By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
Dot Net Members will hear the British Invasion duo of Haydn Gleed and Darren Gutteridge review both days of the WWE UK Championship Tournament on Wednesday. They are already listening to Jason Powell’s audio review of the show. For membership information, visit PWAudio.net. Join us for live coverage of the second day of the event as the show streams on WWE Network at 2CT/3ET.
WWE UK Championship Tournament Hits
Overall show: From start to finish, I really enjoyed this show. It was great for me on a personal level seeing guys who have put so much of themselves into the British wrestling scene get to perform on the highest level. This is especially true for Dave Mastiff, who was part of a core group of wrestlers who wrestled in front of small crowds for small payoffs going back to 2002 just for the love of professional wrestling. They created the foundation that was built for Progress, ICW, PCW, etc. to take the UK independent scene to where it is today. The show flew by and I didn’t feel there was any point where the show dragged. There is an argument that this wasn’t as hot or as good as the 2017 version of the tournament (more on this later), but in a vacuum this show was a great way to introduce the wrestlers to the WWE viewers.
Royal Albert Hall: From the moment that they announced that the show was going to be at Royal Albert Hall, I was excited to see how it would look. Having attended the 2017 tournament and witnessing the great job that the company did with the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, I was excited to see what they could with such a historic and beautiful building. Due to work commitments I had to pass on attending this year’s show and I was gutted when I saw how well WWE showcased the building.
Undisputed Era vs. British Strong Style: Hands down this was the best match of the night. It was helped of course by a strong storyline going into it with the issues between Pete Dunne and The Undisputed Era, and of course the crowd always loves to see the members of British Strong Style. The quality of the match was great and all six men deserve high praise for the match they put together. There wasn’t much in terms of in-ring storytelling psychology standpoint, but they put on a match that had great athleticism and very exciting spots that will please the fans of the Young Bucks style of matches. The British Strong Style trio came off as stars.
Tournament Matches: There were seven tournament matches on the show and I can’t pick out a bad one. The length of the matches was an issue (more on this later), but all eight men who started the night in the competition did a great job in the ring. They managed to get in their signature spots while also highlighting some new spots that they don’t typically use.
Nigel McGuiness: Anybody who has listened to me on Ring of Honor audio knows I hated Nigel as a color commentator back when he used to randomly sit in during their events. Back then it felt like he was constantly pointing out the flaws or mistakes of the wrestlers and that by default made the talent seem weaker. Since he has been part of the WWE machine, those negatives have gone and instead we are left with a guy who clearly knows what he’s talking about and his knowledge of the current UK independent scene is obvious. He went above and beyond to put over wrestlers backgrounds and called the moves by the names given to them by the talent, not the more commonly known names that Mauro Ranallo was using throughout the night. Great job.
Zack Gibson vs. Travis Banks in the tournament final: As far as the tournament was concerned, this was the best match by a distance. They were given a logical story heading into the match and they executed it tremendously well. Banks always works best when he’s the underdog and given the size difference and the fact his shoulder was injured heading into the match, it was easy for the crowd to rally behind him. The fact that the Shankly Gates submission finisher for Gibson focuses on the shoulder made the peril for the babyface all that much greater.
Joe Coffey heel turn: A minor Hit. The one storyline coming out of this show was the turn of Coffey after his semifinal match with Travis Banks. Although I’m sure the main thought process of this was to protect Travis losing in the final and to give that underdog story I described above, I’m hoping that this is the first main storyline for the new NXT UK show.
WWE UK Championship Tournament Misses
The presentation of Zack Gibson: It’s no secret that I love to hate Zack Gibson. The work that he does on the mic and in the ring around the independent scene is tremendous and there’s a reason that the crowd booed him so passionately. With that being said, if you are a viewer who has never heard of Zack Gibson let alone seen his promos or even somebody who doesn’t know what a scouser is, WWE gave you absolutely no reason to hate this guy outside of some old school heel tactics during his matches. It felt very ROH-esque to me where they bring in Japanese talent in for their shows and just expect their audience to know exactly who they are. I was a little worried going in that WWE wouldn’t showcase Zack’s mic skills because he has a very strong Liverpool accent and that can be difficult to understand if you are outside the UK, but they gave Joe Coffey mic time and I would argue a Glaswegian accent is harder to understand than a Scouse accent, so I don’t really understand why he wasn’t given the opportunity to show what a complete jackass he is. I’m hopeful heading into his day two title match with Pete Dunne that he will be given the opportunity to show the viewers at home what the crowd in the building already knows.
Feeling rushed: I felt that the tournament aspect of the show was somewhat rushed and that led to the characters not being given enough time to showcase who they are. Last year with the tournament being held over two nights, the viewer could connect with each individual a lot more than they could this year. Because the matches were so short, there wasn’t much time for the talent to establish their in-ring personas. They threw so many different people at viewers that I fear that the fans who had never seen these guys before were not left with a strong impression of any of their personas. I was exchanging notes with several people during the show, and the consensus was it left non-UK independent followers feeling that they were late to the party. If they go with this format again next time, this is one occasion where I would happily watch a pre-show where highlights of the first round are shown along with proper interviews with talent that include their thoughts on the competition, not just soundbites that get lost in the shuffle with so many new characters.
Toni Storm vs. Killer Kelly vs. Isla Dawn: A minor miss. I feel bad putting this in this section as it was under difficult circumstances that this match took place. For those who don’t know, it was originally a four-way match with Progress Women’s Champion Jinny being the fourth individual. However, early in the original match Jinny suffered an injury, so it was changed to a three-way. I suspect that a lot of this match was called on the fly so it’s understandable why it match didn’t quite live up to the ability of the three women in the ring. Jinny ended up being fine. She posted on twitter that she was not seriously injured, which is great to hear. She’s also alluded to the fact she may be in the next Mae Young Classic so you’ll be seeing her in the coming months.
Shawn Michaels: Another minor miss simply because I don’t really understand his purpose of being there. There should be a reason why a huge superstar is on a show like this one. Otherwise, it feel like they are somewhat overshadowing the main talent. If he was there in an in-ring advisory/talent scout role then great, but I really didn’t see the point in his segment.