Since the inception of Sky TV and the advent of 24-hour rolling sports channels, the curious world of WWE wrestling has grown ever more popular. Regular live broadcasts, highlights packages and monthly pay-per-view extravaganzas are now commonplace on British TV.
Vince McMahon, the grand ringmaster of it all, and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, has certainly embraced the popularity of his product on these shores. With the WWE show constantly on the road, regular visits by the biggest names in the wrestling world are now common occurrences in the UK.
But it wasn’t always this way. In the early nineties, it was incredibly rare to see WWE (then WWF) put on shows outside of its native US. This lack of live UK action, combined with the television coverage that was practically non-existent in comparison with today’s levels, could quite easily have made the Wembley booking a disaster. Thankfully for Vince, it was anything but.
By 1992, the appetite amongst UK fans for their first real first taste of live WWE action was palpable, as a staggering 80,000 crammed into the old Wembley stadium to see the icons of professional wrestling. The Undertaker, Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage and Bret Hart all starred as the WWE put on a show that the grand old stadium had never seen likes of before.
The whole thing was literally kick-started into life by legendary tag-team, the Legion of Doom. The Road Warriors sent the crowd into raptures, as they rolled down the ludicrously long entrance aisle on customised Harley Davidsons.
From that point on, there was no let up. Future Hall of Famers the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage battled it out for the WWE title, with Savage utilising a classic heel manoeuvre to retain the belt. The iconic Undertaker took his trademark entrance to whole other level by arriving on the back of a hearse, before the show closed with the now legendary main event.
These days there are tons of British wrestlers on the WWE roster, but back in 1992, there was but one - the late, great British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith.
In one of the all-time great WWE matches, England’s very own Davey Boy squared off against real life brother-in-law, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart for the Intercontinental Title. Too and fro, back and forth the match went, as two great superstars at the top of their game thrilled the crowd, without the need for outside interference or the use of metal chairs.
When the Bulldog eventually pulled off his huge homecoming victory, the Wembley crowd raised the roof, creating a noise to rival that of any cup final goal that Wembley had witnessed in its long and storied history.
Sadly it was this moment that proved to be the pinnacle of Davey Boy’s career. The notoriously intense lifestyle of a professional wrestler eventually proved too much for the British Bulldog, and he passed away from a heart attack in 2002, at the tragically young age of just 39.
Wrestlers perform night after night, city after city. They live on the road, carrying with them with a vast array of aches, pains and injuries constantly in tow. Drugs are then taken to kill the pain, drugs are taken to bring them up and drugs are taken to bring them down. Prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, recreational drugs, alcohol and of course steroids, were all widely used at the time.
Without the British Bulldog’s victory, Summerslam ‘92 would still have been a huge success, but it was Davey Boy’s homecoming glory that turned a good show into a great one for the UK fans.
With the WWE now such a frequent visitor to the UK, it’s hard to understand why the British fans have had to wait twenty-three years (and counting) for second pay-per-view extravaganza. Vince McMahon need look no further than the huge success the NFL have had in recent years, to see what potential the newly rebuilt Wembley offers for another PPV epic.
In a perfect world, Wrestlemania would come to the UK for the first time ever, but given the usually rubbish British weather during March/April, it seems an impractical choice for an often open air show. Another Summerslam however, well that’s another story. Surely after all these years, the ever loyal UK fans are due a sequel to their finest hour - over to you Vince.