This Saturday, July 28, wrestling returns to primetime British television for the first time in more than three decades. The old World of Sport Wrestling was a regular feature of ITV’s Saturday afternoon programming, featuring the likes of Big Daddy, Mick McManus, Kendo Nagasaki as well as names more recognisable to international audiences like Johnny Saint and The British Bulldog.
An initial re-run of World of Sport, now under the badge of WOS Wrestling, was broadcast on New Year’s Eve in 2016. It attempted to pack too much into the two hour window, clearly a product of them trying to secure a longer TV deal, and featured some very poor camera work. Talks of a proper relaunch gained momentum in 2017, backed by Jeff Jarrett and Impact Wrestling, although contract disputes and issues with dates soon led to those falling before the first hurdle.
Now though, WOS is back.
A 10-part series was commissioned earlier this year by ITV, with the shows taped over three days in Norwich during May. It may not be for everyone, especially those in ‘our bubble’, but it was obviously seen as a threat by the WWE, who stepped up their UK expansion in recent months with their UK tournament and the announcement of a fully-fledged NXT UK brand that will begin later this year. Indeed, six of those involved with the original show have since been signed by the WWE in some capacity, whilst Johnny Moss has since retired from in-ring competition and is now a WWE trainer.
As someone who grew up in a family that had watched and enjoyed WOS in its original 20-year run, I am delighted to see both the current generation of British wrestlers getting a TV opportunity and to see the WOS brand back on our screens. As such, I thought I would provide a detailed primer of the broadcast arrangements and how the brand will be structured over its initial 10-week run, alongside a breakdown of the roster.
When will it be broadcast?
WOS Wrestling begins this Saturday at 5pm and will run for a further nine weeks, taking it through until the end of September. It will be shown on ITV and STV in the UK, and will therefore be on their on-demand service for a further 30 days after its initial broadcast.
— WOS Wrestling (@WOSWrestling) July 22, 2018
Who will be on commentary?
The commentary team for WOS’ return is a rather eclectic mix. Former Impact knockout SoCal Val will be joined by Alex Shane, who was part of the one-off show in 2016, and the former WWE Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, now going by his real name, Stu Bennett. Bennett is also serving as the show’s on-air authority figure.
How many championships will be involved?
It would appear that the WOS brand will feature three key championship. The main one is the WOS Championship, currently held by Grado. The two new championships to be featured will be the WOS Tag Team Championship and the WOS Women’s Championship.
The WOS Singles Roster
Grado: The second WOS champion, having won it from Dave Mastiff on that December 2016 show, Grado was always going to be one of the show’s stars. He is currently signed to Impact Wrestling, but is also involved in numerous acting projects, namely the Scottish programmes River City and Two Doors Down. The way certain newspaper pieces have been written, Grado is being hyped up to be the new ‘Big Daddy’ of WOS, a comparison that’s incorrect for a variety of reasons, meaning that we’ll probably see him top of the pile for most of the series.
Rampage Brown: The current Defiant Wrestling Champion, Rampage Brown is one of the mainstays of the British wrestling scene. He will be known to many fans for his appearance on the second season of TNA’s British Boot Camp, as well as his regular appearances for Progress, Preston City Wrestling and ICW.
Sha Samuels: Another mainstay of the British wrestling scene, Samuels recently went full-time, having packed in his previous job as a butcher. He is one half of the current ICW tag team champions alongside Jack Jester, and has previously held gold in RevPro, wXw and OTT.
Davey Boy Smith: A member of Suzuki-Gun in NJPW, Smith will officially be known as British Bulldog Jr in this season of WOS. He was a part of their show in 2016, saving Grado from a beatdown and is likely to be prominently featured given his father’s past in the company.
Will Ospreay: Fresh off one of the best IWGP Junior Heavyweight title reigns in recent memory, Will Ospreay is a brilliant addition to this WOS roster. His high-flying style is always impressive and his involvement is another indictment of how much he loves pro wrestling and wants everyone to succeed.
Joe Hendry: Recently signed to Impact Wrestling, Joe Hendry’s charisma and well-known entrance parodies will ensure that he is a big star in WOS. A singles champion in Defiant/WCPW, Hendry will be amongst the big singles contenders over the next two months.
Justin Sysum: A professional since 2012, Gloucester’s Sysum has a background in American Football. Sysum has mostly appeared on the smaller UK promotions in the north of England, winning NGW’s Davey Boy Smith Cup in 2017 after beating Jake McCluskey and Zack Gibson in the tournament final.
Martin Kirby: Kirby is one of the UK scene’s true veterans and to my mind has been one of its most underrated talents for some time. Most associated with Preston City Wrestling for much of his career, Kirby has been one of Defiant’s most featured talents since they started and it’s nice to see him get his shot here.
Lionheart: Lionheart is Marmite to most British wrestling fans – you either enjoy his work or you can’t stand him at all. I personally don’t mind the Ayr native, but you can be sure that the current PCW Heavyweight Champion will be one of the most antagonistic faces during Saturday teatimes.
Doug Williams: At 45, Williams is the oldest competitor in WOS. He was a mainstay during the difficult times of the early 2000s and has managed to stage a renaissance this year with his run as Atlas Division champion in Progress. His veteran savvy and hunger for suplexes will ensure his a good match for anyone on the roster.
Crater: Formerly known as Cyanide, Crater is clearly being positioned as the ‘monster’ of this reboot. My strongest memory of him is his appearance on the second series of British Boot Camp, where he was eliminated at the first stage after a disappointing performance in the fitness challenges. You can be sure that his appearance will prompt an endless stream of calls harking back to the days of Giant Haystacks. I doubt I’m the only one who sees this building to Grado vs Crater somewhere along the line…
Robbie X: A regular for both Kamikaze Pro and SWE, Robbie X is one of the British scene’s up and coming high-flying wrestlers. For this series, the 23-year-old will be wrestling under a mask.
CJ Banks: Banks contested a four-way ladder match on the 2016 show and is interestingly the only man involved to return. From Southport in Merseyside, Banks has been a regular of the England’s northern promotions since 2004 and is currently one half of the Target Wrestling tag team champions.
Gabriel Kidd: Nottingham native Kidd was one of the real breakthrough stars of WCPW/Defiant Wrestling, holding the promotion’s Internet title for four months in 2017. He’s still very much in the development stage of his career, but at 21 it’s likely that he’ll be a mainstay for years to come.
Liam Slater: Another individual who achieved success in WCPW/Defiant, Slater began his wrestling career back in 2013. The man from Bradford is amongst the smaller competitors on the show but is known for a more high-flying offence that has seen him win four titles thus far in his short career.
Brad Slayer: Slayer was someone I was completely unfamiliar with before writing this preview. From Great Yarmouth, Slayer is a prominent fixture in WAW, the promotion run by the Knight Family in Norwich’s Epic Studios, where this series of WOS was filmed. At 29, Slayer is a nine-year veteran.
HT Drake: Newcastle’s Drake only began his career in 2016, gaining most of his exposure in Defiant as part of the Prospect stable alongside Alex Gracie and Lucas Archer.
The WOS Tag Team Roster
Iestyn Rees & Kip Sabian: It was announced that Gloucester’s Rees and Great Yarmouth’s Sabian would team together, although they never been in a ring together in their professional careers before. Rees, the more muscle-bound of the duo, has received greater exposure in recent years, holding the PCW Heavyweight Title for over a year and is currently a top contender for the ICW tag titles alongside Bram. Sabian is someone I rate quite highly and boasts a more flashy, high-flying style and has had much of his experience in the WAW promotion.
Adam Maxted & Nathan Cruz: Much like the prior team, these two have never wrestled as a tandem before. Former Love Island contestant Maxted certainly boasts an impressive physique and is rated by some in Ireland. He won the tag team titles in the ill-fated 5* promotion earlier this year alongside Charlie Sterling. Hull’s Cruz was a much bigger star in the UK scene a couple of years ago, being the first Progress Champion and then holding the Progress tag titles twice alongside El Ligero. He is currently the champion in his local promotion, NGW.
Stevie Boy & BT Gunn: An actual tag team! Whilst Stevie Boy and BT Gunn have been singles rivals in 2018, these two have been teaming together for a number of years under the name ‘Just Uz’. As a team they have competed in both England and Scotland, winning the BCW, PBW and RNW tag team titles along the way. Stevie Boy is the current ICW heavyweight champion in his first reign and is one of several Scottish wrestlers who have relatively little buzz due to only really working in Scotland. Gunn is someone I’m personally quite high on, and he made a good impression during the WCPW World Cup last year.
The WOS Women’s Roster
Ayesha: London-based Ayesha, who has gone under a variety of ring names in her nine-year career, has worked up and down the UK over the years and has also competed in Wrestle-1, Stardom, Sendai Girls and SeadLINNING. She competed in the IPW:UK Women’s No.1 Contender’s tournament earlier this year, losing to Chakara in the final.
Kasey Owens: Northern Ireland’s Kasey is one of the UK’s most underrated female talents in my book. Formerly in a tag team with Leah Owens, Kasey is now firmly established as a singles competitor, winning the ICW women’s title twice in the past year and currently holding the Queen of Southside title in SWE.
Kay Lee Ray: Kay Lee Ray is without doubt one of the best women’s wrestlers in Europe, and she is a brilliant addition to the WOS brand. She put on a wrestling clinic earlier this year against Meiko Satomura in EVE and has regularly had excellent matches everywhere she’s been, often in an intergender setting.
Bea Priestley: Priestley made her wrestling debut in 2016, having been trained by Travis Banks. Whilst she gained a lot of early interest because she was Will Ospreay’s girlfriend, her trips to Stardom and strong showings for Defiant, RevPro and EVE this year have all shown that she is a promising female star in her own right.
Viper: One half of the first ever women’s singles match in WOS back in 2016, Viper is very much the woman of the moment. She was the subject of a BBC documentary earlier this year and currently holds both the SWA Undisputed Women’s World Championship in Stardom and also the ICW women’s title, for which she is currently in her second reign.
With all that in mind, and from what limited comments I’ve seen online (WOS have done an excellent job of staying spoiler-free, as far as I can tell), the new WOS seems to have a grittier, realer feel than what we were initially presented with in 2016. The men’s roster features some already established names, some guys I’m glad to see get a chance and some guys I’ve seen very little of. I’m a little sceptical of the tag team division on what they’ve announced thus far, but the women’s division has the potential to be very good indeed.
I’ll be tuning in on Saturday, will you?