After Irish wrestlers win the final two matches at WWE WrestleMania 35, Elisa takes a look at the rise of Irish wrestling as a whole.
I personally wanted to write this article to honor the Irish Wrestlers and trainers that have helped Irish wrestling grow into something more tremendous than I believe anyone could have ever imagined. But you cannot discuss the rise of Irish wrestlers in the WWE without discussing independent wrestling scene. What I mean is more specifically, Dublin-based wrestling company ‘Over the Top Wrestling’ or what we famously know it as OTT. OTT has become one of the hottest independent wrestling promotions in the world in recent months and it continues to grow into this huge spectacle that rivals all Indy wrestling.
It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of hearing an Irish accent in the super-charged, trash-talking world of WWE might seem a bit far-fetched. Pre-Conor McGregor in the UFC, the masters of verbal put-downs were predominantly American wrestling icons such as Ric Flair, The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. But much has changed in recent years. The likes of Sheamus, Finn Balor, Becky Lynch and Jordan Devlin have broken the mold by establishing themselves as major stars in NXT and the WWE while inspiring a new generation of young Irish wrestlers in the process.
The stepping stones to international stardom can now be found in Dublin. Having spent several years performing all over the world as ‘Luther Ward’, Dubliner Joe Cabray formed OTT with the aim of offering Irish fans a viable wrestling show that could compete with the level of independent wrestling he had experienced in more established markets like the UK, Japan and Germany.
What is happening now is a far-cry from when Joe and others were starting out in Ireland in the early 2000s. Since 2014, OTT has built an audience while regularly running shows at the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin, and in the last two years they have attracted audiences of over 2,000 for several shows at the National Stadium on the South Circular Road.
The quality of storytelling in OTT’s hype packages and the production of their live shows is continuing to improve as their audience grows, and this is all built upon a high-level in-ring product that features the best of the Irish talent mixed with top names from the international independent wrestling scene. Cabray is a big believer in developing a wrestling product that caters not only to the loyal, hardcore fan base but also those less familiar with wrestling who might not be interested in the physical aspect, but find more appeal in the theatrical elements of pro-wrestling.
Recently, OTT hosted ScrapperMania, which was INSANE to say the least and featured probably the biggest match in OTT history, Jordan Devlin vs. Walter for the OTT World Championship. The buildup and storytelling to this match was amazing and saw the classic David vs. Goliath theme match in hopes the good would overthrow the evil and it did in true Irish fashion. When Jordan Devlin pinned Walter to win the OTT championship, the crowd reaction was something you never saw before. And because of independent wrestling such as OTT, we see the rise of Irish superstars make a mark in the WWE history.
Not convinced? Well let’s list some of the greatest Irish wrestlers that came from the Indies.
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When you think about a successful Irish wrestler, it is impossible not to think about Sheamus. The Irish wrestler started out in ECW and made his way to Raw and Smackdown later. He has held numerous titles over the years and even defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania in only 18 seconds! The only real negative surrounding Sheamus’ career is poor booking. Of course, this is not due to Sheamus, but more the WWE wasting this amazing man’s talent at times. Fortunately, he is now enjoying great success with tag team partner Cesaro, since the Bar is one of the more exhilarating tag teams on the Smackdown roster. You cannot argue the fact he is on the list of one of the best Irish wrestlers of all time.
Another wrestler known for his hard work and his storytelling ability is Dave Finlay. While you might remember him as “the man with the leprechaun,” Finlay is much more than that. Finlay has an impressive track record spanning back thirty years before he joined the WWE. He played a prominent role in WCW and even trained Kurt Angle and CM Punk. He was also in many Money in the Bank Ladder Matches. Nowadays, Finlay is no longer an active wrestler, but this does not mean he said goodbye to it. Currently, Finlay is working as an agent and producer for the WWE.
One of the most successful wrestlers today is undoubtedly Finn Balor. Finn is one of the main attractions on Monday Night Raw, but his success extends much further than the WWE. Finn Balor has quite the impressive background in the Indies; this includes time as a tope star in New Japan Pro Wrestling. However, Balor also created his own wrestling promotion at one point; this happened just before he conquered a spot on the prestigious roster of New Japan, where he won multiple titles and created the famous Bullet Club. His extensive indie career including OTT and ICW has certainly helped to shape the wrestler we see in him today. He is the first WWE Universal Champion, who unfortunately had to relinquish the title in less than 24 hours due to injury and now a two time Intercontinental Champion. His worth ethnic, charity work, dedication and message of the Balor Club has given a positive message to the WWE and the WWE Universe. I am 110% certain that his legacy is already cemented into the history books in the WWE. I am hoping to see another WWE Universal or heavyweight championship reign in the midst for the future.
While we are talking about epic Irish wrestlers, we cannot forget to mention the Irish Lasskicker Becky Lynch. Like most female wrestlers who manage to earn a spot in the WWE these days, Lynch has an extensive track record in the Indies. She started her wrestling career as early as 2002 and has traveled the world before ending up in the WWE. Gaining experience in Europe, North America, and even Japan, it is obvious why Becky Lynch should be on this list. While she may be poorly managed at the moment, nobody can deny the stage presence, charisma, and skill of this fiery Irish lady. She has cemented herself into the WWE history books as one of the three women to main event WrestleMania and win both Raw and Smackdown championships. She has been truly an inspiring, delight to see in and off the ring. I am looking forward to what THE MAN has to offer this coming year.
Jordan Devlin, who was trained by Finn Balor, is the other wrestler who I think could be a future star in the WWE. He wrestled in the WWE UK Tournament and had been on the WWE UK Tours. Devlin is a star on the Irish Indy Scene with yours truly, Over the Top Wrestling and is currently working with NXT UK. He is an extremely agile wrestler. I love his character and portrayal of a classic heel. Recently, as mentioned in the beginning of the article, he became the OTT Heavyweight champion by defeating Walter in Scrappermania in a classic match that saw all of Ireland behind him. Hopefully, Devlin will get even more attention from WWE in the coming months and we may see him in the main roster sometime late this year.
Paddy “Suicide Machine” Morrow
Not many people are familiar with Paddy however, he has contributed in so many ways to the rise of Irish wrestling in my opinion. He is such a talent. I saw a lot of his matches on YouTube and they were absolutely amazing. Not only has he been wrestling for 16 years, but he and Finn Balor were head coaches of a wrestling school out of their hometown of Bray Country Wicklow when there weren’t really any wrestling schools out in Ireland. An interesting fact is that one of his opponents in his career was OTT owner Joe Cabray, a classic rivalry. Now, he is a coach for the school of Irish Wrestling that recently opened and is doing amazing things to bring up the up and coming Irish talent. His experience and contributions in coaching talent in Ireland should be acknowledge heavily when it comes to discussing the rise of Irish wrestling.
Now that I mention some of these great Irish wrestlers, it is good to mention that recently the School of Irish Wrestling opened to help produce more Irish talent. Some of the coaches include not only Paddy Morrow, but Paul Tracy, Jordan Devlin and Sean Guinness. These coaches bring experience and expertise to the table as Irish wrestling opens another school to produce more talent. While the current generation of Irish wrestling talent is still making their name know, they are also assisting in helping the next generation to get even better.
Watching wrestling heavy this year, I have enjoyed so much how amazingly Irish Wrestlers are rising up and bringing in more diversity into the wrestling mix. They are providing excellent story lines, amazing promos and quality matches. Not to mention, headlining major events. I cannot wait to see what the up and coming Irish talent has to bring. In my opinion, the Irish are dominating wrestling all around and with that said, much respect out to them.
Until then fans, farewell.