When it comes to imports in British wrestling, I have been back and forth with my opinion on it for a long time now. A while ago I believed that they were a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, there is a use for them in the experience that they can share backstage and the knowledge that they can pass onto our young hopefuls in this country. Other than that I didn’t think the plane ticket and other expenses that come with booking an American ‘star’ were worth it. I still don’t to a point.
I’ve tried to get the opinions of others that I know in the British wrestling scene so that I can get this article ‘right’, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve spoken to a few that have made me see right and wrong to my original point of view.
For the longest time, it has become apparent to me that some imports (probably the majority, actually) have been brought in to cater to a very small number of a promotions fanbase. There are a few promotions that attract several hundreds of fans. Of these, there are even fewer that have a ‘smart’ fanbase that know the insider terms and backstage goings-on as well as knowing who the obscure imports that promotions get in, are.
A largely smart fanbase will know the Ring of Honour (ROH) or PWG guy that is brought in, but attendees of typical wrestling shows – which take place in the majority of the country – will not. When I say ‘typical wrestling shows’ I mean the ones that attract around the 200-fans mark and lower. Don’t get me wrong; this kind of number is a respectable number to be drawing when you consider that we’re not a country that is that into it’s own presentation of wrestling as is thought. The problem lies in that ‘typical’ 200 fans of the average British show:
Simply put, the majority of these fans do not know who the imports are.
Surely, if only ten people in the audience know who the former WWE-superstar-from-fifteen-years-ago or current ROH wrestler is, then that is a bad business decision? Chances are, them same fans would have come to the show even if the former WWE or ROH guy had NOT been booked?
The majority of fans, that I have seen on my travels so far, are families. These families consist of young kids who know who John Cena or Daniel Bryan or whoever the flavour of the month is in WWE are. They are accompanied by their parents who, for the most part, are taking the kids to the show to give them something to do. Very few of these parents will have watched wrestling since they were kids, if EVER. Even fewer will have the time in their lives to scrub up on the latest goings-on in ROH (if they know where to look to watch it) or who was a mid to lower-carder in the WWE fifteen years ago.
A perfect example of this was when I attended a show last year. At the end, a young kid wanted the autograph of a very talented, horned, Mexican (British) wrestler – NOT for the former WWE wrestler that had been on the show, but a star of UK wrestling! When I asked the father (who was around my age) of this child if he liked it and if he watched wrestling still, he replied that he loved the show, thought the horned high-flyer was great, and hadn’t watched wrestling – and I quote – ‘since Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior’… again, no mention of the former WWE guy that had just main-evented the show.
This all says to me that the promoters of these shows don’t really know their fans. Some might say that some of these promoters are marks for these former WWE/current ROH guys and that’s the reason that they’re brought in. Yes, some hardcore fans, that have watched different brands of wrestling over the last twenty years LOVE the product and imports that are brought over. The rest of the fans – the families – in the audience are clueless and are just happy to see wrestler A beat wrestler B. Wrestling in this country, like it or not, is still in the early stages of being anything to anyone and could, and should, be simpler.
Basically, up until the last, say, five years, nobody has really given a crap about wrestling in this country since the late 1980s. That’s over twenty-years of people moving on, growing up and finding new hobbies and fads to follow.
To conclude, my message to promoters would be to use the great array of talent that we have in the UK. There are guys in this country who put on great shows consistently and don’t cost you flights, accommodation and whatever else. They also impress your fans just as much (if not more) as the imports that are brought in. These ‘star’ imports are known by YOU and the 10% of actual wrestling fans in your audience, but that’s it.
Surely, it’s more profitable to cater to the many and not just the few?
Unfortunately, the standard has been set, and the bar has been risen, to a point where it would look weaker if there weren’t the imports around…
Don’t even get me started on how much we kiss up to these ‘star’ imports like they’re megastars of wrestling…
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