Had WWE invested millions of dollars and months of preparation into competing with a product that lasted two hours?
The company's London press conference announcement of a United Kingdom Championship was something of a bombshell when Triple H delivered the news in December 2016, but at least a year of reconnaissance had gone into the vainglorious reveal. 12 months earlier, the company had toured a then-white hot NXT brand around the country to build to an electric TakeOver: London show at Wembley Arena. With high ticket prices and an even higher quality return, the trip was an unqualified success. Perhaps even more so for 'The Game', who worked double shifts on a research mission finding out more and more about a thriving and largely untapped scene across the Atlantic.
Whilst WWE ostensibly did nothing with Hunter's homework, British terrestrial giant ITV had a shocker of their own to reveal. Also attempting to capitalise on a burgeoning scene (as well as their core audience's nostalgic adoration for British wrestling's iconic 30+ year Saturday afternoon slot that was terminated in 1988), the TV giant promised a grand relaunch under the 'World Of Sport' banner starting with a November taping that would air in a plum New Years Eve spot. Local favourites Grado, El Ligero and Dave Mastiff were joined by Davey Boy Smith Jr in something of a selective supercard surprisingly soundtracked by Jim Ross.
Not that the event promised more on paper, but it ultimately only delivered on tempered expectations. From the moment reports of the taping snuck out, it was apparent that ITV hadn't really ran a show that reflected the scene at all, instead attempting to fuse the history of the WOS branding with marketable modern performers suited to early evening entertainment. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of companies such as PROGRESS, ICW, Revolution Pro Wrestling, Fight Club: PRO and the countless other organisation that had achieved a level of success and notoriety, the talent pool was never deeper, but ITV had only dipped their toe in the shallow end. This wasn't WWE's philosophy, but in an eerie callback to Vince McMahon's hostile takeover of the North American territories in the 1980s, they quickly started to look like sharks.
Square eyes on a square head, trained almost exclusively to Pro Wrestling, Sunderland AFC & Paul Rudd films. Responsible for 'Shocking Plans You Won't Believe Actually Happened', some of the words in our amazing Wrestling bookazines (both available at shop.whatculture.com), and probably every website list you read that praised Kevin Nash.