The theory of Evolution

The theory of Evolution

On the Feb. 3, 2003 edition of Raw, Triple H joined Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista in the ring and declared to the WWE Universe that the collective that stood before them was to be known as Evolution.

Relive the formation of Evolution

Not since the 1988 prime of The Four Horsemen when Flair, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham and Arn Anderson held every major title in the NWA had professional wrestling seen a gathering of talent as gifted as this. Evolution may have inspired obvious comparisons to that legendary ensemble, but The Game, Flair, Orton and Batista represented something greater than just the squared circle's most elite competitors. They were the past, present and future of WWE all at once — an evolution in sports-entertainment occurring before everyone's eyes.

Evolution photos | Watch highlights

With the return of Evolution on Raw more than a decade after their formation, chronicles their rise to power, their eventual fall, and the proof that in WWE, Evolution isn't a myth.

Sept. 22, 2002: Evolution begins

The theory of Evolution

Evolution began at Unforgiven 2002 during the World Heavyweight Championship battle between Triple H and Rob Van Dam. With the contest at a virtual stalemate, then-champion Triple H took advantage of the official being knocked down and grabbed a sledgehammer. Before The Game could hit his opponent, however, RVD took down the champion with a spinning heel kick, narrowly avoiding a crushing blow from The King of Kings’ weapon of choice.

Watch Unforgiven 2002 on WWE Network

As both competitors struggled to their feet, Ric Flair entered the ring and grabbed the sledgehammer. The Nature Boy stalked Triple H with the weapon in hand, waiting for The Game to stand. But as The Cerebral Assassin begged for mercy, The Dirtiest Player in the Game turned around and instead struck RVD with the sledgehammer, allowing Triple H to hit the Pedigree and secure the victory. ]

Following this alliance being forged, Flair began to serve as The Game’s manager and adviser.

Jan. 20, 2003: Evolution commences

The theory of Evolution

On Jan. 20, 2003, the rivalry between Scott Steiner and World Heavyweight Champion Triple H was at a boiling point. On that evening’s Raw, Big Poppa Pump squared off with The Game’s ally, Batista. During the battle between the two serious powerhouses, Randy Orton, who had been attacked by Steiner backstage earlier in the evening, interfered and assaulted Big Poppa Pump. The Viper’s attack resulted in a disqualification for The Animal, but Batista joined Triple H, Flair and Orton in abusing his downed opponent.

Shortly after their battering of Steiner, the four Superstars officially adopted the name Evolution, representing the past (Flair), present (Triple H) and future (Orton & Batista) of WWE.

May 26, 2003: Evolution regroups

The theory of Evolution

Shortly after their formation, Evolution was dealt a near fatal blow when both Orton and Batista were sidelined with injuries. Both Superstars were not out as long as expected, though. The Viper returned on the May 26 episode of Raw under a mask, attacking Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels. The shocking arrival was the first sign that Evolution was regaining their strength.

Watch Shawn Michaels & Ric Flair battle Triple H

Although Batista was sidelined for nearly eight months, his return marked the faction returning to its full power and potential as originally intended. The Animal’s resurgence also sent a clear message to the entire WWE roster that this group of four Superstars would not go down lightly.

After losing the World Heavyweight Title to Goldberg, Triple H placed a $100,000 bounty on the champion. On Oct. 20, 2003, Batista returned, taking down the powerful Goldberg and smashing his ankle with a steel chair. Not only had The Animal claimed the bounty, but Evolution was also finally complete.

Watch Batista claim a $100,000 bounty on Batista

Dec. 14, 2003: Evolution dominates

The theory of Evolution

At full strength, Evolution was nearly unstoppable. As their power expanded, Evolution captured Raw’s three major championships — World Heavyweight, Intercontinental and World Tag Team Titles — all on the same evening.

At Armageddon 2003, Randy Orton defeated Rob Van Dam — even with The Viper’s rival, Mick Foley, as special guest referee — to grab his first Intercontinental Championship. Later that evening, Batista and Ric Flair won the World Tag Team Titles from The Dudley Boyz after Bubba Ray and D-Von fended off five other duos. 

Watch Armageddon 2003 on WWE Network

In Armageddon’s main event, Goldberg defended the World Title against Triple H and Kane. The bout was evenly matched and it appeared as though The Game would fail to reclaim the title, especially after a debilitating spear from Goldberg. But when Kane destroyed Goldberg with a Chokeslam, Evolution pulled The Big Red Monster out of the ring, allowing Triple H to pin the champion to win the title.

As the event came to a close, Evolution posed at the top of the ramp with their prizes, proving that they were truly a force of nature.

March 14, 2004: Evolution lays the smack down

The theory of Evolution

In the weeks following Armageddon 2003, Randy Orton’s rivalry with Mick Foley became more personal. After the WWE Hall of Famer eliminated The Viper from the Royal Rumble Match, Foley became a target of the faction. At the time, Orton called himself “The Legend Killer” — a moniker he’d earned by destroying ring greats like Shawn Michaels and Sgt. Slaughter — and Foley was the name at the top of The Viper’s hit list. 

Watch WrestleMania XX on WWE Network

With WrestleMania XX looming, Batista, Flair and Orton challenged Foley to a match on The Grandest Stage of Them All. In an effort to even the odds, Foley called on his former tag team partner, The Rock, to help him battle Evolution. The return of The Great One did not intimidate the group, which knew their numbers advantage would help them maintain the edge.

They were proven right as The Viper nailed Foley with an RKO at The Show of Shows, giving Evolution a victory over one of WWE’s most beloved duos.

Aug. 16, 2004: Evolution turns on itself

The theory of Evolution

In the months after Triple H lost the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX, Randy Orton emerged as the top contender to the title. After seizing a championship opportunity by winning a Battle Royal on Raw, The Viper went on to SummerSlam 2004, where he made history by becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history at age 24.

Watch SummerSlam 2004 on WWE Network

The next night on Raw, Orton successfully retained the championship during a rematch, proving himself to be a formidable champion. After his victory, Evolution hit the ring to celebrate Orton’s newfound success. As Batista hoisted the World Heavyweight Champion on his shoulders, however, Triple H gave an order that shocked the entire WWE Universe.

Ordering The Animal to drop Orton, the three Evolution members put the boots to the young competitor in an unceremonious beating that signaled an end to the third-generation Superstar’s membership in the group. One month later, at Unforgiven 2004, Triple H reclaimed the World Heavyweight Title from The Viper.

Watch Evolution turn on Randy Orton

Feb. 21, 2005: Evolution collapses

The theory of Evolution

In the months after Randy Orton was dismissed from Evolution, the group carried on. But Batista, perhaps seeing Orton’s success away from The Cerebral Assassin’s shadow, began to participate less in Flair and Triple H’s nefarious actions. The Game picked up on The Animal’s change in attitude and pegged his Evolution cohort as a threat to the World Title.

Craftily, Triple H tried to convince Batista not to enter the 2005 Royal Rumble Match, but The Animal went against his mentor’s wishes and eventually won the match and a choice between a World Heavyweight and a WWE Championship contest at WrestleMania 21.

Watch Royal Rumble 2005 on WWE Network |  Batista learns of Triple H's plans | Batista chooses his WrestleMania 21 opponent

Fearing the end of his World Championship reign, Triple H tried to stage a hit and run accident with JBL’s limousine. Before the plan could be enacted, Batista overheard Flair and The Game discussing the plot. Later, during the contract signing for the match at WrestleMania 21, The Animal chose to face Triple H and then powerbombed him through a table — officially marking the end of Evolution’s reign of dominance.

April 3, 2005: Evolution complete

The theory of Evolution

Evolution’s formation was a physical manifestation of the past, present and future of WWE. By winning the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam 2004, Randy Orton completed his evolution. At WrestleMania 21, Batista did the same when he made good on his opportunity to capture the World Heavyweight Title and proved that he was destined for greatness.

Watch WrestleMania 21 on WWE Network

On The Grandest Stage of Them All, Triple H pulled out all the stops to halt The Animal’s rise. The Cerebral Assassin even entered the arena to a live performance of his entrance theme by Motorhead. There was no suppressing Batista’s fury, though, as he put an end to The Game’s championship reign and showed he was the dominant member of Evolution.

Although the faction was no more, its purpose was complete.

Dec. 10, 2007: Evolution reunites

The theory of Evolution

WWE paid tribute to 15 years of Raw on Dec. 10, 2007. Celebrating the rich history of the Monday night mainstay, Triple H, Batista and Ric Flair appeared together in the ring as Evolution. Randy Orton took issue with the reunion, explaining that he had still not forgiven his former cohorts for what transpired the night after SummerSlam 2004. Joining forces with Edge and Umaga, The Viper challenged Evolution to a Six-Man Tag Team Match that same night.

Watch Evolution reunite in 2007

As the battle commenced, the chemistry between Flair, Batista and Triple H was seamless while the trio of Orton, Edge and Umaga was chaotic and lacking any sense of control. Unfortunately for Orton, Evolution bested him yet again as Umaga’s overaggressive attitude resulted in his team being disqualified.

Following the match, Evolution stood together for the final time, setting aside their differences and reclaiming their former greatness.

April 14, 2014: Evolution rides again

The theory of Evolution

Although Batista was at odds with Randy Orton upon his return, the former WWE Champions found common ground in their mutual hatred Daniel Bryan and his "Yes!" Movement. Both fell to Bryan at WrestleMania 30 and the next night on Raw, they were recruited by WWE COO Triple H to assault the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion before he faced The Game.

Watch Evolution's return on Raw | Watch WrestleMania 30 on WWE Network

What The Cerebral Assassin, The Viper and The Animal didn't expect was The Shield to align with Bryan and wage a new struggle against what they viewed as abuse of power at the hands of The Authority. After being chased off by Bryan and The Hounds of Justice, Triple H set out to annihilate the trio once and for all.

On April 14, 2014, The Game ordered The Shield into a 11-on-3 Handicap Match. Though they fought valiantly, The Hounds of Justice where overwhelmed. Finding a common enemy, Triple H, Batista and Orton made their way to the ring to the familiar power chords of Motorhead's " Line in the Sand.”

As they proceeded to decimate The Shield, it became clear that one of the most dominant factions in WWE history was back.

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