WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Night #1 (REVIEW)

Sixteen of the finest professional wrestlers in the UK come together in Blackpool, England, to compete in a tournament to crown the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion…


Trent Seven
vs.
H.C. Dyer
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Trent Seven)

Jordan Devlin
vs.
Danny Burch
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Jordan Devlin)

Saxon Huxley
vs.
Sam Gradwell
1st Round
2half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Sam Gradwell)

Pete Dunne
vs.
Roy Johnson
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Pete Dunne)

Tyson T-Bone
vs.
Wolfgang
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Wolfgang)

James Drake
vs.
Joseph Conners
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Joseph Conners)

Mark Andrews
vs.
Dan Moloney
1st Round
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Mark Andrews)

Tyler Bate
vs.
Tucker
1st Round
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Tyler Bate)


Review

I had the good fortune to be at this show, and it honestly was one of my best experiences to date. Meet and greet with Finn Balor, followed by front row seats and a ridiculous amount of camera time – it had everything. Sadly, on this occasion, I was so drunk that I needed to watch the show back the next day just to remind myself of what had happened!

Before the show, the atmosphere in Blackpool was incredible. During the show, the atmosphere was on another level, one which can’t even be described. For perhaps the first time, British wrestling fans felt important to WWE, and we showed this for the entire show.

Prior to the show, a lot was made about the standard of competitors WWE had signed for this tournament. Many disputed WWE‘s claim that they’d signed the sixteen best talents in the UK, throwing out names of many athletes who WWE hadn’t approached, but failing to acknowledge that those men were already signed to other promotions. From this writers perspective, WWE did sign some of the top names in the UK, but they also signed up some unknown hot prospects, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, WWE turned the top talent they did sign into the absolute top stars in the country, so good was their presentation of them across the two nights of this tournament.

Many matches had predictable winners, given the split between established and non-established names, but all of them were competitive and no man was eliminated from this tournament looking weak.

The first match, between Trent Seven and H.C. Dyer, was a good way to start the show. Seven was over with the crowd, and Michael Cole made a point of stating that Seven was one of the favourites to win the whole tournament. That said, Dyer had some good moments to shine, and an early tournament upset was teased when he hit Seven with a hard punch, flooring his opponent. Seven eventually got the win, but made sure Dyer looked good in the process.

Jordan Devlin was my MVP of the night. Whether they planned for it or not, the crowd absolutely turned on Devlin in a way I’ve never seen, and the songs directed at him were brutal. I happened to be sat about a metre or two away from Finn Balor during this match, and he looked a little awkward as fans sung “You’re just a shit Finn Balor,” but Devlin seemed to soak it up and grow into the heel role he’d been pushed into by the audience. Burch was over as a babyface.

The match felt it went a little long, but I think that was due to the pace they were working at. There were some strong hits in this one, and Burch really seemed like a man on a mission. The finish was controversial, with Birch getting his arm up before the count of three, but it being missed by the referee who awarded the win to Devlin as a result. Burch had cut his head in that sequence, and the feeling at the time was that the finish wasn’t planned to go down how it did, but if it was intended, then it was done very well. I can only assume that a planned finish like that would be done to put more heat on Devlin, and it does give them some storyline options for the upcoming UK weekly television series, if they want to do more with Devlin and Burch.

Gradwell and Huxley was all about the holy lord himself, Jesus Christ. People talk about fans going into business for themselves, and I’ve seen some accusations from people online about the fans at this particular show, but I can assure you that every chant shouted that night, and every song sung, was about those guys in the ring and the show WWE were giving us. That said, the songs for Huxley, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the popular image of Jesus, were hilarious. The match wasn’t great, and I don’t think Huxley is all that great either to be honest, but Gradwell looked like he had something to prove here, and he took advantage of the minutes he had. Sweet head butt by Gradwell to seal the win. Huxley has jobber written all over him, but the business needs jobbers after all, and if he alters his gimmick to take onboard some Jesus-aspects, then he could make some tidy money.

Like everyone else, Pete Dunne and Roy Johnson had a competitive matchup. Although Dunne was clearly leading the match, Johnson get a lot more offence than I expected. I liked Dunne’s refusal to shake hands after he got the win, as it was a nice heel move. Little did we know how big a heel push Dunne was going to get later on in the show though!

Wolfgang is a wrestler whom I have a real soft spot for. I met him in a bar following ICW Pray for Mojo a few months prior to this show, and after he hilariously had trouble knocking a pissed guy off the pool table, I joined him and others of the ICW roster (Trent Seven and Drew Galloway, too!) for the rest of the night. Wolfgang is a great guy, and I wanted to see him do well here.

There’s no one in WWE his size who can do the things he does, and he gave some glimpses of that here. He may be a big guy, but he’s athletic too, and has a hell of a sweet moonsault in his arsenal. Tyson T-Bone looks like a complete jobber, and I’m sure foreign audiences probably had trouble understanding him in his promo, but he was a real surprise in the ring and looked good when on offence. Wolfgang won, of course, but T-Bone came out looking better than I expected.

James Drake and Joseph Conners was the only match on the show that didn’t have an obvious winner, at least not to me. Conners was playing up his “monster” look (he’s missing half an ear), and going for Drake’s own ears, whilst Drake himself just has a great look. It was a good match, but I really wish they’d had more time given to them, as I  think they could’ve done a hell of a lot more here. The heel needed to win, but I was kind of hoping Drake would steal it.

As a Welshman, I had great interest in Mark Andrews versus Dan Moloney, what with Andrews being from the very city I live in. As such, I waved my friends Welsh flag with pride, apparently much to the delight of the cameras (which at this point I didn’t even notice due to my intoxication!). Andrews was one of the most well known names in this tournament before it took place, given he was had exposure overseas, but he’s one that I feel works best as an underdog so it was odd seeing him in a match where he was anything but that.

Moloney and Andrews worked at a fast pace, much faster than anything on the show before them, and it was a really engaging match. It wasn’t great, because none of these opening matches were great, but it was better than I imagine anyone expected, and Moloney looked strong in defeat. Crowd were behind Andrews for reasons mentioned above, and because he’s a perfect babyface and has a great look. Easily a favourite, not only going into the show, but after his first win too.

The main event was a really entertaining match between Tyler Bate and Tucker. I was initially surprised that this was the main event of the show, given other matches on the card, but it all made perfect sense following the second night of the tournament, as clearly WWE were trying to make Bate look a very credible potential winner to their worldwide audience. Didn’t hurt that he and Tucker put on the best match of the night here, either.

Whilst he was only there to elevate Bate, Tucker came out looking really good too, and I like his look. On a weekly TV show, I can see Tucker becoming a popular babyface. For now though, the most popular face is Tyler Bate, who really got the crowd behind him as he beat Tucker with the Tyler Driver 97.

The show never delivered anything great, but it also never gave us anything bad. You could say that it was playing it safe, looking to do the basics, but saving all the good stuff for the second night. That said, this was a damn good production from top to bottom, and the commentary saw Michael Cole as good as he has ever been. The crowd were hot throughout the whole night, and that only made things even better. No talent looked bad on this show, and that’s down to booking, performance, commentary and the crowd – they all came together perfectly in this sneak peak at what the UK had to offer WWE’s global audience.

I liked Dunne’s beatdown of Gradwell to end the show, but am unsure as to how much WWE showed of it at the time it aired? Their On Demand version of the show only shows his first assault on his Qtr Final opponent, but those of us in the venue got to see a much longer attack, which really sold it more. It got people talking, felt like a bit of a shoot, and made Dunne into the top heel of the entire tournament. Now there was a villain for a hero to beat to win the whole tournament…

Match of the Night

Tyler Bate vs. Tucker

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Night #1 Overall Rating:

3half_star
(Extra 0.5 for a great live experience, and a top quality television presentation)

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