Monday, January 16, 2017
After a solid night of action on night one, the tournament returns for its conclusion with what looks like a better show on paper. Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Mark Andrews, Sam Gradwell, Jordan Devlin, Joseph Conners and Wolfgang all compete to determine the first WWE UK Champion.
The show opened with a video package recapping the first round. The focus at the end was completely on Pete Dunne.
Dunne is still way over. Dunne offered a sarcastic handshake to the man he attacked at the end of yesterday’s show. This was intense from the start. Gradwell came out with big clotheslines and a suicide dive before a suplex on the ramp. The ramp spot was a good callback to their issues on night one. Cole did a good job in mentioning that these guys were friends and roommates in the past. Gradwell was willing to risk all for revenge, including hurting his injured back on a missile dropkick. Dunne shoved Gradwell on the apron onto the bad back, nearly getting a countout before winning seconds later inside with a corner body slam. A great sprint with some top notch storytelling. This was intense like it needed to be and Gradwell looks miles better here than on night one.
After the match, Dunne delivered the Bitter End to Gradwell.
I hope they never call him “Mandrews”. It was such a dumb name. They kept having Cole hammer home the “ANDREWS LIKES TO HAVE FUN” stuff. Andrews failed some high flying stuff early and it cost him. Conners sent him into the steel steps and pounded on him. Conners missed a big boot outside and awkwardly ran into the steps. Andrews found an opening by tightrope walking the guardrail and somersaulting onto Conners. That led to a comeback of sorts and Andrews won with the Shooting Star Press. I get the idea of doing the underdog Andrews story again but I don’t believe in enough to what Conners does offensively for it to fully work here.
Cole continued to put Seven over as a favorite to win it all. We got treated to hard hitting stuff to start before Wolfgang wowed us with a moonsault off the guardrail. Unfortunately, he couldn’t capitalize because he hurt his knee on the move, allowing Seven to score with a suicide dive. They traded more inside before Wolfgang tried another moonsault and Seven got the knees up. Bad decision on his end. Seven delivered a big back fist and the seven star lariat, but only got a near fall. Wolfgang blocked a super piledriver and knocked Seven off the top. He followed with a swanton onto Seven’s back and got the three to pull off the biggest upset so far. Another strong match, with some great stiff work from both men.
Bate is way over, especially after last night, while Devlin is the most hated guy in the tournament. The crowd was very into this because of that. Bate got the first big spot with a suicide dive. Devlin had answered to try and stop Bate’s offense. He made a mistake when a springboard cross body got caught and he was put into an airplane spin. The Tyler Driver 97 got countered into a rana for a near fall. Devlin nailed an enziguri but got caught with a clever right hand. The Tyler Driver 97 connected to a THUNDEROUS ovation and Bate advanced. Four for four in solid matches. Devlin was better here than in round one, but still doesn’t impress me much. Bate is awesome though.
I saw these two have a good outing in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles last year. Andrews got thrown around a bit early before scoring with a big dive outside. He continued with the aerial stuff as this match went a different way than expected. I did like Mark’s Northern lights suplex into an insane standing reverse 450 splash for an insanely close near fall. The high risk style bit him in the ass when Dunne caught a dive outside and delivered a release suplex onto the apron. He followed with another onto the ramp and looked for the countout win. Now it was Pete who went to the well too often and had the suplex countered into a stunner for a close call. Dunne then got his knees up on the SSP for his first real close call. Dunne caught a leaping Andrews with a brutal forearm but then had another suplex reversed into a rana for two. Mark went back up but Dunne avoided the SSP and German suplexed Andrews into the corner. Another suplex slam and the Bitter End finished this. These two worked so well together and had the crowd on the edge of their seat. Some great near falls throughout and I was super invested. I liked how both guys kept running into trouble when trying their strengths and that Andrews’ body caused him to take a breather before the final SSP attempt and it cost him the match.
These guys have a tough act to follow. Despite both guys being popular, Bate had the louder backing. Wolfgang used his power advantage from the start. Cole mentioned that Wolfgang may have broken his nose in the last match, so Bate went after that. Bate also targeted the knee, which Wolfgang tweaked in the last round. He should stop trying the moonsault. Wolfgang took long between moves as if he was taking Bate lightly. Bate impressed the hell out of many by surviving some big offense before managing to hit the Tyler Driver 97 on the big man. A fun big man/little man dynamic, made better by the crowd’s consistently great reaction to everything Tyler does.
Pete Dunne ran out and attacked Tyler Bate with a forearm and then tossed him into the ring post. Bate was barely moving and they sold it like he might not be able to compete in the finals. William Regal had to physically escort Dunne backstage.
Neville came out next for a non-tournament match and grabbed a microphone. He was not happy about being left off yet another WWE Network Tournament that he qualifies for. Neville said he should be champion by default and called himself the greatest star in the history of the continent, saying no man deserved to stand across from him. An unfamiliar theme played and Tommy End made his debut.
Surprisingly, he kept the Tommy End name here. Cole and Nigel did a good job in putting him over despite Cole’s unenthused reaction to his arrival. After getting overwhelmed a bit early, Neville turned it around and wore him down. End showed off a moonsault to the outside and then a series of great strikes inside. He got to showcase his hard hitting ability throughout, which was appreciated. Neville utilized a super rana and then hit the Red Arrow for the victory. I thought this was solid but unspectacular. End got to strut his stuff and Neville stayed strong since his heel turn.
Charly Caruso reported that despite a partially separated shoulder, Tyler Bate is cleared to compete.
I love that someone extremely popular is going against Dunne to combat his popularity. Commentary noted that Dunne trained Bate. Smart work early as Bate avoided using the bad shoulder. I also liked him smiling after Dunne slapped him. Bate refused to back down, going blow for blow with Pete and knocking him on his ass outside. Pete kept going back to the shoulder when in trouble and Bate kept fighting through it. Bate then countered the Bitter End into a small package for two. He used just one arm (for the most part) on the longest airplane spin of the tournament. Dunne caught him in a triangle submission of shorts and the crowd went nuts for Bate countering by powering up for a powerbomb. Bate busted out a fosbury flop and then what seemed to be a 450 knee drop for an insanely close near fall. We got another one when Bate kicked out of the Bitter End (though Cole telegraphed it on commentary). Dunne slapped on an armbar that Bate had to power out of into a brainbuster for another two count. Bate fired up and hit some rolling kicks, leading to the Tyler Driver 97 to win the entire thing. A spectacular finals that proved to be the best match of the tournament. This was a star making performance for both men, as was the entire tournament and it was the perfect capper to their story. Outside of the two power up spots, Bate sold the arm expertly and Pete came off as a fantastic villain throughout. Up there with Tanahashi/Naito for my current MOTY.
Post-match, William Regal, Triple H, Finlay and Finn Balor congratulated the champion.
Overall: A big step up from night one. They built upon the first night and continued to make Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne into stars. There was not a bad match on the card and we were treated to some awesome storytelling. The Tommy End surprise was nice and I liked that nothing overstayed its welcome. They made this feel like a big deal and an important show. I came away caring about guys I never have before. Wolfgang, Andrews, Seven and several others stood out, but none more than Bate and Dunne. Bate became the super popular likable babyface, while Dunne was the villain this was built around. I’m ready for more UK graps.