Editorial Columns

Is British Wrestling Really “Dead”?

With the closure of DEFIANT and rise of NXT UK, David Leggett looks at whether the world of British wrestling really is on the decline.

After Newcastle based wrestling promotion Defiant closed its doors recently, the phrase “BritWres is dead” was thrown around and became the talking point of British Wrestling.

To myself, and many other fans in the BritWres community however, this statement was a complete overreaction. Let me tell you why.

British Wrestling (known as BritWres to most people) has been going through a boom in the last 5 years and has grown to levels that haven’t been seen since wrestling was on Prime Time TV with World of Sport. That boom has seen new promotions popping up everywhere and has even seen the WWE reach into the market by launching their UK branch of developmental, NXT U.K.

NXT U.K. has had many different impacts on the market, one of those being to help to get new eyes on British Wrestlers and certain promotions like Progress Wrestling or Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW, based in Scotland). However, on the other end of the scale, it has meant that the stars of said boom have signed contracts with WWE (or other promotions with exclusive rights) and are no longer appearing on the British Independents.

Recently the boom seems to have plateaued. The stars that helped draw crowds to independent shows have signed WWE contracts (or NJPW contracts in Will Ospreay’s case) and the companies that relied on those performers are now either struggling to draw the same crowds (supposedly) have gone out of business. Those same companies are now in a transition phase as they are having to build their own stars who can draw, like the generation before them.

However, whilst the bigger companies have struggled (supposedly), some smaller promotions have followed models laid down by the likes of Futureshock Wrestling or New Generation Wrestling and have built their rosters from the next up and comers. Companies like Riptide Wrestling, Attack and North have focused on making stars from the future of BritWres. They are now the companies who are either still growing or are starting to sell out their shows due to having strong rosters that can cope with losing top stars to companies like NXT U.K.

We are at a stage where BritWres is producing more stars than it ever has before. Whilst the likes of Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and Will Ospreay have all moved on to pastures new, new stars like Chuck Mambo, Cara Noir, The OJMO/Michael Oku and Spike Trivet are all being made right here in the U.K.

The next era of stars is already showing that it’s in no danger of failing to succeed. In recent times non-contracted British Wrestlers have started appearing all over the world. Chris Brookes, Chris Ridgeway, Millie McKenzie, Charli Evans, Jamie Hayter, Bobbi Tyler, and Zoe Lucas have all completed tours of Japan and look set to return in the near future. Drew Parker is currently in Japan and looks to be staying for an extended period of time. Chuck Mambo and Shay Purser have been on tour in America. Chuck Mambo appeared on Impact Wrestling last week for crying out loud!

Closer to home Wrestlers like Joe Nelson, Connor Mills, and Candyfloss, who are all under 20 years old, have wrestled up and down the country almost every single weekend this year. The OJMO, who has only been wrestling for 2 years, has managed a breakout year and has had standout performances against worldwide names such as Shingo Takagi and PAC.

British Wrestling is currently known globally and is a market that companies from around the world want a piece of. WWE have opened NXT U.K., AEW have promised to run shows in the country, NJPW is running bigger shows, OWE are running shows in London and Liverpool in September and all of these shows will contain a strong basis of British Wrestlers.

Progress is running their Natural Progression Series tournament show in September, with almost the entire card dedicated to showcasing the next breakout stars, as nominated by former champions and stalwarts of the promotion. The competitors are The O.J.M.O, Cara Noir, Gene Munny, Danny Duggan, Malik, Veit Müller, Scotty Davis and Dan Moloney.

Therefore the phrase “BritWres Is Dead” is factually untrue. BritWres hasn’t died, the popularity and demand is still there and is just being felt in other areas currently. The phrase itself is damaging British Wrestling and will harm the companies producing the next generation of stars.

In conclusion, BritWres is only dead if you let it die. Support companies like Riptide Wrestling in Brighton, North in Newcastle, Attack across Cardiff, Bristol (as is CHAOS), Cheltenham and London, Futureshock Wrestling in Manchester,  Resurgence throughout Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough and so many others who are creating the next era of stars. Those big companies will begin to grow again when the new breed of stars are given a chance to shine and strong storylines to tell. If you can go to a local show, do it. Support the talent. Watch the VODs if you can, or just spread the word about your favourite promotion or wrestler.

British Wrestling is in safe hands.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ThisIsLeggett. Thanks for reading!

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