As of August 2017, it has been 14 long years since a major pay-per-view event was last held in the United Kingdom. Although regular shows in the UK are now relatively common, the WWE has created a transatlantic fanbase which continually craves more attention.
With a return of the WWE to the UK long overdue, there is perhaps no better time to remember the 25th anniversary of an event that may have saved the WWE through claiming a new territory of fans.
WWE: Main events
The final bout of that Wembley evening saw a clash of two athletes considered to be the future of the WWE. Bret Hart (from Calgary, Alberta) and the British Bulldog (from Wigan, UK) were seen as two young upstarts of the ‘New Generation’ era. That era followed the ‘Golden Age’, and represented something of a commercial downturn in fortunes for the WWE prior to the game-changing ‘Attitude Era’.
SummerSlam 1992 was the first PPV event to be held in the UK. Any meeting of combatants, where each hails from a different side of the Atlantic, is always going to draw a crowd. Indeed, the looming bout between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, for which the current bet365 odds make the latter the -400 favorite, is no exception. Yet, 25 years ago, a ‘North America versus UK’ clash was a relative rarity outside of boxing.
With the British economy by then on a sharp downturn, anyone watching the event would not have thought that the WWE was on the verge of its own self-contained recession. The 1992 edition of SummerSlam received rave reviews and, in one fell swoop, ensured a more widespread presence for the brand.
Bulldog beats Hart in the final bout of the evening.
The headline event, but curiously only the eighth fight of 11, was for the WWF Championship. Reigning champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage took on the Ultimate Warrior, with both wrestlers already well-known for their elaborate, yet highly-charged promos. Lasting exactly 28 minutes, it was an enthralling clash, but anticlimactic in ending via a count out.
When the Bulldog ended his first home PPV appearance by taking the intercontinental title from Hart in a cut-and-thrust encounter, it was an event hailed as a triumph of a working class underdog over a stateside superstar. The only surprise was that it took five years for the WWE to return to England.
In September 1997, the Bulldog was back on home territory for a PPV showdown, this time with timeless, all-around superstar Shawn Michaels. Held at the NEC in Birmingham, the Bulldog would lose his European championship. Yet, the revival of a clear ‘hero versus villain format’ resonated meaningfully with an audience still relatively unfamiliar to the brand. Also on the card that night was an enthralling match between Bret Hart and the Undertaker, with the latter losing via disqualification.
Ten more UK PPV events would follow, but none would ever be as widely seen as SummerSlam 1992. To date, the most recent was a UK-exclusive broadcast of Insurrextion at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.