So, a month has almost passed since WWE COO Triple H announced a tournament to crown the first ever United Kingdom Champion to take place at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom on January the 14th and 15th, and your writer will be present at this monumental event. Now after the time passed, time taken to think through the effects this could have, I present here my thoughts, good and bad on the UK Title tournament, please enjoy.
There’s always been a rabid UK wrestling fan base. Well, I say always I of course mean ‘in recent memory’ even one of WWE’s biggest attendances, for the 1992 Summerslam, took place in the UK, and back in 1992 they drew a staggering 80,355 to Wembley Stadium in London.
Fast forward to the end of 2016, and UK wrestling is booming. Companies are drawing into the thousands, British wrestlers are becoming top guys in promotions all over the world, the sleeping giant has decisively woken from it’s decades long slumber and is waving it’s club in the air, metaphorically of course. The influence of the UK in world wrestling is obvious now, Will Ospreay won the Best of Super Juniors, Marty Scurll is currently reigning as Ring of Honor World Television Champion and Zack Sabre Jr is PWG World Heavyweight Champion, and it isn’t just the wrestlers doing well, in the last three months alone PROGRESS drew over 2,000 fans to Brixton and the unstoppable ICW drew nearly 7,000 in Glasgow for it’s biggest show of the year, promotions are cropping up everywhere, filling up niches we didn’t know needed filling and then, in September the news broke that World of Sport wrestling, a mainstay of UK TV in the 70’s and 80’s would be making it’s grand return to ITV.
I like to imagine that when this news broke, Vince McMahon and Triple H were sat around a darkened boardroom (Which I’m going to playfully label ‘The War Room’) fretting about the valuable UK market and how it might be slipping from their grasp, they can’t possibly sign all the talent in the UK and cut the British market off at the legs, such a thing would be costly, plus they have allies in the UK, companies they’ve worked with such as PROGRESS, then Triple H has a grand idea, “We give them their own belt”. I’m hypothetically saying Triple H suggested this as I imagine Vince would have called it the ‘Tea and Scones’ title given half the chance, and Triple H seems more… shall I say, ‘level headed’?
Not that I’m suggesting of course that the title was created out of malice, I’m just being flippant, after all WWE will always be the biggest wrestling company anywhere and it’d take a lot to change that. I have written in the past on this website about how varied British Wrestling is, surely with all the options available it would be foolish for them to not work WITH certain companies rather than AGAINST them as they have in the past, after all you would think the competitors signed for the tournament would have commitments elsewhere, two of them, at time of writing, are the top champions in their respective companies after all, and working with these companies would allow WWE to assume some of their popularity, for example having Wolfgang in their tournament could do wonders for Scottish support of the product. Of course there are companies WWE will probably distance themselves from, a prime example being WCPW, who, prior to launching their own wrestling company, made their money pointing out how bad WWE was. This proves to be true too, as WCPW recently announced that Joseph Conners, Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate had left the company due to WWE commitments.
This could lead to some promoters panicking, rightly or wrongly whether they’d be able to hire the guys involved in the tournament especially in the cases of Pete Dunne, Mark Andrews and Trent Seven, who are booked far and wide around the country. William Regal came out just after the tournaments announcement to say they’d be ‘zero restrictions’ on talents bookings outside of WWE, but given how four people have just left WCPW, was that all true? Well, in likelihood yes, mostly because at this point we don’t know how the UK guys will be used, will any of them be signed to full time deals, or will they stay over here? There was talk of them having their own Network show, and being on WWE TV usually necessitates that you have a full-time contract, however, things have changed in recent times.
I would advise any fan who is worried about the WWE pillaging the UK scene to remain calm, the sky is not falling, all those guys you like and admire, they’re getting bigger platforms to show what they can do, and if Regal is to be believed, not only that but you’ll still get to see them locally too. As a fan you have to see this unselfishly, yes it may be an inconvenience if one of your favourites won’t be around as often, but think of how hard they’ve worked and the opportunity they now have, not only to represent themselves, but the country as a whole. I am not claiming to be ‘in the know’ here, I could be completely wrong and Vince could turn up in a tank at any show and tear it down, the truth is none of us really know, but until we know that it isn’t negative, shouldn’t we focus on the positive? That being that many guys who deserve a spotlight, get to revel in it at last, and British Wrestling could be bigger than ever, and isn’t that what we all want?