Anyone who saw the recent British wrestling film, Fighting with My Family, will know just how hard it has been in the past for fledgling wrestlers from the UK and Europe to get the training they need. The movie traced the struggle of Paige, before she became a WWE superstar, as she fought for her place in Florida and the issues she faced as part of her move State-side. But all that has now changed with the launch of the brand new WWE Performance Centre in Enfield, near London. It is the latest step in the expansion of the brand into Europe and marks a significant step forward for wrestling outside of the United States.
The first WWE Performance Centre, which featured in the film, opened in Orlando, Florida in 2013. It covers 26,000 sq ft and has seven training rings along with state of the art sports science and medical facilities, including an ultra slow motion camera to analyse and improve moves. Until this year, this was the only official WWE training facility in the world and wrestlers from around the globe had to compete for a place there to jump start their wrestling career.
The new UK WWE Performance Centre will be slightly smaller to begin with, at just 17,000 sq ft, and feature just two rings, along with a top quality gym for strength and conditioning. It also has a separate area for character development offering ‘versatile content creation infrastructure’ to help budding wrestlers hone their all-important in-ring image. The new Performance Centre will play host to wrestlers from the UK and Europe, saving them the cost and stress of making the trip across the Atlantic.
The new wrestling school marks the continued spread of WWE and UFC into the UK and Europe, with thousands wagered on the UFC clash between Overeem and Oleinik which was held in Moscow. It is all part of a concerted strategy, which saw WWE launch its NXT UK brand last summer and has created a dedicated WWE UK Championship. UK wrestling has even been given its own regular slot on the WWE Network TV channel.
WWE Executive Vice President for Talent, Live Events & Creative, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, was very excited by the launch of the new centre and the growth of wrestling outside the United States. “We are incredibly proud to open the UK Performance Centre and provide our NXT UK superstars the same world-class coaching and development programs that we deliver at the Performance Centre in Orlando, Florida,” he said. And this may not be the last of the new Performance Centres. “This is the latest milestone in our global strategy and the next step in establishing local NXT brands around the world.”
The new centre will play host to thirty pro-wrestlers from the UK and Europe, preparing them for the big time of the WWE.
As Fighting with My Family showed, the transition to the American way of life was almost as hard for the young Paige, as the training itself. She was tough enough to survive the trip, but many others have not done so well. However, while the new Performance Centre may not involve the same life-changing move to America, it is still no easy ride for those involved. As one of the Centre’s professionals, Mark Andrews, explains: “It’s some of the toughest workouts I’ve ever done in my whole life,” he says, but it is well worth the effort, “It’s good that we get this proper training because that’s how we avoid injuries.”
Who knows what stars of the future may come out of the new UK Performance Centre, but one thing is certain: British wrestlers now have a serious opportunity, with a level playing field in the sport for the first time. “Dreams can definitely become a reality,” says Mark Andrews. “Now that we have the performance centre, the possibilities are endless.”