Monday 13 June 2011

In Your House

British wrestling should be bigger than it is.

Over the years the British indy scene has produced dozens of wrestlers that have found great success overseas. The likes of Doug Williams, Nigel McGuinness, William Regal, Davey Boy Smith, Brutus Magnus, Sheamus, Prince Devitt, and Winter all started out plying their trade in the various wrestling promotions of Britain but left for better pay and brighter prospects. It’s understandable: there’s nothing for wrestlers based in Britain but low-paying (sometimes even no-paying) dates in small venues.

But what if that wasn’t the case? With the ratings WWE (and even TNA) receive it’s surprising a prominent broadcaster hasn’t tried to replicate the success on a far smaller scale. An enterprising broadcaster like Five, Channel 4 or one of the countless channels that have sprung up on the Freeview service in the last few years could easily produce a wrestling show on a low budget and get decent ratings for it.

Why haven’t they? It’s probably a combination of having no one in place to organise such a venture and a concern over whether such a show would get enough viewers to be worthwhile. The first problem isn’t really something I know enough about to comment on at great length, but I’m sure there are British promoters that would readily accept a job attempting to create a watchable British wrestling product. Most channels have experience broadcasting some form of sport: couldn’t someone with experience of producing, say, a boxing broadcast be offered the job of producing a wrestling show? As far as television production is concerned the two sports are fairly similar.

The second problem is the one that I imagine really presents an issue. Would anybody watch a British wrestling show? I think yes. That so many small promotions are able to continue operatings proves that there are loyal fans out there willing to support the business in Britain. Of course they’d watch the television product. There are probably even more people who watch WWE and TNA that have never even considered attending a British indy show, but would gladly watch it on TV because they enjoy the sport.

If a British product was produced well enough, with compelling characters and storylines, then it would flourish. Why? Because there’s very little wrestling on television in Britain. WWE, the market leader, is embarrassed to admit that it’s a wrestling promotion, and even if it weren’t their output has been patchy for years. TNA has all the tools needed to make itself a very successful company (primarily a television deal and a very talented roster) but they don’t have a clue how to operate effectively.  

If a British wrestling show was given a regular spot on television schedules (something like 11 o’clock on a mid-week evening on E4, More 4, 5 Star, or one of the plethora of secondary ITV channels) and afforded a decent amount of promotion I think they’d get a get a good regular viewership. All the channels I’ve suggested are part of networks that could run adverts throughout the week to advertise such a show. A launch marketing campaign focusing on lads’ mags, billboards and bus stop ads wouldn’t break the bank, surely?

There are more than enough wrestlers working in the country for someone who knows what they’re doing to be able to construct a talented and media-friendly roster. With popular wrestling venues in cities and towns all across the country there would be no shortage of locations to promote shows either.

I know how unlikely it is that such a TV show will ever come to pass. Hopefully I’ve made some of you reading this more open to the idea though. Surely being able to turn on a TV at ten or eleven at night to see an hour of wrestling sounds more appealing than yet another insipid game show fronted by an autocue-reading clown pandering to a gaggle of “celebrities” you’ve never heard of? It does to me.

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