Welcome one and all to another milestone in the history of the UK Scene column. We have reached number 150 after just under 3 years of writing for this awesome website. So in honour of this momentous occasion I am going to give you a first, only and last time deal. I am going to do this column 100% as a shoot on my feelings and insider knowledge of the UK Scene. I don’t promise scandal but I do promise a good read so come and enjoy the merriment of number 150 with me.
It’s a case of so much to say where to start. Ok let’s start at the beginning before I started writing this column. Before the rise of the internet in relation to the UK Scene so we are talking late 90s I really enjoyed the UK wrestling scene ok the FWA hadn’t got going yet and we were still stuck with a lot of old school federations but what a time to be a fan of the UK Scene. Now yes you’re right to ask if the standard of shows was that bad why am I saying it was so good? The reason it was so good was because the WWE then WWF was at its most popular and there is a direct correlation between the number of fans that go to UK shows and that watch the WWE which meant bumper electric crowds at many UK event it was a promoters dream they could put anything on at one point as long as it said wrestling and they did well.
Here is an example of how WWF’s popularity rubbed off in the late 90s I attended a now defunct Rumble Promotions show at the Plymouth Guildhall and the place was sold out within two weeks which was 800 seats and that was with no US stars on the bill. Then just under two years later they announced a return date to the same venue when WWF’s popularity started to tail off and they had to cancel the event due to poor ticket sales. As much as I would like to say the UK Scene holds its future in its own hands if good old Vinnie Mac doesn’t start turning rating around soon the UK Scene is going to continue in this state of limbo of almost making it.
Keeping with the Internet, before it got so involved in the UK Scene it still very much had its old school style which in some aspects I agree with. The UK Scene was hard to break in to before the Internet came about and that’s the way it should be in my opinion as when I go to a concert I am in awe of the talent on the stage and wish I could be that good or have a UK tour but I know that it will never happen so it keeps me very in awe of the talent. Now with the Internet it seems that everyone is jumping in to the ring wanting to be a wrestler or a manager. When I pay and go to an event I use to watch wrestling the same way I did a big arena concert at the NEC but now there are so many talentless fanboys involved in UK Scene promotions I don’t have that awe or respect any more. I think the UK Scene is just far too easy to get in to so it’s lost some of it’s appeal well for me anyway.
Now when I first started getting in the wrestling writing scene Wrestlexpress was one of the most talked about events as Ryan Hewson promised to bring us a huge night of international action at the Coventry Skydome. Now I knew this was going to be a hard idea to sell from the start as Wrestlexpress told us it was the best time to put on a big show with so many free agents since the sale of WCW. If they had done their research they would have known this wasn’t the case. If wrestling isn’t at its peak of popularity you got to have some balls to put on a huge supercard like what was planned.
If you talk about Wrestlexpress you have to talk about the Coventry Skydome. Granted the FWA and UCW got very respectable crowds for their events held at the Skydome I never expected either one to sell out the arena and if either promotion thought they were going to they really need to look at the entertainment events market. I look at it like this at my local entertainment venue which is the same size at the Coventry Skydome around the 3500 mark. Now earlier this year I took my girl friend to see a Lemar concert held there and the event was not a sell out I would say at least 500 shy. Now Lemar is an act who had 10 weeks of prime time BBC coverage through Fame Academy who then went on to have a top ten album and 3 top twenty hits in the singles chart. All of this came with radio, TV and newspaper press coverage and like I say he couldn’t sell the venue out. Now after reading that if you’re a promoter what makes you think that you could sell out a venue that size? Yes I give the FWA a lot of credit for getting the national coverage they did but no UK promotion is going to get constant coverage on a par with a pop star.
Next I am going to rant about hobby promoters and yes I hold my hands up as formerly being one. If you have the money anyone can put on a wrestling event at the moment it seems which is a blight on the business. I’m not going to say all the people who go on to promote one off or occasional shows are harming the business as some put on good shows but if the UK Scene is to be taken seriously it is the wrong image to send out that just anyone can promote a show. For the UK Scene to be seen as professional we need professional people running organisations and shows not some kid still sitting their GCSE’s. Again I think the UK Scene loses a bit of credibility each time a hobby promoter comes up if you are serious about promoting in the UK Scene go in to it professionally with professional people.
The next subject I want to talk about is venue set up. Now as a wrestling fan it doesn’t bother me what the set up is as long as the wrestling is good but if I was to invite a friend along to a show first impressions count. To go on in the UK Scene we need to attract the casual or non wrestling fan in to the halls of this country to see Wrestling and the only way we are going to keep them coming back is upping the promotion values. If you just set up an old ring in the middle of the venue it doesn’t promote a very good impression. Ring size is another bone of contention because yes ok for our venues and wrestlers the big WWE sized rings are very impractical but you could at least aim for 16 x 16 like the FWA ring as the minute a WWE fan sees the size of the ring they are going to think what have I let myself in for.
Alongside production values comes the wrestlers themselves now again granted you can’t expect wrestlers in the UK to all be 200 pound plus and well built as most wrestlers have to have a 9 to 5 job to pay the bills but if we have an abundance of kids that look like they have come off the set of Grange Hill it doesn’t look professional. Another bone of contention is wrestling attire and I have seen some dodgy stuff in my time, ok you may have a character that is suppose to be someone off the streets but if not don’t dress like one it’s like if I go to see my doctor and he isn’t in shirt, shoes and trousers I would be very dubious to what standard of doctor he is because no matter what anyone says we all have pre-conceptions. The other thing that bugs me whilst we are at it are wrestlers that break character because their friends and family are in the crowd. Yes we need the friends and family to form a consistent backbone to the audience and money through the gates but it’s like when I use to be in theatre when I was performing I wouldn’t break character to show off to a friend in the audience.
The one thing wrestling is lacking at the moment and that’s not just the UK Scene but wrestling as a whole, is quality storylines. Now I watch the tacky channel five soap from down under Home Away which I’m sure most of you students reading do but soaps can teach you a lot about storylines. The reason I bring up Home and Away as over the last two to three years there has been a storyline involving the Sutherland family and it has gone a bit like this: the parents have three daughters and first a rebel from school raped the eldest daughter who was then arrested and brought before trial but got acquitted. Then some months later the boy comes back and starts dating the middle daughter and later marry which then eventually gets the boy who raped the eldest daughter accepted in to the family and then to finish it all off the middle daughter gets pregnant by him. Yes granted it’s a sick and twisted storyline but it keeps you hooked as you are always wondering what more could possibly happen which is not a feeling I get from a lot of storylines in Wrestling at the moment which is its main weakness.
One thing I would like to see in the UK is a UK promoting getting their videos and DVD’s sold in shops like HMV and Virgin as I think this would really help them promote themselves and now the FWA are on The Wrestling Channel I think it would be viable. I only think this way because when I was in the states this Summer I went in to some FYE stores which are the US equivalent to an MVC as well as stocking WWE titles they also stocked US indies including XPW. So I hope one day we could get that going in the UK I know I would mark out for seeing an FWA DVD in my local Woolworths.
In closing from a profit and crowd size point of view none of the above matters if you don’t do your promotion right. There are a lot of wrestling promoters out there who try and do it all which I do commend them for their efforts but they are not all media savvy promotion minded people so could be missing out on a lot of extra revenue from ticket sales. Because of the Internet too much emphasis is put on the quality of the card and the quality of the event but if you want to be a long term success you need to do an excellent advertising job. I think this is an area where the UK Scene needs to improve the most yes it can be a bit nerve racking going in to a shop asking to put a poster in the middle but I would prefer to mess my pants 100 times a day and know that I have done everything I can to promote the show. If nobody comes after you have done everything you can do on the promoting side then there obviously isn’t a market there for wrestling but at least you know you did everything you could.
After reading my rant you are probably thinking I am trying to put a downer on the UK Scene but it is completely the opposite as I only say these things as I want the best for the UK Scene. The UK Scene is at it’s healthiest point for some time now with lots more promotions running shows on a regular basis with the likes of FCW, MPW and WZW forming a hard working backbone for the UK Scene which wasn’t there when I started writing about the UK Scene. Now I know I have probably offended some people with what I have written but if it makes promoters in the UK Scene think about how they can better their promotion then it has all been worth while.
Hope you enjoyed the 150th and here is to many more!
Until next time,
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