British wrestling
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Professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'matches', held by touring companies called Professional wrestling promotion, promotions, in ...
in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...

United Kingdom
spans over one hundred years but became popular when the then new independent television network
ITV ITV or iTV may refer to: ITV *Independent Television (ITV), a British television network, consisting of: **ITV (TV network), a free-to-air national commercial television network covering the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands ...
began showing it in 1955, firstly on Saturday afternoons and then also in a late-night midweek slot. It was at its peak of popularity when the
television Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome (black and white), or in color, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a te ...

television
show '' World of Sport'' was launched in the mid-1960s, making household names out of
Adrian Street Adrian Street (born 5 December 1940) is a retired Welsh professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically bet ...

Adrian Street
, Mick McManus, Count Bartelli,
Giant Haystacks Martin Austin Ruane (10 October 1946 – 29 November 1998) was an English professional wrestler. Best known by the ring name A ring name is a type of stage name A stage name is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actor ...

Giant Haystacks
, Jackie Pallo, Big Daddy, Steve Veidor,
Dynamite Kid Thomas Billington (5 December 1958 – 5 December 2018), best known by the ring name the Dynamite Kid, was a British professional wrestler. Trained by former wrestler "Dr Death" Ted Betley, he competed in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), ...
, and
Kendo Nagasaki Kendo Nagasaki is a professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically between performers with established cha ...
. The sport remained a mainstay of
British culture British culture is influenced by the combined nations' history; its historically Christian religious life A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to ...
until ''World of Sport's'' cancellation and then finally as a stand-alone programme until 1988. Despite the end of ITV coverage, a largely untelevised live circuit – with some promotions featuring the traditional British style of professional wrestling and others more fashioned after the contemporary American independent scene – survives and indeed thrives in this
territory A territory is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names ...
to the present day.


History


Beginning

For many centuries, there have been wresting tournaments (for example in
Cornish wrestling Cornish wrestling ( kw, Omdowl Kernewek) is a form of wrestling Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedown (grappling), takedowns, joint locks, Grappling hold#Pinning hold, ...
or Scottish Backhold) throughout the UK where individual prizes have been comparable to yearly salaries and where monarchs and lords have been in the audiences or indeed participated. : '' Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn'', William Bray, 1818 ''The Moderate Intelligencer'', May 1 1654 Morris, Charles: ''Historical Tales, the Romance of Reality'', JB Lippincott Company (Philadelphia) 1895, p212. Elizabeth Missing Sewell, Sewell, Elizabeth Missing: ''Popular History of France', Longmans Green and Co (London) 1876, p302.Jennings, LA: ''Mixed Martial Arts: A History from Ancient Fighting Sports', Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group 2021, p52-53. At the start of the 20th century, wrestling was introduced to the public as part of a variety act to spice up the limited action involved in the bodybuilder strongman attractions. One of its earliest stars was a Cornish people, Cornish–United States, American ex–miner named Jack Carkeek (world
Cornish wrestling Cornish wrestling ( kw, Omdowl Kernewek) is a form of wrestling Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedown (grappling), takedowns, joint locks, Grappling hold#Pinning hold, ...
champion in 1886 ''Wrestling Challenge - A wrestling challenge to whom it may concern'', West Briton, 30 November 1886. ''Wrestler Jack Carkeek'', The Sunday Leader, Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, 21 December 1890, p7. Corvion, Tom: ''Pioneers of Professional Wrestling: 1860–1899'', Archway Publishing (Bloomington) 2014, p37-38.), who would challenge audience members to last ten minutes with him in the ring. The development of wrestling within the UK brought legitimate Greco-Roman wrestling, Greco–Roman grappler Georg Hackenschmidt who was born in the Russian Empire to the country, where he would quickly associate himself with promoter and entrepreneur Charles B. Cochran. Cochran took Hackenschmidt under his wing and List of professional wrestling terms#B, booked him into a match in which Hackenschmidt defeated another top British wrestler, Tom Cannon (wrestler), Tom Cannon, for the European Greco-Roman Heavyweight Championship. This win gave Hackenschmidt a credible claim to the world title, cemented in 1905 with a win over American Heavyweight Championship, American Heavyweight Champion Tom Jenkins (wrestler), Tom Jenkins in the United States. Hackenschmidt took a series of bookings in Manchester for a then impressive £150 a week. Noting Hackenschmidt's Legit (professional wrestling), legitimately dominant style of wrestling threatened to kill crowd interest, Cochran persuaded Hackenschmidt to learn showmanship from Cannon and wrestle many of his matches for entertainment rather than sport; this displayed the future elements of "sports entertainment". Numerous big name stars came and went during the early inception of wrestling within the UK, with many, like Hackenschmidt, leaving for the US. The resulting loss of big name stars sent the business into decline before the outbreak of World War I in 1914 halted it completely.


All-in wrestling

While various styles of amateur wrestling continued as legitimate sports, grappling as a promotional business did not return to Britain until the beginning of the 1930s when the success of the more Work (professional wrestling), worked aspects of professional wrestling in America, like List of professional wrestling terms#G, gimmickry and showmanship, were introduced to British wrestling. It was with this revival that the more Submission wrestling, submission–based Catch wrestling, Catch As Catch Can wrestling style, which had already replaced Greco Roman wrestling as the dominant style of professional wrestling in the United States back in the 1890s, became the new dominant style in Britain. With Lancashire catch-as-catch-can already a major amateur sport particularly in Northern England, there existed a ready-made source of potential recruits to professional wrestling. Amateur wrestler, Atholl Oakley, Sir Atholl Oakley got together with fellow grappler Henry Irslinger to launch one of the first promotions to employ the new style of wrestling which was coined "All–in" wrestling. Though, like many wrestlers throughout the business, Oakley would claim his wrestling was entirely legitimate, his claim was highly dubious. Under the British Wrestling Association banner, Oakley's promotion took off with wrestlers such as Tommy Mann, Black Butcher Johnson, Jack Pye, Norman Ansell, Norman the Butcher, College Boy (wrestler), College Boy, and Jack Sherry on the roster, while Oakley himself would win a series of matches to be crowned the first British Heavyweight Championship, British Heavyweight Champion. The business was reaching one of its highest points at the time, with the best part of forty regular venues in London alone. The great demand for wrestling, however, meant there were not enough skilled amateurs to go around, and many promoters switched to more Hardcore wrestling, violent styles, with weapons and chairshots part of the proceedings. Women wrestlers and mud-filled rings also became common place. In the late 1930s, the London County Council banned professional wrestling, leaving the business in rough shape just before World War II.


Mountevans' committee

After the war, attempts to relaunch the business in 1947 failed to catch on with journalists who condemned the gimmickry calling the show fake. The revelation of this, and the general chaos which had surrounded All In Wrestling prior to the War, prompted Admiral Edward Evans, 1st Baron Mountevans, Lord Mountevans, a fan of the sport, to get together with A. B. Campbell, Commander Campbell (a member of the popular "The Brains Trust" radio panel show), member of parliament Maurice Webb (politician), Maurice Webb and Olympic Games, Olympic wrestler Norman Morell to create a committee to produce official rules for wrestling. These rules became known as Admiral-Lord Mountevans rules. The most notable action of the committee was to create seven formal weight divisions, calling for champions to be crowned at each weight. These weight divisions included British Lightweight Championship, lightweight (154 pound limit), British Welterweight Championship, welterweight (165), British Middleweight Championship, middleweight (176), British Heavy Middleweight Championship, heavy middleweight (187), British Light Heavyweight Championship, light heavyweight (198), British Mid–Heavyweight Championship, mid heavyweight (209), and British Heavyweight Championship, heavyweight. Many of these rules diverged heavily from those in used in American Wrestling – five-minute rounds (three minutes for title matches), two public warnings for rule breaking before a disqualification, "knockouts"(countouts) and disqualifications counting as automatic two falls in best of three falls matches (which were predominant), and no follow-up moves allowed on a grounded opponent. The existence of the committee was readily acknowledged by promoters who used its existence to counter any accusations of wrongdoings within the business. It was the promoters themselves, however, who revolutionized the business. During this time, under the guise of an alliance of promoters attempting to regulate the sport and uphold the committee's ideas, the promoters created a cartel based on America's National Wrestling Alliance territory system that was designed to carve up control of the business among a handful of promoters—which it did in 1952 under the name of Joint Promotions.


Joint Promotions

Joint Promotions was represented in London by the Dale Martin promotion, which had incorporated in 1948, and involved Les Martin, and Jack, Johnny and Billy Dale, whose real last names were, in fact, Abby not Dale. Other promoters included Norman Morell and Ted Beresford in Yorkshire, Billy Best in Liverpool, Arthur Wright in Manchester and George de Relywyskow in Scotland, with Arthur Green the secretary of the group. By agreeing to rotate talent and block out rival promoters, Joint Promotions was soon running 40 shows a week, while leaving wrestlers with little bargaining power. The financial advantages of this arrangement helped the members survive the tough conditions caused by a post-war tax that took 25% of all entertainment revenue. Other promoters were not so successful. The closure of Harringay Arena in 1954 was the last straw for Atholl Oakley, and Joint Promotions were the only major player left to benefit when Chancellor Peter Thorneycroft abolished the entertainment tax in the 1957 budget. One of Joint Promotions' first moves was establishing (and controlling) the championships called for by the Mountevans' committee. At first, this proved a profitable venture, with title matches leading to raised ticket prices. However, perhaps inevitably, attempts to extend this success by bringing in additional titles led to overexposure. While the World and British titles had some credibility (particularly as they were often placed on the more legitimate wrestlers), the addition of European, Empire/Commonwealth, Scottish, Welsh, and area championships got out of hand, and at one point there were conceivably 70 different titleholders to keep track of within Joint Promotions alone. Actually, the British, European and World titles were given most prominence. The "regional" titles were mainly honorific, with only the "southern Area" titles actually being fought for. The Empire/Commonwealth titles were a "long stop" title, being used by promotions outside of the Joint monopoly, for the most part.


Television

But while titles had some success, it was television that took British wrestling to the next level. The first show aired on ABC and ATV (the weekend franchise holders on
ITV ITV or iTV may refer to: ITV *Independent Television (ITV), a British television network, consisting of: **ITV (TV network), a free-to-air national commercial television network covering the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands ...
) on 9 November 1955, featuring Francis St Clair Gregory (9 times
Cornish wrestling Cornish wrestling ( kw, Omdowl Kernewek) is a form of wrestling Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedown (grappling), takedowns, joint locks, Grappling hold#Pinning hold, ...
heavyweight title holder Tripp, Michael: ''PERSISTENCE OF DIFFERENCE: A HISTORY OF CORNISH WRESTLING'', University of Exeter as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy 2009, p127-175. and father of Tony St. Clair, Tony St Clair) versus Mike Marino and Cliff Beaumont versus Bert Royal live from West Ham baths. The show was successful, and wrestling became a featured attraction every Saturday afternoon from Autumn to Spring each year. In 1964, it went full-time as part of the '' World of Sport'' show. Televised wrestling allowed wrestlers to become household names and allowing personality to get a wrestler List of professional wrestling terms#O, over just as much as size. The exposure of wrestling on television proved the ultimate boost to the live event business as wrestling became part of mainstream culture. By the mid-1960s, Joint Promotions had doubled their live event schedule to somewhere in the region of 4,500 shows a year. Every town of note had a show at least once a month, and at some points more than 30 cities had a weekly date. The style of wrestling at the time was unique – not only in terms of the rule system, but also for the strong emphasis on clean technical wrestling. Heels made up a minority of the roster, with most shows containing an abnormally high proportion of clean sportsmanly matches between two "blue-eyes" (as face (professional wrestling), faces were known backstage in the UK). This would remain the case for several decades to come. Gimmick matches were a rarity, Midget wrestler, midget wrestling failed to catch on, while women were banned by the Greater London Council until the late 1970s. Tag team, Tag wrestling, however, did prove to be popular, with televised tag matches happening a mere eight or so times a year to keep them special. The success of wrestling on television did however create a better opportunity for the independent groups. The opposition to Joint came from the Australian–born promoter, Paul Lincoln. Having promoted shows in the 1950s with himself in the main event as masked heel Doctor Death, Lincoln led a consortium of independent promoters under the British Wrestling Federation (BWF) whose name was used for a rival championship, built around Heavyweight champion Bert Assirati who split away from Joint Promotions in 1958 while still champion. Although Joint Promotions considered the title vacant and held a tournament for a new champion (won by Billy Joyce), Assirati continued to claim it within the BWF. The group later built itself around a new champion in Shirley Crabtree, a young bodybuilder who won the title after it was vacated by Assirati while injured in 1960. The BWF faded away in the late 1960s after a campaign of pestilence by a disgruntled Assirati (vastly superior as a Catch wrestling, shooter to Crabtree) in the form of unsolicited appearances and challenges to his successor at BWF shows, eventually resulting in the abrupt retirement of Crabtree in 1966. Lincoln's own promotion was bought out and amalgamated into Joint Promotions at the end of the 1960s.


Max Crabtree and Big Daddy

By 1975, the stranglehold of Joint Promotions had almost crumbled, with many of its founding members retiring and the company being bought out several times, leading to the wrestling industry being run as a private subsidiary of state-run bookmakers William Hill (bookmaker), William Hill PLC a public company whose staff had little experience of the unique business. Finally promotions were left in the hands of Max Crabtree, the brother of Shirley Crabtree, Shirley, who was headhunted by Joint as the most experienced booker still in the business. Crabtree produced the next boom in British wrestling by creating the legend of Big Daddy, the alter ego of Shirley, who had been unemployed for the best part of 6 years before joining Joint in 1972 as the heel "Battling Guardsman" and then being rebranded as Big Daddy two years later. After an initial transition period as a heel (professional wrestling), heel/List of professional wrestling terms#T, tweener in the mid-1970s (most notable for his tag team partnership with future arch-rival
Giant Haystacks Martin Austin Ruane (10 October 1946 – 29 November 1998) was an English professional wrestler. Best known by the ring name A ring name is a type of stage name A stage name is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actor ...

Giant Haystacks
and a heel vs heel feud with legendary masked wrestler
Kendo Nagasaki Kendo Nagasaki is a professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically between performers with established cha ...
, whom Daddy unmasked during a 1975 televised bout), from the summer of 1977 onwards, Big Daddy became a larger-than-life fan favourite of children and pensioners alike. That he was no longer a bodybuilder youth, rather an overweight man in his forties, did not seem to be an obstacle as every major heel in the country was defeated by Daddy, usually in short order thanks to Crabtree's lack of conditioning. Big Daddy became the best known wrestler in British history and even had his own comic strip in ''Buster'' comic. Due to his popularity, Crabtree's run was extended by carefully positioning him in tag matches, allowing a host of young partners (which included Davey Boy Smith,
Dynamite Kid Thomas Billington (5 December 1958 – 5 December 2018), best known by the ring name the Dynamite Kid, was a British professional wrestler. Trained by former wrestler "Dr Death" Ted Betley, he competed in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), ...
, Chris Adams (wrestler), Gentleman Chris Adams and Darren Matthews, Steven Regal) to carry the match before tagging Daddy in for the finish. Basing a whole cartel around one performer, however, though good for television, produced mixed results for live events. While Big Daddy was a massive draw in terms of family audiences, in equal part he alienated much of the existing adult fanbase for wrestling. Many wrestlers shared the adult fans' dislike of the Big Daddy phenomenon. They were dissatisfied with their position within the Joint Promotions and soon looked elsewhere for exposure mainly outside the UK as a whole. As a result, there was a rise in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Calgary's junior-heavyweight divisions, both of which had their roots in British wrestling of the time.


Rise of All Star, end of ITV era and aftermath

One English promoter that benefited from the backlash against the Crabtrees was Merseyside promoter Brian Dixon, who had started in the business during his youth, running the Jim Breaks fan club, now had several years experience running his own firm, All Star Wrestling, and began capitalizing on this disaffection taking many of Joint Promotions' top champions. The wrestling industry as a whole seemingly began to fall into disarray as the true nature of wrestling began to fall into question as many newspapers tried to expose the worked aspects of the sport. However, this trend did not ultimately harm the industries as the Kayfabe, suspension of disbelief was all too easy to maintain for fans, even if they knew the truth. On 28 September 1985, the Crabtrees received another blow when ''World of Sport'' was taken off the air. Wrestling instead got its own show, but the time slot changed from week to week, slowly driving away the regular audience. Far worse for Joint Promotions, however, was that with their contract up for renewal, they were forced to share the TV rights as part of a rotation system with All Star Wrestling and America's World Wrestling Entertainment, World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The introduction of American wrestling to the UK and the eventual axing in 1988 by Greg Dyke of Wrestling shows on terrestrial tv saw the eclipse of Joint Promotions from its dominant position in the British wrestling scene. The promotion, renamed Ring Wrestling Stars (RWS) in 1991, continued to tour the old venues with Big Daddy in the headline slot until his retirement in December 1993 after suffering a stroke. Even then, Max Crabtree continued to tour, using the same business model, with British–born former WWF star Davey Boy Smith, "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith replacing Daddy as the headlining household name, until Smith was lured back to the WWF in the summer of 1994. Thereafter, RWS went into decline and eventually ceased promoting in 1995. By contrast, All Star had played its cards well with regard to its two years of TV exposure, using the time in particular to build up a returning
Kendo Nagasaki Kendo Nagasaki is a professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically between performers with established cha ...
as its lead heel and establishing such storylines as his tag team-cum-feud with Mark Rocco, Rollerball Rocco and his "hypnotism" of Robbie Brookside. The end of TV coverage left many of these storylines at a cliffhanger and consequently All Star underwent a box office boom as hardcore fans turned up to live shows to see what happened next, and kept coming for several years due to careful use of show-to-show storylines. Headline matches frequently pitted Nagasaki in violent heel vs heel battles against the likes of Rocco, Dave Finlay, Dave 'Fit' Finlay, Skull Murphy (Peter Northey) and even
Giant Haystacks Martin Austin Ruane (10 October 1946 – 29 November 1998) was an English professional wrestler. Best known by the ring name A ring name is a type of stage name A stage name is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actor ...

Giant Haystacks
.All Star's post-television boom wore off after 1993 when Nagasaki retired for a second time. However, the promotion kept afloat on live shows at certain established venues and particularly on the holiday camp circuit, and remains active right up to the present. Meanwhile, the WWF continued on BSkyB, Sky television until moving to BT Sport in early 2020, while its chief rival back home in America, WCW made the jump from late-night ITV to British Wrestling's old Saturday afternoon ITV timeslot, where it stayed until moving to NBC Europe, Super Channel at the end of 1995 and then Channel 5 (British TV channel), Channel 5 on Friday evenings from mid 1999 until WCW's demise in 2001. Both major 1990s US promotions made several arena tours of the UK (as later did Impact Wrestling, TNA, Ring of Honor and others) while the WWF even held the pay-per-view event SummerSlam '92 in London's Wembley Stadium before a crowd of around 80,000. The wrestling relationship between ITV and WCW's old parent company Turner Broadcasting System, TBS was renewed in 2019 when TBS's AEW Dynamite began airing on ITV4 on Friday nights, being added to ITV Hub each previous evening.


Traditional/"Old school" British wrestling - the modern era

After the demise of Joint/RWS, All Star's chief rival on the live circuit was Scott Conway's TWA (The Wrestling Alliance) promotion, founded as the Southeastern Wrestling Alliance in 1989. Many smaller British promoters were increasingly abandoning their British identity in favour of "WWF Tribute" shows, with British performers crudely imitating World Wrestling Federation stars. By the start of the 21st century, many of these tribute acts such as the "UK Undertaker" and "Big Red Machine" were headlining All Star shows. Conway began to promote his TWA as an alternative, featuring more serious wrestling (in much the same way as All Star had previously targeted Joint fans disaffected with Big Daddy). All Star duly adapted to meet the challenge, recruiting a new generation of wrestlers such as Dean Allmark and Robbie Dynamite and signing up such stars as "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson. The promotional war came to an abrupt end in 2003 when Conway relocated to Thailand, closing down the TWA (which he briefly tried to transplant to his new country as the "Thai Wrestling Alliance"). Nowadays, All Star tours extensively and successfully with shows mixing British Wrestling tradition with family entertainment, while another company, John Freemantle's group Premier Promotions, (established in 1987) presents a more purist version of British Wrestling. The gap left by TWA in the traditional British scene was later filled by such promotions as Revolution British Wrestling (RBW) and later still LDN's Academy/Spirit League. In the mid-2000s, Adam Mumford's Revolution British Wrestling promotion (run as an adjunct of his wrestling tape trading business in much the same manner as the American Ring Of Honor promotion in its infancy) picked up where TWA left off with promoting the British Welterweight and British Middleweight titles. After the company ceased promoting in 2006, LDN Wrestling emerged as a British-based World of Sport–style product that has brought many of the legendary names out of retirement such as
Kendo Nagasaki Kendo Nagasaki is a professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically between performers with established cha ...
, Johnny Saint and Johnny Kincaid. In November 2008 along with the Wrestling Channel, it presented a "''World of Sport Reunion Show''" in front of a sellout crowd. Starting in the autumn of 2010, it began a full-time touring schedule of shows in a bid to compete with All Star, often at some of All Star's main regular venues. A number of the new generation of British wrestlers who made their name on the new domestic circuit would go on to international recognition, including Doug Williams (wrestler), Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness. Other major US promotions, however, opted to use wrestlers from the traditional promotions such as the Team UK in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, TNA's 2004 X Cup which featured All Star Wrestling wrestlers James Mason (wrestler), James Mason, Dean Allmark, Robbie Dynamite and Frankie Sloan. Mason would also guest on WWE Raw in 2008, defeating MVP. With the advent of Sky Digital (UK & Ireland), digital satellite television British wrestling – including vintage ITV footage – would be featured heavily on the short-lived The Wrestling Channel, Wrestling Channel. Premier Promotions briefly gained some coverage on BBC Three when its matches were featured on Johnny Vaughan's short-lived revival of World of Sport. Traditional British Wrestling survived the COVID-19 pandemic with both All Star and Premier resuming operations in late 2021, the former belated celebrating its 50th anniversary which had fallen during lockdown. Additionally Conway announced plans to reactivate the TWA, while Rumble Promotions also resumed promotion adter a gap of several years. In one of its first shows back, Nino Bryant defeated Lewis Mayhew in the final of a Knockout Tournament in Kemsley, Sittingbourne, Kent on Friday 29th October to win the vacant British Lightweight Championship, renamed in honour of late referee Mal Mason. This was fought under full Lord Mountevans rules. He won by 2 falls to 1 in an extra round 9. The tournament was a 8 man tournament with the opening rounds held in July


"American style"/"New school" promotions

Standing apart from all this was the rise of "Americanised" promotions in the UK. One extremely early attempt at this kind of promotion in the UK was a set of "American–style"/entertainment-orientated TV tapings arranged by Jackie Pallo in 1990. In the early 1990s, World Association of Wrestling, WAW and Hammerlock, both run by veterans of the traditional British circuit, emerged producing shows more in line with the slick entertainment ethos of American wrestling. In the late 1990s, the success and popularity of the American Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion, which specifically emphasised its own small scale and "underground" nature, combined with the growth of internet discussion boards and tape trading, generated a new interest in British wrestling among local fans of the American wrestling scene. Many of the promotions which started during this time were directly influenced by the style of ECW and most were designed to appeal more to List of professional wrestling terms#S, smart mark fans rather than the more mainstream audiences targeted by the classic British wrestling era. The most high-profile American-style promotion of this period was the Ultimate Wrestling Alliance (UWA) which aired a regular television show, ''Wrestling Rampage'', on controversial cable channel L!VE TV for a period in the spring and summer of 1999. The most prominent of the "New School" promotions of the 2000s – including the Doncaster based 1 Pro Wrestling and the recently revived Frontier Wrestling Alliance run by Alex Shane – used British talent alongside a variety of imported international stars, including former WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, TNA talent. A large number of other smaller promotions were established throughout the 2000s, focusing entirely on British talent. Boundaries between the "traditional" and "Americanised" promotions were increasingly broken down after FWA's 2001 "Old School vs New School" storyline which saw a group of traditional ITV–era veterans invade the promotion. Other "New School" UK promotions also achieved television coverage, Wakefield based UKW – UK Wrestling Experience whose TV product took the form of a weekly tape delay television programme, ''UK Wrestling Mayhem'', on MyTV (British and Irish TV channel), My Channel (Sky Channel – 219) on Thursdays at 2100h, hosted by Lance Shepherd and Vicky Bell and taped at the Horbury Bridge Thunderdome. In 2005, British television network
ITV ITV or iTV may refer to: ITV *Independent Television (ITV), a British television network, consisting of: **ITV (TV network), a free-to-air national commercial television network covering the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands ...
tried to make use of the revived popularity of professional wrestling by starting a Saturday night prime time show called ''Celebrity Wrestling'', featuring celebrities in wrestling style bouts. The show was treated with derision by professional wrestling fans and was shortly moved to Sunday mornings after being beaten in audience share by ''Doctor Who'' for five weeks. A more positive outlet of publicity for British Wrestling was Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, TNA's spin-off show ''British Bootcamp'' which saw local stars Marty Scurll, twins Hannah and Holly Blossom and former British Welterweight Championship, British Welterweight Champion James Curtin, Rockstar Spud vying for an opportunity with the company, which Spud went on to win. Other British wrestlers like Joel Redman, Neville (wrestler), PAC, Martin Stone (wrestler), Martin Stone and Paige (wrestler), Britani Knight (daughter of veteran Ricky Knight) have received contracts with the WWE on its talent development show NXT (WWE brand), NXT. Redman and PAC – billed as Oliver Grey and Adrian Neville respectively – won a January 2013 tournament to be crowned the first ever NXT Tag Team Championship, NXT Tag Team Champions. In March 2014, Neville would go on to win the NXT Championship while Knight, wrestling as Paige, would debut on the main roster in April 2014 and win the Divas Championship.


Return to ITV and WWE's NXT UK

The mid 2010s saw an increasing drive to return British Wrestling to ITV. A pilot for ''World of Sport Wrestling'' (branding itself as a direct revival of the old slot on the ''World Of Sport'' programme) was filmed at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon in 2013 but rejected by ITV was eventually posted to YouTube in mid 2015. Another attempt, filmed in a TV studio and again touted in the media as the "return" of UK wrestling to ITV, was given an airing by ITV on New Year's Eve 2016. A follow up series of 10 episodes was due to be filmed at Preston Guild Hall in May 2017 but this was postponed until a year later. Around this time, WWE also took an active interest in the local UK wrestling circuit, organising a WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament (2017), WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament in Blackpool in January 2017, which crowned the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Champion. The ''World Of Sport Wrestling'' TV revival resumed production with tapings 10–12 May 2018 and transmission on ITV 28 July - 29 September 2018. This was followed by six live tour dates (of an originally scheduled nine) in January/February 2019. Meanwhile, WWE once again held the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament (2018), WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament in London in June 2018. WWE introduced World Of Sport and UK Wrestling legend Johnny Saint as its General Manager earlier that month for their newly established NXT UK (WWE brand), NXT UK brand of which the UK Championship would be the top championship. At the WWE UK Tournament Day 1 taping, Saint along with Triple H introduced the ''NXT UK'' show for their UK wrestlers and also established the NXT UK Women's Championship and the NXT UK Tag Team Championship. In 2020, at Wrestlemania 36, Scotland's Drew McIntyre became the first British wrestler to win the WWE Championship.


Nations of the United Kingdom


Wales

Wales had a strong foothold in British Wrestling, dominated by Orig Williams from the mid/late 1960s onward up to the 21st century. Williams' British Wrestling Federation (a name recycled from the aforementioned 1960s promotional alliance) produced Welsh–language television wrestling programmes for the bilingual S4C channel in the 1980s and 1990s under the title ''Reslo''. One compilation from the early 1990s was released on VHS (in English) as ''Wrestling Madness''. Since Wlliams' death in November 2009, the torch has been passed to his protégé Alan Ravenhill, who operate
Welsh Wrestling
and runs regular shows in every county of Wales, and hosted a historical event at Harlech Castle to crown a new Welsh Heavyweight Champion in May 2010. A rival promotion, Britannia Wrestling Promotions (BWP) also operates shows throughout the North Wales coast. Other promotions in the country include Slammasters Wrestling, Basix, Pro Wrestling Karnage, Exposure Wrestling Entertainment and Creation Pro.


Scotland

Scotland was represented as part of Joint Promotions by Relwyskow Promotions, run by the family of George de Relwyskow. Relwyskow Promotions was not included in the buyouts of Joint Promotions in the 1960s-1980s and remained under its original management while continuing to receive a proportion of Joint Promotions' TV coverage. It remained active until the retirement of Ann Relwyskow in the 1990s. In 1989 and again in 1991, television tapings were held in Scotland and matches screened on Grampian Television and Grampian Television, STV. During the 1960s, World Lightweight champion George Kidd (wrestler), George Kidd was a successful television broadcaster, hosting his own chat show in Scotland's ITV regions.


Northern Ireland (and Republic of Ireland)

The dominant promoter in Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s was former Irish national Olympic coach David "Fit" Finlay Senior who promoted wrestling on both sides of the border and trained such stars as his son Dave Finlay, Eddie Hammill and Sean "Rasputin" Doyle. Due to The Troubles, in the 1970s and 1980s these wrestlers and others would migrate to mainland Britain and find success there (in Hamill's case, under a mask, billed as Kung Fu.) The younger Finlay would become a multiple champion and later succeed in America. Although RTÉ never had a wrestling show of its own, in the mid 1980s, a major championship match between John Quinn (wrestler), Mighty John Quinn and Haystacks in Claremorris was publicised with a contract signing ceremony of Derek Davis' ''Davis at Large'' show. Later in the 1980s and 1990s, transmissions of Williams' ''Reslo'' programme on S4C could be received in much of the southern and eastern Republic of Ireland and Williams organised several tours of Ireland with his show's roster during this time. In the 21st century, the dominant New School promotion in Ireland has been Irish Whip Wrestling.


See also

*History of professional wrestling *List of professional wrestling attendance records in the United Kingdom *Professional wrestling promotions in the United Kingdom


Footnotes

19 - Nino Bryant defeats Lewis Mayhew in Kemsley, Kent on Friday 29th October 2021, to win the final of a Knockout Tournament for the renamed Mal Mason British Lightweight Title which was fought over Lord MountEvans rules. He won by 2 falls to 1 in an extra round 9. The tournament was a 8 man tournament with the opening rounds held in July


References

*Lister, John. "The History of British Wrestling". ''Pro Wrestling Press'' #6, (May 2002)
House of Deception
Golden Age 1911–1979: bibliography, photos, Lister article. *Curley, Mallory. ''Beatle Pete, Time Traveller'' (2005): information on Liverpool Stadium wrestling promoter Bill Best, uncle of original Beatles drummer Pete Best.
"Catch – The Hold Not Taken", a documentary on the origins of catch-as-catch-can wrestling
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