With WWE currently touring in the UK, we take a look back over the company’s top 10 moments on our fair shores. From Wembley stadium to Download Festival, there are so many to choose from – here’s hoping for many more to come:
10) Foul Play In WWE
When visiting our shores you can guarantee WWE will reference British culture with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Stage sets are more often adorned with giant Union Jack flags, telephone boxes and the much bemoaned black cab. Another curious trait has been the use of one of our other biggest pastimes…football. Starting with Vinnie Jones receiving a red card and sharing a beer with Stone Cold back in the 90s, the references have continued with Jose Mourinho receiving a grilling from Shane Mcmahon. But one moment that grabbed headlines across the globe involved a certain Wayne Rooney. After exchanging tweets with Wade Barrett, the England legend was confronted at a Monday Night Raw. Goaded by the Preston-born Barrett, Rooney reached over the barricade and planted a stinging slap across the face of the Superstar.
9) One Night Only PPV – Birmingham 1997
A stacked card featuring Triple H vs. Dude Love, Owen Hart vs. Vader, Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog. Michaels was in his full HBK heel mode goading the Brummie crowd, as they threw litter into the ring after the defeat of their British hero on home soil. At the time the PPV wasnt available to US audiences making it that extra bit special. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that all the aforementioned Superstars will find themselves in the Hall of Fame someday soon. Critics also called the bout between Undertaker and Bret Hart, the last truly great match The Hitman had.
8) Stone Cold vs The Rock – Rebellion 2001
Ask most fans who lived through the ‘Attitude Era’ which Wrestlemania is their favourite, most will unflinchingly reply with 17. Such is the fondness for that particular Mania, it has almost become the measuring stick for all events that have followed even some 18 years later. The main event that night was between two of the biggest names ever to grace the ring in Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. The Manchester crowd in was treated to an arguably superior rematch in much more intimate surroundings. The result would remain the same after some hi jinx with Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho, but the chance to see two all time legends recreate magic is electrifying.
7) A Right Royal Knees Up
Twenty-six years on from their last visit to one of the most prestigious venues in the world, WWE booked out the Royal Albert Hall for two back to back nights of action. The first night saw the second ever WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament progress all the way to the finals. But it was to be a momentous occasion when Triple H announced the formation of NXT UK – a new and standalone promotion that would tour the UK and appear on the WWE Network. With Johnny Saint placed in charge of the brand, British fans rejoiced at the prospect of their own show. The second night contained stars of the newly formed NXT UK, NXT matches as well as the finals of the tournament. The bizarre sight of shoes held aloft in a majestic arena to mock finalist Zack Gibson, encapsulated a very British sense of humour in a very British venue.
6) Download The Action
Starting back in 2016, WWE and more specifically NXT announced a partnership made in heaven. For the first time ever NXT would play the hallowed grounds of Donington Park at Download Festival. Fans rejoiced as the biggest names in rock and wrestling combined at one of the world’s best festivals within a specially erected wrestling tent. The inaugural show even saw self confessed metal head Triple H make a surprise appearance. This has become an annual tradition, with WWE attending every year since. 2019 will see the stars of NXT UK do battle in what has become one of the company’s favourite dates of the year. With two sessions a day over the long weekend, fans have a chance to see some of the best British talent on display, mere meters from the main Download stage. What more could you ask for?
5) NXT Takeover London – Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe
The yellow and black brand has always been well received by UK audiences. So when NXT visited a packed out Wembley Arena, magic was in the air. From its soundtrack of Motorhead and The Struts to Finn Balor’s Jack The Ripper style entrance, the event was wildly successful. Although Balor’s entrance stole the show, the main event was an absolute barnstormer – a brutal back and forward, played out in front of a lively London crowd. Asuka’s relatively young NXT career was also enhanced following her win in a tremendous match with Emma.
4) Tyson Kidd vs Dolph Ziggler vs Cesaro- Intercontinental Championship Elimination Match – Liverpool 2014
The Intercontinental Championship has long been dubbed the ‘working man’s title’ in the industry and this match played up to that moniker beautifully. Three company workhorses tore the house down in a high octane match from start to finish. Such was the chemistry between Cesaro and Kidd, they formed a title winning tag team in the following weeks. Sometimes Superstars have a little more freedom when performing overseas, leading to modern day classics when it would be easier to phone in their matches.
3) Sixty Minute Men- John Cena vs Shawn Michaels- London 2007
Two huge Superstars. One a current Hall of Famer, the other a sure-fire future entrant. Add in a wrestling ring, a lively audience and near on a full hour of scintillating action and witness one of the best matches in decades. Cena has always had his critics but on a memorable night in the capital, the 16 time champ earned some begrudging respect from the WWE universe. Michaels would even claim this to be one of his favourite matches in his illustrious career.
2) AJ Styles wins WWE Championship-Smackdown 2017
Although WWE have been visiting the UK for decades, one of the biggest disappointments has been the paint by number shows the fans are subjected to. Sure, we are lucky enough to see our favourite Superstars on a semi regular basis, but there has never been anything of consequence when it comes to results. All that changed one bizarre night in Manchester. A seemingly innocuous championship match was set up between then champion Jinder Mahal and AJ Styles. Just weeks before an advertised Survivor Series match against Brock Lesnar, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Mahal’s reign would continue. By the end of the match it would be Styles lifting the title as the new WWE Champion. Scenes of shock and bedlam ensued as the news reached stateside fans via Twitter due to the prerecorded nature of the show. Being there live to witness history (the title has never changed hands outside North America) was simply…phenomenal.
1) Wrestling down Wembley Way
Nowadays WWE has become accustomed to bumper crowds and huge events. Long before Wrestlemania moved to stadium shows on a full time basis, 80,000 fans packed in to Wembley for Summerslam. It is, in fact, still the fifth highest attendance in the company’s history and still used as an argument to give the UK another stadium PPV. Fans have long demanded for the show of shows to be held in England and it’s hard to argue with the success of the show. Tickets and merchandise are reported to have brought in over $3.5 million which, even by today’s standards, stands up. The main event of British Bulldog vs Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart for the Intercontinental Championship, is arguably one of the best Summerslam matches of all time. The Wembley roar is evident throughout, but as the ref counts three to win Davey Boy Smith the title the noise explodes like never before. Twenty-seven years on, we are still waiting for another PPV on this scale…