A belated Happy New Year to everyone! I hope your celebrations were as full of festivities, friends, family and accidental small fires as mine was. Ahem.
Moving quickly on and down to business, wherein the last couple of years has seen a huge resurgence in British wrestling, which as a Brit, I am delighted about. It’s not that the talent wasn’t always there, but with wrestlers such as Zack Sabre Jr, ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay leading the way both at home and abroad, British wrestling is currently riding a huge wave. Companies such as Progress Wrestling and Insane Championship Wrestling have become hugely successful in their own right, with ICW even having Finn Balor appear (in an ICW T-Shirt!) as an enforcer at their recent event, “Fear & Loathing IX”. This alone seemed to be a huge leap in the WWE and indie company relations, which can only be positive for the wrestling industry as a whole.
As I’m sure nearly everyone is aware, it was announced towards the end of 2016 that there is to be a two-day tournament held in Blackpool, England, that will crown the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Champion. Do I assume that we’re just glossing over the fact that Ireland isn’t part of the United Kingdom? I guess ‘WWE United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Champion’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. This tournament will be held on the 14th and 15th of January, 2017, as a 16-person tournament at the Empress Gardens in Blackpool, and it would appear that the long term intention is to create another WWE Network show stemming from this, similar to how 205 originated from the CWC. Fun fact: In the 1970s, the Empress Gardens were renamed as The Stardust Room and was intended to function as a nightclub. (We miss you Cody!)
What excites me the most about the tournament is that a lot of the ‘better known’ British wrestlers outside of WWE aren’t necessarily taking part. The names I mentioned earlier would be three of the first that come to mind when talking about British wrestlers, but due to various reasons they aren’t involved. This does allow us though to become acquainted with some of the best that Britain (and Ireland) have to offer, even if they’re not as well-known. Yet. However, because of this, the (reliable) information currently available to a writer doing his research at his coffee table in the early hours of the morning is quite limited. I’ve included the twitter handles of the competitors underneath, so please give them a follow as well!
So, if I can be serious for a minute, please join me as I provide a brief scout report on the 18 wrestlers, which includes 2 alternatives, for the forthcoming competition. So, in no particular order and in the voice of Celebrity Deathmatch referee, Mills Lane; “Let’s get it on!”
Prepare to be introduced to British Strong Style. As one half of the PROGRESS Tag Team Champions, Moustache Mountain, with fellow competitor, Tyler Bate, Seven is renowned for being a physical worker, capable of taking a beating, and returning it twice as hard. Standing at 5”10’ (1.77m), he’s not the biggest guy in the tournament, but at around 210lbs he is going to be difficult for opponents to control within the ring, and is certainly one of the most experienced in the competition. Great on the mic, with an excellent gimmick, and solid in-ring work – Look out for this guy leading the way when the UK show hits the Network. Plus, look at that magnificent beard. My new dream is to see Moustache Mountain team with Jack Gallagher within a WWE ring.
This kid is not just for the future generation; he is the current generation. At just 19 years old, hailing from Dudley, UK (not Dudleyville, unfortunately), his twitter bio reads ‘Moustache | Pro Wrestling | Vegan’. What more do you need to know? As mentioned above, he is one half of the PROGRESS Tag Team Champions with Trent Seven, and part of the British Strong Style stable. Oh, and another fantastic moustache owner. If the WWE Network show comes to light, do not be surprised to see British Strong Style ruling the roost, like a cool, bearded version of the NWO. The Moustache Mountain gimmick is excellent, and if you watch the video below, you will see why I’m so desperate for the two aforementioned wrestlers to create the ultimate facial hair stable with Jack Gallagher.
The last member of ‘British Strong Style’ on this list. When these three get together, people are going to get hurt. Again, this is something I’m truly excited to see take hold within the WWE Network UK Show in the future, but where the actual tournament itself is involved, do not take ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne lightly. He has won numerous titles around the world, pretty much everywhere he has wrestled. On top of this, he is only 23 years old. It is scary to think how good Dunne could become, and he is definitely one of my favourites to win the competition.
A quick glimpse of the three together, welcome to British Strong Style.
At 6ft 1”, Wolfgang is the current ICW Champion (see the video below), and this boy can move for a big man. Although not the biggest by WWE standards, he is going outweigh and, surprisingly, outmaneuver many a competitor within this tournament. Similar to Kevin Owens in the ‘a guy his size shouldn’t be able to do that’, Wolfgang is a terrifying Glaswegian with great charisma and athleticism, able to adapt to many an in-ring style. Certainly one to watch as the tournament progresses, and again, one who could really shine once the Network show becomes a reality.
(In the video below, skip to the 2:00 mark for Wolfgang.)
Despite a Twitter handle that makes it sound like he’s fallen asleep whilst spelling his name, Jack Starz is not to be underestimated. Trained by the legendary Robbie Brookside, and a noteworthy powerlifter, Jack Starz is climbing his way up the wrestling ladder, having made his debut towards the end of 2012. Although this tournament might have come too early for Starz to be a legitimate contender, keep an eye out in the future for this young man as he battles his way onwards and upwards.
A ten-year veteran from Liverpool, England, Ringo Ryan may well be less experienced when it comes to the world travels of other in this tournament, but he has been plying his trade around Europe, and all over the UK in All Star Wrestling, while slowly making a name for himself. Being accepted into this tournament was no fluke.
There we have the first 6 of 18 wrestlers signed up for the UK Tournament, though at the time of writing I don’t now who the two to miss out will be. With only two weeks to wait until the competition begins, look out for parts 2 and 3 coming soon. Stay safe, don’t start fires, and don’t put your siblings in the disarmer.
Send your favourite wrestling gifs to me on Twitter, @workawaysteve, so I can use them in serious conversation with my family.