It’s no surprise that the WWE is looking to cash in on the exploding UK wrestling scene. With hot promotions like England’s Progress, Revolution Pro, WCPW and IPW: UK, Scotland’s ICW and Ireland’s Over The Top (OTT), and international Superstars from WWE’s Finn Balor, Becky Lynch, Neville, and Sheamus to indie darlings like Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay, Grado, and “The Villain” Marty Scurll, wrestlers from the British Isles are taking the world by storm.
So here we are with Night 1 of the WWE UK Championship Tournament to crown the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion. This tournament is designed to launch a new weekly series on the WWE Network based out of England that would eventually serve as a sort of NXT Europe, where European talents can gain exposure and the WWE can insert a local centric flavour to their WWE programming for British and other European fans. And while the inaugural UK Champion will be British, there’s no guarantee that future champions will necessarily be from the Isles – after all, every title holder to wear the US Championship hasn’t been American
We kick off live from the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, England, with Triple H coming out to a raucous crowd chanting “Triple H! Triple H!”. Triple H calms the chants and tells the UK crowd it’s time for them to build their empire and are they ready? We see the brand new United Kingdom Championship belt in the center of the ring.
First Match: Trent Seven vs. H.C. Dyer
One for the three of four favourites going into the tournament, is UK veteran Trent Seven, currently one half of the super popular tandem Moustache Mountain (whose partner Tyler Bate is also in the tourney), facing off against HC Dyer (from Leicester Championship Wrestling and Southside).
The two shake hands in the middle of the ring and the crowd is already hot. The UK has a distinct fan base who bring football (soccer) style chants with a wrestling exuberance to make each show memorable.
Dyer starts off on the offensive, but it doesn’t take long for Seven to slow down the younger man’s momentum. Dyer continues to land some big moves, including a huge spinebuster in the center of the ring, showing the veteran he’s not intimidated. A huge right hand from Dyer takes Seven down and Dyer gets the first pin attempt, but Seven kicks out at two.
Seven fights back, but a Blue Thunder bomb from Dyer puts Seven on his back once again. The veteran fights back and soon gets the youngster caught in his tracks, landing a vicious Seven Stars lariat that spins Dyer 360 degrees onto his back. Seven covers him for the pin and Moustache Mountain’s Trent Seven is the first man to advance in the WWE UK Championship tournament.
Second Match: Danny Burch vs. Jordan Devlin
We see Finn Balor sitting ringside with OTT promoter Joe Cabray, there to cheer on ireland’s Jordan Devlin (who was trained by Balor).
Danny Burch makes his way out first. He was an infrequent regular in NXT until his release in 2014, but he still makes the occasional appearance. Elsewhere, he’s better known as UK veteran Martin Stone,. Jordan Devlin comes out next to nice reception from the crowd.
Devlin goes for a quick roll-up off the bat, but Burch kicks out quickly. The two begin to exchange hits and some quick holds, but Burch’s veteran ring skills take over and Danny takes the advantage.
Devlin lands a standing dropkick to slow Burch down, then slowly starts to work on Burch in the corner. He pulls Devlin into the center of the ring and continues to work on the UK veteran.
Devlin continues to manhandle Burch but when the crowd begins to turn on Devlin, he appears rattled. Burch makes a comeback, but Devlin shuts the veteran down and returns to a chinlock in the middle of the ring. Burch counters and gets free, landing a double kick from the turnbuckle to take Devlin down.
Burch takes over with a series of punches followed by a European uppercut, before launching into a barrage of lariats and headbutts. He gets Devlin into a Crossface but Devlin scrambles to the ropes and the hold is broken up.
Devlin regains some momentum and lands a vicious kick to the back of Burch’s head, and Devlin goes for the pin. It felt like a 2.9 count, but the ref calls the 3 count and Devlin is called the winner. Burch is bleeding badly from the back of the head. Announcers Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness seem stunned and the replay definitely shows a 2.9 count. But the ref’s decision stands.
After the match, a bleeding Burch goes to shake Devlin’s hand, but Devlin lays him out and the crowd gets heated. Jordan Devlin advances to the next round in his quest for the WWE UK Championship.
Third Match: “Muscle Cat” Saxon Huxley vs. Sam Gradwell
Saxon Huxley, a pupil of Lance Storm and Brian Kendrick, enters first, followed by Sam Gradwell, a 6-year veteran of Grand Pro Wrestling (where he wrestles as Ricky J. McKenzie), and a hometown Blackpool hero.
The two go to war quickly with two vastly different styles. Huxley plays a much more methodical “cerebral” style, while Gradwell is a lot more of the traditional English style of physicality.
The crowd is getting more and more intense, with the footy songs now in full effect (although there was a humourous part where they started chanting “Let’s go Jesus!”/”Jesus sucks!” at the long haired Huxley).
Neither man gets the clear advantage by the midway point of the match, with both getting in some solid offense. The crowd is clearly behind hometown boy Gradwell and Huxley is bearing the brunt of most of the trash talk chants from the crowd. With the crowd behind him, Gradwell lands a flying headbutt on Huxley and picks up the pin and the win. We see another UK Legend in the front row, former WCW Superstar “The Squire” Dave Taylor (and former partner of William Regal).
Fourth Match: “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne vs. Roy Johnson
We get a Progress match-up next as Progress trainee Roy Johnson (trained by Jimmy Havoc) comes down to the ring, followed by another tourney favourite, Pete Dunne (who’s also the reigning Progress World Champion).
Early “Bruiserweight” chants as it’s clear the crowd is hotly behind Dunne. Johnson gets some early offence, but Dunne soon takes Johnson outside the ring, smashing his hand on the ring steps before tossing him back into the ring. Dunne applies a vicious hammerlock in the center of the ring, following it up by bending back the fingers of a prone Johnson. He began a surfboard but began to pull Johnson’s hair and the ref makes him break the hold.
Johnson gets minimal offence in, taking a beating from Dunne. Johnson gets a feeble forearm in, but Dunne responds with more viciousness, as if the cat was finished toying with the mouse. Johnson counters with a slam and goes for a pin attempt, but Dunne kicks out at two. A snap German Suplex followed by the Ex Plex, then into his pumphandle Flatliner finisher, The Bitter End, and Dunne finishes off Johnson with ease. The Bruiserweight easily advances to the next round of the WWE UK Championship.
Fifth Match: Wolfgang vs. Tyson T-Bone
The only Scotsman in the tournament, the huge Wolfgang comes out first. He’s currently the reigning World Champion for Glasgow’s ICW. He’s followed by the rough and tumble Tyson T-Bone, a regular from Preston City Wrestling.
T-Bone starts off with a headbutt to Wolfgang during the handshake, setting the tone early. Wolfgang comes back early and suddenly both men are locked in what ol’ JR would call a slobberknocker. Wolfgang soon takes over due to his sheer size over the smaller T-Bone.
T-Bone slowly turns the tide and two return to their brawling ways, trading blows as the crowd begins to chant I-C-Dub in support of Wolfgang. Tyson goes for a suplex on the bigger Wolfgang, but the Scotsman reverses it with his own inverted suplex. Both men lay in the ring, both bruised from their in ring thuggery.
They get up and once again trade punches, before Wolfgang lands a Wasteland followed by an impressive moonsault from the middle rope. A two count and Tyson responds with a release German Suplex and sends Wolfgang out the ring. Tyson stalks the Scot on the outside and sneak attacks him, rolling back in as the ref begins to count him out.
Wolfgang gets back in and goes back to the top rope, but T-Bone cuts him off and goes for the Superplex. Wolfgang slams him off to the mat and then pulls off a tope rope Swanton Bomb, picking up the 3-count and the win. The Last King of Scotland is advancing in the WWE UK Championship!
Sixth Match: Joseph Conners vs. James Drake
James Drake, another hometown hero, comes out first. A regular in Futureshock (the home promotion of WWE’s Jack Gallagher), he held the FSW Adrenaline Championship for 357 days. He’s followed by another of the favourites, former WCPW Champion Joseph Conners.
Drake comes out aggressively in an attempt to make a good showing in his home town, taking Conners into the corner. Conners fights back and the two return to the middle of the ring and began to swap holds. Drake takes Conners to the ropes where he works on Conners arm, before going for the matches first pin attempt.
Drake continues to pile it on, with a savage running knee lift, followed by another blow to Conners’ ear (much like Raw GM Mick Foley, Conners is missing part of his ear). Connors turns the tables with a hard lariat on Drake in the corner. Drake scrambles out of the corner, but Conners follows him and continues to work on the Blackpool native.
Drake turns things around with a series of forearms in the corner, followed by an Enziguri in the middle of the ring, then a roll-up off the ropes, but Conners kicks out.
Conners blocks a a few slam attempts, then lands an elbow onto a backbreaker, then lands his finisher, , out of nowhere, picking up the pin. Jospeh Conners moves on in the
Seventh Match: Mark Andrews vs. Dan Moloney
Mark Andrews surprised a lot of people when he left TNA a few weeks ago and was a surprise announcement for this tournament. He’s also had some impressive showings in PWG, so he’s a familiar face for the North American fans at home, as well as the only Welsh representative in the tournament.
Dan Moloney, the youngest entrant at 19-years old, enters first, followed by a huge reaction to the entrance of Mark Andrews.
Moloney uses his size advantage early on, overpowering the smaller Andrews with some throws in the ring and into the turnbuckle, gaining the first pin attempt early. Andrews kicks out, but Moloney continues to ground the high flyer, catching him at every opportunity that Andrews tries to go aerial.
Andrews finally lands a kick to cut off Moloney’s momentum, flips over Moloney and grounds him for a double stump. Andrews picks up steam and gets Moloney outside where he lands a moonsault on Moloney on the ground.
They get back in the ring and Moloney attempts a comeback, hitting hard. Andrews counters a suplex attempt with a Stunner, then lands a Shooting Star Press for the pinfall victory. Mark Andrews advances in WWE UK Championship tournament.
This means they're closing the show with Bate right? The whole night's a Moustache Mountain sandwich
Eighth Match: Tyler Bate vs. Tucker
Ireland’s Tucker (another pupil of Finn Balor) makes his way out first, followed by the second half of Moustache Mountain, Tyler Bate, another early favourite for the tournament.
The two start off with a stalemate of missed manoeuvres before they stop to take a breather. Bates throws a sucker during the conversation and the fight commences. Tucker lands a reverse elbow from the top rope and goes for the pin attempt, but Tyler kicks out easily.
The two continue to trade blows with Tucker landing a big kick, a hurricanrana, then a slingshot Flatliner, but Bate kicks out at two.
Bate launches a springboard uppercut to slow Tucker down, then sets him up for the Tyler Driver, but Tucker counters and goes back on the attack. Tyler runs at Tucker, but Tucker ducks and Bate ends up outside. A suicide dive attempt by Tucker is cut off by a European uppercut from Bate. The two fight outside, with Tucker landing another hurricanrana on the stage entrance.
Tucker gets to his feet and throws Tyler back into the ring. Tyler goes for a springboard bodypress, but Tyler catches him and powers him onto his shoulders for a Gorilla Monsoon airplane spin. After dumping Tucker, Tyler goes for the pin, but Tucker kicks out at two.
Tyler goes to attack Tucker, but Tucker lands a kick to the head out of nowhere, sending Tyler out the ring. Tucker goes out and throws him back in and goes for the pin, but Bate kicks out at two. Tucker scrambles to the top rope and attempts a Swanton Bomb, but Bate puts up his knees and Tucker is down.
Tyler Bate powers up and lands his Tyler Driver, picking up the win and advancing to the next round of the WWE UK Championship.
Following the match, William Regal and Nigel McGuinness bring out all of the Quarter Final qualifiers and just as they’re going off the air, Pete Dunne attacks his opponent Sam Gradwell, while Regal pulls him off.
A solid 2 hours of action, with most of the expected faces going on. Much like last summer’s Cruiserweight Classic, even the defeated men got a decent showing in, with each match having it’s own distinct energy. The UK crowd makes everything feel more exciting and it’s hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm. Night 2 is an great card all the way down and with a bit more time available – there’s only six matches to tonight’s eight – we’ll get a few more big moves out of them.
Main Photo: WWE.com