Tuesday 17 January 2017

WWE UK Championship Tournament

(SPOILERS for the event, which if you enjoy wrestling you should totally watch)
It was so good. As I've said before I don't have much experience watching British wrestling, even with WCPW so conveniently broadcast over Youtube I've somehow never got into it. That is absolutely going to change now. The evening's wrestling had a very different flavour to it than the usual WWE fair.

For one thing, just about every wrestler in this tournament was stiff as hell. I saw endless t-shirts in that crowd emblazoned with the phrase “British Strong Style” and, well... I can see why. There was a great mix of styles and personalities, the two day event told a concise and focussed story with minimal time spent on segments and lots of attention paid to in-ring theatrics.

As to the wrestlers involved: there wasn't a weak man among them but some definitely stood out to me: Trent Seven was a wonderfully theatrical performer with his moustache twirling playing to the crowd; Tyler Bate had a real honest charm to him; Wolfgang flying through the air in ways a man that are absolutely astonishing for a 255 lb man; and, Mark “Mandrews” Andrews was another fantastic high flier.

But the one who really stood out for me, more than any of the others, was Pete Dunne, our designated detestable heel for the weekend.

Given only the one weekend to get over with the crowd (at least the newcomers like me) he did an amazing job of making us despise him. With theatrical smirking, unprovoked attacks on his opponents before matches and more than one scuffle with an irate William Regal, including being thrown bodily back through the stage curtain into Gorilla, he made it fun to boo him.

And boo him we did, from the his opening match against Sam Gradwell, through his semi-final bout with Mark Andrews and into the final against Tyler Bate we booed him. And when, after a couple of very close near finishes either way, we finally got to count one-two-three with Bate pinning Dunne it was a hugely satisfying win.

I had a wonderful time, not only for seeing all these fantastic wrestlers I'd never heard of before but also the general experience of being there. The Empress Ballroom is a beautiful old building and there was a fantastic atmosphere in the crowd. Okay, the chants got a bit smarky at times but for a change it seemed even the smarks were there to enjoy the show and support the home grown talent.

Plus, we got a Neville match! Neville was the only established WWE talent wrestling the whole weekend and it wasn't a tournament match, which I think was for the best. Whilst Neville is absolutely one of the great talents to come out of the UK scene in recent years this event wasn't about celebrating the UK talent that's made it to the WWE but the talent that has been working away all these years right here under our noses, a job the tournament pulled off admirably.

Now, no one knows where this is going. We might get a 205 Live-style series for the UK scene or it might be a series of irregular specials. Hell, there might not even be a concrete plan for how this whole idea is going to work going forward but I heartily look forward to finding out. 

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