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What’s up with Evolve running against AEW PPVs (and other thoughts on WWE’s minor league)

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Remember when I said I’d always pick attending live wrestling over tuning in for PPV wrestling? It was because Evolve was running near me in November, on the same night as AEW’s Full Gear show (which also happened with July’s Fight For the Fallen and Evolve’s 10th Anniversary show).

Well, guess what? Both promotions have shows on February 29, and I’m officially tired of it.

Let’s pay attention to the timeline:

This isn’t about who booked what venue first, but because some people will get upset and pull out their cork boards if I don’t go to the details...

On Nov 25, 2019, Evolve sent an email to folks who bought tickets for next month’s show, which read:

Due to forces beyond our control, we are having to reschedule EVOLVE Wrestling Live! originally scheduled for Saturday, February 15th at 6 PM EST to Saturday, February 29th at 6 PM EST still at La Boom.

AEW announced the Revolution PPV for February 29 on the December 11 episode of Dynamite.

That all out of the way, something doesn’t smell right. I can’t tell if anyone is to blame, but this is pro wrestling and there’s an easy rule to believe in: someone’s always up to something. This industry is built around lies — or “works”, as so-called smart marks love to say. And I’d be crazy to believe this is all innocent, especially with this being the third time both promotions will run simultaneously.

Evolve’s head booker Gabe Sapolsky is a consultant at NXT (when he’s not involved in social media controversy), and has point blank said his promotion wouldn’t exist without its WWE relationship. You don’t need to be wearing a tin-foil hat to come up with a plausible conspiracy theory.

Other notes of frustrations:

In addition to larger business intrigue, this double booking screws with customers like me in their target market. I can’t be the only wrestling fan who like to host PPV watch parties.

And that brings up a related issue. The last couple of months of Evolve have not been hitting right. Shows have taken days to wind up on the Club WWN video on demand after their initial streaming — and I’m sorry, but we can’t always be expected to be able to watch everything live — in an industry where everyone else gets shows up in hours. When I tweeted Evolve to ask why, I never got a response ... which makes this consumer think they don’t care about VOD.

While I love seeing The Besties Davey Vega and Matt Fitchett as Evolve tag champs, they’re (a) not entering to Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” as they do in AAW & elsewhere, and (b) not booked for the New York weekend. While I kinda get the former, the latter just stings. Evolve 145’s not exactly lacking for talent, with Josh Briggs, AR Fox, Curt Stallion, Anthony Greene, Leon Ruff, Adrian Alanis and more still listed on the card. Except when I just read that list of wrestlers, I also noticed that Eddie Kingston’s name was missing.

Fortunately, AEW’s Revolution card isn’t exactly must-see yet either. Maybe I’m alone on this, but I’ve not seen an AEW/NJPW Jericho match that felt like it was something I’d regret missing live.

Evolve’s partnership with WWE gives them an ace in the hole. Or should I say a Limitless card in its back pocket. Yes, while NXT doesn’t seem to have main roster talent to share for actual matches, the folks at Full Sail do lend wrestlers to Evolve for meet-and-greets & training seminars. Newly minted NXT North American champion Keith Lee is among those coming to take photos with fans on Feb. 29. And if you’ve read any of my work here or follow me on Twitter, you know that settles things for this Leegionaire.

But that brings me to a final grievance with Evolve. At their recent Florida shows, which practically went unnoticed by most of the pro wrestling fans I know, the cards were filled with WWE Performance Center talent. And again - not NXT talent. Because these were pro wrestlers who have maybe had 1-2 NXT television appearances, if any at all.

Names like Denzel Dejournette and Brendan Vink (the latter is interesting, the former did nothing for me). Oh, and Rick Bugez pulled his air guitar out of mothballs, while Dexter Lumis (fka Samuel Shaw) had a title shot against Josh Briggs. Maybe this is just what Evolve does when it’s running the WWE/NXT Florida loops, and that makes sense. I can’t tell anyone how to run their business. I’m just worried these names won’t translate outside of Florida. They didn’t seem to move the needle in my corner of the internet wrestling community.

Prove me wrong, Evolve. Put on a great show at La Boom on leap day. The last time you ran that venue was against Full Gear, which is where a lot of the La Boom regulars I know were. And the sound of the audience reflected their absence.

If those fans pick Revolution this time, you have to make them regret it. If Triple H is counter-programming the way a lot of people think he is, the strategy doesn’t work unless you do.