WWE and Philadelphia-based indie promotion Evolve Wrestling have had a development deal since 2015, which reached another level last fall, when NXT Superstars started winning Evolve championships at the latter’s events. Now the relationship appears to be leveling up again, with an Evolve event streaming on the WWE Network for the first time. But what’s really interesting is the timing.
As reported by The Wrap, the Evolve 10th Anniversary Celebration will stream live on the Network, and it starts at 8pm on July 13th. That’s the exact same time that All Elite Wrestling‘s third show, Fight For The Fallen, will stream on Bleacher Report Live. So it seems WWE has decided to embrace the idea of competing directly with AEW, except not exactly because they’re using an indie brand as their proxy. That way they can lure in indie smarks who might be tempted by AEW, and if AEW does better numbers anyway WWE can be reassured that it wasn’t really their show.
The Evolve Anniversary Celebration, which is also Evolve 131, will feature Adam Cole defending his NXT Championship against Akira Tozawa, as well as Matt Riddle versus WWE Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak in a non-title match. Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly are also both on the show, but Bobby Fish was pulled after his recent jaw injury. NXT Superstars Adrian Jaoude and Babatunde are also appearing, plus Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa may turn up since they’re scheduled to do Meet-and-Greets at the event. So basically this indie show is pretty close to being a Takeover.
Fans of both will be able to choose which show to watch live and which show to watch later, which is actually pretty exciting. For anyone who wants to support actual change in wrestling (meaning companies that are completely independent of WWE), watching AEW live to give them those streaming numbers is probably the best choice. At least, that’s what I’ll be doing. Evolve will be waiting on the Network the next day, after all.