With British wrestling blossoming tenfold, a lot of hype followed Triple H’s WWE Network announcement for a brand new WWE UK Championship Tournament. While not all of the biggest names of the British scene were available (Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, etc.), the WWE scooped up arguably the biggest of all for color commentary: legendary ROH square-circle technician–and ultimate Daniel Bryan nemesis–Nigel McGuinness. And, unlike the initial press conference, perhaps because of how surreal, sudden and maybe awkward the situation was, Nigel looked excited as hell to call this one!
“Monsignor” TRAVIS MOODY: The first match saw the biggest name, and one half of the current Progress tag champs Mustache Mountan (with Tyler Bate, who crushed it in the final match), Trent Seven, who had the most blood-red hands I’ve ever seen from throwing chops; he finished off an also impressive H.C. Dyer (what a hell of a blue thunder bomb!) with his own version of Okada’s “RAINNNNN MAKERRRRR!”. I enjoyed that the UK Tourney attempted to put over guys us “smart marks” knew would lose; they sort of went the way of the CWC with that notion, keeping most of their wrestlers interesting no matter the result. I think there was only one squash, due to a completely gassed–and uninteresting–Saxon Huxley. “He had a game plan, and now he doesn’t know what to do,” said Nigel right on cue. Finished! Loved Pete Dunne‘s work in Revolution Pro; this “Bruiserweight” reminds me of a slightly rougher, less high-flying Owen. More over, should heavy Bullet Club marks like yours moody look too much into the heelish tactics (including the solid post-match promo) of Finn Balor’s protege, Jordan Devlin? Hmmm… Either way, the WWE UK Tournament proceeded to accomplish: 1.) Building heat for future rivalries (even if it some matches look more like “Powder” vs. “Union Jack”), 2.) Forcing Michael Cole to do homework; Nigel’s knowledge played well off Cole’s usual exaggerated excitement. Day One = 3.75/5 Bibles.
“Father” SEAN FARRELL: Day One of the U.K. Tournament gave us all that you know and expect from The British Wrestling Scene: stiff chops and kicks and crowd sing-a-longs. This crowd was on fire the entire night, really adding to the atmosphere here. Wolfgang (a.k.a. the UK Version of Bull James)–who hasn’t been able to make it in a decade– impressed me with his Swanton that put away Guy Ritchie’s Gypsy BareKnuckle Brawler come-to-life, Tyson T-Bone. Also, don’t blink while watching Drake v. Conners; while they might come across as card fillers, these two guys went for broke, with the match ending with second favorite new finisher of the year, the Don’t Look Down. Mark “MANdrews” Andrews put on a show arguably above all others, again proving that there is untapped talent floundering in TNA. His shooting star press would bring a tear to 1997’s Billy Kidman for sure. Speaking of ’97, Old Man Moody, the man to watch is Tyler Bate. At NINETEEN-years old this guy better pack his bags for Full Sail come Monday morning for sure. Of course, after a delightful Day One of the UK Tourney, none other than Mr. William Regal reminded us all why he’s not someone to trifle with! Day One = 3.75/5 Bibles, as well.
“Pastor” SHAWN PUFF: Yooo, sorry I’m late to the super kick party! Point blank, Day II of the WWE UK Championship Tournament had a lot to live up to and definitely lived up to the hype. As Sean mentioned, that UK crowd creates an atmosphere unlike any other. I’m pretty sure the ale was flowing and libations were enjoyed by all. My kind of crowd. The biggest difference today? Someone had to fight and win 3x in order to leave with the belt. First off, we got the 2nd round upset we were waiting for when Wolfgang (Puck) went over on Trent Seven, as called by the Wrestling Observer‘s Dave Meltzer this morning. Speaking of Moustache Mountain, Tyler Bate–once again–tore the house down. Wow. From his 1st match in the 2nd round against Jordan DevFinn, I mean Finn Devlin (i.e. Mini-Finn, Finn-lite, Diet Finn, Lil’ Balor, et al), to the finals against the “Bruiserweight” (the new–and taller–Tazz), Pete Dunne, the kid really stole the show. What a future!
MOODY: Damn straight, Pastor. The UK Tournament has, by far, been the most “UFC” show the WWE has had since Bart Gunn KO’d Bradshaw on WWF Brawl For All. Also, I picked Bate from Day One since I figured having both Neville (assuming he wins in a couple weeks at the Rumble) and Dunne champs at the same time would be a bit too much Eastern European heelpower.
DESTINY “Evangelical” EDWARDS: Yeah, I went with Seven, who–had he pulled off that superplex to the outside on Wolfgang–would’ve made that other Trent do his usual whining on Twitter. (Oh, Baretta.) I, having such a longtime affinity for heels, would’ve also been fine with the Bruiserweight. As for Jordan Devlin, he doesn’t like to be compared to Finn, so his entrance is the Finn-est thing to ever Finn. Did anyone else today kinda want Earth-2 Cole to yell “TOPE SUICIDA!”, just because?
SEAN: Haha, Destiny! Like Moody and I had mentioned yesterday, you can throw in Meltzer and PWI‘s Mike Johnson to the list of people who actually like Earth-2 Michael Cole. Did you hear about Wade Barrett selling bangers and mash in the crowd?
MOODY: Maybe, but I saw Wolfgang (in that match with Bate) turn heel faster than the Big Show in a bakery.
SHAWN: “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. I’m all out of gravy.” Haha! You clergymarks kill me. While Bate and Devlin was one hell of a contest, the match of the night had to be the former TNA “Diamond in the Rough” Mark Andrews and Joseph Conners–easily a 4-4.25 Bible match. Today also had some surprise appearances in the likes of Balor, Neville and new NXT signee Tommy “Fucking” End. Overall, Day Two of the UK Championship tournament was a success. Not everyone was ready for the big stage and the bright lights but that’s OK; this weekend was to establish a new division, build up heat for future programs, and a new, agreeable champion crowned. The 19-year old champ doesn’t look like he’ll be packing his bags for Full Sail, Sean, but he’ll definitely be defending that shiny new title throughout the UK for one fall… “ONE FALL!” I’m looking forward to seeing more of these lads engaging in fisticuffs on NXT, RAW, Smackdown Live! and on the Network as they try to wrestle that belt away from your first ever UK Champion, Tyler Bate. Day Two = 4/5 Fish ‘N Chips.
SEAN: Meanwhile, my 19-year old just woke up… Win or lose, I liked the idea that Dunne had to put on and take off his bloody coat like 6 times. Maybe that’s why he lost? Overall, I’m close to agreement, Shawn. Sadly the tourney had guys who weren’t exactly ready for prime time yet, but were necessary to help establish those who moved forward. There was surprisingly good storytelling, with no backstage shenanigans (unlike that dreadful World of Sport one-off thing). And my guy won. Throw in some tag teams (maybe a new Mustache Mountain with Jack Gallagher and Trent Seven?), some women with British accents, and I’d watch a weekly series. Both Days = 3.75/5 Bangers ‘N Mash.