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Evolve 102 recap & review: Riddle wins the title, Keith Lee tries to give Darby his wish, and the stream is down for way too long

The show opens just a minute or two past bell time with Lenny Leonard and “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi in the ring to welcome us to the show. Without any further ado, onto the first match!

Austin Theory vs. DJ Z

Into some light grappling from DJ at the jump, Austin able to grab a waistlock, turn it around but Z hits the gas and we get some flying! Theory cuts him off, but the former X Division Champion gets back into it, orders the sound guy to hit the horns, goes for a dive... and Austin has bailed and gone around for the rolling thunder dropkick!

Stomps for kicks, Theory with a leg trip into a standing moonsault for two! Punishing Zema in the corner, hammer whip, starting to focus on the back is Austin Theory before shifting to a reverse chinlock to grind him down. HUGE release Doctor Bomb follows! And... my feed drops. And WWNLive refuses to reload, and as it turns out, would stay down for me until the beginning of the tag title match.

DJ Z over Austin Theory by pinfall with a rolling thunder DDT.

Alright, I have VOD access and I’ve had a chance to check this out and it’s a very fun opener. Back and forth between vet and rookie, it keeps a good pace and doesn’t last long enough to outstay its welcome as still so often happens in Austin Theory matches.

Post-match, Theory gets on the mic and throws a tantrum before calming down and challenging Keith Lee to make their non-title match at Evolve 103 into a title-for-title match with both the WWN and FIP titles on the line!

AR Fox vs. Will Ospreay

Feeling out, mind games from both men, Ospreay’s neck clearly bugging him a little as he turns the heat up and the flips begin. Pass to the apron, Fox blocks a springboard, right hand but his tope con giro is denied when Will moves! Jockeying for position on the floor, back inside, both men go for Ace Crushers and are stopped short by the other!

Off the ropes, Ospreay running hot with a dropkick, handspring fake-out into the pose! AR taking his time on the outside, having a drink of water, back inside, duck a lariat, Will gets distracted by one of the Skulk and Fox is able to kick him to the mat. Scoop and a slam, a cover, AR taking it easy and grinding Will down with a rear chinlock and ak nee to the back.

Forearms, Ospreay breaks loose, Fox kicks his leg out from under him and slides through the ropes over him, snapping his neck over the middle! Back in, another cover, into a neck crank, overhead elbow when Will breaks free, he’s able to float over on a suplex, but he gets caught with a twisting brainbuster! Ospreay in pain, holding his neck and clawing to the corner, AR follows and clubs him some more before grabbing a rear chinlock.

Will fights out again but again Fox clubs at him. This time a handspring kick connects and actually gets Ospreay some breathing room, kicks and a jawbreaker, another kick, running uppercut, still clutching his neck, hesitation dropkick misses, he gets Fox hung up top for the Tiger feint kick! Busy clearing the Skulk out at ringside, Fox hits him with the kickflip moonsault!

Back in, springboard Codebreaker... NOPE! Shiranui denied, Ospreay gets a kick off, whip, dropkick cuts the up and over off, Will beats some life into his shoulder, off the ropes... SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP! Back inside, lying in wait, springboard lariat followed by a running shooting star press... FOX WON’T GO DOWN JUST YET! AR back in control, on the apron, kicks, a somersault Ace Crusher... NEITHER WILL OSPREAY!

Senton atomico comes up empty and Will is fired up! From behind, full nelson, AR breaks but Will has kicks, duck a lariat, Matrix evasion into an enzuigiri, dropkick into a step-up enzuigiri and Fox finishes the exchange with a German suplex! Off the ropes... SPANISH FLY! Both men down and out, Ospreay unable to capitalize due to his aching neck, on their knees and to their feet, trading forearms.

Speeding up, life coming back into them, Ospreay with a strike rush but Fox cuts him off with a knee to the face. Float over, into a powerbomb... NOT ENOUGH! Suplexing AR onto the ropes, a kick for good measure, but Ayla Fox runs interference and Fox recovers with a kick to the face... LO MEIN PAIN! Up top after, the 450 splash... WILL KICKS OUT!

Thinking about Foxcatcher... COUNTERED INTO STUNDOG MILLIONAIRE! FROG SPLASH ONTO THE SKULK! Robinson Special connects...

Will Ospreay wins by pinfall with the OsCutter.

So this ruled. Two of the wildest flyers in the game doing wild flying stuff with a throughline of Will’s poor injured neck, what a surprise that it turned out to be a really good match that told a quite compelling story, eh?

Catch Point (Dominic Garrini & “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams) vs. Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) (c) vs. the End (Odinson & Parrow) vs. WorkHorsemen (Anthony Henry & James Drake) (Evolve Tag Team Championship Scramble Match)

My feed is still down for the opening minutes here but as I get it back we’ve got some internecine strife from Catch Point! James Drake back in on Dickinson, Henry in to join him but Jaka’s able to run interference and Chris drops the New Age Enforcer on his dome with a belly-to-belly suplex! Falcon Arrow into a splash... NOPE! The End back at it... SUPER COLLIDER ON THE CHAMPS BUT HOT SAUCE BREAKS IT UP!

Parrow military presses Williams to the floor but gets caught by a spinebuster from Drake! Big backfist on Odinson... DRILL BIT INTO A SPLASH-- DOM MAKES THE SAVE! Snap German suplex on James, Anthony striking on Garrini but he gets caught with a Gutwrench 2 Sleep... NOPE! Sleeper applied and Jaka breaks the submission up! Williams with a German suplex on Jaka!

Henry counters an ankle lock into a pin but it’s no good and he has to fend the Catch Point men off. Roundhouse for Dom, into a step-up tornado DDT but the Dirty Daddy comes in with a hard knee! Setting up Death Trap but Drake comes around and knocks Jaka to the floor! WorkHorsemen have Dickinson, Drill Bit connects, Anthony up top, double stomp, Drake follows... BIG MAN MOONSAULT! ODINSON F-10S HENRY INTO THE PIN TO BREAK IT UP!

Double dropkick from Henry on the End and he’s fired up but Drennen has a baton! Henry takes him off the apron, Penalty Kick connects but Parrow comes from behind with a release German suplex! Electric chair, Odinson perches up top...

The End win by pinfall with Hell on Earth on Anthony Henry, but don’t win the titles since they didn’t pin Doom Patrol.

Okay so I missed the beginning but this was a hell of a match, everything great about the Evolve tag division over the last year crammed into one beautiful bowl of chaos. Silly stipulation, though.

James Drake attacks the End with a chair post-match!

Darby Allin vs. Keith Lee

Allin wisely testing his strength early and just getting absolutely manhandled. Turning the heat up, he dives... AND GETS CAUGHT INTO SPIRIT BOMB POSITION! Darby fights to the apron, back in, another suicide dive and it lands true this time! A tope con giro wipes Keith out! Back in the ring... POUNCE! Looking for the Spirit Bomb again but Allin has the wits about him to counter to a guillotine choke!

Lee sets him on the apron but Darby refuses to let go and ducks a lariat to hit a Stunner! Hammer blows, Allin fired up but Keith yanks him through the ropes and flings him across the ring by the waistband of his shorts! Big double chop in the corner, and a humongous biel almost turns into a release slam! Stinger splash comes up empty as Allin fights back only to get thrown into the ropes by his neck!

He takes the Limitless One’s leg out from under him.. COFFIN DROP! Another Stunner, springboard into a sunset flip, only a nearfall! Charging in with elbows in the corner, Lee grabs a waistlock to counter, more elbows but the German suplex connects! Keith tells him to stay down and hits a freight train crossbody block... only a nearfall!

Darby with palm strikes, desperately trying to fight back into it but Lee drops him with an elbow strike. More slaps, another elbow, duck a lariat, more slaps, elbows of his own, Keith picks him up... fireman’s carry into the rolling elbow! Pop-up... SPIRIT BOMB! BUT ALLIN WON’T GIVE UP, CLAWING HIS WAY UP THE WWN CHAMPION’S BODY! Goozle, broken, trading strikes again, elbows and headbutts and chops, fireman’s carry...

Keith Lee wins by pinfall with Ground Zero.

Excellent match, almost the platonic ideal of a match between a man the size of Keith Lee and a man the size of Darby Allin. Darby’s heart is unbeatable, Keith is always great as the unstoppable object, I expected this would be really good going in and shock, it is!

Keith gets on the mic and calls Austin Theory out for challenging him earlier, questioning the idea that he’s the future or unstoppable and saying that he won the title in ten months, and he’s very happy to accept Theory’s challenge to make tomorrow’s match title for title against the FIP World Heavyweight Championship.

Allin crawls his way up to the mic and says something I can’t quite make out, which earns him a goozle, but the champ lets him go rather than punish him further.

Candy Cartwright makes her way to ringside... and Jarek 1:20 attacks Darby from behind! He hits the Canadian DDT! Jarek gets on the mic and says he’s gonna take his spot on the Evolve roster now, and he’s not gonna use magic to make everyone disappear, but he’s gonna eliminate everyone who he thinks took his spot.

Daisuke Sekimoto & Munenori Sawa vs. Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER)

Thatcher and Sawa to start, and Munenori immediately starts into some mind games, feigning an attack on WALTER. From there right into the intense grappling, Thatcher going hold-for-hold with Sawa, getting a crossface chickenwing in only for Sawa to escape into an ankle lock and stalemate! Tags made, a bit of strength testing and... HERE COME THE CHOPS!

Off the ropes, trading shoulder blocks, neither man giving an inch until WALTER knocks Sekimoto to the mat! Dropkick from Daisuke and he’s fired up but runs right into a boot from the Ring General! In control, tag to Tim, knees to the ribs and it’s time for quick tags to keep the Big Japan star off his balance. Sawa’s getting hot but there’s nothing he can do while the Ringkampf men work Sekimoto over!

Daisuke nearly gets WALTER up for a slam to get out of it and we go back to chops... SEKIMOTO CONNECTS WITH A HUGE LARIAT! TAGS MADE! PALM STRIKES! SAWA AT LIGHTNING SPEED! DOUBLE DRAGON SCREW! Daisuke tags back in, now it’s their turn to work Thatcher over, targeting the ribs and the back, Boston crab in and Sawa adds some finger work and that leads WALTER to make the save!

Munenori pressing the attack, short legscissor, Thatcher slaps him in the face and he wants more! Wrenching back in the legscissor, Tim grabs an inverted heel hook to force him to back off, but Sawa rolls through into a stepover toehold and then kind of a modified Muta Lock until WALTER breaks it up! Putting boots to Thatcher in the corner, Sawa getting cheap shots in here and there.

Chop for uppercut, Tim gasping, full of will but the body is failing, he slips out of a suplex and hits the enzuigiri! Another for Sawa, tag to WALTER! Chops for everybody! Sekimoto sidesteps, Germans denied, whip, lariat, boot, another lariat and WALTER stands tall! Gojira Clutch on Sawa, Ringkampf Special, underhooks, huge butterfly suplex and WALTER is on a roll!

He wants Daisuke! Trading double lariats, Sekimoto ducks, scoops him up and slams him! Missile dropkick follows, only a nearfall, and Sawa assists a German suplex with a series of kicks. WALTER swats a lariat out of mid-air, runs into a chop and goes face-to-face with Sekimoto. More chops ring out, both men’s chests red and raw, just cracking across the arena like a man hitting a wet ham with a sausage and both men are down and out, leading to another set of tags.

Thatcher in with forearms, trading strikes, Sawa’s lighting speed pulling him ahead and staggering the former champ... BUT HE CATCHES THE IROBU PUNCH INTO THE FUJIWARA ARMBAR! SAWA MAKES THE ROPES WITH HIS FOOT! Red-face and steeled with resolve, Tim follows up, knees and hammers, underhooks applied, Munenori blocks, rolling solebutt and the Irabu Punch connects this time!

Octopus hold applied, WALTER with the save, Sekimoto gets him up in the Argentine backbreaker rack and pumps him but Ringkampf are able to reverse into stereo Gojira Clutches! Escape with a collision, stereo Irobu Punches! From behind, Sawa with a waistlock... SEKIMOTO GERMAN SUPLEXES HIS OWN PARTNER AND TAKES THATCHER WITH THEM! Daisuke wakes Munenori up into the cover, only a nearfall!

WALTER boots Sekimoto off the apron, Sawa floats over a German suplex, the Ring General slips out the octopus and coutners the Irobu with a lariat! Another lariat... NOT ENOUGH! Gojira Clutch applied, Tim has Daisuke in his clutches... IT’S OVER!

Ringkampf win by submission with the Gojira Clutch from WALTER on Munenori Sawa.

So, like... I was predisposed to love this one, folks. Just knowing how much wrestling Sawa means to Thatcher was enough to make me roll a tear early. So, grain of salt and all, but my immediate gut reaction is that this is the best tag team match in Evolve history. Just incredible, the ebb and flow, the hard-hitting, intensely technical action... An excellent match by any metric.

Stokely Hathaway comes to ringside to call Thatcher out for leaving him and the Dream Team to join Ringkampf full-time. But he’ll do Tim a solid and give him less than 24 hours to bow out of the Evolve Tag Team Championship match tomorrow night because Doom Patrol are gonna beat their ass.

Darby Allin comes out and yanks the mic out of Stokely’s hands! He calls WALTER out asks why they should wait until tomorrow to fight. The Ring General casually throws Allin out of his ring but Darby gets right back in! Release powerbomb!

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

Right into it on the mat, a little bit of feeling out, trying to find the body part that will give them the leverage to take control of the match. Stalemate, back at it... Riddle gets a shock cross armbar! Still in control, rolling Karelin lifts, the high jump senton, chest kicks give way to the charging forearms and ZSJ gets a kneebar out of nowhere!

Stomping the knee joint when he’s forced to break by referee Brandon Tolle, stamping the pit of the knee before resuming his wrenching, into a stepover toehold, adding an armbar and then into the Regal Stretch for a moment before breaking for a simple wrench of the knee once more. Leg kicks, Deep Waters trying to get back into it but Zack takes him back down and into an inverted Regal Stretch!

Continuing to press the attack on the leg, working the toes and Bro fires up! Throwing elbows, Sabre gets a leg sweep off and both men are down for a moment. Charging uppercut, tornado DDT, levering around into a half bow-and-arrow and then a cross armbar but again Matt has the ropes and forces the break. Trading strikes, Riddle seemingly drawing ZSJ into his game, slap rush, Riddle catches a kick and hits the Pele kick!

German suplex countered, Sabre into the guillotine choke but Bro reverses into a brainbuster! Going for a fisherman buster, ZSJ slips out and grabs a double wristlock, seemingly satisfied with the damage he’s done to the leg and moving on. Riddle posts to his feet... FISHERMAN BUSTER INTO A SMALL PACKAGE... NOT ENOUGH! Bro 2 Sleep countered into a sleeper, countered into the omoplata but Deep Waters slips out into a cross armbar!

Inverted heel hook, Riddle hosses him up, Sabre out with the Pele kick to the arm but Bro suplexes him one-armed! Charging uppercuts from the champion, a step ahead of Riddle but Matt hosses him over into a submission that gets countered into a pin! Knee strike, roll through, the powerbomb connects... NO GOOD! Riddle with chest kicks, Sabre unable to protect himself but he counters a knee into the European Clutch... COUNTERED INTO A SLEEPER HOLD!

Sabre rolls out, another pin, no good! Penalty Kick connects... STILL NO! Another one... MATT RIDDLE WON’T GIVE UP! Back to the leg, grapevining it into a kneebar, Riddle posting on his hands and crawling desperately to the ropes! ZSJ back to the leg, stomping and kicking, wrenching and tearing, posting the knee into the mat hard. Uppercut for forearm, Sabre stepping on Matt’s head!

Stomp to the back of the knee, uppercuts, slaps, trying to provoke Bro into making a mistake but all he gets is a slap and a ripcord knee strike. Bro 2 Sleep lands true, bridging German suplex... ZSJ IS STILL CHAMPION! High jump senton, headed up top, a diving senton... CAUGHT INTO A CROSS ARMBAR BUT RIDDLE KEEPS HIS HANDS CLASPED! Sabre pops the arm, traps the leg in as well, in the middle of the ring and nowhere to go but Matt reverses to a pin for two!

Flying triangle, Riddle pops him off and Sabre grabs the octopus hold! Bro out, lifting him up, Tombstone denied, into the Hurrah but Riddle isn’t giving up! Turn him around, Gotch cradle... TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER! NOT ENOUGH! Bromission attempt, reversed, Zack has the leglace Stretch Muffler in but Riddle reverses back to the Bromission! HE PULLS HIS ARM IN! IT’S OVER!

Matt Riddle wins by submission with the Bromission, winning the Evolve World Championship!

What a match! It’s not perfect, by any means (for one I’d have liked the leg damage to mean a little more), but it was great all the same. Some of the submission exchanges late, just beautiful.

Post-match, ZSJ presents the title to the new champion after a moment’s hesitation. Riddle turns down a handshake and demands a fist bump instead, and Sabre obliges him!

Riddle gets on the mic and addresses us as our new Evolve Champion and says he’s been chasing the title since he got here. He talks about how he wasn’t even supposed to be here this long, but he couldn’t be happier, we made this possible, and he thanks us from the bottom of his heart.


Okay, so elephant in the room-- the stream issues suck. I missed, at an estimate, one and three-quarters matches due to the stream being down on WWNLive, and from the sounds of it, while FITE users were a little better off, they had a lot of skipping. Evolve made it good in short order like they always do by bumping live-only VOD orders up to include VOD access, but even so, this shouldn’t happen. GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport streamed just fine for me, and just anecdotally I’d be shocked if demand wasn’t nearly as strong for that as it was for Evolve 102 here.

That aside... what I saw of the show was incredibly strong. In particular, the final three matches were just, like, bang bang bang, great/incredible/great, a hell of a string of matches and frankly one that I don’t think you could match going through the last several months of Evolve. And to be even more particular, Ringkampf vs. Sawa/Sekimoto, I don’t think I can be superlative enough. (And now that I’ve seen Ospreay/Fox, that absolutely goes on the pile as well.)

Storyline-wise, most of what we got here, naturally, sets up stuff later in the weekend-- Theory/Lee being title-for-title, Stokely’s war against Ringkampf, Darby trying to end his life against WALTER, and so on. But of course, the end of Sabre’s reign as champion is a big deal, and Jarek picking on Allin, while I don’t think it’s necessarily paying off this weekend, should be a fun way to pass the time as the year continues.

Check the VOD out on, folks.

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