Cageside Seats reported this week that the debut of a WWE UK-based weekly show seems to have been postponed indefinitely. They cite current champ Pete Dunne’s open schedule for this autumn and a complete lack of mention of the UK in any recent WWE conference calls/financial reports as an indication that any plans have now been shelved.
At first glance, this seems like a great shame for UK fans. The weekly show, which was ostensibly set to be taped from the same studio in Norwich that the UK Championship Special was recorded at back in May, promised to highlight the best up-and-coming talent from the British Isles, and bring a bit of WWE glitz closer to home.
But the whole project, starting with the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, felt a tiny bit rushed.
A reactionary brand
Triple H announced the UKCT to a small crowd of slightly bemused journalists at the O2 Arena back in December 2016, just two months after ITV revealed their plan for a World of Sport: Wrestling special to air on New Year’s Eve. The UKCT itself would take place just two weeks after WOS: Wrestling’s air date.
Whether the UKCT had been in the pipeline for months, or whether it was cobbled together in a couple of weeks, the whole thing felt a little bit reactionary – and as a result, the plans for this emerging brand were never made clear.
The UKCT itself ended up being two nights of fantastic wrestling, and one of the most enjoyable wrestling events I’d watched on TV in a very, very long time. So I was thrilled when WWE announced a follow-up event in May; the WWE United Kingdom Championship Special (they need to get better at naming these events).
That show was taped from a suitably Full Sail-esque studio in Norwich which, despite the fact that nobody ever wants to travel to Norwich, seemed like a good spot to set up camp.
It was at this show, however, that the cracks in the brand started to become apparent. Aside from the fact that fans were sitting in garden chairs, and the set design was… minimal, the UKCS could not live up to the UKCT in any way.
The matches were good, of course, but without the prospect of such an amazing prize, they lacked that sense of urgency from the Tournament.
Even the main event – the only match that felt like it had even a modicum of consequence – had an entirely predictable outcome. We all knew Bate would retain in his title defence against Mark Andrews. An angle between him and Dunne had been brewing since the UKCT and was obviously planned to cumulate with a title match at NXT Takeover (which was amazing, by the way).
Since the somewhat shaky Special, any talk of a UK show seems to have died down. ITV’s World of Sport: Wrestling announced in March that it would partner up with Impact Wrestling, before being postponed indefinitely (and leaving a lot of its talent in the lurch) in April.
Now that the TV competition has gone away, WWE’s urgency to establish itself in the UK as a local presence seems to have faded. While this is probably a small hit to the UK’s wrestling ecosystem – and throws a spanner into my three tier UK wrestling industry theory – I don’t think this news is so terrible.
While I have no doubt that Triple H et al. recognise the huge pool of talent here in the UK, and the ever-growing, ravenous legions of hardcore fans ready to spend their hard-earned sterling on any and every wrestling product – they never had a clear vision for the UK brand beyond the UKCT.
The Special shows what happens when you throw an event together. While it was a perfectly acceptable way to spend one evening, it wasn’t even on par with the production values of NXT. Looking from the outside, it seems like no thought had been put into the format and logistics of a weekly show beyond the talent which, in the UK, is the easiest part to organise.
So while we in the UK seem to have slipped off WWE’s radar for now, I’d rather wait for something that complements the incredible British wrestling scene, rather than some shaky mess that distracts from it.