bell. ***¾
Galloway grabs a chair from ringside, then brings it in as he looked to piledrive Riddle onto it, only for Catch Point to come out to make the save and send the dour Scotsman packing. Larry Dallas then heads out, because of course he has to rain on a parade. Dallas reckons he’s been in danger in the line of duty, so he’s got a personal protection agency in the form of the return of Earl Cooter. Yeah. Imagine Kenny Omega minus fifty pounds, and all of the charisma, and you’re nearly there.
Dallas enters the ring and claims that EVOLVE has an announcement to make – and the leak is that Riddle’s going to be in the WWN Supershow’s “Battle of the Champions” to crown a WWN champion. Williams and Yehi also are getting entered, but Riddle reckons he’s going to take the title… and that’s enough to make Yehi snap. He’s sick of Riddle being selfish and never thanking them. This leads to Yehi challenging Riddle… Matt accepts, and then leaves as Tracy Williams is left to try and calm down the perennially angry, pissed-off and short Yehi.
It’s main event time!
EVOLVE Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Timothy Thatcher (c)
Guess who the massive favourite was here? Thatcher’s smug face was on show as his 596 day reign was announced here, and with half an hour left on the feed, this is going to be a traditional long Thatcher match.
Sabre leaps into a cross-arm breaker at the start, but Thatcher escapes out into a Fujiwara armbar as both men decide that uppercuts and boots may be the better way to go here. Things settle down somewhat as a leg-spreader gets rolled through as we get a variation of the old “both guys bridge their necks and slap each other” spot, which looked cool.
More Sabre strikes get him shoved to the mat, before Thatcher grabs a single leg as he forces a knee bar… with Sabre trying his best to avoid too much pressure. Eventually they roll into the ropes to end a pair of kneebars, before Thatcher goes straight back into Sabre with forearms and a knee to the gut… and this is not quite the same plodding Thatcher that everyone’s poked fun at in the past.
Another armbar follows from Sabre as he’s hanging off the apron, but of course that can’t be kept on, so Zack releases then pounces again with a heel hook to soften up Thatcher for an armbar, but the champion hits back with a Saito suplex to free himself. Sabre quickly goes back to the leg, but Thatcher rolls through and sort-of mounts Zack as he tried for a wristlock, before instead going back into a gutwrench suplex.
Thatcher takes over, stomping away on Sabre in the corner, before grabbing a chinlock, only for Sabre to slip out and get an Octopus that was also easily escaped. Belly-to-belly suplexes get Thatcher some near-falls, before a kick to the midsection knocks down Thatcher, before the neck twist forces Thatcher to sit upright with pain. Another Octopus follows, but that’s countered into an armbar by Thatcher, then into an attempted double armbar from Sabre again, before the challenger came back with a bridging German suplex for a near-fall.
A leg sweep from Sabre sends Thatcher onto his arse, but the follow-up PK is caught as Thatcher hugs onto the leg and takes him down with a Dragon screw. Thatcher segues into a Fujiwara armbar as the crowd willed for Sabre to hold on, which he did after squirming into the ropes. Timmy drops a F-bomb, declaring “I’m fucking winning” before dumping Sabre with a butterfly suplex for a near-fall, only for Sabre to come back with an O’Connor roll out of the corner for a near-fall.
Thatcher goes to a sleeperhold, but Sabre slips out into another bridging pin that almost won it for him… with the crowd booing the near-fall. More kicks to the face of Thatcher precede a PK, before Sabre leaps into Thatcher with a triangle choke, but he slips out as Thatcher goes back to the armbar, then a knee bar as they trade grounded submissions for fun. Another Octopus follows, but Sabre struggles to hook in Thatcher’s head, so he just elbows him a lot before getting the Octopus… then kicks away at Thatcher’s head for good measure.
More elbows soften him up for a properly locked in Octopus, as Lenny Leonard rattles through its full name – Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness – and before Lenny could get it out, Thatcher tapped! LaBoom erupts, and Timmy’s 596 day reign… is over! That was exquisite – and proof that you can seemingly delay something forever without it ruining the pay-off. Great technical stuff from both men that didn’t outstay its welcome. ****½
Timothy Thatcher wrestled the belt away from a despondent Stokely Hathaway so he could continue the tradition of handing the belt to the new champion. Before that could happen, Ethan Page hit the ring and attacked Sabre from behind, whilst nervously staring at Thatcher throughout. Thatcher just dumped the belt on the mat and left as Page rained down blows on Sabre… before he too left the ring as ACH made the save.
The locker-room empties out to congratulate Sabre, and Zack ended the show with a promo saying that “this world is for everyone and professional wrestling is for everyone… politics speech over”. Aw, no neoliberalism jokes!. So, ACH gets the first shot at Zack Sabre Jr at the end of March… but with Keith Lee and Ethan Page holding very recent wins over Zack, the title picture is suddenly very interesting indeed.
Easily the best of the two shows from last weekend, EVOLVE 79 brought down the curtain on the Timothy Thatcher era – and although some will suggest that Sabre is too similar a champion, he does not come into the championship with negative feeling around him. Elsewhere, we saw pay-offs for the Darby Allin/Ethan Page story, whilst Matt Riddle’s feud with Drew Galloway sort-of advances, with Fred Yehi looking to set something up for the future.
Going into WrestleMania weekend, EVOLVE’s looking mighty interesting!