It is really impossible to understate what an incredible, and unusual, opportunity the people behind the WOS Wrestling project on ITV1 have. ITV1 is basically free to air in every household that has a television set in the United Kingdom, and audience share wise was second only to BBC in 2017 with an overall position of nearly 22%.
British wrestling hasn’t been seen on terrestrial television, aside from the one-off special on New Years night in 2016, since 1988. Even at the height of the WWF’s powers in 2000 & 2001 a short-lived experiment showing ‘Heat’ and select pay per views on Channel 4 (the UK’s third most popular channel and also free to air) was largely considered a failure.
It has been rumoured and reported in respected wrestling circles that a decision around the future of the show may be made after three or four weeks dependent on how ratings hold up and perform. The second episode still featured some of the bug bears of week one, however as an hour wrestling show I thought it was at worst ‘good’ and was reasonably watchable.
There do remain, sadly, some issues though. The production, specifically of the matches, is poor. Some of the worst of the constant camera changes seemed to have slowed slightly this week but I still thought that the nauseating cuts hurt the main event. It’s puzzling to me that on what is such an action heavy show that the wrestling isn’t filmed in a more traditional way as clearly the call has been made to feature a lot of in ring content.
The wrestling itself was never worse than average and actually mostly pretty good. There was very little in the way of interview time (a negative) and almost no silliness (a positive). Wrestling is a star business and for this show really to catch on with people then it needs a focal point or at least for people to be somewhat emotionally invested in the match outcomes. They are doing a little bit with the men’s Champion, Rampage, but not that much and I really don’t have much of a reason as a viewer to want to dislike him at this point other than some very mild interference during matches.
The women’s main event was absolutely crying out for very short personality pieces from each of the competitors beforehand. Thirty seconds to a minute each would have been more than enough to highlight each of their motivations and what it meant to them to become the first Women’s WOS Champion. The commentators (which Stu Bennett aside are somewhere between poor and passable) did try to give a little background but it really wasn’t enough.
The success and failure of this project won’t be down to whether die hards in the UK are watching or not, however it is a little foolish to think that a simple and well produced wrestling product that those people would actually enjoy is the absolute opposite of the way to go or that their voices shouldn’t be listened to given how much product they consume.
The show must produce upward of a million viewers as an absolute minimum in a country of 65 million people to have any chance of surviving. It’s still impossible to predict what will happen ratings wise over the next few weeks, but one thing that ITV1 can’t have bargained on is that we are currently experiencing a summer here like I never have done in my lifetime. Constant sunny days and temperatures of 25 degrees and above (77 degrees Fahrenheit for my American cousins) which must be having an impact on the number of people that are at home watching television. Premier League Football also returns next weekend, and while every game is aired live on a subscription channel here you’d think there is also a finite audience of people that will be watching sports type programming and the 5:30pm game will clash with the second half an hour of WOS for almost all of the remainder of its run.
For the sake of the UK scene and the wrestlers themselves involved, I can only hope that this does end up a success and not yet another (and this time even more high-profile) British wrestling false dawn.
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