WWE brings us a first – a new United Kingdom Championship. The champion will be crowned in a two-day tournament that takes place both today and tomorrow. Sixteen men representing the best of the UK wrestling scene will contest for glory and a championship.
Show Open, Live from Blackpool, United Kingdom at the Empress Ballroom
They ran a video package to hype history of WWE in the UK, showing footage from SummerSlam that was held in Wembley Stadium as well as recent highlights. They also showed the competitors in the tournament and the press conference that set this event up.
The arena was dark except for some light at the stage. Triple H emerged to a rousing ovation. He said every empire has a beginning, and tonight they would start their own. The fans were really receptive to him and the crowd seemed hot right from the start. He asked “Are you ready” and the camera panned to the championship belt in the ring.
The lights came up and Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness welcomed viewers to the show. They recapped the brackets and talked about their favorites, then fed it to video packages for the men in the first match. Ring announcer Andy Shepard gave introductions and noted that the match would be 15 minute time limit matches.
Note: I’m not super familiar with the British scene. That said, rather than try to record the play by play of the matches, I want to watch and react instead. Also, the building looks fantastic, and the crowd seems really hot for this event and really into it.
Match #1 – Trent Seven vs. HC Dyer
Winner: Trent Seven
The Reax: They noted that Seven is a Progress Wrestling tag team champion. Fans chanted “mustache mountain” at him, which appears to be part of his character with the big beard and mustache. Dyer did heel it up and was booed during his entrance. Late, Dyer hit a Blue Thunder Bomb that Seven kicked out of. McGuinness called it a rookie mistake that Dyer didn’t cover the shoulders well.
Seven avoided a top rope splash, then hit a couple of clotheslines finished by what McGuinness called the Seven Stars clothesline. Seven snagged the win. Both men stood in the middle of the ring and the official raised Seven’s hand, then he posed with the fans.
This was set up very well with the video packages and the action was fine for the opener. The crowd was into it which helps the atmosphere. The commentary team told the story well of Dyer looking for a big knockout punch, which Dyer’s work emphasized too.
They showed Danny Burch and Jordan Devlin backstage. They ran video packages to introduce both men to us. They noted Burch has history in NXT, and pointed out that Devlin has been trained by Finn Balor. After some shots around Blackpool, they showed Finn Balor watching on and giving fans the “too sweet” hand gesture.
Match #2 – Danny Burch vs. Jordan Devlin
Winner: Jordan Devlin
The Reax: Late in this one, Devlin hit a double stomp and hit a spinning kick. Devlin covered a bloodied Burch (he was bleeding from the back of the head) for what the official called a three count but it was debatable. They ran several replays and noted that Burch got his shoulder up before three. Devlin celebrated the win.
Burch stood in the ring with a towel against his head to stop the bleeding and offered a handshake to Devlin. Devlin obliged, then superkicked him. Cole and McGuinness reacted with shock. Charly Caruso had a word with Devlin on the stage, who said people wrote him off, but he’s a thoroughbred horse and he’s there through the end.
The kick may have been a botch, or the official may have called the match due to the blood. Hard to say. Maybe that’s what they had in mind to make Devlin be a true heel throughout. The finish did establish him as a heel, so it worked from that perspective. The crowd didn’t seem to like the finish much though.
They feed it to video packages to introduce us to Sam Gradwell and Saxton Huxley.
Match #3 – Sam Gradwell vs. Saxton Huxley;
Winner: Sam Gradwell
The Reax: Gradwell got a great reaction being the hometown man. There’s a dueling “Let’s go Jesus” “Jesus Sucks” (it’s actually a play on the one man’s Twitter handle, @Muscle_Cat_Jesus) chant that Cole essentially no-sells by talking about the fans being excited. They sang the same song they sang for Bayley, adjusting the words a little to the talent in the ring. Gradwell won with a top rope headbutt.
They did a great job of establishing Gradwell’s persona and his video package was well done. This match, sadly, was the most forgettable though. Also, it’s worth noting Cole is armed with a lot of information on the men in the ring. He has made a few mistakes, but he is generally being a solid voice behind the action and is helping me know more about these men.
They showed Dave Taylor in the crowd watching on, then fed it to video packages for Roy Johnson and Pete Dunne, who are up next.
Match #4 – Roy Johnson vs. Pete Dunne;
Winner: Pete Dunne
The Reax: Dunne slapped away the handshake before the bell. They noted Johnson only has two years’ experience in wrestling but is a powerlifting champion. They also noted Dunne is the Progress Wrestling Champion and called him a favorite in the tournament. Johnson got a lot of offense in, at one point getting a two count off a Samoan drop. Cole and Nigel said it would be an upset if he won.
Johnson jumped off the ropes into a punch, which got Dunne two. Johnson came back with a punch that Dunne responded to with a kick. He set up a move but Johnson countered for another two count. Dunne hit his finish, a pump handle flatliner, to win. Dunne slapped away the post match handshake.
This was set up well with the video packages prior to the match. WWE is doing a heck of a job with those to introduce viewers to the talent and it’s done well. For example, Johnson talked about his power lifting background and strategy, and hit many of the moves that were shown in his video package during the match.
Cole and McGuinness chatted briefly about the tournament, then fed it to video packages to introduce the next two competitors – Wolfgang and Tyson T-Bone. Caruso interviewed T-Bone. He said he has been traveling up and down the country knocking people out. He said he would knock out Wolfgang and then wonder who would be next.
Match #5 – Wolfgang vs. Tyson T-Bone;
The Reax: T-Bone tried to get an early advantage by hitting a headbutt before the bell. The official checked on Wolfgang then started the match. Late in this, Wolfgang recovered from being shoved into the ring post, knocking T-Bone away and going to the ropes. T-Bone cut him off and tried for a superplex, but Wolfgang shoved him away in order to hit the Swanton for the win. Cole noted that Wolfgang would be going on to face Trent Seven.
Charly interviewed him after, and asked him about facing Trent Seven. Wolfgang said Seven would find out why he’s called the big bad wolf and promised a party after winning the title.
Wolfgang really impressed me. Nice athleticism for a big man – hitting a Wasteland/moonsault sequence that was particularly impressive. The fans really liked him as well. A solid match.
Cole fed it to video packages to introduce us to Joseph Conners and James Drake. He called Conners his dark horse favorite to win it all.
Match #6 – Joseph Conners vs. James Drake
Winner: Joseph Conners
The Reax: Late in this one, Conners connected with an elbow that fell into a backbreaker, then hit what he calls the Don’t Look Down finish for the victory. The two men had a very similar look, which could have made them a tag team at some point in their career. I really liked the overall finish sequence and thought the match was solid throughout.
They fed into video packages for Mark Andrews and Dan Moloney. They did note that Mark Andrews would be known by people in the United States (he did work in TNA Impact Wrestling). Charly talked to Andrews, who said he is an underdog but should never be underestimated. He says he will high five and low dive his way to the UK Championship.
Match #7 – Mark Andrews vs. Dan Moloney;
Winner: Mark Andrews
The Reax: Andrews got a huge reaction from the live crowd. Moloney got early control but took a 619 and a standing moonsault from Andrews. McGuinness noted Andrews didn’t have the body weight to finish Moloney with it. Later, Moloney rolled up Andrews for two, then hit a running kick for a second. Cole pointed out that Moloney hits hard and fast and has no finish moves. Late, Moloney set up for what looked like a suplex but Andrews countered to a stunner, then hit a shooting star press to win.
Andrews was great here with all of the high spots. He made the moves stand out and he really shone here. He feels like the star of the tournament right now and by far got the biggest reaction from the live crowd.
Cole and McGuinness talked then fed it into video packages to introduce us to Tyler Bate and Tucker. They showed Mark Dallas and Duncan Grey of ICW watching in the crowd.
Match #8 – Tucker vs. Tyler Bate;
Winner: Tyler Bate
The Reax: Cole pointed out the scar on Tucker, saying he needed breathing help as he was born eight weeks premature. Cole pointed out that Bate is likeable yet short tempered. The men worked back and forth early, and the fans applauded their work.
Later, Tucker sent Bate to the floor then tried a suicide dive, but Bate caught him with an uppercut. Bate followed with a suplex out on the floor but Tucker landed on his feet and tried to shove Bate to the post. Bate jumped over the steps. Tucker jumped off the steps and hit a huracanrana. Great sequence.
Back in the ring, Bate did an airplane spin. He stopped, squatted down and stood back up with Tucker on his back and reversed the direction of the spin. A short time later Tucker hit a big superkick on Bate that sent him to the floor. Wow. Bate came back with a kick, and Tucker threw a punch. Bate then hit a kick again and hit a Tiger driver to win. He played to the crowd afterward as Cole recapped the brackets.
This by far was the best and most entertaining match of the first round and it ended the show on a very high note. That’s not to say the other matches were bad – they certainly weren’t – it’s just that this one stood out among them all. Great effort by both men and the crowd was hot for the action throughout.
Cole recapped all of the matches from the announce position with short highlights. He hyped the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals for tomorrow for 3PM EST. He fed it down to William Regal and Nigel McGuiness. Regal got a big reaction from his hometown fans as he and McGuinness stood on stage with the title belt on a podium in front of them.
Regal put over the action and asked what we would see tomorrow. Nigel introduced the competitors for the quarter final matchups. Each pairing came out and momentarily faced off then stepped to separate sides of the stage. Regal wished them luck and reminded them that only one man could win the championship. Dunne jumped Gradwell momentarily, and Regal separated them and told Dunne to not mess this up as the show ended.
This angle with Dunne at the end did a good job of further establishing his heel persona. I didn’t mind what they did there.
Overall, this was a solid and very entertaining two hours that went by very quickly. It helped establish the personas and talents of the tournament, and it left me looking forward to day two of the event, which goes down tomorrow. The building was well presented and having such a hot crowd made for a fun atmosphere. I’m really excited about what we’ll get to see from these guys tomorrow in the semi-finals and finals of the tournament.
I’ll be back tomorrow with coverage of the event in some form, perhaps not live though. Thanks for checking in today, and see you then!