The U.K. has witnessed quite the resurgence in wrestling over the past few months, with WWE’s U.K. Championship announcement coming just weeks after bosses at ITV decided to recommission World of Sport for the first time in 30 years.
The new episode of World of Sport premiered on New Year’s Eve and was considered a rousing success by many in the wrestling community.
It was hard for some fans to understand that British Wrestling has changed over the past 30 years, though, now there are some of the best wrestlers in the world performing on our shores.
The likes of Paige, Neville, and Jack Gallagher are currently plying their trade on the grandest stage with WWE, while the likes of Will Ospreay and Davey Boy Smith fly the flag for the U.K. over in NJPW.
British wrestling has changed and the rest of the world will be able to see this for themselves this weekend when 16 British Superstars descend on Blackpool and showcase their skills for the world to see on the WWE Network. But ahead of this, it’s time to look back at all the people who have made an impact on British Wrestling, and all the ones who we would prefer to forget.
15. Proud – Wade Barrett
The King of Bad News, the former leader of The Nexus, former Intercontinental Champion and King of the Ring winner. It is hard to dislike Wade Barrett. Born in Preston, England, Wade has always been proud of his roots and has always been used in such a way on WWE TV.
Barrett could well be one of the greatest U.K. wrestlers to head over to America and wrestle for WWE, and since his departure from the company a few months ago, he has returned to his roots. Barrett decided to walk away from WWE in order to concentrate on his acting career, but he did state that he would return to the ring ‘when the time is right’ which is great news for British audiences.
14. Disgraced – Paige
It is hard to put Paige on the disgraced pile after everything her family has done for British Wrestling over the past two decades, but sadly over the past few months, Paige has gone from being the best female wrestler the U.K. has ever produced, to the name that most fans dare not say.
As a former Divas and NXT Women’s Champion, Paige made a statement in WWE before 2016 became a year to forget for the Total Divas reality star. Two suspensions under WWE’s Wellness Policy and her alliance with Alberto Del Rio has many fans questioning if she will actually return to WWE at all when she has recovered from neck surgery. Paige has given the impression that she could care less about returning to WWE at this point.
13. Proud – Neville
After biding his time and wrestling the cream of the crop when it comes to British talent on the U.K. circuit, Neville was finally given his chance when WWE decided to rebrand their NXT Division from a ridiculous game/reality style television program to a real and legitimate wrestling promotion.
Adrian Neville became the longest reigning NXT Champion until his record was beaten by Finn Balor before he was moved up to the main roster as one of the biggest stars to come from the developmental brand. Neville was then part of a feud with fellow Brit Wade Barrett before he more recently found his place as the ‘King’ in WWE’s Cruiserweight Division. With all signs pointing towards a Neville push within the division, there is a strong possibility that Neville will soon be Cruiserweight Champion.
12. Disgraced – Bram
The former husband of WWE Raw Women’s Champion Charlotte, Bram is a wrestling Superstar in his own right, given his run in TNA and stint on the British Circuit, but like many others on this list, wrestling fans concentrated more on Bram’s life outside of the ring than they did when he was inside the ropes.
There were once rumours that Charlotte divorced her second husband because he was abusive, but these reports where corrected when it was said that Bram was arrested for assaulting a different female. This assault was not made Charlotte, even though the pair were still married at the time but it seemed that he had already moved on with another woman. This is now Bram’s reputation, which is certainly not one to make the U.K proud.
11. Proud – Doug Williams
Hailing from Reading, England, Doug Williams has always taken the U.K. with him, even though he now resides over in the United States. After a career that spanned more than two decades, Williams has begun returning to the U.K. more frequently since he’s made a return to the Independent Circuit.
Doug is best known for his lengthy stint in TNA, back when the company was thought of as a legitimate rival of WWE. He has never stopped flying the flag for the U.K. and is the role model of many up and coming wrestlers currently on the circuit. At the age of 44, it seems that Doug might be slowing his career down a little bit now and focusing more on life outside the squared circle.
10. Disgraced – The Dynamite Kid
The Dynamite Kid is remembered as being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He had a move-set that was said to influenced the likes of Chris Benoit, but it seems that it is his personal life that is the most memorable thing about him. He may have become famous for his moves inside the ring, but it is his actions outside of it that many fans now judge him on.
There were reports that Dynamite and his wife had a few marital issues, something that is farely common with wrestlers, but some state that he would abuse his wife, even to the point where he would wake her with a shotgun to her head and threaten to load it next time. He then went on to dislocate her jaw after she finally found the guts to leave him.
9. Proud – William Regal
The current General Manager of NXT and one of the biggest names in British Wrestling, William Regal became a stand-out star in WWE in the late 1990s and early 200os. Regal is a sure-fire WWE Hall of Famer one day and has accomplishments many wrestlers only dream of.
The 2008 King of the Ring winner is also a former five-time Hardcore Champion, four-time European Champion, and a two-time Intercontinental Champion. He left his own unique stamp on the WWE, so much so, that when he retired WWE asked him to stay with the company in a non-wrestling role, to help guide new talents through the developmental process. Regal is held in high regard by many WWE Superstars who he has helped along the way with their careers.
8. Disgraced – James Wallace
The 24-year-old former wrestler was hoping to compete in the London Olympics at one point. He was first jailed in 2011 after it was alleged that he performed a sex act on himself inside a cubicle at Wishaw Sports Centre.
It was then reported that police found indecent images on his laptop and he was given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which forbid him from having unsupervised contact with children. He then approached two girls in the street aged just 13 and 14 and made sexual remarks before following them home, breaching his licence conditions and forcing him to be jailed for the fourth sex-related crime in just two years. It should be clearly obvious as to why James Wallace makes the disgraces side of this list.
7. Proud – Big Daddy
If you ask any British Wrestling fan who it was who got them into professional wrestling back in the 1970s and ’80s they will say either Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks. Daddy made a name for himself as a villain on the wrestling circuit along with his record-breaking 64-inch chest.
Daddy was one of the main stars of World of Sport back in the 1980s and wrestled all the way through into the 1990s, with the likes of Margret Thatcher and Queen Elizebeth II both stating that they were big fans of his (that’s some high praise for a professional wrestler). Sadly he passed away after he suffered a stroke in 1997, but is survived by his wife and their six children. Bid Daddy and his unique form made the U.K. proud.
6. Disgraced – Gary Cooke
The former Wrexham based wrestler made a name for himself when British Wrestling was at its height of popularity in the 1970s and ’80s but it seems that only recently Gary’s crimes from those two decades have come to light. He may have looked like your average wrestler back then, but it seems that this charade hid something much more sinister.
The grappler is accused of being a part of a pedophile ring that preyed on young boys during ‘sex parties’ in the early to mid-1980s. Gary is accused of this crimes along with seven other men. And while all men involved deny all the accusations that have been put up against them, the case only began back in 2015, and could well continue on for a very long time.
5. Proud – Giant Haystacks
Along with Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks is one of the best known British Wrestlers from the 1970s and ’80s, mostly because of his incredible size and the fact that he weighed 48 stone (685 pounds) at his heaviest.
He began wrestling in 1967 and went through until 1996 when he went over to the United States and started a feud with Hulk Hogan. This was during the Dungeon of Doom vs. Hulkamania storyline in WCW, shortly before the nWo would take over the company. Sadly this feud was short lived since Haystacks was diagnosed with cancer later that year and was forced to return to the U.K. He passed away in 1998 following his battle with Lymphoma. Giant Haystacks was just 51-years-old at the time.
4. Disgraced – Colin McKay
Colin McKay is a former British wrestler who is now currently behind bars after he was found guilty of grooming and molesting teenage boys in East Kilbride. The former British Heavyweight Champion is just 35-years-old but pleaded guilty to a string of sickening sexual offences on boys as young as 13 back in October 2013.
McKay was sentenced to more than three years in prison for the offences and even his family members have recently stated that they have disowned him. Known as The Highlander throughout his wrestling career, Colin set up the Scottish Pro Wrestling Academy back in 2007 and it is thought that this is where much of the abuse took place. Colin McKay has proved nothing more than a disgrace to the U.K. wrestling world.
3. Proud – Kris Travis
Kris Travis was one of the shining lights of British Wrestling in the late 2000s. The Shooting Star was destined for greatness and was heavily rumoured to be the winner of TNA British Bootcamp 2 back in 2014. Sadly Travis was forced to drop out of the competition when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and his place was given to someone else.
Travis had successful stomach surgery and was given the all clear in 2015 so he made his return to wrestling and even won the Tag Team Championship with Project Ego team-mate Martin Kirby at Southside later that year. Sadly Kris shared the news that the cancer had returned and that he would be forced to retire from wrestling in September 2015 and sadly passed away in March 2016. The British Wrestling community is current petitioning for Travis to be given the annual Warrior Award in the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame.
2. Disgraced – Jimmy Savile
Many British Wrestling fans try to forget that Jimmy Savile was once part of the British Wrestling Circuit, but back in the 1950s Savile tried his hand at professional wrestling. He used his fame as a radio DJ and TV host to continue to make celebrity wrestling appearances until the 1970s with Adrian Street once commenting that because of his obsession with young girls, Street once beat the hell out of Saville.
Since his deal in 2011, many crimes have come to light and it seems that Savile used his fame to sexually abuse many young and disabled children for years without anyone coming forward or even attempting to stop him. It is a disgrace that he is even remembered as a part of the British Wrestling scene.
1. Proud – The British Bulldog
This one entry could easily become two since The British Bulldog name now belongs to Davey Boy and his son David Hart Smith, but The British Bulldog was everything that the British scene needed back in the 1980s.
While Davey had some personal problems when it came to steroids and addictions to painkillers, it is easy to see how many wrestlers back in those days were addicted to such things. Bulldog left a legacy behind him following his shocking death in 2002; something that his son has eagerly taken on and looks to pick up where his father left off. If the British scene does become as popular as it used to be, then it’s good to know that The British Bulldog is being represented in some way.