This Saturday night, WWE will hold its first big stadium show in the United Kingdom (UK) since 1992 when Cardiff, and more specifically the Principality Stadium, plays host to Clash at the Castle.
It’s the latest chapter in the long and storied relationship between WWE and its largest European market, one that’s seen near-yearly shows hosted in the UK and a consistent British influence in the company.
WWE first UK event took place in 1989 – Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage headlined “UK Rampage”, a show that also ran from 1991-1993. The events were split 2-2 between London and Sheffield. Also in 1991, the “Battle Royal at the Albert Hall” took place. No guesses where that took place.
The WWE’s growing popularity in the UK led to the company making the decision to move the 1992 Summerslam event to Wembley Stadium, London.
The show was headlined by an Intercontinental title match between Bret Hart and the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (brothers-in-law at the time), which saw the home favourite win the gold in what’s been called one of the greatest matches in the history of Summerslam.
Just to crystallise the sheer magnitude of this event, it was the first major pay-per-view to take place outside of North America and is considered by the WWE to be the fourth largest live attendance in company history.
In the late 1990s, WWE returned to the UK once again, capitalising on their now-even higher popularity that came with the rise of the Attitude Era. 1997 saw Birmingham play host to One Night Only, while 1998 was a double feature with Capital Carnage and Mayhem in Manchester bringing further action to what was now the company’s second home.
The following year brought with it the first of several “UK exclusive” pay-per-view events – those shown only to the UK audience. In May 1999, Manchester was the scene of the first ever No Mercy – a show that would quickly become a staple of main WWE programming for the next decade.
Rebellion came soon after in October of the same year, and alongside Insurrextion in 2000, became the dual live pay-per-view offering for UK fans until 2003.
These “UK exclusive” pay-per-views were replaced from here with televised episodes of Raw and Smackdown, (as well as ECW for a brief time), taking place in numerous cities. These shows became a yearly fixture from 2004 to 2019, until like everything else, the pandemic put a stop to such things.
These shows are best remembered for their British-centric sets (think a red phone box) and celebrity cameos and interactions, namely Shane McMahon trash talking Jose Mourinho in 2007 and Wayne Rooney getting one back for football by slapping Wade Barrett in 2015.
The strong relationship between WWE and the UK, as well as the growing UK wrestling scene, saw the launch of NXT UK in 2018, a sub-brand of the US developmental territory.
The show has acted as a launchpad for numerous superstars, both UK and European, namely Pete “Butch” Dunne and Gunther, now both appearing on the Smackdown brand. Other notable names are Tyler Bate, the current NXT UK champion, and until his recent release, Trent Seven, Bate’s long-time tag team partner. Seven will likely return, either to the main roster or NXT Europe, which NXT UK will transition into next year after a brief hiatus.
On the main roster, there is a wealth of UK superstars, none more prominent than Drew McIntyre. The Scotsman is now an established WWE main eventer as well as arguably the most successful UK wrestler of all time, having become the first to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania in 2020.
McIntyre will look to win back this title when he faces Roman Reigns in the main event of Clash at the Castle. The event is something Drew has been clamouring for years, and his success and status has no doubt helped it take place.
Doudrop (real name Kimberley Benson) flies the Scottish flag on the female side and on the Raw brand. She follows a UK path set previously by Paige and Layla and will likely be joined on the main roster in the coming years by another Scot, NXT 2.0’s Alba Fyre (the former Kay Lee Ray).
Ridge Holland made the switch from rugby league to join WWE and now features alongside Butch, as well as Sheamus, in a very Anglo-Irish faction. Tyson Fury has also made appearances in recent years, and may possibly make another at Clash at the Castle.
These superstars are the latest in a long line of WWE superstars from the UK, with the likes of William Regal (whose son recently debuted on NXT 2.0) and Dynamite Kid (cousin of British Bulldog) setting the tone. In recent years, Neville and the previously mentioned Wade “Bad News” Barrett also made a splash on the other side of the pond.
Barrett now acts as a commentator on NXT 2.0, while Nigel McGuiness was in the same role on NXT UK.
This is just a brief show of the influence that the UK has had and is having on WWE, and vice versa over the last 30+ years.
Clash at the Castle is sure to showcase this influence, with an attendance of over 70,000 expected (more fans pre-registered for tickets than for any WWE event in history), and its impact may be felt for years to come.