As noted on Thursday night, WWE has officially acquired ownership of WWN Live’s EVOLVE wrestling promotion, according to PWInsider. The deal was closed after several months of negotiations. Despite the recent rumors, nothing had been finalized until recently.
WWE will have complete rights to the EVOLVE brand name and producing EVOLVE events moving forward, whether they are as regular EVOLVE live events or WWE Network programming. There is no word on if we will see EVOLVE events in the future, but there will be EVOLVE/WWN content added to the WWE Network in some capacity.
EVOLVE launched in 2010 and was largely ran by Gabe Sapolsky, who also works for WWE these days. Several WWE stars came to the promotion through EVOLVE, including WWE United States Champion Apollo Crews, NXT North American Champion Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, Oney Lorcan, Brodie Lee, Johnny Gargano and many others. The last EVOLVE event took place on March 1 in Melrose, MA. The brand ran 156 events over its lifetime. The main reason for the recent troubles is COVID-19.
WWE was considered to be a savior for EVOLVE at one point during their troubles the two sides launched a working relationship in 2015. It was noted that if Triple H and Sapolsky hadn’t formed that relationship then, then EVOLVE likely would have ceased to exist in 2016 due to the Flosports debacle. WWE aired the EVOLVE 10th Anniversary show last year, making them the first and only non-WWE promotion to air on the WWE Network at this point.
This also officially marks the end of Gabe’s working in indie wrestling, which goes back to the early 1990s with his role in the original ECW. He would later go on to book ROH, FIP, Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE.
It was also noted that at least one other party was interested in buying the EVOLVE promotion, but they could not do so because EVOLVE had an agreement with WWE that gave WWE rights to execute their purchase clause or provide EVOLVE with WWE’s blessing to sell elsewhere. The sides went back & forth and WWE chose to buy the company. When WWE and EVOLVE officially signed the deal together, EVOLVE created a new LLC and that is the company WWE has bought. They are not buying WWN Live, which will live on. However, the sale of EVOLVE does mean that, at least for now, the professional relationship between Sapolsky and WWN owner Sal Hamaoui is ending. This is said to be an amicable split.
WWN will continue to run events at venues and stream them online, when they are allowed to do so amid the COVID-19 outbreak. There are plans to do live interactive interviews with talents and new brands that will go under the WWN Live banner. Sapolsky will not be involved with these promotions but it was noted that the door remains theoretically open for WWE to work with WWN down the line.
Hamaoui’s priority following the EVOLVE sale is said to be for WWN to immediately make good on any remaining fans who still have not received their refunds for the nixed WrestleMania 36 Weekend shows, and to make sure all of their business relationships are taken care of.
It’s also believed that several contracted EVOLVE talents will be signed to work the NXT developmental system but there’s no word yet on how many will be picked up. It’s said that at least four talents will be signed, possibly more. There is no indication that the existing EVOLVE talent contracts are a part of the sale.
The sale is also believed to give WWE the entire EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA video library, and some other content may have been sold to WWE as well, including early FIP. Content will be removed from the WWN Live website in around a month.
Stay tuned for more news coming out of the sale.