“Whether there’s one, one hundred or one thousand in the audience, they’ve all paid” – How NXT UK is cresting the wave of British wrestling

It was a long time in the making, but with the first NXT UK TakeOver now part of wrestling history, WWE continues to mine the popularity of British wrestling, a popularity driven by exceptional talent and a loyal and growing fan base across the United Kingdom.  

WWE management is showing their faith in the brand by bringing in the NXT UK roster to film three episodes of the show in Phoenix, as well as being part of the Worlds Collide tournament taking place during NXT TakeOver and Royal Rumble weekend.  There’s also rumours of the expected expansion of the NXT UK brand as more and more names pop up as potential signees.

There’s been the arguments about the WWE contracts and the absorption of talent, but there can be no doubt that NXT UK has sparked much interest amongst fans.  With many companies across the UK cresting the wave of popularity, British wrestling has seen a resurgence that has been years in the making and was certainly a key reason for WWE’s interest in the United Kingdom.

For many of these companies, they fought through the harder times of single-digit and low double-digit attendance and, importantly, so did many of the talents who have gone onto huge success today. They’ve worked hard, sometimes for little financial award, to entertain every fan in attendance. A sentiment often echoed is “whether there’s one, one hundred or one thousand in the audience, they’ve all paid” and that has paid off as they’ve seen peers and contemporaries become successful, the rise of the talent of tomorrow and many have become more in demand than ever.

In the past few years, more companies have been able to tour cities around the UK with their talent, often to rabid audiences who want to see the best of British and independent import talent.  There’s been a surge of companies who have been able to expose their product to worldwide audiences through streaming services or to audiences across the UK with select TV deals. WOS Wrestling made a comeback to ITV and showed Britain some of the best that British wrestling has offer… and NXT UK finally came to fruition and became a hugely talked about product.

As part of the NXT UK strategy, on January 11th 2019, a press conference in London announced to the world something that had been long rumoured.  The official unveiling of the WWE UK Performance Centre and it was an announcement that is bound to raise eyebrows for anyone looking for a way into WWE.

For years, British wrestling was at its lowest ebb, yet international talent wanted to work in the UK. For many names who would later pass through WWE, this wasn’t for big paydays; it was for the experience of working with British talent with decades of experience in something that is unique to the UK – the British style that captivated generations past and still continues to be taught today.

With a number of quality training schools across the UK, there’s little doubt that the NXT UK PC will be keeping an eye on future stars including the current crop of British wrestling standouts.  There’s no shortage of talent coming through the better schools, schools that had decades of experience between them, with trainers who have performed at the top level across the country and the world.

Dragon Pro boasts the likes of Mark Andrews, Wild Boar and Flash Morgan Webster amongst its trainers in Wales, whilst NGW recently opened its third school in West Yorkshire (adding to its schools in the North East and Hull) with Nathan Cruz, Rampage Brown and Jamie Ahmed overseeing the crop of trainees in the North.  Then there’s NXT Trainer Johnny Moss and his own wrestling school in Cumbria or WOS Legend Marty Jones and NXT’s El Ligero at the Grapple School. Further south, Fighting Spirit boasts Zack Gibson and James Drake as its head trainers and Knucklelocks Gym in London, with Darrell Allen as head trainer. That’s not forgetting Scotland where Source Wrestling School operates as the official school of ICW and SWA!

There are many other schools with quality trainers, but there are also schools that should probably take stock of what they’re offering and how they’ll fit the new landscape if they’ll fit in at all.  It’s no longer a case of going to the school closest to a trainee and hoping for the best, within reasonable travelling distance there are tried and tested trainers with a wealth of experience that’s ready to be exploited – or a trainee can take the fast route and get on shows that would make you think British wrestling was still poorly attended and poorly run!

With NXT UK Takeover Blackpool, the talent of NXT UK were put on show for a worldwide audience, live and unedited.  From the very first match, filmed for the weekly NXT UK show, to the final patch of the first NXT UK Takeover, it showed the passion of the fans for many of the best in the business and there can be no doubt that NXT UK will follow NXT’s footsteps with more Takeovers and coverage on WWE Network.

Many independent companies are continuing to fill their venues with passionate wrestling fans, British wrestling is a source of discussion across the internet and a whole generation of wrestlers can see a goal that is more achievable. That’s the perfect storm of opportunity and a testament to a true golden age for fans.

Pete Dunne recently spoke about the new ways into WWE that he, Trent Seven, Tyler Bate and others have enabled. Paths that had led to appearance across WWE brands and exposure to a universe of fans that may have been difficult to reach in previous years.

They, and their peers, didn’t just pave a path, they created a motorway for those with the drive for their future.

 

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