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Evolve 87 recap & review: Keith Lee falls (literally) short, Thatcher re-breaks Darby’s arm, and Sabre won’t ever sleep on Jaka again

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The show starts just a few minutes after the advertised bell time with Lenny Leonard in the ring welcoming us to the show. He talks up our two title matches and hands the mic to Joanna Rose to introduce our first match and get us into the action.

ACH vs. "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams

ACH all fun and games to start, dancing and ducking and not terribly inclined to lock up with the leader of Catch Point. A shoving match breaks out but again ACH backs off, he wants to do a sportsmanship handshake but Williams kicks his hand away. Again, this time the high flyer grabs a headlock, shoot off, drop down, all that.

Fakeout chop to the gentleman's area, Hot Sauce kicks him to the apron and catches him into a Fujiwara armbar and then the crossface but the ropes are too close! Cravate, ACH gets the corner for the break and Williams does him dirty with a wicked forearm. Upkick, ACH fighting, throwing chops, he eats a southern lights suplex and is forced outside.

Tracy throwing chops of his own on the outside, struggle over a suplex, Hot Sauce takes the exchange with a front facelock drop and takes it back in the ring. Cravate applied, really wrenching it in, goes behind, looking for a German, he doesn't get it so he slips around and drops ACH with a side suplex for two.

Rear chinlock applied, ACH breaks it and gets into a forearm exchange, regretting it in the end as Williams pummels him. A repeated theme here is ACH being dead weight as Hot Sauce tries to lift him up by the neck, such is the toll the cravates and chinlocks have taken. Block a kick, dropped with a legsweep, basement dropkick, both men out on the mat and slow to rise.

Suicide dive, another, ACH is on a roll, looking for a third, Hot Sauce slips away, switching to the Penalty Kick from the apron, first one ducked but the second one hits home! Back in the ring, bridging German suplex connects but it's only good for a nearfall! Setting Tracy up top, throwing chops, looking for a superplex but Hot Sauce slips out, turns him around, and lights him up with a chop!

ACH turns it around again, struggle in the corner, the flyer back in and he gets caught with the turnbuckle DDT! Williams follows with a missile dropkick, charging lariat, ACH to the apron, lands a kick, slingshot, Hot Sauce reverses to a brainbuster... NO GOOD!

Williams continuing to punish ACH as he lies on the mat clutching his neck, looking for a piledriver but he's met with a back body drop, charges in, ACH snaps off a German suplex into the lariat, just a nearfall! Looking for Buster Call but his neck gives out on him!

ACH stringing offense together, a blockbuster, trying for Buster Call again but still his neck won't support the lift! Hot Sauce capitalizes...

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

Awesome opener, really elevated by a strong through-line of ACH's neck being damaged and preventing him from sealing the deal. Really subtly built at first too, with just a couple strong wrenches on the cravate and a suplex or two, not a lot of neck cranking or long chinlocks. I dig it.

ACH gets on the mic to say of course he's hurt, he was in the first match, and he's WAY more important than the first match. He's better than the first match!

Jason Kincaid vs. Timothy Thatcher

Kincaid right to the lockup, game to go hold-for-hold with a master but Thatcher ends up locking him down and rolling him into a cover to teach him his lesson. Jason slips away and gets back into it but Tim catches him with elbows to the ribs into a standing octopus hold, wrenching his arm back something wicked.

Thatcher with an elbow to the head but Kincaid seizes the moment, grapevining the legs and going for maybe a Regal stretch but Tim rolls around and they trade strikes from Thatcher's guard. Escape, vicious kick from the longest-reigning Evolve champ and he returns an Ali-Inoki kick with stomps into the Karelin lift! Only a one count!

Tim takes mount and throws some hard slaps to set up an armbar attempt but Jason keeps his hands locked and mounts an escape with a double stomp and a kick to the back of the neck before grabbing a sleeper hold. Shifting to an armbar and now it's Thatcher that keeps his hands together.

Rolling through, the Bob Backlund deadlift escape, slamming Kincaid down suplex style! Knucklelock covers, Kincaid gets a headscissors and walks himself up the ropes to Frankensteiner Tim to the outside! Triangle forearm strike takes Thatcher down on the apron, and he follows it with a stomp.

Back in the ring, strike exchange, Jason with a drop toehold, targeting the arm, stomping and wrenching with a keylock. Tim thinking deadlift escape again but he sees a different opportunity and picks the leg for a kneebar, kicking away as Kincaid tries to escape, but the West Virginia mystic gets the ropes.

Thatcher on the arm, Kimura lock applied, shift to a hammerlock to punch the ribs and right back to it, knee lift to the ribs, taking mount and throwing hands, viciously pounding his head in with elbows! Kincaid turns it around, Mongolian chops to a double stomp, Tim escapes a facelock, uppercut to the arm and an enzuigiri!

Butterfly suplex denied, cross chop to the throat, and Kincaid takes the straps down. Uppercut for a kick, sunset flip powerbomb into the turnbuckles! Coast to Coast! Thatcher's on dream street! Vader Bomb double stomp, trying to get Compassionate Release, wrenching it down but Tim rolls around and reverses it with a powerbomb of sorts, dropping him on the arm!

Right on the arm, elbows, the Fujiwara is in! IT'S OVER!

Timothy Thatcher wins by submission with the Fujiwara armbar.

Fantastic match, loved every second of it. The sheer intensity of it all was off the charts, and like I say basically every time Jason Kincaid has a grappling-heavy match on a show I recap, grappling Kincaid is best Kincaid, and never more than against a master like Thatcher. (Who, it must be said, got a lot of, uh... let's go with "love" from the Queens crowd. Never change, guys.)

Jason offers a post-match handshake and Thatcher just turns and leaves as Stokely Hathaway points and laughs.

Chris Dickinson vs. Fred Yehi

Dickinson offers a Catch Point handshake to his former ally but he's not having it and they get right at the grappling. Yehi looking for the leg and he can't get it, but Chris invites him in. Fred doesn't take the bait so back to their feet, struggle in the corner, deep arm drag, Dirty Daddy working the arm over but Yehi gets the ropes.

Cranking away at Dickinson's neck, jockeying for position, he finally gets the leg he wanted but Chris does his best to deny him and gets a cross armbar on, foiled only by Fred's proximity to the ropes. Knucklelock, test of strength, Dickinson takes the opportunity to get back to the arm, only stopped by Yehi getting him in the corner.

Pick the leg, stepover toehold, stomp to the back of the knee. Snapmare, stomp to the knee, the nuke comes and Fred pulls his gum out of his mouth before following with the half-halch suplex into repeat covers but the Dirty Daddy gets a sleeper out of one! Reversed to a Saito suplex, Yehi throwing chops and it becomes an exchange out of the corner.

Dickinson gets the better of it, choke in the corner gives way to repeat shoulder armbreakers, whip across, up and over, off the ropes, a dropkick connects and gives Fred some breathing room. Chris with a roundhouse kick that sends Yehi outside, baseball slide, straight suplex on the floor!

Continuing to punish him outside kick and lariats, toss back in, mounted rights into repeated covers. Kick to the back as the pain plays across Fred's face, chest kick in the corner, jawing at the FIP World Heavyweight Champion, chops sending sweat flying off both men's chests, snapmare to the kick to a straight suplex but it only gets Dickinson two!

Nose to nose, Yehi with Mongolian chops, the Liu Kang bicycle kicks, release German suplex, but all it takes is one more kick to the chest to put Fred's rally on hold. Climbing up, jockeying for position, the Dirty Daddy takes a stomp to the foot but fakes out from a suplex into a roll-up for a two count.

Fred catches a kick, a pair of vicious chop blocks, and the nuke wipes Dickinson clean out! Throwing chops, Chris fires up, tries to throw one in return, blocked, stomp to the foot, another nuke connects. Charging forearm, off the ropes, Dickinson reverses the rolling elbow into a Falcon Arrow... NO GOOD!

Charging lariat, fireman's carry, Yehi out and into a lungblower, quick covers aren't doing the trick. Fred to his feet, thinking, he stomps the forearm something wicked before doing the other, alternating over and over, just destroying the Dirty Daddy's arms! Dickinson gets a half nelson suplex off, charging kick, no dice!

Fred floats behind, full nelson, Chris slips out, victory roll pin doesn't do it, deadlift wheelbarrow suplex! Dragon suplex in return, the Koji Clutch is on!

Fred Yehi wins by submission with the Koji Clutch.

Three for three so far tonight! This one, I feel like it felt apart a tiny bit in the last minute, but even so it was a really good match, and to be totally fair Fred's Koji Clutch HAS been set up as being prettymuch instant death for most everyone.

Jaka comes out and tells Chris to get up, it was a hard fight and he has nothing to be ashamed of. They embrace and he raises Dickinson's hand. He polls the crowd to find out who thinks he can walk out as Evolve World Champion, and it seems maybe 30/70, so he does it again and gets a "No!" chant.

He doesn't like that New York is sleeping on him, the people in the back are sleeping on him, but he's one half of the tag team champions, and he won them here in Queens, so he's gonna prove everybody wrong. There ain't nothing to do but to do it, so let's go!

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

Intense jockeying for position, Jaka going right after it! Trading forearms and then slaps as Sabre's ire is already up. Jaka tearing away and throwing a headbutt but ZSJ gets himself right back into it, throwing kicks aplenty. Jaka just wants more and we go back to exchanging straight, bowling the champ over and keeping on him.

Wicked headbutt to the back of the neck sets up an elbow drop and gets him a two count, so the Smooth Savage locks a rear chinlock in and tries to grind the champion down. Zack manipulates his wrist to break, arm wringers, Jaka breaks with a kick and brings the pain, firing off another headbutt and disdainful kicks.

Looking for an exploder, ZSJ blocks with a guillotine choke and grabs an armbar, manipulating the wrist, wrenching back, stepover armbar and twist, stomping away at the freshly injured arm! Jaka with stunning overhand chops, a headbutt to the chest, but Sabre gras the arm, Pele kick, firing uppercuts, legsweep kick and now he wrenches the foot!

Kind of a modified half-crab into a short legscissor variant, stump puller kneebar into a straight kneebar but the Catch Point man gets the ropes. Jaka throwing palm thrusts trying to keep some distance but Sabre applies a Stranglehold Gamma before turning it into a cross armbar but the hands are clutched and Jaka gets the ropes.

German suplex dumps him on his head and Jaka comes in with forearms, chops, and a headbutt, punishing ZSJ in the corner. Belly slaps and a headbutt to the chest but Sabre picks the leg and has an inverted heel hook! Jaka crawling for the ropes and he gets them! Dragging himself up the ropes as the champ lies in wait, he counters a charge, comes in with a spinning wheel kick, exploder suplex, off the ropes, sliding knee... NOPE!

Disdainful kick and slap, the champion draws himself up and they go uppercut for chop, Zack offers up a freebie and gets a headbutt that he regrets. Choke against the ropes, Sabre in with a northern lights suplex into the Kimura lock and then the cross armbar but again Jaka blocks, rolling through, pin gets two and a few stomps to the head break the hold.

Blocking a kick, Penalty Kick connects, discus slap, headbutt, superkick... NO GOOD! Chokebomb lift but Sabre reverses to a triangle choke! Throwing elbows at the head, manipulating the wrist, rolling through, Ode to Jim Breaks is on! Kicking the head, Jaka desperate for the ropes... HE GETS A TOE ON!

Charge gets an elbow, Sabre low with a dropkick, Penalty Kick, folding press, no good! Both men on their feet, increasingly spent, trading forearms, ZSJ catches a kick, shoulder kneebar, Jaka throwing kicks, Sabre adds a figure four, it's a reverse TJP Clutch! Slaps in the hold, both men throwing mad and Sabre breaks. On their feet, just slapping the taste out of their mouths!

Headbutt, ducks and dodges, spinning wheel kick wipes Sabre out! Chokebomb clutch, Sabre slips low...

Zack Sabre, Jr. wins by pinfall with the European Clutch, retaining the Evolve World Championship.

Excellent match. As the story says, if you were sleeping on Jaka, you're not going to after that match. Toe to toe with the champ every step of the way, great stuff all around.

Stokely Hathaway hits the ring after to tell Sabre that the right thing to do is to grant the greatest champion of all time his rematch for the Evolve title. Darby Allin gets in the ring behind him and goes to grab the mic but Stokely's got a death grip on it. Thatcher hits the ring and grabs the mic himself, telling Darby that he calls himself a wrestler in the presence of himself or ZSJ is a disgrace.

He thinks he's a wrestler because he gets in the ring and then fights all over the building, injuring himself for the people, but as soon as he stops doing that, they're gonna stop caring. So what he needs to do right now is take his broken arm and step out of this ring right now.

Thatcher turns to address Sabre and says they've had a wonderful rivalry and he respects what Zack does, but the next time they meet in the ring it needs to be for the title and it needs to be no holds barred. HE DROPS SABRE WITH A HEADBUTT! AN ELBOW TAKES DARBY DOWN AND HE'S ATTACKING THE BROKEN ARM! THE CAST IS OFF! HE'S WHIPPING HIM WITH THE CAST! CROSS ARMBAR ON THE BROKEN ARM!

"All Ego" Ethan Page vs. Thomas Sharp

Face to face, Page reminds Sharp of their past relationship and gets goozled for his trouble, only escaping with a kick to the leg. Off the ropes, Thomas with the big man Frankensteiner, corner lariat, fallaway slam, Page to the apron but he eats a boot trying to get back in.

Thinking Spinning Dwayne on the apron, another boot for his trouble, axehandle, All Ego with an apron powerbomb! Back in the ring, right hand, putting Sharp into the turnbuckles, big palm strike, whip reversed, boot up, off the ropes, right into a spinning side slam for two!

Big overhand chops from the former Gatekeeper, All Ego ducks a Stinger splash, hits Vanity Search, hooked for the Spinning Dwayne but Sharp is fighting back with knees, to the goozle, blocked with clubbing blows and Page hits a straight right elbow. Goozle connects, big leaping chokeslam... NOT ENOUGH!

Thomas climbing, frog splash comes up empty! All Ego springboards in with RKEgo, Sharp charges in and hits the Black Hole Slam but he's slow to make the cover and it's only a nearfall. Trading elbows to the face now, Thomas pulls ahead but runs into a superkick. Up and over, quick exchanges, All Ego hits a boot...

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

Fun sprint, and a nice change of pace after four straight grappling epics.

Austin Theory vs. Trent Baretta

Feeling out, light grappling, Theory keeping up with Baretta every step of the way and pulling ahead with slingshot stomp into a straight suplex. Snapmare, basement dropkick, Trent back into it with elbows, stomp out of the corner, disdainful kicks targeting the neck, following it with a back suplex that doesn't quite get a two count.

Chops in the corner, Austin throwing wild punches trying to find a foothold and he succeeds with the rolling thunder dropkick. Charging lariats, a trip, standing moonsault but Baretta has the knees up! Charging back elbow, thinking tornado DDT but Theory reverses to a twisting brainbuster for two!

Ducking kicks, wheelbarrow lift (!) into the Argentine backbreaker rack, spinout powerbomb... NOT ENOUGH! Trent heads outside, stumbling and gasping, Austin comes after with strikes, requesting a fan's chair and sitting Baretta down on it for repeated elbows to the jaw. Charging around the ring, Trent cuts him off with a lariat! PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR!

Back in the ring... GOTCH PILEDRIVER! AUSTIN THEORY LIVES! Shoving and kicking at Theory's head, the younger man manages to stand long enough to drop the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with a left hand. To the apron, Trent thinking piledriver, blocked, Austin throwing knees, looking for a cross-leg brainbuster but Baretta gets over the ropes and back inside.

Back to the apron, struggling... SHEERDROP BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON! In the ring, knee lift, Theory adjusts his neck, buckle bomb, catches Trent into a facelock on the rebound, cross-leg brainbuster on the knee... NO GOOD! On their knees, both men spent and trading blows, to their feet, chop for chop, forearm for forearm, Baretta hits an enzuigiri but Austin refuses to leave his feet!

In the corner, avalanche belly-to-belly suplex! Busaiku knee! STILL NOT ENOUGH! Hooked for the Dudebuster...

Trent Baretta over Austin Theory by pinfall with the Dudebuster.

Good match, Theory the rookie that has more to give than veteran Baretta expected but still falls in the end. Didn't quite connect with me all the way but the back half from the piledriver on the floor onward was hot enough to cover the gap.

Priscilla Kelly comes to the ring after and catches Trent's eye, but it's a ruse and Theory hits a low blow and a TKO! Kelly is... biting Trent's neck?!

Keith Lee vs. Matt Riddle (c) (WWN Championship)

A prematch fistbump as they soak in the atmosphere, and it's right to slugging it out punch for punch! Riddle backs Lee into the corner but only for a moment as the Limitless One comes back with pummeling trikes of his own. Matt in with a knee lift on the break, corner forearms, charging away but he's caught in a bear hug!

Out with elbows, throwing chest kicks, leaping forearm, again caught in the bear hug and then launched with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex in the corner! Clubbing blows, our Bro spasming in pain on the mat, palm strikes from the mat but Keith clobbers him in the corner and biels him across the ring!

Right hands from Riddle beget a headbutt, big left from Lee, and another, and the big double hand chop sends Matt collapsing to the canvas once again. Elbows for a knee lift, a wicked punch to the ear, scoop slam, one foot pin, huge corkscrew elbow drop and the champion is well on the back foot here but able to kick out.

Bro with the slap rush into forearms, Keith ducks a roundhouse, German suplex, Riddle lands on his feet, a forearm counters the Spirit Bomb! KARELIN LIFT ON THE THREE HUNDRED POUNDER! Lee blocks the second, fireman's carry dropped into the elbow to the face... NO GOOD! Riddle throwing chops, Keith taking him down with a headbutt and returning chops of his own here to stagger the champ.

Off the ropes, caught by a fireman's carry, Bro 2 Sleep into the bridging German suplex... NOT ENOUGH! High jump senton to the back, another nearfall! Chest kicks, Lee is woozy and crumbles to the mat. Chop against the ropes, whip reversed into the big pop-up spinebuster, Keith's putting it together, off the ropes, POUNCE! STILL NO GOOD!

Riddle to his feet, popping up into a guillotine choke but the Limitless One reverses to a delayed vertical suplex lift, re-reversed to the guillotine choke, vicious knees, up and over with the fisherman buster... NOPE! Sentons on sentons, but that won't put Lee away! Off the ropes, Penalty Kick, another nearfall and Keith is in pain but not going down.

Another senton... LEE CATCHES HIM! DEADLIFT UP INTO THE SPIRIT BOMB! MATT RIDDLE LIVES! Both men so spent, trying to dig deep and find that extra level, elbows on elbows, Lee off the ropes, he runs right into a fireman's carry and another Bro 2 Sleep but he's fired up enough to shrug it off! Forearms and headbutts, slap rush, roundhouse kick, off the ropes, another fireman's carry elbow and now it's Riddle that's fired up!

Still slugging it out with elbows, gas tanks running low, Riddle off the ropes with a knee, Lee catches him with a headbutt and both men crumble to the mat...

Matt Riddle wins by pinfall, knocked out on Keith Lee, both men exhausted, to retain the WWN Championship.

Holy hell. Excellent match, and I love the finish. So often these big matches see dudes ground down and finding second and third winds, so I dug the story being "actually, these two dudes are so evenly matched that they can't do that." Very different from their match at the Beyond show yesterday, too.

Ethan Page comes down to poop the party, he's here to take a golden deuce on the golden geese. He complains more about how everyone loves them and they can do no wrong but Ethan Page, everything he does is wrong. He puts boots and forearms to both men as Hot Sauce and Stokely Hathaway come down.

Williams congratulates Riddle on defending his title, and says ever since they stopped doing business together, he hasn't lost. So hey, on August 12th, he's coming for the crown! And right now he can do whatever he wants, hurt him, slap him around, but he's a patient man, so he's going to wait for August 12, but right now he's gonna let Stokely slap the piss out of him.

Hathaway with the backhand! Another! Stomps on Lee for good measure! All Ego's still kicking away, too. He finds himself in a bad part of town as Riddle and Lee wake up and he heads for the hills. Riddle offers another fistbump but Lee is hesitant. Bro really wants it, though, getting on one knee and all but begging until Keith takes it. One awkward hug later and Riddle poses with the title.

Overall

An excellent show from Evolve. I am madly in love with those first four matches, each one in its own way a perfect encapsulation of the kind of grappling excellence that Evolve is best at. And the main event wasn't bad either!

Storywise we have a lot to unpack here, as Thatcher has explicitly put himself in Darby Allin's way as a roadblock to the Evolve title (and did so with the promo of his career!), the Kelly/Theory alliance has bared their fangs somewhat literally, and ACH resumed toying with the petulant streak he was building up before heading to New Japan for BOSJ, which is something I look forward to taking deeper root with his character and his wrestling. Plus we have Hot Sauce explicitly gunning for Riddle's title, with a date and everything!

Check it out on VOD on FloSlam, folks.