The Bruiserweight has reigned over the NXT UK brand with an iron fist for almost 700 days, since defeating Tyler Bate to become only the second holder in history, Dunne’s stock has continued to grow exponentially across the globe. The UK title has arguably more prestige that any other WWE title in history and Pete Dunne deserves a lot of credit for building the championship and the brand as a whole.
However, with a title defense against Walter at NXT Takeover: New York looming, it seems that Dunne’s days are numbered. It feels odd to think that in a matter of weeks we could see the glorious championship belt around someone else’s waist, but if it’s going to be anyone that dethrones ‘The Bruiserweight’ then it absolutely has to be the Ring General. Walter’s reputation in the BritWres community is reaching legendary status, so it should make for a really exciting match to kick off WrestleMania weekend in New York.
Of course it’s not set in stone that Pete will drop the title, but regardless, lets take a look back through some of his greatest title defences to date. Pete Dunne has made it his mission to set the bar higher and higher in each match, and without a doubt, he’s achieved that as UK Champion. So in case anyone’s still waiting to be won over by the burgeoning NXT UK brand, then best take a gander at these belters.
5. Pete Dunne vs. Jack Gallagher – Progress Chapter 60: Unboxing 2 – Unbox Harder
A match that was meant to take place over the summer of 2017 was unfortunately put on hold due to an injury on Dunne’s part. Luckily, Jim Smallman and the Progress crew were able to work out another time to fit this cracker onto a card as a late Christmas gift to BritWres fans. A card that’s kept totally under wraps until the show itself was main evented by this incredible UK Championship match which lived up to the hype.
Both Dunne and Gallagher put together some fantastic chain grappling, akin to British legends of wrestling like UK GM Johnny Saint, William Regal and Robbie Brookside. These two have yet to tangle on a WWE or NXT broadcast, but Jack Gallagher really suits the NXT UK style, considering how far he took Dunne in this title defence, there’s nothing keeping him away.
The excitement in the Electric Ballroom was palpable for this big-time title match. Give it a go if you want to see some intense greco wrestling.
4. Pete Dunne vs. Kyle O’Reilly – NXT #304
Bruisey-boi was involved in a heated feud with The Undisputed Era towards the end of last year, after being blind-sided by Roderick Strong in the Dusty Classic finals. Pete had some crazy-good matches with the likes of Roddy and Adam Cole, but none quite matched the grap fest with Kyle O’Reilly on NXT TV.
O’Reilly is such an underrated singles competitor. Since falling into Era, he hasn’t really had many chances to show this. His match with Dunne remains a hidden gem of a UK Title match, one of the stronger defences from the latter part of 2018.
Lots of submissions, snug shots and cringe-inducing psychology: Exactly what you’d want from these two mat specialists. I seriously hope that one day Kyle gets the chance to break into the mid-card as a singles competitor, because if there’s more of this to come, then there’s nothing stopping him from one day stealing the show at WrestleMania.
3. Pete Dunne vs. Zack Gibson – WWE UK Championship Tournament
Being in attendance for this match was a memory I’ll never forget. The pure hatred of the challenger paired with the overwhelming support for the champion made for one of the most dramatic and heart-racing title matches I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Gibson defeated Travis Banks in the finals of the second UK title tournament the night prior. Heading into this with a wave of momentum behind it, it felt almost written in the stars that Zack would be walking out the victor and Dunne would be moving on with his career. This also marked the dawn of NXT UK, so whichever way you looked at it, it was shrouded in hype.
Dunne and Gibson had such an incredible chemistry that hasn’t been matched by any other face/heel combination in recent memory. UK title matches have become known for their false finishes, and this match used some great spots to include them in. Pete Dunne shined over the two night event as the leading star of the brand, with Zack Gibson as his scathing, Liverpudlian nemesis. This match was the perfect climax.
Gibson has gone on to become one half of the first NXT UK Tag Champions, the rub he received from the great match with Pete at the Royal Albert Hall went a long way in establishing him as a great heel and a big star. Gibson has Dunne and his excellent title defence to thank for that.
2. Pete Dunne vs Ricochet – NXT #318
The UK and North American titles were both on the line in this instant classic between Pete Dunne and Ricochet. Unfortunately, this match was never given a conclusive finish but really and truly, neither man could justifiably lose their titles at this point. Although for a while there, I really believed that Dunne was walking out with two titles in his gob.
The match was absolutely spectacular and received rave reviews from wrestling journalists and fans alike. Both of these guys could get a great match out of a blow-up doll, so naturally they made magic against one another. Flippy shit and brutal groundwork go hand in hand. It was a shock that this didn’t walk away with match of the year, but it just goes to show the sheer talent that’s performing on NXT.
Dunne and Ricochet have had some excellent match-ups elsewhere prior to NXT, so if you’re a fan of this match, which would be a surprise to me if you weren’t, then go hunt those down too. The UK title was really put over here, being featured in a major feud against another mid-card champion heading into WarGames. Dunne truly excelled in 2018, and this title match was simply the cherry on top.
1. Pete Dunne vs Jordan Devlin – NXT UK #11
Quite possibly the most underrated match of the entire decade, The Bruiserweight and The Irish Ace absolutely killed it in the hands-down best match from NXT UK TV so far. Devlin has been borderlining on being a champion since the first UK title tournament and has since had a critically-acclaimed match with his former mentor Finn Balor and this excellent contest with the champion, Pete Dunne.
Jordan Devlin is undoubtedly a future star in NXT UK and should certainly be in line for the belt some time down the line. This match proved to the world that he’s more than just a giant head on a body, he’s also ridiculously talented and can match Pete Dunne’s passion to a tee.
I’ve watched this match several times now, each time it gets better, it perfectly sums up the focus on heritage and innovation in Professional Wrestling. It’s traditional grappling combined with intense drama, The Irish Ace, much like Tyler Bate, brings out the best of Pete Dunne and vice-versa. Give this a go if you need an example of when NXT UK is at its best.
The championship match with Walter feels like one of the most important title contests in years. It’s a real shame that we won’t be seeing this on British soil, but I’m happy that the UK title is featured in such a prolific match during WrestleMania weekend.
Congratulations to Pete Dunne for this amazing reign and the quality of matches that we’ve seen over the past 680 odd days.