If you’ve ever found yourself being a part of a subculture prior to the current pro wrestling scene, you already understand that it exists finitely and only continues to thrive with adaptation by both entity and advocate.
While any kind of fandom will always bring people less than committed to the cause beyond what it gives to them on an emotional or physical level, the difference between a culture and a bubble is the people that stick around after the mania has come and gone. Far too often do I peruse gig listings and see some band or group that was on top of the world once upon a time continuing to fill arenas across the country (Hanson do continue to sell out buildings in 2018…), so it doesn’t take much to realise that this occurs via a continuingly passionate, engaged and sometimes forgiving audience.
While 2018 is only the most interesting year for British Wrestling since 2017; it would be ignorant to think that the shifts and mission statements laid out by the major players won’t affect the paradigm of the entire scene, and I know it’s all too easy to be put off by change. So I wanted to take this opportunity to write about a few things we should all be expecting, how I believe they will have significant but eventually positive effects (short and long term) and what we as a community can do to ensure the growth of something we all (at least claim) to love.
1: RESIST THE ‘BAND IN YOUR BACK POCKET’ MENTALITY
This is a classic move for anyone that’s been apart of a subgenre before; put simply it means to reject something once it becomes popular beyond what you feel like is your control and no longer feels ‘yours’.
Everyone loves the feeling of when they discover something incredible, but as more and more people cotton on to just how good the thing is; that feeling soon dissipates. This can lead to one of two courses of action; you either reject it completely or (and significantly more destructive) you manifest the feelings of resentment into a ‘gatekeeper’ mentality as way of wording off potential new fans and what you’ll see as ‘Damage limitation’ is counter productive to the growth of the scene.
The current crop of British talent working for every major wrestling outlet in the world happened because 300 fans became 3,000 and so on, it’s that growth that has brought companies like Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and NXT running events in this country at a regularity that wasn’t conceivable even five years ago.
2: SUPPORT THE NEXT NEXT GENERATION
To reiterate something I mentioned in my previous point; there’s no greater feeling then when you discover something truly special within your scene, which in this case would be the next breakout British talent. While there are a tremendous amount of top level talents working within training schools to get the next crop of talent ready, it’s worth mentioning Fighting Spirit and wXw Academy in particular as they will regularly showcase brand new talent next to and opposite some of the most talented names in the scene. I could give you a good long list of guy’s I think you should be looking out for, but I think I’ll save that for a later post. Trainee shows and small gigs have more in common than you’d imagine, just like someone saw The Arctic Monkeys play The Grapes; Zack Gibson started his career in a Runcorn community centre.
3: LITERALLY EVERYONE HAS A STREAMING SERVICE; FIND AN ALTERNATIVE IF YOU’RE BORED.
Without putting a somewhat embarrassing timestamp on myself, I come from a time where my most recent New Japan show came in the form of a fourth generation NTSC tape I waited six weeks for via an entirely potentially lost cheque in the post. Those eventual hours of golden era Junior Heavyweight wrestling were fawned over because I had found something fresh to the point of alien within a sport I already adored. I know these tales of the tape trader seem a little cliché by now, but it can’t be stated just HOW MUCH wrestling is literally at your fingertips.
I’m a big proponent of treating wrestling like music in that there’s always a subgenre that I haven’t fully explored or haven’t revisited to seek out something fresh. The fruits of this are already on display with the amount of non-domestic talent now becoming synonymous with British companies, so find something you like; tell all your friends and you might get your favourite promotion to book Daisuke Sekimoto too.
4: SPEND MONEY (WHERE YOU CAN).
This is a complex issue that I don’t think anyone has presented an objective viewpoint for in this forum before. So you know, hear me out.
To say that I pride myself on being able to say I was a part of the tape trading scene would be somewhat of an overstatement, but I do think it’s given me a perspective on the worth of wrestling media and its consumption different to someone who had no experience of it. I also believe that this perspective is galvanised by being on both sides of the argument, both fan and promoter. In short: while I wouldn’t encourage anyone to seek out wrestling by nefarious means, your fandom should not be restricted to your financial situation. As I mention above; with so much access to so much wrestling and most companies offering it at a premium, to support even what would be considered the ‘major players’ would cost at least triple figures on a monthly basis. This, on top of live shows and merchandise is enough of a perceived paywall to deter anyone looking to seek out more wrestling.
My advice to you all is to just be responsible; any hobby costs money and you should support the scene monetarily as well as morally, just don’t be a dick about it.
5: THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE; DEAL WITH IT.
I’ve left this for last as I think all of the aforementioned points are all coping mechanisms for what I’m about to illustrate. By being the first major non-domestic investment of its size, NXT UK legitimises this scene as the best in the world and the people spearheading it with equal praise. But this will come at what some people will see as a cost or compromise. To use an analogy from another scene with equally a fanatic audience; Electronic Arts receives endless scrutiny from the video games community for buying up and cannibalising highly talented independent developers. While in the instance of EA being more fact than fiction (see Visceral Games), the NXT model is itself working to put to bed the preconceptions of making mediocrity from lightning in a bottle WWE is infamous for while also pumping out some of the best matches in the world on every major show they produce.
As I said in my opening paragraph: the continuation of this scene has to come with adaptation by both entity and advocate, and with PROGRESS running what will arguably be their biggest show ever (currently or going forward), it would seem like an appropriate time to accept certain changes of the guard. Even without delving into the supposed ‘inner workings’; the influence PROGRESS has and will have on the NXT UK product is already in plain sight with the vast majority of the advertised roster being Ballroom regulars. But while I think it’s a given that the in ring talent will move on in place of the NEXT next generation, this will likely extend to non-competitive personalities also.
I’m writing this now, as I believe that the forthcoming weeks and months will be the difference between British Wrestling growing as a scene or a culture bubble bursting, clearly I’ll be around regardless so I hope to see you all soon.