As detailed in our interview with ACH, the landscape at EVOLVE is beginning to showcase exciting new talent. But one of the more familiar faces is Stokely Hathaway, manager to current EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher. In addition to managing Thatcher, he can also be found in places like Chikara, where he currently owns the legal rights to the name “Chuck Taylor,” much to the chagrin of the actual Chuck Taylor. (It’s a long story, but most things in Chikara are.) So, what does it take in today’s wrestling world to be a manager with champion clientele? We caught up with him right before EVOLVE 77 in San Antonio to find out.
How long have you been with EVOLVE, and how have you seen it grow and change?
I started on April 1, 2016 … WrestleMania weekend. It was a phenomenal weekend to start. I came in and declared that T.J. Perkins was the future of the WWE cruiserweight division, and of course, I was right! I was able to see that through. This company has changed with all the different talent moving on to WWE, but now, at this moment, it’s a time for everyone to step up and take advantage of that, the same way that Drew Gulak, T.J. Perkins, and Tony Nese have. Now it’s someone else’s turn to step up and become the face of EVOLVE. It’s a pretty cool time to be in this company.
Let’s talk about EVOLVE as a platform for progression. There’s an alliance of sorts between EVOLVE and WWE, so do the wrestlers here feel like there’s a clear path of progression from one level to the next? Or is it more of a “Work hard and eventually you’ll be noticed” mentality?
I can only speak for myself. Regardless of the WWE relationship, being a part of EVOLVE is a phenomenal thing. The way [head booker] Gabe Sapolsky runs this company, there’s a lot of creativity. There’s a lot of flexibility, everyone is allowed to shine, allowed to show their real selves. So if you take that and the possibility of someone higher up in WWE seeing what you do, that’s great. We all love it. But EVOLVE is our home, and we’re allowed to hone our craft here. For most of us, that’s what’s important.
Why do you think WWE chose to enter into business with EVOLVE in the first place? Is it the roster, the environment, or just a bit of everything?
I think it’s because EVOLVE is known for having the best of the best, regardless of whether you’re a wrestler, a manager, a cameraman, an editor, or a referee. If you’re part of EVOLVE, you’re the best at what you do. And I think that with the best of the indies coming together to make a product, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?
What does being a manager mean to you? Is it still an important part of wrestling as a whole?
Some people have said to me that [managing] is a lost art … I don’t know how I feel about that. In the words of Jill Scott, “Everything ain’t for everybody.” Everyone can’t be Timothy Thatcher, everyone can’t be Jeff Cobb or Tracy Williams or Drew Gulak. I fit into the managerial role, and it allows me to speak to the masses.
Timothy Thatcher is now on his 569th day* as EVOLVE Champion, and I’m allowed to tell everybody in the world that fact. To me, that’s special. I can go out there and do things to enhance the Timothy Thatcher brand. So I do think it’s important, and as for EVOLVE, I’m pretty much the only manager here, so I think I stand out on my own, regardless.
I do think that becoming a manager is something not many people think of, similar to refereeing or working the cameras. But that role is there, and I think every company needs a manager. Every company needs a mouthpiece.
*569 days as of January 28
As the only manager here, you’ve got your pick of the roster. Is there anyone else that you feel needs your services right now?
Maybe Keith Lee? He tore the house down last night with Chris Hero, literally. The ring broke apart! Anyone else would have crumbled under that pressure, I told him this personally. Anyone else would have freaked out, but they had an amazing match. Not just anyone can do that. And as someone who’s known Keith for the past year, I’m proud of him. It’s so surreal to be a part of his debut, so if I could have him in the Dream Team … I mean, we’re already unstoppable, but having him be a part of that would be just another layer of perfection.
Let’s talk about the EVOLVE fans. Do you feel like they’ve developed their own distinct identity, like a modern WWE fan or an old-school ECW fan? Is there a unique sort of wrestling fan who comes to these events?
I’m not really sure … Most of them that I’ve talked to just love wrestling! They love hard-hitting action, they love to see it presented well. But speaking with them, I just know that they love wrestling. They have passion for it, the same passion that we do. Some fans follow us from state to state, and that means a lot to all of us.
Where do you see EVOLVE heading in 2017?
I’ll be 100 percent honest with you – I don’t know! If last year has taught us anything, it’s that wrestling is unpredictable. I don’t think anyone knows! I mean, I see greatness, but I don’t know where that greatness is going to take us. But in the words of Notorious B.I.G., “The sky’s the limit.”
Keep up with Stokely’s master plan on Twitter at @StokelyHathaway.