EVOLVE (commonly-styled with all-caps, but here-to-fore as Evolve) is a Super-Indie pro wrestling promotion. While headquartered out of Philadelphia, PA, Evolve puts on a majority of its events in venues in other north-east cities (primarily Joppa, MD and Queens, NY).
Combining top-level independent talent (such as Zack Sabre Jr. and Matt Riddle) and a focus on the athleticism and technical wrestling, Evolve has seemingly taken Ring of Honor’s place in the world of pro wrestling.
In terms of format, Evolve has no tv shows, but instead airs two PPV events on back-to-back nights. They name these shows numerically, and August will see Evolve 90 and 91 happen on August 11 and 12.
Why do people like Evolve?
Simply put, Evolve puts on very good pro wrestling matches, and it manages to allow talent to develop characters while still going light on the sports entertainment theatrics. While the quality of booker Gabe Sapolsky is an on-again-off-again meme amongst fans, 2017 has been a banner year for the promotion.
Most of the year, including WrestleMania weekend, saw Evolve putting on top-to-bottom barn-burners. Unfortunately, the most recent shows have seen a dip in quality, as the promotion’s seen more talent move up to WWE, in a continuing trend.
Also, Evolve features the best talent who works a manager position in the industry right now –- and that includes Paul Heyman – in the phenomenal Stokely Hathaway. Why is Stokely so good? Not only can he jaw with the best of them, but his Twitter account is filled with excellent photoshops working Evolve talent into famous album art. Hathaway represents Timothy Thatcher, as well as the Catch Point faction, which is currently made up of “Hot Sauce” Tracey Williams, Chris Dickinson and Jaka.
So Evolve works with WWE?
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Evolve a farm-system for WWE, but Drew McIntryre, Johnny Gargano, Cedric Alexander and more all wrestled for Evolve before they made it to the houses that the McMahons are building.
Further, talents expected to join the team down in NXT — Donovan Dijak, Lio Rush, and Kyle O’Reilly — all appeared once or more recently in Evolve.
If you want to go back a little bit in time, WWE held Cruiserweight Championship Tournament spotlight matches at Evolve events. Eagle-eyed fans at Evolve 67 spotted Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and William Regal walking out of the show, which featured Chris Hero (nka Kassius Ohno) among many of the above names.
What are the divisions & championships in ROH, and who holds those belts currently?
Evolve features three championships, and one isn’t strictly its own. Its primary title is the (simply titled) Evolve Championship, which is currently held by Zack Sabre Jr.. He won the title from Timothy Thatcher at Evolve 79 on February 25, 2017, ending a 596-day reign.
As the LCD Soundsystem lyrics go, “I was there.” It was one of my favorite matches I’ve seen live.
Its other title is the Evolve Tag Team Championship, which is currently held by The Workhorsemen, Anthony Henry and James Drake. The duo won the titles on July 8, 2017, in surprise fashion, as the two weren’t signed with the company at the time. They were working in a single-day contract (at the time) capacity, as local talent there to fight then-champs Chris Dickinson and Jaka.
The third title in Evolve is the WWN Championship, which made its debut on April 1, 2017. It was the prize of a six-way elimination match featuring Matt Riddle, Fred Yehi, Jon Davis, Parrow, Timothy Thatcher, and Tracy Williams. Riddle won the title, and is going to defend on August 12 in a match against “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Keith Lee, and WALTER.
Wait, what’s WWN?
The World Wrestling Network (WWN) is the parent promotion of Evolve, Shine, and lesser-known promotions including Full Impact Pro Wrestling (which isn’t watchable) and Styles Battle.
You don’t really need to know that WWN is a thing, unless you’re cursed with needing to access video-on-demand (VOD) content. That was the case when wwnlive.com was the only way to stream the Progress Orlando show.
What’s Evolve missing?
Evolve does not feature any women wrestlers. Sure, Priscilla Kelly shows up to be the American version of Paige and manage Austin Theory, but she’s the only woman outside of ring announcer Joanna Rose who appears in Evolve.
If you asked Evolve, they’d likely say that you can find it in WWN sister promotion Shine. Critics might combat them by saying that this doesn’t stop other indie promotions, such as the U.K.’s Progress.
What about the announcers?
Lenny Leonard does the thankless chores of all the play-by-play and the color commentary. He does it very well, and I don’t think he gets enough credit.
How do you watch Evolve?
So, if you can attend an Evolve show, do it. The tickets are affordable (general admission costs around $20), and it’s always a fun time.
If you can’t, here’s where I talk about the catch to all that goodness.
FloSlam is not a great streaming service, but it’s the only place to stream Evolve PPVs. The biggest flaw of FloSlam is that events take around a whole day — often longer — to hit video-on-demand. So if you’re not watching live, you’re waiting.
And while FloSlam started at $20 per month
, new subscribers need to pay $30 per month. so, to explain that, it appears they flip-flopped on new subscription pricing.
So, while that’s two-times the price of the WWE Network (whose low price is arguably a move to make it impossible for smaller promotions to compete), that’s still less than it costs to stream one ROH PPV, and it includes two Evolve PPVs per month.
Fortunately, Evolve isn’t the only wrestling you get on FloSlam, as Shine, wXw (Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Germany) and International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom (IPW:UK) also stream there. It’s not hard to argue that Evolve is the best of those three.