Despite being called World Wrestling Entertainment, the vast majority of the company’s programming has emanated from the US. There has however, always been a special relationship between WWE and the UK. Fans this side of the Atlantic have long admired the professional wrestling scene in America. From selling out Wembley Stadium in 1992 to trading stickers during the Attitude Era, Britain has almost become a home away from home for Superstars. Touring twice a year across the country, as well as establishing the company’s first overseas promotion in NXT UK, WWE has enjoyed the fruits of its partnership with Britain. With Saturday’s Clash At The Castle set to break a number of records for WWE, our King Of The Ring, Andy Spoors, lists five of the best matches the company has laid on in the UK…
British Bulldog vs Brett Hart – SummerSlam 1992 – Wembley Stadium
To this day, the main event from WWE’s first and (until this weekend) only stadium show in the UK, is regularly held up as the pinnacle of the company’s efforts over here. A packed Wembley Stadium had created a cacophony of noise from start to finish even with the absence of some huge names.
With our very own Davey Boy Smith, more commonly known as The British Bulldog, facing off against ‘The Excellence of Execution, Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart for the Intercontinental Championship, the crowd reached fever pitch. The match itself was set to a backdrop of a family feud, Smith being married to Hart’s own sister Diana, cranking up the stakes tenfold. After a technical masterclass from both men, the hometown hero claimed victory and the Intercontinental Championship with a sunset flip reversal into a pin. As the pair reconciled those in attendance went ballistic. Yes it may have been pandering to the vociferous London crowd, but this was storytelling 101.
Shawn Michaels vs John Cena – Monday Night Raw 23 April 2007
Just a few short weeks after their WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 23, John Cena faced off against the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels in London on a random Monday Night Raw.
What may have been originally billed as a midcard non-title match, soon spiralled into an almost hour long epic. A back and forth over nothing but their own pride and determination to show who was the better man, remains to this day one of the best matches to appear on WWE’s weekly programming. Cena may have had his hand raised at the end of Mania, but on this occasion, HBK managed to hit a couple of Sweet Chin Music superkicks to collapse, exhausted, on top of the WWE Champion for the pin. A match that had no right to steal not only the show, but write itself into lists like this…
Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne – WWE UK Championship Tournament Final 2017
In the last few days of 2016, Triple H held a press conference announcing a two day tournament to crown an inaugural WWE UK Champion. The tournament would take place in the historic Empress Ballroom in Blackpool.
Stealing the weekend, Pete Dunne established himself as the tournament’s villain, sucker punching his quarter final opponent, Sam Gradwell before smugly smiling in front of an apoplectic William Regal. Progressing to the final he would meet the youngest competitor in the competition and firm underdog, Tyler Bate. In truth, Dunne and Bate had grown up together on the British indie scene and put on a classic strong style match. The intimate arena seemed to create a cauldron of noise and as Bate hit the Tyler Driver ‘97 to claim the win, the seeds were well and truly planted for a new chapter in British Wrestling.
WALTER vs Ilja Dragunov – NXT UK Championship Match – NXT UK – 29 October 2020
As the world continued to feel the grip of a global pandemic, NXT UK found themselves on a hiatus. This unfortunate break would thankfully come to an end and provide an astonishing match that claimed many a media outlet’s Match Of The Year. Imperious NXT UK Champion WALTER, already the longest modern day champion faced his stiffest competition to date in the form of Ilja Dragunov. This match is not one for the faint of heart, as both men set out to absolutely destroy each other. Set in the eerie silence of the BT Sport Studios, the lack of fans in attendance added a layer of intrigue and realism to the violence.
Very few words can do this masterpiece justice as Dragunov put on a star making turn, at one point screaming in German that the Champion would have to kill him to win. A modern day classic in a most brutal and beautiful way.
Moustache Mountain vs Undisputed Era – NXT Tag Team Championship Match – NXT UK Championship Tournament 19 June 2018
WWE’s UK arm of the Universe is well known for their vocal performances at live events. From humorous chants to ear splitting reactions to match conclusions, British fans are always welcomed with open arms on WrestleMania weekends. Even majestic surroundings like the Royal Albert Hall aren’t enough to temper the boisterous behaviour. This was never more evident than the celebrations that took place when Tyler Bate and Trent Severn captured the NXT Tag Team Championships from Undisputed Era.
During arguably the brand’s hottest run in the tag division, this match established both teams as fan favourites but by the match’s conclusion all the support inside the Albert Hall was firmly behind the Birmingham pair. Celebrating their win by diving into the crowd, the noise was electrifying and set a high bar right in the middle of a two day event. A well deserved moment for two of the British scene’s leading men.
Will any matches join the instant classic list this weekend? Our King of the Ring, Andy Spoors, will be in Cardiff this weekend so stay tuned to Rushonrock for reviews and exclusive interviews.
WWE Clash at the Castle airs live from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday 3rd September on Peacock in the US and WWE Network everywhere else.