“In life you either adapt or you perish. That is Evolution.”
These words by WWE COO Triple H only further signified the reunion of the most dominant stable in the Ruthless Aggression Era and one of the greatest stables in WWE history, Evolution. Triple H along with Randy Orton and Batista have put aside each other’s differences (including Batista and Orton’s desires to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion) to show the WWE Universe what power really looks like with their main targets being current champion Daniel Bryan and The Shield. Let’s take a look into Evolution’s past and see what made them one of the most dominant forces in the history of WWE.
Triple H and Batista, along with Nature Boy Ric Flair began the stable in late 2002 and Randy Orton completed its formation on January 20th, 2003, helping in a mugging of Scott Steiner. Triple H would give the group its name weeks later while explaining how each member represented the evolution in professional wrestling. Ric Flair, representing the past, Triple H, the present, and Batista and Orton, as the future. They had the makings of an elite stable and the foursome did not disappoint.
At one point during Evolution’s reign of success, each member held a major championship in WWE. By the end of Armageddon 2003, Batista and Flair held the World Tag Team Championships, Orton held the Intercontinental Championship and Triple H held the World Heavyweight Championship. Evolution laid claim to the World Heavyweight Championship five times (4 by Triple H, 1 by Orton), the World Tag Team Championships twice, the Intercontinental Championship twice (Orton both times) and the 2005 Royal Rumble (won by Batista). Pure dominance.
With the amount of talent in this stable it was only a matter of time before things went sour between them. After Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever at SummerSlam 2004, he was unceremoniously kicked out of the group after the famous “thumbs down” from Triple H while being hosted on Batista’s shoulders. This would start a long feud between Orton and his former comrades. As Batista continued to build a name for himself, it was only a matter of time before his run with Evolution came to an end. After winning the 2005 Royal Rumble, Batista was set to headline WrestleMania 21, facing either WWE Champion John Bradshaw-Layfield, or the World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H. After much persuading from Triple H, including showing a video of JBL bad-mouthing Batista, The Animal made his decision at a brand contract signing ceremony. Batista used the “thumbs down” method to let Triple H know loud and clear that he was staying on Raw, which meant it would be Triple H vs Batista at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania 21, Batista defeated The Game, trading his Evolution membership for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Let’s look at where they went after Evolution broke up.
Let’s begin with Ric Flair since he is no longer a member of the active competing WWE roster and is by all means retired except for a few appearances here and there on WWE programming. After being attacked by the other surviving member of Evolution at the time, Triple H, Flair would go on to feud with The Game culminating with a loss in a Last Man Standing match at Survivor Series 2005. Over the next couple of years Flair would compete in various matches tagging with and forming alliances with DX and Carlito, fueding with the likes of Mick Foley (who was a real-life rival), Rated-RKO (Edge and Orton), Vince McMahon and winning the World Tag Team Championships with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Flair’s career would be put to the ultimate test after stating that he would never retire, leading Vince McMahon to put the stipulation into effect that after the next match Flair lost, he’d have to retire. Flair would go on an impressive winning streak defeating superstars such as Umaga and Triple H all in the name of keeping his career alive. It would all come to an end however at WrestleMania XXIV in a classic bout vs “HBK” Shawn Michaels. An “I’m sorry. I love you” and a Sweet Chin Music later and the career of Flair was over.
The career of Batista skyrocketed after his infamous departure from Evolution, Batista-bombing Triple H through a table during a contract signing between the two. Batista’s crowning moment in his young career came in the main event of WrestleMania 21, when he defeated Triple H for the World Heavyweight championship in what was an epic match. Batista had the potential to be one of the greatest wrestlers to step in a WWE ring but his career was continually marred by injuries, and at the most inopportune times He was forced to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship in 2006 (after a record 280 days) and the WWE Championship in 2009 due to injuries. But he did enjoy a great deal of success nonetheless on his way to multiple World Title reigns and reigns as Tag Team Champion as well. Batista would leave WWE in 2010 and it was widely believed that Batista would never step foot in a WWE ring again. Then beginning in late December promos signaling Batista return began airing weekly, eventually revealing that he would return at the Royal Rumble. Batista returned to win the Rumble but his return did not go over well with the WWE Universe.
It didn’t take long for it to become known that Randy Orton was destined to be a star in WWE and his tenure in Evolution further boosted that notion. He would capture his 1st two major titles in WWE while a member of the stable, the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight title. After becoming the youngest superstar ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship, Orton was unceremoniously kicked out of the group and from there he would set out to carve out his own place in WWE history while living up to the high status that his last name holds in the history of the company. The most memorable parts of Orton’s career post-Evolution are his epic feud with The Undertaker, being one-half of Rated-RKO , leading the group Legacy which contained the sons of two WWE Hall of Famers Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase and his rivalry with the McMahon family and Triple H. The Legend Killer-turned-Viper-turned-Apex Predator went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship three more times, the WWE Championship seven times, the World Tag Team Championships once (with Edge), the 2009 Royal Rumble, 2013 Money In The Bank and became the first to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship also in 2013.
Triple H at this point in his career had already cemented his status as one of the best to ever step into the squared circle. The Game is arguably the greatest heel in WWE history, but not too long after the split of Evolution, he would become a fan favorite again when he re-united with longtime friend Shawn Michaels to reform D-Generation X in 2006. The new DX gave fans plenty of laughs and most notably had feuds with the Spirit Squad, Rated RK, and the McMahons. After suffering a devastating quad injury and spending nine months on the shelf, The Game would return and and continue to do what he does best, which is win matches and championships. By the end of 2009, he had set the record with eight reigns as WWE Champion. Perhaps the most memorable storyline that involved Triple H post-Evolution was his feud with Randy Orton. And of course who could forget his two classic encounters vs The Undertaker at WrestleMania’s XXVII and XXVIII? Triple H also had two brutal encounters with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 29 and Extreme Rules during his COO days which began in 2011. Triple H continues to this day to be the leading member of The Authority, along with his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
Future of Evolution
Evolution officially reformed on April 14th, 2014, an idea that seemed unlikely with Randy Orton and Batista both wanting rematches for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The trio decided to put their differences and individual goals aside to get the championship back from Daniel Bryan and to take out The Shield in the process. Now of course this Evolution won’t come close to the greatness that the WWE Universe witnessed from 2003 to 2005, but it is a refreshing sight for fans of the group and was a very interesting way to shake up the storylines in the WWE, which hasn’t been doing so great ratings wise lately. Evolution ended up losing to The Shield this weekend, but put on an extremely entertaining match.