On the 28th of July, 2018, wrestling makes its return to television proper after 30 years. Not a one off. Not a bank holiday special. The real thing. A ten-episode order that might put British wrestling back on the telly for good. In an undisclosed location (the basement of one of Borough’s many dive bars, the Dugout I believe this was) Tom Mclennan, ITV’s Director of Entertainment, North, introduced the future of sports entertainment to a white-knuckle crowd of TV and wrestling journo’s alike.
Standing in front of the big screen, WOS projected on him like a coat of arms, he spoke of his passion for wrestling and his three-year journey to bring the graps back to Saturday evening teatime audiences. We managed to catch him after the show to get an insight into his ambitions for WOS Wrestling.
What’s it been like to bring World of Sport back to British Television?
It’s been a three-year long journey. I was a massive wrestling fan when I was a child and I’ve watched it right through until now. I just thought that there’s a big audience and I think, at the moment particularly, there’s a really good market out there. I think the scene is really hot. I think the wrestlers are incredible and I think it’s probably because there’s a lot of people who have been watching wrestling now for 20 odd years and I think the standard now is just so high that if we weren’t going to bring it back, somebody else was going to.
What’s really struck me about the new product is that it has something for casual fans and hardcore fans alike.
I think that’s really interesting you saying that because that’s the challenge we’ve got. What we want to do is, we want to bring a brand-new audience to it who maybe haven’t seen wrestling – I’m thinking about my kids and the like who now love it through what they’ve watched – a brand-new mainstream audience. At the same time, we want to keep hold of and impress the hardcore wrestling fans. Those two audiences are very, very different, so we’re trying to do a show that could cater to both and that’s partly why we’ve invited the hardcore wrestling fans to this screening. To prove a point to them. We want you to know that we want you guys on board and to be part of it as well.
The big question all the wrestling fans want answered is, what are the ambitions for WOS Wrestling?
We are 100% long term. We’ve made ten episodes. We’ve obviously got to see how well those do but our ambition is 100% for this to become a weekly show, every single week, on ITV with millions and millions of people watching. Putting wrestling right back in the forefront of people’s minds. We want it to go on the road. We want it to tour. We want it to be a huge brand and we think because we’ve got ITV behind it then we’ve got that opportunity and that’s what makes this so exciting. Sometimes you watch a show and it might go a series or two; if we get this right – fingers crossed we do – this could go for ten/fifteen years.
Watch WOS Wrestling every Saturday at 5 pm on ITV.