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So You Wanna See Some BritWres?

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Whether you’ve been watching Progress for years, or just want to see NXT UK live and in person, here’s what you need to know. Oh, who am I?

I write this with some modicum of experience, having just spent 10 days in the UK, for Progress’s huge Hello Wembley show, as well as Fight Club Pro’s 7th Project Mayhem (a two-night epic), and my first trip to Pro-Wrestling: EVE. Not only did I get to see some amazing wrestling — finally seeing certain guys and gals who haven’t come stateside yet — but I also got to have the time of my life.

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BIG KICK ENERGY #projectmayhem7 #TheGreatUKGrapsTrip

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Places to go

So, I hope that for your sakes, you can see at least a couple of nights — if not more — during your trip. Airfare and such don’t come cheap, so you want to make the most of this. I managed to string together three promotions, and almost did four!

In the neighborhoods relatively nearby central London, you can see a number of excellent promotions, so you don’t even need to buy a train ticket. The antic-filled Attack! runs out of Tufnell Park’s The Dome, and the all-women promotion Pro-Wrestling: EVE is near Bethnal Green.

Short train trips out of town can bring you to Wolverhampton to see Fight Club Pro (which counts British Strong Style as often-featured performers), or to Brighton to see Riptide (the independent promotion you need to know right now). Get those train tickets as early as you can, find them with the Trainline (iOS, Google Play) app.

Scheduling: save at least a few days for not seeing wrestling

Before you buy those plane tickets, after having figured out ways to chain multiple shows together, think about taking some time to see things that aren’t wrestling shows. Sure, I know that may sound insane, but after I went to New Orleans for WrestleMania 34, I told myself, “there’s more to these great cities than their event venues!”

Without the additional days, I wouldn’t have had the best meals of the trip, nor would I have left having felt like I was on vacation. Sure, I love seeing wrestling shows with friends, but those nights are not exactly relaxing.

Originally, I was to have 1 day before all the shows, to be followed by 3 nights of wrestling shows, followed by 4 nights without shows, and book ended with 1 last show. That all got switched around, to move to 4 nights of shows followed by the remainder of the trip without. Either would have been fine, but I still would have preferred to start with a day without a show, as I was washed-level tired at the first show. I wanted to beat jet lag, but airline difficulties — a queue at JFK’s tarmac — stopped that from happening. Up until the joyful Kris Wolf took to the ring for the EVE show, I was stuck in some mental limbo. Never seen Ms. Wolf before? Fix that ASAP. Her energy literally wiped away my jet lag.

Chants: Observe and Think and Join

As an outsider, who’s watched British wrestling via recordings or streams, you may think you’ve learned the chants by this point. But that doesn’t mean you should jump into familiar chants the first time.

Why? Think about that time you learned that you’d gotten the lyrics wrong to a song (younger fans: before the days of and its verified lyrics, we made mistakes, and often). Also, as I’ve been told, we Americans have been messing up the cadence on “If you hate Gibson, stand up.”

Fight Club Pro: Yes, It’s a Warehouse, Don’t Worry

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The return to #DeathHouse #TheGreatUKGrapsTrip

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“I’m not in Kansas anymore,” you might think, when you walk into a different kind of indie venue than you’re used to. While many shows in the states take place at school gyms or veterans halls, UK shows can often exist in more … DIY venues.

Take, for example, the surprise I had when Fight Club Pro — on the day before Project Mayhem was to begin — announced a change of venue. Fortunately, there wasn’t much difference between the spots, are both were essentially warehouse/factory spaces, gutted for use by others. The wide, relatively open area at The Hangar (its new space) makes for a great venue, though, as nothing’s there to distract you, and everyone has a great line of sight, even those standing with General Admission tickets.

And then, there was The Resistance Gallery, for EVE.

It’s one of — if not the smallest venues I’ve ever seen wrestling in, and reminded me of a punk rock concert hall space from my college days. If you’re tall, get to the back, if you’re short, move to the front. Co-promoter Dan Read will likely explain that at the start of the show, unless the regulars beat him to it.

Make friends, OK?

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If you’re going with a group, you might not feel as inclined to take my word, but your trip will be better if you get to know the folks around you. Whether they’re sitting next to you at shows, or nearby at bars, be nice and represent your hometown well. As they say at Progress, don’t be a dick. Don’t force it either, read the room.

I insist on this, so much, because I was fortunate enough to meet locals (or those who live near-enough) who made my trip a blast. While the shows were fun and all, some of my favorite moments from the trip including the odd singalong in a bar to Britney Spears happened before I even got to a venue.

I’m sorry, I hate to sound like your dad or mom, but seriously: be nice to people and make some friends. No matter where I’ve gone for wrestling, I’ve always left happier when I’ve met new folks.

Think before you pack

Wrestling shirts are fun and all, but they’re not exactly multipurpose. Some nights, you might want to go somewhere other than a bar or a wrestling show, so pack 1 dress shirt for every 2 wrestling shirts.

Also, make sure to get a power converter. This is the one I got, and I then plugged a multi-USB port power adapter into that.

Got Apple Pay/Google Pay? Forget the Oyster Card

When I first arrived in town, I bought an Oyster Card — the UK public transit card that you tap on turnstiles and bus entrances — like a dummy. Turns out, I could have been using my iPhone the entire time, using Apple Pay, a near-field-communication (NFC) payment system similar to tapping the Oyster card. Android phones have Google Pay, which works the same way.

This doesn’t work the same way for trains — where you need to buy tickets for specific times — though, so you’ll need to buy standalone tickets for those.

Load your phone up

If you’re seeing any promotions that distribute via Vimeo or YouTube, remember you can shows for offline (though that requires the paid YouTube Premium).

Transit apps to download include CityMapper (iOS, Google Play) TubeMap (iOS, Google Play) and Bus London (iOS, Google Play). Also, if you do end up buying train tickets in advance, get the app for the railway you chose. Having the Virgin Trains (iOS, Google Play) app on my phone made it easier to print my tickets at the station.

Wetherspoons: learn it, love it

For the first half of my trip, I spent a good amount time at Wetherspoons — otherwise known as Spoons — owned bars. Imagine if Applebees owned a whole mess of restaurants, but for the sake of local flavor, each had its own name, and that’s what Spoons bars are.

What makes these places amazing is their app, which is how you can order and pay for food, effortlessly. You just select your restaurant and your table number, and order and pay.

Also, you’re not supposed to put your restaurant and table number on social media, so that friends can send you things. They don’t like that at all.

The Good Food Is Out There

But the thing about Spoons is that I compare it to Applebees for a reason. It’s bar food, which you don’t need to limit yourself to in the UK.

  • Dishoom: some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. Order the Black Daal.
  • Beigel Bake: dollar for dollar the best value pull of the trip. Get the Salt Beef Beigel, and only say yes when they ask “pickle and mustard?” if you enjoy spicy, horseradish flavor.
  • Lost Boys Pizza: iconic within the British wrestling community for their Goth Pizza, and including vegan options, which is big for the b i g s t r o n g b o i s. Look on their walls for signed polaroids and 8x10’s.
  • Kappacasein: this little facade at Borough Market does well by the bubbling Raclette cheese. Get the grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Bread Ahead Bakery: don’t leave Borough Market without sampling the doughnuts here. So good I had to quote Teenage Dirtbag in my social media post.
  • E Pellicci: fantastic Full English Breakfast. Famous for its appearance on a Tony Bourdain show, recommended to me by the excellent Zach Linder.
  • Voodoo Ray’s: another good pizza spot. Reminded me of funky NYC mainstays Two Boots. Recommended by The [Tech] Podcast Don Myke Hurley.
  • Nando’s: You gotta. Just don’t expect “Extra Hot” to be super-spicy, if you’re a spicy food lover.

Wrestlers are everywhere, act accordingly

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CCK/HTC #TheGreatUKGrapsTrip

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The night of Wembley, I serendipitously ran across half of the roster from that big show. I recognized an unmasked wrestler, whose shirt I was wearing, and almost went up to him and lavished him in praise. As a friend said, “Don’t be that guy. He’s off the clock.”

If you encounter a wrestler, don’t be strange. Be kind, polite and thankful, and hopefully that good behavior will come back around.

Enjoy yourself

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Haskinses vs Bro #chapter76 #TheGreatUKGrapsTrip

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So, I hope you find some value in these tips and tricks, as there’s a lot coming up. For example, I know plenty of folks interested in Super Strong Style 2019, Progress’s big three-day tournament is around the corner in May, and they’re working with for help for travellers and you can find more info about that here.

No matter what you go to see, though, my best advice is to go in with a positive attitude, and hope for the best. Things are likely to go wrong when you’re on the road — just ask Progress about their 2017 shows in America — and it’s best if you learn to accept the bumps and divots in the road. Any questions? Ask in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help.

Henry T. Casey is a tech journalist who writes at Tom’s Guide and Laptop Mag who contributes to Cageside Seats because he wants to share how much he loves pro wrestling with as many people as possible. He tweets via @henrytcasey. Henry also podcasts about wrestling at The Ring Post.

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