Analysis: A resurgence in British wrestling

If you ask anyone from the UK who grew up between the 1960s and 1980s what they think of when someone mentions professional wrestling, they will probably talk about Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and watching World of Sport on ITV.

If you asked those growing up in the early 2000s, they’d mention names such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Ric Flair who were some of the biggest names in the company World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

After World of Sport finished in 1985, the rise of WWE made it seem as if America was the place for wrestling alongside the rising popularity of Ring of Honor, TNA and other smaller promotions.

America was the pinnacle of the sport and the country that wrestlers from across the world would aspire to wrestle in these promotions.

However, in the last few years, British wrestling has seen a resurgence with a high calibre of talent and promotions. This has allowed the UK scene to rival the larger promotions across the world.

One of the biggest promotions in the country, which has been at the forefront of this resurgence, is Progress Wrestling.

Created in 2011 by comedian Jim Smallman, the promotion aimed to create a wrestling company based on ‘strong-style’ and also a punk-rock vibe booking some of the best wrestlers from across the world.

Being a pioneer of British Wrestling and one of the biggest promotions in the UK has meant that they’ve had to keep up with the rising demand from fans from across Europe.

Since their first show in 2012, Progress has increased the number of shows they put on each year and travel to a lot more cities to allow as many fans as possible to have a taste of what the promotion has to offer.

Not only has there been an increase in the number of shows booked, but Progress has increased the capacity for these shows to allow the maximum number of people to attend after previously selling out in record times.

The graphs seem to not only show the growth of demand for Progress but also reflect a trend amongst other promotions across the country.

Barely a week goes by without one of the many British promotions holding some sort of show in various parts of the country.

These shows range from the hard-core British Strong Style of Progress, Revolution Pro and ATTACK! Pro Wrestling to the more light-hearted and interactive shows from Tuesday Night Graps in IPW and RIPTIDE Wrestling.

With such a variety of shows to choose from, there is a promotion for everyone. This allows more and more people to get into the sport that has been a hidden love of many people for so long.

It also seems as if the sport has become a lot more accessible to a wider audience. With the return of World of Sport to ITV early last year and a countrywide tour, it shows that many promotions have made it a priority to appeal to more families and younger children by putting on a performance which makes the wrestlers look like superheroes and villains.

Image courtesy of Oda Ibsen

The rise in popularity of British wrestling has led to a need to have more facilities to train the future talent in the UK.

Across the country, training facilities are becoming more and more important for the British scene and they are being run by some of the biggest names in the industry.

There is the Fighting Spirit School in Liverpool is headed by WWE UK stars James Drake and Zack Gibson, the London EVE Academy run by Emily and Dann Read and NGW in Yorkshire run by Rampage Brown, Nathan Cruz and Matt Myers.  

Speaking to some of those training in the advanced course, they explained their thoughts on British wrestling and why they believe it is so successful.

Schools like these are vital in creating all this fresh talent and ensuring that the British wrestling scene is at the highest standard possible.

Alongside a fresh batch of British talent, the banner of British wrestling includes those who have come from other countries.

Wrestlers like New Zealand born Jay White came to England to learn his craft and others such as American born David Starr and Australian Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis have stayed to help elevate the scene to even greater heights.

The rise of British wrestling has also been fuelled by the number of British wrestlers travelling to different countries.

With British stars across the world, it seems like everyone is getting a glimpse of what the UK has to offer. Those like Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr and Bea Priestley are flying the British flag in Japan.

These wrestlers have brought more eyes to the British scene and have helped the scene here go through a vast expansion. This has seen a demand for shows throughout the year from fans across the world wanting to see the best wrestling talent Britain has to offer in their own city.

With eyes glued to the British wrestling scene, it has caught the attention of some of the biggest promotions in the world.

WWE saw the success of the UK independent scene and capitalised on this popularity by extending their brand.  Created on December 15, 2016, as NXT UK, WWE has signed a lot of huge UK stars to contracts and has commissioned a weekly show on their streaming site.

Newest promotion All Elite Wrestling has also scouted UK talent amidst the popularity of wrestling within the UK. Also, by signing an exclusive contract with ITV to broadcast their shows, it is bringing wrestling back to mainstream television which would not have seemed possible a few years ago.

Alongside those wrestlers who have received big contracts with promotions, there is still an abundance of talent within the UK standing strong in the independent companies. With the influx of talent from across the world to the UK, the British wrestling scene is able to hold its own against the large American companies.   

This rise and continued success of British wrestling is not only a testament to the large number of promotions but also the shows and talent.

It is the high quality of all three which keep drawing the crowds back and allowing the promotions to continuously put on shows across the country and make their mark on a global scale.

Image courtesy of British Wrestling via Twitter, with thanks.

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