1/14 WWE UK Title Tournament Day One live review: The eight first-round tournament matches to determine the first WWE UK Champion

By Jason Powell

WWE UK Title Tournament
Blackpool, England at Empress Ballroom
Aired live on WWE Network

A video package focussing on WWE’s history in the UK was shown, It included footage of Davey Boy Smith beating Bret Hart at SummerSlam to win the Intercontinental Title at Wembley Stadium along with more modern highlights. There was also footage from the tournament press conference with Triple H, as well as shots of the participants…

A shot aired of the dark ballroom. Triple H walked onto the stage and a spotlight was on him. The fans chanted his name. He said every empire has a beginning, and tonight the UK fans would build their own. Hunter did the “are you ready” routine while a shot of the UK Championship set up on a podium in the ring was shown…

The venue lights turned on as Michael Cole checked in and introduced Nigel McGuinness. They showed the brackets. McGuinness said Pete Dunne is his favorite, and Cole picked Joseph Conners as a dark horse and his favorite (huh?)… Video packages aired on Trent Seven and HC Dyer to set up the opening match. Dyer established himself as a striker who needed one shot…

The ring announcer Andy Shepherd introduced both men before the match. He said the matches are scheduled for one fall and have a 15-minute time limit…

Powell’s POV: The venue looks great and the crowd is very enthusiastic, so the atmosphere is terrific.

1. Trent Seven vs. HC Dyer in a first-round tournament match. Cole acknowledged that Seven is a Progress Wrestling Tag Champion. Seven shook hands with fans on his way to the ring. Dyer was booed and heeled it up. There was a loud “Progress Wrestling” chant early on. Dyer roughed up Seven at ringside briefly, then he missed a dive in the corner when Seven moved. Seven delivered some chops and apparently a running chop (hard to make out) and then he shook his hand in pain and made a cocky cover for a two count.

Dyer connected with a big punch and went for a cover, but Seven kicked out. Cole chalked it up to a slight hesitation from Dyer, who stood in awe of his own punch before making the cover. McGuinness called it a rookie mistake. Dyer followed up with a modified Blue Thunder Bomb. Seven kicked out again. McGuinness called it another rookie mistake by Dyer, who didn’t cover the shoulders of Seven.

Seven avoided a top rope splash by Dyer. Seven hit a couple of clotheslines and scored the clean pin. After the match, both men stood in the middle of the ring and the ref raised Seven’s hand as the ring announcer named him the winner…

Trent Seven beat HC Dyer in 5:35 to advance in the tournament.

Powell’s POV: A fine opening match that was set up nicely by the video packages. Dyer emphasized that he was looking for a big punch, and the broadcast team told that story well throughout the match as well.

A shot aired of Jordan Devlin backstage. Cole said he’s a Finn Balor protege. Danny Burch was shown in another part of the backstage area. Video packages aired on both men. The Burch video featured footage of him in NXT. Burch said he is in the tournament to win it. Devlin spoke about his in-ring style and said he’s a technician…

A shot aired of the Blackpool Tower, which Cole said was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris… A shot aired of Finn Balor sitting at ringside next to promoter Joe Cabray…

2. Danny Burch vs. Jordan Devlin in a first-round match. Burch received a modest reaction. Devlin received a better reaction as he walked out and looked at the title belt, which was on a podium set up on the stage. McGuinness played up Burch as a favorite in the tournament and said Devlin will need to pull out something special.

At 5:15, Devlin raked the eyes of Burch. Cole noted that the referee gave Devlin a warning and that a DQ would lead to Burch advancing in the tournament. With both men down, Burch kipped up and was cheered. Burch fired punches at Devlin and knocked him down. Burch ran the ropes and right into a forearm. Burch came right back with a lariat clothesline and got a two count.

Burch performed a spinebuster, then followed up with a knee and a headbutt that led to a two count. Burch applied a crossface. Devlin reached the ropes with his foot and the crowd booed. Burch went for a German suplex, but Devlin landed on his feet and rolled up Burch for a two count.

Devlin performed a clunky double stomp and then followed up with a spinning kick for a two count. The referee called for the bell even though Burch, who was bleeding from the back of the head, kicked out. The broadcast team watched it in slow motion and determined that Burch got his shoulder up. The fans booed Devlin as he celebrated the win. Afterward, they set up for a handshake, but Devlin blasted Burch with a kick instead…

Jordan Devlin beat Danny Burch in 9:45 to advance in the tournament.

After the match, Charly Caruso interviewed Devlin on the stage. He said people wrote him off, but he’s a thoroughbred horse…

Powell’s POV: The spinning kick appeared to open the gash on the back of Burch’s head. I’m not sure whether it was a botched finish, one they went to due to blood, or if that’s exactly what they had in mind. Either way, the cheap win finish combined with the big kick afterward really established Devlin as a heel, so this worked out great.

Cole set up video packages on Saxon Huxley and Sam Gradwell. Huxley spoke about meditating twice a day and going through whoever gets in his way. Gradwell said the home he grew up in was a war zone. He said the only thing he has in common with Huxley is the ring he shares. He said he wants permanent victory and people will know his name…

3. Saxon Huxley vs. Sam Gradwell in a first-round match. The crowd amused themselves by singing a variation of the song they normally sing for Bayley. You had to know the Brits would find some reason to sing it. Late in the match, Gradwell connected with a clothesline and hit a top rope headbutt for the win…

Sam Gradwell beat Saxon Huxley in 6:10 to advance in the tournament.

Powell’s POV: The most forgettable match thus far, but I enjoyed Gradwell’s video package and the persona he established. Cole came armed with a lot of background info on the participants. He’s made some mistakes on play-by-play, but the information is solid and helps viewers learn more about the talent.

A shot aired of Dave Taylor sitting in the crowd. Nigel praised his toughness and said he was a technician too. Cole said Pete Dunne reminds people of Taylor, then set up his video package… Dunne said he is the Bruiserweight and doesn’t think anyone in the tournament can beat him. Roy Johnson’s video package aired and he spoke about having a power lifting background. He said there will only be one of him…

4. Pete Dunne vs. Roy Johnson in a first-round match. Dunne received the bigger reaction of the due. Cole said he reminds people of Fit Finlay (after making Dave Taylor comparisons). Johnson danced early, and Dunne responded with a scowl. Dunne applied a front facelock, but Johnson powered him up and broke it with a suplex.

Dunne targeted the wrist of Johnson. Dunne tied up Johnson in the first step of a surfboard. He removed Johnson’s glove and went after his wrist again. Later, Johnson caught Dunn with a shoulder block off the second rope. Dunne came right back with a kick to the head of Johnson out of the corner. Johnson responded with a Samoan drop for a two count. The broadcast team agreed it would have been an upset if Johnson won.

Johnson went to the second rope and leapt into a punch from Dunne, who covered him for two. Johnson came back with a punch of his own. Dunne came right back with a kick and then set up for a move, but Johnson countered and got another two count. A Bruiserweight chant broke out. Dunne eventually hit the pump-handle flatliner for the win. Dunne slapped the hand of Johnson afterward. Cole said Dunne will face Gradwell in round two…

Pete Dunne beat Roy Johnson in 7:50.

Powell’s POV: Another match that was set up nicely thanks to the pre-match video packages. Johnson spoke about his power lifting and strategy, then performed some of the power moves they showed in the video.

Cole and McGuinness spoke about the first half of the first round… Wolfgang and Tyson T-Bone video packages aired. Wolfgang spoke about working in a pub and wrestling for ten years. He said he’s not afraid to cheat. Wolfgang said he wants to be the king…

Backstage, Caruso interviewed T-Bone, who said he’s been traveling up and down the country knocking people out. He said he’d knockout Wolfgang and then wondered who would be next… John Briley and Jim Smallman of Progress Wrestling were shown in the crowd…

5. Wolfgang vs. Tyson T-Bone in a first-round match. The wrestlers came together for the pre-match handshake, but T-Bone pulled Wolfgang in and headbutted him. The ref checked with Wolfgang and then started the match. Wolfgang fired back with uppercuts and performed a dropkick. Wolfgang followed up with a couple of splashes. Wolfgang went up top and performed a double ax-handle for a two count.

Cole noted that T-Bone was the oldest man in the tournament, and added that Wolfgang was only 29, yet had 14 years of experience. Wolfgang performed a moonsault off the second rope for a two count at 4:00. T-Bone came back with a German suplex and a superkick to a kneeling Wolfgang, which led to a two count.

T-Bone dumped Wolfgang to ringside and followed. The fans chanted for Wolfgang. T-Bone shoved Wolfgang into the ring post. Wolfgang recovered and knocked T-Bone away and then went to the ropes. T-Bone cut him off and then went for a superplex, but Wolfgang shoved him off and performed a Swanton Bomb for the win. Cole noted that Wolfgang will face Trent Seven in the next round…

Wolfgang defeated Tyson T-Bone in 6:15 to advance in the tournament.

After the match, Caruso interviewed Wolfgang on the stage and asked him about facing Trent Seven. He said Seven will find out why he’s called the big, bad wolf. He said he would have a party once he wins the UK Title…

Cole set up video packages on James Drake and Joseph Conners. Conners said he will do everything it takes to be the first UK Champion. Drake spoke about the honor of being in the tournament. He said he’s 23 years-old, but he’s also one of the most experienced wrestlers in the tournament…

6. James Drake vs. Joseph Conners in a first-round match. The broadcast team spoke about Drake being a Blackpool native. The fans chanted “he’s got his whole face on his ass” in reference to Drake having his own face on the back of his trunks. Cole said Cedric Alexander picked Conners to win the tournament due to some of the bigger names he’s worked with. Late int he match, Conners connected with an elbow into a backbreaker, then followed up with a DLT (Don’t Look Down) finisher for the win…

Joseph Conners beat James Drake in 7:40 to advance in the tournament.

Powell’s POV: The looks between the two were similar enough that Drake and Conners could have been an ’80s babyface tag team. Nigel described the finisher as a uranage/flatliner. The elbow into the backbreaker was excellent and the overall finishing sequence was cool.

Cole said Conners will face the winner of the Mark Andrews and Dan Moloney in the next round, then set up video packages on both men…

Andrews spoke about being the only Welshman in the tournament. He said that if he were to win the tournament, it would be the biggest honor of all because he would represent an entire generation who have worked hard to be here. He said he believes he’s the best wrestler in the tournament. Moloney said he doesn’t come from a good place and has done things that people his age should not have done. “I probably shouldn’t say,” he said. Moloney added that he has no regard for anyone…

Backstage, Caruso interviewed Andrews and asked how he stacks up against the rest of the field. He said he’s the only Welshman and not the biggest guy, but he said to never underestimate the underdog…

7. Mark Andrews vs. Dan Moloney in a first-round match. Andrews received the biggest reaction of anyone in the tournament thus far. Moloney tossed Andrews around a bit early, then took a jawjacker. Andrews caught him with a 619. Andrews performed a standing moonsault for a two count at 3:35. McGuinness said there wasn’t enough body weight for the move to finish off Moloney.

Andrews sent Moloney to the floor and then performed a moonsault off the apron and onto Moloney on the floor for a big pop. Back int he ring, Moloney came back got a two count on a rollup, and another off a running kick to the head of Andrews. Cole said Moloney has no finishing moves and simply hits hard and fast. Moloney set up for a suplex type of move, but Andrews countered into a stunner, then performed a Shooting Star Press for the win. Andrews will face Joseph Conners in round two…

Mark Andrews beat Dan Moloney in 5:45.

Powell’s POV: Andrews made the match with his great high spots. A lot of guys perform the moves he does, but he has a way of making them stand out more than most. He really shined here and felt like the star of the tournament thus far.

The broadcast team spoke and then set up the Tucker and Tyler Bate video packages. Tucker noted that he is from Belfast, Northern Ireland and loves brawling. He said he had knee surgery a year-and-a-half ago and was told his career might be over. He came back and said not to doubt him. Meanwhile, Bate said he’s from Dudley, England as they showed off his striking ability. He noted that he’s only 19 year-sold and has nothing to lose. He said the only numbers he cares about are 1-2-3…

Mark Dallas and Duncan Gray of ICW were shown sitting in the crowd…

8. Tucker vs. Tyler Bate. Cole noted that Tucker had a scar because he needed breathing help when he was born eight weeks premature. Cole noted that Bate is very likable, yet also very short-tempered. Tucker went for a superkick, but Bate avoided that. The fans applauded the early back and forth work.

The wrestlers played to the crowd and talked to one another, then Bate held up his right hand and punched Tucker with his left. Tucker came right back with a back elbow off the second rope. Bate came back and put Tucker in a headlock, then grabbed his own foot and hit Bate with it. Funny.

The broadcast team marveled over Bate’s age. McGuinness said he was 23 before he ever stepped foot inside a ring. Tucker connected with a kick to the side of Bate’s head. The fans chanted “this is wrestling” as the wrestlers traded shots. Tucker performed a running huracanrana, then followed up with a forearm in the corner. He went for another, but Bate threw him over the top rope. Tucker landed on his feet and slapped Bate, then performed a flatliner through the ropes for a two count.

Tucker sent Bate to the floor and was going for a suicide dive when Bate caught him with a European uppercut. Bate followed up with a suplex attempt on the floor. Tucker landed on his feet and tried to shove Bate into the post, but he leapt over the ring steps. Tucker leapt off the ring steps and performed a huracanrana on Bate.

A short time later and back inside the ring, Bate got Tucker on his shoulders and performed an airplane spin that led to a two count. Tucker superkicked Bate to the floor. Tucker rolled Bate back inside the ring and covered him for two. Bate came back with a kick. Tucker punched him. Bate performed a nice kick and then followed up with a Tiger Driver for the win…

Tyler Bate defeated Tucker in 10:40.

After Bate was named the winner, he played to the crowd. The brackets showed Bate vs. Devlin, Seven vs. Wolfgang, Andrews vs. Conners, and Dunne vs. Gradwell in the semifinals…

Cole said McGuinness headed to the ring for a ceremony. Cole said he was losing his voice. Cole ran through highlights of the finishes of the first round matches. Cole hyped the start time for Sunday and set up the ceremony…

William Regal and Nigel McGuinness stood on the stage by the title belt podium. Regal put over the performances of “the great competitors” and the fans applauded. Regal said that after that incredible display, imagine what they have in store for Sunday.

Nigel introduced the competitors for the second round matches. Bate and Devlin jawed at one another, then Seven and Wolfgang stepped forward and did the same, Dunne and Gradwell looked intensely at one another, and then Andrews and Conners did the same. Regal wished the semifinalists well and said that only one person can be crowned the United Kingdom Champion…

Cole said someone will fulfill their dream and their destiny. Suddenly, Dunne blasted Gradwell with a forearm to the head. Dunne was pulled back by Regal, who looked angry as he got in Dunne’s face and pointed at him. “Don’t you dare mess this up,” Regal said to close the show…

Powell’s POV: They saved the best match for last, as this was easily the most entertaining match of the opening round and ended the first night on a high note. Overall, a fun first day of the tournament. It provided a good introduction to the personalities and left me looking forward to seeing day two, which should produce some very good matches in the same great atmosphere. The angle at the end was cool and also helped further establish Dunne’s persona. I’ll be back with live coverage of the event on Sunday afternoon beginning at 2CT/3ET. Thanks for watching along with me.


The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Court Bauer, who discusses MLW Saturday Night SuperFight, his mindset just days before the company's first pay-per-view, the $19.99 price point, future PPV possibilities, the free pre-show, former WWE and Lucha Underground creative force Chris DeJoseph joining the MLW staff, and more...


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