A Graps Odyssey

Added by Joe Atherton

Happy New Year, grapple fans. We’re in the future! 2019. A bold new world. What does the year have in store for us on the BritWres scene, and beyond, in the ever changing landscape of professional wrestling? Well, truth be told, nobody know. It’s hard to predict how things will be in 12 weeks, let alone a whole calendar year, but let’s see how the land lies and attempt to make sense of the things.

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room shall we? NXT UK. I won’t lie here lads, I went to one night of the Birmingham television tapings and I’ll be going to Takeover Blackpool next week. If there’s graps, I’ll probably go to it. I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of NXT UK episodes. There’s been no stinkers, that’s for sure. It’s been solid stuff all round. There’s also been the odd cracking match involving both Jordan Devlin & Pete Dunne (two talents who I think would drag even a passable match out of me!). The feuds are beginning to bubble away nicely, but it’s nothing you couldn’t see on any Fight Club Pro or PROGRESS show and for half the price…until now.

At the end of 2018 Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate waved goodbye to the sports halls, warehouses in Wolverhampton & the Electric Ballroom by wrapping up their last independent dates, Trent Seven looks due to follow his British Strong Style comrades once he’s finally dropped the PROGRESS Atlas Championship later on in the year. Three huge names gone from the scene. It goes without saying, huge congratulations to all 3 lads and I personally wish nothing but the best for all 3. They certainly deserve it after busting their arses for our entertainment up and down the country over the years. But is this just the beginning of NXT UK culling of the BritWres indies top stars?

El Ligero (or now just Ligero for some bizarre reason) has finished his independent dates and can only work for WWE approved companies. A mainstay of the BritWres scene for the last 17 years, GONE. Nobody is denying all these talents fully deserve the stability of a WWE contract and have certainly earned their right to ply their trade at Vinnie Mac’s global juggernaut. The question is how long before WWE pluck the likes of Travis Banks, Jordan Devlin, Flash Morgan Webster, Eddie Dennis and the like away from the scene? I guess only time will tell.

RevPro will have a massive rebuilding job to do. The creation of NXT UK hit them the most last year with them not being in bed with the ‘E. Their roster decimated, they rely heavily on New Japan imports. Not a bad thing, as they have some of the greatest talent in the world, but it can become slightly tiresome seeing the imports constantly going over the local guys in your promotion. With ZSJ recapturing the RevPro British Heavyweight Championship, this is hopefully a sign of things to come from them in 2019 by pushing home grown guys.

Despite the perceived big bad wolf of the WWE proverbially trying to blow the BritWres house down, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a lot of independent companies in England doing great things, and I’m excited to see where the following few go:

RIPTIDE – The Brighton based company have easily the most aesthetically pleasing products out there. Shot and edited beautifully, and with no shortage of great talent. Their current champion, Chuck Mambo had a break out 2018 in numerous promotions, and was rewarded with the Brighton championship. With the likes of Spike Trivet, Damon Moses and Chris Ridgeway (Money vs Everyone) sure to be a thorn in his side it’ll be interesting to see the going ons down on the south coast

NORTH – One of the best shows I went to last year was NORTH’s Nobody Pray For Me. The video nasty, the last true sick boy Rory Coyle is their champion and there’s a great selection of characters working regularly there such as the Anti Fun Police, Spike Trivet, Nathan Cruz, HT Drake, The Primate Jason Prime, Lil Miss Roxxy, Shax, TK Cooper and many, many more. NORTH feels like PROGRESS did in its early, formative years. Edgy, raw, DIY, good storylines, good wrestling and a cracking atmosphere. I expect them to go from strength to strength this year

TIDAL – A favourite of the northern undergraps scene, TIDAL have really blossomed since finally finding a permanent home at the Temple of Boom last year. The charismatic Sugar Dunkerton currently holds the TIDAL crown, with the likes of Rampage Brown, Chuck Mambo, TK Cooper, Brady Phillips and Soner Dursun all looking to take the leader of the bands title, TIDAL is in for another cracking year. Another place with a cracking atmosphere and vegan curry at half time if you’re so inclined.

With new promotions such as Wrestle Gate Pro in Nottingham debuting on January 26th and Breed Pro Wrestling starting on February 10th it’s safe to say BritWres ain’t dead yet. Some may argue its over saturation of the scene, as someone who lives 20 minutes from Sheffield and 45 minutes from Nottingham I welcome 2 more local promotions with open arms.

Further afield, across the pond its impossible to ignore the genesis of All Elite Wrestling. Formed by Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Adam Page AEW is already causing quite the stir. Be it speculation on where their Double or Nothing PPV will take place, wether disenfranchised WWE talent such as Zack Ryder, Ty Dillinger, Dolph Ziggler or Tyler Breeze will make the jump, will JR be part of the commentary team, are Chris Jericho & Goldberg adding some star power, if they’re replacing RAW on the USA Network and the odds on their BFF and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega will join his Elite brethren or take a big money offer from Stamford, make his WWE debut at the Royal Rumble ala former Bullet Club alumni AJ Styles. All of these things remain to be seen, but one thing is for sure, with the backing of Jacksonville Jaguar’s owner Tony Khan they’ll certainly be no fly by night promotion. They may not be able to compete financially with WWE but if ran correctly by people that KNOW the wrestling business, they’ll certainly make an impact on the scene in 2019.

The Elite may not be everyone’s graps, but there is no denying their popularity in the wrestling bubble. You can’t go to an event in the UK without seeing at least a handful of fans in a Bullet Club shirts. You only have watch NXT and there’s a sea of their shirts at Full Sail. Their YouTube channel, Being The Elite has over 265,000 subscribers. Like them or not, they’re a big deal. Personally I’m not too fussed about All Elite Wrestling. There’s too much stuff for me to watch as it is: Fight Club Pro, ATTACK! PROGRESS, TIDAL, NORTH, RIPTIDE, Breed Pro Wrestling, Wrestle Gate Pro, I’ll be at this years wXw 16 Carat. I simply don’t have enough time in the day to watch another promotion. Especially a promotion I won’t get to see live in person, the best way to watch wrestling. I will, however, wish them all the luck in the world and genuinely hope it’s a success for them. They’re all clearly passionate about the business and have wrestling in their DNA. It’s another place for folks to work and earn a living so more power to them. It’s also another alternative to WWE, who’s main roster shows were laughably bad, especially towards the end of 2018.

If you’ve read this far you’re a braver man than me. 2019 will be a fascinating year of wrestling.

Will the British bubble finally burst? Will PROGRESS & ICW make the anticipated move to the WWE Network?
Will both still be in businesses by the end of 2019?
Who will take the main event spots left by the departing NXT UK lads?
How long will NXT UK last?
Will RevPro stop letting NJPW dictate their booking?
Will WOS be back for a second series?
Will PROGRESS ever get some decent bloody entrance music?

So many questions. Lots of twists and turns to come. Strap yourselves in. I have a feeling independent wrestling is going to be one wild ride in 2019!

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