Over a two day tournament last weekend the WWE crowned their inaugural UK Champion. 16 pro wrestlers from across England, Scotland, Whales and Ireland including Mark Andrews, Joseph Connors, Pete Dunne and eventual winner Tyler Bate put on a show for the live crowds in Blackpool and for those watching on the WWE Network. The WWE did a lot to build storylines and introduce a number of wrestlers that many fans might not be familiar with and should be applauded for what they were able to accomplish. The crusierweight tournament did much the same thing but over a much longer span of time and launched 205 Live. Let’s look at what the UK tournament could mean for wrestling in Great Britain.
A Thriving Scene
While it doesn’t get a ton of attention in most of the world, the British wrestling scene is one of the strongest you’ll find anywhere. The use of home-grown talent and the ability to bring in “big” names for shows has helped promotions like ICW (Insane Championship Wrestling), WCPW (WhatCulture Pro Wrestling) among others to start to gain worldwide recognition. Look no further than Finn Balor, Becky Lynch and Drew Galloway to see the caliber of stars that British promotions can develop. The WWE has certainly taken notice as they locked up all the guys in the tournament to contracts and have recently brought in British wrestler Big Damo to NXT. The WWE putting more eyes on these wrestlers will only help to grow the popularity of wrestlers from the UK and might bring them closer to signing stars of the independent scene like Will Ospreay and Zach Sabre Jr.
I mentioned earlier that the UK isn’t lacking for promotions. The only drawback for ICW and WCPW is that, while they have the ability to put on great shows, they don’t have a network or big financial backer behind them. If recent news out of London is to be believed, World of Sport could be returning to British ITV with some big names attached. World of Sport was huge in the UK until the 1980’s and if the pilot episode is any indication, Jim Ross did the commentary, the WWE could be in for a fight. In addition, the independent scene makes it possible for a lot of the UK guys to move from promotion to promotion in the UK as well as the rest of the world. I don’t know how many of them would be willing to give up that for a WWE contract.
The Biggest Problems
The WWE has put themselves in a bit of a sticky situation here, in my opinion. While 205 Live is a great platform to feature the cruiserweights, I don’t know if it would work with the UK stars. Here’s why. Unless the WWE decides to bring their roster of British wrestlers all over to the states and have them go on the road with RAW or Smackdown it’s going to be hard to get them a lot of attention at least in the states. The other option would be to have them tour around the UK, but does the WWE want to invest in touring? NXT has it’s home base in Orlando and only goes out on tour for select dates and Take-Over events. 205 Live films before Smackdown and has all the production necessities. The UK guys have none of this at the moment.
There have been rumors that the WWE is trying to establish partnerships with UK promotions where the UK title can be defended. In my opinion this creates its own set of problems. Firstly, what promoter is going to let title be defended on his card when it means he can’t put his guy over. Secondly, if the WWE wrestlers are on other promotions cards how is the WWE going to promote them? The advantage they have now is that 205 Live guys can appear on RAW and get extra coverage, and we may even see a title change. I highly doubt that the UK champ is going to drop the title on an ICW show, no matter how good the working relationship with the WWE is.
In general, the UK Championship is a great thing and it’s giving some guys a chance to get seen by a much larger audience. However, at the moment at least we don’t know what the future holds as the WWE has yet to release any info. I’d like to see something like NXT in the UK and have select guys come on RAW or Smackdown from time to time so that viewers who don’t have the network get a chance to see them.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
Image from wwe.com