The industry leaders in sports entertainment – WWE – returned to UK shores with their twice annual tour and HRH Mag’s wrestling expert Andy Spoors was there to witness the action.
Tours of the UK and Europe have long been a staple in WWE’s diary: used as a chance to give a fan base separated by thousands of miles a glimpse of their heroes and a taste of what American audiences get every week, they’re a big hit and a must-see.
Recently the company has earmarked Britain as its second home, crowning a domestic Champion on the back of a two-day tournament streamed live on their own network to huge acclaim.
Fast forward to May 2017 and the product and audience may have changed but the expectation certainly hasn’t.
Kicking off with international star Shinsuke Nakamura vs Dolph Ziggler the event promised to be one of the best yet. Nakamura has yet to make his on-screen debut on the main roster so for many in attendance this would be the first time seeing what he can offer.
Neither he nor Ziggler disappointed in what was easily the best match of the night. The crowd sung along to his instrumental and insanely catchy entrance with gusto – a testimony to WWE’s marketing nous.
The rest of the first half was packed with a mix of singles and tag team matches as well as a popular women’s six-person tag team bout.
Just before the interval, the talented pantomime villain of the night, Kevin Owens, squared off against long-time rival Sami Zayn in the first of three championship matches. It’s hard to argue that Owens isn’t the real deal. He is as exceptional on the mic as he is in the ring – here lecturing kids on why their parents are ‘pieces of garbage and have raised brats’.
There was even a chance for local talent to face off in another six-man tag match, with some of the best of WWE’s UK talent on offer. If this is the level of performance those guys are putting in up and down house shows both here and in America, they are certainly doing us proud.
The main event of the show saw WWE Champ Randy Orton square off against number one contender Jinder Mahal and AJ Styles in a triple threat match for the title. Featuring two of the most popular stars in the same match meant some of the vocal crowd would go home unhappy. But this leads into the one negative associated with these events: predictability.
Sure, house shows are a chance for kids to see their idols up close and personal but for the hardcore fans there is a realisation that nothing here has consequence. Titles don’t change hands as it doesn’t fit continuity within the WWE universe. Even when there have been PPVs held on these shores, it’s very rare for titles to change hands with the big stories often saved for US shows.
It is, however, fantastic to see such a mixed audience with a huge number of families surely solidifying WWE’s future for generations to come. The company is even working hard to tap in to markets all over the world to provide the very best to their passionate audience.
WWE made the decision to go PG-13 years ago and have never looked back. The demand has never been stronger across the entire world, so for WWE to keep coming back here is great. Now if only we could get a WrestleMania…