Seven months after they stole the show at NXT TakeOver: Chicago, Tyler Bate finally gets his chance to reclaim the WWE United Kingdom Championship from Pete Dunne…
Pete Dunne (C)
WWE United Kingdom Championship
(Winner via pinfall: Pete Dunne)
Despite not having its own weekly television series, WWE‘s United Kingdom division has provided the company with arguably its finest feud of 2017 in Tyler Bate versus Pete Dune. There has been minimal contact between the two on WWE television besides in their series of matches, and yet as I tuned in for their third match for the WWE United Kingdom Championship, I found that I was more excited for this match than any WWE match since the second time these two faced off (NXT TakeOver: Chicago). I’m sure a part of that is down to the underwhelming year that the company has had from a creative standpoint, but it is largely down simply to the spectacle that both men put on each time they meet in the ring.
I was there in Blackpool when they battled to become the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Championship, and whilst that match was remarkably good back in January ’17, the two matches they have put on since have been another class entirely. I haven’t watched their TakeOver: Chicago match for quite some time, so I’m reluctant to say that this latest match tops that, but both Bate/Dunne II and III are among the best matches in WWE this year.
The fact that it has taken seven months for Bate to have his rematch with Dunne is stunning, and not in a good way. Their third match should have unquestionably taken place at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, but it didn’t, and despite Bate’s title losing match being declared by WWE.com as the best match of the first half of 2017, the feud was left alone for the longest time. I’d be interested in hearing why that was, but I’m relieved that we finally got to see them square off again before the end of the year.
I recall listening to Adam Copeland (Edge) and Christian discuss the TakeOver match on their podcast, many months ago. On that, both men praised the United Kingdom Championship match, but mentioned that they were desperate to see Bate sell the damage Dunne was doing to his fingers more. Likely by sheer coincidence, that is exactly what happened in this match, as Dunne’s vicious attacks on Bate’s limbs and fingers led to numerous issues for Bate throughout the rest of the match. Watching him put his fingers back into place was painful, and seeing him sell the injury some ten minutes later, following a big punch, was masterful.
One would wonder how these two young men could top their previous match, and the answer was perhaps to not try to top it at all. This battle was worked at an entirely different pace, and gave us perhaps the closest thing to British strong-style that we have seen in a WWE ring to date, in 2017. The opening was technical, but painful, and the second half had brutal chops, punches and boots. The kicks to the head, of both men in fact, looked fantastic but also painful. They made this into not just a match, but a war.
I’ve seen a lot of praise for this match since it aired, but one review stuck with me, where the writer was complaining about both men kicking out of finishers. This is, by and large, the rubber match for this 2017 series of matches, and quite often one finisher has put the other away (excluding Bate kicking out of the Bitter End in January’s championship win, of course). With the stakes as they were here, and the rivalry at the point it was at, I think some kick outs from finishers was required, and it actually added more to the match. Bate’s Tyler Driver 97 is one of the most protected finishers in WWE in 2017, presumably by design, so having Dunne kick out of it was a huge moment for those of us who have paid attention to the presentation of both men this past year.
I loved that there were no commercial breaks during this (and whether NXT should be breaking up matches with adverts anyway, given they stream exclusively on the Network, is a whole other debate for another time), and the commentary team were wonderful throughout. The match felt like it had time, but despite that I was still filled with disappointment when Dunne eventually pinned his opponent. I could have watched another hour of that, quite comfortably.
Short-term, I imagine these two men will have little to do with each other on TV. Bate seemed the logical person to take the championship from Dunne, with rumours floating that Dunne may be headed to Florida permanently soon, but following this defeat you must assume that the next WWE United Kingdom Champion will be a first-time winner. Mark Andrews seems possible, unless they move it over to a British NXT talent who can start appearing on the UK scene. The latter is very important, I might add, and the championship should never become an America-based one – it must stay on the UK scene.
Longer term, I see Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne being rivals for the rest of their WWE careers. They’ll do different things in-between, but it will always be a big deal when they come together to fight again, and I think WWE will make a lot of money from this rivalry. It’s been handled perfectly, thus far, and I already can’t wait to see them face off for a fourth time.
A little more from the crowd, and this match would have max’d out the score rating. Sadly, they were a little quiet (this was the third or fourth hour of filming though, to be fair), and it took from the match ever so slightly. Regardless, it’s one of the best WWE matches of 2017, just like its immediate predecessor.
The sooner WWE sort out their UK-exclusive show, the better.