EVOLVE was founded by Gabe Sapolsky following his leaving Ring of Honor in 2009. His partner in this endeavor would be Sal Hamaoui. Hamaoui heads World Wrestling Network (WWN), of which EVOLVE is affiliated with.
There are several promotions in the WWN family, also including Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA), Full Impact Pro (FIP) and a few others. Their first show EVOLVE 1: Richards vs. Ibushi took place on January 16, 2010. In this early era of EVOLVE, there was a lot of weight put into a wrestler or team’s win/loss record. Wrestlers looking to join the promotion would also have to win their spot in a qualifying match. In 2011, EVOLVE and its sister promotion, DGUSA unified. This meant that while they would promote separate events, they would share talent.
They also recognized the Open the Freedom Gate and Open the United Gate Championships as their top prizes. For those unfamiliar with DGUSA, the Open the Freedom Gate was the singles title, while Open the United Gate was the tag team titles.
This changed in 2013, as they held a tournament to crown the first-ever EVOLVE Champion. This coincided with the decision to eliminate the use of the win/loss record system. The tournament was held at EVOLVE 19: Crowning the Champion on April 5, 2013, during WrestleCon.
The field of competitors was Sami Callahan, Jigsaw, Rich Swann, Samuray del Sol, AR Fox, Jon Davis, Chuck Taylor, AR Fox, and Ricochet. In the final, AR Fox toppled Sami Callahan to become the first-ever champion. The Open the Freedom and Open the United Gates championships would continue to be featured until DGUSA’s suspension of operations in 2015.
2014 saw a relaunch/rebranding of EVOLVE, focusing more on their unique niche of showcasing the very top talent in independent wrestling. Also, in 2014, WWN began holding supershows, including all promotions under the WWN banner. The now-infamous working relationship with WWE began back in 2015.
Several WWE Superstars appeared at events in a non-wrestling compactly. William Regal also attends events often. WWE COO Triple H also publicly attended EVOLVE 54 with Regal. In the spring of 2016, EVOLVE held qualifying matches for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. These matches can be found in volumes 61 and 63. In December 2017, WWN launched their Club WWN Service. All EVOLVE events are available with membership to this service, in addition to the rest of the WWN promotions’ events.
Most recently, the relationship with WWE and NXT continued to blossom. Previously, WWE contracted talent had made special appearances at EVOLVE. However, matches would only be allowed to be seen by fans in attendance at these events. Now, they will be part of the events shown on the live streams. There has also been an NXT “invasion” type angle. Three NXT Superstars appeared on volume 114 and swept away all of the EVOLVE titles. The Street Profits are the current tag team champions, and Fabien Aichner is the EVOLVE Champion. There have also been recent matches from Mustafa Ali and Kassius Ohno. We will have to wait and see what the future holds. The smart bet would be that it will continue to EVOLVE.
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Originally written by Brandi Wagner