Saturday and Sunday night in Blackpool marked what – for many – was the confirmation that the British wrestling scene was firmly back on the map.
Ever since World of Sport left the air in 1985, the British wrestling scene sought for years to get back to the perceived heights that Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks were a part of. Some of those attempts worked, but for all too long it felt like everyone was fighting to become “the guy who got wrestling back on top”, rather than working together to get there together.
Groups like the UWA and the FWA did have some short-lived TV shows on cable and regional TV in the late 90s/early 2000s, long before the UK’s Wrestling Channel took to the air in 2004 to offer an outlet for a handful of British groups that were recording shows: groups like the FWA (again), LDN Wrestling, Irish Whip Wrestling and 1PW. Unfortunately, it was a case of wrong time and wrong place as all of the pieces weren’t quite ready – which led to the rebranded Fight Network UK closing in December 2008, with retro World of Sport repeats often leading the channel’s ratings.
The British scene wasn’t quite ready for a revival – but they weren’t too far off.
In wrestling, there’s always a pecking order. Whether it is with wrestler’s spots in promotions, or the promotions themselves. For better or worse, WWE is considered to be the top of the totem pole by many wrestlers who get into the business – with a fair number also more than happy to travel around the indies whilst maybe inking a deal with a New Japan or a Ring of Honor.
Whilst there has been talk of a “WWE UK” territory for what feels like forever, it’s not really translated to much beyond signing a few guys. In 2006, for instance, WWE had Dave Taylor, William Regal and Finlay on main shows, whilst up-and-comers were restricted to the Highlanders and Paul Birchill. It wouldn’t be for another four years until newer names started making TV with Sheamus and Wade Barrett making the main roster, whilst WWE’s developmental saw a host of Brits passing through its doors. Kenneth Cameron (now TNA’s Bram), Martin Stone (repackaged as Danny Burch in NXT, and works for WWE from time-to-time, including last weekend’s UK Championship tournament), Mason Ryan, Paige, Daniel Singh, DJ Gabriel, Katie Lea, Chris Gray, Hade Vansen, Rob Terry – and many more who passed through without making it to developmental TV.
In 2017, things are a lot different. On the main roster you’ve got Neville, Jack Gallagher, Finn Balor and Sheamus representing the British Isles. Add in Nikki Cross and Killian Dain (the former Big Damo) in NXT, and the numbers are growing, thanks to a scene that’s been booming in the last five years-or-so.
Promotions in the UK working together has gotten us to this point – where wrestlers have been able to wrestle for multiple promotions without the fear of being blackballed. Where wrestlers have been able to perform in multiple different settings, to different audiences. All of a sudden, you’ve gone from a scene which was full of rough with the odd diamond, to the exact opposite. Pretty much every town in the UK has a promotion of their own… and if they don’t, it’s not too far to travel to see some live graps.
Live near London? You’re bloody spoiled: PROGRESS and Rev Pro run in the capital city on a monthly basis, whilst British Empire Wrestling and Lucha Brittania offer alternatives. In the north-west of England? Then you’ve got FutureShock and Grand Pro amongst others. In the midlands? Even better – Fight Club: PRO, Kamikaze, Pro Wrestling Kingdom (and soon to be Lucha Future). How about Scotland? Well, there’s obviously ICW, Premier British Wrestling, WrestleZone and the Scottish Wrestling Alliance.
Wales has the obvious one – ATTACK! – with Dragon Pro also running shows, and Pro Wrestling Chaos just outside of Wales in Bristol… and that’s before you factor in groups such as LDN, Southside, XWA and WCPW. Even if you can’t get to live shows, most of these promotions offer video on-demand too – check them out:
ATTACK! – https://vimeo.com/attackprowrestling
Fight Club: PRO – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fightclubpro/
FutureShock – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/futureshockwrestling
ICW – https://icwondemand.pivotshare.com/
OTT – https://vimeo.com/overthetopwrestling
PROGRESS – https://demandprogress.pivotshare.com/
Rev Pro – https://rpwondemand.pivotshare.com/
So, if you watched the UK Championship Tournament, there’s no need to wait for WWE to announce and get around to their weekly UK show. Nor is there any need to wait to see when ITV turns WOS Wrestling into a series… or for the 5* Wrestling show in Dundee when it’s shown live on Spike TV at the end of the month. The talent you saw over two nights in Blackpool will still be around, and you’ll be able to see them against the next generation of up-and-coming talent as well.
British Wrestling has been revived for a while – this past weekend just confirmed to the masses that it’s as strong as it’s been in a long time. Long may it continue!