By Chris Pilkington
Wrestling in London – When talking with some friends recently it was suggested that the British style of wrestling, as it were, was dead. And whilst I agree that the traditional style has changed drastically, I see it as more of an evolution than a termination. Whilst British wrestling used to have definite distinctions that made it separate from other nations, modern British wrestling is a lot more inclusive, taking ideas and motifs from a wide range of other influences and blending them together into something unique. This ideology is a direct result of the melting pot of nations that these fair isles have become. A multicultural society leads to a multicultural entertainment.
No city in the country, perhaps no city in the world bears this multicultural ideology more than London, a city that is statistically amongst the most diverse on the planet. And whilst London has certainly had it’s moments in the mainstream wrestling spotlight (most notably the epic SummerSlam 92) these highs have been rarely matched since. So why is it that wrestling companies around the world in countries such as Japan, Mexico and indeed the US achieve so much international exposure whilst our home grown promotions receive so little?
Is it simply because we don’t have the talent? Hell no. Our boys can outwrestle anybody in the world. The likes of Rockstar Spud, Zack Sabre Jnr, Noam Dar, Lionheart and Marty Scurll are quite rightly receiving rave reviews both at home and abroad, with Spud and Scurll set to feature in the upcoming TNA Bootcamp UK on Challenge TV. No, we have a lot of young, talented and hungry individuals all desperate to step up, yet in this country at this time, there’s simply nowhere for them to step up too. Now I’m not discrediting any of the amazing UK promotions out there. As a regular at PCW events I know first hand how amazing a UK show can be. It’s just that very few of these promotions either have the tools or the balls to push beyond the boundaries of what they think is possible.
I recently had the privilege of talking to Samoa Joe during a press conference for No Surrender on behalf of Collarandelbow, and one of the things I was keen to ask him about was the international expansion of TNA. I wanted to know if he or the company saw any potential in promoting a show in the UK, perhaps similar to their recent India project Ring Ka King, and whether he would like to be involved in something like that. Joe was quite clear that a lot of his favourite moments in wrestling had happened in the UK, and that the thought of a London based branch of TNA was something that appealed to him greatly. In his words, he said that “the UK is hungry for a home grown promotion.”
And herein lays the problem. There are home grown UK promotions, from tiny start ups, to touring holiday camp shows to promotions that legitimately attract hundreds of people every month…it’s just that nobody bar the hardcore fans have ever heard of them. The quality of some of these shows is on a par with anything you will see in Ring of Honor or CMLL but the consensus of the average casual wrestling fan is that these shows are either parodies of WWE style or simply non existent.
PCW owner Steve Fludder recently posted the following on his Facebook page:
Watching ROH and I’m pretty shocked that for the 3rd biggest promotion in America their set up seems cheap and their visual graphics pretty poor. I actually think PCW events look better quality watching the 2!
And you know what, he’s right. There’s so much amazing wrestling on our doorsteps as well as shows available on DVD that has been presented by promotions in this country, yet there’s still the stigma that American, Mexican and Japanese wrestlers are simply “cooler”
How to change people’s preconceptions is a difficult question to answer. Perhaps Samoa Joe is right, and we need the rub of something like a TNA London to allow our own stars to truly break through. Imagine the likes of Joe, AJ, Angle etc. setting up residence in the UK for a few months a year and taking on the likes of Dar, Spud and Scurll on a regular basis at Wembley Arena. Any preconceptions about British wrestling would be blown out of the water, and given the exposure a venture like this would receive, the knock on effect could be very beneficial to other promotions.
Another suggestion I’ve heard put forth is some kind of centralised organisation of bookers putting a concerted effort into some kind of super promotion. The lads over at SLTD Radio suggested a sharing of talent between promotions in the UK resulting in high quality shows throughout the country and perhaps a super show every month from Wembley. Think more old school NWA rather than current day WWE. Whilst there is potential for something like this, it would take a braver man than I to round up the owners of the UK’s top promotions and ask them to play nicely.
Perhaps there is no answer. Perhaps there is no magic wand you can wave over British wrestling to get it back into the mainstream. Perhaps it’s just a simple case of playing the waiting game and striking when this famously cyclical industry starts to heat up. The signs are actually encouraging that a rebirth could be upon us. WrestleTalk TV has brought glimpses of UK shows back to our screens, whilst several other promotions have had brief flirtations with television, most famously the now cancelled ICW on MyChannel. (The show was removed from the airwaves when the 18+ action was shown after the end of the watershed through no fault of the promotion themselves.)And there is a bit more of a buzz around promotions that are doing things a little differently and embracing their Britishness to their advantage. London based Lucha Britannia is an amalgamation of several cultures into a kind of wrestling/burlesque/ cabaret show which could only have been dreamt up over here and has to be seen to be believed. PROGRESS wrestling is another London company that is intent on showcasing the best that Britain has to offer in their own strictly adult, strong style, foul mouthed style.
London may never be as revered as other wrestling cities such as New York, Toronto, Mexico City or Tokyo but it won’t be due to a lack of trying. For now, it will have to be content with being the most diverse and interesting wrestling city as opposed to the best known. There are so many possibilities on the cusp of becoming realities that it really is a great time to be a UK wrestling fan, it’s just a shame that more people aren’t seeing what’s going on. Content yourself with this, dear reader; in twelve months time when BritWres is hot again, you can point and laugh at all the glory hunters crawling out of the woodwork.
Another superb article by Chris Pilkington. Drop him a line on Twitter @Pilkingtron and let him know your thoughts on Wrestling in London.
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