Scant statements from 5* Wrestling, including the one on their website in the fetching Comic Sans font, followed the leaked tweet about their closure have left many questions, far more than what remains of the company’s management seem to want to answer.
Offers of interviews and official comment have gone unanswered and it’s left a sense of complacency over the collapse of British wrestling’s only nationally televised programme from those responsible for it – in this case the creator of 5* Wrestling, Dan Hinkles, and Jason Noble, listed as Director of Pro Wrestling UK Ltd.
Even in January, Hinkles was boastful about the vision and was clearly proud of the product he’d help bring to television in a landmark three-year television deal.
He wasn’t a stranger to controversy and one would imagine that, after earlier missteps, he’d developed a thick skin; not thick enough to avoid insulting critics, of course, but that may have come in the future.
There’s no word, either, on what the second national TV series may have been, but doubt it’ll be on Freesports.
There was realism from the official account, though, pointing out something that all fans are probably guilty off – overly high expectations – we want things to be the absolute best, even if we don’t quite know how that’d work or what it’d be. Again, though, January saw the company having pride in the product that they would be bringing to television – pride that may have led to the fall.
With Hinkles and Noble remaining silent, it’s difficult to guess what they’re thinking, but there are questions that need to be answered:
When did they realise that 5* Wrestling was in financial difficulty?
A three year deal is a massive commitment for successful businesses; so for one that was still working on its business model, this was going to be a gargantuan undertaking. It’s also a promise to deliver, yet it only took six weeks for it to fall apart, with suggestions of a rescue plan collapsing for unspecified reasons. To have fallen apart in such short order suggests that the company had either only just realised that it was in trouble or had known of its troubles from quite early in the six weeks of broadcast, the one “off air” week and only a couple of days where it would fail to make its promised return to TV.
What promises were broken with the talent involved?
No wrestler worth his salt will hang all their expectations on one employer; to do so, when you’re, in effect, a contract worker would be folly. This is the ultimate in “zero hour contracts” – a company may love wrestler x but that doesn’t mean that they’ll use them on every show, yet this was a public three year deal. Many of 5* Wrestling’s names are savvy business men and must have had high hopes for the company. With none of them seemingly under contract, they’re owed nothing, but that doesn’t make this morally right.
How much did 5* Wrestling lose in six weeks?
Given that there was an unbooked week and the previous show in its aborted run was a “snow in”, it seems unlikely that 5* Wrestling management only realised during the missing week that they were in dire straits. It certainly wasn’t a lack of talent, venues or coverage that stymied the product, so it can only have been money… how much, though? Six or seven figures would be enough to do it. It’d have to be something financially substantial for a man who once boasted he had managed to market a video game globally (albeit via the Playstation Store) and was making it clear that they’d invest in British wrestling.
What’s the position of Freesports in this situation?
Freesports management cannot be happy that the contract fell apart so soon, especially after PCW prematurely announced that they were going to bringing wrestling to the channel and were certainly a tested business, with pedigree, and other established companies were no doubt waiting in the wings for just this kind of opportunity to “make UK wrestling mainstream”. The impact of this must be felt acutely by the channel; trust in the product (British wrestling) has been damaged, but there’s always the chance that a shorter, preferably pre-recorded, programme could take over for the remainder of the contract.
What’s next for British wrestling on TV?
With the closure of 5* Wrestling, ITV World of Sport appearing to be a non-starter and the WWE still not being specific about its plans for its much heralded WWE UK TV show, it seems that British wrestling just can’t catch the break it needs to be a national television commodity. It certainly deserves to be, and there’s certainly the talent and business minds to do it.
The warning signs were certainly there, workers including Will Ospreay had made it clear that they had no faith in 5* Wrestling after his involvement with the company in 2017 and there were questions over the ambition of running arena shows on a regular basis – arenas are designed to house thousands, not the hundreds that 5* would end up bring to the house.
Will we get answers? Only time will tell.