By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
WWE is holding first round matches for the 2018 UK Championship Tournament this weekend. As the resident British guy on Dot Net, I thought I would jump in with a preview and predictions piece to get you excited for what has the potential to be a great tournament and even eclipse last years’ offering.
The first round matches take place at the Download music festival, which is seen as the cool alternative festival in the UK, so the WWE UK division is a good fit. WWE has ran NXT events at the festival over the last couple of years and even shot angles at the event. Case in point was Mark Andrews hitting a moonsault from the stage on Pete Dunne, who had interrupted his band’s set. With the party atmosphere and of course the large of amount of beer being consumed, this will guarantee a great atmosphere for the wrestlers. The only issue is, as far as I’m aware, they are not going to broadcast this on the WWE Network. I’m sure it will be taped and perhaps a highlight package put together for NXT, but still seems a shame to me personally.
Nevertheless, the majority of the sixteen competitors are exciting talent, so lets have a look at how I believe the first round will pan out:
Zack Gibson vs. Amir Jordan: Zack Gibson is a tremendous heel and has generated almost nuclear heat in every company he has wrestled for, and I don’t think the WWE tournament will see a change in that philosophy. His act plays on the stereotype of somebody from Liverpool which in the long term could prove an issue with the American audiences, but since this is being held in the UK I’m sure the locals will be able to demonstrate that he is somebody who is not to be liked for his cocky and arrogant persona.
Amir Jordan is somewhat of an unknown. He has started to wrestle for the bigger companies in the UK recently, but he can still be described as a wildcard entry. Considering Gibson is the strongest and most well defined heel in this competition I’m expecting him to advance, but this is an opportunity for Jordan to not only show the UK audience what he’s got but also show WWE his potential.
Prediction: Zack Gibson to advance
Drew Gulak vs. Gentleman Jack Gallagher: The match with the strongest name recognition for the audience outside of the UK and it’s a bit of a strange matchup on paper with both guys considered to be heels on 205 Live. Given Drew’s tweets on twitter regarding making the UK the next state as part of the USA, I’m expecting a strong heel reaction for him from the home crowd and it’s logical for Gallagher to use that heat to position himself as the hometown favorite.
Prediction: Gentleman Jack Gallagher to advance
Flash Morgan Webster vs. James Drake: This is one of the most difficult matches to call. Taking out the fact that Webster is Welsh and that automatically makes me favor him, he has had recent exposure on WWE TV during the recent UK tour so it’s clear that WWE officials think well of him. Drake is also somebody that promoters are very high on, but I would argue the fans are still waiting to see what the fuss is about. I’m going to pick Flash to come out on top of this match, simply because of the way the brackets are laid out. Morgan will certainly be the babyface in this match against the heel “emo character” Drake and because I see a heel waiting for the winner in the next round, I’m going to go with my fellow Valley boy to win.
Prediction: Flash Morgan Webster to advance
Tyson T-Bone vs. Jordan Devlin: Tyson T-Bone looks like a monster compared to the rest of the wrestlers in the tournament so beating him will have some form of cache, however he’s not somebody that I see advancing past the first round. Devlin did a hell of a job last year by being one of the heel characters you came away from the show remembering, but he hasn’t really pushed on since that initial exposure. With that being said, I can certainly seeing him coming out on top of this in a devious heel manner setting up the next round match against Flash Morgan Webster.
Prediction: Jordan Devlin to advance
Tucker vs. Joe Coffey: I always struggle to describe Tucker. He’s not a bad wrestler, but he doesn’t have anything that really stands out. On the recent members audio preview of the tournament, Darren Gutteridge made the point that Tucker probably had the best match in the first round last year against Tyler Bate and I completely agree. He’s someone who will rise to the level of his opponent and be able to put together a good match, but he just doesn’t stand out ultimately.
Coffey, on the hand, is somebody who can be described in exactly the opposite terms. He’s dynamic in the ring, he’s hard hitting with a hell of a lot of athleticism. He has that indescribable it factor that you can’t quite put your finger on but you just remember him. Known as the Iron Man, he won’t be able to come out with his usual Iron Man mask or indeed his Black Sabbath music. Still, I expect the crowd to sing the tune anyways. So if you hear the crowd singing a random song during this match you know why. I’d be shocked if he didn’t come out on top here.
Prediction: Joe Coffey to advance
Dave Mastiff vs. Kenny Williams: Damn, I was hoping by the time I got to predicting this match I would know who to go for. Out of all the matches in the first round, I’m torn on this match between who I would want to see win and who I think WWE will book to win. Mastiff is the biggest man in this competition and plays such a good monster heel. Remember when your watching him and his badass attitude that this is a guy who teaches kindergarten kids in real life. He’s a scary dude when he plays the heel.
Williams is probably the biggest unknown wrestler (outside the UK) in terms of star potential. He has been compared to the Scottish version of Will Ospreay, and although I don’t believe he’s at that level yet I can’t disagree based on the potential he has shown. Where I’m torn is that I can see Williams getting the big victory in the David vs. Goliath contest and getting a rub from the victory, but a Dave Mastiff vs. Joe Coffey big man contest with the level of physicality that would be involved makes me drool. Ultimately though, based on what I think WWE will do, look for Williams to come out on top here to setup a quarter final match against his fellow Scotsman.
Prediction: Kenny Williams to advance
Ligero vs. Travis Banks: Ligero is a lot of fun to watch especially when you understand the character and his nuances and is a very good wrestler in his own right, but the gimmick is nothing more than what you would expect to see on an independent show. Because of the nature of this show he’s unlikely to have the comedy moment that you expect form his matches on the independent scene. I’m certainly glad he’s got the opportunity for this level of exposure, but I don’t see him getting past Travis Banks.
Banks is from New Zealand which along with Drew Gulak raises questions as to the qualification criteria for the tournament. However, with Banks the logic could simply be that he has trained, worked, and lived in the UK long enough that he meets the qualification criteria. Its no hidden secret that Travis is my favorite independent wrestler on the UK scene and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does on the bigger stage. He is very much in the Daniel Bryan mold in terms of being a smaller wrestler who’s offense looks believable but also that it hurts like hell. He has a tremendous suicide dive that is beautiful to watch, but the fundamentals are so crisp and clean that his matches are a joy to see. Without doubt a cert to advance to the next round.
Prediction: Travis Banks to advance
Ashton Smith vs. Joseph Conners: A bit of a strange matchup here and on paper the weakest of all the first round matches. Ashton Smith is very charismatic in the ring and is somewhat of a high flyer who can also mix it up on the mat. I’ve always been impressed with him when I’ve seen him live, so I hope that he has a better showing here than he did on the World Of Sport event from 2016 where he didn’t get much chance to show what he could do. Conners is another guy who promoters up and down the country seem high on even though he doesn’t appear to really excite the crowd in one way or another. If you looked up the term beige in the dictionary there would be a picture of him. Inoffensive while at the same time not interesting. To be consistent, I’m going with the heel Conners to win to face the babyface Travis Banks in the next round.
Prediction: Joseph Conners to advance
Agree or disagree? Let me know via twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com
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