Over the last couple of weeks we have began to see what the WWE expanding into the UK really means. What had started off as an innocent 16-man tournament seemed so refreshing to the UK scene and more importantly to the talent involved. But just weeks after history was made and Tyler Bate’s hand was held aloft, things started getting a little ugly.
Wrestlers were pulled from shows, pushed into un-televised/streamed portions of cards which left promotions running around and making last minute adjustments just to try and save face with the paying fans. But then we all remembered that this is the WWE we are dealing with and they hold all the cards right? Are we really shocked at their behavior?
For the 16 men who got to compete across the two day tournament in Blackpool, England not only did they stand a chance to become the first ever WWE UK Champion but they also all signed up to a one year $20k contract. That contract requires any of their bookings outside of the WWE to be agreed by the promotion and as we have seen recently the WWE do not look favorably on those promotions that offer a live streaming of events.
What this contract was designed for was to give those wrestlers the opportunity to solely focus on their wrestling career. We all know that independent wrestling is a tough nut to crack and there is not a huge amount of money to be made on the scene regardless of where you are based across the globe. Most of these guys and girls are having to hold down a job during the day but with the guarantee of an income stream granted by these contracts will be more able to focus on just wrestling.
The contract also offers the wrestlers the opportunity to take bookings outside of the WWE, albeit as we are detailing will be restricted to various promotions. Also they can continue to push their own merchandise and it was rumored that just last week Pete Dunne made £5k on t-shirt sales alone, which is definitely a direct response from his involvement in the tournament. Oh and also did I forget to mention that they will be featuring on the biggest wrestling promotion in the world?
It is the independent promotions in the UK that have been hit the hardest but it would be almost naive of them to think that there would be no repercussions to their product when it included WWE contracted talent. If the indy promotions want to be able to protect certain names then they are simply going to have to come up with contracts of their own. The WWE are certainly not going to allow their talent to be used at the peril of independent promotions that are offering up a rival “Network” as we have seen over the last few weeks.
Ultimately the 16 men who signed up for these contracts all knew what they were getting into when they signed on the dotted line. What we must not forget is that whilst this is all new to us, it is also a new venture for the promotion. Whilst I am definitely not protecting them I do truthfully believe that the opportunities they offered these sixteen men were offered with the best intentions.
We may have seen some casualties picked up along the way and most probably will see more further down the line. But is independent wrestling in the UK going to fall to its knees? Hell no. Will they have to put some thought into how they nurture talent going forward? Probably more than they have done in the past.
Having been a wrestling fan for over 20 years this isn’t the first time I have seen the WWE stretch their muscles and it almost certainly won’t be the last. But the strength of wrestling in the UK, which is the main reason the WWE actually took on this opportunity will definitely stand the test of time!