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By Mike Johnson on 2016-12-15 06:24:00

WWE held a press conference this morning at the 02 in London, England, featuring Triple H announcing that the first ever WWE UK champion will be crowned the weekend of 1/14/17-1/15/17 via a two day tournament that will air live on the WWE Network.

The 16 competitor tournament will take place in Blackpool, England (hometown of William Regal) at the Empress Ballroom with tickets going on sale today.    The venue can hold upwards of 3,000 fans.

At the press conference, it was announced that former Ring of Honor champion Nigel McGuinness will be working as the co-host at the tournament, announcing with Michael Cole.  

This explains Ring of Honor's abrupt announcement that McGuinness had resigned as ROH Matchmaker.  There had been rumblings over the last 24 hours that McGuinness was going to work a 30 day tryout as a guest coach at the WWE Performance Center, but obviously WWE had a different role in mind for McGuinness.  McGuinness was a regular announcer for ROH TV before being shifted over to the Matchmaker role. 

Earlier this week, ROH sources initially attempted to describe the McGuinness exit to PWInsider as a potential move back to commentary.  As it turned out, that move was for WWE.   We are told ROH was not aware of any potential McGuinness exit until over the past weekend and they obviously were not happy about any of this, hence the abrupt dumping of him via their website announcement.  McGuinness, 40, was not under a ROH contract.

The WWE signing of McGuinness provides, finally, something of a happy ending for the former ROH champion.  As documented in his film "Last of McGuinness", he was offered a WWE deal in September 2006 but the deal was pulled after he disclosed a previous biceps injury during a medical pre-screening.  Although his own doctor had felt the injury was healed and was safe for performing in the ring, WWE's doctors instructed him to undergo a surgery to repair the old injury.  Not being financially able to afford the surgery, McGuinness declined and WWE pulled the deal.  He went on to work for TNA and as it turned out, the injury was never a factor again.  McGuinness' career would instead be curtailed after he came down with Hepatitis-C (something he has been cured of) and he retired at the end of 2011 as the door to WWE was obviously closed.  In his film, McGuinness, sometimes in heart-wrenching fashion, came to terms with his dreams of working for WWE not happening as he settled into retirement. 

During the conference, the implication was the UK championship tournament broadcasts could lead to regular WWE Network programming from the UK, similar to how the Cruiserweight Classic led the way to 205 Live.   The move to create programming from the UK is obviously a response to ITV filming a pilot (featuring WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross as the lead announcer) in advance of a potential series. 

The interesting back story there is that WWE has, over the last several years, attempted to purchase the pro wrestling-related material from old ITV World of Sport library for their own use, without success.  World of Sport was a sports anthology series that ran for 20 years on ITV and regularly featured pro wrestling personalities and matches from Europe.  When the decision was made in 1985 to cancel the series, it crippled homegrown pro wrestling in that region for many years.

In 2013, John Chapman licensed and filmed a World of Sport TV pilot that ITV opted not to pick up.  The online attention to that pilot led to WWE reaching out to ITV in 2014 to open communications about purchasing the library.  The acquisition never went down, but those two events may have started the process of ITV opting to launch their own pilot taping earlier this year - and with ITV seeking to lock in talents for the series, WWE is now playing leapfrog by announcing their own tournament with the idea of a regular WWE Network series being the carrot to catch their own crop of European talents.

With the rebirth of the European wrestling scene in recent years headed by promotions like PROGRESS Wrestling, Rev Pro, Insane Championship Wrestling and others, there is a massive wealth of pro wrestlers who, as of today, will be in more demand than ever. 

Talents announced by WWE for the tournament this morning include Trent Seven, Jack Starz, Pete Dunne, Wolfgang, Roy Johnson, Sam Gradwell, James Drake, Jordan Devlin, Tyler Bate, Joseph Conners, Tyson T. Bone, HC Dyer, Dan Moloney, Chris Tyler, Saxon Huxley, Ringo Ryan, Tiger Ali and Tucker.  Two competitors will be alternates.

WWE posted a video of Triple H's official announcement on Facebook:

I suspect an official WWE press release touting the series will come later today and expect WWE to utilize their website and social media over the next several weeks as a way to introduce these talents in ways to help familiarize them to the WWE audience.

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