A professional wrestling organisation is looking to bring British grappling back to mainstream TV and hopes to give female wrestlers a platform to showcase their ring skills.
UK Wrestling will be holding its annual event Wrestlebration at the Tetley’s Stadium in Dewsbury.
The event is set to be filmed for a broadcast company and Jonathan Sedgwick, co-founder of UK Wrestling, is hoping it will be the catalyst to British wrestling becoming a mainstay of television.
Currently, mainstream televised wrestling is dominated by American promotions WWE and TNA Impact Wrestling.
“ITV brought back World of Sport but that was a one-off special for New Year’s Eve,” Mr Sedgwick says.
There were plans to revive the series but those plans have been shelved consigning British wrestling and its distinct style, which puts more emphasis on grappling, to the sidelines.
“It would be good to get it back on mainstream TV,” says Mr Sedgwick, who is an in-ring performer himself. “TV is just offering the American style. It would be good to see that British style brought back.”
He added: “There’s so many talented wrestlers out there male and female, it would be good to give them a platform to showcase what they’ve got as well.”
UK Wrestling was born out of a lifelong love of wrestling for Mr Sedgwick.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve always been a big fan of wrestling ever since I was little. Then when me and my wife had our first son as he has grown up he’s really got into it.”
The couple struggled to get toys for him and ended up opening their own wrestling merchandise store.
“We were always importing them online from America,” Mr Sedgwick says. “We thought why don’t we try and get hold of the suppliers and sell.”
A year later they ended up purchasing a wrestling ring and hired that out to other wrestling companies.
“At the time I didn’t really know how the industry worked, it was all new,” Mr Sedgwick said. “We’d go and set the ring up and I’d see how it was all run and how it was all put together.”
Then in 2009 UK Wrestling put on its own show called Wrestlebration and this Saturday’s event will be its ninth edition.
Wrestling is seen as a male dominated industry. However, Mr Sedgwick believes that this shouldn’t be the case and UK Wrestling, which runs training sessions as well as putting on events across the country, is home to female wrestlers as well.
“Female wrestlers are as talented if not more talented than some of the male wrestlers,” he said. “They’re really good but they don’t get the platform to showcase what they can do.”
WWE is ubiquitous and Mr Sedgwick says the organisation has a tendency for sidelining female performers on its roster.
He said: “They don’t let them go out and showcase what they can do. They put them out on TV and give them two minutes of airtime.
“It’s a very male dominated sport. Whereas I see it as why shouldn’t they get the chance to go out there and show what they can do.
“We generally have a couple of women’s matches on at events but we also do all-women’s events as well which is UK Women’s Wrestling.”
Another TV production company has expressed interest in an all-women’s wrestling show.
While the outcome of professional wrestling matches is predetermined, Mr Sedgwick says “there is nothing fake about wrestling”.
The grappler, who plays an owner character, says those who take part in the ring have to possess good fitness levels and especially newcomers feel the pain from “bumps” they take.
Wrestlebration takes place this Saturday. Tickets are available at the Dewsbury Rams stadium and at UK Wrestling, Alexandra Mills in Batley.
Now that’s entertainment
Professional wrestling is just as much about stage performance as it is about physicality. While amateur wrestling is an Olympic sport, professional wrestling is more about entertainment and has a predetermined ending.
For Jonathan Sedgwick, the love of wrestling started when he watched, the then, WWF’s Summerslam 88 event on television. His favourite wrestler is Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and Mr Sedgwick has a tattoo of his emblem on his bicep.
Mr Sedgwick is a videographer by trade but is now involved full-time in the wrestling industry. Alongside UK Wrestling, he also helps other organisations produce content.