Pro Wrestling World Cup: Could It Work?

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Following the final match at the soccer extravaganza, European Cup 2020, the world looks forward to more global sporting events that are about to open their doors. The Olympics 2020 is set to begin in July and 2022 sees the return of the World Cup. These international tournaments/competitions are terrific for gathering crowds and creating a surge of homegrown support. So…Why isn’t there a Pro Wrestling World Cup?

Pro-Wrestling And Tournaments

Wrestling has its fair share of tournaments. New Japan Pro Wrestling hosts the annual G1 Climax tournament that often delivers some of the best matches of the year. NXT hosts both the Breakout Tournament and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Even RAW and SmackDown occasionally bring back the King Of The Ring.

All of these competitions are strong, particularly the G1 Climax. It often tells very interesting stories and is a way to generate unique match-ups again and again. However, the G1 Climax mainly focuses on the talent in New Japan Pro Wrestling. While some of these competitors are international stars, they aren’t fighting for the values of a nation.

Other World Cup Ventures

Just to be clear, there have been World Cup tournaments held in some independent wrestling promotions. Probably the most famous is the WhatCulture Pro Wrestling (WCPW) World Cup Tournament. Similarly, WWE held a World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel but the less said about that the better.

While all of these events have had the “World Cup” name attached to them, they haven’t really embodied what’s so special about these kinds of events. What really makes the World Cup a spectacle is that it is all of the best teams in the world coming together and determining the best (of the best) team. On paper, this could work in a wrestling context…

Logistically…It’s A Nightmare!

Firstly, lets just address the obvious. Contracts are signed by professional wrestlers meaning they can only work for one company. For example, fans are not going to see Drew McIntyre colliding with Kenny Omega in a Scotland/Canada match. There is no way WWE would let something like that happen.

The other issue working against this idea is the problem of booking. While it would be interesting to see these wrestlers shoot on each other and actually fight, wrestling fans want to see a compelling story, not a Brawl For All repeat. So, the issue comes with determining a winner while also deciding on the heel/babyface dynamic.

The heel/babyface issue is probably the hardest to overcome. This tournament would need to present both countries and characters in a positive light. A great example of this booking is Pete Dunne in the United Kingdom Tournament. He was a full on heel and marched his way through that tournament right to the final.

The Foreign Heel

Depending on who is booking the World Cup, it could be easy to just put over their talent. Surely, Vince McMahon in the late 80s would have had The Iron Sheik lose to Hulk Hogan in this kind of way. It could be seen as America triumphing over the foreign invaders. This is a played out trope in wrestling and is explored expertly on the TV Show GLOW.

How can you get around this?

Simple. The characters come first, the countries they’re representing come second. Take Walter for instance. He is a dominating heel who doesn’t really play up his Austrian heritage. Yes his appearance and ring music all hearken back to World War II, but there is a character there rather than a stereotype.  If a Wrestling World Cup were to happen, this should be the focus. Characters representing countries.

Could A World Cup ACTUALLY Work?

Looking at the wrestling landscape, there are a lot of promotions that are all operating their own tournaments and gimmick matches. The idea of all of those promotions working together to determine the winner of a World Cup event just seems impossible. Deciding who would go over, who could represent each country and the various match stipulations seems overwhelming for the industry.

While there is a great deal of potential for each different promotion holding their own version of a World Cup, it would not be sustainable for the entire industry. It’s highly unlikely WWE would be okay with Drew McIntyre losing to AEW’s PAC in the first round for example. Overall, this concept would be an interesting idea for a single promotion… but not as a unified body.

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