2015: Import Wrestlers? by Craig Hermit

I’ve never really taken much interest in the term “import wrestler”, mainly because most times I hear it, it’s normally used in a negative way against wrestlers who come across to the UK to wrestle in a match or matches. So I dismiss the subject, but in the last few months I’ve heard that term more and I thought I’d write a piece on it.

Fast forward a few weeks ago and after a wrestling show, before I made my trip home, I stopped by the bar within the place and ended up having a conversation/debate with a wrestling fan about the importance of having “import wrestlers” within the UK industry.

As wrestling fans we are passionate about what we love, we will argue, we will debate, I have even witnessed at a bar a fan shouting his admiration for John Cena in defiance to around twenty other fans shouting their hatred for that man, you got to love being a wrestling fan at times.

So, as I’m waiting before I head home, this fan starts targeting his grievances about “import wrestlers” and his views are a very “the UK vs the World” type of scenario, okay, I’ll listen.

“Companies bringing them in! What’s the point?! They put down UK wrestlers man! They use them and the fans for the money and their egos, holding back UK wrestlers and they are just in it for the money!”, his tirade awaited a response.

“Okay, got some examples?”

“Wit?! Oh ICW! PCW! You know all UK companies doing it now! They do it all the time! Bring ’em in! Then they got money then they gone!”, his point stated.

Now, I love these moments, people that know me know I love wrestling and I’m as ridiculously protective about wrestling companies I love as well and when someone hasn’t got their facts right about that company I will debate.
“Did you see the Noam Dar vs Christopher Daniels match at PWE? Hardcore Holly vs Jack Jester at BCW? Joey Hayes vs Lance Storm at PCW? Hell even any Paul London, Colt Cabana or Brian Kendrick matches across the UK?”

“Naw man! Why would I see that?!”, he snorted and looked at me as if I said something stupid.

At this point I looked at him and said, “If you haven’t seen the matches you’re furiously against then you can’t judge it”. I then put my drink down and walked away.

Sure there have been times in the past when big names have come to the UK, did less than others and got paid much more than those others as well. But nowadays, the UK Industry is stronger, vibrant, much more respected and that goes double for the fanbase.

I’ll quickly recap for anyone who never saw some of the matches I quoted as examples earlier, Daniels and Dar had one of the five star matches of the year, Holly and Jester had a half hour brutal Hardcore bout. Both Daniels and Holly treated there opponents like the equals they are and put them over with brilliant and accurate speeches that drew cheers from the crowds in attendance.

And on a personal note, meeting them at the events, they came across as friendly and down to earth guys. I’ve always had the idea that, yes, there are different wrestling companies that may bring in wrestlers not from the UK and as a fan I’m happy to travel to see wrestling/wrestlers I may not normally see in the area I live in.

And that brings me to ICW – Insane Championship Wrestling and PCW – Preston Champion Wrestling.
Over the Summer in ICW, fans were treated to the reunion of Grado and Colt Cabana known collectively as Irn Jew and also Brian Kendrick with Paul London in the mix, these men were fantastic to see wrestle, great to chat to and made the people they wrestled look amazing.

In November, PCW and ROH provided fans with a joint wrestling event for the weekend – Supershow of Honor. I travelled down and attended the amazing meet and greet session. I met many of the stars of the shows, it was truly one of the highpoints of the year for myself and getting to meet ROH guys, Adam Cole, The Briscoes, as well as Chris Masters, Booker T and many others. Later that night, the wrestling show itself was one of the best I’ve seen all year featuring a mix of the ROH/PCW stars, all of them putting one one hell of show for the fans.

Afterwards, through word of mouth, I discovered this isn’t the only time this has occurred and looking at the reviews from wrestling fans, PCW produces shows with the quality of this with consistent regularly featuring wrestlers imported to the UK.

So, are “import wrestlers” really as bad as some fans make out, fans who have saw these wrestlers on TV, these wrestlers they never normally come to the UK, we then see them perform great matches, we then see the amazing talent at the show that is always on hand within the UK and it’s not always a dramatic difference in price to see the wrestlers on the show, where is the bad thing then?

“They’re holding the UK talent back!”

I have heard this phrase a few times, who is holding the UK talent back? no seriously, if an international star comes to the UK and steamrolls over a local favourite what have they really achieved? No new fans, no new interest,  more often than not negative reviews that will hinder them if they come back to the UK again and the local wrestler sadly won’t have gained or lost anything in the process.

I remember the old phrase, “if you make someone look like a piece of sh!t, then all you did was beat a piece of sh!t”.

The UK Wrestling scene, or in Scotland for example, there are several fantastic wrestling companies to work for, each one more so than not have links to wrestling schools to help develop the skills a wrestler needs to improve.
UK wrestling nowadays is more prominent than it ever has been since the eighties and the world knows this. Mainstream companies like WWE, TNA, GFW, NJPW and others all know the importance of the UK market, the talent of the wrestlers that originate here and others that train here. They know the benefits of the strong fanbase that we have, the financial successes that the UK has brought to those companies and the fantastic wrestlers that the country develops.

What about wrestlers that left the UK became a success or not, and then returned? Are they tainted with the same brush? I know some fans think that way.

And that brings me to Drew Galloway, Drew MacIntyre as known in WWE and was never pushed (in my opinion) to the heights that many in ICW know he could be. Upon hearing of his return and aiming for title contendership at the time, I’ll admit I was sceptical. I remember saying something along those lines on a Breaking Baws podcast that I hoped he’s staying and going to proving himself in ICW. Man, have I been proven wrong with my scepticism, anytime I’ve witnessed his matches in ICW, BCW or heard about them (e.g Rock N Wrestle), the passion, desire and professionalism he has, it shows. He’s still the same guy who laughs with and entertains the fans, has amazing matches and it’s easy to see why he is in the position he is within Scottish wrestling.

But this is just an example, I’m sure you can think of more but when you hear the term “imports” and you draw a line between them and UK stars, maybe, just maybe that line isn’t so large anymore. Infact we all just want to see great wrestling and with 2015 less than a week away, fantastic wrestlers, import or not, know that the UK fanbase are the best to entertain.

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