WWE broke new ground in Blackpool tonight, with the opening day of action in the United Kingdom Championship Tournament.
It might have been barely a month since it was announced, but WWE sold out the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool in a matter of hours – and yes, the British crowd were really hot on night one.
The show opened with Triple H on stage – to a loud cheer, but he quickly cut them off so he could launch into a typical rousing promo about building an empire. Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness are doing commentary, and they start with a to-camera piece hawking back to the early days of Raw.
We have a video package on Trent Seven, who plays up the Moustache Mountain act. There’s a lot of PROGRESS and ICW footage here… then we go to a package for HC Dyer, without any footage.
First Round: Trent Seven vs. HC Dyer
Of course, they didn’t use Seven Nation Army for Trent – and they’re using Cruiserweight Classic-esque entrance videos just showing their names.
From the opening tie-up, Seven takes Dyer to the corner – and there’s huge “Moustache Mountain” chants. Dyer no-sells a chop, so he gets a headlock before recovering with a dropkick to take Trent to the floor. Trent hits the ringpost with a chop, but he returns to the ring to evade a Stinger splash and launch into some rapid-fire chops with that same hand. Which he sold admirably!
Dyer lands a spinebuster for a near-fall, but he ends up having to spin away from a half crab attempt, before clocking Seven with a right hand for a near-fall. A ripcord Blue Thunder Bomb from Dyer gets another near-fall, but he takes his time and goes up top… then misses a frog splash! Seven gets back to his feet, lands a spinning backfist and a ripcord lariat (called the Seven Stars) for the win. A hot match to get us going, and the hot favourite went over in short order whilst Dyer looked really good in defeat. Trent will face Wolfgang or Tyson T-Bone in the quarter finals… ***¼
Jordan Devlin is backstage warming up, and he takes on Danny Birch next! Cue video packages! Finn Balor is at ringside, alongside Joey Cabray (aka Luther Ward) – the first of many promoter’s shoutouts!
First Round: Danny Burch vs. Jordan Devlin
A slower-paced start here as Devlin works the arm whilst Michael Cole runs down both guy’s records. Danny Burch seems to be the crowd favourite, and he caught Devlin’s leapfrog and dragged him down to the mat.
Devlin avoids a corner charge and slingshots back in to land a dropkick on Burch for a one-count. Burch gets pulled off the middle turnbuckle as Devlin looked to wear down his much bigger opponent, using mounted punches and a chinlock to keep Burch down. A few stomps keep Burch down, as Devlin goes back to the rear chinlock, before a back elbow knocked the Londoner down after he’d fought free.
The crowd tells Jordan “you’re not Balor” as he went for the eyes of Burch, and we’re back to the chinlock. Burch fires back and levels Devlin with an uppercut… but Jordan hits back as we go back and forth, until a Burch lariat gets him a near-fall. A spinebuster sets up Burch for some more right hands as Devlin has to kick out again, but he kicks out into a crossface, before he finally makes the bottom rope.
Devlin elbows free of a waistlock, before he flips away from a German suplex as we get some near-falls. A roundhouse kick drops Burch, but he’s way too close to the ropes… but the referee counts two and the bell rings… and my God, Danny Burch got busted open big time at the back of the head from that kick. The replays show a clear kickout, but they’re playing it like a ref stoppage… and this crowd does not like it. It wasn’t a bad match, but the screwy finish took it down a bit. Devlin will face Tyler Bate or Tucker tomorrow in the quarters **¼
They replay the finish – you see the roundhouse kick opened up Burch big time on the back of the head. Burch was the clear favourite, and he gets a superkick from Devlin after the post-match handshake. He’s got a post-match promo with Charly Caruso, and he is being booed big time – good to see they’re establishing him as the one to boo!
Saxon Huxley and Sam Gradwell are next – Huxley tells us he reads books, so he’s smarter than a lot of his competition. Gradwell tells us he’s going to use the tournament to be a fixture in WWE… and this is the match that very few people expect anything from.
First Round: Saxon Huxley vs. Sam Gradwell
Gradwell gets a good reaction – as he should! Huxley gets chants of “are you Jesus in disguise” before duelling “let’s go Jesus/Jesus sucks” chants that take both men by surprise.
Huxley works a wristlock over Gradwell in the opening minutes, before he lands a forearm to the lower back of Gradwell as the Hartlepool native looked to be playing a more deliberate game. A side suplex gets Gradwell a two-count as the Blackpool hero went up top… but Huxley rolled to the floor for cover.
A double underhook backbreaker gets “Jesus” a near-fall, and this slows down a little bit as Gradwell took him into the ropes for some knees to the midsection. Gradwell drops Huxley with a European uppercut, before he goes up top and gets a flying headbutt for the win. Not much of a match outside of the chants, but this is two in a row where the crowd’s favourite (during the match, at least) didn’t go through. Gradwell faces Pete Dunne or Roy Johnson tomorrow… good luck! **¼
Dave Taylor’s shown at ringside as we get McGuinness and Cole pitching to a video package for Pete Dunne and Roy Johnson! Plenty of PROGRESS footage here, as you’d expect, with Callum Leslie’s commentary getting in briefly.
First Round: Roy Johnson vs. Pete Dunne
Sadly, Johnson didn’t get a live mic… and Dunne swipes away a handshake at the bell. This could be real good!
Michael Cole namedrops Jimmy Havoc and Darrell Allen – which just sounds weird on the WWE Network – as he worked a wristlock over the “Bodyguy”. Johnson lands some shoulder tackles, but he just gets a slap from the Bruiserweight as Dunne catches him in a guillotine choke. Johnson powers out into a suplex, but he’s sent to the outside as he went for a splash as Dunne stamps on his hand on the ring steps.
A stomp the elbow on the floor follows, as Dunne returns to the ring to get a one-count after bridging back an armbar. Dunne pulls on Johnson’s top-knot in the middle of a knee stomp, but Johnson comes back with a corner charge and a flying shoulder tackle off the middle rope.
Dunne gets an enziguiri out of the corner, but is forced to kick out at two after a Samoan drop. Johnson went for the Last Set, but Dunne squirms free… before landing a forearm as Johnson went for another shoulder tackle. Dunne tries for a suplex, but Johnson surprises him with the Last Set, but he takes too long to make the cover as he only gets a near-fall.
Johnson takes a snap German suplex off the ropes, then a front suplex for a near-fall as Dunne fought back, before the Bitter End (Drop Dead) gets Dunne the win. Johnson had a lot more of the match than I expected, and he looked really good in defeat. Dunne faces Sam Gradwell tomorrow in a match that should be quite decent. ***½
Wolfgang and Tyson T-Bone is next – so here’s some more video packages! Then a promo with Charly and T-Bone, who’s putting on an accent apparently to play up the gypsy traveller gimmick.
PROGRESS’ Jon Briley and Jim Smallman got shout-outs – and face-time on the WWE Network!
First Round: Wolfgang vs. Tyson T-Bone
Wolfgang got a loud cheer for his arrival, and chants of “ICW”. T-Bone’s wrestling in something close to street clothes, and he starts by headbutting Wolfgang to the corner.
A series of punches keeps the Scotsman in the corner, but Wolfgang hits back as this goes back and forth. Wolfgang’s dropkick takes T-Bone into the corner, where a crossbody rocks the big guy as a double axehandle gets Scotsman a two-count. T-Bone kicks away both of Wolfgang’s knees to take him down for some near-falls, and it’s Malvern’s T-Bone who keeps on top… before Wolfgang reverses a suplex!
Some boo/yay punches see T-Bone get back for a moment, before he’s dumped by the Wasteland and a second rope moonsault for a near-fall. Wolfgang runs into a knee strike, as T-Bone hits a German suplex and a superkick to the head for a near-fall. They head outside as Wolfgang’s shoved into the ringpost – since T-Bone’s trying to claim a count-out victory… and then he dragged Wolfgang back in by his hair.
A superplex attempt goes wrong as T-Bone’s shoved down, and Wolfgang gets the win with a senton bomb! Really good back-and-forth here; Wolfy really showed off his agility here, and he gets Trent Seven tomorrow. ***½
Wolfgang gets a post-match promo with Charly, and yes, we’re getting an ICW rematch tomorrow!
James Drake and Joseph Conners are next… and you know what that means! The video package has Joseph Conners with half an ear – something his flowing locks usually hides.
First Round: James Drake vs. Joseph Conners
Nigel McGuinness compares Conners to an abused dog during his entrance, and Cole is putting over Conners way too much for him not to go through.
Drake goes for Conners’ ear at the start, as the crowd point out Drake’s got his own face on his arse (his tights…). They exchange wristlocks, but Drake takes over with some punches on the apron, before running in to down Conners with a clothesline for a one-count. A big dropkick takes down Conners again, before he throws a forearm at Conners’ ear.
Conners comes back with a push down stomp out of the corner, before slingshotting Drake off the ropes for a back suplex that gets him a two-count. On the outside, Conners windmills into Drake with punches on the apron, before Conners goes for Drake’s ear in a bit of tit-for-tat.
A ear chinlock on Drake is eventually fought out of, as the Blackpool native hits a big forearm off the ropes before taking Conners into the corner. Drake’s enziguiri knocks Conners down, before a schoolboy picks up a near-fall. More back and forth ends with Conners hitting an elbow that turned intop a backbreaker on Drake, before the “Don’t Look Down” (a modified Righteous Kill DDT; a hammerlock Flatliner) gets Conners the win. Decent enough match, but the crowd didn’t feel that much into it. Joseph Conners will face either Mark Andrews or Dan Moloney tomorrow! ***
Speaking of, Andrews and Moloney video packages next, and they did make a passing reference to Andrews’ time in TNA. Without naming them, obviously. They give Andrews a promo backstage, so he’s going to get a loud reaction, especially if he uses a certain song…
First Round: Dan Moloney vs. Mark Andrews
Yes! He’s using his own music – but it’s not A House That’s Not Quite Home! They play “Fall To Pieces” – the song which had TNA guys in the music video for.
Moloney uses his power to take Andrews down, before attempting to block a hiptoss… and that doesn’t go well as Andrews gets it anyway. A backflip into a dropkick gets Andrews a near-fall, but Moloney comes back with a flapjack as he used his power once more. Andrews wriggles out of a Fireman’s carry, before a 619 takes Moloney down in the groin.
A slingshot takes Andrews back into a wheelbarrow roll-up, then a double stomp, before double knees and the Northern Lights and a standing moonsault gets Andrews a two-count. Moloney’s sent to the floor with a ‘rana, and we get our first dive with a moonsault off the apron!
Moloney’s rolled back in, but he moves away as Andrews goes up top. A Fireman’s carry facebuster is blocked at first, but the second attempt is successful as Moloney gets a running knee for a near-fall. Andrews counters a suplex into a Stundog Millionaire before going up for the Shooting Star Press for the win. Very much a crowd pleaser, and everyone’s doing enough to get noticed – either in victory or defeat. ***¼
Andrews faces Joseph Conners tomorrow in the quarter finals – and Dan Moloney, well, he’s going to get plenty more opportunities, you can be assured of that.
More video packages for our final first round match, focusing on Tucker recovering from serious knee surgery to get back wrestling.
Mark Dallas and Duncan Gray from ICW get screen time too, completing the list of three promotions who got “thank you”s for their help here.
First Round: Tucker vs. Tyler Bate
Tyler got a song very close to Sledgehammer here – and he started out on the defensive end as Tucker landed a headlock takedown. Of course, Bate’s a monster favourite here, with “Moustache Mountain” chants.
Tucker trips Bate and goes for an ankle lock before a series of missed moves sees Tucker trapped in the middle rope from an attempted superkick. Bate punches Tucker after a feinted shot, but he quickly fell to a back elbow out of the corner from the Northern Irishman.
A flip senton onto Tucker gets Bate a near-fall, before he went to a cravat on a grounded Tucker. Bate holds onto the cravat, but Tucker hits back with an enziguiri that knocked Bate down to the mat. Tucker takes Tyler into the corner with an enziguiri, before a flying enziguiri and a slingshot Flatliner gets Tucker another two-count.
Tucker goes up top, but he misses a senton bomb as Bate comes back with an uppercut out of the corner. A Tyler Driver 97 (Tiger Driver, with the 97 being the year Bate was born in…) is countered into a folding pin for a near-fall, before Bate’s back body dropped to the outside… but he cuts off a tope by Tucker with a forearm smash before saving Tucker from a nasty drop to the floor.
Bate tries for a suplex, before he leaps over the steps as Tucker whipped him there… but again, Tucker followed with a ‘rana onto the ramp. An enziguiri from the apron takes Bate down as Tucker slingshots in again, but the crossbody is eventually rolled through as Bate picks him up for an airplane spin! That eventually gets a near-fall, but Tucker shocks Bate with a superkick that sent Bate flying to the outside.
THAT is a super superkick!
Bate’s rolled back inside by Tucker, but that only gets a near-fall after the breather, before Bate gets the knees up to a senton bomb. They trade shots, before a Koppo kick takes down Tucker, and Tyler gets the win with a Tyler Driver 97! A fun main event, and that just meant we heard Tyler Bate’s amazing theme once more! ***¾
Tomorrow sees Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin, Trent Seven vs. Wolfgang, Mark Andrews vs. Joseph Conners and Pete Dunne vs. Sam Gradwell – plus the semis and the final as the historic UK Championship tournament comes to a crescendo. If Sunday is anywhere near as good as this, then we’re in for a hell of a weekend!
They show highlights from the earlier matches to recap the night’s action as Michael Cole (by himself) wraps up the show as the crowd drown him out as William Regal apparently made an appearance… and we have one final thing!
William Regal and Nigel McGuinness are on the stage, and they introduce the quarter-finalists. Jordan Devlin gets booed big time, so expect that to carry over to tomorrow. Trent Seven almost got booed because of Devlin ahead of his face-off with Wolfgang, and the night ended with all eight quarter-finalists on the stage as Pete Dunne charged into Sam Gradwell – leaving him laying as Regal was forced to separate the pair. “Don’t mess this up”… almost like Tyson and Austin!
What Worked: TYLER BATE’S MUSIC. Jordan Devlin – originally this came off as a screw-up, but the whole ending made sense in the end. Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness worked together really well, and my God, everyone on this show acquitted themselves really well regardless of which end they came out on.
What Didn’t: Eight matches in two hours meant that we had a lot of things had to be rushed, but that’s a personal nitpick.
Thumbs: Up. You didn’t expect anything different with these guys, did you?