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By Ciaran James @TheCiaranJames
WWE arrived on our shores this month for another UK tour, this time however the roster was a little different. Appearing on shows in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, well known independent talent joined the ranks of WWE’s top stars, Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Mark Andrews were just a few of the names. Of course for those wrestlers both personally and professionally it must be a great milestone, to work for the top company in any profession is a dream come true. Not only has it benefitted the wrestlers named, the Irish & British independent scene is now front and centre, it has the world’s focus. The above names took part in the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, during or after the competition certain participants signed WWE contracts. Although signed to WWE they are still allowed to accept independent bookings, however WWE is their number one priority.
The interest shown by WWE was a great endorsement for the British wrestling scene, finally the UK was back on the map in a big way. WWE’s admiration for the UK could be questioned, their press conference regarding the UK tournament came only weeks after ITV screened the revival of World of Sport. Many have speculated that WWE wanted to quash ITV’s resurrection by securing the top names from around the UK & Ireland, although ITV featured many well-known wrestlers, it wasn’t the cream of the crop so to speak. That isn’t knocking any of the talent on show, El Ligero, Rampage and Dave Mastiff are all top competitors, but to WWE they aren’t priority. Therefore the WOS return was lacking star power, the talent which you thought WOS may have secured and promoted were actually contracted or had made promises to WWE.
This week more British talent was invited to take part in WWE’s annual try-out whenever they tour the UK, again to the talent invited this is a great milestone in their respective careers. I myself was very congratulatory to the wrestlers involved, for these are performers I have seen live countless times and have for some time now deserved the opportunity to showcase their talents to a larger audience. This again positions the spotlight on the UK scene, but after seeing Big Grizzly and Flash Morgan Webster on social media with the WWE staff one has to ask is this healthy for the independent scene. In the 1980’s Vince McMahon looked to become the most dominant force in sports entertainment, therefore he systematically signed all the top talent he could from rival organisations. This move from Vince had serious repercussions, in the years after the independent/regional territories across the United States collapsed. The breeding grounds for professional wrestling was dead.
In recent years WWE made a habit of signing the top names form ROH, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and others were all recruited. The difference between the mid 2000’s and now is that WWE are recruiting on mass, whereas before WWE would sign CM Punk, ROH would already have established another headliner ready to take his place. Now WWE are signing talent before companies are even having the opportunity to build the next big name, if tomorrow WWE were to sign Pete Dunne, Bate, Seven & Andrews to full time contracts, Progress, Fight Club Pro & ATTACK Pro would be directly affected. Booking, storylines and scheduled events would have to be amended, these promotions would be fine, but in the short term there would be a lull. I’m not bashing WWE but I think staggering their signings to every year would be more beneficial in the long term to smaller regional companies.
Another concern is how WWE choose to use the British wrestlers signed, as before the idea of signing for WWE is a professional and personal goal, but in reality how beneficial is it. Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jnr, Young Bucks, Ricochet and many more have taken the path to the Orient to solidify their fame and careers, they for personal reasons have decided not to experience the WWE way of wrestling, and as evidence proves they made the right choice. For those who have made the decision to sign for WWE the future must look bright, with Triple H leading the new charge it seems change is on the horizon. But WWE right now isn’t going through the best period, 205Live is not what people thought it would be, NXT is rebuilding plus RAW & Smackdown are underperforming. If they are to crack the glass ceiling will Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and others really achieve the success we all hope they will?