As the home of Welsh rugby union, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium is used to serving up fierce sporting clashes, full of big collisions and nail-biting drama. In this sense, the event on Saturday 3 September was nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the fact there was no ball, no pitch, or even any goalposts.
That’s because this particular weekend saw the Principality Stadium host its first ever WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) pay-per-view event, titled Clash at the Castle. It was the first of its kind to take place in Wales, and the first WWE stadium event in the UK for 30 years. (The WWE franchise typically hosts its major events in the USA.)
The night of scripted mayhem, which attracted more than 62,000 fans from the UK and beyond, saw global superstars of the sport take part in tag-team and title-defending wrestling matches, during which they wowed the crowds with immense feats of acrobatics, and by occasionally throwing each other through tables. There was even time for a cameo from champion heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury, who engaged in a spot of karaoke after ‘knocking out’ wrestler Austin Theory.
The near-four-hour event was lauded by critics, with prominent wrestling writer Dave Meltzer giving the night’s Intercontinental Championship Match, fought between Gunther and Sheamus, a five-star rating. The event also broke a number of records for the entertainment sport, becoming the most watched international PLE (Premium Live Event) in WWE history, as well as the highest-grossing event, in terms of ticket sales, for the franchise to date.
There was also praise directed towards the city of Cardiff and the atmosphere it generated, putting on a number of accompanying events for visitors, including a sold-out, one-man show with Hall of Fame wrestler The Undertaker at the city’s New Theatre. A large pop-up merchandise store also took over a section of St David's Dewi Sant shopping centre for the weekend, stocking exclusive merch and hosting meet-and-greets with wrestling stars.
Speaking at the press conference following the event, legendary former wrestler, and now Head of Creative at WWE, Paul Michael Levesque, better known as ‘Triple H’, said, "I want to thank the community in Cardiff and the government. This has been an unbelievable experience for everyone involved.
"I stated earlier that this would be a memory that would last a lifetime for the 62,000 fans here. But this has also been a memory that will last a lifetime for every talent, employee and crew member. For me personally, as well, this is a night I'll never forget," he added.
Though the memories may indeed stay with those in attendance for decades, seeing these herculean athletes do battle in the flesh may not prove to be a once in a lifetime experience for Welsh fans, with a number of wrestlers voicing support for future WWE spectacles in the Welsh capital. Drew Mcintyre, who narrowly lost the headline match of the night, told wrestling website Inside The Ropes, he considered the Cardiff stadium clash a “perfect blueprint for many future events in the UK”, While Seth Rollins, who fought in the night’s penultimate match, shared his view during a BBC radio interview that Wales could become WWE’s home from home.
Though the event marked the Principality’s first dalliance into the high-octane world of professional wrestling, the versatile stadium has played host to a number of lesser-expected sporting occasions in the past, from heavyweight boxing bouts to monster truck derbies. Learn more about the amazing national stadium of Wales.