American wrestling is big business. Last year the industry’s biggest wrestling organisation, WWE, recorded a 21% increase in their annual profits, taking in a whopping $658.8million across the 12-month period. In the UK it’s huge, with WWE and TNA (Total Nonstop Action) two of the most popular wrestling promoters. At least once a year they bring a selection of their best-known wrestlers over for a tour, and DLTM picked up a few tickets for TNA’s recent Maximum Impact 8 show at Wembley Arena…
Having been pretty obsessed with WWE when we were kids (it was known as WWF back then), going to watch an American wrestling event in real-life was an exciting prospect. In the lead up to the big show we reminisced about the old days, the nineties, when stars like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior (RIP), ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (RIP), The Undertaker and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart were dominating the wrestling ring. Those innocent years when the whole thing seemed so real, so dramatic and so inspiring. Watching some of the old clip son YouTube, over 20 years on, makes for a very amusing experience indeed. Check this Randy Savage interview compilation for example.
At Wembley Arena, TNA brought in some of its big guns; Kurt Angle, Lashley, Matt Hardy, EC3, Rockstar Spud and Mark Andrews were among the names on the bill, attracting several thousand fans from across the UK to north-west London. Before everything kicked off, we were treated to a gig in the main entrance of the arena. Brilliant rock band Chasing Cadence entertained everybody who entered the building, and they were joined by one of the TNA’s silliest characters – Grado. A nice way to get all the fans relaxed and in the mood for a raucous night of action on the canvas.
Word amongst most of the people we met was that Kurt Angle was soon to be bowing out of the TNA, so this event may well be his last in the UK. Certainly, the most excitement was generated by his name. After picking the obligatory foam fingers and a big bag of not so healthy snacks, it was into the arena to get seated and give our vocal chords a thorough workout during over four hours of piledrivers, drop kicks, clotheslines and a myriad other such wrestling moves.
A hilarious night ensued with TNA’s many colourful characters delivering a succession of impressive theatrics and acrobatics. High drama came with each match, whether it was personal feuds being settled, championship belts being fought for or that all conquering, potent source of motivation – pride. Highlights included the battle between Matt Hardy and EC3, full of drama and high octane moves, plus an appearance from the lumbering oaf that is Tyrus. The women’s matches lacked a little finesse and dynamism, but they were equally entertaining.
One of the TNA’s main stars Mark Andrews actually ended up with a real injury after he landed badly during a tag team match. After jumping off the ropes with his team mate’s assistance, he smashed into his opponent and hit the deck. It was clear he’d really hurt himself when the referee signaled to get him help. It was nothing too serious, but interesting to see the dangers the performers face in such a physically demanding environment. For all those who bemoan wrestling being ‘fake’, much of the action is about as real as can be and the entertainers do get hurt from time to time.
Fans inside Wembley Arena never lost their energy through a long night of action, cage matches between Grado, and his comedic behaviour, against Eli Drake, Trevor and Tigre Uno and Eric Young and Damo, minus the cage, kept everyone engaged for the duration of the show… that a fair few pints and packets of sweets and crisps. Who said E numbers were a bad thing?!
But the finale was, of course, what everyone was waiting for. It didn’t disappoint. Kurt Angle grappled with Bobby Roode in a showdown that gripped the crowd for the entire match. Angle eventually took the victory, and hugged his opponent in typically sportsmanlike style. Angle’s reputation as a wrestler has made him one of the most respected and admired of his generation, decades of work in the squared circle have left him with countless injuries, as could be seen in his physical make up, and a well deserved retirement beckons.
In the meantime, he continues to wrestle and dazzle audiences around the world and, when he does eventually move on, no doubt the TNA will have a hard time filling his boots.