Five Reasons Day 1 of the WWE UK Title Tournament was a Proper Good Time
For the past year I have been engrossed in the burgeoning British, Scottish, and Irish wrestling scene. I can thank the likes of Colt Cabana for putting over the virtues of Insane Championship Wrestling, and Revolution Pro and the WWE for putting a spotlight on the amazing Progress Wrestling during the CWC. Since then I’ve been keeping up with the scene via The Fight Network’s weekly airing of ICW’s Fight Club, and of course, YouTube.
So when WWE announced this title tournament, I was stoked. Proper stoked. So this afternoon I checked out Round 1/Day 1 of the tournament, and broke down the five reasons the first round was a proper good time…
1. Obviously, the wrestling: Let’s get this out of the way first — not every match was a five-star classic, not every wrestler was as smooth as they could’ve been. Glad we got that out of the way. This was just pure joy to watch. Having seen many of these guys bust their ass over the past year it was great to see them on a grand stage plying their craft. The biggest surprise of the night was just how much everyone, and definitely their mother, loved young Tyler Bate. He came off as the biggest star of the night, despite being one of the littlest men in the tournament. Jordan Devlin, despite not being the best in the ring, established himself as a top heel — and he can already be programmed with Danny Burch if and when the WWE UK show starts. Pete Dunne was an ace, no surprise. Trent Seven was a charismatic fan favorite, no surprise. Wolfgang of ICW fame was over massively as baby face, which was a definite surprise given his heel status in ICW.
Now that the first round is over, I’m really excited for second and third round action as you’re getting the top talent battling each other.
2. The Commentary: Going into the tournament my only complaint was that Michael Cole, and not the walking wrestling encyclopedia Mauro Ranallo, was calling the show. Today, Cole proved me…dead wrong. Cole was a completely different announcer tonight. He was allowed to be a commentator who called the action, and told stories and not a shill for whatever the WWE is pushing at the moment. He called this like someone who loved wrestling. He actually called moves by their name, and was able to paint of portrait of who each competitor was. Honestly, if he was allowed to do this weekly on RAW, the show would be infinitely better. As for Nigel, he was deft on the microphone as he was in the ring. You could hear the smile on his face throughout the event, and his knowledge of the ring, and British wrestling history really leant itself to hammering home the importance of the tournament.
3. The Venue and The Crowd: The venue, The Empress Ballroom, was awesome. I’m an absolute fan of venues with character as it creates a unique atmosphere for a show. WWE and WCW (and sometimes Mexican and Japanese) venues just look so cookie cutter that you don’t get a different vibe for each show. It’s homogenous, and sometimes monotonous. Go back to any ECW or World Class on the Network and you’ll see what I mean. The Empress was a grand room that felt perfect for a one of a kind tournament.
As for the crowd…I get if you hated them. I really do. They dominate a show. They can be annoying. They can even undercut a show (as they did on the NXT Takeover: London special not long ago). On this night, they really did none of those. They were a glorious Greek chorus that typified the new era of UK wrestling — rowdy, raucous, and down to have fun. It only made it more of an enjoyable experience for me, and brought me back to the old ECW Arena in the early 2000s when I made treks to Philly to see those shows in person.
4. The Promos: Damn, those promos were really effective. Just like during the CWC, the UK Tournament promos highlighted the personal and professional sides of the competitors. Dan Moloney was probably the most impressive, as I thought he came off the best out of any of those featured (and boy if they refine him, you’ve got something special). Others who looked great were (to no surprise) Trent Seven, Mark Andrews, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne, and Joseph Connors.
5. The Aftermath: I loved that they had the UFC style “opponents meet face-to-face” press conference at the end of the show. It was also a great moment to have Blackpool’s own William Regal come out, address the crowd, and the get involved at the end. You could tell he was beyond thrilled to be a part of this entire show. Allowing Pete Dunne to go apeshit on hometown boy Sam Gradwell was the best way to end the show. He absolutely brutalized Gradwell (giving Gradwell an out if he was injured — which he may have been, and if not he built sympathy), and solidified himself as the top guy in this tournament.