WWE has officially acquired ownership of indie promotion EVOLVE, according to PWInsider.
There had been rumors for the past few weeks that EVOLVE was having major financial issues and was considering selling the promotion and/or its tape library to WWE, but the deal wasn’t made official until recently, PWInsider says. There had been negotiations about the sale for several months, however.
WWE now owns the complete rights to the promotion, the EVOLVE name and its tape library. It’s unclear if we’ll ever see new EVOLVE shows in the future, but its library will very likely end up on WWE Network.
EVOLVE ran what may be its final show, EVOLVE 146 on March 1 in Melrose, MA. AR Fox defeated EVOLVE Champion Josh Briggs in a non-title match in the main event.
The belief is that many wrestlers who were signed by EVOLVE – “at least four” – will now sign with WWE and enter the NXT system, PWInsider says, but no signings have been confirmed as of now.
EVOLVE’s parent-promotion, WWN (World Wrestling Network) was not part of the deal, and WWN will continue to exist and run shows on its own. Women’s promotion SHINE, Full Impact Pro and American Combat Wrestling are promotions that will continue to exist under the WWN umbrella for now.
EVOLVE had already signed a deal with WWE around 2017 to make the companies officially affiliated, and WWE used EVOLVE as a farm system for new talent. As part of the original deal signed, WWE had the rights to purchase EVOLVE if they chose. EVOLVE had reportedly received another offer to buy the company recently, but WWE had first dibs and chose to buy them.
Previous EVOLVE owner Gabe Sapolsky had been working as an NXT consultant since 2018, while still running EVOLVE. Sapolsky was previously a “protege” of Paul Heyman in ECW in the 90s and later became the head booker of ROH in the 2000s before founding EVOLVE in 2010.
Several top wrestlers have previously wrestled in EVOLVE. PWInsider estimated that of the 100 wrestlers who were signed to EVOLVE/WWN contracts, half of them eventually signed with WWE. Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, Drew McIntyre, Johnny Gargano, Ricochet, Darby Allin, Sami Zayn, Austin Theory, Apollo Crews, Timothy Thatcher, WALTER, Zack Sabre Jr., Joey Janela, Isaiah Scott, Sami Callihan, Orange Cassidy, Roderick Strong, Trent, Daniel Bryan and many, many others have previously wrestled in EVOLVE.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, PWInsider says that EVOLVE was essentially backed into a corner and had no real way to financially survive. The canceling of WrestleMania and its indie weekend events was also said to be a major blow to the promotion. WWE reportedly planned to air 5-7 WWN events on the WWE Network during WrestleMania weekend.