WWE announced a few weeks ago that it will soon crown their first United Kingdom Champion. Triple H made the announcement at a press conference in London and confirmed that a two-day tournament will be held to decide the inaugural champion.
The tournament will air live on the WWE Network and be held at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, England on January 14th and 15th. It was also announced that Nigel McGuiness, who recently left Ring of Honor, will join the broadcast team for the event.
WWE has been aggressively signing British talent and Triple H stated that WWE’s UK expansion is the next step in developing talent. The UK’s wrestling scene has exploded in the last few years while featuring some of the best wrestlers in the world.
Talents, such as grappling wizard Zack Sabre Jr and high-flying dynamo Will Ospreay, are prime examples of why England is the new wrestling hotbed. WWE’s 16-man tournament will include talents like former TNA star Mark (Mandrews) Andrews, PROGRESS Champion Pete Dunne and ICW Champion Wolfgang.
It’s no secret that WWE is a healthy company, but wrestling as a whole isn’t popular with the masses these days. With no sign of renewed popularity in sight, WWE can no longer afford to be an American company that does occasional business in other countries.
WWE needs to become a global brand that appeals just as much to a British audience as it does a Japanese audience and any other country for that matter. Television ratings show that the number of causal wrestling fans in America has greatly declined.
Diehard enthusiasts, however, grew over the last ten years from a vocal minority to an influential assemblage that is too loud to ignore. The U.K. is WWE’s second biggest market, which makes the land of hope and glory the perfect place for stop number one in their global expansion.
WWE retired the European Championship in 2002 after introducing it five years earlier, when the British Bulldog pinned Owen Hart in a stellar match to become the inaugural champion. After that, the belt’s significance was never realized and became just another prop on the show.
I believe the title should have been reinstated a few years ago due to the influx of European talent. In 2017, however, the U.K. Championship is a more suitable designation since Brexit. There is also an opportunity to create a new lineage that will augment the product, get fans more excited than before and serve as the genesis for future development.