By Haydn Gleed
WWE conference call day is always interesting. What is the new WWE Network number? What positive spin can WWE put on business? What are the hot topics in the investors’ world during their opportunity to ask questions? However, during Thursday’s conference call, one thing grabbed my attention, the company once again suggesting they are throwing around ideas about what to do with their UK Championship and “expansion.”
Seven months ago in Blackpool, England, WWE introduced many of their fans to the UK wrestling scene. Although some were ho-hum about it, there was a buzz amongst a lot of people to a scene and style of wrestling that really appealed to them. Having sung the praises of the UK Independent scene over the last 18 months, I had a number of people reach out to me and tell me how great it was. Overall, WWE’s UK shows were seen as a success and definitely itched the curiosity of a new audience. At the time, we had the same spin of company officials claiming they were still deciding the best way to move forward.
Fast forward to May and with WWE coming to the UK for their post WrestleMania tour and recording a special in Norwich which sold out quickly, I was convinced that WWE would use the platform and opportunity of being in the UK to announce the next stage of their plan for the UK division and what they had started in January. Instead, nothing. The special was recorded and was again enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of fans and this was followed by the breathtaking match between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate at NXT Takeover: Chicago. Again, though, nothing except the usual we are deciding the best way to move forward lip service from WWE officials.
The question now is whether WWE got to the point where if they were to start a weekly show from the UK would it have the same impact as it would have had three or seven months ago? I would argue no. WWE fans are now eagerly anticipating the Mae Young Classic women’s tournament. With so much programming now available and on it’s way, would people be as fired up and give their full attention to a UK brand, especially if they weren’t UK based and would have to re-connect with a number of talent? I would wager that outside of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate, most casual WWE fans who watched the tournament would struggle to name the majority of the other talent involved in the original brackets or from the UK special in May.
WWE had the wrestling world talking about this fresh product from across the pond. They need to put whatever plan they have into action. Over here, the big companies have gone back into business as usual. No matter what happens, the UK independent scene has grown since the WWE’s involvement, which is great. The Progress promotion regularly sell out their events within an hour without even announcing a single match on the card. The ICW promotion pumps out a great product on a consistent basis. Even new companies are popping up all over the place, allowing the great UK talent to make more money. But there’s a distinct feeling that it’s starting to return to the status of the hidden gem again. It would be a shame if wrestling fans who are struggling to watch the main product at the moment don’t have the opportunity to regularly watch something a little different that might rekindle their passion.
The conference call this week has confirmed in my mind what I had started to feel since the European tour came and went in May with no confirmation of a direction. The UK independent scene is not slowing down as far as it’s popularity, but if WWE want to maximize the impact on capitalize on it, their window of opportunity is starting to narrow.
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