If you like tournaments, then WhatCulture’s planning something big for you later this year, as the Newcastle-based promotion announced a monstrous competition on Monday.
Perhaps spurred on by the WWE’s United Kingdom Championship and last year’s Cruiserweight Classic (in addition to the myriad of other established tournaments), WCPW announced that this spring they’d be holding a ten-day, 64-man tournament called the Pro Wrestling World Cup. Hopefully with a three-roped ring, as opposed to the two-roped clip-art that their FIFA-inspired logo showed!
Cue surprise, and a little bit of confusion (partially because all of the WCPW promotional material shouted “Spring 2017”, whilst the only two words the tournament website bore was “Summer 2017”). Now, the initial responses seemed to vary between encouragement and flat-out labelling this as a not-too-subtle retort at the WWE UK tournament that effectively cost the company four members of its roster.
Of course, this is just the latest addition to a wrestling scene that seems to have fallen in love with tournaments. PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles is perhaps the most recognisable of the regular tournaments, with PROGRESS’ Super Strong Style 16 and wXw’s 16 Carat Gold being held in similar regard in Europe. Then you compare it to other singles tournaments like New Japan’s G1 Climax, Ring of Honor’s Top Prospect Tournament, and other indy cards like CZW’s Best of the Best, the Scenic City Invitational and more.
However, whereas all of those – bar the G1 – are brief affairs, WCPW’s latest tournament is set to stretch out over 10 different shows, featuring 64 different wrestlers from across the world. Well, unless they rebadge Prospect multiple times as Los Perspectiva and whatever “Prospect” translates into in other languages! That number begs a few obvious questions, including “are there 64 wrestlers around who are good enough, are able to appear and aren’t going to be tempted by WWE”; and also… how the hell do you play out a 64 man tournament without wheeling out dozens of unfamilar/unready names?
It’s simple. They won’t. WCPW’s tournament is really a mixture of eight-man groups from across different countries. Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, USA, with an eighth “rest of world” bracket as well. Well, it’s one way to beat the WWE to their rumoured Latin American and Japanese tournaments! Eventually those 64 men will be whittled down to 16, with two winners from those tournaments going forward to compete in a two-day tournament in the summer.
The interesting thing here is how those external shows are going to be structured: will there be co-promoted shows, and if so, with whom? Obviously, WCPW will be holding their own qualifiers (and likely the Rest-of-World group too, I’d suggest) but the international groups are curious, particularly if you take politics into account – and especially if those promotions get wind of any long-term plans. For a company who hasn’t publicly forged any international partnerships (yet), a lot of eyes will be on the choices that are made. For instance, will Canada be represented by SMASH Wrestling – a group who’s worked with PROGRESS in the past – or by other groups such as All Star Wrestling or Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling out of Vancouver? Perhaps Edmonton’s Prairie Wrestling Alliance, or Ontario’s Border City Wrestling? Unless WCPW’s going to try and run shows in foreign markets, someone’ll have to host these dates!
Really, you could make a point of arguing the whole announcement is for a 16-man tournament with a lot more hype – like last year’s Cruiserweight Classic, but with defined qualifiers. The largest single-elimination tournament in recent memory was WCW’s 32-man Mayhem tournament back in 1999 – a tournament which, despite WCW’s huge roster and financial clout, still needed double-duty to be pulled as Madusa appeared in it twice. That tournament overwhelmed four episodes of Nitro and the Mayhem pay-per-view – and had the obvious prize at the end of the WCW heavyweight title. What’s going to be on the line in this Pro Wrestling World Cup? That remains to be seen – at the very least, it should be a title shot, but if it’s “just a trophy” or anything throwaway, then the entire tournament could be for nought.
To their credit, WCPW has said that the entire event – including the finals – will be broadcast free on YouTube, with the finals being a live two-day event. Dates, talent and promotions are all TBC – aside from the England prelims which will happen in Nottingham on Tuesday March 21.
Credit must be given toWCPW for launching themselves into a beast of a tournament , and all of the logistical issues that they are surely flirting with. Here’s hoping for some good wrestling, and some finals that helps further the careers of everybody involved!