WWE is facing a situation where they may no longer be the #1 TV promotion in the UK, according to The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, as ITV recently taped their pilot for the World of Sport revival, which is set to air at the end of the month. ITV is the #2 network in the UK and while RAW on Sky may draw around 150,000 viewers, World of Sport will likely be seen by millions of people. WWE would obviously still be the #1 UK promotion when it comes to attendance and just about everything else.
The series has not officially been picked up it’s strongly being considered with the idea of holding a large taping in a few months where they tape as many as 10 weeks worth of episodes at once. The two-hour special that airs later this month will feature commentary by WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross. The event was taped back on November 1st.
WWE is becoming more aggressive in signing talents and based on recent deals that have been offered, there’s speculation on WWE trying to sign wrestlers just to keep them away from potential competitors. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that WWE vs. ITV is already brewing behind-the-scenes. ITV recently sent their talents an amendment to their contracts that does not allow anyone appearing on their shows to appear on TV for other major networks. The contracts do not prevent ITV talents from appearing for other companies or from appearing on iPPV events and streaming services for other promotions but they do give ITV first call on bookings, similar to what TNA has had with their talents. ITV is already talking about doing live events with World of Sport if the first season is a success.
Regarding these unique contracts WWE is offering to key UK talents that have some name value or are marketable, they are described as different from anything WWE has ever done and are being called “competition-killer” deals by some. The deals are not for WWE NXT and the WWE Performance Center or the main roster, and are low-dollar guarantees that would see the talent stay in the UK and be allowed to work indies. WWE would also have the right to approve or not approve their indie dates. The talent would now have a small cushion from WWE and the added value of being associated with the company. The key here is that WWE will be able to lock the talent in and prevent them from going to ITV or other promotions that have streaming content.
We don’t have confirmation on who has been offered deals but The Wrestling Observer says some of the names are fairly well-known in the “UK hardcore community” while others have no name value at all. Many have worked WWE tryouts in the past but the company wasn’t interested in them at the time. Several who worked the recent tryouts in Glasgow were offered this new deal as well. WWE is reportedly doing background checks and has told the potential signings to clean up their social media accounts but the actual physical contracts have not been offered yet.
These new contracts from WWE were a hot topic backstage at the recent ICW show in Glasgow with some trying to pressure others into not signing, calling them “mark deals” and saying WWE “don’t want you, they just don’t want anyone else to have you.”
There’s also speculation on WWE possibly doing some kind of TV show with these new UK talents for that market only. The idea is that just being associated with WWE will be a big boost to the local marketability of each talent signed.