In the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer brings some good, and potentially bad news for UK wrestling fans.
The good is that ITV, who recently taped a pilot for a rebooted World of Sport are considering taping 10 weeks worth of shows in the New Year with a view to doing house shows if they are successful. As such, contract amendments have been sent out to talent barring them from working on TV but allowing them to work anywhere else, similar to TNA.
This continuation of World of Sport past a one-off special could be big. At the moment wrestling is nowhere to be seen on TV (unless you pay for Sky) and with the backing of ITV, the new World of Sport can reach a huge audience, get some mainstream excitement around wrestling again and give exposure to local talent. Both can help the Indy scene as a whole. It will be a tough because there is a fear (that I share) that ITV could easily treat the show as pure entertainment, think X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, making the wrestling look hokey and old fashioned. But if they’re smart they will let it to be run by those who are passionate about their wrestling rather than a producer who sees World of Sport as another way to get more light entertainment on our screens.
The potential bad news that comes out of World of Sport, is a new kind of contract that WWE have offered to talent in the UK who currently don’t have a deal. Apparently it has already been termed a “competition killer” contract. It would basically sign talent up to a low guarantee that would allow them to work indys but not anywhere that had TV (World of Sport), iPPV (WCPW) or streaming (practically every UK promotion), while also letting WWE veto any indy dates.
It’s an incredibly restrictive deal. If you’re a wrestler getting regular bookings, it makes no sense to sign because your dates would be at the mercy of WWE and depending on the size of the guarantee more money could be made working the indys building your reputation and clout. Those who I can see it appealing to is talent that are making end meets with other jobs. The guarantee would allow them to have some sort of financial security, and a sort of ‘in’ with WWE but at the cost of bookings and therefore chances to hone their craft and become better workers.
The contract could not only limit talent available to UK promotions, but also cause a rift in the locker room between wrestler’s who have signed the deal and those who haven’t. We need to be working together to nurture and grow wrestling in the UK. Thankfully the deal seems to have gotten a negative reaction and Meltzer quotes that the talk is, “They don’t want you, they just don’t want anyone else to have you.”
Hopefully these type of contracts don’t become prevalent as it could stunt the incredible growth of a wrestling scene that is in great shape compared to recent past. The fact that ITV is bringing back World of Sport brand after a 30 year absence is testament to that. As with much of 2016, British wrestling is going through some interesting times.
World of Sport is due to air on New Years Eve or New Year’s Day on ITV1.
Twitter – @JoshWoodcock