Now that the dust has settled from the hugely successful NXT: UK Takeover last month I thought that now would be a good time to look at the talking points that always seem to flare up when NXT: UK is in the spotlight. Now we can all see that NXT: UK itself has been very successful so far, with their first Takeover event receiving vast praise from all over the wrestling world, and their shows over the UK being packed – however the side of NXT: UK that becomes quite controversial is whether or not it is a positive addition for British Wrestling as a whole. Over the past decade British Wrestling has really began to grow into what it is now, where ICW and Progress are running shows in arenas while other promotions in the country are selling out shows on the regular. This itself shows that there was a huge rise in the popularity of British Wrestling and that for the first time in a long time people were getting invested. Now with this being the case you could argue that we never really needed WWE to come along and “help” the scene as they have, however I would argue that what WWE has done over the past 2 years has been a huge help to the British scene in more ways than one.
One of the main positives to come from NXT: UK has to be that with a weekly British Wrestling show airing on the WWE Network, the amount of fresh eyes on the product has grown massively over the past few months. The clear example of this would be British Strong Style, while they were huge names amongst fans of British Wrestling prior to any WWE involvement, since showing up on the first ever WWE UK Championship Tournament their stock has grown tenfold. Now almost household names amongst wrestling fans all over the world you can really see the trajectory that comes from WWE involvement. Looking at the NXT: UK roster now, you can really see the stock of the superstars rising and rising. The other members of the ‘Original 5’ NXT: UK group; Mark Andrews and Wolfgang – have both seen themselves elevated right to the top of British wrestling.
One thing you’ll notice up and down the country ever since WWE have been a bit more strict on where and when contracted wrestlers can perform, is that a lot of spaces have opened up for even more homegrown talent to develop into top names, as promotions out-with the WWE umbrella no longer rely on those involved in NXT: UK. Names like Chris Brookes, Drew Parker, Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher are just a few that have taken this opportunity and ran with it. Looking at them now, you really wouldn’t be surprised if they would show up on NXT: UK in the near future if they chose to. It has to be said that there has been a lot of criticism of this over the past couple of years, with WWE pulling contracted talent off of shows however this is to be expected and as stated previously, it opens up an opportunity for someone else to take that spotlight and make the most of it.
The biggest and most important side to WWE starting a brand in the UK is that now we have many names able to say that they are full-time professional wrestlers – this is something that has been a huge factor in the improvement of the UK wrestling scene as a whole. There are now a group of wrestlers who are able to focus specifically on wrestling and developing themselves into the best that they can be. Now, you can argue that WOS stars and a select few independent wrestlers are also full-time and I agree that this is amazing and by no means are WWE the be all and end all of the improvement of British wrestling, the seeds were planted long before they ever got involved; however the fact that there is now a state of the art “Performance Centre” based in the UK which will help nurture and develop not only the top names in the UK but also the up-and-comers, is something that we can not ignore. WWE clearly have a long-term plan for NXT: UK and so far it has been very positive.
The introduction of NXT: UK following on from ITV’s Weekly WOS Wrestling show has really ignited a friendly competition in the UK, something that was severely lacking before. While we did have slight ‘rivalries’ between fanbases over who’s local promotion was better, we never got two companies completely exclusive from each other with completely different rosters and production battling for supremacy at the top table of British wrestling. While there is the obvious grumblings that WOS isn’t up to the standard of what most fans expect from a wrestling show – it is a huge platform for the wrestlers who appear for them and this is why it still stands are direct competition for NXT: UK, as the level of exposure is very high on both sides. This itself is very healthy for the UK wrestling scene as you can see from the number of fans at recent WOS tour shows and NXT: UK Tapings. Not only will this benefit each product, this is bound to have impacted the attendances all over the country, especially at smaller family friendly shows where it is harder to pull in a regular fan base each month.
Now it has to be said that not everything is perfect when it comes to WWE setting up shop in the UK and there are sure to be a few bumps in the road ahead, however as I see it at the moment, NXT: UK has been good for British wrestling and long may it continue to be.
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