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Across the pond: The history of United Kingdom-exclusive pay-per-view events
This week, London hosts both Raw and SmackDown, and on occasion, WWE has flown across the pond to present major events, most notably with 1992’s SummerSlam at Wembley Stadium. But there have also been many pay-per-views that audiences outside the United Kingdom have not had the privilege to see. In total, there have been 11 pay-per-views that were broadcast exclusively outside the United States.
These historic events have featured WWE Hall of Famers, title changes and unique matchups. Now, for the first time, WWE Classics presents the comprehensive history of pay-per-views American audiences missed.
One Night Only: Sept. 20, 1997
WWE’s first foray into exclusive pay-per-view broadcasting occurred during late 1997’s transition into The Attitude Era. In fact, One Night Only is notable for being the final show to feature WWE’s cherished color scheme of royal blue ring fashioning and red, white and blue ropes. Seen in both Canada and Europe, One Night Only was said to be held back from American audiences due to WWE Champion Bret Hart’s disdain for United States fans.
In front of 11,000 Brits at Birmingham, England’s NEC Arena — now the LG Arena — fans witnessed The Undertaker challenge “Hit Man” for the WWE Championship. Bret had defeated The Phenom for the title at the previous month’s SummerSlam, and this occasion marked the first time on television The Undertaker was able to get his hands on The Excellence of Execution since losing the WWE Championship.
The night’s second main event saw Shawn Michaels controversially defeat local hero The British Bulldog for the European Title with Davey Boy’s family looking on at ringside. HBK’s D-Generation X cronies and Bulldog’s Hart Foundation allies all interfered in the matchup, which was the only time the European Title was defended in a pay-per-view main event.
Mayhem in Manchester: April 4, 1998
When WWE returned to the U.K. for a pay-per-view, the landscape had been drastically altered. Mayhem in Manchester at the Nynex Arena — now known simply as the Manchester Arena — took place less than a week after WrestleMania XIV, and it was the first pay-per-view to feature “Stone Cold” Steve Austin entering as WWE Champion. While One Night Only was broadcast in Europe and Canada, Mayhem was the first pay-per-view where exclusive broadcast rights were bestowed upon the United Kingdom.
The show featured several unique matchups, including Cactus Jack taking on “The Artist Formerly Known As” Goldust and Austin successfully defending the WWE Championship against European Champion Triple H. The Game’s title was not on the line.
Five days prior on Raw, the future WWE COO had rebooted D-Generation X by anointing himself the new leader and adding X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws. In Manchester, Road Dogg & Billy Gunn were victorious against L.O.D. 2000 when their new ally Chyna provided some assistance.
Capital Carnage: Dec. 6, 1998
After the success of One Night Only and Mayhem in Manchester, WWE determined to make pay-per-view visits to the U.K. a twice-yearly occurrence. Eight months after Mayhem, WWE returned with Capital Carnage at the now-demolished London Arena, marking the first pay-per-view in England’s capital since SummerSlam 1992. The event is also noteworthy for being the last appearance of Jim Ross until his return at the main event of WrestleMania XV.
At this point, WWE’s Attitude Era was in full swing and The Rock was preparing to begin his second month as WWE Champion and Mr. McMahon’s crowned jewel. To make things as easy as possible for his “Corporate Champion,” The Chairman switched The Great One’s opponent from Triple H to X-Pac and ordered the DX leader to face Jeff Jarrett instead.
Mr. McMahon wielded his power in the main event, too. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was forced to battle Kane, Mankind and The Undertaker in a Fatal 4-Way Match with Shane McMahon, Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Big Boss Man and The Chairman himself administering various enforcer roles at ringside.
Popular football (soccer) star and actor Vinnie Jones was also set to enforce the bout, but was given a red card and sent packing by the Corporate Stooges. Jones returned after the bout, and allowed Austin to deliver a Stunner to Boss Man, much to the English crowd’s delight.
No Mercy: May 16, 1999
Before No Mercy became an annual pay-per-view held in the United States from 1999 to 2008, it was a one-time broadcast in the United Kingdom. The show was WWE’s return to The Warehouse City after the previous spring’s Mayhem in Manchester.
The biggest story of the event was European Champion Shane McMahon’s rampant abuse of power. After X-Pac assisted his tag team partner Kane from an assault by The Corporate Ministry, The Boy Wonder declared X-Pac would be next. In a rematch from WrestleMania XV, Shane defended the European Title against his rival, and in a moment eerily reminiscent of what went down at The Show of Shows, Triple H nailed the Pedigree on his former friend, allowing Shane to pick up the victory. This time, it was Kane coming to X-Pac’s aid, scaring the baddies from the ring, but the heir to the WWE throne insisted “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would suffer at the hand of The Corporate Ministry.
In the main event, The Texas Rattlesnake defended the WWE Title in a No Holds Barred Triple Threat Match against Corporate Ministry allies Triple H and The Undertaker. Thanks to X-Pac, Kane, The Brood and Mankind, Austin was able to overcome the odds and retain the championship.
Rebellion: 1999 - 2002
With several U.K.-only pay-per-views in the books, WWE inaugurated Rebellion as an annual event in October 1999. The first Rebellion featured The British Bulldog’s first major match in his homeland since he competed in the main event of One Night Only in 1997. But this time, Davey Boy Smith was one of WWE’s top antagonists, and was greeted with boos by the U.K. fans. The Bulldog interfered in several of the night’s matchups, including the main event, which pitted WWE Champion Triple H against The Rock in a Steel Cage Match.
Rebellion returned for the following three years, most notably in 2000 with a star-studded Fatal 4-Way for the WWE Championship featuring Kurt Angle defending against Rikishi, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock. In 2001, less than two weeks before The Alliance disbanded, former best friends Edge and Christian faced off in a brutal Steel Cage Match while Edge was the reigning Intercontinental Champion and King of the Ring and Christian held the European Title.
The year 2002’s Rebellion is noteworthy for not only being John Cena’s U.K. debut, but also for being the first pay-per-view to be presented exclusively by SmackDown. In the main event, Paul Heyman & WWE Champion Brock Lesnar defeated Edge in a grueling Handicap Match. Edge would have won the title if he had pinned either man.
Insurrextion: 2000 - 2003
The final U.K.-only pay-per-view to join the roster was Insurrextion, which became the sister event to Rebellion, with each occurring twice a year. The first Insurrextion featured the final pay-per-view appearance of hometown icon The British Bulldog, who defeated Crash Holly to win the Hardcore Championship at the event. Also in 2000, European Champion Eddie Guerrero beat Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho with a pre-match coin toss determining the European Title would be on the line.
Y2J also competed in one of the main events of the following year’s Insurrextion, taking on William Regal for a trophy dubbed the “Queen’s Cup.” The menacing Brit lost the bout, but attacked Jericho after the contest and destroyed the prize.
The year 2002’s Insurrextion is historic for two distinct reasons. It was the first pay-per-view to be presented by a single WWE brand, and was also the final show before the company was rechristened as World Wrestling Entertainment. The event was also Brock Lesnar’s debut on a U.K.-only broadcast. The odd pairing of Lesnar & Shawn Stasiak was defeated by The Hardy Boyz and Paul Heyman instructed Brock to attack Stasiak after the contest.
The final Insurrextion in 2003 was the first one not to be held in London, and was the first pay-per-view to emanate from Newcastle, England. The city near the border of Scotland hosted a Street Fight for the World Heavyweight Championship between former friends Kevin Nash and Triple H and a classic Intercontinental Title bout between Christian and Booker T. WWE has not presented a U.K.-exclusive broadcast since.