The United Kingdom is WWE’s biggest market outside of the United States. Since 1989, WWE has toured the UK almost every year.
In 2022, WWE will promote it’s first stadium show in the UK for 30 years. On September 3, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will play host to a major pay-per-view event; the first on these shores since the famous SummerSlam 1992 extravaganza.
Over the past 33 years, WWE has presented many memorable moments and matches on their UK events. This feature looks back at the five greatest matches to occur this side of the Atlantic.
#5 The British Bulldog vs. Shawn Michaels: One Night Only – September 20, 1997
The British Bulldog experienced the crowning moment of his wrestling career in the headliner of SummerSlam 1992 in front of his homeland fans. He was not so fortunate five years later.
The special UK pay-per-view event (it was also available in Canada, but not the United States), One Night Only hailed from the NEC Arena in Birmingham.
Bulldog defended his European Title in the main event opposite Shawn Michaels. The bout was an excellent display of contrasting styles. Bulldog hit all of his power moves in decisive fashion. Michaels used his speed and agility to work openings to knock the Englishman off his feet.
Once grounded, ‘The Showstopper’ worked over Bulldog’s injured knee and locked in a Figure Four Leglock. Bulldog dramatically tried to power out but eventually succumbed to the pain and passed out.
Predictably, the UK crowd almost rioted after the decision. However, that only added to the drama. Heated, with sound psychology and enough outside interference and shenanigans to shake a stick at, this was a superb piece of work. That said, the result left a lot to be desired.
#4 John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels: Raw – April 23, 2007
WWE Champion John Cena and Shawn Michaels contested a choice match-up in the main event of WrestleMania 23. On that occasion, Cena overcame Michaels to retain his WWE Championship.
Three weeks after WrestleMania, Cena and Michaels continued to wage war. A Raw contest held in the middle of the show played host to a non-title affair between the pair.
That match lasted a whopping 56 minutes which caused it to become the show’s main event and led to the rest of the card being cancelled!
A slow burner, the opening minutes saw both men reverse each other’s holds, before the contest broke down into a brawl. The bout built and built, playing off the pair’s ‘Mania contest and saw ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ pull out every stop to try to put Cena away. In the closing moments, with both men selling exhaustion, Michaels slipped out of an FU attempt and finally hit Sweet Chin Music to pin the champion.
A well constructed, psychologically sound epic. It deserved all the plaudits it has received over the years. One of the finest matches of 2007 and one of the best to ever take place in the UK.
#3 Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe: NXT: TakeOver London – December 16, 2015
WWE’s third brand NXT quite possibly peaked in 2015, with stunning, classic matches taking place on nearly every TakeOver card.
NXT TakeOver: London was no exception. The bout pitting NXT Champion, Finn Balor against former TNA World Champion, Samoa Joe easily fit the bill as an all time classic battle.
Balor wrestled as ‘The Demon’ and Joe competed with an intensity not seen since his classic series of matches with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels in 2005 and 2006.
What took place over 19 minutes was breathless, hard hitting action. The London crowd in the Wembley Arena lost their minds at the superb athleticism on display.
Atypically for TakeOver events, there were no multiple kick outs of each wrestler’s finishing manoeuvres. Instead, the story of the match was both men attempting to weaken the other sufficiently to enable them to successfully hit their finisher. In the end it was Balor who would win out, battling out of a Muscle Buster attempt and nailing Joe with the Coup de Grace to retain his NXT Title.
A stunning display of aerials, innovative offence and world class psychology. One of the best matches to ever take place on English soil.
#2 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs. The Undertaker: One Night Only – September 20, 1997
One Night Only is best remembered for the aforementioned Bulldog versus Michaels main event. However, the undercard played host to an even greater match-up.
That bout was the WWF Championship match between new WWF Champion, Bret Hart and his challenger, the former champion, The Undertaker.
‘The Hitman’ had only wrested the gold from ‘The Phenom’ three weeks earlier at SummerSlam and the Birmingham crowd were electric for this re-match.
The Undertaker stalked Hart and smashed him with his big power moves every time he could lay his mitts on the champion. When Hart found himself on the offensive, he logically worked over his challenger’s legs and did everything he could to keep ‘The Deadman’ grounded. As the match kicked into high gear, both men reversed each other’s best moves as the contest built to an exciting crescendo.
The match ended when Hart attempted to Tombstone The Undertaker, only for ‘The Phenom’ to reverse it into a Tombstone of his own. A savvy Hart managed to slip out before ‘Taker could piledrive him, but ended with his head trapped between the ropes. At ‘The Deadman’s’ mercy Hart couldn’t move and a vengeful Undertaker just pounded on his foe relentlessly until the referee disqualified him.
An electric contest from start to finish. The bout is only marred by it’s slightly screwy finish. Otherwise it may have topped this list.
#1 Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs. The British Bulldog: SummerSlam – August 29, 1992
The SummerSlam 1992 headliner was built around the UK’s greatest wrestling export, The British Bulldog.
To capitalise on Bulldog’s incredible popularity in his homeland, the WWF booked him to challenge Intercontinental Champion, Bret Hart in the main event.
What followed was an expertly paced, 30 minute masterclass. Boasting excellent psychology, reversals and big moves against a backdrop of a white hot, Wembley crowd, this was a classic in every sense of the word.
The finish came when Bulldog reversed a sunset flip into a pin to win the Intercontinental Title. The London crowd erupted as Bulldog claimed victory.
30 years on this is still the greatest match in SummerSlam history and the finest wrestling bout to ever take place in the UK.
You can watch all of these matches exclusively on the WWE Network.