Tuesday, June 19, 2018

WWE NXT UK Is Coming

Couture got hurt working a sham deal that will now be used as the fruition of WWE's English expansionism
Screen Grab from YouTube via ProWrestling.com
Toni Storm, Killer Kelly, and Isla Dawn competed in a three-way match to figure out who Shayna Baszler's challenger at the United Kingdom Tournament tapings would be yesterday. It was supposed to be a four-way match featuring Jinny Couture, and in fact, it began as such. Couture, who right now is the PROGRESS Women's Champion and perhaps the hottest property in British wrestling of any gender, injured herself badly enough that the match stopped and she needed help to the back. The match was declared a no-contest, and it was restarted later without Couture. While her injury condition hasn't been updated, the fact that she had to be helped to the back didn't really bode well for her chances of earning her keep through wrestling.

Of course, her appearance at the UK Tournament tapings suggested that she signed a deal much like many of her male counterparts in the scene, one that keeps them on WWE retainer and gives them a list of "approved" promotions for which they can work, but that doesn't give them full status as a WWE performer. While those deals open them to work for the biggest promotions in the Isles, Insane Championship Wrestling and PROGRESS, the list of promotions that it prohibits excludes the ITV World of Sport revival that taped once a few years back and then fell into some hard times. Those retainer deals felt unnecessary, especially with the rumored WWE UK brand seeming so far away. That's why when WWE announced Johnny Saint would be the general manager of said brand, it took people by surprise. WWE had no real plans scheduled for a UK brand outside this hastily announced tournament. Well, at said tapings, the other shoe dropped, and WWE announced the formation of NXT UK, which will not only feature the United Kingdom Championship that Pete Dunne currently holds, but divisions for women and tag teams as well.

The timing of the launch of the division coincides with, you guessed it, the World of Sport revival coming back online. The promotion taped a block of shows May 10-12 in Norwich, and in the most curious news of them all, the wrestlers who are working those shows will be paid as actors. That's right, those wrestlers will be unionized. In case you've not been paying attention to WWE for the last 30 years or so, those wrestlers are famously non-union, thanks to the efforts of that rat-bitch racist piece of shit Hulk Hogan. Is the announcement of NXT UK even more curious in that regard? Yes. Does it also show WWE's hand as wanting global domination of pro wrestling in Vince McMahon's image and likeness? Also yes.

The roster WWE has amassed on these questionable contracts already contains pretty much every marquee star from the British scene outside of guys like Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre, Jr., and Marty Scurll, who already work Ring of Honor and/or New Japan Pro Wrestling. WWE's tentacles are poised to strangle the British and probably European scenes with this move, and the company isn't even hiding its intentions that well. It's so transparent. Meanwhile, the workers suffer from lack of mobility. Again, PROGRESS and ICW are the cash cows, but man, a union payday might have looked nice for other wrestlers looking for a bigger piece of the pie and collectively bargained protections like maybe insurance? I'm sure WWE will cover Couture's injury costs because it happened in the ring; I mean, WWE isn't Daffney-era TNA levels of evil yet. Still though, anyone who gets hurt while working on one of those sham deals feels the pinch, especially if the monies tied to those deals only kicks in if they're able to work (admittedly, I'm not up to speed on the details of those contracts, but still).

NXT UK will probably be good if just for the sheer starpower involved and the pedigree of the people who run good ol' American NXT. That being said, whoever said quality was a justifiable end for unfair labor practices and corporate expansionism? I'm just sad that WWE has pretty much invaded the United Kingdom and made a uniquely vibrant scene bend the knee. And honestly, shame on both ICW and PROGRESS for allowing it to happen by becoming glorified WWE farm leagues, to be honest.