“…the pro-wrestling world will be the Era of the Global WWE Coalition vs. Anti-WWE Alliance.”, Takaaki Kidani, President of Bushiroad (Parent Co. of NJPW), December 16, 2016
This past weekend, the WWE took a strong command of the Battle of Britain in the Great War that seems to be upon us, pitting, as NJPW President Takaaki Kidani stated, the Global WWE Coaliton vs. the Anti-WWE Alliance. A successful two day tournament, featuring many of the most exciting UK based wrestlers (minus the obvious contractually bound stars such as Will Ospreay, Marty Scurrl, Grado, Drew Galloway, Zack Sabre Jr., etc.), crowned Moustache Mountain‘s Tyler Bate as the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion. And while Triple H has mentioned in past interviews that the goal is to create a UK-based weekly show for the WWE Network, seemingly a form of NXT Europe that would work as a European developmental branch, there have been no deadlines or further comments on when that show may or may not start.
But recent reports from Mike Johnson of PW Insider Elite suggest that other plans are also afoot, that would effectively give WWE the upper hand as far as the UK indie scene, aligning many of the United Kingdom’s top promotions in the “Global WWE Coalition”.
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
If Johnson’s reports are accurate, then it would appear that Glasgow, Scotland’s infamous and unruly Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW), will be the first promotion to sign up to be distributed on the WWE Network. Many may remember months back, WWE was asking fans in surveys what their interest was in having access to other global promotions on the WWE Network and which ones. It appears that ICW is about to be announced as the first one to sign on. Reports indicate that an agreement is in place, apparently for either two or three years, and it should be officially announced within the coming week. As of this writing, it is not known if the WWE Network would simply act as an On-Demand Library of past ICW events (with on-going TV and PPV events uploaded on a delay) or if they will also feature Live Events as well.
ICW is a great promotion to start with, as it’s arguably the United Kingdom’s top drawing promotion. While others such as Progress or Revolution Pro may get more press internationally, ICW recently held their annual Fear & Loathing event (their WrestleMania) at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow to over 6000 fans this past November – the largest independent wrestling show in the UK since June of 1981, when Big Daddy knocked out Giant Haystacks at Wembley Arena.
ICW was founded in 2006 by Mark Dallas (who still runs the promotion to this day) and has quickly become a breeding ground for a lot of Europe’s top talent. Current WWE Superstars like Finn Balor, Sheamus, Noam Dar, Big Damo, Tommy End, Nikki Cross and others all cut their developmental teeth in ICW, while many of the top crop today – such as Drew Galloway, Grado, “Local Hero” Joe Hendry, “Iron Man” Joe Coffey, Zack Sabre Jr., Jimmy Havoc, and much more – still call ICW home. You may have noticed Mark Dallas sitting ringside during the WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament – competitor Wolfgang is the reigning ICW World Champion.
THE UNITED KINGDOM CHAMPION
Johnson continues to speculate that part of the agreement with ICW – and perhaps with Progress and Ireland’s Over The Top (OTT), as both companies owners/bookers were shown predominantly at ringside during the tournament – that until the WWE does in fact secure their own weekly UK show for the Network, that the UK Championship will most likely be allowed to be defended at either ICW, Progress or OTT shows as well – it’s also likely that Revolution Pro would be included in this deal as well. Those four promotions, while not encompassing every major promotion in the UK, certainly snags four of the best known. And if the reports are true that the WWE UK Championship will be defended in these other promotions, you can be sure that they will get some sort of coverage via WWE, whether it be matches online or through Social Media.
New Japan will undoubtedly be working on strengthening it’s Alliances with PWG and ROH as they begin to start shows in North America this year, not to mention the burgeoning Australian indie scene – NJPW has announced shows for Australia as well.
For now, the Battle of Britian seems to be swinging in the WWE’s favour. But there’s still lots of Globe to divvy up.
Read the first three parts in this on-going series below!
THE GREAT WAR, Part 1: “Blood on the Sun: The Silent War Between WWE and New Japan”, May 28, 2016
THE GREAT WAR, Part 2: “Elitism: Kenny Omega, Young Bucks and NJPW Start New War”, December 30, 2016
THE GREAT WAR, Part 3: “Honor Before Death: ROH Regroups For The Great War”, January 5, 2016