Welcome to the Fightful.com live coverage for EVOLVE 79! Tonight's card features Timothy Thatcher defending the EVOLVE Title against Zack Sabre, Jr., and a grudge match between Drew Galloway and Fightful.com podcast host Matthew Riddle.
Last night, at EVOLVE 78, Thatcher successfully retained his title against Fred Yehi in a card that included a bunch of diverse and entertaining matches. What will tonight's card bring?
Saturday, February 25, 2017La Boom in Queens, NY
Lenny Leonard opens the show, hyping Galloway vs. Riddle and the EVOLVE Title match. The crowd definitely does not want to see Timothy Thatcher's reign continue.
Jason Kincaid vs. ACH
Kincaid is a Fightful.com Pro Series contributor. ACH, with a win, will earn an EVOLVE Title shot during WrestleMania weekend. ACH has a bandage near his left eye from a wound sustained last night against Tracy Williams.
Dueling chants for both men as the match begins. ACH gets the best of the initial headlock, shove in the ropes, shoulder tackle spot but, just like last night, ACH seems a bit uncertain by Kincaid's meditative poses mid-match. Kincaid already has the straps down! He means business! Now they lock up and ACH with an arm wringer. Kincaid does a headstand, kips up, and does a cartwheel to escape the hold. Now Kincaid with an arm wringer. ACH with a sitout springboard off the top rope to counter, Kincaid powders to the floor and ACH mocks Kincaid a bit with a bow of his own. Go behind by ACH, Kincaid blocks an O'Connor roll attempt. They run the ropes, with ACH blocking a Kincaid leap frog with a reverse atomic drop, then gets caught with a spin kick by Kincaid. ACH to the floor now, Kincaid looking to the crowd. He goes for a dive, ACH slides back in and Kincaid catches himself in the ropes. ACH tags Kincaid, does a springboard dropkick, followed by a running penalty kick down the apron that levels Kincaid. ACH blows a kiss to the camera then goes to follow up on Kincaid with a chop before throwing him back in the ring. ACH immediately to the top rope, Kincaid evades him. ACH lands on his feet, delivers a back kick to the gut. ACH into the ropes but Kincaid charges, countering with a clothesline through the ropes, followed by a somersault neckbreaker. Kincaid goes for a follow up, ACH rolls to the apron, Kincaid runs the ropes, flips over the top rope and delivers a double stomp to the midsection. ACH back into the ring, Kincaid covers for a two count. Dueling chants continue for both. Kincaid trying to Irish whip ACH, who is holding onto the top rope to bnlock. Kincaid goes for a lariat, ACH evades it and hits a combo. They go to the outside again, Kincaid blocks a second penalty kick attempt and smashes ACH facefirst into the apron. Kincaid onto the stage and launches with a dropkick to ACH on the ring apron. Near fall for Kincaid on a rope assisted reverse DDT. Kincaid to the top, he goes for the double stomp, ACH rolls out of the way. Charges back in, ACH flips him onto the apron. Kincaid back in, ACH with a snap German, followed by two lariats, and the brainbuster. 1... 2... 3! Quick, violent combo by ACH to finish the match and earn a title shot.
Lenny Leonard says that ACH will get his EVOLVE Title shot at EVOLVE 80 in Orlando.
Really enjoyed that match. As someone who was very familiar with Kincaid's prior work, I wanted to see what would happen when he got into the ring with another unique athlete and I got my wish here. What was here was very good, but wish it had been longer. Kincaid's best EVOLVE match yet, and ACH gets the win he needed to challenge for the title during WrestleMania week.
Four Way Freestyle: Fred Yehi vs. Chris Dickinson vs. Austin Theory vs. Anthony Henry
This match will be contested under fatal four-way rules. Considering that they've been teasing a showdown between the two Catch Point duos over the EVOLVE Tag Titles (currently held by Yehi and Tracy Williams), I'd expect that storyline to advance in some shape, form, or fashion here.
Yehi and Henry immediately DROP Dickinson and Theory to clear out the ring. Both Yehi and Henry trading strikes as Priscilla Kelly comes out once more to observe the action. Yehi sweeps out Henry's legs, does a stomp to the thigh of Henry, followed by a seated dropkick. Theory back in the ring and eats an enziguiri. Henry goes for a springboard, Theory catches him in a torture rack, but Henry reverses into a headscissors. Now Dickinson is in and annihilates Henry with a lariat, followed by a German suplex. Dickinson working over Theory, who slows him down with a big forearm. Modified chokeslam by Theory on Yehi. Henry flies in off the top rope, Theory avoids it, takes out Henry's legs and hits a standing moonsault for a 2 count broken up by Dickinson. Now the two Catch Point teammates, Dickinson and Yehi, working together on Theory. Dickinson with a powerbomb, and teams with Yehi for a powerbomb-neckbreaker combo. That teamwork doesn't last long, as Dickinson and Yehi break up pin attempts by the other on Theory. They bicker and are left open to a missile dropkick by Henry. Kicks to the chest of both Yehi and Dickinson by Henry, then a kick to the head for each. Dickinson eats a tornado DDT from Henry, but Theory breaks up the two count. Theory and Henry now going at it... Theory goes for the up and over at the end of an Irish whip into the corner, Henry hits a rope assisted modified reverse neckbreaker that looked kind of awkward. Now Yehi is back up, trucks Henry, but Henry cuts him off with a snap German. Yehi bowls over Henry on a tackle to the legs, stomps Henry in the thigh, gives Theory a shotgun dropkick, stomps Henry again, and then delivers a deadlift German to Henry. Yehi and Dickinson are the only two guys left standing for now. Slow tease and a staredown between the two. They shake hands and Dickinson immediately with a reverse waistlock, Yehi blocks and switches. Dickinson into a fireman's carry, Yehi counters into a sunset flip. Dickinson reverses the pinning predicament. Back and forth they go. Henry and Theory back up and eat stereo exploders from the Catch Point guys, then Dickinson drills Yehi with an exploder. Dickinson with three straight powerbombs onto Henry, brings him back up into a fireman's carry, hits a DVD but Theory breaks up the pin. Dickinson flips Theory out onto the apron, kicks him in the head, goes to follow him out and Yehi dropkicks both guys to the floor. Yehi blasts Henry with two forearms, Henry blocks a suplex, eats another forearm then blasts Yehi with a forearm of his own. Henry with a brainbuster that gets a two count, and Yehi is reeling after that. Yehi catches Henry with a flatliner, then into the Koji Clutch. Henry refusing to tap, and meanwhile, Dickinson hits a Border Toss on Theory and pins him. Henry hasn't tapped, so Dickinson snipes the win from his Catch Point colleague.
Yehi raises Dickinson's hand after the match, and Henry gets a "please come back" chant as he makes his exit.
WIN: Chris Dickinson
Lots of action in a fun little sprint that's worth watching. They're clearly teasing a split with Dickinson and Jaka breaking away from the rest of Catch Point... Orlando, perhaps?
Jeff Cobb vs. Jaka
A "hoss fight" between the former Olympian Cobb (who, under a mask, is also Matanza on Lucha Underground) and the hard-hitting Jaka. These two were part of a pull-apart last night.
Both guys go nose to nose after the opening bell. Jaka throws a leg kick and shoots in for a takedown. Cobb stops him and muscles him into the corner, then makes a clean break. More leg kicks by Jaka and another shoot for a single leg. Again, Cobb stuffs him. Cobb picks up Jaka, running him back into the turnbuckles and then uncorks with a wicked forearm. Jaka shoves him off and asks Cobb to bring it. Jaka with a knife edge chop. Cobb with an overhand chop and now both guys trading big forearms before Cobb drops Jaka with a clothesline as Jaka comes off the ropes. Jaka trying to fight back with a headbutt, a back chop, a chop and a couple forearms. Cobb feeds into the corner, Jaka Irish whips him across and hits a Stinger splash, then follows up with a Muta-esque elbow. Cover only gets a 1 count. Back standing and both guys trading strikes again. Another headbutt by Cobb and more strikes. Jaka gets Cobb up in a fireman's carry! Samoan Drop! Cover only gets a 2 count. Cobb back up quickly and firing away with forearms on Jaka, who feeds into the corner. Cobb with a chop to the chest, sets Jaka on the top turnbuckle. Both guys trading shots as Cobb scales to the middle rope. Cobb hoists Jaka for a stalling superplex, holding him up for about 10 seconds before finally dropping the hammer. Crowd loved that one, and they're digging Cobb right now. Scoop slam by Cobb. Standing moonsault by Cobb, who covers for a two count. Cobb misses a second standing moonsault, Jaka with a charging knee off the ropes, and a German suplex! Jaka goes for the pin but only gets two, but Cobb is rattled. Jaka with a headbutt and a few chops send Cobb reeling into the corner. Cobb reverses an Irish whip, but when he charges in Jaka flips him out to the apron, then superkicks him to the floor. Suicide dive by Jaka drives Cobb back into the railing at ringside! Pescado by Jaka... Cobb CATCHES him! Hoists Jaka onto one shoulder, but he drops down and here they go exchanging chops and forearms. Cobb blocks a Jaka kick, eats a headbutt, then waylays Jaka with a brutal looking forearm. This match is great. Back into the ring, Cobb positions Jaka for a pump handle but Jaka fights his way free. Yet another slugfest at center ring. Now Cobb has the pump handle and just carries Jaka around in that position before hitting a fallaway throw. Jaka feeds to the corner and blasts Cobb with a palm strike when he charges in. Jaka with a rolling corner kick, then a German suplex, but Cobb is right back on his feet and hits Jaka with a German. Jaka no sells that, and Germans Cobb. Now it's Cobb's turn to no sell again, Jaka superkicks him but Cobb is still up. Jaka into the ropes, Cobb flings him into the air, catches him, and hits a side salto suplex! Crazy strength... Jaka with another spin kick, then a discus palm strike, a spinning back fist, and a kick to the knee of Cobb. Jaka off the ropes, Cobb catches him on the rebound and hits Tour of the Islands to finish it.
WIN: Jeff Cobb
Jeff Cobb is a freak of nature who deserves to be a big star in wrestling. This was really a showcase for him, but Jaka showed a lot as well in a hard-hitting match that I greatly enjoyed. Three matches in less than 45 minutes on a seven-match card, which suggests either Galloway-Riddle or the title match or both will go long.
Keith Lee Trial Series: Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams
The second installment of Lee's "trial series" sees the recent WWN signee take on the leader of Catch Point and one half of the EVOLVE Tag Champions. Last night Lee beat Zack Sabre, Jr. in what was my pick for match of the night at EVOLVE 78.
Lenny Leonard says Williams is giving up about 130 pounds to Lee. Well, that's better than the 150 pound size differential between Lee and Sabre last night. Williams charges right at Lee firing away with a avriety of strikes. Lee fights it off with no evident ill effects. Lee busts out another up and over, but Williams cuts him off with a lariat against the ropes and a measured series of forearms. Now trying to Irish whip Lee from center ring and Lee blocks it with ease. Lee reverses, busts out a leapfrog! Williams crosses back over, and Lee hits a standing dropkick! Lee muscles Williams into the neutral corner, hits a short jab and a measured chop to the chest. Back chop drives Williams to his knees, and Lee choking him against the middle rope. Lee breaks. Williams trying to fight back but Lee clobbers him down in the corner. Lee puts Williams on the top turnbuckle with ease. Williams blocking strikes, catches Lee's left arm and with an armbar using the ropes for assistance. Williams breaks the hold, Lee separates. Williams back to the top rope and tries to fly but Lee catches him and just flings him with an over head belly to belly. Pin attempt by Lee gets a two count. Lee locks in a modified headlock on Williams, who gets a foot in the ropes but Lee still works the hold to a four count. Lee brings Williams back standing. Williams trying to fight back, but Lee cuts him off again, then hooks Williams in a neck wrench. Williams tries to fight free and Lee does release the hold then clobbers Williams across the back. Williams with a couple of slaps, and that just enrages Lee into a combo of punches and forearms that leaves Williams a heap on the mat. Lee continues to manhandle Williams, firing him from corner to corner and hitting an avalanche splash, followed by that double overhand chop to the chest. Williams fired back across to the opposite corner. Lee taking time to taunt, and unsurprisingly misses on the leaping corner splash. Williams firing away with strikes but Lee shrugs it off, picks up Williams and delivers a sit out powerbomb. Both men down for a few seconds after that, back to standing and Lee sets Williams on the top turnbuckle again. Now Lee scaling the corner ropes to the middle. Lee trying for a superplex, Williams punches his way free and now clobbering Lee with forearms to the back, then a forearm to the head. Lee loses his perch. Missile shotgun dropkick by Williams. Lee back up, and Williams with a lariat in the corner, then two in the middle of the ring. A third, after blocking a Lee kick, drops the big man! Williams covers but only gets a two count. Dueling chants for both individuals. Williams going for Lee's right arm, Lee scoops him up onto a shoulder. Williams drops down behind him, hits a few forearms, trying to pick up Lee, but he breaks Williams' grasp with a single back elbow to the head. Williams fighting back with forearms to the jaw, runs back off the ropes, Lee catches him and plants him with a modified chokeslam. Cover for 1! 2! Williams BARELY gets his shoulder up. Lee drags Williams near one corner, adjusts his kneepads and eyeing the turnbuckles with a grin. Lee scaling the corner ropes, all the way to the top! Williams is up behind him, hits an AVALANCHE ANGLE SLAM! Williams covers, grapevine! 1! 2! Lee with a shoulder up at two and a half! Both men down, and Lee can be heard saying "you weren't supposed to be that strong!" Both back to standing and now trading strikes. Williams trying to chop down the big man and Lee is answering but there's less force behind his strikes. Lee with another up and over in the corner, blocks Williams' lariat, Williams grabs the right arm looking for an armbar. Lee blocks, gets Williams up in a fireman's carry and hits Ground Zero! That'll do it.
WIN: Keith Lee
They're building Lee into a unstoppable monster type and I love everything about it. I eagerly await the collision with Cobb, or Riddle.
Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page (w/ The Gatekeepers)
Allin is wearing an Ethan Page cutout as a mask as he makes his entrance. Staredown between the two men before the bell and Page kisses the mask, which Allin is still wearing. Allin has his right shoulder taped tonight. After another staredown between the two, Page trucks Allin with a running clothesline. Page immediately hooks Allin for a package piledriver, Allin drops down behind and headbutts Page, then low bridges the top rope. Page sails out to the floor, Allin to the top rope and leaps with a Coffin Drop onto Page and both Gatekeepers. Allin takes out Rumblecrunch, then delivers a running dropkick that floors Page. Allin trying to get back in the ring but Page flings him back first against the stage. Now Page rolls Allin onto the stage. Fans scattering. Page gets Allion to his feet, into a gorilla press... LAUNCHES ALLIN FROM THE STAGE INTO THE RINGPOST!!! "Holy shit" chant from the crowd. Now Page rolling Allin back into the ring. Page covers Allin, but the pin barely gets a two count. Page motioning to both Gatekeepers on the outside, and now Page has a pair of handcuffs. Is this a no DQ match? The referee asking Allin if he wants to quit. Allin is handcuffed but he isn't giving up. Page bulls Allin back into the corner, talking trash and slapping him repeatedly in the face. Page tosses Allin into the turnbuckles in the far corner. Allin feeds into the adjacent corner, evades a leaping splash by Page, then gets a boot up to cut off a charge, but Page launches Allin with a backdrop! Allin lands right on his arms and wrists, and that can't have felt good. Wicked big boot by Page. Allin is down. Are they trying to do their own take on the Mankind-Rock I Quit Match here? Allin fighting back with headbutts to the midsection by Page but a short knee from Pagte stops it. Allin with a no hands (clearly) springtboard backflip and a flying headbutt. He gets to the top rope, and catches Page for a hurancana! Allin with a series of headbutts to Page, then charges to knock the Gatekeepers off the apron. Allin back to the top rope again, and Page cuts him off this time. Sets Allin on the top turnbuckle and waylays him with a big forearm. Now Page scaling the ropes, hooks Allin's head and driving a thumb into his forehead repeatedly. Page scoops Allin over one shoulder, flips off the fans and hits a powerslam off the top rope. Pin attempt only gets two. Lenny Leonard kinda telegraphed that by saying "thank God it's over" before Page even went for the pin. Page brings Allin back to his feet and Allin spits in Page's face. Page hits RKEgo, followed by a powerbomb. And that does it. Huge heel heat for Page on the finish.
Page on the microphone after the match, mocks Allin and calls him "the biggest loser in EVOLVE." Page points out he's 3-0 over Allin. The Gatekeepers are in with a body bag as Page taunts Allin, calling him useless and trash. Page says he's "taking the trash out of my company" and stuffs Allin into the bag and zips it halfway. Crowd chanting "that's not nice!" at Page. Funny. Page wonders why Allin hates him so much, then says he's the only reason the fans even know who Allin is, that they feel sorry for Allin. Page makes a reference to Allin's chest tattoo and says his whole career is dead, then zips up Allin the rest of the way in the bag. The Gatekeepers carry Allin out of the arena as the fans continue to boo. Page calls it "the first dead career of All Ego." Page says he'll be the next EVOLVE champion.
WIN: Ethan Page
Yes, there was the crazy ringpost spot and some impressive no-handed flying by Allin. What made this work is that both guys were playing their parts well... Allin as the daredevil who will take all kinds of risks and punishment, and Page as the heel who the fans definitely relish hating. It's going to be satisfying when Allin finally gets the best of Page... again, Orlando maybe?
Drew Galloway vs. Matthew Riddle
A long-awaited grudge match between these two has been postponed twice on prior occasions because of Galloway's injury. Riddle is a Fightful.com podcast host.
Huge pop for Riddle. From the time his music first hits, the reaction Riddle gets is just on another level of anyone else on the current EVOLVE roster. Galloway makes a very deliberate entrance and he's foaming at the moputh before the bell. Riddle with a leaping knee strike right at the opening bell and covers Galloway for two and a half. Riddle follows up with a leaping splash in the corner, followed by an Exploder and a senton for another two count. Galloway feeds to the adjacent corner and Riddle starts lighting him up with kicks to the chest. Galloway gets halfway through the ropes and Riddle pounding him with forearms until the referee forces a break. Galloway uncorks a running kick that floors Riddle and changes the momentum. Chop in the corner by Galloway, followed by a belly to belly throw. Riddle lands near the opposite corner and takes some mudhole stomps from Galloway. Back to standing, and after taking a chop at center ring, Riddle clotheslines Galloway up and over the top rope to the floor where the fight continues. Both guys trrading strikes of all varieties right in front of the stage. Galloway gets the upper hand with a headbutt, then delivers a tilt a whirl slam onto the stage. Galloway rolls in to break the count then heads back to the floor, dragging Riddle around the ringside area by the head. Punch from the clinch by Galloway, and they're trading chops as the referee makes a slow 20 count. Galloway scoops Riddle for a slam, Riddle squirrels free, on the apron, delivers a running knee strike. Galloway under the ring and when Riddle pursues, Galloway pulls Riddle into one of the steel supports under the ring. Galloway with a press slam and drops Riddle down throat first across the ringside rail. Galloway gets Riddle back in the ring and Riddle immediately trying to fight back with an overhand chop to the body but Galloway cuts him off with a couple of strikes and then begins stomping the foot and ankle of Riddle. Measured stomp to the side of the head of Riddle, brings Riddle to his knees and hits a chop, then a kick to the side of the head and another stomp to the ankle, followed by a forearm that drops Riddle. Both men trading strikes now at center ring. Riddle with a series of forearms, but gets caught with a spinning back kick to the gut, then a NASTY short piledriver by Galloway. Galloway covers for the two count. Crowd chanting "Bro!" for Riddle as Galloway piefaces him. Now Galloway slapping Riddle, who is firing up and is back on his feet. Both men trading chops and Riddle unloads with a barrage of open handed strikes followed by forearms. Galloway blocks the up kick and hits a running Sick Kick off the ropes. Riddle counters Galloway's suplex attempt with a brain buster but the cover only gets two. Both men down. Now both men on their knees exchaning chops, then forearms. The forearms continue as they get back to standing, and turns into both guys just throwing punches. Galloway cuts off Riddle against the ropes, hooks him by the heels with Riddle dangling upside down over the top rope, thens wings him back facefirst into the ring and to the mat. Pin attempt only gets a two count. Riddle blocks the Future Shock DDT, Galloway blocks a Bro To Sleep, but after a big open handed strike by Riddle, he hits Bro To Sleep on the second try but Galloway kicks out. Riddle goes for a senton but Galloway with the knees up! Riddle feeds to the far corner, Galloway stalks him and delivers a chop, then sets Riddle on the top turnbuckle. Riddle fighting back with a forearm but eats a high kick and a headbutt, but the headbutt brings Galloway to his knees. Now Galloway pursues and is climbing the corner ropes... hooking Riddle... AVALANCHE AIR RAID CRASH! Galloway with the back press for 1... 2... Riddle escapes at two and a half! Galloway on his knees, talking trash and taunting as Riddle struggles to stand. Galloway goes for Future Shock again, Riddle counters into a jackknife pin for two. Riddle with the upkick, after a missed springboard, Galloway catches him for a tombstone. Riddle counters! He delivers a flurry of hammer fists to Galloway. Riddle trying for the Bromission, delivering a barrage of open handed strikes to the ribs of Galloway with his free hand. No tap by Galloway but the referee stops the match. Lenny Leonard says Galloway lost because he stopped defending himself. Galloway levels Riddle after the match and attacking Riddle. Galloway goes to give Riddle a piledriver on the chair when Williams and Yehi are out to make the save for Riddle. Galloway retreats.
We have our Larry Dallas sighting for the night. ... Yay? Dallas said he's got a scoop. Dallas brings up his personal safety and getting shoved by Williams last night and nearly attacked a few times before, then introduces Earl Cooter aka "The Big C" as his new personal security. Dallas says that Riddle, Williams, and Yehi all have been invited into the multi-man elimination match to crown the first WWN Champion on April 1 in Orlando. That means Riddle, Yehi, Thatcher, and Galloway all have been entered so far. Riddle gets the mic and says, "The WWN Title? That's mine, bro" and makes his exit as Yehi extends a handshake to Riddle, although Yehi got cut off on the approach on the handshake by "The Big C". Yehi now on the mic. He calls Riddle selfish and says this isn't the Matt Riddle show. The crowd reaction disagrees. Yehi lays down a challenge to Riddle who responds with an off-mic "anytime bro" and leaves.
WIN: Matthew Riddle
Good action between these two but the finish, in the greater context of the show, was poor. Selling the "guy can't defend himself" thing loses a little bit of credence when, in the previous match, someone was in handcuffs and the match was allowed to continue.
EVOLVE Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (w/ Stokely Hathaway) defends vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Crowd is definitely behind Sabre in this one, chanting "next world champ!" for him during the introductions. Thatcher is getting booed out of the building.
Here we go. Thatcher stays in his corner for about a minute surveying the crowd, then charges out and gets caught with a European uppercut by Sabre. They trade strikes at center ring. Sabre goes for the armbar, Thatcher counters with the Fujiwara armbar. Another exchange of strikes of various kinds. Sabre cinches in a guillotine with a bodyscissors on Thatcher at center ring, bringing him down to the mat. Thatcher able to break the hold and delivers a nasty forearm followed by some open handed shots. Both men trading forearms with Sabre in an open guard. Sabre rolls onto his belly and they end up in a reverse bridge with both men's legs in the air as they do headstands, trading slaps. Thatcher blocks another attempt at the cross armbreaker. Exchange of forearms in the middle of the ring, then European uppercuts. Leonard talking about Thatcher showing a more aggressive attitude since he returned to action last month following a concussion. Thatcher hooks the left leg of Sabre. Sabre trying to pick the leg of Thatcher in retaliation. Heel kicks by Thatcher with his free leg to the shoulder of Sabre. Both men remain tied up on the mat as they trade slaps, though Thatcher does mix in one straight right. They finally roll to the ropes and force a break. Back standing, Sabre goes for a leg kick as Thatcher backs Sabre into the corner and unloads with a series of forearms. Crowd chanting for Sabre. Forearm uppercut by Thatcher, who facewashes Sabre with his boot. Now Thatcher with a boot choke in the corner, Sabre with a kneebar on Thatcher using the bottom rope for extra torgue. Sabre releases the hold, back into the ring and now going to work on the left leg of Thatcher, belly down, places a foot on the knee and is wrenching on the left ankle of Thatcher. Great sell by Thatcher as Sabre takes Thatcher's back, grinding an elbow into the shoulder blade. Sabre trying to transition to the armbar, but Thatcher keeps his hands locked. They go back to standing, and Thatcher counters a Sabre side headlock with a back suplex. Scoop slam by Thatcher. He covers and Sabre out at one. Forearm by Thatcher drops Sabre again, he takes out Thatcher's legs and goes for the left leg again, biut Thatcher rolls through and had a wristlock looking for an Americana. Now Thatcher back up, has Sabre deadlifted into a gutwrench suplex. Thatcher goes to follow up, Sabre snags his hand and starts manipulating and bending the fingers. European uppercut and a knee to the body by Thatcher. Another strike and Sabre crumples in the corner. Mudhole stomps by Thatcher as the crowd boos loudly. Thatcher posing and posturing at center ring, showing a bit more of a character than he has in other recent matches. Snap suplex by Thatcher, who floats over for the pin. Sabre bridges out to escape. Thatcher with a chinlock. Sabre trying to bend the fingers of Thatcher and escape theb hold. He gets out of it, grabs Thatcher's left arm and hits an upkick to the elbow. Now Sabre with a modified octopus, hooks the left arm and bending back on the fingers. Thatcher counters into a modified pump handle, flips Sabre over to the mat and drops a knee into his sternum before grabbing a chinlock again. Thatcher goes for the sleeper but Sabre gets his feet into the ropes. Modified belly to belly suplex by Thatcher, who goes for the cover and only gets one. Another belly to belly by Thatcher, and this time a cover gets two. Sabre trying to fight back with a series of forearms, now leg kicks and a discus forearm, followed by a modified penalty kick to Thatcher, who was on one knee! Crowd is still 100 percent behind Sabre, who is trying to fire up. Sabre stands on either side of Thatcher's head and does a neck twist, then hooks a full nelson, brings Thatcher back to his feet, two standing switches and Sabre going for the octopus. Thatcher picks the left ankle to escape and into an ankle lock! Sabre counters, looking for the Ode To Breaks. Right as he hooks it Thatcher rolls Sabre onto his shoulders for a two count. Thatcher gets Sabre into the corner, runs to the far corner for a follow up, Sabre charges with a kick, delivers a German to Thatcher... two and a half! Sabre with a series of body kicks, then a legsweep kick that brings down the champ. Sabre goes for the penalty kick, Thatcher blocks, gets standing, dragon screw leg whip! Thatcher with the stalling gutwrench suplex and transitions into the Fujiwara armbar! He's got it at center ring! Fans chanting "Please don't tap." Sabre able to get his right foot to the bottom rope. Thatcher drives a knee into the ribs of Sabre, followed by an elbow to the back of the head and now stomps. Thatcher talking trash to the NYC fans, then hits a double underhook suplex for a two count. Seeing Thatcher jaw at the fans and play more of a traditional wrestling heel is adding a lot to this match. Thatcher goes for the sleeper, Sabre counters into a reverse waistlock, O'Connor rolll... only two! Sabre goes for the European Clutch! 1... 2... Thatcher BARELY kicks out! The crowd is booing loudly. Two kick combo by Sabre drops Thatcher, who hits a penalty kick. Thatcher back on his feet, Sabre flies at him and goes for the triangle. Crowd SCREAMING "Tap!" Thatcher gets out of it and goes to the Fujiwara armbar. They roll through into the roeps. Sabre with a kneebar on Thatcher, who counters and stacks Sabre for a pin. Thatcher with a running knee to a seated ZSJ! Thatcher goes for the sleeper. Crowd chanting "you still suck!" Sabre counters an attempt at the bully choke, trying again for the octopus. Thatcher fighting it, Sabre lighting him up with elbows to the side of the head. Sabre has the back of Thatcher, delivers some heel kicks to the side of the head, standing again, more elbows, another stomp or two and now he's got it locked! Sabre with the octopus! He brings Thatcher down to the mat! THATCHER TAPS! THATCHER TAPS! THATCHER TAPS OUT!
WIN: Zack Sabre, Jr.
WOW. With Sabre working for New Japan next month I was not expecting this at all!
Sabre tumbles into the crowd after the match for a raucous celebration. Thatcher is down in the ring and Hathaway clinging to the title belt in disbelief. Thatcher is up and preparing to hand the title over to Sabre, in standing with the entire tradition of EVOLVE, when Ethan Page charges the ring and attacks Sabre from behind. Brief staredown between Thatcher and Page, and Thatcher bails out and leaves Sabre to continue to get assaulted by Page. ACH runs out to make the save. ACH praises the match and Sabre's win, and then says he'll be winning the title March 30 in Orlando. The locker room empties to congratulate the new champion as Sabre gets on the microphone and makes a brief speech that, in short, pro wrestling is for everyone.
All in all, a much better show than EVOLVE 78. Everything was entertaining, nothing was bad and Kincaid-ACH, Cobb-Jaka, Lee-Williams and Galloway-Riddle all are definitely worth seeking out. Allin vs. Page really advanced their feud as well and featured some crazy no-hands shenanigans by Allin. The crowd tonight was much more engaged and involved than the crowd last night, and it made a difference.
Thatcher gets a lot of criticism, and justifiably, for being too bland but I don't know if it was the crowd in part or what, but he was more engaging tonight and played more of a character, so to speak, rather than just wrestling the match while being basically oblivious to the reactions, which was the case in his defense against Cobb that really fell flat. A fine way for him to end a very lengthy title reign and, at a little over two hours, this was a breeze to watch and would be a great way to introduce a newcomer to the EVOLVE brand.
View the discussion thread.