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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: 2018 United Kingdom Championship Tournament, Night 2


Don't let the title of this show fool you—even though it's the second night of the United Kingdom Championship Tournament special, what it really is is the two-and-a-half-hour pilot episode for NXT UK.

Where the first night showed the world what WWE planned to do with the UK division, the second night showed who's in and where they stand in the upcoming brand launch. I mean, if it wasn't obvious yet with all the undercard developments, the fact that they traded the red-and-gold ring of the tournament for the traditional NXT black-and-yellow, the final shot of the show—with Triple H standing with Johnny Saint and everyone who's wrestled over the tourney—makes it clear that this is what you should expect for NXT UK. Everyone you've seen over the past couple of days is everyone who's in.


2018 tournament winner Zack Gibson doesn't take the title from champion Pete Dunne, establishing that 1) coming out on top doesn't necessarily mean you're the favorite to win, because 2) you did just wrestle four times the day before. It may be easy to say that nothing changes in a successful Dunne defense, but consider that they're launching a new division: it's pretty telling that their first choices in British Strong Style—especially with Moustache Mountain winning the NXT Tag Team Championships here—are the guys they'll be relying on to carry the UK brand as it launches. When they're your go-to guys, you know you've chosen well.

Although I understand the need to for pretty much all of them, I wish we didn't get so much main NXT involvement. It's clear that the top dogs from NXT were there to help establish credibility for the UK wing, showing they can shuttle back and forth across the pond when their British brothers and sisters need a boost, but I think the UK guys could've stood on their own. After the exhausting experience that was the first night, this show also could've benefitted from a streamlined runtime, taking out the North American Championship match (that could've been on an episode of NXT, as a crossover promotion) and the tag match between the top guys. 

Anyway, all gripes aside, consider this year's United Kingdom Championship Tournament a success. It's another feather to Triple H's cap as he continues to forcefully push for a return back to wrestling's roots. 

Even if some may say he's being shrewd, he's slowly and positively remodeling the industry—even if it's nothing original, as it is a modern take on the territory system—using the corporation's power. With NXT and NXT UK, as well as other projects like the Cruiserweight and Mae Young Classics, he's both carefully and organically curating pro wrestling, presenting it as it should be, taking it back from how his father-in-law remade it in his own vision. (He even deliberately calls it professional wrestling in his closing promo.) 

If anything, I'm interested in seeing what happens when he finally manages to take over the world. If the UK division is any indication, though, it'll be a hell of a time to be a fan and a wrestler.

United Kingdom Championship Tournament 2018 Night 2 Final Grade: A-

Match of the Night



So many good stuff happening on this show, but I'm narrowly going to give this to the NXT Women's Championship match between Toni Storm and Shayna Baszler. If this weren't a United Kingdom Championship Tournament at all, I'd have argued that these two go on last, even with that finish. Storm obviously wasn't going to win this one, but they made her look strongest with how Shayna had to beat her, and it's just refreshing to see someone like Toni kick that much ass and look that damn good doing it. There's no way she isn't the first UK Women's Champion.

Other observations

  • Not a bad move at all to give Moustache Mountain the NXT tag titles for that "hometown" pop. Who made the rule that people had to lose in their hometown anyway?
  • A four-man fatal match? NXT UK means business, bruv. No one's getting out alive.
  • How silly does this make Johnny Saint look, though? The triple threat match was already an impromptu decision—putting the runner-up into the match for another shot kind of waters down Zack Gibson winning the tournament, but now adding another guy at the last minute? Kinda show is he running here?!
  • Look at Noam Dar. LOOK AT HIM. He was the last guy I expected to be on this show, and I love that surprise. LOOK AT HIM. He looks the best I've ever seen him, and moving him to the UK division is a real welcome move after what they've done to him on 205 Live.
  • That said, I knew homeboy was going to win the title shot the moment he showed up, and I knew Dunne was going to retain the moment Dar won. (That's without reading spoilers.)
  • I had no idea the Coffey brothers were actually a tag team, so seeing them together was fun to watch. It also ensures that Moustache Mountain has someone to feud with.
  • Consider this: Wolfgang and Pete Dunne did these shows... and then flew all the way to Singapore to work SPW a few days later.
  • I'll be honest, the tag match between Velveteen Dream, EC3, Aleister Black, and Ricochet was definitely fun, but expendable in the grand scheme of things.
  • I also totally forgot that Charlie Morgan vs. Killer Kelly happened, so... yeah.
  • I mean, it wasn't bad at all, but again... streamlining.
  • Who would've thought it was possible for Pete Dunne to actually look like a babyface?
Photo from WWE


*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswar) is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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