Notes In Observance – WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Part 1

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez


“Notes In Observance” features random thoughts and analysis on recent television shows. Quick results can be found at the bottom of the post.






(Aired 1/14/17)

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Part 1 

– The opening video showcased WWE’s longtime relationship with England that brought us classic moments such as Bret Hart-British Bulldog from Wembley Stadium at SummerSlam 1992 among others. In recent years, WWE NXT “took over” London and that turned out well. Pushed with mid-tempo hype in the last couple of weeks, we learned how it all went down when it was announced that there’d be an official WWE United Kingdom Championship and subsequent tournament to crown the inaugural Champion. With 16 competitors announced, this would essentially be a British version of the Cruiserweight Classic. Safe to say, we were curious what the end result would be.

– With that, Triple H’s opening promo was one of his usual “get the crowd into it” moments and this didn’t falter. This was “Good Guy In A Suit” Triple H (maybe “Proud Papa”?) as he resorted to his old D-Generation X “Are You Ready?” catchphrase. The crowd off the bat was wild and if we know one thing about London crowds, they’ll make themselves heard. We began to realize how great of an idea this was. Lots of visual pops around the arena in Blackpool, England. We saw the belt on an elevated stool in the ring and brought to the night’s commentary team of Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness. Worlds are colliding.

– The First Round match between Trent Seven and HC Dyer was a strong introduction to the format. We got some hype videos of both guys beforehand. Seven stroked his mustachioed ego with British strong style tendencies, while Dyer was put over as something of a knockout specialist. It was also cool that we got legitimate footage of Progress Wrestling for B-roll while the wrestlers talked. This kind of presentation was top-notch. Dyer had some early heat before Seven landed a huge chop to “Mustache Mountain” chants. That ended briefly when Seven accidentally chopped the ring post. The crowd amused themselves as usual, as they kept the “10” chants alive and well. Seven unleashed a plethora of chops, while Cole put him over on commentary some more as he stated that WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens was a huge Seven fan. Seven’s edge of experience made this an easy story to tell in the ring and they stuck to that. Liked how they worked in Dyer’s cockiness for inexperience when he landed a strong right hand and didn’t immediately go for the cover. Dyer hit a ripcord Blue Thunder Bomb for a two before he missed a frog splash. With that, Seven’s eyes bugged out and he executed the Seven Star Lariat to perfection and and got the win to advance. All the hubbub about Seven being a favorite made this easy to predict. That said, Dyer was good here too. Commentary noted that Seven sold his fingers after the bell and questioned how that’d fare for him later in the tournament. Some true sports-like stuff here.

– The First Round match between Danny Burch and Jordan Devlin kept the ball rolling, but with a specific goal in mind. The pre-match hype videos put over Burch’s humbled experience (if you also count his stint as an NXT jobber) and Devlin as Finn Balor’s protege. Hell, he even rocked his mentor’s hairstyle and similar leather jacket. It was an interesting angle on things. They showed Balor in the crowd with Joey Cabray, which added to things. The story of the bout embodied the “catches catch can” British style while Devlin’s rabid mean streak was on display. Things were well to the finish, where it got a little cloudy because of the way Burch was busted open by what looked like a stiff kick. Devlin got the pinfall, but it was immediately disputed by commentary on instant replay that Burch may had gotten his shoulders up in time before the three. Either way, a brutal, cheap finish will give almost anybody heat. Devlin jumped at this opportunity and did even more with a post-match superkick. What a heat magnet. Maybe not much to gloss over, but a nice showcase for both men. Think of Devlin like the old heel Prince Devitt. It may be the closet we get to a heel Balor. That’s far from a bad thing though. Devlin’s post-match “thoroughbred horse” line was also strong.

– The First Round match between Saxon Huxley and Sam Gradwell was the first ounce of “meh,” but even that wasn’t terrible by any means. The hype videos put Huxley over as a knowledgeable book nerd (maybe close to the old Damien Sandow gimmick without the self-righteousness aspect) and Gradwell whom looked to wrestling as an escape from a tough home life. A competitive match, nothing too fancy. We remember this one more for the crowd chants than anything sadly. Some hilarious moments though as the crowd referred to Huxley as “Jesus” with the same song they christened (see what we did there?) Bayley with at TakeOver: London. All in all, okay stuff as we got a Gradwell flying headbutt for the win. Surprised they let that go through as a finisher, given who was famous for doing those before. Ah well.

– The First Round match between Pete Dunne and Roy Johnson gave us the first real glimpse at Dunne and what he was capable of. We felt it right from the hype video, where he was put over as a confident, versatile specialist in the ring. On the other side was Johnson, who was more of an “entertainer.” This one was easy to lay out. Commentary excellently sold Dunne’s “Bruiserweight” gimmick as a punk rebel who didn’t play by the rules. McGuinness mentioned that Dunne’s maroon and white ring attire was a tribute to SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan. Nice transition to the early going after Dunne slapped away Johnson’s handshake offer. Johnson danced around while Dunne intensely grimaced, on par with his character. Nice ring awareness as Dunne tripped Johnson on the apron and stepped on his hand using the steel steps. With the wrist a target too, he applied a submission and stretched Johnson’s fingers back. Looked painful, but we love that kind of attention to detail. Commentary mentioned that Dunne had 11 years of experience despite being only 23, which is crazy in of itself. Johnson hit a flying tackle off the second rope, but couldn’t follow it up. A big highlight was Dunne’s forearm strike to a flying Johnson. Johnson landed a cutter from a Fireman’s Carry position, but that was the peak of his offense. It didn’t take long for Dunne to hit “The Bitter End,” a pumphandle flatliner. Good stuff, as we found out that Dunne would take on Bradwell the next night in the next round. To keep in line, Dunne refused a post-match handshake. How can you not boo this guy?

– The First Round match between Wolfgang and Tyson T-Bone was probably more of the “brawl” match of the night, a relief after the past few technical encounters. It was fine as far as offering variety, but the characters were relative unknowns for casuals. Wolfgang almost came off like a Scottish version of Biker Undertaker, which worked to an extent. His hype video mentioned his dream to work for WWE and we saw footage of him in Insane Championship Wrestling. It was interesting that he said he wouldn’t be afraid to cheat either. Such redeeming qualities. T-Bone’s hype video mentioned that he wasn’t a wrestler, but was just there to win the tourney. He actually wrestled in street clothes, which we guess was a nice visual from the rest of the pack, but it still felt like he lacked something. T-Bone headbutted Wolfgang right out of the gates, which led to the rest of the action. Wolfgang got a strong pop for his middle rope moonsault for a two. T-Bone’s head kick looked weak. Other than that, nothing of note. Wolfgang hit the Swanton Bomb to get the pin and advance. Sometimes being the heavy guy who can fly will work out, as it appears that’s the role they have slated for Wolfgang to fill. It was noted that Wolfgang would take on Seven in the next round.

– The First Round match between Joseph Conners and James Drake had the unfortunate occurrence of overhype by Cole, which wasn’t wrong per se given what both men can do, but we felt like that was unnecessary. It probably also didn’t help that both men rocked similar looks to the point where it was hard to tell who was who outside of their ring attire color. Can’t really stand out like that. Given their hype videos, it was easy to compare Conners to someone like a Brian Kendrick and his missing half an ear sold his hard-hitting style. Drake’s hype video put over his world experience. The crowd amused themselves as they chanted, “He’s got the whole world on his ass” at Drake, who did have his million dollar face on his butt. Conners aggressively shoved Drake into the apron, which garnered a gasp. He furthered his attack on Drake’s ear with a chin bar. A brutal elbow/backbreaker combo by Conners led to the DLD to get the pin. Figured Conners would be the one to go over there.

– The First Round match between Mark Andrews and Dan Moloney was intriguing for many reasons. Besides the first name that popped out to us on the competitor list by way of the former Mandrews in TNA, we were curious to see how he’d fare in a pseudo-WWE environment. The hype videos put over Andrews’ eagerness to “put Wales on the map” and while he rocked the backwards hat, he wasn’t all-out Bart Simpson mode. Moloney’s hype video was interesting in that he came off as “unhinged” and crazy, which worked. Even though he likely stood no chance against Andrews, this was a good time for him to show what he could do. We got a backstage promo from Andrews (a smart call given his popularity) and he spoke about how an underdog shouldn’t be underestimated. A good match that seemed to favor the way of showcasing Andrews’ skills. It was mentioned on commentary that Andrews was trained by Zack Sabre Jr., which will help anybody get over. Andrews flipped around as he performed a moonsault off the apron to a great pop. A Shooting Star Press and Andrews was on to the second round. By far the night’s biggest pop to this point.

– The First Round match between Tyler Bate and Tucker saw hype videos that showed off Tucker’s technical brawling prowess and resilience in that he came back from a knee surgery that almost ended his career. On Bate’s side, he had full youth (being only 19) but that he had “nothing to lose” and also named his fists. Funny. Early, Bate suckered Tucker into a punch that nearly won the match right there. The crowd was easily into Bate. Despite that, Tucker shined with some spots of his own like a cool whirlwind DDT. Bate caught Tucker with a right hand when he attempted a suicide dive. Tucker hit a head scissors takedown off the steps and onto the ramp. Ouch. Bate had some unique offense as he ran an airplane spin in two different directions. After another near-fall, Tucker landed a stiff kick that actually sent Bate out of the ring. Hot damn. Tucker went for a Swanton Bomb, but landed on Bate’s knees and fell victim to a wheelhouse kick followed by the Tyler Driver for Bate to advance. Strong reaction and probably the best match of the night, which was easy to say.

– The closing segment with NXT General Manager William Regal, McGuinness, Bate, Devlin, Seven, Wolfgang, Dunne, Gradwell, Andrews and Conners was a fine way to set up the next night’s happenings. It was like a formal presentation of the belt itself, while the Quarterfinal matches were hyped. We’d see Bate-Devlin, Seven-Wolfgang, Dunne-Gradwell and Andrews-Conners. Needless to say, this was most remembered for Dunne’s cheap shot on Gradwell that knocked him down. We can’t get enough of Dunne. That was awesomely unexpected.





Quick Results 

  • First Round – Trent Seven def. HC Dyer via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Jordan Devlin def. Danny Burch via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Sam Gradwell def. Saxon Huxley via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Pete Dunne def. Roy Johnson via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Wolfgang def. Tyson T-Bone via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Joseph Conners def. James Drake via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Mark Andrews def. Dan Moloney via pinfall to advance 
  • First Round – Tyler Bate def. Tucker via pinfall to advance 

About Nicholas Jason Lopez

Just a 29-year-old Brooklynite. Nothing more, nothing less. Currently a freelance journalist with two websites - Pro Wrestling Opinion and The Music Bugle - he has also been published on sites such as The Bensonhurst Bean, Sheepshead Bites, Review Fix, College University of New York Athletic Conference, Dying Scene, Brooklyn News Service, All Media NY, and Yahoo Voices. He has also interned for The Home Reporter/Brooklyn Spectator based out of Brooklyn, NY.

Posted on May 31, 2017, in WWE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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