Last week DEFIANT Wrestling, formerly WCPW, closed its doors after three years as an active wrestling promotion.
It hit the British wrestling community hard as DEFIANT was one of the most reliable promotions for great homegrown talent, with a sprinkling of big names. It gave exposure to the likes of Will Ospreay, Big Damo (now Killian Dain) and Martin Kirby, as well as showing off big names like Jay Lethal, Austin Aires and Drew Galloway (now McIntyre) on smaller stages. The company received instant backing, a sort of cult following, from day one due to its location in Newcastle and the growing popularity of the British wrestling industry as well as their ability to draw these big names to their shows.
The company started in 2016 as an extension to WhatCulture’s wrestling YouTube channel, which did create some controversy from wrestling fans, mainly for the company’s use of their staff. The announcement of their first show was made by Adam Pacitti on the YouTube channel, who would later become the on-screen general manager in a feud with another YouTube member, Adam Blampied. They were joined on screen by Jack the Jobber and Ross Tweddell. Both were managers for various talent as well as Ross being commentator alongside the ever-loveable Jim Cornette.
Fans started to warm to them as they became more woven into storylines, taking bumps and portraying good on-screen characters. The bumps were mainly taken by Jack at the hands of Will Ospreay, because why not? One of my favourite moments was when Will superkicked Jack after GM Martin Kirby told him he can’t do as he pleases. With their inclusion, it brought two different communities together as fans of YouTube and fans of wrestling came together and put an even larger eye on the promotion and industry as a whole.
The first shows were announced for June 15th and 16th 2016 at Warehouse 34 in Newcastle, with big names Rampage Brown, Noam Dar and the then ROH World Champion Jay Lethal, who defended the title on both shows. Those shows drew roughly 100 fans, which for an inaugural show, is a decent number. After these shows and a few others, they announced their first weekly show, Loaded, as well as their first championship, the WCPW Champion with the inaugural belt holder being Big Damo. During this time, Eric Bischoff joined as the on-screen General Manager, preceding Adam Pacitti.
After announcing the World Title, they announced the WCPW Women’s title, whilst having only two active women; Bea Priestley and Nixon Newell, the latter being the first champion. In September 2016, Adam Pacitti announced the WCPW Internet Championship, where all title defences would be broadcasted on YouTube for free, an incredible idea for giving back to their loyal fanbase which had grown leaps and bounds by this point. They also announced WhatCulture Extra, a subscription-based video streaming service. The fourth championship was announced in October, after Johnny Moss and Liam Slater beat the Coffey Brothers to win the WCPW Tag Team Championships.
2017 was the real peak of WCPW as they announced the WCPW Pro Wrestling World Cup, a tournament with 64 wrestlers broken down into their respective countries and only two wrestlers from each country advancing to the finals. The participating countries were USA, England, Mexico, Scotland, Canada, Germany, Japan and a Rest of the World team. This tournament brought immense exposure to the company as they brought in talent like Alberto El Patron, Rey Mysterio, Kyle O’Reilly and Jushin Thunder Liger to name a few. A collection of names like these, and bigger, along with smaller indie talent came together to make dream matches we never knew we wanted. My personal favourites were the round of 16 match between Will Ospreay and Rey Mysterio, as well as the final between Kushida and Will Ospreay where Kushida came out on top.
For such a small company to book former and future WWE superstars showed how up and coming this company was. These performers wanted to boost the stock of this company, put over lesser-known talent and put on shows the fans expected and deserved. They certainly made an imprint on the wrestling landscape with fans still talking about the 2017 World Cup two years on. I think the top rope breaking during Ricochet vs Will Ospreay might have something to do with that!
After the World Cup, the five YouTubers’ / on-screen characters – Jack the Jobber, Adam Pacitti, Adam Blampied, King Ross (Tweddell) and Sam Driver – all departed WhatCulture to create their own channel and brand, Cultaholic. Roughly at the same time, WCPW rebranded as DEFIANT Wrestling, with Stu Bennett (the former Wade Barrett) taking over as on-screen General Manager. The company continued to excel, changing their weekly show from Loaded to DEFIANT, as well as putting on regular PPV’s. With less focus on big names, they pushed talent that certain fans wouldn’t have heard of, such as Prince Ameen, Gabriel Kidd and their own Simon Miller, whilst still having big names like Austin Aries, who reigned as World Champion for six months.
The landscape of the British wrestling will never be the same following the promotion known as DEFIANT. They knew how to combine incredible wrestling with brilliant storylines, doing it in small and intimate venues for their loyal, diehard fans to attend. If you were to ask a British wrestling fan to name five UK based promotions, DEFIANT would be one of the first out their mouth, mixed in somewhere with ICW and Progress. The fact that you could have a conversation about Progress, ICW and DEFIANT in the same breath is staggering – the formers are both linked to WWE whilst the latter was a smaller company focusing on bringing shows to the Midlands and northern areas of England.
It will be sorely missed by all, including us here at TWM.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!