ITV has tried to bring wrestling back into the mainstream numerous times, with the 2018 World of Sport wrestling series being the most famous.
It had a good start, but ratings soon tapered off, and the show was cancelled after just one series.
The appetite for wrestling in the UK is clearly there – American promotion AEW recently sold 81,035 tickets – the most in wrestling history – for a show at Wembley Stadium in August.
It’s clear the British public want wrestling, and that is why another pilot episode of World of Sport Wrestling was filmed in 2013, featuring the family of AEW Women’s Champion Saraya as the stars of the show.
World of Sport 2013 Pilot
In the Mid-2010s, wrestling had a popularity boom in the UK, and ITV saw the chance to bring it back into the mainstream.
Hearkening back to the days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, they contacted LDN Wrestling to film a pilot for a return of “World of Sport Wrestling” in 2013.
While “World of Sport” was simply a program that showed all manner of sports in the UK on a Saturday afternoon, it has become synonymous with the classic, golden era of wrestling in Great Britain, and ITV wanted to use that to springboard the sport back into public consciousness.
Veteran ring announcer Lee Bamber hosted a pilot episode of WOS Wrestling, hosted by LDN Wrestling at Fairfield Halls, in Croydon.
Filming for the pilot was completed in November 17th, 2013 and featured 100 minutes of action (two hours with ad breaks) to hopefully get fans on the side of this new product.
The pilot episode of World of Sport began with interviews of the various wrestlers on the show, where they talked about their journey into the business and the sacrifices and injuries they faced in their careers.
This was a good way to get fans to know some of these wrestlers before they see them in the ring. The interviews were much more informal and subdued, not giving the wrestlers much of a “larger than life” character that fans will be expecting.
The show featured five matches, contested under the classic British Wrestling rules of two-out-of-three falls matches, with multiple rounds. This is unlike the American style of wrestling that has become the norm across the world, which may turned fans away from the idea.
The matches on the World of Sport Pilot in 2013 included:
- Karl Krammer vs Hakan
- Yorghos vs Jon Ritchie
- LDN British Heavyweight Title Match: Alan Lee Travis vs Joe E. Legend
- Johnny Kidd vs Matt Striker
- Zak Knight vs Zebra Kid
Some of those names will mean nothing to you, while others are much more notable.
Matt Striker is the former WWE and Impact commentator. A rare American on the show, he is an interesting and unexpected addition to the show.
Striker took on Johnny Kidd, who older fans will remember for wrestling during the “Golden Era” of pro-wrestling in Britain. He wrestled on World of Sport back in the 1980s, and was the man chosen to help bridge the gap between then and now on this show.
The main event match featured two names you may not know, but you will know their family.
Brothers Zak Knight and Zebra Kid battled in the main event, both being part of the legendary “Knight” wrestling family in Norwich. Their entire family are wrestlers, with their sister being the former WWE and current AEW Women’s Champion Saraya.
Zebra Kid is also known as Roy Knight, and along with Zak is the son of Ricky Knight – a patriarch of the family. Zak was portrayed by Jack Lowden in the movie “Fighting with my Family”, while Roy was played by James Burrows.
The matches on the show were much different to the ones you’d expect in AEW or WWE. They were slower paced, and more technical (although less so than the peak of British wrestling), with the rounds’ system changing how they wrestled the match completely.
There is clearly an influence of American wrestling, although with the popularity of that across the globe it would be impossible not to alter the original formula.
The main issue with the show as the production. Compared to the likes of TNA and WWE (which were the most popular in the UK at the time), it looked incredibly cheap.
The hall was dark and dingy, with the crowd completely blacked out. 800 fans were said to have attended the show, but you wouldn’t have guessed more than 50 had turned up, based on the video.
It seemed like LDN wanted to recapture the “magic” of the Golden Age of British Wrestling, not realizing how the world had moved on and that the old-style of wrestling no longer worked, in this age of Americanisation.
Of course, the 2018 series went the other way, becoming an over-produced, eye watering, colorful mess that couldn’t help but force viewers to turn it off.
It’s sad that the World of Sport reboots did not work, as there is clearly a huge market for wrestling in the UK. Let’s hope the next rumored reboot does enough to last more than 10 episodes.
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.