Trent Seven and Tyler Bate are finally happy to take some credit for the remarkable turnaround in the notoriety of professional wrestling in the UK.
Stars of the Moustache Mountain tag team and solo performers in their own rights, the pair are as far removed from narcissism as you can get.
That’s as evident now as it was back in 2017 when they both spoke to me at length about their aspirations and ambitions for the growing presence of a UK wrestling scene within WWE – the largest organisation in the industry.
Then, Bate had just become the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion and the pair were set to link up with the company’s big names for a tour of live events back home.
In 2021, the two are lynchpins of NXT UK – an established WWE brand that has its own weekly television show on BT Sport, filmed in London at the broadcaster’s plush studios.
It’s an inescapable fact that Seven and Bate have been the driving force behind the events in between, though they’ve rarely been known to beat their chests about it.
It was a refreshing change, then, when the pair sat down to speak exclusively to The Independent, and Seven was able to give himself a careful pat on the back.
After all, they didn’t invent or cultivate British wrestling alone, but they’ve done perhaps more than anyone else to give it arguably the highest profile it has ever had in the modern era with its new home under the umbrella of Vince McMahon’s empire.
Seven admitted: “It just gets to a point where you just have to be that proud of what you’ve done that you’re allowed to tell people, do you know what I mean?
“The way we’ve carried this brand and carried NXT UK the way we have since we signed, I don’t think anyone else could’ve done the job as good as we did.
“Some may say that’s arrogant, but if you know me then you know I am not an arrogant person – just a very confident person, and incredibly proud of what we’ve done over the last four years.
“It all looks like it’s coming together and… we’re so proud of what we’ve done as wrestlers as far as expanding the UK into this market and giving it that home here in the UK.”
“We just love it and want it to be as good as possible,” added Bate, a little more philosophically. “I’d like wrestling to be better off for my contribution.”
WWE had an established home on Sky Sports in the UK for decades before BT Sport snapped up the television rights to its weekly shows and monthly events from the start of last year.
That the company has given NXT UK its own weekly slot and considerable promotional support is not lost on the Seven and Bate, who see their involvement as crucial.
There’s regular cross-promotion with other sports – such as NXT head honcho and West Ham fan Triple H invading Champions League coverage over WrestleMania weekend to brag about the Hammers’ chances of finishing in the top four – that helps thrust WWE into a more mainstream spotlight.
“The support we’re getting from BT Sport is second to none,” added Trent, 39. “There are some very, very cool things that people need to keep their eye out that are coming out soon. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s some cool stuff that we have been shooting on secret locations and stuff.
“It’s a nice little payback for our fans for their investment and the investment BT Sport have put behind us – we want to be able to pay that back by putting out the best possible product that we can once they do come back.”
He continued: “Tyler and I are only in our fifth year with the company, but in that time, I have never felt support from a third-party company like that…” before Bate steps in and adds: “It feels like they’re really doing their part to maximise its potential.”
If there is a lot about NXT UK that feels fresh and unique – even compared to WWE’s other flagship broadcasts like Raw and Smackdown – it is clearly by design.
The show focuses chiefly on the athletic element of what McMahon established as ‘sports entertainment’ so long ago. Granted, it’s not without the characters and storylines that go into making any successful wrestling show, but it very much remains that at heart – a wrestling show.
NXT UK features, for instances, a far greater proportion of ‘clean’ match finishes – bouts ending via pinfall and submission that tie into the theme of physical competition – than any other WWE show.
Bate, 24, gave a wry, knowing smile when I raise that point, as if to suggest I’ve stumbled upon the whole point of it all, replying: “That’s quite a good observation.”
It is the first point in the interview where he really opens up, as he then elaborates: “I feel like NXT UK is about the wrestling – all the time… wrestling above all, and nobody’s ego transcends wrestling because that’s the ultimate thing in NXT UK.
“That’s the foundation, and you can’t build a house without a foundation because it holds everything else up – the drama and the entertainment. It’s so simple… things fall into place when the intention is right.”
Tyler Bate wrestles A-Kid for the NXT UK Heritage Cup on this week’s edition of NXT UK, airing on WWE Network on Thursday evening and on Friday night on BT Sport. Visit wwe.com for more.
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