According to internet chatter and more reliable sources like the Wrestling Observer and PWInsider, WWE is looking to establish a working agreement of some kind with World Wrestling Network, the parent company of indie wrestling promotions EVOLVE, Full Impact Pro and Shine.
EVOLVE is the latest project of Gabe Sapolsky, former head booker of Ring of Honor and founder of Dragon Gate USA. Originally, EVOLVE was intended to focus heavily on win-loss records and take a very “real sport” approach to pro wrestling, although it has, well, evolved into a somewhat more traditional indie wrestling promotion over time. Full Impact Pro used to be ROH’s sister promotion, before moving under the WWN umbrella and shares a lot of its talent with EVOLVE. Shine is one of the most successful women’s wrestling promotions in North America. Recently, WWN opened a new training facility in Trinity, Fla., a fact that WWE has to find appealing.
There are conflicting reports about what exactly WWE is looking to achieve from their negotiations with WWN. They could be planning to buy WWN and use EVOLVE and Shine as another tier below NXT. More likely, they may simply want EVOLVE and Shine to scout indie talent for them in exchange for a kickback. In other words, WWN and Gabe Sapolsky would play a role similar to the one ECW and Paul Heyman secretly served for the WWF in the late ’90s.
So, why is WWE making this somewhat uncharacteristic move all of a sudden? Believe it or not, it may all be over an action figure. Ring of Honor recently announced that they’ll be producing a Kevin Steen action figure, a move that’s made WWE unreasonably cranky, according to the Observer. Basically, WWE doesn’t want their indie talent coming to them from truly independent companies, who could then profit from said talent’s images even after they’ve joined WWE. As always with WWE, it’s all about control.
Of course, none of this has been confirmed by WWE, and it could all still fall apart, but if a deal is made, it will inevitably lead to a major shakeup of the U.S. independent scene. I admit, I’m a negligent wrestling hipster and don’t watch as much independent stuff as I should, but Dragon Gate USA was my indie jam for a while, and I’ve liked what I’ve sampled of EVOLVE, so I’m definitely excited to see where this goes. What about you? Any hardcore EVOLVE or Shine fans out there? What kind of unique possibilities might a new three-tier developmental system lead to? Is Drew Galloway happy about this or terrified? Let’s chat.