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Zack Sabre Jr., Finn Balor selfies & 5 weekly things to know about British wrestling

Zack Sabre Jr.

Submitted by Alan Boon

A whole generation has grown up since wrestling was last on nationwide TV in the United Kingdom, and yet when people think of the term “British wrestling” they imagine the athletes of those glory years and the style of wrestling they purveyed.

But, while the sport entered a lull for the first decade and a half after Greg Dyke decided to cancel the weekly showcase on ITV’s World Of Sport, it has been on the rise again for the last fifteen years, resulting in a current scene that can see a score of shows every weekend, some playing to four figure crowds. What’s more, Britain’s wrestlers have been able to parlay it into a full-time job, and made waves overseas, with British and Irish talent flooding into WWE, and becoming star attractions on America’s independent scene.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 things you need to know about British wrestling this week:

1) It’s been quiet, show-wise, in the UK this week, because WWE – and the huge, money-hoovering juggernaut – are in town.

While the lack of Adam Rose’s Rosebuds didn’t give us the opportunity to see the likes of Dave Mastiff, Zack Gibson, and Nina Samuels dancing on the entrance ramp, those who attended WWE’s London house show may have seen PROGRESS co-owner Glen Joseph flash up on the screen in a selfie taken with Finn Balor. Balor had his last non-WWE match for PROGRESS – against Jimmy Havoc – and stays tight with the promotion.

2) Speaking of PROGRESS, they announced the first match for their inaugural trip to Manchester next month – a mouth-watering contest between Zack Sabre Jr and Tommaso Ciampa.

PROGRESS are a little over three years old, and have made enormous strides in that time, becoming one of the major promotions in a market stuffed with choices. They’ve previously only run in London (and will present their twenty-third “chapter” show there a week before Manchester) but this is their first foray into new territory and is, of course, sold out. Sabre Jr and Ciampa have almost traded places of late, with Zack basing himself in Japan for Pro-Wrestling NOAH and becoming a feature attraction for British promotions, and Ciampa making appearances all over the UK on regular tours. That this is possible is a marker for how far the British scene has, erm, PROGRESSed.

3) Another promotion to have announced a Zack Sabre Jr match is New Generation Wrestling, based in Hull, who have booked him for their end-of-year blowout, Eternal Glory.

Sabre Jr will face Zack Gibson, this year’s winner of NGW’s annual Davey Boy Smith Cup. NGW are the only promotion currently enjoying anything near national TV, with a monthly showcase on satellite and cable channel Challenge, and a weekly show syndicated to various lowly-viewed local cable channels across the UK. One of the men behind NGW is Alex Shane, the doyen of trying to get British wrestling back on TV, and he’s still working extremely hard towards that goal. How valuable it is now, with so many other options available – PROGRESS and ICW have well-subscribed on-demand channels, and Revolution-Pro makes great use of YouTube, is debatable, but the chase is still very much on.

4) While WWE took most of the money and attention from British fans this weekend, there were some shows out there delivering the usual mix of local talent, British stars, and the odd import.

Ultimo Dragon, enjoying an Indian summer in Europe of late, appeared for 4Front Wrestling in Bristol, a week after tearing the house down against Juventud Guerrera for the same promotion. 4FW have used John Morrison recently, and are also bringing in Pentagon Jr and Drago for a show early next year, giving a small part of the UK a taste of Lucha Underground. Guerrera also made a stop with IPW:UK at their Supershow in Rochester, although the big draws there were a three-way between Will Ospreay, Blackbelt Dawson, and Paul Robinson, and Jimmy Havoc putting his All-England title on the line against sometime TNA confuser Grado.

5) Grado is also the big draw for the biggest UK show in quite some time next weekend, when Insane Championship Wrestling host their sold-out Fear & Loathing show at the SECC in Glasgow.

Grado versus Drew Galloway, for the ICW Heavyweight title, is the main event on a show which has relied on consistent quality, local stars, and word-of-mouth to sell four thousand tickets, with only Rhyno – a regular import and involved in a storyline – flown in from the US. ICW have been featured in two documentary films on BBC3, a satellite and cable channel aimed at teenagers and twenty-somethings, and have reaped the reward, although their own efforts in building something quite spectacular – and certainly unique – have played as much a part as any televisual deus ex machina. Where they go next – and where British wrestling as a whole goes next – is a fascinating prospect worthy of its own documentary series.

That ICW show will be the main discussion point of the British wrestling scene next week but there’s sure to be five more things you need to know, with announcements promised by Revolution Pro-Wrestling and PROGRESS, and much much more!