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Evolve 80 recap & review: Lio Rush returns a day early, Darby Allin lives, titles are retained, Big Mike makes his presence felt, and more

FloSlam

Show goes live with Lenny Leonard, Joanna Rose, and Drew Galloway in the ring. Drew immediately yanks the mic out of Lenny's hand and waves him off. He says this is the part of the show where they thank everybody for coming and watching at home, but this is no ordinary weekend.

It's the biggest set of shows in WWN history and he doesn't even trust the voice of Evolve to get things right, he only trusts himself to get things perfect. He welcomes us and says we've chosen wisely and understand that all the top talent congregates under this banner. Just like they are the evolution of wrestling, we are the evolution of fans.

He said something two years ago that he'll stand by until he dies, and it's not WrestleMania week, it's when all the most passionate fans get together and support independent wrestling and help it grow, this is not WrestleMania week, it's Wrestling Week!

Drew continues, saying we join him at the end of a year-long war, good vs. evil, and he's run down every obstacle, been injured and come back, and there's only one obstacle left, and that's Matt Riddle. He could lay reality out in any number of ways but neither we nor Bro would understand and if Bro is ever the face of the company, it will collapse.

He can insult Riddle to his face, insult his cat, and he'd just get that dopey look in his face and tell him "Chill, bro!" Galloway yells about not being chill as Riddle's music hits and he strolls to the ring with his Progress Atlas Division Champion around his shoulder as always.

Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle

Drew right on Riddle from the start, blindsiding him and taking him to the woodshed. Bro comes back with kicks and forearms in the corner, Pele kick connects, flying forearm, exploder suplex and the fighting ends up outside. Galloway punishing Riddle against the barricade but Matt stiffens up and they slug it out on the floor until Drew drops him into the barricade!

Galloway slams Riddle off the steps and into the apron! He follows it up with another toss into the barricade, firmly in charge. Matt fires up, slap rush begets a boot, Bro 2 Sleep! Riddle gets a table out and sets it up before dragging Drew over. The crowd behind him, he climbs up to the apron to put Galloway through but the Scotsman wakes up and sweeps the leg on the apron.

Struggle on the apron, Galloway in control... PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE TABLE TO THE FLOOR! Drew makes the cover... BRO LIVES! Underhooks in, Future Shock connects...

Drew Galloway wins by pinfall with a short piledriver.

Awesome, brutal opener. Holy hell. Sets up a third match beautifully, too, with both men holding VERY decisive wins against each other in slightly different contexts, and the WWN Championship eliminator should give us a nice preview of it. Can't wait!

Galloway sets Riddle up on the ropes but Catch Point make the save before he can do anything.

Chris Dickinson vs. Timothy Thatcher

On the mat to start, naturally. Dickinson gains first advantage with a headscissors but Tim slips out and starts in on the leg. Leg for leg, jockeying for position here, Chris throws a kick but we don't shift to striking just yet.Bit of struggle in the corner and here it comes, forearm-for-forearm!

Snapmare into a kick and hammer blows to the back, Thatcher turns it around with a wrench of the foot. Dickinson fighting from guard, turns it around and just rains wild blows on the former champion's head! Reverse crab applied,the Catch Point man turns it into la Campana and taps Tim's head into the turnbuckle before hitting a Curb Stomp!

Chest kicks, Thatcher defiant, picks the leg again, ankle lock on in full force! Chris slips out but just invites pummeling forearms to the ear and the Karelin lift as a followup. Face-to-face, two bulls, chop for uppercut, Tim gets the butterfly suplex, Dickinson with a backdrop driver in return!

Charging lariats, fireman's carry, Thatcher counters with a sleeper, Dickinson gets the ropes, Tim with the Ringkampf break, standing switch, Catch Point man dumps him with a German suplex of his own! Struggling for finishers, back to playing it strike for strike, Thatcher gets the sleeper, Saka Otoshi...

Timothy Thatcher wins by submission with a reverse chinlock sleeper hold.

Good, hard-hitting match. Good matchup for both guys, and honestly, it's just nice to enjoy a Thatcher match without having to worry about the title anymore, hah.

Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid vs. Lio Rush

Jaka dumps Lio outside, Kincaid dumps Jaka with a headscissors! Rush back in, bit of quick lucha off the ropes, wild evasions, Lio lands an enzuigiri but Catch Point's Savage clobbers him with a lariat to block a dive! Throwing hands, Jaka gets caught up in the ropes by Jason, he and Lio argue a moment, Jaka with a dive!

Punch for punch, Jaka with a whip in the corner, spinning wheel kick, suplex for two and Lio climbs up the ropes. Axehandle from behind, Jaka dumps him out but Kincaid catches him with a through-the-ropes clothesline and a slingshot blockbuster into a handspring knee drop!

Rush and Kincaid struggling with a suplex over the ropes, Jaka comes over and German suplexes the pair of them into the middle of the ring! Three-way slugfest breaks out, chop on chop on chop until the two flyers gang up on Jaka a moment. Lio takes Kincaid out, Jaka clobbers him, Jason breaks the pin up!

Jaka with a chokebomb into a powerbomb countered with a Kincaid Frankensteiner, what?! Lio hits a springboard Poison Frankensteiner on Kincaid! Up top, Jaka cuts him off, Jason back over, all three struggling for position... JASON KINCAID AVANLANCHE FRANKENSTEINER ON BOTH MEN!

Jaka kicks out! Rush kicks out! Back to the three-way slugfest now, this time a little worse for wear all around, Jaka with a double clothesline after a double chokeslam is blocked! Superkicks take Jaka out, Rush ducking and dodging, strike rush, enzuigiri in return, Kincaid runs into Rush Hour!

Suicide dive on Jaka, Lio climbs...

Lio Rush wins by pinfall with a frog splash on Jason Kincaid.

Awesome, awesome high-octane three-way. Lio Rush is just incredible, Jaka is a versatile powerhouse, and Jason Kincaid's offense is sometimes infuriating to transcribe but always transcendental.

Jason Kincaid has, uh, a moment in the ring afterward, with referee DA Brewer having to gently get him moving.

Black, Blonde, and Neon (Facade & Michael Richard Blaze) vs. the Gatekeepers (Blaster & Flex)

Facade and Blaster to start, and the Gatekeeper makes the most of his size advantage. Facade dodging best he can, enzuigiri connects, boot in the corner, rope-walk stomp, none of it making much impact and Blaster plants him with a Black Hole Slam. Flex in on Blaze, again the smaller man gets a little kick-based offense in, but the Gatekeeper puts him down with a powerbomb.

Hoisted up...

Gatekeepers win by pinfall with a Canadian backbreaker rack elbow drop combination on Michael Richard Blaze.

Did what it set out to do and did it well.

"All Ego" gets on the mic to get us to give it up for the Gatekeepers and tells us this whole show is part of the Era of Ego. He says he's earned the right to call it the Era of Ego and look at the camera and tell the matchmaker that Ethan Page demands to be in the Evolve title picture.

Austin Theory vs. "All Ego" Ethan Page

Page backs Theory in the corner, playing with him. Austin clobbers him, slingshot stomp, dodges a back suplex but All Ego catches him with an elbow and the cross-arm Iconoclasm. Ethan taking him to the woodshed here, hard strikes, big back body drop, Theory gets a few punches in but Page takes his leg out.

Trying to suffocate Austin with a reverse chinlock, then Page makes the mistake of going for the Iconoclasm again and gets caught with a rolling thunder dropkick after Theory gets away. Suicide dive, shooting star press, All Ego won't stay down, rolling thunder blockbuster!

Ethan snaps the young man's face into the turnbuckles, clobbers him with a lariat, RKEgo... NOPE! Looking for Spinning Dwayne, Austin fights away, big elbow strike, Page kicks his head off and traps him in the ropes for a superkick! Tan Sheamus connects...

"All Ego" Ethan Page wins by pinfall with a Spinning Dwayne.

Page is always good with these "hard-hitting veteran vs. the new kid" matches and Theory's natural talent kicked this one up another notch. Good stuff.

Ethan gets on the mic and tells Austin that he knows his name before getting on his knees so they're on the same level. He congratulates Theory for driving all the way to Orlando just to lose in his big moment. He wants people to cheer his name, and for what, being some kind of prodigy?

He says the spotlight will always be on All Ego, and orders Austin to get out of his ring. Back to the Era of Ego, he says that if Evolve won't give him a title match, he'll just keep raining chaos down. Priscilla Kelly walks out while he talks, and he says he'll ruin the whole Progress/Evolve relationship in his match against Jimmy Havoc if he has to.

All Ego doesn't know what weird thing is happening, but he's talking. She walks in the ring and eyes Page, taking his measure before leaving. A bunch of dudes dressed as zombie hospital orderlies walk out carrying a body bag and set it on the apron.

They pick it up and go to open it but Page orders the Gatekeepers to attack, throwing most of them out of the ring and Flex chokeslamming one for good measure before hurling him out of the ring with an undue amount of force. Ethan tells them not even to open it, just to kill him, and they slam the bag down before throwing it outside!

The medical personnel leave, so the Gatekeepers set the bag up in the corner and Flex unzips it curiously... IT'S DARBY ALLIN WITH A LEAD PIPE! HE'S CLEARING THE RING!

Darby gets on the mic and tells Page he wants his eyes to stay on his. There will never be an Era of Ego as long as his heart is still beating, so do something about it. He challenges Page to an Anything Goes match at Evolve 81 tomorrow night! All Ego accepts!

Allin says that tomorrow, when Page is lying dead in front of him, he'll feel "so freakin' alive"!

Keith Lee vs. Ricochet (Keith Lee Challenge Series)

Ricochet boldly trying to stand against the Limitless in a lockup but he is set on the turnbuckles like a small child. So it continues for a bit until Keith tells him to bask in his glory. A dropkick forces Lee back a tiny bit and Ricochet capitalizes, using his speed to duck and dodge, but Keith is fast too and leapfrogs him into a dropkick!

Lee biels Ricochet literally across the entire ring. The whole thing. Corner to corner. Lee plants him with a corner double leg, and the Future of Flight is decidedly on the back foot now but fighting back as they go striking. A few good hits in, he tries for a whip but Keith isn't having any of it.

A Frankensteiner connects, however, and Ricochet catches him with a drop toehold on a charge right into a corner Tiger feint kick, springboard uppercut sends Lee outside, tope con giro... Keith catches him! Ricochet lands safely on the apron, however, fires a superkick, back in, twisting suicide dive knocks the big man off his feet!

Ricochet struggling to get Lee back in the ring and fires off a strike rush. Keith with evasions and he just bowls Ricochet over! Lee sets up him but Ricochet flips away, Ace Crusher, shooting star press... NOPE! Going for the Benedryller, he thinks better of it but Lee capitalizes anyway, Spirit Bomb set up... POISON FRANKENSTEINER!

HE'S GOT HIM UP FOR THE BENEDRYLLER! THE KICK CONNECTS! A SECOND DROPS LEE TO HIS KNEE! A THIRD! A FOURTH! AXE KICK! NOT ENOUGH! Ricochet heads up top, shooting star press misses, Lee plants him with a spinebuster! Keith wobbling, Ricochet throws a few forearms but Lee is able to clobber him to the mat with one.

And again, Ricochet gives four but can only take one. Varies it up but it just makes the big man fire up and order him to bask in his glory... SPIRIT BOMB! RICOCHET KICKS OUT! KEITH LEE UP TOP... MOONSAULT BUT RICOCHET ROLLS OUT OF THE WAY! Springboard 450... NO GOOD!

Back up, shooting star press... BIG KICK OUT SENDS RICOCHET INTO THE ROPES! One more try, shooting star press connects but Lee has the goozle! Ricochet back in with a knee and kicks, an enzuigiri stuns him and a corkscrew roundhouse knocks him down! Up top one last time...

Ricochet wins by pinfall with a 630 senton.

What an amazing match. Keith Lee is the man. Ricochet is the man. That was wild. I'm having trouble making complete sentences.

Catch Point (Fred Yehi & "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams) (c) vs. Donovan Dijak & Michael Elgin (Evolve Tag Team Championship)

BIG MIKE and Hot Sauce early, forearm-for-forearm, Williams tries to take him to the mat but Elgin uses his strength to make the difference. Bull moose shoulder blocks, struggle in the corner, Tracy gets an armbar in the ropes! Stalemate, tags made.

Yehi throwing chops on the big man fearlessly, keeping him off-balance and laying a stomp to the foot in early. Dijak picks him up and throws him away with a wild spin-out World's Strongest Slam. Fred nukes him in return, dropkick to the face and Donovan is in BIG TROUBLE.

Missile dropkick, tag to Hot Sauce. double-teams, Elgin in, more double-teams. Williams isolated, Elgin takes him out on the apron and Dijak throws Yehi outside! DONOVAN DIJAK FOSBURY FLOP! MICHAEL ELGIN SLINGSHOT PLANCHA! Elgin works Williams over, delayed vertical suplex, Donovan back in with a backbreaker and a senton atomico.

Dijak with a turning, falling splash off the second rope but Hot Sauce gets the knees up and BIG MIKE tags in. Dragon screw, Fred tags in, using his speed and agility to take the New Japan star down, forcing Dijak to stomp his own partner's foot before nuking him with another dropkick!

Catch Point with a nearfall off a missile dropkick / German suplex combo, Tracy the legal man. Trading charging lariats with Elgin, BIG MIKE connects with a Falcon Arrow! Dijak in, headstand knees, a vicious tossing release suplex, Mafia kick, he's setting Williams up in the corner.

Struggle in the corner, Hot Sauce connects with the half-halch DDT into the turnbuckle and follows it with a Backdrop Driver! Dijak with Cyclone Kill to set up a springboard moonsault... NOT ENOUGH! Feast Your Eyes countered into a dragon screw and into an ankle lock!

Goozle applied... WILLIAMS COUNTERS THE CHOKESLAM INTO A FUJIWARA ARMBAR! ELGIN BREAKS IT UP WITH A SUPERKICK! Yehi throws him outside and backs Dijak off with chops but Big Mike throws him into the barricade! Elgin takes Tracy's head off with a lariat! Up for a powerbomb, Dijak brings him down with a chokeslam... YEHI BREAKS IT UP!

Double-teaming Fred now, lariat and a superkick into a Blue Thunder Driver. Donovan sets Hot Sauce up on Elgin on the second... AVALANCHE POWERBOMB! Fireman's carry spinebuster... HOT SAUCE KICKS OUT! Buckle bomb connects, Dijak sets Feast Your Eyes up but Yehi nukes him!

FLIP PILEDRIVER ON ELGIN WHAT?! DOUBLE POWERBOMB! Hot Sauce pulls the pin up, he's got the crossface but Dijak is so big and he's forcing himself up, so Fred takes his legs out...

Catch Point win by submission with the crossface from "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams on Donovan Dijak, retaining the Evolve Tag Team Championship.

Very good match, and perfect for its spot on the card. Started off fun, knowing that the last one wore us way out, and gradually built to a fever pitch.

Larry Dallas comes out to do his spiel, unwelcome as ever. He asks where Catch Point was when Riddle had his neck injured earlier tonight, and he thinks he has the answer, that maybe Fred didn't want Matt at 100% for their match tomorrow or moreso that the three of them are in the WWN Championship eliminator.

Hot Sauce says they don't know where Matt is half the time and they were busy getting ready to defend the titles before accusing Larry of not knowing where he is right now anyway. Fred says he's looking forward to an amazing contest tomorrow and he hopes Riddle is ready and uninjured.

Williams says nobody wants to see Larry Dallas (true!) and tells him to stop wasting everybody's time and get out of the way. Dickinson gets on the mic and asks when he and Jaka get their title shot. Hot Sauce tells him to focus on their trios match tomorrow and their tag match on Saturday first.

Jaka says he knows Catch Point is about competition and he knows it's coming. Catch Point leave and Larry keeps talking, but who cares?

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

ACH knocking Sabre away from the jump and looking to fly! Keeping the champ off balance, Penalty Kick off the apron, neckbreaker in the ring, grinding him down with a cravate. Jockeying for position, Zack nearly gets the octopus hold but ACH gets the ropes!

ZSJ pummeling ACH with strikes before going to work on the arm with a kneeling armbar, the standing armscissor twist, and ACH takes a breather. Back to the arm, ACH struggling, keylock abdominal stretch, snapmare to a standing headscissor twist! ACH looks shaken but Sabre invites him to throw chops, taking them with his hands clasped behind his back.

ACH spits in his face and Zack immediately takes him down and tears his leg apart in a half-crab! Knucklelock, back to the arm, Jim Breaks Special into the elbow stomp that always makes me a little sick to my stomach. Slugging it out, ACH firing one-handed, but a stomp / dropkick combo gets him back into it.

Diving single-knee facebreaker gets a nearfall, fireman's carry neckbreaker over the knee gets another. Slingshot countered into a triangle but ACH is right and ready to get the ropes! Half nelson suplex countered into an arm drag, big right, uppercut countered to a backslide but Sabre slips right out with a Penalty Kick.

Half nelson suplex connects with a bridge to nearly end it here and now, struggle in the corner, the Technical Wizard lays a hard slap to his challenger's face and locks a guillotine choke in! ACH throws him down, double stomp to the back of the head!

Fast-paced dodging and countering, ACH gets a deadlift German off for a nearfall. Both men spent, they draw themselves to their feet as challenger throws heavy hands and champion steels himself. ZSJ with one in return that straight buckles ACH! Charging uppercuts in the corner, fireman's carry reversed to a guillotine choke, roll-through, hold on, Penalty Kick!

ACH with a lariat, Buster Call... NOT ENOUGH! 450 SPLASH BUT SABRE CATCHES HIM INTO THE TRIANGLE CHOKE! ACH WITH A DEADLIFT BUT ZACK FIGHTS OUT! OCTOPUS... THE OTHER ARM...

Zack Sabre, Jr. wins by submission with Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness, retaining the Evolve World Championship.

Excellent match to close on. ACH getting Zack's dander up with the spit early made for a really good time.

ZSJ gets on the mic and he greets Orlando. Today is the first day of a pretty busy week and he thanks the crowd for coming before hitting a few points he wants to bring up. Independent pro wrestling, but especially Evolve is for everyone, even the dickheads over there, they welcome anyone and everyone.

He's got a bit of work to do to catch up with Timothy Thatcher, but this is defense number one. Tomorrow he has Michael Elgin, and then he defends against his old mate Mark Haskins on Saturday and he'd love for folks to be there for it. BIG MIKE comes out and Zack hands him the mic.

Elgin says if Evolve is for everyone, wrestlers and fans alike, does that mean Evolve Championship matches are for anyone?Sabre says he'll defend against anyone AND ELGIN BACKFISTS HIM TO THE MAT! ZSJ recovers and heads out with a little help from referee DA Brewer to close the show.

Overall

A really good show to kick off our WrestleMania weekend. Especially Keith Lee vs. Ricochet was crazy superlative, but every (announced) match on the card delivered, with Page/Theory as the closest thing to a low point but still quite good. Lio Rush back in an Evolve ring a day early was a pleasant surprise, and Darby Allin returning was easy to spot but still very welcome. And Big Mike making such a decisive statement ahead of his match against Sabre? Yes. Very yes.

Check out the VOD on FloSlam, hopefully within the next 24 hours.

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