We’ve left Download Festival behind for the first night proper of 2018’s UK Championship Tournament. WWE has moved things to the slightly more sophisticated surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall where they aren’t only bashing through the quarters, but the semis and the final as well. Let’s hope time constraints don’t damage what has the potential to be a good show.
Zack Gibson defeated Jack Gallagher
The crowd is a bit more active than they were at Download as Gibson’s entrance draws instant heat. That won’t do him any harm.
As you’d expect, these two started on the ground going back and forth as they grappled for control. Gallagher even threw in a little Johnny Saint tribute which was a lovely touch. Sadly, the momentum he gained was shortlived as Gibson was able to drop his arm across the top rope and take control.
From there, things picked up a bit. Gibson controlled the bulk of the action, grinding away at Gallagher’s limb and looking to do all sorts of horrible things to him. Jack never gave up, though. He was pushed into the babyface role and embraced it as he battled from underneath. A combination of those knockout blows and his Herculean feats of strength meant he was always in this.
Sadly, it was to be one of those occasions where the bastard came out on top, and when Gallagher went for the Diving Headbutt, Zack got his legs up. From there, it was a case of locking in the Shankly Gates and waiting for the bell to ring. These two have wrestled many times before, and that shone through in an enjoyable opener.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Joe Coffey defeated Dave Mastiff
Sometimes wrestling thrives on being complicated. At other times, it needs two big bulls to run into each other. This was very much an example of the later.
What makes the running into each other so exciting is that Coffey and Mastiff are men who can move. It’s not two lumbering beasts taking a minute to cross the ring. It’s two rhinos, ramming each other until only one can stand.
It was also a chance for Coffey to show off what he can do. He got Mastiff up for a Suplex before following up with an enormous Belly to Belly. Coffey is a big guy, but Dave is a bigger one, and this established the Iron King as a man who can throw anyone around.
He’d prove he isn’t all about the power game, as he leapt to the top rope to hit a Crossbody before following up with a Discus Lariat for the win. It was designed to establish Coffey as a player in the tournament and did precisely that.
Verdict: Three Stars
Flash Morgan Webster defeated Jordan Devlin
I would have put this down as a win for Devlin, so it was a shock to see Flash come out with the victory. It felt like they were setting Jordan on a path that would have seen him make up for last year’s defeat. Said path apparently wasn’t a very long one.
Despite that, these two were a natural pairing. Flash and Devlin are both capable of working at top speed while Jordan’s mean streak brought some edge to proceedings. They took the small amount of time they had and stuffed it full of exciting wrestling. Devlin hitting an Avalanche Spanish Fly was a particular highlight.
It was that risk-taking that would prove Devlin’s downfall. He came off the top with a Moonsault only for there to be no one at home. Flash, much like in the first round, grabbed his opportunity and connected with the Eton Rifle. That puts the Modfather two for two in impressive showings.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Travis Banks defeated Ashton Smith
The most straightforward encounter so far as Banks never seemed to be in danger. The Progress Champion was in buzzsaw mode as he used those kicks to negate everything that Smith tried to chain together.
Despite mainly working to enhance Banks, Smith also looked alright. He needs to tone everything down a bit as his emoting felt a bit over the top. It’s better to have a bit of that than to have nothing, but pulling back on it just a smidge would make it all seem a bit more real.
Banks, meanwhile, is Travis Banks. He very rarely puts on a lousy showing, and while this was far from his best, he still impressed as he picked up a straightforward win with the Kiwi Crusher.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Toni Storm defeated Killer Kelly and Isla Dawn to become the Number One Contender for the NXT Women’s Title
Jinny was meant to be the fourth dancer in this particular fray. Unfortunately, she picked up an injury on the night, so they restarted it with the three remaining wrestlers. From what I’ve heard it was nothing too serious, so that, at least, is a relief.
It was a goddamn delight to watch Killer Kelly beat people up on such a big stage. Kelly has been a revelation for me since I started watching wXw and while it’s clear that WWE’s focus is on Toni Storm, Killer is good at standing out. She drops people on their head a few times and takes it from there.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Isla Dawn who played the third wheel in the limited time they had. They barely got to the five-minute mark before Toni hulked up and took everyone out. WWE see her as the star, and they’re not the first company to do so. I don’t even disagree, but it would have been nice to have seen the other two get some sparkle before the Storm Zero (which is an Air Raid Crash rather than a Piledriver) got the win.
Verdict: Three Stars
Zack Gibson defeated Flash Morgan Webster
In a rare sign of sportsmanship, Gibson did shake Webster’s hand. Of course, he managed to do it in the most prickish manner possible as he refused to let go afterwards. He might have regretted that, as a few seconds later Flash charged across the ring and smashed his knee into Zack’s big bald head.
Zack is a master at being a dickhead, and this was a fantastic example of why. Flash was charging around the ring, leaving his feet at every opportunity while Zack sold his ass off for him. Then, at the exact right moment, he struck. Ruining everyone’s fun as he caught Webster out of the air on a dive. A Helter Skelter on the ring ramp signalled the end, and while Flash did make it back to the ring, he walked straight into the Shankly Gates as he did so.
That’s how to wrestle a sprint. While Webster and Gibson didn’t have much time, they packed that time with a hot story and some cool moments. It was a fitting end to an eye-catching tournament from Flash.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Travis Banks defeated Joe Coffey
Coffey and Banks started cautiously until Joe went for the cheap shot during a handshake. After that, they started swinging. It was an exciting face-off as Coffey’s power went up against the lightning fast kicks of Trav.
This being WWE, the power won out in the early going, and Joe began working Banks over. It was a friendly reminder that Joe Coffey is infinitely better as a battling babyface than he is as a dull heel.
Thankfully, these two found their legs in the finishing stretch as they got down to dishing out big moves and stiffer strikes. Those are things I like so I went right along with them. It would come to an end when Joe teed up that Discus Clothesline only for Banks to react by rolling the Iron King up for the three.
Joe was apparently a bit pissed off about that because he responded by attacking Banks after the bell. It was an assault which included driving Banks’ shoulder into the ring post. I imagine that will come to the fore in the final.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) defeated The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong)
It’s safe to say that Dunne, Seven and Bate were a little bit over in their homeland. Pete Dunne getting a chance to take his revenge on Roddy Strong got a particularly strong reaction.
This reminded me of when WWE was throwing out fantastic trio matches with The SHIELD every week. They packed their time with memorable moments. From Pete Dunne singlehandedly taking out the entirety of The Undisputed Era to Kyle O’Reilly being Kyle O’Reilly. How good is that guy?
This is what British Strong Style does. I’ve seen them put together these wild six man tags multiple times and they’re always great. When you give them wrestlers like O’Reilly, Strong and Adam Cole to dance with, there was no chance they’d produce at a level below excellent. It’s almost easy for them. Not that I’m trying to diminish the achievement. After a show packed with solid action, this was the one that escalated things to great.
Verdict: Four Stars
Zack Gibson defeated Travis Banks to win the UK Championship Tournament
Banks came in with the shoulder Coffey attacked strapped up. A cliched heel commentator would point out that he had painted a target on it. Gibson agreed as the early portion of the contest was all about him torturing poor Trav’s injured wing.
Sadly for Zack, Travis Bank has been presented as a killer throughout this tournament, and when he came firing back, he did so hard. Gibson might have wished he had taken out Bank’s leg rather than his arm as those kicks started flying.
All the shorter matches earlier in the show began to be worth it here as these two were given the time to tell their story. The more time passed, the more Banks came into things. He was able to get away from Zack and deal out some damage of his own.
Unfortunately, that injured arm was always there. If Zack was in trouble, it was like a big red button he could slam to level things up. Even as Banks escaped the first Shankly Gates to be locked on properly, more damage was being down to that stricken limb.
The final minutes were fantastic as Banks hit The Kiwi Crusher only for Zack to kick out to the shock of the fans. Gibson would escape to the outside, and when Banks tried to follow him there with a dive, he was knocked out of the air by a palm strike. A Helter Skelter in the ring didn’t get the three, but it did open the Shankly Gates, and Gibson ushered Banks through them.
An excellent end to the tournament with the big bad proving triumphant. Both men came out smelling of roses, and I imagine we’ll see a lot more of both of them in NXT UK.
Verdict: Four Stars
An enjoyable show from WWE. How is this the same company that puts on those awful PPVs every month? It doesn’t feel like they can be related. Still, the UK guys did themselves proud, which is all that matters.