Day Two of the WWE’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament begins with a highlight package of Day One’s matches as well as Pete Dunne being a cunt as the show went off the air. Eight men of the original sixteen remain: Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Mark Andrews, Sam Gradwell, Joseph Conners, Wolfgang and Jordan Devlin. One of these men will leave the theater tonight the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Champion!
We are joined once again by our announce team of Michael Cole and Nigel McGuiness. and once again Michael Cole starts things by declaring, “Greetings grapple fans!” I like this version of Michael Cole.
Match 1: Pete Dunne vs. Sam Gradwell
This match is basically the “we need some storyline reason for people to tune in to the second night of this tournament,” match. Gradwell got laid out by Dunne at the end of Night One and has his back taped up and is looking for some revenge.
Dunne offers a sarcastic handshake as the referee is giving instructions. Gradwell isn’t having any of it though. The bell rings and Gradwell comes out with intensity. He clotheslines the fuck out of Dunne and sends him to the outside of the ring where he just ruins Dunne’s shit with a suicide dive followed by a suplex onto the ramp. Nice little callback to what Dunne did to Gradwell less than 24 hours earlier.
Cole claims that Dunne and Gradwell were at one time friends and roommates when they were training together in Japan and wrestling in China. This little throwaway bit of information makes this entire feud seem even more personal and that’s awesome.
Back in the ring Gradwell hits a missile dropkick (“a regular part of his arsenal,” say McGuiness) but his back is fucked up from the beatdown he took yesterday so he can’t make the cover and Dunne gets in control. He hits a snap German suplex, but Gradwell’s back up and hits a Michinoku Driver. Gradwell goes up top, perhaps for his diving head butt, but Dunne rolls out to the floor, so Gradwell hits a high cross out to the floor.
They fight on the outside for awhile, nearly getting counted out before heading back into the ring. Dunne ends up shoving Gradwell off the ropes, down onto the apron and out to the floor in a spot that looked like it sucked. Gradwell’s back hit the apron and the floor as he landed. He’s in a bad way.
Gradwell barely beats the count, rolling in after the nine count only to have Dunne body slam him into the corner back first in another spot that looked like it sucked. Dunne goes for the cover and scores a pinfall victory. He’s moving on to the semi-finals of the tournament.
After the match, Dunne lays out Gradwell with his finisher, the Bitter End because Pete Dunne is a douchebag.
Winner: Pete Dunne
Surprisingly it was Gradwell who did the lion’s share of the work here. His fury was fantastic and he looked a lot better in the ring tonight than he did on night one. The angle worked really well and turned an otherwise kind of bland dude into, for at least this one match, an exciting competitor. [***⅝]
As he’s leaving the ring Pete Dunne gets interviewed and asked about the controversy over what he did yesterday. He says there’s no controversy he just did what “Triple Haich,” told them to do: he made a name for himself.
“Two down, two to go!” he says as he walks away.
Match 2: Mark Andrews vs. Joseph Conners
I keep waiting for Michael Cole to say, “Mandrews,” but it never comes. He does, however, continue to hype Joseph Conners as his pick to win the entire thing. This is kind of endearing.
Early on Mandrews goes for some high flying maneuvers that failed to have much of an impact. Conners takes control and sends Andrews to the outside. He sends the high-flier into the steel steps and then pounds on him.
Conners goes for a big boot but Mandrews gets out of the way causing Conners to run into the steps like a goof. This give Andrews an opportunity to tightrope walk the guardrail and do some weird somersault cannonball thing onto Conners.
Mandrews makes a bit of a comeback but gets cut off. Conners looks like he’s going to go for his finisher, but instead goes for a suplex that Andrews does some flippy shit that he turns into a Stone Cold Stunner. He then goes up to the top rope and hits a Shooting Star Press to pick up the win. He will go on to be murdered by Pete Dunne later tonight.
Winner: Mark Andrews
They were trying to do an “underdog overcoming the odds,” thing with Mandrews here, but it would have worked better with a bigger/scarier dude than Joseph “Half-Ear” Conners. Conners is a decent enough worker and the match here was mostly good, but he doesn’t really work as a scary powerhouse heel when he’s only a bit bigger than the guy they’re portraying as a scrappy underdog. [**½]
Match 3: Wolfgang vs. Trent Seven
Respect handshake to start things off followed with British Strong Style elbow strikes. Seven and Wolfgang go to the outside. Seven gets laid out and Wolfgang goes up onto the guardrail and hits a big moonsault onto the prone grappler.
Wolfgang doesn’t really have an opportunity to capitalize though since he fucked up his knee when landing the moonsault. Seven gets back in the ring, only to hit a suicide dive on the limping Wolfgang.
Back in the ring Wolfgang and Seven go back and forth, trading blows. Wolfgang gets a slight advantage and goes up for a second moonsault, but Seven gets his knees up and wrecks Wolfgang’s shit.
Seven gets in control. He hits a back fist and then lays out Wolfgang with the Seven Star Lariat, but it’s only good for two. More back and forth with both men ending up back up top. Seven looks for a super piledriver but Wolfgang blocks it and shoves Seven off. Wolfgang howls and then hits Seven in the back with a swanton bomb and goes for the cover. One! Two! Three! A bloodied Wolfgang gets his hand raised in a big upset.
That was surprising. I mean, I’m not sad that Wolfgang won since he was one of the guys I liked most on Night One, but the commentary team (and the audience for that matter) have kind of hyped up Trent Seven as one of the men to beat to win this thing.
Either way this was a really good match if you’re into hosses lariating and elbowing one another. [***]
Match 4: Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin
Bate comes out waving to the crowd. They love him. Devlin, meanwhile, is showered with boos as he makes his way to the ring. Devlin attacks at the bell, but Bate quickly gets in control. Devlin ends up on the outside and Bate hits a big suicide dive that takes him out.
Back in the ring, Devlin tries to put a stop to Bate. He gets some offense in and goes from a springboard cross body block, but gets caught by Bate who airplane spins the fuck out of him. Both men stumble around. I have no idea how Devlin didn’t puke. Bate goes for a Tyler Driver ’97, but Devlin counters with a rana for a near fall.
Devlin then hits an enziguri like the one that busted Danny Burch open on Night One. He backs off as the ref checks Bate to make sure he’s okay. McGuiness is all like, “This is a mistake! Devlin should have stayed on him.” Bate gets back to his feet and puts Devlin down with a sneaky punch to the face. Tyler Driver ’97 connects and Bate picks up the win to advance.
Winner: Tyler Bate
I can’t believe Tyler Bate is only like 19 years old. He looks so good in the ring. His ability to tell a story in the ring is really impressive for someone as young as he is.
Devlin looked better tonight than he did on the first night, but still wasn’t that impressive. I guess though that in these tournaments you need random dudes to get beat, so good job there Jordan Devlin. [***]
Match 5: Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne
Time for some semi-finals! Pete Dunne chucks Mandrews in the early going of the match. Dunne is super aggro and grounds Andrews and starts stomping on his neck. Andrews escapes with an arm drag and Dunne heads out to the floor.
Andrews nails him with a big dive, but Dunne comes back and starts working over Andrews hand. He brings Andrews over to the steps to stomp on his hand, but before he can Andrews hit an insane rana that takes Dunne out.
The head back into the ring and Dunne goes back to work on the arm. He looks so pissed off as he kicks Mandrews’ arm and starts stomping on his neck. Dunne goes for a corner slam, but Andrews manages to avoid it, hit a sunset flip and roll through into a double stomp.
Andrews whips Dunne into the corner and hits him with a running double knee strike. Andrews then hits a Northern Lights Suplex and the sets up to do the standing moonsault. He keeps checking to see if Dunne is still down. He goes for the moonsault, but adds an extra rotation so that he lands on Dunne back first and earns a two count.
Andrews hits a springboard rana and a running shooting star press for another two count and Dunne bails to the floor. Andrews goes for a moonsault but gets caught by Dunne who hits a release suplex right into the ring apron. ZERO FUCKS GIVEN BY PETE DUNNE!
McGuinness tells me this move is called the “X-Plex” by Pete Dunne. Before I have time to appreciate this he hits another one and ruins Mandrews’ shit on the ramp. Dunne sells an elbow injury as he heads back into the ring to await a count out victory.
The ref is up to nine when Andrews rolls back into the ring. This pisses of Pete Dunne who stomps the fuck out of Andrews before going for the X-Plex again. This time, Andrews is able to counter into the stunner.
Mandrews slowly heads up top but Dunne cuts him off. They trade strikes on the top rope and Dunne ends up eating shit. Mark Andrews goes for the Shooting Star Press, but Pete Dunne gets his knees up and then rolls up Andrews for a near fall.
Dunne goes for the Bitter End but Andrews manages to counter it. He goes to the outside and springboards right into a jaw jacking forearm strike. Dunne goes on the attack and tries for another suplex but again Andrews is able to counter, hitting a rana for a two count. The crowd is going absolutely bananas!
Andrews goes up top but he’s got nothing left in the tank. He takes a breather and then sets up for the Shooting Star Press. He leaps, but Dunne is able to avoid it. Andrews lands on his feet but Dunne German Suplexes him into the corner. Center ring Dunne hits another X-Plex and then nails the Bitter End to put Andrews away.
Winner: Pete Dunne
This was a goddamn fantastic match that had me on the edge of my seat for the majority of it. Pete Dunne is an awesome heel who gave zero fucks for the entire match which made Mark Andrews’ plucky underdog shtick actually work. Helping the match was the commentary. I know a lot of times people shit on Michael Cole, but here, having him freak the fuck out when Dunne X-Plexed Andrews into the ring apron or when Andrews hit his 450 Moonsault really added to my enjoyment of the match. [****½]
Match 6: Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang
The crowd is thoroughly behind Bate as the match gets underway. Bate and Wolfgang circle one another for awhile and jaw with one another. Wolfgang uses his power early on and Cole says that Wolfgang’s nose might have been broken during his last match and wonders whether or not Bate knows of this.
Bate quickly punches him in the face showing that perhaps he did know of Wolfgang’s nose. He follows up with a springboard uppercut and then teases the airplane spin, but the big man escapes. Bate targets the knee, which commentary helpfully reminds us that Wolfgang twisted while doing a moonsault in his match against Trent Seven.
Wolfgang hits a big slam and slowly goes to the ropes for his moonsault. He seems to be taking Bate lightly. Bate recovers and dropkicks Wolfgang off the ropes and then hits a running kick to Wolfgang’s face.
The big man gets Bate up for a press slam, but Bate manages to counter into a sunset flip. Wolfgang sends Bate off the ropes and hits a pop up powerslam for a two count and then slowly goes back up top. He goes for a swanton, but Bate rolls out of the way.
Wolfgang recovers from his missed swanton and ruins Bate’s shit with a spear for a near fall and then sets up Bate for a Wasteland but Bate wiggles out of it and gets the big man up and nails him with the Tyler Driver ’97 for the win.
After Bate gets his hand raised in victory Wolfgang shakes his hand in a show of good sportsmanship.
As the announcers play a highlight package something suddenly happens in the ring and they cut back there quickly. Pete Dunne is in the ring, laying waste to Tyler Bate. He works over Bate’s shoulder and tosses him into the ring post.
Dunne heads toward the back where he’s intercepted by a fuming William “Steven” Regal who’s screaming, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!” at him. Pete Dunne seems to have had the fear of God put in him.
The announcers speculate whether or not Tyler Bate will be able to continue in the tournament.
Winner: Tyler Bate
This match was short but more or less alright. I might have liked it more if it hadn’t followed the best match of night. Both guys looked okay here, but had better matches during this tournament. The post-match beatdown was pretty good. I honestly kind of liked how poorly timed the beginning of it was since it made it feel like it was an unscripted thing. [**½]
Meanwhile In The Ring…
Neville, the self-proclaimed King of the Cruiserweights, hits the ring and gets on the mic. He complains that he’s been left out of another WWE tournament that he qualifies for. He says first it was the Cruiserweight Classic, then 205 Live, and now the UK Championship Tournament. Neville goes on to say that he should be the UK Championship by default, but he kind of understands why the WWE would leave him out of the tournament because they want a competitive tournament and if he was involved it would have been no contest at all because he is the greatest star in the history of the European continent. He says that no one deserves to stand across from him in the ring.
Suddenly some sort of generic metalcore plays and out comes the man who would become Aleister Black. Here he’s still Tommy End and he’s going to face Neville.
Match 7: Neville vs. Tommy End
The two men are pretty evenly matched in the early going, exchanging strikes and dodging each other’s shit. Tommy End does the sitting Indian style center ring spot. End gets in control and Neville rolls to the floor.
End follows after him, but Neville uses this opportunity to take control and hits End with some kicks and then ground him with a chinlock. Neville heads up top, but ends up getting blasted by one of End’s kicks. End gets back in control and hits an awesome looking moonsault to the outside.
They head back in and End hits a series of strikes and then goes up top, kicks Neville and then misses with a double stomp. Tommy End follows up with a spin kick into a beautiful German suplex that almost puts away the King of the Cruiserweights.
End goes back up top, but Neville cuts him off and kicks him in the dome. Neville goes up top too and ruins Tommy End’s day with an insane super rana. Neville goes back up top and then hits the Red Arrow for the win.
Neville gets momentum going into his match against Rich Swann at the Royal Rumble for the Cruiserweight Championship while Tommy End gets to show off what he can do before he gets repackaged down in Florida. A decent enough match, but nothing to write home about. [**⅓]
We get highlights of Pete Dunne attacking Tyler Bate from earlier this evening and then head backstage where Charly Caruso is standing by outside Paul Heyman’s Laundry Room a room that is clearly the trainer’s office.
She tells us that Tyler Bate has suffered “an injured AC joint” in his shoulder, but has been cleared by doctors to compete in the finals of the tournament.
Meanwhile In The Ring…
Finn Balor shows up. He does his entrance while wearing a suit and a skinny tie. He is impressed by the crowd’s response to his entrance and says, “Wow!” a bunch of times and then talks about how happy he is to be standing in the ring on a night when history is going to be made.
He thanks the fans for helping to make the tournament great and the audience start chanting, “We deserve it!” Ugg…fuck off. Finn Balor tells them that, yes, they do deserve it. No Finn, don’t encourage them!
He leaves and we get the championship finals.
Match 8: Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne
This is the tournament final and there’s no time limit. The winner of this match walks away with the best looking belt the WWE currently has. Michael Cole mentions that Bate had been trained by Dunne early in his career as the match gets underway. Early on Bate tries to avoid using his injured shoulder while Dunne focuses most of his attacks on trying to further injure it.
Dunne slaps Bate in the face, but Bate just smirks and twirls his mustache. He refuses to back down. Bate grounds Dunne and is working on his arm, but Dunne keeps reaching up to grab Bate’s bum shoulder so Bate keeps having to twist his body to avoid him and eventually gives up the hold.
The two men go blow for blow and head to the outside and have an indie strong style elbow battle ringside. Bate gets the better of it and knocks Dunne on his ass before heading back into the ring.
Dunne keeps going to Bate’s shoulder and eventually goes for the Bitter End, but Bate counters and gets Dunne in a small package for a two count. Bate then gets Dunne up for a mostly one armed airplane spin. Christ is this a long airplane spin. I would have puked. Bate falls on top of Dunne for two, but Dunne gets Bate in a triangle lock.
Bate powers up and fucking powerbombs Dunne and then sells the damage to his arm. The crowd goes wild. Dunne bails to the outside and Bate runs the ropes and hits a Fosbury Flop on Dunne on the outside. He rolls Dunne back into the ring and goes up to the top rope and hits a 450 knee drop for another near fall. Dunne’s had enough of this shit though and gets Bate in the Bitter End, but the young man kicks out at two and three quarters, so Dunne gets him in an armbar.
Bate has nowhere to go, so he powers up and somehow manages to get Dunne up and nails him with a brainbuster for another two count. Bate is fired up now and hits some rolling kicks. He gets Dunne in position. The crowd is going absolutely bananas. Bate gets him up! Tyler Driver ’97! ONE! TWO! THREE!
“Your winner and first WWE UK Champion….TYLER BATE!”
After the match William “Steven” Regal, Triple H, Fit Finlay and Finn Balor come out to give Tyler Bate his championship belt and congratulate him on his victory. Confetti falls as Tyler Bate stands tall.
Winner: Tyler Bate
It was a smart move to pair Bate up with Dunne in the finals since Bate is pretty much the only dude in this tournament who the audience would cheer for over Dunne. Every other Pete Dunne match saw the audience totally behind him regardless of what heinous shit he did, so putting him with Bate was a smart bit of booking.
The story they told here was a simple one, but super effective: Can Bate overcome the odds and win this belt? His selling helped a lot since outside of a couple of power moves where he sold being dead afterwards, Bate really avoided using the shoulder. Dunne, too, should be commended for focusing on the shoulder for the bulk of the match and also looking like exhaustion was setting in towards the end.
This is probably one of the best matches I’ve seen this year. [****⅔]
This was an improvement over the first night, though I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that. The guys who were clearly just in it to get knocked out in Round One were all more or less gone on Night Two, leaving only the guys who will be the center of the division going forward (and Joseph Conners). Having Bate win was a nice feel good moment and made sense to have the inaugural champ be a babyface.
Taken as a whole, the UK Tournament was really solid wrestling. It wasn’t a great as the Cruiserweight Classic to be sure but there was a lot to like here. I liked that this was a bit more varied than the CWC was. The CWC was more or less a lot of flippy dudes. Sure you’d have the occasional guy who wanted to be the Dean Malenko of the 21st Century, but it was mostly fast guys doing aerial work. Here you’d have your brawlers, your British World of Sport style grapplers, and your high-fliers all mixing it up which lead to a more diverse in-ring product. All in all it was a really good event.
As for the competitors Dunne and Bate are goddamn superstars already which is fucking insane considering how young they both are. I could easily see any of them working full time in NXT or even in the midcard of the main roster. Beneath them guys like Wolfgang, Mandrews, and Trent Seven will solidify the division as WWE UK goes forward and the remaining dudes range from, “Sometimes a guy needs a dude to squash,” to “We sometimes need a guy who can have a competitive match on TV against a more impressive wrestler.”
All in all I’m excited for the entire UK Championship scene going forward.