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Evolve 79 recap & review: Zack Sabre, Jr. ends Timothy Thatcher’s 596-day title reign


Once again, just a few minutes past the scheduled start time and we're kicking off with Lenny Leonard in the ring. He welcomes us to the show and runs down some of our featured matches. He polls the crowd on the title match and we go from there right into the action.

ACH vs. Jason Kincaid

Quick exchanges early, Kincaid's unorthodox style taking ACH aback to a degree. The mantle comes off and the straps go down early, and ACH tries to use a bit of mat grappling to bring Jason down to earth. An arm drag does the job, however, and sends Kincaid outside and the pace quickens.

Manhattan Drop catches Jason, spinning wheel kick in return, inverted Tiger feint after a dive is evaded, ACH nails him with a triangle dropkick and follows it with the apron Penalty Kick. Back in the ring ACH looks to soar but Kincaid ducks him, through-the-ropes clothesline, slingshot neckbreaker follow.

Over the ropes handspring double stomp connects (lord, Kincaid's offense is delightfully wacky), ACH blocks a whip, evades a lariat and fires a kick combo off. Going for the apron kick again, Jason catches it, trips him, hops up on the stage, stage to apron dropkick!

Running slingshot Stunner almost ends it! Diving double stomp misses, ACH sends him to the apron and catches him wtih a German suplex out of the corner when he returns. Big lariats feed Kincaid right in...

ACH wins by pinfall with Buster Call.

Real fun opener. And now ACH has an Evolve title shot, which should be quite good as well.

Anthony Henry vs. Austin Theory vs. Chris Dickinson vs. Fred Yehi

Yehi and Henry clear the field with a kick each and square off, Yehi comes out ahead landing the stomp to the hand. Henry fights back valiently but gets caught with another to the foot and nuked with the dropkick. Theory in, looking for an Argentine powerbomb... HENRY REVERSES TO A FRANKENSTEINER!

Dickinson with a nearfall off a German suplex, Theory and Yehi in it, this match is a bit hard to keep track of, folks. Chris and Fred double-team Theory, powerbomb neckbreaker nearly wins it but Yehi tries to steal the pin and they bicker until Anthony comes off the top with a missile dropkick to level both men!

Chest kicks for both, buzzsaw roundhouse for Dickinson, into a tornado DDT but Austin breaks the pin! TKO over the ropes goes sideways and almost becomes a neckbreaker, Henry looking to dive but Yehi gets behind him and lands a German suplex! Anthony with one of his own, eats a stomp to the knee, Fred ducks Theory and nukes him, back to Henry.

BIG pop-up German suplex and Fred and Chris are the only two standing. They square off, Catch Point handshake, trading waistlocks, reversal on reversal, pinning predicaments, and Henry and Theory are back in. Dirty Daddy powerbomb on Lethal Lover, he holds the grip, another, a third, going for a fourth, turns it into a fireman's carry, Michinoku Driver... THEORY BREAKS UP THE PIN!

Buzzsaw roundhouse to Theory on the apron, Dickinson thinking piledriver but Fred nukes 'em to the floor. He drags Henry to his feet, elbow, rolling elbow, another elbow, another roller but Henry catches him with a kick! Brainbuster connects... NOT ENOUGH!

Fred runs over, snap reverse STO, the Koji Clutch is on but Anthony's fighting... PAZUZU BOMB ON THEORY! IT'S OVER!

Chris Dickinson wins by pinfall with a Pazuzu Bomb on Austin Theory.

Well that was awesome. Really just nonstop action, everything you could want out of a four-way in Evolve in 2017. And that finish! Too clever.

Catch Point handshake ensures all is well after the match and the crowd gives well-deserved ovations to Henry and Theory both.

Jaka vs. Jeff Cobb

Jaka trying to take the Olympian down to no avail early, Cobb forces him in the corner and plants a hard forearm but the Savage wants more! Slugging it out, Jeff pulls ahead and takes Jaka to the mat with a lariat but the Catch Point man has a few forearms in return and takes charge.

He gets Cobb up for a Samoan drop for two but it was a struggle and the Olympian comes at him, hands and headbutts, setting him in the corner. To the second, looking for a superplex, has him up vertical... DELAYED VERTICAL SUPERPLEX! Follows it up with the paired running shooting star presses but Jaka ducks the second and throws a knee that sends Cobb loopy.

Savage connects with a German suplex for a nearfall, punches and chops, whip reversed, he takes Cobb to the apron and knocks him down with a superkick before ramming him into the barricade with a suicide dive! Pescado follows, Jeff catches him but Jaka escapes a running powerslam on the floor and they trade strikes some more.

A headbutt staggers Cobb but a forearm lays Jaka out on the floor in return! Back in the ring, pumphandle applied but Jaka fights out with headbutts to the arm and they trade a few more forearms. Cobb gets the pumphandle again and just chucks Jaka halfway across the ring with a pumphandle exploder suplex.

Catch Point man with his spinning wheel kick in the corner, German suplex, the Olympian pops right up for one of his own in return, and so Jaka pops right up for one more! He blocks another, wobbles Jeff with a superkick but Cobb catches him with an absolutely ridiculous pop-up tossing German suplex. He strong.

Jaka fighting back, kick, chop, backfist, Cobb on his knees but when Jaka charges in he has his wits about him...

Jeff Cobb wins by pinfall with the Tour of the Islands.

Really awesome HOSS action here. Was kinda thinking as the match started that I dig Jaka but he hasn't had that marquee match in Evolve yet, and this might have been the one.

Keith Lee vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams (Keith Lee Challenge Series)

Hot Sauce right in running hard knowing he has to cut the big man down. Every time Lee tries to create an opening, Williams ducks him and keeps the pressure on, until a whiffed whip leads to the big man doing a dropdown / leapfrog / dropkick sequence, because to hell with physics, right?

Clubbing blows to Tracy's back, choking him over the ropes and punishing him. Hot Sauce get a cross armbreaker in the ropes but makes the mistake of following with a dive, getting caught by an overhead belly-to-belly suplex! Keith wrenches a headlock in and stares square into the camera, just the most imposing man on the planet.

A cravate applied, shades of Chris Hero, Williams fights out and gets ordered to bask in his glory. Choosing to fire a shot off instead, Lee just clobbers him with punches. Corner to corner, punishing the Catch Point man like a freight train, but the man himself says we ain't done yet and lays two huge openhand chops on Tracy's chest before strutting.

Williams with a desperate strike rush, Lee picks him up... SPIRIT BOMB! He can't capitalize, and both men are out on the mat. Setting Hot Sauce up in the corner, thinking superplex maybe, he hooks it but Williams fights out and knocks the superheavyweight down with a forearm.

Missile dropkick connects, big lariat, off the ropes for another but Keith is only staggered even after a third. Hot Sauce blocks a boot and hits a fourth lariat to finally knock Lee down, earning the big ol' kickout on the cover. Back suplex lift, thinking powerslam but Williams slips out.

Lee blocks a back suplex, Tracy fires elbow on elbow at him, off the ropes but Lee catches him with a HUGE thrust spinebuster... NO GOOD! Keith straightens his kneepads and he's gonna fly, by god. to the top but Willams runs behind him... OLYMPIC SLAM OFF THE TOP!! LEE KICKS OUT!

Slugging it out, both men running out of gas and desperate, Hot Sauce has the edge but Lee will not fall. Tracy trying to take him down now, Keith hoists him up and there it is...

Keith Lee wins by pinfall with Ground Zero.

I'm not sure what more superlatives I can throw at Keith Lee. Dude is obviously benefitted by wrestling top shelf guys like Hero, Sabre, and Williams, but my god, he is incredible. Ground Zero might be my favorite finish going. Excellent match.

Darby Allin vs. "All Ego" Ethan Page

Darby makes his entrance wearing a paper cutout of All Ego's face.

Page beckons Allin in and just wipes him out with a lariat. Going right for the package piledriver but Darby slips out, headbutt, low bridge, the Gatekeepers surround him... COFFIN DROP TO THE OUTSIDE! Ego has to back the Gatekeepers off, takes a dropkick but throws Allin into the stage hard.

Military press... HE SLAMMED HIM FROM THE STAGE TO THE RINGPOST! No count-out win here, Ethan rolls Darby in the ring and covers him... DARBY ALLIN LIVES! Page gets handcuffs from Blaster and cuffs Allin's hands behind his back! Referee DA Brewer asking Darby if he wants to quit but he'll fight without hands!

Ethan shoves Allin in the corner and yells at him before throwing him into the corner opposite. Into another, corner avalanche but Darby ducks, boot up on another charge but Page back body drops him, which can't be fun with your hands behind your back. Tan Sheamus connects and Allin is gasping.

Darby fighting back with headbutts but Ego catches him with a knee, Darby springboards, handcuffed, to evade a charge and hits a headbutt. To the second, flying headscissors and he's just Drinky Birding headbutts at Page! Dropkick knocks the Gatekeepers off the apron and Allin climbs until All Ego cuts him off.

Bulldog headlock on the second, thumb to the eye, he hoists the daredevil on his shoulders and flips the crowd the bird... AVALANCHE POWERSLAM! DARBY ALLIN KICKS OUT! Page draws him to his feet and Allin spits in his face! RKEgo, he sets up the package piledriver but can't exactly hook the hands, so...

"All Ego" Ethan Page wins by pinfall with a powerbomb.

That was strange, but enjoyable. I love a good handcuffed comeback segment, not that we see too many of those in wrestling.

All Ego gets on the mic to ask the crowd to give it up for the biggest loser in Evolve Wrestling, Darby Allin. He's beaten him three times now, and the only time he was able to get a win was when Zack Sabre, Jr. got him the win. He calls Darby useless trash and says he's taking the trash out.

The Gatekeepers have a body bag! They put him in it and zip it halfway, when Page asks them to pick him up. He asks why Darby hates him so much when the crowd only even knows who he is because he threw him into a pole and made them feel sorry for him.

He says Darby should thank him, not pick fights with him, and he should be grateful that Page even knows his name. But All Ego is gonna give his life some meaning. Page reads his tattoo, "Nothing's over until you're underground," and tells him he can consider his whole career dead, before zipping the bag the rest of the way.

Page asks the crowd to take their hats off and pay respect to the first career killed at the hands of Ethan Page. And the last time he grabbed the mic he said the Evolve title wasn't on his mind, but now that he realizes that every person in the locker room has their sights set on the title, he's gonna ruin it for everyone and become champion himself.

Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle

Bro right in with a jumping knee strike that almost ends it! Leaping forearm in the corner, exploder suplex, high jump senton gets two. Chest kicks in the corner, hammer blows against the ropes, but Drew gets a Claymore off and we have a fight on our hands.

Big belly-to-belly from the big Scotsman before he puts boots to Riddle in the corner. Off the ropes but Matt catches him with a clothesline and sends him outside for chops against the stage. Galloway hits a wicked headbutt, tilt-a-whirl slam into the stage and chop for good measure.

Riddle gets a few chops in and hits a knee off the apron. Galloway hides under the ring and yanks our Bro's arm through the steel frame of the ring before press slamming him right onto the barricade. Back in the ring, Drew starts stomping, leading with a wicked one to the head before attacking the bare foot of Riddle.

Matt fires back chops for forearms, and Galloway spikes him with a short piledriver! Disdainful slaps as the Bro fires up and fires back with a slap rush that pushes Drew against the ropes. Catches the Pele kick, fires off another Claymore, looking for a suplex but Riddle reverses to a sheerdrop brainbuster! NO GOOD!

Strike for strike on their knees and to their feet, ending in hockey punches, Galloway catches the feet and lands the inverted Alabama Slam! Looking for Future Shock, reversed to Bro 2 Sleep attempt, blocked but Riddle goes right back to it and connects for a nearfall.

Knees up on the big senton, Galloway sets Riddle up top... AIR RAID CRASH OFF THE SECOND ROPE! NOT ENOUGH! He bids Riddle get up and makes the sign of the cross, goes for Future Shock, Riddle slips away for a jackknife pin, no good, Pele kick connects, springboard knee dodged, Drew hoists him up for a Tombstone but the Bro picks the leg!

Raining elbows down to set the Bromission up, he can't quite get it but he keeps throwing hands and Drew isn't protecting himself...

Matt Riddle wins by referee stoppage.

Really good match, naturally, and another awesome finish. Riddle beating dudes so bad the ref decides the match can't continue is awesome.

Drew cheapshots Riddle after the match and beats him down before going for a chair. He's about to piledrive the Bro and the tag champs make the save! They run Galloway off.

And here comes Larry Dallas. (Fart noise.) He claims to have the scoop of the century, so big that it'll shake the foundation of the entire World Wrestling Network. But before he can get into that, he needs to talk about his personal safety. Last night, Tracy Williams shoved him and he's sad about it.

So he announces the Evolve return we've all been waiting (?) for, The Big C, Earl Cooter will be his personal security and he clears the ring. His sources are telling him that Evolve is going to make a huge announcement on Monday, but he's gonna leak the news now.

Matt Riddle is in the WWN Championship eliminator at Mercury Rising! Larry, all is forgiven, my man. Bring this kinda news to me and all is well. Hot Sauce and Fred Yehi are in the match as well!

Fred offers a Catch Point handshake but Riddle just bails. Yehi asks if Riddle knows what the problem is, and says Riddle is selfish, comin' out here time and time and time and time again and they save him and they don't get a thank you? This isn't the Matt Riddle show.

Yehi challenges Riddle to a match, and the Bro tells him any time. Larry does his "nationally syndicated journalist" schtick and leaves.

Timothy Thatcher (c) vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (Evolve World Championship)

Zack right in and they trade forearms, Sabre gets an armbar, Thatcher reverses to the Fujiwara armbar and they go back to striking on the break. Intense jockeying for position, ZSJ gets a guillotine choke in but Tim breaks free and starts throwing hands with Sabre in guard.

Forearm for forearm on the mat, they end up standing on their heads, legs grapevined, trading slaps! Technical Wizard back to the cross armbar but the champ tweaks his foot to escape. Trading shots, Thatcher going for a heel hook, Zack with one of his own and they shift and tussle, trading slaps and struggling until they roll to the ropes and referee Brandon Tolle has to untangle them.

Determination on the champion's face, but Sabre's playing coy and throwing leg kicks. Punishing ZSJ in the corner, choking him with a foot but Zack gets a heel hook in the ropes! On the leg now, wrenching and tearing, stepover toehold applied, grinding the knuckles into the back of Thatcher, looking for the armbar but the champ keeps his hands clasped.

Tim back on the leg himself now, Zack gets a side headlock and the champ takes him up and over with a suplex. Front facelock lifted into a body slam, knee lift, forearm, but Sabre has his wits about him and grabs a kneebar. Thatcher's able to roll through, looking for a Kimura but it's denied so he goes for the Karelin lift, releasing it and sending the Technical Wizard across the ring.

Sabre wrenching the fingers back, the champion out with an uppercut and putting boots to him in the corner. Thatcher soaks the hate of the crowd in for a moment before suplexing Sabre, who escapes with a bridge. Grinding him down with a rear chinlock, Zack goes for the fingers to break, Pele to the arm!

Sort of a modified octopus into a Jim Breaks Special but Tim escapes and drops a knee to go back to the chinlock, grinning at the crowd as they jeer. The belly-to-belly off the ropes connects but Sabre is out at one, so he goes for it again and gets two. A third is blocked and ZSJ comes at him with a strike rush, laying the champion out with a buzzsaw kick to the delight of La Boom.

Zack with the headscissors twist, full nelson, Dragon suplex denied but he gets the octopus hold on only for Thatcher to escape wrenching the foot into an ankle lock! Reversed, Ode to Jim Breaks on with a struggle but Thatcher uses his momentum to counter with a pin!

Off the ropes, Sabre catches the champion with a kick, bridging German suplex... NO GOOD! Kick on kick, a sweep of the leg but Tim catches the Penalty Kick, dragon screw! Karelin lift, he rolls through and the Fujiwara armbar is on! Zack is struggling for the ropes... HE GETS THEM!

Knee to the ribs, clubbing overhand and wild stomps to the shoulder from the champion! Butterfly suplex can't finish the match, goes for a sleeper, Sabre slips out, bridging clutch, no good! He goes back to it a second time... STILL NOT ENOUGH! THE WILDEST ROUNDHOUSE KICK I'VE SEEN IN AN EVOLVE RING CONNECTS!




MY GOD I MAY NEVER TYPE IN LOWERCASE AGAIN. I mean, okay, yeah I will, because ALLCAPS is hard when you're not right in the thick of the match, but my god. For real. That was incredible. Sabre and Thatcher absolutely bring out the best in each other and tonight was no different.

And most critically, it was the match Timothy Thatcher's title reign deserved to end on. People forget how hot he was when he won the title, or they just weren't watching then and came in to see this dry technical guy wrestle underwhelming matches to silence from the audience and they didn't get it, and I can't blame them.

But this, this was perfect. It was, in a lot of ways, a summation of all his best matches, the kitchen sink "work limbs until you find the one that hurts" approach, the hard-nosed, MMA inspired UWFi style approach laden with an urge to get the win by any means, the wild, hard hitting brawling, it was all here.

This was the dude whose wrestling I fell in love with in August of 2014 and never looked back, wrestling his ass off against a game opponent who brought it even harder to finally end that 596-day reign. And it was all in front of a crowd that was hot for his blood. Pitch perfect.

After the match, Tim considers the title belt in his hands. He's about ready to hand it over when Ethan Page hits the ring to attack Sabre! Thatcher drops the belt and leaves as Page puts the boots to the champion! ACH makes the save!

He gets on the mic and puts Sabre over as one of the very best in the world, saying that he doesn't think anybody deserves the Evolve title more. He doesn't presume to give the title to him, but rather asks him to stand tall and show the people what hard work and dedication looks like...

Sabre picks the belt up and ACH continues... because on March 30th Sabre will be handing him the title.

Zack gets on the mic and says he's gonna keep it short but hopes it comes off as sincere. In 2017, pro wrestling is for everyone, we welcome everyone and will not discriminate, and takes his leave as Evolve Champion for the first time, shaking hands with Catch Point, Jeff Cobb, Anthony Henry, Jason Kincaid and, last but not least, Keith Lee, holding the title up in front of him to close the show.


Incredible show. Would not be surprised if it ended up being my show of the year. Everything worked, and worked to a very high level. Sabre/Thatcher III was an incredible match in front of a volcano hot crowd-- I don't play with star ratings, but if I did, well, I think you know where I'm going.

But let's not shortchange the rest of the card here-- when the "worst" match is Darby Allin dying in new and innovative ways over and over again, there's nothing to be ashamed about. But man, Lee/Williams, Riddle/Galloway, that four-way! Top to bottom awesome stuff.

Go check out the VOD when it goes up on FloSlam, I implore you.

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