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Evolve 84 recap & review: Freelance impresses but comes up short, instant classics abound

Gabe Sapolsky on Twitter

The show is live almost right on time with Lenny Leonard and Joanna Rose in the ring. Lenny talks the show up and tosses right to Joanna to introduce our first match.

Keith Lee gets on the mic and welcomes everyone to Evolve 84, introducing himself, welcoming them to his kingdom, and inviting them to take some time out to bask in his glory.

Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee

Kicking off right into it with a handshake fakeout from Dijak that Lee has scouted. The Limitless One catches him with an overhead suplex that puts Donovan on the back foot, clutching his midsection in agony. Keith knocks him to the apron with a Pounce, heads there himself, thinking Spirit Bomb, Dijak counters... FIREMAN'S CARRY SLAM ON THE APRON!

Brawling on the outside as Stokely Hathaway looks on, Donovan heads back in, corkscrew dive, Lee catches him and drops him face-first into the apron! A bit too much time telling Dijak to bask in his glory lets the Tall Don nail him with a superkick and take it back in the ring, stomping away, but it's only a one-count at this point.

Charging blows, Lee dodges one, throws lariats, off the ropes, huge pop-up drop into a bruising low crossbody! Another superkick in return but Donovan runs into Keith's pop-up spinebuster for a nearfall! Lee calling for the Doomsault, Dijak wakes up but Keith has him scouted... LEE HITS FEAST YOUR EYES! NOT ENOUGH!

Donovan floats over on the Spirit Bomb, superkick, Lee fires up... NOW DIJAK STEALS THE SPIRIT BOMB! NO GOOD! Both men take their time recovering, the Tall Don runs into an elbow and a boot, Keith to the second, Dijak has the goozle... chokeslam from the second rope! NOPE!

Dijak's knee is bothering him, he's stomping away but he comes up lame. Springboard moonsault, the pool is empty... KEITH LEE FLIP PILEDRIVER! DIJAK LIVES! Pops him up, Spirit Bomb... STILL NOT ENOUGH?! Donovan's out on the mat, Keith climbs the turnbuckles again and again Dijak meets him and this time he knocks him down!

Cyclone Kill blocked, DIJAK HITS A POISON FRANKENSTENER! YOU CANNOT STOP WHAT IS LIMITLESS! The action goes outside again, Dijak can't quite get Lee up with the damage to his knee and midsection and ends up dropping him over the barricade. Trading shots, Donovan rolls in, happy to let referee Brandon Tolle make the count... UNTIL HE SAYS TO HELL WITH IT AND DOES A DAMN FLIP DIVE PAST THE BARRICADE!

Back in the ring, Donovan implores Keith to stay down as he sets him up top. Lee has it scouted, fireman's carry, Dijak fights away with elbows, to the apron, a right hand, springboard but he loses his footing, back up... AVALANCHE FRANKENSTEINER! Waiting for him to get up, low superkick,springboard into a corkscrew moonsault but he doesn't get all of it and it's only a nearfall!

Donovan putting him up the turnbuckles again, desperate to end it and this time Lee fights out. Dijak has him in the electric chair... POISON FRANKENSTEINER! Dijak hasn't moved but Lee drags him up! Fireman's carry, to the first rope, to the second, powerbomb clutch...

Keith Lee wins by pinfall with an avalanche Spirit Bomb!

Incredible opener. These guys just can't not make magic with each other, and it somehow both surpassed and managed to be very different from their Evolve 81 match. That was more two evenly matched flippy behemoths throwing the kitchen sink at each other where this was almost a physical chess match, Dijak out of it early but fighting back into it, each man trying to find the gear that would put the other away.

Lee helps Dijak into the ring and onto the turnbuckle after and says he thinks Chicago should feast their eyes.

Fred Yehi vs. Jason Kincaid

Feeling out early, Yehi going after Kincaid's leg with some light mat grappling, stomping his knee unholy at one point. To the arm, working a wristlock, trying to find the weak point but now Jason gets back into it with an escape and a headlock. Fast-paced jockeying for position as the thermostat turns up, Kincaid goes low and puts Fred on his back but he fights out with the grounded Liu Kang bicycle kicks.

German suplex, Kincaid lands on his feet but the exploder suplex catches him right after! Firing chops off, stomp to the knee and he nukes the West Virginia wise man for a quick cover. Stump puller, Jason kisses his knee, Fred crosses it over and stamps right on the intersection of his legs before stomping hard to punctuate it.

Kincaid not out of it, throwing kicks but Yehi has him blocked, stomp to the foot, spinning backfist! Off the ropes, Jason has a wild float-over kneebar sequence, just beautiful. Fred escapes, off the ropes, right back to it and this time Yehi has no choice but to go for the ropes.

Jason continuing to go after the knee, hooking it over the ropes for a dropkick at one point. He tells Yehi he hates his face and Fred fires up, nailing him with with a huge German suplex. Continuing to jockey for position, Kincaid catches his knee again but Yehi is able to hit a spinning fireman's carry slam for a nearfall.

Trying to grind him down with a cravate now, knee lifts, Kincaid back with a boot, tornado DDT to a slingshot Falcon Arrow and right back at the kneebar! Again, Fred makes the ropes. extended sequence of standing switches end when Yehi grabs a sleeper but Jason's right out with a jawbreaker into a series of kicks.

The straps are down, off the ropes he goes but right into a dropkick! Cravate suplex, Kincaid to the apron, Fred tries to follow but gets caught with a counter Stunner over the ropes! Springboarding in, Yehi hits an Ace Crusher, floats over...

Fred Yehi wins by submission with the Koji Clutch.

Really good match. Hurt a little bit by having to follow that opener, but still, both guys did a hell of a job here. Really enjoyed seeing Kincaid apply his slightly off-center thinking to submission holds, that float-over kneebar thing is really wild.

Jason Kincaid sits in the center of the ring after and has a bit of a freakout, clutching his head and yelling.

Austin Theory vs. Lio Rush

Feeling out, a bit of light lucha, tandem kip-ups and it's on! Hot and heavy, sorry folks, I'm losing a bit of track here, these guys are goin' hard! To the outside, Rush lands a moonsault and takes it back in the ring, firing off wicked chest kicks. He plays to the crowd a bit too much, Theory ducks the buzzsaw finale and catches him with a dropkick in return!

Chops and forearms from Lio, forcing Austin to turtle up but the CZW World Heavyweight Champion hits the ropes and gets caught with a heavy hand. Throwing lariats, Theory gets a couple German suplexes off to put the Man of the Hour off his guard big-time. Trading shots, strike rush for a pump kick, off the ropes, Lio down and around, Ace Crusher!

Austin finds himself outside and Rush torpedoes him with a suicide dive! Back in, diving lariat from the second, only a nearfall! Climbing again, Theory cuts him off but Lio knocks him down with a headbutt and follows it with a gamengiri that lays him out. Thinking Dragon's Call, the pool is empty, rolling solebutt, handspring and Austin catches him into a spin-out Argentine powerbomb... NO GOOD!

Theory up top, moonsault, nobody home... RUSH HOUR! Up top...

Lio Rush wins by pinfall with Dragon's Call.

Another good match, crazy fast paced stuff from two prodigies.

Priscilla Kelly comes to the ring after the match, telling Theory that he belongs with her before walking off.

Jeff Cobb vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams

Intense grappling to start, Cobb using his size and strength while Williams relies on his agility. A catch into a deadlift suplex lift leads to Hot Sauce throwing hands, Jeff pops him up into the swinging German suplex but Tracy has him caught into an armbar! Shift to an ankle lock, the Olympian shoves him off, overhead belly-to-belly suplex!

Jockeying for position, Cobb catches the leader of Catch Point with an overhead pumphandle suplex for two. Striking in the corner, Williams gets the armbreaker in the ropes! Up top, Jeff cuts him off, thinking belly-to-belly but Tracy blocks him, missile dropkick, getting fired up, knee drop for a quick cover and Williams gets Cobb's face well-acquainted with his foot.

Slugging it out, Hot Sauce with wicked elbows, getting Cobb to a knee before corkscrewing around him hard. Stepover armbar into kind of a wrist-clutch Ode to Jim Breaks but Jeff turns it into a pin. Just standing on Cobb now, grinding him down, to right hands, cross-chop to the throat gets a warning, to the second and Cobb yanks him off!

Striking now, huge open hands but Williams catches him with a lariat for two. Back to the arm, trying to lock it down but the Olympian gets to his feet. Hot Sauce catches him with a back suplex but again, only two. Lying in wait, discus elbow blocked, pop-up German suplex, Tour of the Islands but Williams reverses it...

"Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams wins by pinfall with a small package.

A fine grappling exhibition indeed. Love the symmetry of the early and late counters, too, pure Catch Point.

Stokely Hathaway gets on the mic and says that's what he's talking about. They're priviledged to be here because this is the greatest unit wrestling has ever seen, Catch Point. He says Chicago is no New York, and if he had to describe Chicago in one word, it'd be "decent".

He introduces all of Catch Point and says he's heard that Freelance is one of the best wrestling promotions in Chicago. Well, we're gonna find out in a few minutes, but first he has a special announcement for Matt Riddle and Keith Lee. Every move they make, every breath they take, he'll be watching them.

Chris Dickinson gets on the mic and calls Knicks and Velazquez down because he wants to kick some Chicago ass!

Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c) vs. Isaias Velazquez & Matt Knicks (Evolve Tag Team Championship)

Dickinson and Knicks to start, Matt engaging in a bit of mat wrestling, switching to some light high flying when Chris backs him in the corner. Jaka in and Velazquez makes the tag, in with a high crossbody but Catch Point's Savage has him caught until Isaias gets a counter DDT off.

Chris back in, he suplexes both Freelance men and takes control. Quick tags to keep Knicks down, but he ends up giving as good as he gets in a strike exchange with Dickinson and gets off a German suplex, trying to get separation to make a tag. Tags made on both sides, tilt-a-whirl headscissors into a strike rush, jumping knee, standing shiranui, not enough to put Jaka away!

Double-teaming Catch Point's Savage, fending Dickinson off, Doom Patrol outside, Isaias with a suicide dive, he's caught easily but Knicks fires off an Asai moonsault to lay the champions out! Diving reverse STO from Velazquez kicks off our "everybody do something cool" phase of the tag, Jaka lifts Knicks up... springboard Doomsday Device! Isaias breaks it up!

Cannonball into the Pazuzu Bomb into a German suplex into a corner lariat into a chokebomb, Velazquez is in a bad place... NOT ENOUGH! Thinking Death Trap but the Freelance boys slip away from it, they have Jaka pinned... NOT ENOUGH! Jaka fighting two on one, double goozle, blocked, stereo forearms, stereo superkicks, Dickinson trips Knicks off the ropes, electric chair...

Doom Patrol win by pinfall with Death Trap on Isaias Velazquez, retaining the Evolve Tag Team Championship.

Very good match, Doom Patrol doin' what they do best. Really hope this isn't the last we see of Knicks and especially Velazquez-- Isaias is the sort of hybrid technician that would fit right in in Evolve on a regular basis.

"All Ego" Ethan Page vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (c) (Evolve World Championship)

Forehead to forehead, Page begging for it and Sabre obliges, throwing uppercuts! One slap in return from All Ego backs him into the corner! They keep throwing, Page off the ropes and ZSJ catches him with a guillotine choke! Ethan hurtles himself outside to break and they start trading strikes, uppercuts and forearms!

Back to the guillotine momentarily before wrenching the arm, Jim Breaks Special, All Ego puts the technical wizard into the barricade and then over it! Looking for a suplex over the barricade but the champ fights out and locks an octopus hold on for a second. Jumping knee connects, Page ducks a Penalty Kick, tilt-a-whirl, Sabre reverses to a sleeper and then shifts to the Kimura lock!

All Ego fights him off, double underhook backbreaker off the barricade! APRON POWERBOMB! RKEGO! NO GOOD! Hard chop, off the ropes with a dropkick, and back to trading hands they go. To the corner, body blows, a huge right knocks the champion down as referee Brandon Tolle tries to straighten the proceedings out.

Firing off forearms, Sabre gets a tornado DDT. Page catches a boot but eats a slap, delayed German suplex! Tanned Sheamus caught, pin, Ego's right in the ropes! Uppercuts, step-up, Ethan catches him, big boot, only good for two. Calling for Spining Dwayne, Sabre reverses to the European Clutch, no good!

Big lariat from Page, right hands, setting the champion up top and he's thinking superplex but ZSJ has him out-maneuvered and catches him into another octopus hold. Easily fought out of, he gets Sabre over his shoulder, second rope powerslam, again just a two count! Springboarding in, Sabre catches him into a cross armbar! Shifting to the triangle choke, Page deadlifts him up, buckle bomb!

Spinning Dwayne into a folding press... NOT ENOUGH! Thinking package piledriver, the champion slips out, trading forearms and kicks, flying triangle but All Ego counters with a knee to the back! Underhooks, package piledriver... SABRE KICKS OUT! Hooking the piledriver again, Sabre slips out, roundhouse kicks to the arm, softening him up further, Page gets a superkick!

Off the ropes, ZSJ catches him into a sleeper, then the behind-the-back Dragon sleeper, overhead elbows to the ear, Penalty Kick! A second! Page with the double birds! A third PK! A FOURTH! IT'S OVER!

Zack Sabre, Jr. wins by pinfall with a Penalty Kick, retaining the Evolve World Championship.

Great match, everything I was hoping for here. Little bit of sag in the middle but it started and ended so well that I'm not gonna kvetch. A focused Ethan Page, an angry Zack Sabre, Jr., awesome stuff.

Darby Allin hits the ring with his arm in a sling and tells Ethan it's over. He says he had a lot to think about in that hospital bed, and he pledges to do the one thing Page could never do, hang with Zack Sabre, Jr. and become Evolve Champion

Joanna Rose thanks Chicago and announces September 23 as Evolve's return to the ol' Windy Apple.

Kyle O’Reilly vs. Matt Riddle (c) (WWN Championship)

Feeling out early, probing kicks, Riddle gets a flying armbar to a triangle choke, O'Reilly trying to deadlift but he can't get Bro high enough and so he goes to the ropes for a break. Outside for a breather, Matt content to let him take his time and come back in. Kyle goes low, jockeying for position over a waistlock, kneebar takedown and Riddle grabs the ropes.

Probing again, trading Muay Thai knees in the clinch, KOR gets Bro in the corner and a break is made. Face to face, jawing, shove for a forearm gives way to a forearm exchange! Riddle pulls ahead, chest kicks, but O'Reilly levels him with a kick to the legs. Pele caught but Bro connects with the exploder suplex, flying forearm, a second exploder blocked, guillotine, reverse to a suplex!

High jump senton, only two, Riddle on Kyle, trying to take his back before deciding on the rolling Karelin lifts, finishing with a release and a two count. Knee strikes and kicks, KOR trying to turn the tide, thinking Kimura lock, shifting to a hammerlock when he can't get it and just punishing Riddle unholy.

Desperate slap from the champion met with disdainful returns from his challenger and the Bro fires up, forearms on forearms, off the ropes but he's caught with a knee and locked down with the bodyscissors. Clubbing crossface strikes, thinking cross armbar but Matt keeps his hands locked and pivots for the ropes.

Kicks to the ribs, shoulder armbreaker, backhammered into the post, Kyle doesn't care whether Riddle's ribs or his arm breaks first but by god he's going to inflict some damage. Wristlock, Bro trying to escape with elbows, clipping O'Reilly's face and forcing him to shift and drop the champion with a hammerlock Divorce Court!

Charging forearm, shoulder armbreaker, kneebar takedown but Riddle catches a heel hook of his own. Trading slaps on the mat, Matt only breaks it when he shifts to kicks, hammering his heel into O'Reilly's sternum over and over. Knee strike blocked, KOR gets some chest kicks off but they're just firing Riddle up!

A straight right crumples Kyle to the mat in return, fireman's carry, Bro 2 Sleep, bridging German suplex... NOPE! A German suplex in return but Bro pops up, KOR catches him into the guillotine choke! Trying to reverse to a suplex but Kyle keeps him locked down at first. Northern lights suplex connects... O'REILLY DIDN'T LET GO! HE STILL HAS IT!

This time Riddle gets him up, hooks the leg, fisherman buster connects! Both men out on the mat, Matt up first, chest kicks, Kyle trying to fire up, high but legal, knee lifts, just pummeling the champion and finally laying him out! Bro isn't out of it, German suplex, one in return, double boots, double lariats, Riddle catches a roundhouse but Kyle is a step ahead with forearms.

Pele kick connects but KOR has a lariat right on his tail and again both men are out. On their knees, going forearm for forearm, slap for slap, to their feet, emptying their arsenals, Riddle with the slap rush, Kyle with a rush of his own, off the ropes, sleeper hold applied but Bro flips him out of it!

Ducking, sitout powerbomb into a pin, KOR kicks out and counters into a triangle choke! Palm strikes raining down on the champion's head! Bro deadlifts him up but O'Reilly turns it into a guillotine choke, denying him the ropes! Thinking brainbuster, Riddle slips out, inverted facelock lift, jumping Tombstone piledriver, transition to the Bromission! Strikes to the ribs, Kyle can't hold out for long...

Matt Riddle wins by submission with the Bromission, retaining the WWN Championship.

Another really good match to close the show here. I worried very slightly going into this that they might go a bit more traditional indie main event with this one, but they stuck to what they do best and kept it right in the Evolve tradition of intense, mat-based technical wrestling.

Riddle gets on the mic, leading with his customary "...bro." He thanks Chicago and asks them to give it up for Kyle O'Reilly before thanking him himself.


A great show from Evolve, certainly one of the best thus far this year even if perhaps without the emotional heights of the ones I might count ahead of it, like Evolve 79 and Mercury Rising. Lee/Dijak II and Sabre/Page III stand out from the pack for me, but there wasn't a bad match on the card, and the main event was really above-and-beyond good as well.

Storyline-wise, not the biggest show, with incremental movement in the Priscilla Kelly angle, but we set up an Allin/Sabre feud that should be quite compelling when Darby's all healed up. And, while I honestly have no idea where Page goes from here, I'm very confident in his abilities to make it interesting.

Check it out when it goes up on VOD on FloSlam, folks, hopefully shortly.

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