It is the end of an era for independent wrestling as World Wrestling Entertainment has acquired EVOLVE Wrestling. The move had been rumored for months, with negotiations going on between the two sides throughout. PWInsider reported on Thursday night that the deal has been finalized. WWE now owns the rights to the EVOLVE name, their entire tape library, and can produce events and programming under the EVOLVE banner if they would like to moving forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the end of EVOLVE as a company and the eventual sale to WWE. WrestleMania weekend has always been a big money weekend for EVOLVE, as well as numerous other independent promotions, and the cancellation of WrestleMania 36 weekend in Tampa this year due to the pandemic cost the company thousands of dollars in revenue that they normally count on, especially as EVOLVE was already going through some financial difficulty.
Gabe Sapolsky started EVOLVE in 2010 alongside World Wrestling Network (WWN) COO Sal Hamaoui. Sapolsky had a long history in the wrestling world already at that time, having previously worked for ECW in the 1990s, as well as serving as the co-founder of Ring of Honor Wrestling. Sapolsky was also the head booker for ROH for many years but left the company in 2008. In 2009, he helped found the Dragon Gate USA promotion and served as the company’s Vice President.
While Dragon Gate relied heavily on Japanese talent coming in for shows, EVOLVE was formed as a spinoff promotion that didn’t rely upon Japanese talent. Daniel Bryan even helped come up with the name “EVOLVE” and was involved in the founding of the company, but he had signed with WWE by the time the company’s first event occurred. Several notable talents have worked for EVOLVE over the years, including names like Jon Moxley, Keith Lee, WALTER, The Young Bucks, Zack Sabre Jr., Johnny Gargano, Ricochet, Matt Riddle, and numerous others. One would think that the WWE Network will feature a lot of EVOLVE and WWN archival content in the months ahead. It’s unclear whether WWE will produce new programming and events using the EVOLVE name moving forward.
EVOLVE began working with WWE in 2015, and that partnership has helped keep the company afloat over the last several years. Last summer, WWE broadcast EVOLVE’s 10th anniversary show on the WWE Network head to head against AEW’s Fight For The Fallen event. This remains the only time that WWE has broadcast a non-WWE promotion on the WWE Network. The working agreement between the two sides had a stipulation that allowed WWE to purchase the promotion if it so desired. Since the relationship between the two companies began in 2015, EVOLVE has served as a sort of farm system for WWE in grooming new signings for the company.
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