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Top 5: British Wrestlers

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William Regal KOTR

The United Kingdom has become one of the world’s best pro wrestling markets over the past decade or so. It had been a great place for WWE & other American promotions to tour, but recent years have seen the formation of an independent wrestling scene that rivals that of any other country. PROGRESS Wrestling regularly sells out its events & sells itself as the world’s leading independent wrestling company. WWE has made deals with PROGRESS & Insane Championship Wrestling, and has several of Britain’s top wrestlers under contract for a United Kingdom Division. World of Sport is becoming a thing again, and WWE seems to consider them a competitor worth keeping an eye on.

WWE’s international travels took them to London this week for Raw & SmackDown Live tapings. One would expect that their brass will use the opportunity to increase their presence in the United Kingdom in some form. I thought this was the perfect time to take a look back at some of Great Britain’s greatest performers. Someday, the likes of Will Ospreay, Marty Scrull, Zach Sabre Jr., Pete Dunne & today’s other fantastic British wrestlers could very well knock these men off the list. Pro wrestling’s future in the UK definitely looks bright.

For now, these are the Top 5 British Wrestlers.

5. Big Daddy

Having a list of British wrestlers without mentioning Big Daddy is like having a list of American wrestlers without Hulk Hogan. Shirley Crabtree is widely regarded as one of the worst in-ring talents of his generation, yet he was the biggest star in English wrestling history. A lengthy-built one on one match with Giant Haystacks drew over eighteen million viewers. He teamed with several of the men on this list early in their careers. They got to do the work, which certainly helped them later on.

4. Nigel McGuinness

Ring of Honor has never been more successful on a commercial level than it is in 2018. I remain partial to the mid-2000s years with folks like Joe, Punk & Danielson carrying the banner. Nigel was right there with them. He started off as a technical wrestler, then once he went to Japan he became all about the lariat. Lots & lots of lariats. He also became more willing to take punishment over the years, which led to his career ending much earlier than it should have. He took needless risks during a time period when the safety of wrestlers had never been considered more important. It almost worked, as he was nearly signed by WWE until he failed a physical. He went to TNA & had a brief run of success there until he contracted Hepatitis B. His in-ring career came to an end soon after, but he still found work in ROH & currently works for WWE as a commentator.

3. Fit Finlay

We can’t forget about our friends in Northern Ireland. Nobody represented that part of the Kingdom better than the Belfast Bruiser himself. Finlay was a regular title holder in Joint Promotions & All-Star Wrestling for two decades & dominated in Germany’s Catch Wrestling Association before making his way to WCW in 1995. He didn’t really make an impact there until he & Lord Steven Regal started a feud that regularly stole the show due to the wrestlers’ willingness to lay the shots in. It’s some sort of a code that the Brits & other European wrestlers seem to have with each other.

Finlay had a successful WCW run that led to a job with WWE as an agent, where one of his jobs was training the Divas. Unexpectedly, at the age of 47, he returned to the ring five years after his original retirement. He was part of King Booker’s Court & was often accompanied by Hornswoggle during his WWE run. His father & grandfather were wrestlers, and his son is currently competing in New Japan.

2. William Regal

Regal would probably be the first to admit that he didn’t accomplish as much in his career as he should have. He never held a major World Championship. He lost years to excessive drug usage. When he was on the verge of greatness, he would screw it all up. Even so, he had a remarkable career. As Lord Steven Regal, he was one of WCW’s most detested wrestlers while holding the Television Championship on four separate occasions. He did nearly everything during his time in WWE, winning the 2008 King of the Ring Tournament & holding the Intercontinental, European, Hardcore & Tag Team Championships on multiple occasions. He served as WWE Commissioner & Raw General Manager, and is currently NXT’s GM.

Who better to sum it all up than William himself?

Honorable Mention: Lord Alfred Hayes

I remember Hayes as a longtime WWF announcer & the man who informed us who promotional consideration was paid for by. Before that, he was a highly successful wrestler in Europe & America, and later became a hated manager.

Honorable Mention: Billy Robinson

Robinson was successful all across the world & was known as one of the legendary shooters. He trained mixed martial artists in catch wrestling. He was Verne Gagne’s opponent in the 1974 film The Wrestler.

1. The British Bulldogs

If you ask people of my age to name wrestlers from the United Kingdom, Davey Boy Smith & the Dynamite Kid are the first two that come to mind. They formed one of the greatest tag teams of the 1980s & were one of the WWF’s most reliable sources for quality in-ring work during the time period. Their entrance to “Rule, Britannia” & the Union Jack prominently displayed on their tights & entrance attire gave their fellow countrymen a tremendous amount of pride. Their matches with their brothers-in-law, the Hart Foundation, set the standard for tag team wrestling in the WWF.

Smith went on to a highly successful singles career while Dynamite had to retire early due to injury. The high point for Davey Boy came at London’s Wembley Stadium, where he beat Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 1992. Neither story ended well, as Davey Boy died before his time while Dynamite was confined to a wheelchair & became bitter about his lot in life. We try not to think about their later years, and choose to remember when they were arguably the most popular & talented tag team in the world.


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Are We Ready For An All-Female WWE Event?

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Twitter once again began to stir the pot in the wrestling community this week, with its daily dose of rumours & news on the future of the wrestling business and what we may or may not see in the coming months. Could one of them be an all-female WWE event?

This week we got the announcement of ROH and New Japan taking over the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ Madison Square Garden over Wrestlemania weekend next April, Brock Lesnar was just recently confirmed with 100% guarantee to appear at Summerslam in a matter of weeks & the rumours of Rey Mysterio’s WWE return have continued to swirl. None of these however caught my attention as much as one particular rumour, that of an all-female WWE event being in the pipeline, potentially occurring before the years end.

Such a rumour did honestly take me by surprise, since this was something fans had fantasy booked for years online & debated over, it was odd to see it come up at a time when so much news was flowing and I did feel the ROH & NJPW deal with Madison Square Garden sadly pushed this into the background.

An all-female WWE event is a marquee moment on its own right without even existing and speaks volumes to the trust the company has in their female talent, as well as the shift in their product compared to almost a decade ago when women were nothing more than a side act to the men headlining the shows.

During that time woman were subjected to simple vanity on most wrestling programming, doing nothing more than posing as sex symbols for audiences to drool over, today? They’re stars in their own right, with actual credibility and more than enough potential to steal every show they’re booked on and produce some of the years best matches as we’ve seen since 2015.

Potential based on what I’ve seen however didn’t answer the question I first had; Are we ready for an all-female WWE event?

It isn’t a question I could answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without some context behind each choice as something like this requires extensive thought and knowledge on the WWE product as a whole and where the women’s division stands as of this righting. For this, I split my thoughts into two portions.

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The Downward Spiral of WWE Raw

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Baron Corbin RAW

It’s been 21 years since the glory days of the Attitude Era, with WWE Raw at its peak.  Times have changed and over time, fans are definitely changing along with that.  There is more accessible content than ever before with as little as a swipe to tune into something other than the kingdom Vince McMahon built.  The writing is on the wall, and recent events have made it even more clearly to the naked eye.

Considering that the pro wrestling world is coming off a great NJPW event last weekend, it’s safe to say that WWE might need to change its game plan.  Followed with a record low rating for this past Raw, the bells and whistles should be sounding off all around.  While in the past the legendary show goes against the likes of Monday Night Football and Presidential events, this time the company should be concerned.  There was no football on and there was no State of the Union or debate that much of the world tuned into.

To be honest, this downward spiral has been a long time coming.  Whether it’s storylines with loopholes or unnecessary segments, it’s only so long before fans tune out of what’s being presented to them.  Glimmers of hope include Alexa Bliss and Seth Rollins, but please believe that the spiral has nothing to do with the talent the company has.  The company has a healthy talent pool – probably the best roster of talent they have ever had.  WWE’s managing of the Superstars hasn’t been their best effort in my opinion, especially when others deserve more focus.

Here are some examples of the theory.  Roman Reigns is a great talent, but his placement on the card doesn’t do him any favors of the never-ending war with the fan base.  Sasha Banks and Bayley deserve more screen time to reignite their feud versus social media shade and finding therapists to seek out help.  Bobby Lashley is in desperate need of a manager to sell him to the WWE Universe.  The list goes on in terms of what can improve.   There are three hours for Raw, and I know that it has to be a task to prepare three hours’ worth of content.  You want viewers to tune in and stay tuned in but obviously, it’s not working.

The biggest flaw seems to be the time management.  The best segments are straight to the point – less talk and more action.  Switching it up is a good thing when done accordingly.  For example, the quickest way to tune out is a 20-minute promo that seems to go on forever.  That concept has been driven in deep into the ground.  The frustration from fans builds from there, whether it’s a character build or storyline.  Fans support these Superstars because they are talented and they believe that the Superstars deserve the best.    It’s a matter of seeing them grow from storylines and look even better coming out of it.  Sometimes the inconsistent booking just does more harm than good.

With the rumors of Paul Heyman stepping into the Raw creative team role, this is a step in the right direction if true.  It will be a slow start, but in the past, Heyman has done a tremendous job in the early days of the brand extension on the Smackdown creative team.  Tasks such as what’s being done on Raw take time to come around.  Simple changes can lead to big results, and Raw is certainly in desperate need to make a complete turnaround.


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Opinion

Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens: What’s Next After Extreme Rules?

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Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens will face off at WWE Extreme Rules on Sunday, July 15. KO has done everything in his power to evade Strowman but to no avail. The Monster Among Men has Owens right where he wants him because this match is inside a steel cage.

The only question is why? Where is this going? Even in this modern era of WWE, many fans continue to look for logical character growth and natural storyline progression though they know they won’t always get it. Is that what’s happening here?

It’s not that the company is incapable of giving fans what they want in this area. But a combination of 50/50 booking and quick angles with no direction are the norm in WWE. There was a time when rivalries could last for a year or more and sometimes that does actually happen in Vince McMahon‘s company.

But more often than not, it seems as though WWE is content with getting a few matches out of two guys before moving on to the next thing. Sometimes there’s just no chemistry. When that’s the case, WWE can either give talents the time to work it out or the decision must be made to move on. Fans understand this and have seen the exact same scenario play out for years in WWE.

So what is the endgame for Strowman versus Owens? Some fans believe this is merely just a pit stop for Braun, who will eventually move on to bigger and better things. He is Mister Money in the Bank after all, which means he’s carrying around a title opportunity guarantee. It could be exactly what he needs to finally break through and become a main event player.

But isn’t he already there? Does Braun Strowman really need another title shot at Universal champion Brock Lesnar? More importantly, does Strowman even need Lesnar’s Universal Championship? That belt has never lived up to its expectations and it may never be able to, thanks to WWE. Why would Braun want a title belt that’s not worth the money it took to engrave the plates?

Braun Strowman surely understands what being a champion in WWE means. He must also be fully aware of how unimportant Brock’s title really is. But Strowman also knows that perception is reality and when it comes to many fans, championship belts are absolutely vital to a guy’s career.

Braun is a team player and that’s evident in the way he carries himself. He obviously wants what is best for the show but he must also certainly want what’s best for him. If he can continue to function at a high level in WWE and not be a top titleholder, then why not keep moving along on his current path? Why add the pressure of wearing the second most important title in WWE? Does he really need that?

Of course there is such a thing as pride in pro wrestling. If Braun Strowman does not want to be the best, then he is wasting his time. The same is true of every male and female Superstar in the company. Earning a living and making the audience happy is great. It’s surely an amazing life and there’s really nothing else like it in the world.

However earning that living while being considered among the elite of the industry is another matter altogether. It’s not just how the fans see a guy. It’s how WWE sees a guy. If being called the world champion means being at the top and reaping the benefits of a career’s worth of hard work, then the championship definitely matters.

Then there’s the fact that while the Universal Championship may be irrelevant because of Brock’s absence, there’s still plenty of time to save it. Who better to wear the gold and reign on Monday Night Raw than the biggest guy in the locker room? Braun can get red hot at a moment’s notice and he is arguably the most popular guy on WWE’s flagship program. Who else could bring the Universal title to prominence like he can?

That is the small space in which Kevin Owens lives right now. KO has everything it takes to get back on top in WWE. He is still one of the most entertaining Superstars in the company even though he’s still one of the most devious heels in the locker room.

The fans love him though they should hate him. Owens is at a point right now where he also doesn’t really need the Universal Championship to get over. He seems to be doing just fine without it. But unlike Braun, Kevin is swimming in a sea full of guys that can do the same things he can.

Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt are all in the same boat as Owens. All of them are main event talents that can rise to the occasion any time their numbers are called. They can team with each other, work each other and work hour long matches any night of the week. But it takes a lot to consider any WWE Superstar truly special.

Being good in the ring and on the mic isn’t always good enough. Fans have a usual rotation of guys they look to when it comes to championship consideration and that goes for any title in the company. Like many of his peers, Kevin Owens can have a Hall of Fame career without ever being a top guy with a top championship. But fans will never quite look at it that way.

Owens is not seven foot tall with freakish strength and a massive personality that enters the room before he does. Kevin Owens is not Braun Strowman, which means merely being on the card may never be good enough. Owens needs and has earned, another championship run. Whether or not he gets it any time soon is anyone’s guess.

But it could very well be that Strowman versus Owens is not leading to a title run for either guy. Maybe this feud is simply about having fun and entertaining the fans. That explanation may not be good enough for those fans. But then again, maybe it doesn’t have to be.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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