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Evolve 86 recap & review: The Evolve title is best, Gatekeeper no more, and it turns out Keith Lee is also good at ring announcing

FloSlam

The show is live just a few minutes past bell time with Lenny Leonard in the ring welcoming us to the show. He hypes up our main event and passes to Joanna Rose to introduce our first match.

Austin Theory vs. Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher immediately taking Theory to the mat and riding him, slapping away and looking for an armbar to finish it but the young man makes his way to the ropes. Back in, Tim grabbing a guillotine and trying to transition that to a leg submission, Austin fighting valiantly with kicks and finally getting himself free.

Trying to grapple with the former champ goes as poorly as you'd expect, Thatcher seizing the opportunity to work the arm over. Just pummeling Theory against the ropes, laying the punishment in as Priscilla Kelly makes her way to the ring. Russian legsweep into a grounded octopus hold, Austin breaks it by turning it into a cover but he has trouble shifting to the offense.

Getting his sea legs, front chancery applied but Thatcher breaks it easily in the corner. Strikes in the corner, Theory comes back with a slingshot stomp into a brainbuster, no dice. Sidestep the charge, counter the rolling thunder with an uppercut and Tim is unimpressed. Karelin lift, taking his time before popping the unproven one up and over, Thatcher takes mount and rains forearms down into Austin's temple.

Kimura lock with a neckscissor in, Tim transitions to an armbar, Theory tries to escape with a rollup but Thatcher keeps hold and kicks his head in, only force to break by their proximity to the ropes. Smashing Austin's face into the apron as Stokely Hathaway mocks the young man, following it with an uppercut and willing to take the countout.

Theory back in, rolling thunder dropkick, only good for two. Snapmare, back kick, standing moonsault but the former champ rolls out of the way, sleeper applied, the bodyscissors come on and Theory is desperately trying to break it. Tim shifts, taking the back, elbow to the back of the head, thinking armbar but he can't quite lock it so he wrenches on Austin's foot.

Torture half-crab, just kneeling on Theory's neck, Austin manages to worm himself around, throwing desperate elbows to break but Thatcher comes in with a knee. Dropkick countered with a headbutt (!), jockeying for posiition, back to the sleeper hold, Ringkampf ropebreak break, Theory only dodges a butterfly suplex with an enzuigiri.

Thatcher throwing hands, Austin returns with a bicycle kick, Tim busts out an enzuigiri of his own! Butterfly suplex, taking his back once again, hammering down on his neck, the sleeper hold is on...

Timothy Thatcher wins by submission with a sleeper hold.

Really liked this one, good rookie vs. vet storytelling with Thatcher taking Theory to school and nearly getting showed up by his heart. And that headbutt counter for the dropkick!

Stokely welcomes Tim back to Evolve and tells him he's the greatest Evolve Champion of all time.. Speaking of championships, Zack Sabre, Jr. must be watching, and he hates to break it to him, but soon that title's coming back ome ot the Dream Team. Tonight Jaka has Fred Yehi, but tomorrow he has the opportunity of a lifetime, and Stokely wants him to do what he does best, and that's destroy and mangle.

It's time to see how powerful this Dream Team / Catch Point collabo is. They've lost members because, as the kids say, they weren't 'bout it, 'bout it. But before he goes, he has words for Matt Riddle and Keith Lee-- Catch Point can't stop, and they won't stop.

Chris Dickinson gets on the mic, he's not gonna wait any longer for his match!

ACH vs. Chris Dickinson

Feeling out, ACH requests that Dickinson chill but the Catch Point man has no such intentions, looking to carve an opening by picking the leg. ACH offers a handshake but Chris takes a headlock and wrenches it in so tight that ACH can't shoot him off. Bit of grappling, exchanging wristlocks, that gives way to bull moose shoulder block action where Dickinson has a clear advantage.

ACH has to fake him out with a low chop (but not so low that he needed to distract the referee), but he doesn't capitalize in time and gets laid out with a superkick! Right hands cave his skull in before Chris sets him up in the corner for chops and goes back to using the arm for leverage.

Back suplex sets up a chop battle and Dickinson very quickly decides he'd rather kick, laying ACH out and wrenching his head back with a seated rear chinlock soon after. Throwing forearms, the Catch Point man wants more and again choses to go with a kick in return, staggering him. ACH gets a few licks in, staggering Chris, boot up in the corner, low sweep into a double stomp, dropkick off the ropes, putting some momentum together.

Suicide dive bends Dickinson back over the barricade, a second, calling for a third, sidestepped so he hits the apron for the Penalty Kick! Back in the ring, discus lariat into a bridging German suplex, no good! Trying for another but all the kicks to the back add up and ACH falters. Back suplex works but Chris lands on his feet and catches ACH off the ropes with the scoop snap powerslam for a nearfall!

Charging corner lariats give way to mounted punches, ACH gets away, thinking back superplex but it's blocked, he catches the Catch Point man with a German suplex and a lariat but can't put him away! Off the ropes, another lariat, he takes the time to taunt and pays for it, enzuigiri, fireman's carry Michinoku Driver... NO GOOD!

Pazuzu Bomb blocked, jockeying for position, another lariat connects, Buster Call, ACH climbs the turnbuckles...

ACH wins by pinfall with a 450 splash.

Another good match. Dug the way Dickinson kept baiting ACH into one kind of exchange only to switch to kicks and catch him off guard, and the back playing into things late was cool.

The former Gatekeeper once known as Blaster McMassive comes to the ring, billed as Thomas Sharp. He's sick and tired of being called a Gatekeeper. He's done horrible things to people for Ethan Page, breaking his back to do his dirty work, and he couldn't do it anymore. We all make mistakes, and the only reason he took the opportunity from Page was to be part of Evolve.

He makes it clear to Ethan Page that as of right now, he's nobody's bodyguard, nobody's muscle, and nobody's Gatekeeper! The Gatekeeper is dead, and Thomas Sharp is alive and well, and if he has a problem, come and give him your best shot.

Page comes down and says he doesn't care what he calls himself, but ever since he's known him he's been his punk. He doesn't care about him anymore, and all he cares about is ruining what these people love. Tonight he's going to decimate Keith Lee, and he sings a little mocking version of his theme song in the process.

Sharp wants to call out Ethan Page, the Ace of the damn company, and he's here to ruin things people love, but nobody cares about him. But never forget, Ethan Page always has some dummy that will follow his plan. Nick Comoroto attacks Sharp from behind! We have a match!

Nick Comoroto vs. Thomas Sharp

Sharp gets dumped outside before he can recover enough to really throw hands and they trade blows on the floor. Smashing his face into the apron as referee Brandon Tolle counts. Thomas trying to rally, he gets dumped on the apron with a back suplex! Back in the ring, Comoroto slingshots in but gets run over by a big boot, off the ropes...

Thomas Sharp wins by pinfall with a Black Hole Slam.

Short and sweet, stoked to see the man once known as Blaster McMassive will still be around Evolve even with Page having no need for the Gatekeepers.

Fred Yehi vs. Jaka

Jaka begins by stating that it is in fact Yehi that's in big trouble, and we have a "YEOW!" / "Trouble!" duel. Fred right in with chops, the Catch Point man wants more and gives 'em back in kind! Shift to headbutts, Yehi with a snapmare, stomp to the knee, and the nuke connects for a quick cover.

Trading slaps to the face, Fred stomps the foot and wrenches the ear (!) before clubbing Jaka to the mat. Snap suplex, Jaka back in with boots, only a one count and he shifts to a kneeling rear chinlock. Yehi out with body blows, up and over but he lands right on the back of Jaka's neck!

The Savage throwing kicks, basement dropkick, Fred bridges out, Jaka looking for a leg-hook exploder suplex, they trade Mongolian chops and Yehi hits the Liu Kang bicycle kicks! German suplex connects, snapmare, looking for quick covers but Jaka won't fade so the FIP World Heavyweight Champion locks him down with a waistlock.

To his feet, desperately blocking another German suplex, breaking Fred's grip but unable to slip away and instead he sort of fakes him out and just falls on him, creating an opening for a German suplex of his own. Disdainful strikes, he tells Yehi he ain't nothing and they go face to face. Strike rush from Fred, he ends up on the apron, knocked off with a superkick, slingshot plancha wipes him out!

Back in the ring, Jaka's turn to try to turn a waistlock into a German suplex, Yehi out with elbows, caught by the leg-hook exploder suplex... NOPE! Belly-to-belly suplex doesn't do the trick either, going wild in the corner, choking Fred, rolling Koppo kick but he can't put him away.

Yehi with a chop block, nuke after nuke! Slugging it out in the middle of the ring, stomp to the foot, fisherman buster... NOT ENOUGH! Charging forearms in the corner, off the ropes he runs into a big slap, stomp to the foot, Jaka keeps it together enough to throw a headbutt but takes a German suplex!

Leaping double stomp, rolling elbow... JAKA LIVES! Full nelson, Jaka struggling, pulling one arm down but he can't get the other, drop down to a victory roll pin but Yehi kicks out and goes right back to the hold. Arm drag to break, but again Fred wants that full nelson, this time escaped with elbows, duck the kick, Dragon suplex connects this time but can't put the Catch Point man away!

Jaka shoving Yehi away, throwing chops and forearms, backfist, spinning heel kick, looking for a chokebomb but Fred reverses with a Frankensteiner! Off the ropes, reverse STO...

Fred Yehi wins by submission with the Koji Clutch.

Good match that didn't quite connect all the way with me for whatever reason.

Definitely some cool stuff in here, the symmetry of the waistlock duels, echoed again with the full nelson stuff, some stuff where maybe I'm not 100% sure it was intentional but that worked well like the up and over that landed bad and the German suplex counter that was basically just Jaka falling down; it all felt clever enough that I wanted to love it but it didn't quite cross the line.

Jason Kincaid vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams

Hot Sauce not wanting to wait and Kincaid is only happy to go to the mat with him. and pays for it as Williams seizes the arm and goes after it. Jason trying to reply in kind but he gets caught into a Test of Strength and has to work his way out of that first. Elaborate escape from a wristlock, so Hot Sauce shifts to striking, looking for a suplex, float over, and the inverted mat slam connects.

Knucklelock kicks to the chest, step up, Arabian press springboard arm drag, turning dropkick, and Tracy has to bail to the apron where he gets caught by a triangle forearm! Double stomp on the apron, Kincaid shifts the ring steps, step up Tiger feint kick! Double jump tornado DDT blocked and reversed into a suplex into the turnbuckles, missile dropkick and Hot Sauce is in control.

Choking him under the ropes, this leads to trading chops, Jason pulls ahead, off the ropes, Williams ducks a kick and throws an elbow for a quick cover into a rear chinlock. Back suplex to block the escape, up top for a diving senton but he doesn't get all of it and has to settle for a nearfall.

Telling Kincaid he's trash, Hot Sauce locks a Japanese stranglehold on but it doesn't last. Throwing hands, pummeling Jason against the ropes but he wants more! Powerslam, cartwheel into a double stomp, springboard blockbuster, Jason Kincaid is putting something together! Charging into a back elbow, he ducks a lariat, springboard Ace Crusher but Williams is able to grab the rope and stop the count.

Kincaid sets Tracy up top and tells him he hates his ugly face, looking for a superplex, blocked, knocked down with a forearm, Jason springboards up to try again and gets caught with a DDT into the turnbuckle! Lariat gets a nearfall and the crossface is on but Kincaid reverses to a waistlock.

Clothesline in the ropes, slingshot, Hot Sauce catches him and turns it into a brainbuster... NOPE! Tornado DDT, Kincaid holds on, slingshot Falcon Arrow, no good! Compassionate Release on but he can't get all of it and Williams is able to hoss him up for an Air Raid Crash for two.

Jason gets himself back into it with a stunner over the ropes, climbing up top, double stomp misses, Hot Sauce capitalizes...

"Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams wins by submission with the crossface.

Very good match, always enjoy it when Kincaid goes to the mat, even if it maybe puts the lie to the idea of "Catch Point vs. High Flyers". But maybe that's the point? Not as if Catch Point have ever held anything other than "if it wins you the match, it is good" as their morality.

After the match, Kincaid loses his mind a little again but shakes Williams' hand and raises it.

"All Ego" Ethan Page vs. Keith Lee

Page charges in and immediately regrets it when he catches hands. Up and over, Lee runs right through a lariat and pounces him for it! Charge in the corner, put to the apron, he puts All Ego's face into the turnbuckle but Page gets him caught up in the ropes and hits the butterfly backbreaker!

Choking the Limitless One across the apron, stomps to the back, a straight right into shoulder thrusts and a forearm in the corner. Keith throwing hands to get back into it, Page makes the mistake of taunting and gets caught with a mammoth headbutt. Lee to the second, All Ego cuts him off, trying Vanity Search but Keith blocks and wrenches his hands apart.

Superkick, Vanity Search connects, but it's only good for two and Page throws mounted punches for good measure. Elbow, Keith remains staggered but throws a haymaker in return. More elbows, a big right hand, and another socks him right in the ear. Charging forearm, Lee stumbling to the next corner, ducks the body avalanche, second wind!

Running Page over, pop-up slam, off the ropes, sliding northern lariat and Keith Lee is back into it! Trading elbows, a Limitless fireman's carry dropped into a forearm to the face... NO GOOD! Setting All Ego up top, he fights back, diving Frankensteiner?! TANNED SHEAMUS! NOT ENOUGH!

RKEgo blocked, off the ropes, Spinning Dwayne stopped short with elbows, Tanned Sheamus blocked, Lee gets a spinebuster off for two but doesn't get his usual air on it. Dragging Page into place, Lee begins climbing for the Doomsault but is cut off... ETHAN PAGE JACKKNIFE POWERBOMB! KEITH LEE LIVES! RKEGO WORKS THIS TIME... STILL NO GOOD!

Page yelling at the referee, wasting time, telling Keith he's worthless turns out to be a bad idea...

Keith Lee wins by pinfall with Ground Zero.

Awesome match, built perfectly around the idea that Keith Lee could basically just buzz through Page given half a chance but once the backbreaker connected he had a deficit to work past and we had a fight on our hands.

Keith gets on the mic after, and he has a request. He asks Joanna Rose if he can guest announce the next match, and she assents. He has a vested interest in the men coming out here, after all.

Matt Riddle vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (Battle of Champions)

Intense grappling from the start, trying to see who can find a weakness first but they stalemate and break. Back to the grappling, same result. Next try, Sabre starts to pull ahead but Riddle is right with him and they end up making the break this time with our Bro looking for an armbar.

Test of strength, ZSJ turns it into a cravate and then a front chancery, reversed to a waistlock, Riddle taking a ride but Sabre is able to lock his arms down and roll him through an Ode to Jim Breaks looking for a pin. More grappling, break on a headscissors in the ropes, Zack goes in to pick the leg but Matt catches him with the rolling Karelin lifts, big release on the third!

Charging forearm to the exploder suplex to the high jump senton, only good for one but Riddle's putting things together. Throwing forearms and overhand chops, keeping the Evolve Champion on the back foot, another high jump senton... SABRE CATCHES HIM INTO THE CROSS ARMBAR!

Bro rolls through into one of his own, float over to the European Clutch, no good! Riddle clobbers him with a forearm and they trade forearm for uppercut until Matt backs him in the corner and pummels him with forearms. ZSJ catches a roundhouse kick, lays the Penalty Kick in, charging uppercut, step up tornado guillotine choke into a bridging Dragon suplex, only good for two!

Trading blows, Riddle with a slap rush, the Pele kick, Sabre with a big slap in return, going for a guillotine, reversed to the fisherman buster! A SECOND FISHERMAN BUSTER! NO GOOD! Riddle looking for the Tombstone, but it's blocked into the European Clutch for another nearfall! Bro 2 Sleep and the bridging German suplex gets a nearfall in return!

Charging forearms, Matt cut off with an uppercut, Penalty Kick, flying armbar but Zack can't snap the arm down and Riddle reverses to a deadlift powerbomb... OUT AT ONE! Duck the knee that ended Trent Seven, float-over into the octopus hold, wrenching the hand, reversed into the jumping Tombstone piledriver!

Elbows to the neck, setting up the Bromission, laying 'em in but he doesn't hook the leg quickly enough and Sabre rolls him around...

Zack Sabre, Jr. wins by submission with a leg-trap neckscissors armbar!

Excellent match. Usually I try to write these ASAP but I was blown away enough by the finish that I got blindsided and had to play catchup transcribing the post-match stuff and didn't have a shot. Top-notch grappling, big strike exchanges, some tight nearfalls, awesome stuff.

Stokely Hathaway comes to the ring to congratulate Zack for beating Riddle but to inform him that he's losing the Evolve title to Jaka and/or Timothy Thatcher soon.

Darby Allin comes down and says he doesn't care who holds the title, he needs it more than anyone can imagine, to prove to himself that he's the best wrestler he can be.

Sabre tells them to hold their horses. To be frank, as riveting this conversation is, his job is done for the day and he's out of here.

Riddle gets on the mic with a "...bro" as is his custom. He wants to make it easy for everyone, he's the WWN Champion, he's here, and he's ready to fight any time, any place... "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams blindsides him! He puts the boots to the champ and dumps him outside at Darby Allin looks on, conflicted.

He takes Riddle outside and dumps him into the barricade. Darby takes his sling off and climbs the turnbuckles... COFFIN DROP ON STOKELY AND HOT SAUCE! Williams drags Hathaway to the back as Allin and Riddle have a moment. Riddle heads back in the ring because he forgot his belt and he thanks the crowd for coming.

Overall

Not a blowaway top shelf show like Evolve 85, but a good Evolve show with a strong beginning, a VERY strong main event and co-main. It sagged a bit in the middle but in a way where I wasn't sure whether it's just a given match not connecting with me on a given day (the more I think about Yehi/Jaka, the more I like it, but in the moment...), so I'm not inclined to go too hard on it, given how excellently it finished with Page/Lee and Riddle/Sabre.

Storyline-wise, Blaster McMassive Gatekeeper A Thomas Sharp making his return and setting his sights on All Ego for tomorrow is pretty cool, Jason Kincaid's anger management issue took an interesting turn, Austin Theory appears to have finally bought whatever Priscilla Kelly is selling given that they walked to the back together, and Darby Allin committing himself to the quest for the Evolve title at the same time as the Dream Team have their sights set on reclaiming it could lead to some really interesting places.

Check it out when it goes up on VOD on FloSlam.