In my lifetime pro wrestling in the United Kingdom wasn’t anything special. The biggest names that competed in the UK for most of my life were WWE, WCW and IMPACT wrestlers. The biggest British shows were held in pubs, gymnasiums and even the most staunch supporter of the indy scene even had to admit that the British wrestling scene was nearly dead.
Yet, in the last decade or so, wrestling has returned in big way to the Islands of Great Britain. Promotions like PROGRESS, Insane Championship Wrestling, and others rose up to earn legitimate street cred among fans. Then the revival of World of Sport occurred, and did well in the ratings giving hope to more seasons ahead; along with an already planned live event tour around the Kingdom.
But the success wasn’t localized to the United Kingdom, as Europe got involved too. More specifically Westside Xtreme Wrestling out of Germany has risen to prominence as well on the back of WALTER and Timothy Thatcher. To say the scenes in Europe were about to explode would be an understatement.
That was until the WWE came to town. The McMahon’s are trying to kill the wrestling business for everyone but themselves. Anyone who doesn’t believe this is lying to themselves. They’ve bought the rights to every major wrestling promotion founded before 2001, except the National Wrestling Alliance and has whored out their legacies for their underwhelming WWE Network.
They opened up their developmental territory in Orlando and since has gone on to sign well over 200 wrestlers to deals, the most the company has ever employed. They’ve now launched NXT: UK and rumors say that a UK Performance Center is on it’s way; allegedly.
There are plans to put one in Germany, China, Japan and even Australia. Why? To control the biggest markets in these territories. It’s not hard either, the WWE is making more money than ever before and global expansion is the name of the game. So why not try and snuff out indy markets in favor of the WWE brand? It’s not like that’s a monopoly or anything.
The WWE are also pairing up with American promotion EVOLVE, UK’s PROGRESS and soon Germany’s wXw. At one time three of the biggest or most respected indies in the world.
Fans were excited, but critics are scared. The WWE isn’t known for playing nice. This is a company that roles into a major town and puts holds on most major venues to restrict other touring promotions from being able to use their structures. A move that backfired in New York, as the Madison Square Garden arena allowed a New Japan and Ring of Honor show to set up shop for WrestleMania weekend. In the house McMahon built. He’s not pleased.
So with the growth of the NXT brand to steal…er….develop local talent outside of the United States, the fear that the WWE would begin to strangle markets started to come to fruition. Top UK stars like Pete Dunne, Tyler Bates and Trent Seven signed WWE deals that gave the WWE ability to decree when and where they would work (to a point).
Now though, with the formal announce of a NXT: UK Takeover happening it appears as though the WWE is done playing nice. The WWE has allegedly decreed to their talent that if they wish to work outside of the WWE in the UK, they may only work for;
*Great Britain’s PROGRESS Wrestling (which has a working relationship with WWE.)
*Scotland’s ICW (which has a working relationship with WWE.)
*Germany’s WXW (which has a working relationship with WWE.)
*Fight Club Pro (which is run by NXT UK star Trent Seven.)
*Attack! Pro Wrestling (which was founded in part by Pete Dunne.)
*Over the Top Wrestling in Ireland.
*Great Britain’s Futureshock.
(According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider)
Notice that the promotion World Association of Wrestling isn’t one of the names? That’s the promotion that Paige’s family owns and runs. They helped out Pete Dunne and Trent Seven but not Paige? Makes ya think.
Even these companies have restrictions, though. None of the aforementioned promotions may film or distribute any of the matches a WWE UK wrestler may work there. No ppv’s, iPPV’s, DVD’s, streams, TV or anything of the nature. Strictly dark matches only.
That’s not even the worst part, as the WWE has been known to collect a percentage of these earnings in the past, if they worked outside of the company. The WWE would just dock it from their downside guarantee. If they still do this, then that could lead to higher rates. Higher rates with a lower return on investments usually mean that the promotions will seek to look elsewhere for names. Only to see them eventually signed as well.
The only way you’ll ever see Trent Seven on PROGRESS’s DVD or PPV events ever again will be if the WWE acquires PROGRESS’ broadcast rights. Thus gaining more control over the product. Yippie.
In the wake of the news, the UK wrestling scene went into panic mode. Every wrestler and fan in the UK who weren’t hanging on Vince’s bloated bag of lies freaked the hell out, and rightfully so. Some talents took the time to promote something;
One of the best places to train in Europe and by far THE best place in Wales for training!
The talent that has come out of here shows just how good @WILDBOARhitch is!
It’s my home & when I popped in, I was so impressed but not shocked by how good it/the talent were! https://t.co/k7IHuEgrWG
— Tegan Nox 🏴 (@TeganNoxWWE_) November 27, 2018
Further more to my previous tweet, @AJBIsHere sums it up perfectly.@RampageBrown @DeanAllmark @Ligero1 @WILDBOARhitch
My self, to name just a few.
We’ve all got students that are talented, offer something unique and most of all are hungry. pic.twitter.com/hD0s691KT4
— Nathan Cruz (@Nathan_Cruz90) November 26, 2018
While others like Will Osprey took the opportunity to mock the whole situation;
So who am I allowed to wrestle in the UK now ?
— ウィル・オスプレイ (@WillOspreay) November 26, 2018
And while Pete Dunne, Jordan Devlin and Tyson T Bone tried to lie their way out of hysteria, El Ligero confirmed what they wouldn’t; the rumors are true.
To clear up any confusion, I will still be honouring my independent bookings in December. Anywhere that I’m advertised to appear over the next 4 weeks I still will be, and I’ve been very well accommodated to do so.
— El Ligero (@Ligero1) November 27, 2018
For the Joseph Conners, Dunne’s, and Devlin’s who apparently have no clue about the company they are now legally required to work for, these restrictions are not “different for everyone”. The WWE doesn’t want any legal issues, so they’ll allow everyone to finish up their dates, but then the nooses get tighter and you become the WWE’s property. Back in August when all this first started to really happen, the talent were told they had free reign to wrestle anywhere, except if that give show was seven days before an NXT taping in the UK.
Now it’s only with a select group of WWE affiliate companies. Soon it’ll just be with WWE owned properties.
Germany appears next on their list, as they recently hired WALTER. I say hired, and not signed because WALTER apparently isn’t leaving wXw, nor is he under a contract for the company like other wrestlers recently signed. The WWE seemingly knows Germany is not as developed as the UK, and has enlisted WALTER to work the NXT Germany promotion when it gets up and running. The hope, according to the likes of Dave Meltzer and a few others, is that the WWE will partner with WALTER and wXw to develop a brand in the country. WALTER is not in the picture or in plans to move to the states, and has no desire to ever work the main roster. So this appears to be more of a coach/local star type of role. Is that the case in reality? Only time will tell how true the rumors are.
If you’re not a WWE fan, then be afraid. The WWE has done similar moves in the states. Ohio Valley Wrestling, Deep South Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Smokey Mountain Wrestling were all territories working with the WWE. The WWE either closed them, gutted them or tried to destroy them all. Only Ohio Valley Wrestling stands to this day and that promotion wants nothing to do with the WWE as of right now.
They’re also targeting local indies that are struggling. Notably the once great EVOLVE is now on the WWE payroll (allegedly). Gabe Sapolsky cut a deal with the WWE, basically making it a feeder promotion to NXT. If you see anyone working EVOLVE they’re going to end up in NXT eventually, if they’re any good. Sapolsky used to be seen by fans as the best booker in the country but now they only see him a stooge; another McMahon Disciple ready to gut the industry he claims to love in favor of the all mighty dollar. The WWE has even made inroads (allegedly) to IMPACT, Ring of Honor, PWG and other American based companies in hopes of purchasing their libraries and talents. All were met with a resounding “NO”.
The talents that spoke out about the “gossip” seem clueless to the history of the WWE. Look at who gets interviews. The WWE constantly approves and denies interview requests with their talent, only giving the go ahead to groups that won’t make the WWE look bad. Just think about that, how they micro manage interviews. You think other promotions are somehow less likely to be affected?
The company will never “play nice” with others and with Vince McMahon winding down, Stephanie McMahon will take over and she’s got bigger aspirations than her father; she wants the WWE to be as big as Disney one day. Disney isn’t where it is because it played nice with studios. They bought Lucasfilms, Marvel, Pixar and every other studio that makes films for them these days. They just bought Fox and if given the chance will be Warner Bros., DC Comics, Viacom and anyone else dumb enough to sell to them.
You don’t think the WWE wants to crush any hopes of competition? You don’t think the WWE would kill the industry as a whole just to be the only place in town you could make a living? Of course they would. So these UK deals, they’re only the start. Yeah, they’re tolerable now but for how much longer? The WWE doesn’t want to share their talent with anyone, and in time they won’t.
The wrestling world is being ravaged by the WWE, and those signing on are too blind or too stupid to care. Is this how the indy revolution ends? Not with a fight, but with a flurry of half-truth lies on Twitter?