Wrestlemania week is heating up to be one of the best yet, and among the top notch events on display this week is EVOLVE 102 and EVOLVE 103 – being held on Thursday the 5th and Friday the 6th of April at the Pontchartrain Center in New Orleans. Despite being one of the younger promotions out there, EVOLVE has quickly established itself as one of the most enjoyable and is sure to deliver two nights of excellent wrestling.
EVOLVE Championship Match: Zack Sabre Jr. vs Matt Riddle (EVOLVE 102)
Zack Sabre Jr. will be entering this match having held the EVOLVE Championship for a whopping 404 days – the second longest EVOLVE Championship reign in the promotion’s short history. Challenging him will be the King of the Bros, Matt Riddle; a more than worthy contender to end the distinguished reign in this rubber match. The two technicians most recently faced off at RevPro Uprising 2017 where Zack Sabre Jr. successfully defended his RevPro British Heavyweight title in what can only be regarded as a clinic – the match was impeccable. However, within EVOLVE, the two technicians are tied at 1-1, with Matt Riddle having won at EVOLVE 59 (02/04/16) and Zack Sabre Jr. getting the victory at EVOLVE 86 (06/24/17). It is hard to look past another successful title defense for Zack Sabre Jr. here, coming off his exceptional showing against Kazuchika Okada at NJPW Sakura Genesis, where he was pinned after a hard-fought battle against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. However, that does not mean Riddle is to be overlooked. This is a match which will be very closely contested and could quite easily go either way, given both grapplers’ current levels of popularity. No matter the result, this will easily be a contender for the Evolve match of the year and one of the best matches of any promotion in 2018.
Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr. to retain
Daisuke Sekimoto & Munenori Sawa vs. Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) (EVOLVE 102)
A match dubbed as “The Definition of a Dream Match” can only deliver. With the four competitors involved in this match, it would be impossible for it not to. The bout features the return to wrestling – the first of two nights – of Munenori Sawa, who shall be tagging with the ultra successful tag team competitor Daisuke Sekimoto to face Timothy Thatcher and WALTER, collectively known as Ringkampf. The bout will be the first Munenori Sawa has competed in since retiring back in 2011 (his last EVOLVE match being a defeat against Bryan Danielson at EVOLVE 5). It will also be Daisuke Sekimoto’s EVOLVE debut, meaning that the match could go in favour of the Japanese duo. However, Ringkampf have proven to be one of the more dominant tag teams since their formation and could just as easily go over. Timothy Thatcher is still the longest reigning EVOLVE Champion in the promotion’s history and has an exceptional record within the company. With WALTER in his corner, the size and strength advantage of Ringkampf will make this very difficult.
Prediction: Ringkampf to win
AR Fox vs Will Ospreay (EVOLVE 102)
Next we have some exciting high-flying action to make an already excellent card even more enjoyable. It looked as though Will Ospreay would not be able to compete in this match following a freakish botch during his recent match against Marty Scurll at NJPW Sakura Genesis, but judging by his recent post on Twitter it appears as though he has been cleared – or has cleared himself – to compete. AR Fox comes into this EVOLVE bout after a narrow defeat against Keith Lee at EVOLVE 100 and will be looking to steal the win against what will surely be a less than 100% fit Will Ospreay. Expect this match to be incredibly fast paced and leaving Jim Cornette foaming at the mouth.
Prediction: Will Ospreay to win
Tag Team Scramble for the EVOLVE Tag Team Championships: Doom Patrol vs The End vs James Drake & Anthony Henry vs Tracy Williams & Dom Garrini (EVOLVE 102)
We return to tag team action in what will most likely be a hectic four way match. It is a tag team scramble match – two in at a time – with the added stipulation that even if neither one of Dickinson or Jaka take the pin, they will lose the tag titles. Doom Patrol – consisting of Chris Dickinson and Jaka – have held the EVOLVE Tag Team Championships since EVOLVE 93 and will enter the match 194 days into their reign. The odds are stacked against the champions as the numbers don’t lie and could potentially spell disaster for Doom Patrol at EVOLVE 102. However, expect them to overcome the odds and leave the ring with the titles once more on Thursday night, despite the stiff competition.
Prediction: Dickinson and Jaka retain
Keith Lee vs Darby Allin (EVOLVE 102)
In what is being dubbed by EVOLVE as a non-title special challenge match, we have Darby Allin squaring off against the reigning WWN Champion, Keith Lee. This is a match of contrasting styles, as the smaller Allin will have to deal with the sizable height and weight advantage the WWN Champion has at his disposal. With that being said, Darby Allin is no pushover and could pull off the upset. The fact that this is a non-title bout could mean that Allin is going over, but as we all know, nothing is for sure in professional wrestling and you would have to be a fool to bet against Keith Lee given the current buzz surrounding him. Make no mistake, regardless of the outcome, this is going to be an exciting match that can go either way.
Prediction: Keith Lee wins
Austin Theory vs DJZ (EVOLVE 102)
This is a match showcasing one of the finest talents of the next generation, in Austin Theory, squaring off against a perhaps underrated veteran in DJZ. Austin Theory is unbelievably just 20 years of age and has a very bright future ahead of him, both in EVOLVE and in any other promotion he walks into. This could also potentially be the biggest week of his life so far, given the amount of eyes that will be on him (scouts and fans alike), so he will certainly be looking to put on his best possible performance this week. Unfortunately for Theory, he will be missing his trusted valet, Priscilla Kelly, as she is suspended (within Kayfabe) from EVOLVE, so Theory is going to have to dig deep to pull off the victory here. It is down to DJZ to halt Austin’s progress and win his first Evolve match in 7 years (his last victory coming against Jimmy Jacobs at EVOLVE 7). This is going to be yet another good match on a stacked card. Given Theory’s run, I can’t see any other result but a win for the youngster.
Prediction: Austin Theory wins
Matt Riddle vs Daisuke Sekimoto (EVOLVE 103)
The second night of EVOLVE will take place on Friday, and much like EVOLVE 102 the night before, it features a particularly nice card jam-packed with top quality wrestling. Headlining the show will be the King of the Bros and potentially the recently crowned Evolve Champion, Matt Riddle and the Muscle Monster Daisuke Sekimoto; a solid match to end any Evolve show. As predicted, I do believe both men will lose their respective matches at EVOLVE 102, so both will be going all out to secure a win here as Matt Riddle’s exciting, technical MMA style clashes with the sheer power of Sekimoto. Much like the rest of the matches in this review, it could go either way. However, you can expect a Riddle win on home soil.
Prediction: Matt Riddle wins
Chris Dickinson vs Travis Banks (EVOLVE 103)
Night two features Chris Dickinson competing in one-on-one action against Travis Banks. The two previously faced off at EVOLVE 91, where Chris Dickinson and his partner Jaka scored the victory over Travis Banks and T.K. Cooper, so Travis Banks will surely be looking to secure some kind of revenge against Dickinson. Additionally, Chris Dickinson will be looking to return to winning ways following his defeat against Zack Sabre Jr at EVOLVE 101 and if he and Jaka lose at EVOLVE 102, you can expect to see a Chris Dickinson even more desperate to secure the win.
Prediction: Chris Dickinson wins
Jaka vs Munenori Sawa (EVOLVE 103)
Munenori Sawa returns to the ring for possibly the final time – at least on US soil – as he squares off against one half of the current EVOLVE Tag Team Champions, Jaka. What can we expect from this match? It’s hard to predict with Munenori Sawa having been retired for so long but I am sure we will know more following his tag team match at EVOLVE 102. One thing is for certain: expect kicks and lots of them. Jaka, much like his partner Chris Dickinson, will be desperate for a win as neither man wants to be viewed as the weak link of Doom Squad. More so, given that Jaka is coming into the match following a defeat (though impressive display) against number one contender Matt Riddle at EVOLVE 101, anticipate Jaka to make the match difficult for the returning Sawa.
Prediction: Jaka wins
WALTER vs Darby Allin (EVOLVE 103)
Now here is one for the EVOLVE purists. Darby Allin is a man on a mission; to prove to everyone in EVOLVE – fan and wrestler alike – that he is not just some spot monkey who enjoys jumping off of things. Darby Allin is a man who wants to be viewed as a serious competitor who could one day be EVOLVE Champion. WALTER – one half of Ringkampf and its leader – is on a mission to prove to everyone in attendance that Allin is everything he doesn’t want to be viewed as. The story for this match is the traditional but effective big man vs little man match, with Darby Allin certainly viewed as the underdog entering this match. I can’t look past a Darby Allin victory here.
Prediction: Allin scores the big win
Keith Lee vs Austin Theory (EVOLVE 103)
Keith Lee and Austin Theory face off in a non-title match. As mentioned earlier in the review, Theory will be without Priscilla for this match. This could be the toughest challenge Theory has faced in EVOLVE so far (impressive given that his previous two defeats came against Matt Riddle and Zack Sabre Jr. respectively) and he will have his work cut out for him to take down the big man opposing him, the current WWN and PWG World Champion Keith Lee. That’s not to say Theory won’t cause problems for Lee, because he certainly will; he is a highly impressive young lion bound for superstardom – but Keith Lee is a brick wall in the way and he will not make this easy for Austin.
Prediction: Keith Lee wins
AR Fox vs DJZ vs Jason Kincaid vs Tracy Williams (EVOLVE 103)
This fatal four way match is sure to be mayhem. Any match featuring both AR Fox and DJZ is destined to be fast paced, high-flying and simply dangerous for all men evolved. The addition of The Gift, Jason Kincaid and former EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams will make this a match which could potentially be the most enjoyable of the entire card. If you have never seen an Evolve show before and enjoy death-defying wrestling featuring some of the best high-flyers today, this is the match for you. AR Fox has defeated both Jason Kincaid and DJZ at EVOLVE 96 and EVOLVE 97 respectively, and it is hard to look past another victory for the 30 year old here.
Prediction: AR Fox scores the win
Timothy Thatcher vs Dom Garrini (EVOLVE 103)
Last but not least comes Timothy Thatcher versus “The Bone Collector” Dominic Garrini. Stokely Hathaway – former manager of Timothy Thatcher – is adamant that Dom Garrini will “kill” the longest reigning EVOLVE Champion in EVOLVE history. Perhaps “kill” is too strong of a word, but Garrini – an expert well versed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – does indeed pose problems for Thatcher and will be looking to tap him out. Since returning to Evolve in January following a short hiatus from the company, he has scooped up a victory over Fred Yehi at EVOLVE 98 and, with his partner WALTER, a victory over the team of Tracy Williams and none other than Dominic Garrini himself at EVOLVE 99. Garrini will be out for redemption and to add another bone to his collection, but expect Thatcher to narrowly avoid defeat.
Prediction: Timothy Thatcher scoops the win
So there we have it. EVOLVE’s two nights of wrestling are sure to be a treat to any wrestling fan whose eyes find themselves viewing the matches on display. There’s plenty available for the EVOLVE regulars, but there is also two nights of wrestling which could make a fan of anyone who has never seen an EVOLVE show before. Regardless, Wrestlemania week is looking to be as exciting as ever and there are a number of top quality shows on display from the numerous companies in NOLA for Wrestlemania week, so try to enjoy as many of them as you can!