Since I’m sure everyone wants to read yet another take on the debate that’s consumed Britwres Twitter, here’s ours:
Let’s add a little nuance here, eh? If you’re comparing the expected trajectory of the scene to what many deemed the peak of the Britwres doom, then yes, things are on a downward swing. The names that many expected to be the stars of the scene for years to come have moved on – the obvious ones being the likes of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate being one of the many who signed with WWE, while the stars whom haven’t necessarily gotten as many column inches like Mark Haskins, Jimmy Havoc and Joe Hendry have also inked deals with ROH and AEW. So, take away the elephant in the room that is NXT UK hoovering up talent under a variety of restrictions, we were always likely to hit a stage where things would plateau. Whether it be a case of new stars not being made, existing stars not moving on, remaining on top for “too long” or whatever. With any news bits and rumours getting picked apart in this day and age, it’s very easy to take news of a latest signing, or rumours of fresh restrictions and what have you as “the final death blow”.
Yes, NXT UK being a thing and having what feels like a conveyor belt of wrestlers being signed away is having an effect – especially on the top level. While some may say it’s “negative” to bring up this fact, ticket sales for some promotions have slowed down. Gone are the days where PROGRESS shows in Camden would be instant sell-outs, as we’re now at the point where you can buy tickets on show day. Granted, on its own, selling a reported 680 tickets for a show isn’t bad… but when you’ve had a lengthy run of sell-outs, that first show that isn’t a sell-out sticks out, whether you’re PROGRESS or anyone, really.
While PROGRESS’ non-London shows don’t seem to be slowing down (at least in terms of ticket sales, although the frequency of those shows is on the decline), the same can be said for a lot of promotions that were perceived to have relied heavily on stars that are no longer available to them. Sure, smaller shows – like your Rev Pro Cockpit shows, ATTACK! cards or “lesser” promotions haven’t had an evident drop, while there’s also been room for new promotions to strike where the iron’s hot. Just take a look at how the ashes of the ashes of the old Lucha Forever/IPW Tuesday Night Graps shows turned into a red hot ticket for the new Schadenfreude & Friends shows. Still, without big names being readily available, top tier shows (or at least, the rate of ticket sales and sell-outs for those shows) do appear to be on the decline, while the closure of Defiant Wrestling and next year’s shutdown from Bristol’s Pro Wrestling Chaos is further proof that promotions at all levels are feeling the pinch.
To some extent, you can make the argument that there’s been hardly any “major stars” made since WWE started taking a heavier interest on the UK scene. You’d be right – especially since anyone who generates any sort of buzz seems to get a contract offer and are taken off the table. I’m sure this isn’t the case, but if you’re a promoter who’s had your fingers burned, you’d perhaps not be as eager to really go gung-ho behind a new face – especially if you’re not in a position to offer them an exclusive deal. Which it seems like nobody in the UK scene outside of the WWE is able to do.
Now, playing a spot of Devil’s Advocate here, while the disquiet was always likely, the protests against what’s happening with NXT UK and its involvement in the scene would perhaps had been less had WWE not conditioned fans of a certain vintage that “nothing matters”. Years of seeing NXT call-ups to the main roster making little to no impact have given way to a new phase of hoarding. Let’s be realistic, save for one-off appearances on 205 Live, Raw and SmackDown, the only promotion out of NXT UK has been Pete Dunne with his current run on NXT. One name, since NXT UK initially formed nearly three years ago?
Realistically, how many of the current crop of NXT UK stars are big enough names that you’d see WWE want to “promote” them to NXT? Let alone the main roster of Raw and SmackDown? Granted, with competition in the States in the form of AEW, WWE was always going to start locking up their US-based wrestlers to prevent the roster jumps people remember from the WCW/WWF wars… which would only have delayed the issue we’re seeing now. WWE’s money pit isn’t bottomless – especially as there’s speculation over what happens if the big money TV and Saudi deals fall apart. Until such a time if/when that happens, the current climate of anyone getting buzz being offered a contact will continue – at least until the proverbial conveyor belt of new wrestlers out of training school completely dries up.
So, is Britwres dead? No. Is it dying? It depends how you define dying, but more than likely the answer is also “no”. There’s definitely a slow-down at the top level, as the pool of stars is getting smaller and invariably getting overused. But hey, colourful language definitely blows up the slowdown that you can attribute to a number of reasons.