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Professional Wrestling’s Grip on the UK

Author: pmcindoe  |  Category: Recreation & Sports
Published: July 28, 2008

Professional wrestling has always largely been seen as a quintessentially American form of entertainment, with the over the top characters and storylines prevalent in the “sport” resulting in it being regarded as nothing more than a low brow soap opera by many. However, few people realise that it was the money made in foreign countries, specifically the UK, that kept World Wrestling Entertainment – now the largest wrestling company in the world – afloat during some trying times.

Pro wrestling was big business throughout the United States as far back as the early ’70s. However, after the mainstream success of the “Wrestlemania” franchise created by Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), in the ’80s, interest in what became known as “Sports Entertainment” began to wane, mostly due to allegations of steroid distribution and abuse levelled at the WWE by the US federal government. During the proceeding court case, the WWE was forced to look further afield to make their money, with the first port of call being the UK.

Since the advent of satellite television in the mid ’80s, more and more members of the British public were exposed to World Wrestling Entertainment programming. Offering glitz, glamour and showmanship that home-grown UK wrestling promotions couldn’t contend with, the WWE quickly became a phenomenon. Realising that there was a fortune just waiting to be made in Britain, Vince McMahon announced the first ever WWE show to take place in the UK, which occurred at the London Arena in 1989. Tickets for the event sold out rapidly on the first day of sale, which was to be the case for WWE events in the UK for years to come.

With the first show being an overwhelming success, the WWE began to visit the UK on a bi-annual basis, capitalising on the immense popularity of the British Bulldog and Bret Hart, two wrestlers within the company that had strong ties to the UK. This popularity reached its peak in the summer of 1992, when WWE announced that one of its premier pay-per-view events, “Summerslam”, was to be held at Wembley Stadium in London, the first and only time a ‘premier’ WWE pay-per-view spectacular has been held outside of the US. Critics scoffed at the idea of a wrestling show being able to fill the expansive Wembley Stadium; however, with the British Bulldog and Bret Hart at the top of the card, every ticket was sold in ten hours, resulting in a capacity crowd of 80,355 attending the event, making it the second biggest WWE live attendance ever, after the 93,133 that witnessed “Wrestlemania 3″.

After the unprecedented success of “Summerslam”, the WWE began hosting pay per views regularly in the UK, albeit broadcast only for the British audience and not internationally. While that practice was stopped in 2003, the company still tours the UK twice a year, with London also being the chosen city for several live broadcasts of the WWE’s flagship TV show, “Raw”. Smaller wrestling organisations, namely TNA, have also followed in WWE’s footsteps by venturing out to the UK, with the organisation recently completing their first tour of the country.

With London’s Wembley and O2 arena’s set to host several WWE and TNA events in the coming months, hotels in London are sure to be packed with rabid wrestling fans, intent on capturing this unique form of entertainment live.

Paul McIndoe writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.

Author: pmcindoe

Paul McIndoe writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.

This author has published 174 articles so far.

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