Pro wrestling fans in the area will have an opportunity to see WWE stars wrestle live this weekend without having to attend a WWE event.
That's because independent wrestling group Evolve is running a pair of shows featuring some recognizable faces from WWE's NXT brand. Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong and the tag team of the Street Profits will all be featured on both Saturday night's show at the La Boom night club in Woodside Queens, and at Evolve's return to Long Island Sunday night at the NYWC Sportatorium in Deer Park.
Information on how to buy tickets or watch video streams of the shows is available at wwnlive.com.
The participation of NXT stars on Evolve cards is the byproduct of a flourishing working relationship between WWE and longtime indie promoter Gabe Sapolsky, who founded the Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion in 2010.
Having already helped develop several wrestlers who went on to become top stars in WWE, including Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose, Sapolsky was approached in 2015 by WWE senior vice president Paul "Triple-H" Levesque about formally using Evolve as a pipeline to WWE.
"What this is is Triple-H realizing the value of the independents. And he's known this for years," said Sapolsky, who acknowledged that serving as WWE's feeder system means regular losing some of his top attractions. Evolve headliners Keith Lee and Matt Riddle were both called up to NXT earlier this year.
"It's not like people's goals are to be on he independents their entire lives. Eventually you ned to got here to make money," Sapolsky said. "When it's time to go, it's time to go."
To replenish Sapolsky's roster, WWE in recent months has sent several stars from NXT to make special appearances for Evolve. In addition to boosting ticket sales, Sapolsky said the arrangement has provided a "huge learning experience" for young talent.
"Just puting guys in the ring with people with the knowledge of Roderick Strong and Kassius Ohno is going to make them better. That's mentorship that really isn't available in the independents right now."
And Sapolsky is confident that it's only a matter of time before another of Evolve's mainstays, like Austin Theory or Darby Allen, becomes the next breakout star of NXT, as Johnny Gargano did in 2018.
Before headlining sold-out shows at the Barclay's Center, as he did in August, Gargano cut his teeth working in the opening match of cards promoted by Sapolsky a decade ago.
"He just kept making the most of every opportunity put in front of him," Sapolsky said of the man now known as "Johnny Wrestling."
"He's the one who made all those sacrifices and put in all the work," he added. "So when I see where he is right now, I'm super happy for him, because I know he's earned it."