It has been a difficult and painful few weeks for Brits. Terror attacks have tested our resolve and yet have demonstrated - as ever - that we will never submit to hate, nor be divided by it. Singular acts of hatred have simply served to inspire multiple waves of love and solidarity for and with victims and each other. We mourn and we remember but we do not give up.
Of course, there are many ways in which people express their resilience and indefatigability. It might be returning to the site of a terror attack, keeping plans in place for an evening out or posting messages of love online. Readers know that our passion is wrestling and regardless of the tendency of some to mock or belittle this artform, it is for millions of fans an outlet, an inspiration and a joy to watch. Wrestling unites people. It has happened time and time again in vastly different but dire circumstances. Just look back at WWE after the 9/11 attacks or the UK Independent scene following the death of the beloved Kris Travis. Wrestling unites. Following the Manchester and London terror attacks it did so again. Ring of Honor star Donovan Dijak has been collecting hundereds of pounds of donations at UK independent shows to send to the families of victims of terror. British Empire Wrestling held a minutes silence at their recent show and RevPro's Andy Quildan paid an emotional tribute to London at its latest Cockpit show. Wrestling unites, it brings people together.
The ideological hate that drives the sort of attacks we saw in London and Manchester is too easily found online. Social media platforms had in some cases been failing in their duties to properly identify and remove hateful material. The economic incentives for action have been poor and so voluntary agreements had been secured many of which failed to deliver significant outcomes. That was until recently. Under pressure from advertisers following severe criticism from MPs on the UK's Home Affairs Select Committee amongst others, YouTube was forced to act - and rightly so. The most outrageous terror-inspired, extremist, hate-filled antisemitic, racist, misogynist, homophobic and other gutter-worthy but dangerous rubbish was being hosted online alongside adverts for well-known and respectable brands. This, in some cases, meant the latter were in effect financing the former. YouTube amended its policies and the advertisers were somewhat reassured but there has been a consequence for fans of wrestling.
What Culture Pro Wrestling (WCPW), the trendsetting British promotion which we have covered before, was due to hold more than 10 weeks of tapings in Manchester at the Bowler's exhibition centre. The promotion wanted to deliver a free weekly show for its fans which number over one million in the YouTube subscriber stakes. The YouTube monetization policy has now classified wrestling as "non-advertiser friendly" and so income for WCPW and a number of other wrestling companies had been decimated. A match WCPW hosted between Alberto El Patron and Rey Mysterio earned $44 despite having more than 1,100,000 views - a reduction of some 98% in what would have been the free show's main source of revenue. Nine weeks of tapings were cancelled, nine weeks of wrestler's bookings and payment was gone and a respectable British company suffered a blow despite its aims to host unifying, fan-friendly shows.
WCPW and others are quite clear that YouTube should be making efforts to improve its platorm but rejects the premise - as we do - that wrestling as a whole is about violence. Rather it is as they say "about scripted entertainment, amazing feats of athleticism and, most of all, story-telling". The company has mounted its "Fight Back", having produced a show for free and at financial loss to raise awareness of the problem. In doing so, it received an official warning and a strike from YouTube. WCPW has committed to provide fans with top-quality wrestling on an open platform and is seeking to prove that wrestling is "a communal storytelling and athletic art-form rather than the simplistic, mindless violence it's often painted as". The campaign is set to expand in the coming weeks.
In the meantime there are two things you can do:
Second, get yourself along and support a WCPW (and indeed other British independent) show and give them your support. Make your voice heard.
It is imperative that we all help the YouTube policy makers understand that wrestling is about unity. From XWA's lovely promoter Dann Read having made the motto for his shows (in the best tradions of Bill & Ted) "be excellent to each other" to the Progress mantra of "don't be a d***" from family friendly warm and welcoming IPW and Southside to the gritty anti-racism of Pro-Wrestling: Eve and its "pile-drive a fascist" t-shirt, wrestling brings people together. The WWE universe comprises young and old alike, mainstream sponsors support the company because it provides sports entertainment. Wrestling brings people together, let's help it continue to do so by supporting the campaign.
You can see WCPW on Friday 16 June (Domain, Newcastle), Sunday 2 July (Berlin, Germany - Pro Wrestling World Cup German Qualifier), Friday 7 July (Manchester, Pro Wrestling World Cup Japan Qualifier), Friday 21 July (Manchester, Pro Wrestling World Cup USA Qualifier), Saturday 22 July (Newcastle, Pro Wrestling World Cup RoW Qualifier), Wednesday 23 August (Milton Keynes, Pro Wrestling World Cup Semi-Final), Thursday 24 August (Manchester, Pro-Wrestling World Cup Semi Final), Saturday 26 August (Newcastle, Pro Wrestling World Cup Final). Tickets for the events are currently on sale at wc.pw.