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Evolve 103 recap & review: Injuries shuffle the card, Riddle uses a lack of rope breaks to retain, and Austin Theory wins the WWN title

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World Wrestling Network

The show opens about fifteen minutes past the originally scheduled bell time with Lenny Leonard and “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi in the ring to welcome us to the show. Lenny announces that Travis Banks and Darby Allin were injured at Progress today and will be replaced by Mark Haskins and “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams respectively.

Jarek 1:20 comes out and tries to book himself into a match but Lenny points out that’s not how it works, so he says he’ll just have to do what he did yesterday again.

Austin Theory (FIP) vs. Keith Lee (WWN) (FIP World Heavyweight Championship / WWN Championship Title vs. Title Match)

Theory in with forearms at the bell but Lee throws him aside! Clubbing away, same result, Austin keeps coming but Keith grabs a bear hug and punches his kidneys a few times. Sidestep a charge, overhead German suplex and a lariat follows to put the WWN Champion in charge. Big right hand, Theory keeps throwing inbetween but he can’t push past the Limitless One just yet.

Jawing at Austin, more forearms follow, a huge biel sends the FIP World Heavyweight Champion across the ring! Lee charges in, moves referee Brandon Tolle aside, but Theory drops down and trips him up to set up a standing moonsault that barely even gets a one-count! Running punt to the ribs, stomps, using the ropes to slingshot for momentum and now Austin’s in control for the first time.

Clubbing blows, Keith stands up straight under the attack and shrugs a few forearms off with a smile on his face, telling Theory he messed up. Elbow combo into a headbutt and the big double chop! Fireman’s carry,Austin lands on his feet, sidestep the charge, corner lariat and a forearm, rolling thunder... KEITH CATCHES HIM INTO THE ELEVATED SPINEBUSTER! ONLY A NEARFALL!

Rolling thunder blockbuster connects, Theory trying to push back into the fight, Chargling forearms, the Limitless one first one back that knocks Austin clear across the ring. Back at it, now he ducks the rebound shot and is able to stagger Lee with forearms. Duck one, fireman’s carry dropped into the rolling elbow... NOPE! Giant step, up in the corner for the Doomsault but Theory cuts him off!

Looking for a powerbomb, denied, club to the back, shifting gears... ARGENTINE POWERBOMB ON KEITH LEE, THE STRENGTH OF AUSTIN THEORY IS IMPRESSIVE BUT CANNOT END THE MATCH! Austin makes the mistake of mocking Lee, Spirit Bomb connects... SOMEHOW THEORY KICKS OUT! Looking for Ground Zero, Austin slips out, Brandon Tolle gets wiped out in the chaos, low blow...

Austin Theory wins by pinfall with the TKO, winning the WWN Championship.

Well that didn’t end how I expected! But even so it was a damn good match, with Theory working a lot better fighting from underneath a guy like Lee and needing to find every opening he can scrape out to prevail.

Dominic Garrini vs. Timothy Thatcher

Garrini looking to take things right to the mat early Thatcher seems content to try and keep it standing. A succesful takedown leads to Dom in guard, rolling around to mount, but they’re too close to the ropes and he breaks with a stomp. Leg pick, takedown, trying to find a limb to lever but Tim is able to block and trap his arm. Garrini rolls around him, kicks to the back, but Thatcher turns it around and rains elbows on Dom’s back.

Taking his back, looking for the sleeper, Garrini slips out, omoplata applied but Tim has the ropes. Looking for a crucifix, Thatcher escapes, more clubs to the back, punching his kidneys in but Dom grabs a Kimura lock and forces Tim ot the ropes. Back on their feet, Thatcher with a takedown, guillotine in passing, legs entangled and Dom slips away.

Fed up, Thatcher goes to striking, boots elbows and uppercuts. Garrini blocks a slap, kicks and knees of his own into a German suplex! Holding the waistlock, rolling through, another turns into Mighty Mouse but Tim keeps his arms together and blocks the armbar! Dom gets extension and Thatcher’s foot meets the ropes! Waistlock, Thatcher slips out, repeated slaps into the enzuigiri and a back suplex lands true! Underhooks...

Timothy Thatcher wins by pinfall with the butterfly Jackhammer.

I had a lot of hopes going into this match and it delivered on them nicely. Pure shoot-style action that would fit right in at Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport or wXw AMBITION, an absolute clinic of intense technical wrestling, the way they built the tension through into the striking segment late, the Mighty Mouse fakeout... Great sprinty match, and Dom is absolutely the next standard-bearer for technical wrestling on the indies.

Our scheduled four-way entrances begin and Jarek 1:20 tries to jump Jason Kincaid but the Gift runs him off!

AR Fox vs. Chris Brookes vs. DJ Z vs. Jason Kincaid

The referee tosses the Skulk out before the match even begins over Ayla Fox’s complaints!

Kincaid and Brookes on the offensive from the jump, Jason and Fox are run off, Chris with a high jump senton and right into the Wet Willie on DJ! Dumping Z, AR springboards in, nobody home, off the ropes, leapfrogs, wheelbarrow arm drag and a dropkick! Kincaid back, waistlock, back elbow, lariat into a springboard blockbuster, and the handspring knee drop for a nearfall!

Zema and the Gift now, Jason to the second, DJ powerbombs him and dropkicks him out of the ring before hitting his air horns! Off the ropes, Brookes trips him up and stomps away before turning to Fox. AR with slaps, a knucklelock, up top, springboard into a lucha arm drag and a headscissors takeover! Corner forearm, everybody stacked up, Jason Frankensteiners all three!

Fox dives on Brookes, DJ with a tope con giro onto both men, Kincaid with a trust fall senton! Jason with overhead elbows... FOX HITS THE OVER-THE-POST TOPE CON GIRO INTO THE CRUSH! Turning to Kincaid, he fends him off, cravates Zema into the ring, sets him up but AR is on the apron and distracts him before hitting a running thunder somersault senton and a Matrix enzuigiri, turning brainbuster... Brookes breaks the pin up!

Charging in, to the apron, kick, slingshot Ace Crusher... NOPE! Underhooks, DJ in with a kick, punches on both Chris and AR, they team up on him when he calls for his horns but Ion is able to set them up and knock them down. Rolling thunder double DDT denied, superkick party, Fox with one on Brookes and he leapfrogs Kincaid onto him to boot! Jason with a Stunner... NOPE!

Taking it to DJ in the corner, thinking superplex, Chris cuts him off, trying Tower of Doom, the Gift blocks him, electric chair, Fox knocks him down but Kincaid hits an uppercut! Kick for kick, Fox runs Brookes off, fireman’s carry on Kincaid and DJ hits a double stomp 450 off of the Gift’s back before taking he and Fox both out! Sliding senton from Jason, slingshot Falcon Arrow... HE CAN’T DO THE DEAL!

Fireman’s carry, Zema slips out, O’Connor roll denied, flipping back suplex into a facebreaker but Kincaid kicks out! Headed up top, Chris cuts him off, electric chair Codebreaker into sick four-way moves, dragon screw neck whip, Fox hits Lo Mein Pain!

AR Fox wins by pinfall with a fisherman Foxcatcher on Chris Brookes.

This did exactly what these four-ways are supposed to-- fast and furious, a bit of junk food wrestling that likely won’t exactly stand the test of time but damn if it’s not enjoyable in the moment. It’s a shame injuries took Hot Sauce out of it and removed the styles clash element, but Brookes is a fine replacement and this was really fun.

Post-match, the Skulk return to celebrate with Fox.

Chris Dickinson vs. Mark Haskins (Evolve vs. the World)

Dickinson taking things to the mat out the gates, Haskins grabs an armbar, Chris turns it around, intense jockeying for position leads to stalemate! Dickinson working a wristlock into a hammerlock, Mark trips him up, side headlock, shoot off denied and Haskins takes him right down to the mat to keep wrenching the headlock in. Headscissors reversal, Mark with a headstand escape into a pin, no good, taking him down, looking for the armbar again but Dickinson denies him and hits a short DDT into a guillotine choke!

Haskins slips out, the Dirty Daddy turtles up so Mark shifts gears and they end up in the ropes for a break. Side headlock, Mark shoots him off, sunset flip countered into a stomp to the arm! Up and over, Haskins puts his face into the turnbuckle, fires off a dropkick and follows it with a kick to the back and repeated knees to the face.

Big palm strike from Dickinson earns him another knee but the Dirty Daddy is fired up! Shoulder armbreakers, Mark looking to soften the arm up, taking him over into a kneeling armbar and falling back. Chris fights back with chops,off the ropes, shoulder block, back elbow, corner lariat into a running powerslam but it’s only good for a nearfall.

The fighting goes to the floor, Dickinson puts Haskins into the steel steps and adjusts their positioning before breaking the count and whipping him hard into them! Back inside, punishing him with kicks, choking him over the ropes, Haskins desperate to break free but Chris kicks him and talks some trash to boot. Repeated hamstring kicks, Haskins’ shoulder is cut open and Dickinson continues to press the attack with an ankle lock.

Looking for a powerbomb, Mark is able to block and turn it into a back body drop and will some life back into himself! Hobbling over, forearms, kicks to the arm and the Dirty Daddy is fired up for more! Haskins punches him in the face! Drawing him up, whip across into a hellacious knee to the gut but it leaves Mark hobbling again. Charging in, forearm strike and an uppercut, jockeying for position, rolling cradle into an arm-trap crossface!

Dickinson reaching for the ropes, Haskins turns it into Rings of Saturn and wrenches but Chris is able to scoot over and get his feet on the rope! Both men slow to rise, Dickinson with a fireman’s carry, slip out, O’Connor roll, no good, off the ropes, roll-through into the Death Valley Driver... NOPE! Chest kicks, Dickinson catches one, O’Connor roll, trap the leg on the kickout, figure four ankle lock!

Haskins screaming, crawling, he gets the ropes and referee Brandon Tolle has to get to four before Chris breaks the hold! Mark kicks him away, follows it with a dropkick, looking for a suplex but Dickinson reverses to a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall! Stomps and kicks to the hamstring, Haskins gets a headkick in and one to the face from the apron, he heads up top and hits the diving double stomp... NO GOOD!

Picking the legs, Chris fights him off, roll through, he gets the Sharpshooter this time but Dickinson levers out into a sunset flip! Back to the figure four ankle lock in the middle of the ring... IT’S OVER!

Chris Dickinson wins by submission with a figure four ankle lock.

Mark Haskins wrestling a standard indie main event match? Not my favorite guy. Mark Haskins wrestling a technical wrestling leg damage-oriented showcase like this? I love that guy! This went maybe a little long and meandered in the middle but by and large was quite good.

“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams vs. WALTER (Evolve vs. the World)

WALTER in charge early, throwing those heavy chops, a straight suplex, more chops cracking across the arena but Hot Sauce fights back with forearms! Gojira Clutch applied, Ringkampf Special, and yet more chops as a “WALTERMania!” chant goes up. Looking for a suplex, WALTER blocks and hits a butterfly suplex for a nearfall. Taking him to the corner, going to the second, thinking superplex but Hot Sauce knocks him down!

Charging in, boot up, WALTER picks him off and slams him down! Tracy with the Inoki leg kicks from the mat, to his feet with palm strikes, forcing the Ring General to cover up but WALTER grabs the Gojira Clutch again! Ringkampf Special denied, trying the suplex again but overhead elbows cut Hot Sauce down. A third try is the charm and the Saito suplex connects!

Williams in the corner, WALTER meets him, overhead elbows and he hits the DDT into the turnbuckle! Diving DDT follows and Hot Sauce is running wild, hitting a diving splash... NOPE! Crossface applied, WALTER hosses himself to his feet and Tracy adjusts to a sleeper. WALTER levers his arm loose and tosses him to the mat. Lariat for chop and the Ring General cuts him down with a lariat of his own!

Gojira Clutch, Williams rolls out and into the crossface! That doesn’t do it but he keeps pressing with kicks until WALTER fires a lariat back! Clubbing blows to the chest, into the arm-trap Gojira Clutch with nowhere to go... IT’S OVER!

WALTER wins by referee stoppage with the arm-trap Gojira Clutch.

WALTER is just incredible. Not that Hot Sauce isn’t an excellent competitor in his own right, but wow. Last minute change, adjusting to a totally different opponent and he still goes out there and puts on a classic. Awesome match.

Jaka vs. Munenori Sawa (Evolve vs. the World)

Jaka in hot taking it right to the BattlArts legend! Looking for an armbar, Sawa blocks, takes Jaka’s back and pries his fist open to wrench at the fingers! Reverse chinlock, the Smooth Savage counters to a chancery of his own and turns it into a guillotine before Munenori slips out. Hamstring kicks, Sawa dumps Jaka to the floor and they trade palm strikes!

Headbutt gets kicks, back to trading slaps and Munenori’s speed pulls him ahead! Lighting him up against the barricade, Jaka gets a superkick in but Sawa’s laughing at him! Back inside, chokebomb nearfall, a long sequence built around an STF with Sawa beating his head into the mat to block the pain! Meets the ropes, back to striking, and Munenori lights him up in the corner with incredible speed!

Big leg lariat wipes the Smooth Savage out but can’t finish things! Fired up, winding the arm up, Irobu Punch countered with a spinning wheel kick! An enzuigiri returned, German suplex blocked, standing switch, Jaka hits it and Sawa counters into an armbar! Clubs to the spine and a suplex gets Jaka out of it and both men are down and out!

Trading headbutts on their knees and then into palm strikes and punches, to their feet, Jaka gets another headbutt off but a big punch from Sawa knocks him down... NOPE! Octopus hold applied...

Munenori Sawa wins by submission with an octopus hold.

Please don’t go back into retirement, Mr. Sawa. The world needs you and your incredibly fast hands more than ever! I loved this, if you couldn’t guess. Just two dudes going fast, beating the crap out of each other, and occasionally wrenching a hold in. Really good stuff.

The End hit the ring after the match and beat Jaka down! Dickinson makes the save and takes Odinson and Drennen out but Parrow gets him first! Dominic Garrini runs down but gets overwhelmed by the End’s numbers advantage! Stokely Hathaway is at ringside and turns to see Drennen and his baton! He runs into Odinson and then Parrow before ending up surrounded in the ring...

HOT SAUCE IN WITH THE SAVE! Dom and Jaka and Dickinson are all back up and at it and they clear the End out!

Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Matt Riddle (c) (Evolve World Championship No Rope Breaks Match) (Evolve vs. the World)

Sekimoto takes his boots off and Riddle gets on the mic to tell him he wasn’t expecting that, but he’s down. And in the true spirit of Evolve, all future title matches will have no rope breaks!

Jockeying for position on the mat, into the ropes but of course there’s no need to break and Riddle takes Sekimoto’s back but Daisuke counters by falling back! Sekimoto feeling a little sumo action and Bro is game! Daisuke with a bear hug, Matt reverses to a judo throw before shifting to an armbar, but he can’t pop the arm so he shifts to waistlock instead.

Sekimoto with a heel hook, wrenching it in but Bro forces him onto the apron and breaks with chops! Triangle choke applied but Daisuke hosses out of it and goes stomping away! A chop from Deep Waters fires the Big Japan man up and we’ve got a slugfest on our hands! Scoop and a slam gets Sekimoto two and he follows it up with a Boston Crab! Riddle reverses around and breaks with kicks, throwing right hands in the ropes to stagger Daisuke!

Cover, Sekimoto tries to grab the ropes but there’s no breaks! Hard whip right into a lariat, a huge Karelin lift but Riddle won’t go away that easy. Hard chop, shoulder thrust, Daisuke has Matt on the back foot and goes for a German suplex but Bro picks the leg to block. Clubbing blows to the back to try and force it, Riddle refuses to let go and eventually lands on his feet when he gets picked up... ONLY TO GET CLOBBERED WITH A LARIAT!

Float over on a suplex, short-arm knee strike into the fisherman buster... NOPE! A pair of high jump sentons follow, make that a trio, into the cover, no dice! Knees to the ribs, softening him up for the Karelin lifts! Forearm for knee, up for the Bro 2 Sleep but Sekimoto catches the leg! Argentine backbreaker rack applied, flexing him and walking him around the ring but Riddle levers his arm out!

Thinking double wristlock with a headscissors, Daisuke wanders to the corner and Matt falls back since the ropes are no avail! Knees from Sekimoto bust him loose and knock our Bro to the floor! Daisuke fired up, letting Riddle come back in on his own time while his arm knits up best it can. Chop for chop, the sound of flesh on flesh echoing across the building and Sekimoto drops the champion with a lariat!

Off the ropes, lariat countered, Pele kick connects, Bro 2 Sleep lands true this time, bridging German... NOT ENOUGH TO PUT DAISUKE AWAY! Chest kicks, Sekimoto just absorbing them and screaming, going chop for kick now, off the ropes, Riddle blocks a lariat with a kick, takes him down, forearms on forearms... BRANDON TOLLE CALLS IT!

Matt Riddle wins by referee stoppage, retaining the Evolve World Championship.

What a match. From the opening feeling out to the sumo action to the striking... dear lord, the striking. The sequence with the Bro 2 Sleep being countered into the backbreaker rack being countered into a headscissors double wristlock and spilling over the ropes in particular I want to shout out as brilliant. Add in a hell of a finish decisively cementing Riddle’s young reign as champion, and this is an excellent match.


A really good show from Evolve and with no streaming issues, either! This had kind of the feel of one of the early reboot shows from late-2014, heavy on the grappling and light on the angles. Which of course I’m all for, because that’s the Evolve I fell in love with in the first place! Sekimoto/Riddle was pretty clear match of the night but aside from Dickinson/Haskins running a bit long I can’t find a lot to find fault with here.

Storyline-wise, again, not a huge amount going on, although Austin Theory’s sudden rise to the WWN Championship is... interesting. He’s clearly a guy with a lot of potential, but I haven’t seen nearly as much of that potential in practice than I have in theory (no apologies!), and hopefully he’ll grow into that potential as his title reign rolls on. In a more blatantly positive sense, Riddle’s decree that all of his title defenses will be held under his preferred rules, with no rope breaks, is also quite interesting.

Check the VOD out on WWNLive or FITE, folks.

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