Monday 10 September 2012

Rule Britannia By Simon Begley

Off the heels of an eventful summer which saw London take center stage and become the ultimate tourist destination, whether it was the Queen’s diamond jubilee weekend in June or the Olympic and Paralympic games I think it’s safe to say that the nation is left with a little more pride and optimism when it comes to how we feel about our country.

After years of witnessing the England’s football team crash out of the World Cup and European Championships at the Quarter final stage and looking on as British attempts at film and drama are often left feeling a little underwhelming in terms of budget and production in comparison to US counterparts it has been refreshing to be considered somewhat of a leading nation after Team GB’s Olympic success and the overall presentation of the 2012 games.

Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony highlighted a rich history of TV, film etc with an impressive soundtrack of the UK’s leading musical exports to boot. However, it is of no real surprise to anybody that the form of entertainment that many of hold dear (yes ladies and gentleman I’m talking about wrestling) was not documented amongst the video montages.

British wrestling hasn’t had nationwide exposure in so long that it would be easy to believe that the form of entertainment that was such a prominent fixture in family homes up until it was taken off the airwaves in 1988 is indeed a distant memory. Even as a long time fan of WWE, WCW and TNA I was not aware of anything resembling a British wrestling scene outside of the pantomime antics of All-star, which despite boasting a roster of talented competitors; did not feel like a product aimed at the older fan when attending a show.

That was until the Autumn of last year. I attended a show by Britannia Wrestling Promotions. The company more commonly referred to as ‘BWP’ hosted a show in Prestatyn, North Wales (the company’s primary base) . I had heard of the company through a friend but upon hearing that former ‘Ring of Honor Television Champion’ El Generico would be appearing on the show I bit the bullet and gave the show a try. The show offered a tournament to crown a ‘Money in the Bank winner’ under the same premise as the WWE counterpart. The standout of the tournament was ‘The Juice’ CJ Banks and he ultimately went on to win the tournament and the BWP Catchweight Championship at the same show. The main event of the evening saw El Generico (the original reason I was at the show) have a brilliant bout with The Babyface Pitbull and win the company’s title before the CJ Banks ‘MITB’ cash in.

El Generico may have drawn me to the show originally but the lasting memory of the show had to be CJ Banks who had an outstanding evening and outdone the expectations of my friends and I at the show. And thus began my introduction to a rising group of wrestlers on the British scene. A crop of talent not looking for a quick payday on the weekend outside of their day job necessarily based on a physique that prompted them to think “Hmmm, I reckon I could give that wrestling lark a go” necessarily.

There are in fact wrestlers up and down the country who are producing a package of look, promo ability and wrestling skills which could lead them into good stead at getting a shot at the mainstream wrestling scene, the televised wrestling giants WWE and TNA. Last month I attended the Preston City Wrestling one year anniversary show ‘One but not forgotten’ which despite being considered “less epic” in ring wise than PCW’s previous shows by promoter Steven Fludder; the show hooked me and it was fantastic to see the collection of talent I had come across through the internet and the standout talent which have competed in my local area at Britannia Wrestling shows such as CJ Banks, Bubblegum, Kris Travis and Dave Rayne. The fact I came to the show along with a group of mates prepared to travel to see a show comprised of determined individuals looking to make an impact which is much more satisfying than a paint by numbers WWE house show lacking any originality or pizzazz was a revelation.

This post may not be a revelation to a fan of the current British wrestling scene but to a wrestling fan who may be a little unsure whether a local show may be to their taste, let me assure you...there are some guys out there right now who can deliver! Sure, there are a lot of wrestlers I wouldn’t call anything more than competent and some shows may be a little weak outside of the better workers but I have never felt ripped off during my experiences at shows as I believe it to be refreshing to see a good bout so close to home without the hefty price tag of an arena show.

British wrestling may not be on the cusp of making a return to the forefront of British consciousness but with events at affordable prices for the whole family, with the right competitors to entertain the die-hard fans and the big personalities to entertain the whole crowd I certainly believe that the scene has every capability to grow.

The Channel 4 documentary ‘The Wrestlers - Fighting with my family’ documented the rise of Britanni Knight and her journey into the WWE as well as showing the lifestyle of the rest of the Knight clan in the wrestling business may have hailed WWE as the holy land of professional wrestling but the family’s own promotion the ‘World of Association of Wrestling’ was given valuable time to show the viewer that a show to their liking may be just round the corner opposed to an eight hour flight away to the States.

It may take a major cash investment, an ambitious promoter and a television deal to bring our shores unique brand of wrestling to a ready and waiting audience. Or perhaps; the UK may have found its place as a launching ground for talent looking to make an impact in the States whilst delivering enjoyable shows to a small yet sometimes dedicated fan base. Regardless; I’m happy to have found an alternative to a stagnant WWE television product and let’s put this blog down to the infectious optimism of what Team GB achieved this summer and what could be.

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