The rise and demise of British wrestling on TV

Greeting grappling fans…

Those were the words introducing millions of wrestling fans at 4 o’clock every Saturday afternoon on itvs (the uk’s 2nd biggest channel) world of sport. Streets would be empty roads clear and shops closed through lack of people on the hunt for a bargain, all because of the wrestling.

Stars like big daddy, Giant haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki  would bring in the viewers in their millions on a weekly basis. In 1963 the wrestling out drew the fa cup final with 16 million viewers beating that year’s FA cup final (the biggest domestic football match of the calendar year) which had 12 million on the same channel. Basically it was popular very popular.

But that was then, now the thought of a British wrestling show pulling in millions of viewers on a weekly basis and reaching the mainstream success the world of sport show did seems unfathomable No matter how hot the British wrestling scene is in 2018. In 1988 Greg Dyke the head of programming on Itv declared British wrestling and its fans (working class) were not fashionable enough for advertisers And swung the axe on the show after a successful 33 years

Gone but not forgotten

Wrestling in the UK hit a low. The first couple of years after it lost mainstream TV saw live attendance go up as people still wanted to see the stars of that era and now couldn’t catch them on TV. But in time that phased out as new stars were not being created as there was no television as a vehicle of promotion anymore. Live attendance took a nosedive.

When i first started watching wrestling in the early 90s the only thing available was from America WCW had a slot on itv in the early hours on a Saturday and of course the WWF which after a brief spell on itv had partnered up with sky sports and is still there to this day. As i became obsessed with what was happening in the states i cannot count the times i was told by my grandparents and other adults in my life  that the American stuff was nothing like how it was in my day when wrestling was good. I didn’t pay much attention but it must of been hard being a fan of the world of sport days and seeing the only thing available now was what the Americans was giving them, “that isn’t proper wrestling look at them all flying about” as my Granddad use to say.

Small resurgence and false hope

When the attitude era kicked in and the WWF had their late 90s boom period wrestling in this country started to pick up again first it was with wwf tribute shows where you could go to seaside resorts and see the “UK Undertaker and “Big Red Machine. While that was happening small independent wrestling groups emerged with young fresh talent inspired by the American wrestling they grew up with started coming through. Stars like PAC (Adrian Neville) and Drew Galloway found success and experience and with these groups the FWA probably the most famous at the time also found TV as well with the birth of the wrestling channel a short lived tv station on cable television it was the first international channel of the Fight network in Canada. It was in this era that fans whispered and hoped for a more stable TV show we could watch like the UK fans before us did.

It never happened though and as the talent got better and more work with Indy groups popping up all over the country there was never one stable or strong enough promotion to get their act together enough to stay financially viable let alone secure a TV deal.

The Hotbed of Wrestling still no TV though

21st may 2017 at the Allstate arena in Chicago Pete Dunne challenged Tyler Bate for the WWE UK championship in a amazing match that was given ****¾ from famed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer. The notable thing for me in this match was the multiple UK chants this match got from the lively Chicago crowd.

In the last couple of years independent wrestling in the UK has gone from bringing in old wwe stars and losing money because of the costs of the imports to a thriving scene looked at by the rest of the world. Promotions like Progress and revolution pro are leading the charge and are putting on matches that are gaining critical acclaim. Even the imports that are coming over now are current young stars themselves and with the age of the internet making the world and likewise the wrestling world a smaller place. everything wrestling wise is coming up roses. The only exception to this is still no mainstream tv to push this UK wrestling resurgence over the edge.

Dec 31st 2016 World of sport returned to ITV in a one of special and was watched by 1.5 million viewers. Now that’s not the greatest rating in the world but it was up against competition from a big football match in the same timeslot that did great numbers. Still it was good enough for itv to announce a 10 week run of television uk fans hopes were high that it would be a successful run and end up becoming a full time thing. Itv partnered up with Impact wrestling and was set to record the tapings in May for a July launch. Unfortunately these hopes were quickly dashed when it was announced that due to prolonged contract negotiations the taping had been postponed indefinitely.

Hopes for the future

As i said the UK is thriving right now for quality wrestling and NXT takeover Chicago proved that. But it could be so much more than just a developmental country for the WWE if the ITV show had taken off this year i doubt it would of had the critical acclaim progress gets on a monthly basis but it would have put new eyes on the scene gained more mainstream attention and definitely made new fans for the UK indie scene who would look for alternatives to the world of sport product like our American counterparts did in finding companies like ROH and PWG.

The UK scene is great right now but just imagine how much greater it would be if fans had a day locked in their viewing schedule for the most watched wrestling promotion in the country which whoever takes that ITV spot if anyone does it instantly would be. So with the tapings complete for a 10 week run for itv now complete and a scheduled July release date the time is now for the British wrestling scene to get back what it lost all those

years ago. There’s hope grappling fans there’s hope.

@aaron6785

‘The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.’ @greena92

These are not just words to describe any professional Wrestling career but of a performer whose legacy is forever etched in history. An individual whose career spanned over 20 years accumulated multiple championships reigns, from Stu Harts Infamous Stampede Wrestling and Universal Wrestling Promotion’s. His mostly recognisable with various championship run’s in the now defunct World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment. Since retirement his celebrated career is getting recognised as a double inductee in the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame as an individual as well as the rest of his family. If being immortalised in his home country wasn’t enough, he has had inductions into the Prairie Wrestling Alliance, Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, Cauliflower Alley Club Iron Mike Award and in the class of 2006 WWE Hall of Fame. The man we are talking about is the excellence of execution Bret The Hitman Hart.

 

Now one of the fastest growing UK Wrestling Events Promotions Kayfabe Events will be bringing the iconic wrestler for an unmissable 4 day tour this June. The 2018 Bret The Hitman Hart tour will firstly embark in Brighton on the 5thof June then followed up in Cardiff on the 6th.  Then joining us in the same venue he fought Bret in the early 1980’s on the 7th in Oldham, will be Legendary World of Sport Wrestler UK No.1 Marty Jones. Then finally accumulating at Bush Hall in the nation’s capital on the 8thJune. If all that wasn’t enough the tour will be hosted by the distinguished British wrestling manager, announcer and host of the hit Podcast Because WCW, Dean Ayass. Plus, not forgetting the tours official compere former head teacher turned professional wrestler the pride of Wales, Eddie Dennis.

 

Right now, you may be thinking who is Bret Sergeant Hart, what do I ask a man with an impressive career spanning over 20 years? We have you covered so carry on reading, while we look at some notable times in Bret’s personal and professional life.

 

Bret is the 8thof 12 children for respected wrestler, Booker Stu Hart and his spouse Helen. He was firstly introduced to wrestling by observing his father train future Hall of Famers in the esteemed Hart Dungeon.  A few notable names to come through the Dungeon include Superstar Billy Graham, Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and Jushin Thunder liger. Bret’s early start in wrestling came by handing out flyers before school, selling programmes and pulling out lucky numbers for his Dad’s Promotion Stampede Wrestling. Then at the tender age of nine, he began training as an amateur wrestler stating, ‘he started because that what his dad would have expected him to do’. With some major wins, his passion and desire for amateur wrestling dwindled as he was being pushed to compete in the commonwealth games. Then while studying film his grades began to fall, so he made the decision to drop amateur wrestling and begin training for a professional wrestling career at Stampede Wrestling.

 

In 1976, Hart started work in Stampede Wrestling initially as a referee. Hart would continue in Stampede as referee until an event 1978 in Saskatoon where Stu Hart had no other option but to use Bret has a replacement for a competitor unable to compete. Over the next several years, Bret spent time in Stampede acquiring some of the promotions top prizes including as a Tag Team Competitor with his brother Keith. While not competing in Calgary, Hart would be seen owning his craft in places like Britain with world of sport icon UK No.1 Marty Jones and with a performer with many numbers, Tiger Mask in NJPW. After an acquisition off several Stampede Performers in August 1984, Bret would get his call up to the World Wrestling Federation.

 

Bret’s first seven years in The WWF would be as a tag team wrestler, teaming with his brother in-law Jim The Anvil Neidhart as ‘The Pink and Black Attack’ The Hart Foundation. During this time the duo would reach the pinnacle of the tag team division winning the top prize of the WWF Tag Team Championship twice. Then at Wrestlemania 7, the team would receive a lost to the Nasty Boys, avertedly the duo would split up soon after. From here, Hart went on a singles path gaining some major success. The 1992 Summerslam event is the match which Bret declares as his favourite match of his storied career. This match came against the British Bulldog in the Bulldogs home country of England for Hart’s Intercontinental Championship. Hart lost his championship that evening but the contest still got voted Match of the Year from readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

 

 

Bret would then go on to win the WWF World Heavyweight championship, the King of the Ring and the Royal Rumble match. Bret would have notable feuds with the likes of Jerry the King Lawlor, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. This leading to the most controversial moment in sports entertainment the Montreal Screwjob. This has been highly discussed over the years with many questions fans still ask to this day, ‘Was this a Storyline?’

This event would lead Hart switching sides to WCW with a new $2.5 Million per year Lucrative contract giving him a lighter schedule and creative control on screen. Before Hart’s retirement in October 2000, he would achieve the honour of being 1 of 5 competitor’s to be a triple crown winner.

 

While competing in WCW, his brother Owen Hart was still in the WWF and as the Blue Blazer was scheduled against the Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship at the 1999 over the edge pay per view. While entering the arena his character would perform a pre-match stunt where he would get lowered to the ground from the rafters, but this time Owen tragically fell to his death. Bret would later on to go and say, ‘He wished he was with the WWF the night of Owen’s accident happened, as he would have discouraged Owen from preforming the stunt.’ As it stands Owen is not likely to be in the WWE hall of fame with rumour stating Martha’s, Owens Wife, is currently stopping this. Other performers have expressed their desire for this to take place including Mark Henry, in his 2018 Hall of fame speech he pleaded with Martha to allow WWE to induct Owen.

 

Since his departure from WCW, Hart has made sporadic appearances as the commissioner of World Wrestling All Stars and returns to The WWE 2005 onwards. Since retirement, Bret has not been in the greatest of health after suffering a stroke in 2002, numerous surgery’s due to years of abuse on his body through wrestling and a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2016, but since has been diagnosed cancer free.

 

We have only scratched the surface with this article on the excellence of execution Bret The Hitman Hart. There is so much more we could discuss like Notable Owen Ribs, the rivalry with Ric Flair, what was it like growing up being Stu Hart’s son and more in-depth the feud with Jerry Lawlor. Only way now to get your questions for ‘the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be’  is to be part of the 2018 Bret The Hitman Hart UK Tour, by getting your tickets now at http://kayfabeevents.com

Jimmy Havoc – by @greena92

“I hope you suffer I want you.”

These are not just words in ‘The King of Goth’s’,  Jimmy Havoc’s, entrance music.  These are, in fact, what his opponents have to endure each and every time he steps foot into the squared circle.

A man who defies ‘hardcore’ wrestling, made history by becoming the first ever British-born wrestler to enter the Combat Zone Wrestling Tournament of Death, which he won in 2017.  This is not the only accolade to his name – he has won multiple championship’s, like:  the Anarchy Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Championship (current holder!), Champion of Wrestling Championship and Defiant Hardcore Championship.   Putting aside his current accomplishments, he is a former Defiant Wrestling Tag Team champion, Dragon Pro Wrestling All Wales Champion, Future Pro Wrestling Champion, IPWUK All England and World Champion. With only 15 years to his name in the business, it doesn’t stop there. He has won the Lucha Britannia Wold Championship, NWA UK United Kingdom Junior Heavyweight Championship, Progress Championship, Progress Tag Team Championship, Southside Tag Team Championship, Southside Speed King Championship, TXW Smash Championship and the X Wrestling Goldrush 2015. As if that wasn’t enough, he had the honour of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Current WWE World Champion AJ Styles and Ring of Honour Champion Dalton Castle in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 wrestlers in the World in 2017.

Now Kayfabe Events brings to you two nights of over 18’s Q&As, Meet and Greets with arguably the world’s best Death Match Wrestler alive today, but that is not all. For the fans in attendance during the first night on the 25th May in Brighton they will also be graced by a DJ set from the man himself with an extended closing time to one in the morning. Then leading into the second night in Manchester on 26th May where there’s going to be a night of surprises waiting fans, but what could they be? Only way to find out is to be there on the night by getting your tickets at www.kayfabeevents.com.

You have your tickets, but you may be thinking what do I ask Jimmy ‘F’n’ Havoc? There’s the beginning of his career at NWA Hammerlock where he trained under Jon Ryan and Andre Baker. Are there any stories coming up with fellow Trainees at NWA, those notably being Fergal Devitt known today as Finn Balor in WWE and 2018 New Japan cup winner Zack Sabre Junior? Some of you may be thinking why not mat based, submission or high-flying wrestling, why did Havoc choose the path of a hardcore ‘Deathmatch’ Wrestler? Considering Havocs 15 years in the business and having matches with the likes of The Monster Abyss, Current IWGP junior Heavyweight champion Will Osprey, WWE Alumni Carlito and Zack Sabre Junior, what has been his most memorable match and opponent so far? The question many fans have asked, could the Jimmy Havoc character fit into WWE current PG era?

May 24 2018

IMPACT in UK graphicFor Immediate Release – May 24, 2018

‘IMPACT Wrestling vs the UK’ crossover show announced – as IMPACT returns to Britain for first time in three years

 

  • IMPACT Wrestling President issues challenge to UK promotions
  • Live event will take place on Sunday September 9 in Manchester
  • Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday) from ringsideworld.co.uk

 

TORONTO | LONDON – IMPACT Wrestling will return to the UK for the first time in almost three years – putting on a special event in Manchester that will see global superstars from the North American wrestling group take on the best of the British independent wrestling scene.

IMPACT – which airs in more than 100 countries worldwide – today issued a blockbuster open challenge to any UK wrestling promotion to face them in an inter-promotional series at the event, which will take place at Wrestling MediaCon 2018 on Sunday September 9.

Tickets for ‘IMPACT Wrestling vs the UK’ live at Wrestling MediaCon 2018 will go on sale at tomorrow (Friday May 25) at 10am UK time from Ringside World at www.ringsideworld.co.uk.

Ed Nordholm, the President of IMPACT Wrestling, laid down the challenge. He said: “Since we last came to the UK almost three years ago, we have seen how much the UK wrestling scene has evolved.

“We are excited to return to the UK to demonstrate that IMPACT Wrestling has the best talent anywhere in the world, so we’re issuing an open challenge to any UK promotion to bring their best wrestlers to face the very best from IMPACT Wrestling on September 9 in Manchester.”
The organisers of Wrestling MediaCon 2018 said they are excited by the prospect of IMPACT Wrestling taking on a UK promotion.
“There are many fantastic UK promotions out there and we are expecting a lot of interest in this challenge from IMPACT Wrestling,” said a Wrestling MediaCon spokesman.

“We are committed to finding the best possible competition for the stars of IMPACT Wrestling in order to showcase the UK wrestling scene in the best possible light.”
Any UK promotions interested in accepting IMPACT Wrestling’s challenge are invited to contact Wrestling MediaCon at info@wrestlingmediacon.com.
For more information, visit www.wrestlingmediacon.comand www.impactwrestling.com.


For More Information Contact:
Greg Lambert

Wrestling MediaCon

greg@wrestletalk.com
+44 7770 991 284

Ariel Shnerer

Senior Director, Programming & Communication

Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corp.

ashnerer@anthemse.com

Simon Rothstein

European PR Office

IMPACT Wrestling

simon@srxconsultancy.com
+44 7740 647 764