ITV return with World of Sport. Will it tap out or win the title?

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EASY! EASY! EASY! You shut uppppp! Ah nostalgia, memories of dusty halls across the country filled with families watching larger than life superheroes and villains battle it out in the ring. Saturday afternoons were at one point reserved for the nation to submit to watching old fashion wrestling on ITV with World of Sport flying the flag for the grapplers. When people talk about television institutions, this was certainly one of them. Throwbacks to Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki and more grappling in the ring, then arguing with grannies at ringside as they get smacked with handbags are the instant memories that flood back. But as we all know, the game has changed and now ITV are set to bring World of Sport back we need to ask – in the words of Triple H – are you ready?

ITV have announced that a one off special of World of Wrestling will return to our screens soon and have commissioned a two hour pilot which is going to be filmed at Media City in Manchester this November. The event will feature singles and tag team action culminating in one wrestler taking home the newly minted WoS Wrestling title. The producers have also promised a ‘reality element’ featuring backstage interviews and more. ITV Studios Entertainment Creative Director Tom McLennan said: “World of Sport Wrestling was a major event for millions of families every Saturday afternoon for over 20 years. I’m excited about bringing back this iconic brand and celebrating the best British wrestlers in the country.” So good news right? British wrestling is back on terrestrial television and back in the big time? Well yes it is good news, however this is something that producers need to tread carefully with.

Wrestling has evolved at a million miles a minute since the old World of Sport days. The British scene went off the boil as the American giants began to dominate the sport. The days of the Monday night wars, ECW and the Attitude Era etc have all been and gone. The sport has changed, the expectations of those in the ring has changed (dramatically) and the presentation has changed drastically. So with this in mind, ITV have much to consider about how they present this show.

A simple throwback is probably not going to succeed. Producers can take a show like The Crystal Maze, not alter it and present it now without any issues as the game and premise hasn’t changed. Wrestling however HAS changed and this needs to be taken into consideration. The grannies with the handbags are gone. Yes, families are still at these events – it is a family show after all – yet the crowds have changed. The presentation has evolved too and this needs to be reflected. The WWE is the gold standard here. This ‘reality element’ that’s been promised sounds like lots of backstage skits and interviews – maybe mid match. Make sure these are well produced. Make sure they look good. Getting the right talent involved here is essential. I honestly don’t think we’ll be seeing a show akin to Raw or Smackdown Live, but still this cannot look cheap. Whatever you do though, please ITV don’t take any inspiration from the Impact Zone. TNA’s setup looks a bit rubbish and the crowds are really not into it, which takes me to the next point, the fans. Please make sure tickets go to genuine fans. It will create a great atmosphere on screen and may give extra momentum going forward.

Finally, the talent and the booking. The British wrestling scene is teeming with talent right now – some of which has been hired by the WWE recently – and getting these lads and ladies on terrestrial television is going to bring them to an even bigger audience. The likes of El Ligero, Dave Rayne, Bubblegum, The Hooligans, Dave Mastiff and so many more will benefit from being on this show but – and its a big one – they NEED to be booked correctly. Booking wrestling is an art form and even the best still get it wrong at times. If I were Tom McLennan and team going into this show I’d be getting on the phone, Twitter, Facebook or whatever to speak to the likes of PCW’s Steven Fludder, Ricky Knight (who is also WWE star Paige’s dad) and others across the independent promotions in the UK who know the scene, the talent and the ones who will make the product look good. Doing this ensures there’s going to be a good chance that this may not be a one off pilot and a series may just happen. Get this right and don’t stay on the nostalgia train for too long and ITV, you’ll be getting the victory via pinfall.

Also a nice touch would be to give a shout to Kris Travis’ Shooting Star appeal. A popular UK talent who lost a hard fought battle with cancer. You can donate to the Cavendish Cancer Care here

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