This weekend saw the conclusion of the very first WWE UK Championship tournament and boy did the Brits manage to impress. Please be aware that there are spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet look away now.
When WWE announced this late in 2016, the internet went mental at the thought of it. The belt was showcased first and it really did look amazing and utterly British (for those who may not be aware, the logo on the front of the belt was actually taken from our £1 coin). When the lineup was finally confirmed, I wasn’t really aware of any of the wrestlers that were being included, but some of my close friends had heard of them and they assured me that they were some of the best we had to offer. After watching it, I am inclined to agree.
The first night of wrestling was a good base to launch the tournament from and although it was arguably marred by predictable booking, we were still introduced to some interesting characters. One of the wrestlers I was most intrigued by was Dan Moloney. He came across as a dark, unpredictable heel that has a superb strong-man wrestling style. Although he was eliminated right out of the gate, he is still young and he really does have a bright future ahead of him.
As with any WWE event, there was undoubtedly going to be a little controversy and this came in the first round. Danny Burch (some of you may remember him from NXT) has the back of his head busted wide open and was pinned by Jordan Devlin. The ref counted 1,2,3 and he may have got his shoulder up before the three count, but the ref ruled in favour of Devlin. Even though this was clearly for safety reasons, it still managed to cause an uproar on social media.
The second night is really where the wrestling began to shine and it was here the favourites were cemented, not only with the crowd, but the viewers watching it at home. Some of the wrestlers that impressed were Mark Andrews, the high flying Welshman with some astounding moves and Wolfgang, who is basically just a Scottish version of Kevin Owens, but all the drama was focused on Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne.
Tyler Bate, with his gorgeous moustache, has managed to establish himself as a superb babyface. Not only could the young man wrestle (he’s 19, for God’s sake) but the WWE managed to tell us a story. We watched him fight with everything he had and even overcome an injured shoulder to grab the belt. It felt like we had followed him on an epic journey and the crowd were truly behind him.
Pete Dunne is maybe one of the best heels I have seen in wrestling in some time. He not only managed to get the fans to hate him, his brawling, sneering style of wrestling suits the character he is trying to play. You are constantly aware that he will do anything to win the belt. Attacking Sam Gradwell and then Tyler Bate was an incredible angle to add further storytelling into the event.
Although there was some amazing matches during the tournament, the final between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne was easily the match of the night. For the first time in a long time I found myself urging Tyler Bate to win, even applauding every time he kicked out. I haven’t been that invested in a WWE match since The Rock and Stone Cold back at Wrestlemania 17.
The other story of the night must be given over to the fans at the packed out venue. Throughout both days, they were chanting and cheering. They were truly behind Tyler Bate and openly jeered Pete Dunne. When you look across to the WWE in the U.S, the crowd haven’t popped liked that for some time.
Neville also had a fantastic match with Tommy End, a recent NXT signing which was used as a break to build tension going into the final.
So what’s next for the WWE UK Championship?
Well, if the Cruiserweight Tournament was anything to go by, we should hopefully see something like the 205 Live show on the Network which will keep the division going. It would be nice to see some of the other wrestlers come out and allow us to get to know their characters. I also believe that it does need a women’s division as well to bring in some variety.
It would be pointless to create such a good looking belt only for the WWE to shelve it and bring it out once a year. For the tournament to be a success again, the fans need to be invested in a character and give them someone to get behind.