Last night at The Royal Albert Hall in London, WWE launched their second WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament. On the first night after a speech by new WWE UK General Manager Johnny Saint, Triple H announced that the WWE would finally be launching their WWE UK Brand, NXT UK.
The announcement received a positive ovation from the live audience and those who were already signed with the WWE UK programme were promoting it by posting the WWE NXT UK logos on their various social media accounts. The announcement is no doubt a game-changer and has shook the landscape of British Wrestling with the force of 9.5 magnitude earthquake!
But is the announcement of an NXT UK brand really a good thing for everybody? There’s no doubt that by being a signed WWE UK talent, those who work on the British wrestling scene would be much better off if they do strive for a full-time career as a professional wrestler. But being signed with the WWE definitely has its limitations. Those who are signed with the WWE have restrictions as to where they can and can’t work. On a WWE UK contract, it states that you can’t compete on any competitors televised or internet based products, which throws working for the newly revived World of Sport on ITV out of the window. And there are of course restrictions to working for the online professional wrestling product of Defiant Wrestling (formerly What Culture Pro Wrestling) amongst other UK independent wrestling brands.
So is it possible, with the announcement of a WWE NXT UK Brand and the signing of more British independent professional wrestlers, that these promotions could eventually die off? One social-media user shared the announcement and commented “Goodbye my beloved UK Indy Wrestling” to which, when challenged, he responded: “Offer everyone 10K a year contracts to ‘work for WWE’ and they’ll all take it which I can’t blame them for doing. I’m just not looking forward to seeing The Urban Warrior & Tough Nut Tyson main-eventing every Indy Show in the UK because they’re all that are left…” Is the Urban Warrior still a thing? Moving on…
It’s no secret that WWE were very aggressive with their recent WWE UK signings. The quick push to reignite the UK brand came from the announcement that ITV were commissioning World of Sport for a 10-part TV series this summer. WWE had very much kept their cards close to their chest on their UK brand since the inaugural WWE UKCT in January 2017 with many believing the reason for the initial tournament was only because ITV had commissioned World of Sport as part of a holiday special in December 2016 with the possibility of creating a TV series.
Over the past few months, WWE had signed one specific UK wrestler reportedly as they had been fed information as to who was going to be part of the new 10-part World of Sport series. This included Ashton Smith (as a tag-team with Rampage Brown), Kenny Williams, Amir Jordan, Joe and Mark Coffey, El Ligero, Wild Boar Mike Hitchman, Amir Jordan & Dave Mastiff. Whilst Wild-Boar and Mark Coffey didn’t make it through to the WWE UK Tournament this year despite going with the WWE over ITV initially, there’s no doubt that the WWE will make use of these two hard-hitting and incredible UK talents as part of their NXT UK programme.
Not everyone was swayed by the WWE UK though; Rampage Brown who had previously worked with the WWE as part of their Florida Championship Wrestling developmental ground back in 2011 had turned down the offer for WWE UK for his own personal reasons that haven’t been made public. ITV had quickly replaced those who chose to go with the WWE with some incredible UK talents too. Whilst I am aware of who is on the TV series set to air this Summer, I can’t confirm who was already set to be a part of the show and who was brought in as a replacement for those snatched up by WWE. I’m sure we’ll be made aware of the confirmed ITV WOS roster publicly in the near future.
So what are the other problems with a WWE NXT UK brand? It’s no secret that WWE have a very close relationship with PROGRESS Wrestling, with Jim Smallman set to have landed a job with the WWE in some form of a Producer role for the new NXT UK brand. This is rumoured to be the reason why Jim has recently retired from his career as a stand-up comedian, as announced at PROGRESS Wrestling’s recent show in Sheffield.
With a very similar fan-base, do we risk seeing a saturated and more PG version of a PROGRESS Wrestling product? PROGRESS Wrestling already have a small portion of anti-WWE UK fans who aren’t happy at seeing guys like Joseph Conners there as they believe he’s only there because of his connection with the WWE UK brand which, according to backstage sources isn’t true at all.
WWE definitely lacks star-power over recent years. This couldn’t be evidenced any more than the fact that both Triple H and the Undertaker, two of the WWE’s biggest and iconic characters ever will be headlining the newly announced WWE Super-Show-Down in Melbourne, Australia. With the Undertaker being a part-time Superstar returning to the ring once a year for the past X amount of years and Triple H being all but retired himself, it doesn’t look good that WWE can’t use modern and current WWE superstars to sell tickets to an event outside the US in 2018.
A strong argument for the lack of real superstars has often been down to the over-saturation of their branding. With both WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown Live, 205 Live, NXT and now NXT UK, there’s just too many championships, too many brands and too many superstars for even a handful of wrestlers to stand-up and break out and be the next real superstars of their generation. And with so many WWE Superstars, how do the writing staff keep up? WWE has some of the best professional wrestlers in the world but with just too many signed talents and not enough writing staff to make them into the superstars they need to be, even the best in-ring talents will go unrecognised. You just need to look at The Revival on WWE’s Main Event show for that. Add to this more championships to further dilute the prestige of current championships, then they’re going to have to whip up something almost magical to really create that next huge WWE Superstar.
With bits of information here and bits of more information there, a lot of this articles ramblings could be nothing short of a collection of rumour and innuendo. The only thing that is certain is that UK independent wrestling has been changed forever.
So what are your thoughts on the new NXT UK brand? Do you think that this really is what’s best for business?