WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Review (Night Two)
Night two of the United Kingdom Championship Tournament is here, and the opening vignette makes it clear from the start that the story from the night before is Pete Dunne’s attack on Sam Gladwell during the closing moments.
The Empress Ballroom is out and rowdy yet again, ready to see the first WWE UK champion crowned.
Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness welcome “all grapple fans” (Cole’s words) to the event and cover the bracket from Night One.
Opening Bout: Pete Dunne vs. Sam Gladwell
Pete Dunne is here, which immediately throws my “Pete Dunne May Not Be There” theory out the window. Thanks, Pete. Gladwell is out of the gate looking angry as all hell, back taped up.
Sam puts on a crazy face pretty well.
I like the story created for this match, with Gladwell’s anger being something tangible and gives this match bigger stakes than just moving onto the next round. Sam is a house of fire from the gate and rallies the crowd around him who, before the match, were squarely behind fan favorite Dunne.
This opening bout is leaning heavy on Gladwell’s revenge, which is the smart move. Wrestling in a vacuum without stories can only get you so far, and it helps that this match has clear definitions of heel and face. Gladwell’s injury is also coming into play, hurting himself as his offensive flurry lands on Dunne.
The turning point in the match is Dunne placing Gladwell on the top rope and shoving him over, sending Sam tumbling and further injuring the back. Gladwell barely makes the ten count before Dunne turnbuckle powerslams him for the shockingly fast victory.
The Finish: Dunne flings Gladwell into the turnbuckle and capitalizes on Gladwell’s injuries, picking up the pin. Afterward, Dunne hits The Bitter End for good measure.
The Good: This opener had a ton of fire and Gladwell showed some great ferocity. Dunne continues to build the best character of the tournament, giving a great promo after the match.
The Bad: Boy, that was short.
The Rating: *** out of *****
Pete Dunne said “Triple Haitch.” Bless this man. Andrews and Connors are up next, as Michael Cole once again reminds us that Joseph was stabbed in the ear as a child or in a bar or by a dog or something.
I blame Neville. He probably did it.
Match Two: Mark Andrews vs. Joseph Connors
Mark Andrews comes out looking like every guy I ever saw at a Blink 182 concert in my twenties, for better and worse. I do like his theme, however. Connors brings his half an ear out and looking like a ball of muscle and cooking grease.
We’re up to three mentions of Connors’ ear by Cole now. I feel like I should have a counter on the screen.
Andrews is the clear favorite early on, using his speed in a series of arm drags and back and forth offense. Mark goes for a modified golden triangle moonsault to the outside before the more aggressive Connors plants him with a forearm and gets him back inside.
Andrews spends much of the match having his offense cut off, though finally makes some headway after Connors injuries his leg, at which point Andrews lands a killer senton off the fan barricade at ringside.
Up to five mentions of The Ear.
Andrews reverses the Don’t Look Down into his stunner set-up, as Mark lands the SSP and moves on to face Dunne.
The Finish: Mandrews moves on with the shooting star press, while Connors exits the tournament and should expect an earful from his peers about it.
The Good: Connors and Andrews used their time well, with Mark using his speed and Joseph attempting to quell his opponent’s air-based game.
The Bad: Connors once again didn’t show anything particularly interesting besides a look, which really grabbed the match by the ear and held it back.
The Rating: **½(an ear) out of *****
Wolfgang is shown in the back yet again, and Fit Finlay is in the crowd and ready to hit someone with a foreign object if need be.
Match Three: Trent Seven vs. Wolfgang
This is a rematch in many ways of a recent match between the two in ICW. The ICW chants come early and Cole calls Wolfgang the measuring stick of the promotion.
Wolfgang busts out the big moves early with a moonsault off the barricade on the outside, but also injures his knee in the process. Seven responds in kind, suicide diving between the ropes after Wolfgang attempted to get Trent back into the ring before the ten count.
Both men continues to exchange vicious strikes, slaps, and lariats, including a fantastic near-fall on Wolfgang from Seven’s Rainmaker.
Wolfgang pulls out the upset victory but gets bloodied in the process, bleeding from the nose and selling the injured leg.
The Finish: Seven goes for a spike piledriver from the top rope before being headbutted off, giving Wolfgang time to land the Swanton Bomb on Seven for the upset.
The Good: This was yet another great hoss fight, with some technical pizzaz to boot, as Seven landed an absolutely vicious dragon suplex on the much larger Wolfgang.
The Bad: This is a continuing problem with the tournament being two nights: This was just too short and wasn’t given room to breath.
The Rating: ***½ out of *****
Up next is the other half of Mustache Mountain, Tyler Bate, going up against Finn Balor’s Mini-Me Jordan Devlin.
Match Four: Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin
The story in this match is definitely the crowd’s disdain for Jordan Devlin, as much of the bout is a series of holds where Devlin gets mocked and plays to the audience. In a weird way Bate feels like an afterthought in this match, just there to play the face who takes down the guy the crowd hates.
This was another short match without a lot to say, besides that Bate continues to impress with a combination of effective striking and shocking strength. There’s a repeat of the roundhouse enzugiri from last night’s match between Devlin and Burch, but Bate uses the opportunity to hulk up and put away Diet Dr. Balor.
The Finish: Bate lands a sucker punch that sets up the Tiger Driver for the win.
The Good: Bate showed a ton of personality and played the rallying face quite well. Devlin does a great job of playing the insufferable heel.
The Bad: Devlin probably should have used Balor’s body paint if he wanted to win tonight.
The Rating: ** out of *****
A hype video gets shown that talks up our final four of Bate, Wolfgang, Dunne, and Andrews. The cameras cut to Robbie Brookside in the crowd, showing yet again just how much of a British influence is within WWE.
Hey, WWE is finally leaning into the “ONE FALL” thing. About time, because it is awesome.
Match Five: Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne
Andrews is selling some soreness while also trying to score some sweet lines in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater… Because he likes pop punk.
I dig Pete Dunne’s theme, but it really calls for the lights to be out before the full music hits. Dunne is also our only heel left in the tournament, which bodes well for him.
The two immediately set the tone for the match, in that Mandrews is going to use his speed, and Dunne wants to grind Mark into dust. Cole and Nigel make a great point that after having wrestled three times already, Dunne’s style bettered prepared him to have more gas in the tank than the high-flier.
Both guys just went full speed here, with Dunne using his striking style to counter Andrews’ attempts to outpace Pete. A fantastic series of near falls at the end leads to a brutal German Suplex by Dunne into the corner.
This was always Dunne’s match to win, but Andrews opened a lot of eyes and put on an impressive showing.
The Finish: Pete Dunne shows his love for the band Placebo and lands The Bitter End on Mandrews for the victory.
The Good: These two know each other so well and worked together for a fantastic match. Dunne’s meanness shined through, and Andrews played the underdog well while amazing the crowd.
The Bad: The ending was a foregone conclusion and, as with Dunne’s match yesterday, the psychology felt like an afterthought.
The Rating: ***¾ out of *****
Match Six: Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang
Tyler Bate is working short here, with Wolfgang getting more of a rest than his opponent. We’ll see if they play to this during the match. The story in the early going is Wolfgang’s multiple injuries and Bate taking advantage through brawling. There’s some great exchanges between the two early on, including a flapjack into a vertical powerslam by Wolfgang.
This match moved fast, with the story being that Wolfgang was attempting to bide his time and fend off injury, but Bate continued to take advantage of Wolfgang’s mistakes.
All the credit in the world to Wolfgang as Tyler Bate moves on to face Pete Dunne in the finals.
The Finish: Wolfgang lands a vicious shoulder tackle and goes for the end, but Bate counters and lands the Tiger Driver for the surprise victory.
The Good: These two told a great, if short story, with the crowd really feeding into the pulse of the match.
The Bad: This needed to be short so Bate doesn’t lose too much from the tank, and I’m bummed Wolfgang isn’t going to win the title. But, them’s the breaks.
The Rating: ***¼ out of *****
After the match Bate is attacked by Dunne and injured further, before William Regal grabs Dunne by the ear and drags him to the backstage area. The clear setup here is that Dunne is going to grind Bate into the ground.
Well, here’s a surprise: Neville is here to jump off things and be British! Neville cuts a blistering promo, right before TOMMY FUCKING END hits the ring.
Oooh, this is going to be good.
Match Seven (Exhibition Match): Neville vs. Tommy End
These two have wrestled dating back to 2006, and this is End’s first televised WWE match, though he has a different name now in NXT. The early story is strikes and blows by End and Neville, with both guys trying to take the other’s head off.
This was short and to the point, with Tommy End getting in a lot of great stuff, including a picture-perfect moonsault from the top to the outside on Neville and a striking combination that was brutal to view.
In the end, Neville keeps his momentum and picks up the victory, with Tommy End putting on an impressive debut.
The Finish: Neville lands his superplex before placing End in the drop zone for the Red Arrow.
The Good: This match is just the icing on the cake of a great event, and these two worked well together. Tommy End is going to be fantastic in NXT.
The Bad: This was a time-filler at best, and I’d love to have seen more.
The Rating: *** out of *****
Jordan Devlin is back out he-- oh, wait: That’s Finn Balor. Nevermind. He hypes up the finals as things get underway.
Tournament Finals: Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne
Dunne’s mean streak was on display, with Bate playing the face in distress and doing everything he could to ward off his opponent from attacking the injured shoulder. This match has consistent and authentic ring psychology throughout, with Bate positioning his body throughout so as to keep his shoulder away from Dunne.
Bate worked his ass off here, using every move in his arsenal to show that he had to work around the injury and keep distance from the tyrannical Dunne. Both guys played their roles perfectly, and this match went into another gear once Bate landed a standing layout dive from inside the ring to the outside.
Extra credit goes to Michael Cole here for turning his quite possibly the best commentary of his career, never overpowering the moment and showing some authentic emotion. Bate pulls out the shocking victory and sends the raucous crowd home happy, becoming the first WWE United Kingdom Champion.
The Finish: Bate survives The Bitter End and a lengthy keyhole lock, mustering the fighting spirit to land the Tyler Driver and pick up the stunning victory.
The Good: Everything here was a perfect storm that every tournament finals should strive to be. The commentary was on-point, there were real stakes and storylines, and the two men in the ring put on their best performances of the weekend.
The Bad: There was some sloppiness that I would chalk up to flared emotions and adrenaline; the shoulder injury also didn’t factor into the finish, which is a nitpick.
The Rating: ****½ out of *****
Afterward, Dunne retreats and Tyler Bate has the title pinned around his waist by Balor, Triple H, Fit Finlay and William Regal. The scene closes as confetti sprays the arena and the 19-year-old Tyler Bate is the champion, having defeated the ICW and PROGRESS World Champions in one night to do so.
The two-night tournament format worked wonders, and I’m impressed with how everything came together so well for a tournament that was only announced a month or so ago. While night one suffered from having to set the stage and do a lot of heavy story lifting, they were able to capitalize on everything with the second night.
The right guy won, and there wasn’t anything outright terrible the entire time. I hope the success of this event pushes WWE to do more work like this in the future. Kudos to WWE for taking 16 guys who are relatively unknown to their fanbase and creating a ton of stars in the process.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Be sure to keep an eye on Kulture Shocked in the coming weeks, as NXT Takeover: San Antonio and the Royal Rumble are all on the horizon. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison as well for further comments and observations on all things wrestling. Thanks for reading.