WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Night #2 (Eye-Witness Review)

The final eight competitors do battle to be crowned the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion. One man is only three victories away from making history…


Pete Dunne
vs.
Sam Gradwell
Qtr Final
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Pete Dunne)

Joseph Conners
vs.
Mark Andrews
Qtr Finals
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Mark Andrews)

Trent Seven
vs.
Wolfgang
Qtr Final
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Wolfgang)

Tyler Bate
vs.
Jordan Devlin
Qtr Final
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Tyler Bate)

Pete Dunne
vs.
Mark Andrews
Semi-Final
4star
(Winner via pinfall: Pete Dunne)

Wolfgang
vs.
Tyler Bate
Semi-Final
3half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Tyler Bate)

Neville
vs.
Tommy End
Special Attraction Match
3star
(Winner via pinfall: Neville)

Pete Dunne
vs.
Tyler Bate
WWE United Kingdom Championship
4half_star
(Winner via pinfall, and new champion: Tyler Bate)


Review

Just like the first night of WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, I was in attendance for this show, and this time dead centre in the front row on the hard camera. I can’t even begin to describe how stressful it is knowing you need to look fully engrossed and excited on camera for the entire two hours, when you are as hungover as I am my friends were. I did what any sensible person does in that situation though, and always ensured I had a pint of beer close by.

The show was opened by a good video package that not only featured highlights of the show the night before, but of Pete Dunne’s beatdown on Sam Gradwell after the seedings were finalised for the Quarter Finals. This did a great job of making Pete Dunne out to be the big bad guy of the tournament, and whilst UK fans are notorious for cheering WWE‘s heels, it put good heat on Dunne from the live crowd. In other words, the fans could see what WWE were trying to do with Dunne, and got onboard with it because it was done well.

I hadn’t expected Gradwell to be medically cleared for this show, and had been sure that the beatdown had been done to allow for a surprise British entrant (Neville, or perhaps the departed Wade Barrett). I’m glad they went ahead with Gradwell versus Bate though, as it was the hottest match going into the show, and the only one that really had any build. The match was good, and Gradwell looked decent against a man clearly destined for the final. Like every match in this tournament, it was competitive even when you expected it not to be, and Gradwell gave as good as he got, hitting some nice dives to the outside too. I loved that Dunne won without hitting his finisher, instead just throwing Gradwell hard into the turnbuckles, playing up the injuries Dunne had given him the night before. That’s good booking guys, and not something you’ll often see in WWE matches.

Mark Andrews and Joseph Conners competed in what was the best match in the tournament up until that point, taking the action to ringside regularly, and some near falls that were so close it really had you questioning the winner. Andrews eventually bagged the win in a lovely finish, and the crowd were really into his run in the competition.

The downside of Wolfgang versus Trent Seven was that both men were already in the midst of a pretty well advertised feud in ICW (Insane Championship Wrestling), so the match wasn’t as fresh as it could have been. Personally, I would have liked to see WWE wait a while before doing this match themselves, but there’s a fair argument to be made that their encounter in this tournament actually added further layers to their rivalry.

The battle between both men was damn good, and almost got four stars in my review. My favourite spot of the entire match was actually one that I couldn’t see great from where I was sitting, which was Wolfgang’s moonsault off the ringside barrier onto the grounded Seven. Whilst I shouldn’t be surprised by Wolfgang’s agility anymore, he genuinely just creates moments OMG! moments that really get you on his side. That happened here too, as the crowd began to get behind the Last King of Scotland. Whilst he hadn’t exactly been placed as a heel in this tournament, he was up against one of the biggest faces in the whole thing, so I’m not convinced WWE expected him to get the following he did. It was a damn organic face turn, in truth.

Both these competitors have great chemistry, and I couldn’t help but laugh when Trent kept teasing big moves off of the top turnbuckle to the outside. No such moves ever came, of course, and Trent suffered defeat when he took a Swanton Bomb to his back as he was on all fours. It was a creative way for him to receive the move, and made his defeat seem non-telegraphed. Despite the support Wolfgang had started gaining, there was genuine shock in the crowd that Trent Seven had been knocked out of the tournament.

Was a Wolfgang win the best booking decision? I’m not so sure. I feel WWE thought they were booking a heel versus face (Bate) match for the semi-final, but Wolfgang wasn’t being treated as a heel, so I personally would’ve preferred they went with Seven versus Bate given the history and relationship between the two men on the indies.

Speaking of Bate, his quarter final versus Jordan Devlin was played out in front of a hot crowd. Everyone hated Devlin, and whilst it was all done in the name of fun, it was absolutely passionate and Michael Cole mentioning how the crowd were “all over Devlin” was damn accurate, and damn hilarious. Devlin will be a top heel on the upcoming weekly show, no question, and whilst I love booing him, I really want to see him do well too!

Their match seemed a bit short, but there was a lot to do on this show. I’d love to see Bate and Devlin get given a 15-20 minute main event at some point, as there were enough teases in this match to suggest that they would be able to tear the house down. The crowd were really into Bate by the end, partly due to the hatred they were displaying for Devlin, but also because I think everyone could see that Bate was being built as the top babyface in the tournament.

The semi-final between Mark Andrews and Pete Dunne was a seriously good match. Neither man was unfamiliar with the other, and in fact they are now cashing in on their rivalry by selling t-shirts showcasing their ongoing war, and PROGRESS Wrestling made a big deal out of featuring both men against each other back in March 2017 at PROGRESS Wrestling: Chapter 46

Andrews dominated far more than I expected, and for the first time Dunne was in trouble. They were given a good amount of time to work in, or at least it felt like they were, and they maximised their minutes. When Dunne did get some control, he was brutal with his blows, and they teased near falls over Andrews numerous times, but the Cardiff-born wrestler just wouldn’t be put down. The fact that everyone expected Andrews to lose made his kick outs mean that much more, and the crowd were just completely enthralled by what they were seeing. It was a great clash of styles, and a superb match. Many have described this as the best match of the tournament, and I can see that completely, although the final personally wins out for me. Just.

Wolfgang and Bate didn’t hit the levels that Andrews and Dunne did, but you wouldn’t know that from the crowd reactions. Bate was over, and over big, and the fact he was being dominated by the much larger Wolfgang just made the atmosphere even more intense. Despite mounting little offence, Bate eventually got the typical babyface win out of nowhere, hitting the Tyler Driver 97 for the victory. At this point, I couldn’t help but feel that other people in the tournament were perhaps having better matches than Bate, but I was totally onboard with him being used as the top babyface on the show, particularly after Pete Dunne blindsided him after the match, injuring him and leaving him to be seen to by a swarm of referees.

The special attraction match between Neville and Tommy End was a fun way to give Bate some time to recover for the final, and marked the first time that Tommy End would appear on WWE television (he had already filmed NXT appearances, but those had yet to air). Neville was actually the Meet & Greet superstar before the show, and I specifically asked him if he was going to be on the show, only for him to hesitate briefly and then quite convincingly tell me that he was only there for the signing. After Sam Gradwell had managed to compete, I assumed Neville had been telling the truth, but looks like he played me! But hey, I’d rather be surprised every time, than have something spoiled for me.

After Neville bagged his win, it was time for the final. Finn Balor’s music hit, and the place went nuts. This was my second time seeing Balor in WWE, and this man is over – don’t let anyone on an internet forum or twitter try to tell you otherwise. The crowd come alive for his entrance, and he oozes charisma. The latter may not be something that comes across on television all of the time, but it certainly does at live shows. Balor setting up the match was smart, as WWE clearly wanted to ensure they kept everyones attention, but trust me when I say that they already had it; the show was great so far.

The set up for the final was Wrestling 101: good guy needs to overcome the odds to beat the evil bad guy. It had been done so well all night, and it was a match that was genuinely anticipated by the live audience and the viewers at home, unlike the Cruiserweight Classic 2016 which had given viewers a ‘surprise’ final that fell a little flat as a result of a lack of investment. Lessons had clearly been learnt there.

Bate was wrestling with what was described as a “partially separated AC joint.” I’m not clued up on the human body, so I couldn’t tell you what that is, other than the fact it affects his shoulder and arm, the source of so many of his power moves (including his finisher). Despite the injury, the match didn’t turn into the Pete Dunne-dominated contest that I expected it to. In fact, it was a very competitive match, with a great story being told of whether Bate could overcome his injury to win the championship.

Dunne targeted the injury at every opportunity, and the crowd were literally on their feet each time Bate made a comeback. He did a beautiful dive to the outside, then rolled Dunne back into the ring, climbed the turnbuckle, then hit a stunning 450 jump off the top turnbuckle, turning it into a double stop to Dunne’s chest on the landing. Go watch it, then maybe my attempt at a description of the move will make some sort of sense!

When Dunne finally hit the Bitter End, everyone in the building thought it was over. Genuinely. When Bate got his shoulder up before the three count, the crowd lost their shit, and so did Michael Cole. The camera hold on Dunne’s exasperated face was classic, and the kind of moment I remember from when I used to watch this sport as a child. Bate kicking out was the greatest moment of the entire tournament, and everyones reaction to it showed how wonderful a job both Dunne and Bate were doing. You knew Bate would win now, and he soon did to a superb reaction from the crowd. What a match, and what a choice for the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion.

This show was so good live, and damn good on television too. The first night was good, but this was on a different level, and the wrestlers were allowed to show a bit more of that they had in their locker. Whereas the first round of matches played it safe, the final three rounds let the chains off, and everyone was a winner as a result.

The decision to push Bate as the top babyface was a good one, and worked perfectly. Unlike some of their other television shows, where the top babyfaces are forced on the crowd to accept, something was so natural in their booking of Bate that he was able to get over organically even when the crowd were presented with a heel (Bate) who would have got cheered on absolutely any other WWE brand. The good guy needed to win, but Tyler Bate wasn’t just some new WWE champion, he was our champion, the UK’s champion. There is something special about that, and it was played out perfectly from start to finish.

The celebrations continued for a while, long after the television broadcast ended, and everyone went home happy. The UK gets its own weekly television series soon, currently titled WWE United Kingdom Championship, and if these two live shows are anything to go buy, it’s going to be must see TV.

Match of the Night

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Night #2 Overall Rating:

4star
(Extra 0.5 for an incredible live experience and a great television production)

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