On Thursday, WWE announced the inauguration of the United Kingdom Championship. The winner of a sixteen man elimination tournament in January will become the first WWE United Kingdom Champion.

Over the past few years, UK independent Wrestling promotions have redefined the idea of professional wrestling in the U.K. Gone are lingering perceptions of overweight men bouncing bellies in rooms heavy with cigarette smoke puffed from grannies in the front row. Promotions as richly diverse as PROGRESS, Rev Pro and ICW have established themselves as major players in independent wrestling by carving their own identities.

In Blackpool, on the 14th and 15th of January, at the Empress Ballroom, WWE will tap into that.

Who's involved?

Trent Seven, Wolfgang, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne, Jordan Devlin, T-Bone, Sam Gradwell, James Drake, Tucker, Joseph Conners,HC Dyer, Chris Tyler, Roy Johnson, Dan Moloney, Jack Starz, Tiger Ali, Ringo Ryan and Saxon Huxely will compete for the right to become the inaugural United Kingdom Champion.

Although the field boasts a number of high-profile names - most notably PROGRESS World Champion Pete Dunne and ICW World Heavyweight Champion Wolfgang- many high profile names that lead the British wrestling renaissance are absent due to contractual agreements with NJPW, ROH and TNA.

WWE's overt venture into the British market has been interpreted as a response to ITV's revamped World of Sport series which will debut over New Years.

None of the talent that appeared on the World of Sport tapings are involved with WWE's United Kingdom tournament.

Furthermore, WWE's involvement in the British scene has raised questions in regards to the future of British wrestling. Paradoxically, while the announcement has unquestionably further raised the profile of all those scheduled to compete in the tournament and British wrestling in general, there is a pervading concern that WWE's relationship maybe more than just an audacious talent grab.

As independent contractors, wrestlers have a right to work for any promotion they so desire. However, for those now affiliated WWE that may not be the case, with the thought being that WWE will pick and choose where talent can and can't work.

William Regal, a coach at WWE's state of the art performance centre in Florida and figurehead of WWE's highly successful developmental brand NXT, looked to alleviate those concerns.

To close the press conference, Paul Levesque - better known as Triple H- stated that he hopes the United Kingdom tournament will act as a precursor to WWE creating a touring brand composed of exclusively British talent, much like WWE have done recently with 205 Live. This latest announcement by WWE is a clear indication of their marketing strategy henceforth: Instead of attempting to appeal to everyone, WWE are targeting niche subsections of wrestling fandom and encouraging them to sign up to their over the top streaming service.