Pro wrestling fans are prepping for another big weekend, as WWE and AEW will go head-to-head on Saturday, July 13. AEW’s Fight For the Fallen will emanate from Jacksonville, Florida and will stream on BR Live. WWE will present EVOLVE 131, the wrestling promotion’s 10th Anniversary Celebration from South Philadelphia, exclusively on the WWE Network.
While this night doesn’t exactly represent a return of The Monday Night Wars, it is obvious that WWE is making a statement. Giving EOVLVE a worldwide platform would have seemed like an impossible notion a few years ago. But in the pro wrestling climate of 2019, anything is possible and the fact is that EVOLVE deserves this massive spotlight.
Vince McMahon’s company may not believe Cody Rhodes’ company to be a threat. But WWE does recognize the potential for AEW to make waves and that’s probably been true from the beginning. All Elite Wrestling represents something different, which now seems to be what World Wrestling Entertainment wants to deliver. The only problem is that the former is succeeding while the latter is struggling.
Check out WWE’s special look at EVOLVE!
Revamping Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live seemed like great moves and both may still payoff in the long run. Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff have the experience and knowledge to get the job done as Executive Directors of the red and blue brands. But Vince is still the boss of course, which means that he will always have the final word.
So while Raw and SmackDown remain the focus of WWE’s efforts, it’s become obvious that neither program is catering to the same audience that AEW entertains. Both crowds are comprised of pro wrestling fans, but that may be where the similarities end. The WWE audience is accustomed to that company’s style of wrestling and it could be that’s enough for them.
But AEW’s audience has seen what WWE has to offer and it may never be enough. WWE’s product is stale, repetitive and most importantly, it’s lackluster. One edition of Raw looks like the one before it and that does not appear to be changing. The booking is chaotic. The storylines are thin and often abandoned. The talent isn’t motivated and in many cases, that talent is trying to find a way out.
Watch WWE’s take on how EVOLVE shaped the future of wrestling!
So if WWE is determined to meet AEW face-to-face on the same night, then the only way to do it is to deliver a similar product. Besides NXT, WWE doesn’t have a similar product. That’s where EVOLVE comes in. The fans of Gabe Sapolsky’s company are indeed very aware of NXT. Even the most diehard EVOLVE fan would likely admit to supporting NXT, if for other reason than those stars came through their favorite company at some point.
AEW and EVOLVE share much of the same fanbase and that base wants to see independent wrestling stars receive opportunities on the big stage. Those talents work hard to find success and they do so on their own terms. Therein lays the key difference between those two companies and NXT. The black and gold brand is WWE. Vince’s company features NXT as if it’s a blue collar pro wrestling company working for respect but that’s simply not the case.
Using EVOLVE Wrestling as a bullet in the chamber is an interesting move, but an obvious one nonetheless. The partnership between both companies has been beneficial for each, but WWE’s motives are clear. However, that does not mean EVOLVE as a company hasn’t earned the right to enjoy this attention. EVOLVE is a blue collar pro wrestling company working for respect and they deserve it. The same will especially be true on July 13.
Watch EVOLVE’s look at Austin Theory vs JD Drake!
Four of the eight matches booked will feature NXT stars. But the other four matches will spotlight the EOVLVE stars only. It’s a split that fans can surely understand, but it’s also one that works. This is an opportunity for talents who could be years away from such a stage, to step up and make an impact right now. It’s a challenge that certainly no one in EVOLVE is taking lightly. Any fan that’s never followed EVOLVE will surely be quite impressed with what they see.
At the top of EVOLVE is the champion Austin Theory, a man that many believe is a WWE Superstar in the making. Theory has only been in the business for three years, but he’s already shown more promise than many other talents on the indie circuit. But another man that has earned his spot on July 13 is JD Drake.
Drake may not have Theory’s physique, but he definitely has the skill in the ring. Drake is the current World Wrestling Alliance champion and he will face Theory in a Winner Take All Match, which could very well steal the show. Neither man is currently working for WWE and that may change, sooner rather than later.
But the most important moment in both of their careers is yet to come and July 13 is that moment. The best talents in the business rise to the occasion when the time comes and that will most certainly be true, not only for Drake and Theory, but for everyone set to compete at EVOLVE’s 10th Anniversary.
Many pro wrestling fans believe that EVOLVE’s placement against AEW is indeed a deliberate move by WWE, because Vince McMahon’s company wants to get its shots in whenever possible. While that may be true, the fact is that EVOLVE is benefitting from the move. It’s good for the business, it’s good for fans and it’s well deserved for EVOLVE.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, boinkstudios.com and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live