After months of patiently waiting, the time has come. The 2nd annual WWE UKCT is here. After last year’s incredible showcase of British talent, I was concerned that this year’s show wouldn’t reach the same level of quality. It turns out I didn’t need to worry.
Quarter Final Match – Jack Gallagher vs. Zack Gibson
We opened the tournament with a familiar face from 205 live, which was a great way to pump up a crowd that was not necessarily familiar with the UK talent.
The opening contest was full of submissions and striking, as you might expect from the competitors. Zack Gibson played his heel role perfectly (beginning immediately by shunning Gallagher’s handshake) and nobody in the crowd wanted him to win. Unfortunately for Jack, Gibson proved too strong and tenacious. After powering out of his submission attempts and weakening his shoulder, Zack locked in the Shankly Gates and advanced to the Semi Finals. This was a fantastic bout with no clear winner and a perfect heel versus face dynamic.
Quarter Final Match – Joe Coffey vs. Dave Mastiff
Continuing the Quarter Final round, we had the battle of the big men. Both men looked incredibly intense and intimidating, and Coffey especially had a confidence about him that made him look like an absolute megastar.
Despite their sizes this was not a slow-paced affair. After testing each other’s strength with alternating shoulder blocks, both men continued to show off their raw power with an array of suplexes. Joe’s confidence was proven to be justified. After a springboard crossbody he hit the All the Best for the Bells Lariat and knocked Mastiff out of the tournament. A great showing for both men, and a nice departure from the styles seen in the rest of the competition.
Quarter Final Match – Flash Morgan Webster vs. Jordan Devlin
It was Wales versus Ireland next, with both countries represented by their top independent wrestling stars. Flash carried himself to the ring with a swagger entirely suited to the WWE, he’s going to fit in perfectly here!
I was anticipating a lot of high-flying maneuvers in this match, and was not disappointed! Webster hit 3 consecutive Topes using different gaps in the ropes, and Devlin impressed everyone with an Avalanche Spanish Fly. After one high risk move too many, Jordan missed a Moonsault allowing Flash to take advantage hitting the Eton Rifle and taking the victory. Yet another great contest, which at this point is becoming normal in this tournament!
Quarter Final Match – Travis Banks vs. Ashton Smith
To finish off the first round, we had our only non British native joining the action. I am a huge Travis Banks fan, but despite this I wasn’t particularly invested in this match. Between a few missed cues and (in my eyes) one of the most predictable results, the tension just wasn’t there for me.
We did however still get to see Banks’ signature arsenal of moves. High impact kicks, the Slice of heaven and (to finish the match) a Kiwi Crusher all showed us what we could expect from Travis in later rounds.
NXT Women’s Championship Number One Contenders Triple Threat Match – Toni Storm vs. Killer Kelly vs. Isla Dawn
With high stakes for the next day’s show, this contest was the perfect way to break up the tournament without just shoehorning in a random exhibition match.
This was a perfectly fine but very short triple threat bout. I particularly appreciated both Isla & Kelly ganging up on the more WWE experienced Toni Storm. All three women showed a level of physicality I’d expect from these hard hitters. All it took was one Storm Zero for Toni to pin Dawn and proceed to night two and Shayna Baszler.
Before the next round of the tournament, we had an announcement already revealed by WWE before airing the show. Triple H came out (to the adoration of the crowd) and introduced us to the new UK General Manager & British wrestling legend Johnny Saint. Saint then proceeded to announce more WWE UK content will be coming soon with the arrival of the NXT UK brand. I couldn’t be more excited to have regular British wrestling from the WWE!
Semi Final Match – Flash Morgan Webster vs. Zack Gibson
To begin the Semi Final round we had Zack Gibson taking on another crowd favourite. Obviously Gibson continued his role of the main villain of the tournament, this time accepting a handshake only to refuse to let go of Flash’s hand to show off his superior strength.
After the insulting introduction, Webster exploded out of the gate with hard strikes and knees. Keeping up the momentum, once Zack had escaped the ring he hit an incredible Headscissors after swinging around the ring post. Eventually Gibson’s superior strength prevailed and after catching Flash from a Tope, he destroyed him with his signature Helter Skelter suplex on the ramp. Then finishing off the Welshman with the Shankly Gates, Liverpool’s number one advanced to the Finals. A delightful fast paced contest.
Semi Final Match – Joe Coffey vs. Travis Banks
For our next match, we had one of my favourite staples of a good wrestling tournament. Joe Coffey was selling injuries from his previous match! This was appreciated storytelling in a setting where it’s much more difficult to structure a good narrative.
We got to see a lot more of Joe’s bullying style of wrestling, thanks to him facing a lighter opponent in Banks. With Pop up Powerslams, Corner Avalanches & a signature Double Underhook Swing – Travis took a hell of a beating. Despite being the underdog, Banks stole the victory with a surprise pinning predicament! An enraged and defeated Coffey refused to accept defeat, and brutally attacked Travis as he was celebrating his survival. A star making performance from both men, and an injured competitor going into the final.
British Strong Style (Tyler Bate, Trent Seven & Pete Dunne) vs. The Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole)
To give Travis time to recover (at least a little!) we had a final non-tournament contest. This was anything but an exhibition though, with Pete and Roddy having an intense rivalry on NXT and Moustache Mountain having a match for the NXT tag titles scheduled 24 hours later.
It was great to see British Strong Style teaming up on WWE programming, as these three are so entertaining and have amazing chemistry as a team.
This match was simply outstanding. The pace was high, the teamwork and tag moves were fantastic and the crowd were on fire! The Undisputed Era (who are usually very popular) were the definite heels of the evening, and did a great job isolating the members of BSS. However the British lads stole the show, with tandem fake-out (Bop and Bang) punches, Tyler’s Airplane Spin/Giant Swing combo, and some phenomenal tag moves. The finish came with a combination Dragon suplex and Lariat ending the evenings action for the Undisputed Era. All three members of British Strong Style now have some serious momentum going into night two, after claiming victory in an unforgettable match.
WWE UKCT Final Match – Travis Banks vs. Zack Gibson
After a brief but delightful appearance from WWE legend Shawn Michaels, it was time to end this year’s tournament. With Travis Banks entering the final with a bandaged shoulder, there was an obvious target for Zack to take advantage of.
The focus of this match was Gibson systematically destroying Travis’ shoulder, while Travis fought valiantly and aggressively to try and get the victory. After enduring some severe punishment (including a brutal throw shoulder first into the ring steps) having his bandage torn off and escaping the Shankly Gates, Banks mounted a comeback. The Kiwi Buzzsaw hit absolutely everything in his arsenal and couldn’t put Zack away. Once he had overcome the offense of Travis, Gibson was again able to lock in the Shankly Gates. As the Kiwi was dragged away from the ropes one final time, he had to tap out and we had our tournament winner.
I for one am incredibly happy with the man chosen to face Pete Dunne for the UK title. Zack Gibson was the dominant evildoer throughout the tournament, and a despised villain feels necessary to face the incredibly popular Bruiserweight. The fact that Zack was able to draw so much heat from the crowd, without spending any time on the mic (in my opinion his greatest strength) was nothing short of incredible.
What an outstanding show. There wasn’t one bad match all night. The tournament managed to tell great stories and build characters in ways I was not expecting it to. With the array of talent we have so far in the UK division, it’s difficult to imagine NXT UK not being a big success.
Join me again tomorrow as I cover night two of the WWE UKCT, I am beyond excited!
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