WWE UK Championship Tournament First Round (2018) Review

With ITV having finally taped some shows for their World Of Sport reboot, it’s no surprise to see WWE has decided to do something with their UK Title. After hinting at it for well over a year, they’ve announced NXT UK, with a second UK Championship Tournament working as the build-up. The First Round took place both at Full Sail and Download Festival, so let’s have a look at what went down.

Jack Gallagher defeated Drew Gulak

If you’re a fan of the grappling part of the graps, then you’ll enjoy this one. Gulak and Gallagher love a tussle on the mat, so they got straight down to it.

It’s a style I veer back and forth on. I’ve seen some fantastic examples (I enjoyed KUSHIDA vs SHO from Best Of The Super Juniors) while I’ve been bored shitless by others. This one sat in the middle. Everything they were doing was well done and Gulak, in particular, brings a nice aggressive streak to it. However, I did find myself zoning out a bit.

In fact, I thought the best part was when they got off the ground and started hitting each other. The final few minutes were a stiff slugfest with Gallagher picking up the win with a Knockout Headbutt. I love that finish, as it gets across the idea that these matches can be won in a blink of an eye. It was the highlight of a solid if unspectacular encounter.

Verdict: Three Stars

Flash Morgan Webster defeated James Drake

We’ve moved over to Download for the rest of the round, so I was intrigued to see what the crowd would be like.  At the start, they were amusing themselves with chants about Drake having his face on his arse, but for the most part, they were quite quiet. The mixture of fans and people who have wandered into the tent not providing the hottest atmosphere.

Any reaction they did get was down to Webster, who came across like a star. He got to show off the flash side of his offence as he worked in some cool Lucha Arm Drags and a few high-flying spots (including a top rope Frankensteiner). Sadly, it left Drake feeling a bit irrelevant. You could have replaced him with any number of wrestlers, and I don’t think the match would have gone any differently.

All of which made the decision to put Webster over, look like the right one. He rolled out-of-the-way of a 450 Splash with Drake coming down and tweaking his knee. Flash quickly struck hitting the Eton Rifle (essentially a Destino) for the three in a nice showcase for the Modfather.

Verdict: Three Stars

Ashton Smith defeated Joseph Conners

I know I’m not alone in this opinion, but Connors does nothing for me. He controlled the bulk of the action which consequently saw me zone out. Although that happens a lot when I’m watching WWE so they probably won’t hold it against him.

As far as I can remember, this was my first time seeing Smith, and he looked alright. He had a burst of offence at the start before spending most of their time selling for Conners who worked over the mid-section. While he did his job, it wasn’t until the big comeback that we really got to see him.

And in that comeback, he did more for himself than Conners did in his entire heat section. Smith showed fire, and while some of his facial expressions were a bit over the top, it wasn’t enough to take me out of it. He’s someone who definitely has something.

This suffered from being worked in the WWE style. Rather than a fun back and forth sprint they had to do the classic heel working over the babyface shtick. More Smith would have made this a much better contest.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Dave Mastiff defeated Kenny Williams

We’ve got a size difference as Dave Mastiff takes on The Bollocks, although something tells me WWE won’t be using that nickname.

Unsurprisingly, they played up to the big man, little man combo with Mastiff tossing Williams around while Kenny looked to create the distance and strike quickly. It was also pretty clear that Big Dave was going over although they were giving Williams enough shine to ensure people won’t forget him. He’s at his best when he’s flying around the ring, whether that’s from his own attacks or from Dave throwing him.

In the end, that strength would prove decisive. Mastiff cut off a Tornado DDT attempt by grabbing hold of Kenny and slamming him to the ground. A John Woo followed by that massive Cannonball was enough for the win in a fun sprint that left both men looking good.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Travis Banks defeated El Ligero

Nigel was working hard to put El Ligero over on commentary. It’s worth pointing out that he’s turned into a great commentator. He’s fantastic at picking out the same details of what wrestlers are doing and aiding them in telling stories.

Unsurprisingly, these two had a fun bout although they weren’t given much in the way of time. Banks is one of the favourites for the tournament and was kept hot as Ligero’s role was reduced to putting him over. Of course, El Ligero is more than capable of maximising the minutes he did have, taking flight over the top ropes and showing off that ‘Lucha’ style.

A Slice of Heaven followed by the Kiwi Crusher would put it to bed, and while this was decent, it needed another five minutes to be anything more than that. There is only so much you can do in the time they were given, especially if you’re looking to establish both men.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

Zack Gibson defeated Amir Jordan

Much like Conners vs Smith, this was worked in that classic WWE style with the heel dominating the action and the babyface having occasional hope spots. Unlike the earlier contest, this one worked perfectly.

Zack Gibson came in as the grizzled old veteran who had no interest in letting Jordan engage in any fancy tricks. He wanted to get him on the mat, twist him up a bit and leave him screaming for Mummy.

Jordan still managed to impress, showing a lot of fire as he fought to survive. However, Gibson was portrayed as being too much for him. He’s the wily old prick who is out to ruin everyone’s day and laugh in your face while he does it. If WWE allows him to go going down that route, he could easily be the biggest heel they have.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Jordan Devlin defeated Tyson T-Bone

Tyson T-Bone was a nice change from everything we’ve seen so far as his brawling style gave him the advantage over Devlin. He came out and spent most of the match punching Jordan in the face which proved to be a pretty exceptional tactic.

It looked like it was going to lead him to victory too, right up until it didn’t. Despite dominating 90% of the contest, T-Bone walked into a Whirlwind Enziguri and that was that.

Once again, this needed more time. The finish came out of nowhere and didn’t do either man any favours. With another five minutes, they could have told the story of Devlin throwing everything into one last throw of the dice to steal the win. As it was, it just felt a bit random.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Joe Coffey defeated Tucker

I find it really hard to take the Super Duper Kick seriously. Every time Nigel says it he sounds like a child.

Once again, this was clearly designed to showcase one of the participants over the other. Joe Coffey was giving the chance to show off his formidable strength, spinning Tucker around and dealing out some vicious strikes.

And like all the other matches, Tucker got a quick chance to shine. Firing up and coming back with a cool spinning Flatliner. However, it was only to be a short reprieve as he later ate a Discus Lariat and with it the loss.

I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it was another decent showing. Nothing exceptional and yet provided some fun while it was going on.

Verdict: Three Stars

Overall Show

While the star ratings are all a bit average, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that this was very easy to watch. Even those on the lower end of the spectrum weren’t awful, and everyone got a bit of a chance to shine. If this is the blueprint for NXT UK, it could produce some fantastic wrestling.

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