Can the UK host a WWE PPV? Is a regular question that is commonly asked whenever the WWE tour Europe. There is no doubt that Wembley Stadium played host to one of the biggest wrestling events in history back for Summerslam 1992. A massive 80,355 people packed the historic national football stadium and witnessed The British Bulldog clinch the Intercontinental championship from Bret Hart in a fantastic match. The event was huge, however it was taped on Saturday and aired on Pay Per View on the Sunday. With the internet that can’t happen in today’s age, so this begs the question. In today’s age can WWE realistically hold a PPV in the UK?
With the rapid global expansion in the late 80’s, WWF found a home in the UK. Quick to find a fix after Saturday’s World Of Sport was cancelled by ITV, WWF proved to be a very over the top and popular replacement. After a successful initial tour, WWF launched its first UK only Pay Per View event, UK Rampage which lasted from 1989 through to 1993. Wembley Stadium was host of Summerslam 1992, an event which until Wrestlemania 29 was the second most attended WWE event after Wrestlemania 3. Fast forward to 1997, WWF returned to UK only PPV first with One Night Only and would continue to produce 2 PPV shows a year until Insurrextion 2003. WWE then changed the tour format to include a European tour and a taping of Raw and Smackdown in the UK and that continues through to today.
There is no doubt that support for wrestling in the UK is huge. Every Wrestlemania and the Raw after is rammed full of England, UK, football flags, all making the long haul flight over to the States to watch Wrestlemania. Jim Ross has been quoted in saying that the UK fans are one of the best. Due to only being treated twice a year, the crowds are lively, full of energy and love their wrestling. Even at the last November taping in Manchester, Raw was “taken” over by WWE super-fan WWESuperman. A PPV in the UK would be incredible based upon crowd reaction alone. With the number of fans in Europe a large PPV event wouldn’t struggle to sell out either.
So what are the hold ups? Firstly time difference, every Raw taping in the UK has been recorded, being broadcast “live” five hours later. The Summerslam PPV in 1992, was recorded the previous day. With the day of the internet results would get out very quickly and massively effect PPV buys. One way around that is to air the show live during the afternoon in America, meaning a 3pm start eastern time. It is a risk that WWE seem reluctant to take, would people buy into a mid afternoon PPV in America? Admittedly the WWE Network has reduced this fear so much as soon by the Tokoyo experiment in July.
Logistics is another issue, in order to maximise the preparation time, it would make sense for WWE to hold a European tour at the same time. WWE would have to host Raw and Smackdown in the UK the following nights after the PPV, would this become overkill? Three huge events in three nights. It would make sense to hold the PPV in one end of the country and Raw and Smackdown at the other end. The European tour is tough enough on the superstars and staff a PPV would make the task even more difficult.
The venue is another issue. The Manchester Evening News Arena and the O2 Arena in London are two venues that can hold close to 20,000 people and have regularly held TV taping’s. For a large PPV like Summerslam or Wrestlemania, then a larger stadium like Wembley would be an obvious choice, however with TV taping’s the next two days would there be enough interest to sell in excess of 100,000 tickets!
The fans in Europe would love a Pay Per View in Europe, it is possible, it’s just whether WWE would want to take the risk. WWE have the experience of holding PPV events in the UK before, so surely it can’t be that much different to make it a worldwide PPV. One thing is for sure, the crowd would be up there with the Chicago, New York and general Canadian crowds. It will be a Pay Per View event not to be missed.
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