The British Are Coming…

By AJ Howells

This past weekend in Blackpool, England we saw the WWE’s first foray in to the UK independent scene with the crowning of the first WWE United Kingdom champion with 19-year-old sensation Tyler Bate defeating tournament standout “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne in the final. Both nights from the historic, and beautiful, Empress Ballroom were fantastic events with the best kept secret in professional wrestling (the UK wrestling scene) being sprinkled with the production value magic of the world’s largest wrestling company.

Anyone who attends live shows in the UK knows that the plethora of talent in the UK at present is at an all-time high and this tournament bought together some of the biggest names these shores boast in Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Mark Andrews with other lesser known grapplers who will no doubt find their bookings boosted by the added notoriety of appearing on this historic event.

The matches, although vast in quantity, did not lack in quality with almost every match offering great action and storytelling and in different ways be it through crowd reaction, heat garnered from dastardly behaviour or pure work rate in the ring. Fans in attendance were even treated to a homecoming for Neville against new NXT talent, and future worldwide star Tommy End. From start to finish the crowd both in attendance and at home got their money’s worth from the first event of its kind.

So where does the United Kingdom championship go from here? What next for the stars of this tournament? WWE made it clear when signing these talents for this show that it would not affect their ability to work elsewhere and to anyone looking at future bookings for some of the key protagonists has seen that this is true…at least for now. Standout performances from Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and Mark Andrews seem to make them genuine targets for WWE in the not too distant future.

Dunne, in particular, is a unique talent and having watched him develop and grow as a performer in village halls, bingo venues and other such establishments I have no doubt he can make the step up to the biggest of stages. Pete’s look, movement and work style is unlike almost anyone else and so a role in NXT is an exciting prospect, especially with the arrival of other European top talent in Big Damo and Tommy End of late.

Mark Andrews has seen some time on US TV with TNA Impact and is one of my favourite performers to watch live. Always crisp and sharp Andrews is the sort of exciting talent that 205 Live is crying out for to stop it becoming stale before it even gets going. The recent inclusion of Neville has helped but someone like Andrews would be a great add for the cruiserweight division in WWE right now.

So, what of the champ? Young Tyler Bate showed great heart, strength and toughness to triumph over his four opponents, including a near five star outing with his “British Strong Style” cohort Pete Dunne in order to take home the title. US audiences will not be familiar with Bate’s work but at only nineteen he has the world of professional wrestling at his feet. This win will surely lead to more work for him stateside and that increased profile will no doubt be something that WWE covert at the same time. Personally, I would happily see the young man maintain loose ties with WWE while still working a healthy UK indie schedule for a few years and then make the step to NXT.

There are currently two big questions facing the future of the UK wrestling scene with ITV’s World of Sport (WOS) having broadcast its pilot on New Year’s Eve and now the WWE having successful put on its United Kingdom tournament and talk of a weekly show of their own on the WWE Network. Both could have a big impact on the landscape in the UK in the not too distant future. But, as with any independent scene, should the top stars be pulled away by bigger opportunities there is always someone coming behind to fill their spot. When Marty Scrull and Will Ospreay (to name but two) went to work a larger percent of the time in the States it only produced opportunity for others to step up, some of which we have seen do so first hand in Blackpool this weekend.

Should the likes of Dunne go on now to bigger and better things with WWE, or anyone else, they go with the thanks and love of the British fans fully behind them and we all look forward to seeing them prove to the world what we already know, the British are coming and they mean business.

Catch more at Alex’s Blog: https://layingtheslackdown.wordpress.com/

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