This Saturday, the United Kingdom Championship will be on the line during an NXT TakeOver event for the first time in history. The inaugural champion, Tyler Bate, still owns the distinction of being champion and will defend his belt against the man he defeated to win it, Pete Dunne. Even to NXT fans, these two remain relative unknowns. But they, along with others from the new U.K. promotion, could be on their way to becoming household names.
The WWE’s foray into the United Kingdom has been unparalleled. This week, the WWE Network is set to launch a weekly, one-hour show centered on the U.K. Championship. And maybe the best part for traditional fans who are on the fence about tuning in, the commentator will be good ol’ J.R., Jim Ross.
The big question: If NXT takes the best talent from around the world, why would the WWE chose to focus on just the U.K.? And can the stars there reliably become stars in the WWE moving forward? The company has chosen to use NXT as a platform for the title itself. That seems to be a useful method going forward, as the U.K. show doesn’t appear to be on its way to pumping out PPV-esque shows anytime soon. But questions about the wrestlers’ short- and long-term prospects should be squelched immediately upon viewing.
While Bate became the champion during the tournament, Dunne may have made the biggest name for himself. Dubbed, the “Bruiser Weight,” Dunne’s in-ring style is tenacious, and he plays the villainous role as well as any character the company currently has signed to a deal. He attacked multiple wrestlers before matches during the U.K. Tournament, establishing himself as an uber heel, even drawing the attention of Triple H.
In the short term, there may be no wrestler more ready for the main roster than Dunne. Plug him into either Raw or SmackDown Live and you immediately have a contender for either the Intercontinental or United States Championship. With his technical in-ring style, he’ll be able to work with myriad stars and truly make a name for himself. He’ll have a chance to become the second-ever United Kingdom Champion at NXT TakeOver: Chicago.
Bate, the man putting the belt on the line, was just 19 years old at the time of winning the tournament. He has turned 20 for his first TakeOver defense, but Bate is still unquestionably a youngster in a sport where many on the main roster had to wait the majority of their careers to get a shot.
For now, Bate is a treasure chest of potential. The U.K. crowd goes nuts for him and his jovial attitude, as he has a creative move set that’s unique to him. He’s well-built for a wrestler at such a young age and boasts an impressive mustache (but more on that in a moment).
Bate has already put together strong victories over his tag team partner Trent Seven, Oney Lorcan and Jack Gallagher on NXT. The fact that he is just the second teenager in WWE history to win a title indicates where the WWE believes his eventual ceiling will be. There is no man in the U.K. promotion with a better long-term chance at becoming a staple of the main roster than Bate, and the company’s decision to make him the first champion in the promotion indicates that.
From a creative perspective, they have made the savvy move to keep the U.K. Championship as just that; a title made for superstars from the United Kingdom. There’s always a chance that down the line the belt could become incorporated in the main roster show itself, but for now it’s the pinnacle of U.K. wrestling.
As for that mustache, Bate also currently serves as the Tag Team Champion at Progress Wrestling, a British-based promotion, alongside Seven. Coming into the U.K. Championship Tournament, Seven was likely the odds-on favorite to capture the gold, but was eliminated in a surprise upset in the quarterfinals by Wolfgang. The name of Bate and Seven’s duo? Mustache Mountain.
Each man has a gloriously designed mustache hanging from above their lips, and the fans eat it up. It’s a wrestling gimmick at its finest; silly, a little over the top, but extremely effective. They sell T-shirts with giant mustaches on them and are at their core the hearts of British Strong Style.
Due to Bate’s young age (Seven is 35 years old), bringing him up to the main roster as a member of a tag team is a brilliant way to get him exposure. The art of calling up a young wrestler with potential and sticking him in a tag team is a lost art, one that worked incredibly well for many of the stars of the old era. Especially for the three guys that formed The Shield that now populate the New Era. If a tag team revolution is next in order, Mustache Mountain should be in the picture.
The talent doesn’t stop there. It would be an injustice to leave out Mark Andrews, who has since continued to impress since the U.K. Championship Tournament. Andrews found himself in the semifinals of that tournament, before being eliminated by Pete Dunne, in what was arguably the most scintillating match of the whole weekend.
Hovering around the 160 pounds mark, all it takes is one match of watching Andrews to say, “How in the world is he not currently on 205 Live?” Andrews should have been there last month, this week, tomorrow, and in the future. He’ll undoubtedly have an impact on the weekly U.K. show, but his biggest contribution to the company could be in helping to give new life to a cruiserweight division that has gotten stale quickly.
In short, the WWE sees potential here. Had the U.K. Championship Tournament not been well received, it could have swept in under the rug and booked around it. But the WWE decided to go forward and make a one hour show on a weekly basis. Just where everyone will wind up within the company is part of the fun, so for now, enjoy the previously unrecognized world of United Kingdom wrestling.