The second WWE UK Championship Tournament is a much-anticipated event, especially with the renewed suggestion that it may finally lead to the WWE UK TV show, possibly to be announced at the event itself! The Royal Albert Hall will host the event, taking place on June 18th and 19th, and described as a “one-night tournament” with “a Six-Man Tag Team Match and several title defences.” A one-night tournament with 16 competitors is going to be a lot of British wrestling action. It was a chance for WWE to double-down on its UK ambition, especially after the successful taping of a ten-episode series of World of Sports Wrestling by ITV.
The previous WWE UK Championship Tournament had given us sixteen talents, some of whom have gone onto become WWE names in their own rights – you just need to hear the “Bruiserweight” chants to know that the NXT Universe has taken to Pete Dunne (and it’s only a matter of time before the WWE Universe does the same on a weekly basis); whilst Mark Andrews is proving to be an undeniable asset, albeit still underused, on 205 Live; the first ever WWE UK Champion, Tyler Bate is marvel to behold wherever WWE choose to use him and in whatever capacity and Trent Seven has certainly carved himself a niche in the company too.
Four out of sixteen have become WWE Network fixtures, with the others featuring prominently on WWE tours of the UK. Joseph Conners and James Drake recently appeared on an episode of 205 Live, and we can only hope that this is a continuing trend. Wolfgang has made criminally few appearances on NXT.
With the second tournament, however, this was a perfect opportunity for WWE UK to double its roster from 16 to 32 on the WWE Network. A chance to give new talent a ready-made following, if the WWE UK show takes off. Sure, they can, and will, bring in new talent, as the show develops; it’s what they do on NXT, but this is a project that really needs to hit the ground running, and a deep and varied pool of talent would ensure that.
In this new tournament, where the winner will face the WWE United Kingdom Champion on night two, we’ve got some fantastic new names – El Ligero and Dave Mastiff are at the top of that list, followed by a man who may have come out of left field for some, but is, to anyone who has seen him perform or know him personally, it’s well deserved and surprisingly timely, Amir Jordan. There were some “expected” names, too – Flash Morgan Webster, having seen interest from WWE previously (he competed in a qualifier for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic), was almost certain to be WWE bound with a character and skill set that seems tailor-made for the company whilst Zack Gibson had been rumoured to have signed a WWE contract recently, departing the shortlived 5* Wrestling shortly before its demise.
On top of this, we’ve got Joe Coffey, Kenny Williams, Ashton Smith, Travis Banks. Coffey and Williams, representing Scotland, have been staples of ICW for years before breaking out across the country, whilst the veteran Ashton Smith has been met with support from all corners. Travis Banks raised eyebrows amongst some, but as the New Zealander resides in England, wrestling in the United Kingdom and is the current PROGRESS champion, it stands to reason that he would be in the tournament.
There’s plenty of returns to the WWE UK Tournament – Joseph Conners, Jordan Devlin, Tucker, James Drake and Tyson T Bone – although plenty of noticeable absences from the original press conference photo in January 2017. The returns comprise almost a third of the tournament and, whilst they’re all talented in their own right and deserve more exposure, they have little to prove. They could have been participants in a separate series of matches within the two days, which is already being billed as having the one-night tournament and three NXT Championship matches, so it’s not like they’re short of time! Give the winner of the series a wildcard opportunity to enter the Tournament itself, and you’ve got something else for the fans to get behind.
Then there are two already-established-names that the Tournament takes an odd turn. Whilst there’s no doubting the talent of Jack Gallagher and Drew Gulak, they’re both well known on 205 Live and this is a tournament that doesn’t necessarily need them, even if the Royal Albert Hall does. Their matches are bound to be must-see but it would also be must-see on 205 Live too, no matter who they face amongst the contracted WWE UK talents.
That gives us, in a tournament of sixteen, seven names that have WWE history, in one form or another, in a tournament with eight guys who are new to a large number of WWE Network viewers.
The brackets haven’t been announced yet (here’s hoping for a return of Bracketology), so we don’t know who will be facing who and can’t start making predictions as to who will be facing the current WWE United Kingdom Champion, Pete Dunne. We do know that over June 8-10, that the first round of matches will take place at Derby’s Download Festival, that on June 18th, Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) will team with Pete Dunne to take on The Undisputed ERA (in the form of Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) in something of an indy wrestling dream match and on June 19th, the NXT Women’s Championship will be defended by Shayna Bazsler, the NXT North American Championship will be on the line for current champion, Adam Cole, as will The Undisputed ERA’s NXT Tag Team Championships, all subject to the results of NXT Takeover: Chicago on June 16th.
Have WWE missed an opportunity to give the audience a broader flavour of the best of British talent? Will it have the impact of when we saw the first tournament and all sixteen became social media sensations? We’ll find out on June 18th and 19th at Royal Albert Hall.