Evolving with a Company

As the next EVOLVE event is coming up I have decided to write a series of articles about my relationship to the promotion, my thoughts on the first event and […]

As the next EVOLVE event is coming up I have decided to write a series of articles about my relationship to the promotion, my thoughts on the first event and lastly a review of the new one.

In 2010 I first heard EVOLVE would run their first event. I remember that I found it exciting. For the first time I could follow a federation from its inception. I had missed that boat on TNA and many others, but I would not do the same here. Unfortunately, I had to wait until the first event was released on DVD, but it was a small sacrifice. I was completely mesmerized by what I saw. I was still quite used to the TV wrestling I had seen on the old WWF during the nineties and more recently TNA. The longer matches, with sweat flying and strong style made an impression that only made me hunger for more. Since then I have followed the promotion religiously, even following the sister promotion Dragongate USA. EVOLVE was the brainchild of Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan in the WWE) and Gabe Sapolsky, former booker for Ring of Honor. It was to be a promotion where the rules were enforced and the wins and losses were recorded and a form of ranking system created. It relied heavily on the in ring ability and less on storyline. Before the first show though Danielson went off to the Fed, leaving his spot to Davey Richards.

During the seven years that I have been watching EVOLVE, Dragongate, and the recently created Style Battle I have been introduced to many things. One could say that most of the things I know about wrestling I have learned from the promotion. For the first time I was introduced to wrestlers like Claudio Castagnoli, Johnny Gargano, Arik Cannon, Sami Callihan, Jimmy Jacobs, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and the list goes on. I was introduced to the roster of Chikara, a name I had only heard whispered in VF halls. I got to see the first appearance of AR Fox, Samuray del Sol and Uhaa Nation. In many ways EVOLVE would come to be the indie company that gathered all the top independent wrestlers under one banner and since it was relatively easy to see the product, it was an opportunity to see them. If there’s one thing that Gabe and his crew have been good at it has been combining new fresh stars with veterans, not veterans from the eighties, but those with years of experience from the road. Wrestlers like Colt Cabana, El Generico and Low-Ki.

As time has passed EVOLVE has become a farming league for WWE and NXT. That has been great for the individual wrestlers, maybe not so good for the promotion. Some took the way past Ring of Honor, but most of them turned up in the fed. I have found that the more EVOLVE cemented their working relationship with WWE the less fun it has become. The win-loss system gave way to a regular championship form with both tag champs, EVOLVE and WWN champs. They started acting like a bigger promotion, contracting wrestlers to the promotion. DGUSA would fold and the Japanese stars like CIMA, BxB Hulk and Eita disappeared. All those things that made the company unique. Don’t get me wrong. The wrestling is still good. Wrestlers like Jaka, Tracy Williams and Chris Dickinson still bring that strong style, but the heart is not there like it was before.

The company has had issues as it pertains to their relationship with the streaming service Floslam and attendance numbers. This was addressed by Pat Buck, of Wrestlepro, who questioned EVOLVE’s status in the world of promotions because of their lackluster numbers. There must be a reason for the interest in a company such as EVOLVE worldwide, even though they do not draw the numbers of AIW or House of Hardcore. Maybe it is the same thing that drew me in once upon a time. In a few weeks they are presenting their 94th show, that has been hailed as the start of a new chapter. They have claimed that they are going back to highlighting young talent. Maybe they we will see up and coming names like the ones that were at EVOLVE 1; Ricochet, Chuck Taylor and Adam Cole or maybe they will just continue the same path, eventually not evolving, but instead becoming stagnant.  

-C. Marry Hultman

C. Marry Hultman runs the website W.A.R.G and the podcast The Wrestling Guild where he reviews Impact with his co-host Nick Anderson.