Sunday, December 17The Voice of London

WWE Live in London – Why Hasn’t Wrestling Cracked The UK?

In early November, the finest performers in sports entertainment will take a trip from the United States to the United Kingdom, to put on wrestling shows across the country for UK fans.

Across the pond, wrestling (or more specifically WWE), is huge. Almost every night of the week, WWE superstars sell out arenas across the country, often putting on shows to over 20,000 people.

Once or twice a year, wrestling mad fans who live in the UK get a taste of what it’s like to watch a live show – and it’s as can be expected.

WWE spare no expense when touring other countries. They bring the boss, the big names and the pyro to put on a show as if it was being broadcast for live tv across the States.

UK arena's aren't as big as the ones that host Wrestlemania, but they still bring the fireworks. Photo credit: Miguel Discart. 
Of course, the arenas visited aren’t as huge as the ones that host Wrestlemania, but they still bring the fireworks. Photo credit: Miguel Discart.

But the difference with a WWE Live tour is that it’s not televised – in fact, it’s not even recorded at all.

Normally, WWE produces two television programmes a week (Raw on Monday and Smackdown Live on Tuesday) with the occasional pay-per-view on one or two Sundays a month.

That alone is a pretty gruelling schedule for the Superstars they employ. They’d be forgiven for asking for a day or two off, especially when you take into account the physical stress they cause to their bodies.

Even winning takes its toll. Photo credit: Miguel Discart.

But what’s amazing is they do those two live televised shows each week, and for four of the five other days of the week, they perform in live events all around the world.

To put that into perspective, check out the map below that tracks the journey WWE Superstars will make around the UK this weekend, with a big show in London on Friday.

The map tracks distance covered between the first show and the last.

An incredible 536 miles will be travelled between the first show in Brighton and the last in Nottingham alone. Add the two plane journeys taken too and from the USA and that’s some serious time in transit.

WWE Superstars truly are some of the most committed and talented performers in all of sport, which begs a question as to why the WWE has never quite cracked a UK fanbase as big and as dedicated as the US one.

Seth Rollins is a fan favourite wherever he tours. Photo credit: Miguel Discart.

But why is that? The weekly television episodes are aired live on Sky Sports each week (albeit at around 1 am in the morning) and pay-per-views are available live online too.

In the UK, WWE as a brand is almost seen as childish or sad. The company appears to be appealing to children, rather than young adults – like it does in the US.

It’s almost unimaginable that groups of grown men or women would pack into arenas to watch a WWE live show when they’re touring in the UK this week – but in America, a majority of the live audience is over the age of 15.

Two Superstars struggle for supremacy in the ring. Photo credit: Miguel Discart.

And yes, of course, those fans know wrestling is ‘fake’, the Superstars are not actually hurting each other and the rare sights of blood are pre-planned, but they still love it.

So why don’t we?

I decided to make the short trip down to the SSE Arena in Wembley to catch wrestling fans before the live show and ask them why they don’t think WWE has quite cracked the UK.

Of course, despite this, the UK WWE brand is growing each day. They sell out arenas every time they tour here. But getting our fanbase onto the level of the one across the pond will take time.

But it will happen one day. And who knows, perhaps one day we’ll even get to host a Wrestlemania.

And would there be a better place than Wembley Stadium to do it? The Superstars will not be performing at the 90,000 seater venue this time around, so for now, they’ll just have to settle for selling out the SSE across the road.

Words: Oliver Browning | Subbing: Étienne Fermie

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