Wrestling in the United Kingdom is on the rise, with multiple promotions pulling in thousands of fans on a regular basis.
While there are tens of promotions in Britain itself, putting on shows on a weekly basis, it is the two big American companies that rule the wrestling roost.
These are World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which are shown in the UK on BT Sport and ITV, respectively.
They carry a cast of international superstars, including some of the best British wrestlers in the world today. Big stars like Drew McIntyre, PAC and Will Ospreay have appeared for the promotions, flying the flag for the UK.
With AEW running Wembley Stadium in a huge show in August this year, we’ll look back at some of the biggest wrestling shows ever to take place in the United Kingdom.
We’ll look at the shows based on the fans they brought in, and the cultural impact they had on the wider wrestling world.
Summerslam 1992 (WWE)
When WWE brought Summerslam to the UK in 1992, few could have imagined the impact it would have.
An estimated 78,000 fans packed into Wembley Stadium that night, ready to see the top stars in the WWE in action for the first time.
The country had been starved of wrestling, since the downfall of wrestling on ITV in 1985. With American wrestling taking over, the WWE was the biggest game in town.
With the main event being Bret Hart vs British Bulldog, it had all the makings of a fantastic show. Both men were among the most popular wrestlers in Europe, and were considered two of the best in the world.
They managed to have a main event that Vince McMahon called the best match he’d ever seen, and saw Bulldog pinning Hart to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship in his home country.
This would, for some reason, be the last time the WWE would run a stadium show in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
All In 2 (AEW)
While it has surpassed Summer 1992 in the gate receipts, AEW All In 2 comes in just below due to the cultural relevance of the former.
When AEW announced their UK show, fans were debating whether it would be held in a traditional arena, like the O2 Arena, or in Craven Cottage.
Craven Cottage is Fulham’s football ground, and holds around 20,000 seats. This would have made it AEW’s biggest show ever, and fans were wondering whether they could even fill such a stadium.
Then, Tony Khan shocked the world. He announced that All In would take place at Wembley Stadium, the home of England’s football team. 90,000 tickets were put up for sale, with 36,000 going on the first day of pre-sale alone.
With no matches yet announced, the show has the chance to sell out completely if the right card if announced.
If the likes of CM Punk, Kenny Omega, Bryan Danielson and Will Ospreay all have matches at the show, it could be the biggest UK wrestling event of all time.
81,035 tickets were sold for the show, making it the highest-paid attendance in the history of professional wrestling.
Clash at the Castle (WWE)
30 years after Summerslam 1992, WWE announced they were bringing a pay per view back to the UK.
While they had some small-scale shows in the late 1990s/early 200s, they had neglected to run a single stadium show in this entire time.
However, with Drew McIntyre basically begging for it for years, they finally announced Clash at the Castle to take place in September 2022.
It took place in Cardiff, Wales. The city was chosen due to the ease of access of the Principality Stadium (called the Millennium Stadium by anybody from Wales), which lies in the city centre.
The Stadium is the only one in the UK to have a fully-retractable roof, meaning that the typical British weather would not be an issue for the WWE.
The show was fantastic, and drew 58,000 paid fans to the event. The main event saw Drew McIntyre lose to Roman Reigns, thanks to interference from Solo Sikoa (sound familiar?).
Despite the disappointing end, it was a great show that laid the groundwork for more pay per view events to take place in the UK.
Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks (Joint Promotions)
You cannot talk about British wrestling without talking about the two biggest stars this country has ever produced.
If you’re not from the UK, it’s likely that you’ve never heard the names Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. They never found fame outside the British Isles, but took the country by storm in the heyday of British wrestling.
Yes, they were old, and fat, and couldn’t really do any wrestling. They were a far cry from the technical wizardy that was seen on the undercards on the World of Sport shows, on ITV on Saturday Afternoon.
But they had something. They were massive and they drew the crowds in. Big Daddy was a national hero, appearing on multiple TV shows and having his own comic strip. Both the Queen and Margaret Thatcher were even said to be big fans of his.
When Big Daddy collided with Giant Haystacks in Wembley Arena in June 1981, the whole country stopped. 20 million people tuned in to watch their match, glued to the screen.
Yes, it was terrible. But it was a spectacle. To get that many people to tune in while doing very, very little wrestling, was an art form. To have 20 million people watching you wrestle is something that no WWE superstar alive can claim.
That is why Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks was one of the biggest wrestling events in British history.
ICW Fear & Loathing 8
The peak of the era of Brit Wres, in my view, has to be at the incredible ICW Fear & Loathing VIII event.
After years of constant growth, working throughout Scotland and into England, Insane Championship Wrestling found itself a dedicated and passionate fanbase.
Bolstered by a series of BBC Documentaries, the Scottish promotion grew and grew, signing a series of stars, which included former WWE Champion Drew McIntyre.
Fear & Loathing VIII saw ICW World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway (McIntyre’s name outside of WWE) defending against Grado, the hilarious underdog babyface, who entered the arena to thousands of fans singing along to a Madonna classic.
Grado cut a Dusty Rhodes-like figure as he led the crowd in song, ready to compete in the biggest match of his life.
ICW had booked a number of American wrestlers, like Rhyno and Mick Foley, for the event, helping them draw over 4,000 fans in the SECC Arena in Glasgow.
At the end of the night, Mick Foley helped Grado pin Drew Galloway, winning the ICW World title and ascending to the top of professional wreslting.
Hello Wembley! (Progress)
Before the bastardisation of British Wrestling by NXT UK, Progress took all the stars that were snapped up by the WWE for their biggest show ever.
As the name would suggest, the show eminiated from Wembley Arena, a first for the English promotion.
With a show headlined by a fantastic battle between WALTER (Gunther in WWE) and Tyler Bate, and featured other well known talents like Mark Andrews, Pete Dunne and Eddie Dennis.
Nearly 5000 fans filled the arena to see this historic show, which tempted a revival of wrestling in the British mainstream.
Sadly, the WWE put a stop to that, partnering with all the top indie promotions and syphoning off their talent, at break neck speed.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.