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31 Days of Wrestling (12/17/18): The Second United Kingdom Championship Tournament


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

When (not if) WWE eventually takes over each region in the world, establishing their own brand of NXT in all the international wrestling centers, we can all point to 2018, the second United Kingdom Championship Tournament, and the rise of NXT UK as the beginning of it all.

The first year of the United Kingdom Championship was strange and formless, like the void God played with right before the Creation. There was a tournament at the beginning of the year, and there was a champion. There were two champions, even. But the United Kingdom Championship and most of the UK "division" that it brought with it didn't really have a home. Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, and the rest of the gang were able to freely move about while they were waiting for the house to be built.

That all changed this year with NXT UK. The fact that the United Kingdom division was finally getting a show of its own allowed the WWE to go more all-out with this year's tournament than it did last year, getting bigger names and partnering up with more established promotions.

In fact, nothing exemplified this more than the finals of this year's tournament, where Liverpool's #1 Zack Gibson faced off against the Kiwi Buzzsaw, Travis Banks.


Zack Gibson beat an injured but still-game Travis Banks at the end of the first night, proving himself worthy of a title shot against Pete Dunne. But being the fresher guy in all of this (an unfair advantage, really) Dunne was able to repel Liverpool's #1 the next night.

By the time the Royal Albert Hall got to the end of the first night of the tournament finale, it no longer mattered who was going to win. It didn't even matter that Zack Gibson, this year's tournament winner, would lose to defending champion Pete Dunne the next night—everyone knew that everyone they saw during the whole tournament was going to be on NXT UK. What mattered more was the company had done a good job of getting solid household names, some of the plain best in the UK to be a part of this. 

And just like that, the wrestling scene in the UK got its own consistent channel on a network that reaches so many fans around the world. Yes, one can and will argue that it's still through the filter of the WWE lens, but it's undeniable that NXT UK has managed to do a good job of being a WWE product and still be a true representative of the British scene.

NXT UK is on track to be one of the best offerings the WWE has on the Network, even with so much content that they have to keep up by putting out two episodes a week. (If you're still not on this and you're looking for a good alternative to the main roster, it's waiting for you to be discovered.) 

With how they're doing, soon enough there won't be a star left hidden in the UK, what more the world. 

***
31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

Read our previous entries:

1. Winnipeg Boys Conquer the Tokyo Dome (Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, No DQ match for IWGP US Heavyweight title, Wrestle Kingdom 12)
2. Roman Reigns Finally Becomes Universal Champion (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, SummerSlam 2018)
3. The Man Is Last Woman Standing (Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch, Last Woman Standing match for SmackDown Women's title, Evolution)
4. Kenny Omega, Finally IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, 2-out-of-3 Falls match, Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall)
5. The Resurrection of Daniel Bryan (AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, WWE SmackDown Live 11/13/18) 
6. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Unsanctioned match (NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
7. The Lightbringer Has Arrived (Ralph Imabayashi vs. Quatro for the PWR Championship, PWR Live: Homefront)
8. The First Ever Women's Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2018)
9. To Surpass God (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, G1 Climax 28 Finals)
10. Wreck It, Rowdy (Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H, WrestleMania 34)
11. Pentagon Dark vs. Marty "The Moth" Martinez (Ultima Lucha Cuatro)
12. King in the North (America) (6-Way Ladder match for NXT North American title, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
13. A Dream Ricochets (Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream, NXT TakeOver: Chicago II)
14. Of Queens and Empires (Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the SmackDown Women's title, WrestleMania 34)
15. #ALLIN For Ten Pounds of Gold (Nick Aldis vs. Cody for the NWA Heavyweight title, All In)
16. The Renaissance of 205 Live (Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali, WrestleMania 34)

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