The 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day has the United Kingdom feeling suitably patriotic and reflective. When it comes to professional wrestling, there has been plenty for us Brits to be proud of, too.
Here are some of the things that shaped us as graps fanatics on this island, and helped ensure that Britain still enjoys a large presence in mainstream wrestling to this day.
The Dynamite Kid
His pioneering matches around the globe inspired not just Brits, but wrestlers all over.
The birth of Rampage
On October 10 1989, Hulk Hogan and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage were fittingly-epic headliners for the very first visit of the WWE juggernaut, one which saw such British luminaries as Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay and Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco compete in the dark match.
Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall
The night ‘British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith stamped his card as the face of WWE’s surging overseas popularity and a bona fide headliner, even if just for these European tour events. Until…
A ‘big four’ event outside North America, as Bulldog and Bret Hart tear the house down. It hasn’t happened since – but we haven’t lost hope!
Things for wrestling in general cooled off in the mid-90s, but Regal kept the flag flying in both WCW and WWE in the meantime while also arguably inspiring as many current British wrestlers as Davey Boy.
A ‘revival’ and ‘uprising’
Without support from the ‘Big Two’ the actual BritWres scene wasn’t too bright after ITV stepped out of the game. However, the Talksport special on Bravo followed by the FWA’s ambitious event at York Hall sparked the best domestic scene in 15 years and gave us hope.
Keeping the flag flying
That era was fleeting, but prominent parts of it such as Doug Williams, Jonny Storm and Jody Fleisch, as well as the likes of Nigel McGuinness and Nick Aldis, were at the forefront as promotions like TNA and ROH produced regular UK tours to keep things ticking over.
Welcome to ‘Bizarro World!’
And we can’t forget some of those crowds at post-Wrestlemania TV tapings, filled with tons of Brits who made the pilgrimage for the annual extravaganza, who refused to let WWE stay inside their comfort zone and, combined with the energy in hotspots such as New York, Toronto and Chicago, helped force through such moments as Daniel Bryan’s ‘Yes!’ movement.
The new wave in Japan
State-of-the-art wrestlers such as Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr became mainstays in NJPW and helped ensure British wrestling would be much more heavily scouted for talent than it used to be. So did…
A real indy scene
PROGRESS, Fight Club Pro, Rev Pro and more were at the foundation of Britain feeling as if it was more than just a hot spell headed up by one guy, or a few shows taking advantage of post-2001 talent. It also led to…
Though it was a fleeting return for the old ITV World of Sport image that really sparked this into life, British wrestling was ready for a big stage and WWE decided they wanted a piece of the action. That in turn gave us such epic moments as the tournament for a United Kingdom champion, Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne in Chicago and McGuinness finally getting his big exposure, this time as a commentator.
Drew McIntyre’s comeback story
During those middling times, the towering Scot also cracked the big time. But it all seemed too much, too soon. Instead of letting the situation overcome him, McIntyre improved his game elsewhere and even promised on the mic at an ICW show in his native country that he would return to these shores as the first British WWE champion.
One Royal Rumble triumph, one mad Glasgow Hooked On party reaction and one Wrestlemania main event later, and our Drew came through on his vow. And when we look back on proud British moments years from now, we’ve a feeling McIntyre will have an even bigger presence on lists like this.