Following a six-month-long inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain Report was released just after midnight on Thursday.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Wrestling, who authored the report, set out 30 recommendations to help British wrestling reach its potential, which you can read about here.
Following the report's release, Cultaholic Wrestling's Tom Campbell caught up with Mark Fletcher MP, the co-chair of the APPG on Wrestling, and the Member of Parliament for Bolsover addressed the response to the report so far.
"I think generally sort of quite positive. It's a very difficult report to be sort of universally accepted because we had to go back various steps to where the industry started to come a cropper, and then bring it forward to where we think it sits now, and then also to have various difficult conversations around things like Speaking Out. But much broader than that, around health and safety and governance. I think it's been received insofar as they realise it's very comprehensive and very detailed but I don't think we expected universal praise for it," Fletcher admitted.
The inquiry into British wrestling received written and oral evidence from across the industry, including "80 wrestlers, promoters, ring crew, training school operators, academics, health care professionals and others." One company that remained largely uninvolved in the inquiry Fletcher noted was WWE but he urged them to become "a part of the conversation" and help British wrestling "rise."
"Obviously WWE have a presence in the UK wrestling scene, both a physical presence in terms of the NXT UK brand and also the Performance Center, but also a working relationship with various promotions. And so we certainly have tried to have conversations with WWE and there are backchannels in place to have those, but as far as I'm aware, they didn't submit formal evidence to the inquiry," Fletcher noted.
"But I think that there is a future conversation to be had with them around various issues. And I think a lot of the things that we would like to see as minimum standards, WWE would be quite aligned on in terms of it's what they require third parties to do when they're putting on a show. But it would have been nice to have their views on the record. I can perhaps understand why they didn't want to do that, but I think they need to see that for all of British Wrestling to rise, they need to be a part of that conversation as well."
The inquiry into British wrestling was launched following the Speaking Out movement and Fletcher's biggest fear is that the industry could choose to ignore its problems and British wrestling becomes front-page news for all of the wrong reasons again.
"My biggest fear, and I suspect Alex [Davies-Jones] would say the same thing, is that effectively we go back to wrestling adopting the submarine strategy of being below the radar, of ignoring this and hoping it will all go away shortly, and then it being back in the news because something goes wrong again. And unfortunately, as a wrestling fan, you tend to read wrestling in the mainstream headlines when somebody dies and there's a nostalgia impact or something goes very badly wrong and it causes such outrage that wrestling is a front-page story again, and we really don't want that to happen in British wrestling. We want to be able to lift the whole industry up in this country and work together to create a better industry."
Fletcher then reflected on the recommendation to establish an independent governing body, adding: "And when it comes to governance, I think it's a really easy thing to see this as something that would harm the industry. Governance sounds like it's something that could be restrictive. But actually, if you go through the report, you'll see so many areas where we think British wrestling could be making more money or could be saving itself money. Whether it's on insurance costs, whether it's on digital streaming rights, whether it comes to visas and third party issues. We think there are so many areas where if British wrestling got its act together and had some form of collectivism it would actually be in a much better place.
"There will be, inevitably, some people who don't love every aspect of the report, but I think if you look through all of it in detail, there is a very compelling reason for wrestling to come together and have that conversation. And the worst thing that could happen is that something goes wrong and then we're in a position where the government has to impose something on the industry, or the industry gets cut out of the conversations. We think that this an opportunity for British wrestling to get on the front foot."
With the report now available for all to see, the APPG on Wrestling will look to make some of their recommendations a reality, but Fletcher noted other initiatives will need to be industry-led.
"I think people need to read this report and understand where we're coming from and hopefully to build a consensus around some of the issues we've highlighted in the recommendations. But there are future conversations that we need to go on to have, be it with the industry, with the government, with fans. There's a whole plethora of actions really. And the next part of the process is to try and make them happen and we can be responsible for some of those, but others will absolutely need to be industry-led and all we can encourage people to do is to try and understand where we've come from and hopefully see this is a positive way forward and build a consensus that British wrestling can be absolutely brilliant. And that involves raising standards and working together in a way in which perhaps the industry hasn't done for a few decades but is perfectly capable of."
Thanks to Mark Fletcher MP for taking the time to speak to us. You can check out his full interview with Tom Campbell here.
Also, you can find the full All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain Report here.