UK CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT REVIEW, 6/25

I loved this tournament last year, it was some of the best wrestling I’ve ever seen, so I’m really excited for this.

 

QUARTERFINAL MATCH: JACK GALLAGHER VS. ZACK GIBSON

We’re used to seeing Gallagher as a heel on 205 Live but he’s the obvious face in his match as Gibson is serenaded by a chorus of boos during his entrance. Gibson shirks the pre-match handshake. I feel like British wrestling fans only go to shows to hear themselves sing. Really good chain and mat wrestling in this match. Gallagher is a master of manipulation, both body and mind, as he is great at getting into his opponent’s head with his unorthodox and throwback style. Playing the face in this match, Gallagher isn’t as aggressive and ruthless as we usually see him on 205 Live, but Gibson is. You can see the aggressiveness as Gibson locks in his holds, while Gallagher reverts back to a more counter-attack and quick technical style that he had before his heel turn. I understand they want to keep a normal heel-face dynamic and it’s an age-old formula that the heel controls the match with aggressive rest holds and thwarts the early comeback attempts by the face, but everyone has seen Gallagher’s aggressive style on 205 Live, so I think it would make more sense and serve him better if he brought that viciousness into this match, rather than being beaten down by an opponent using that same style. Gallagher uses an innovative flip over the ropes to catch Gibson in a rear choke but Gibson gets his foot on the ropes. That was a really exciting sequence following a triangle choke and an arm bar from Gentleman Jack. Gibson’s Ticket to Ride move is pretty awesome. Mauro calls it a Lung Blower which I don’t remember hearing before. Then Mauro says “Gallagher just smoked Gibson like a Rasta.” Wow. Gibson catches Gallagher with a wrist lock submission called the “Shankly Gates” after countering a top rope move to get the win and move on to the semifinals. Exciting match, crowd way into it.

Match Rating; Seven Gold Medals

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QUARTERFINAL MATCH: JOE COFFEY VS. DAVE MASTIFF

Mastiff is huge. Coffey isn’t small at 5’11, 242, but Mastiff is 5’10, 315. A pretty cool sequence to start as both men run at each other multiple times but neither can move the other. Coffey can move for a big man, he seems to have a great mix of strength and agility. Mastiff hits a senton splash to show he can move as well. Mastiff’s game plan involves putting his weight on Coffey and wearing out his neck and back, while Coffey continues to throw strikes to Mastiff’s midsection, likely an attempt to chop down the big man and tire him out early. Coffey hits a couple massive suplexes on the 315-pound Mastiff to the delight of the crowd, and nearly gets a win with a perfect bridging German suplex. Mastiff reminds me a lot of Kevin Owens with his body type and agility. He just does not match up well with Coffey, whose strength, endurance, and agility seems to neutralize Mastiff’s size advantage, with Coffey being able to take anything Mastiff could dish out. Coffey hits a huge clothesline for the win. I’m sure the brackets and matchups and set up to get the best matches possible, and this one seemed to set up a perfect opportunity for Coffey to show his abilities, specifically his strength in tossing around a 315 pounder. It was a really cool sight to see, and I thoroughly enjoyed the match.

Match Rating: Eight Gold Medals

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QUARTERFINAL MATCH: “FLASH” MORGAN WEBSTER VS. JORDAN DEVLIN

Webster is a hell of a character. I really enjoyed his 205 Live appearance and I love his Mod style. He’ll be the face in this match. I don’t know anything about the Irishman Jordan Devlin. Webster is a sneaky good wrestler. He’s not quite a No Way Jose type guy in his eccentricities, but he plays a character and can seem like his character presentation is more important than whether he wins the match. I think that plays to his advantage, as it can make an opponent think he’s a pushover in the ring, which he certainly is not. Webster is very quick and innovative and can easily frustrate an opponent very quickly, however Devlin doesn’t seem affected by anything early on as punishes Webster with brutal-looking strikes. Devlin makes the classic mistake of tossing a quicker opponent into the corner and running at him instead of staying right on him. Webster lands a counter kick and takes control of the match. He ends a pretty awesome sequence of quick takedowns with three consecutive suicide dives, and the crowd pops hard. Devlin knocks Morgan off the top turnbuckle and onto his balls, then hits a top rope avalanche Spanish fly that looked absolutely incredible, but Morgan stays alive with a kick out at two. Devlin nails a superkick for another two count but then misses a moonsault, and Morgan hits his finisher called the Eton Rifle, which looks something like Kalisto’s Salida del Sol but much cooler, and gets the win. Good match between two guys who can really go. Not the best match of the show, but the finishing sequence was really great.

Match Rating: Six Gold Medals

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QUARTERFINAL MATCH: TRAVIS BANKS VS. ASHTON SMITH

I don’t know anything about either of these guys. Banks shows off a lot of quickness and agility during the opening sequence. Smith shows off some athleticism of his own, but Banks stops him with crushing kicks and chops. Banks seems to be he heel in the match, at least that’s the dynamic so far. The crowd is way down for this match and doesn’t seem into either guy yet. Neither guy showed much personality during the introductions, nor have they showed any during the match so far, so that’s a likely reason why the crowd hasn’t gotten behind the match. Smith hits a somersault suicide dive that doesn’t even get a big reaction. Banks hits a kick from the top rope followed by his Kiwi Crusher finisher (a sitout fisherman’s buster) for the win. The crowd did come alive a bit for the finishing sequence, but were pretty dead for most of the match, which had good wrestling but didn’t elicit much excitement. It was a better match than the crowd would have you believe.

Match Rating: Five Gold Medals

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TRIPLE THREAT MATCH TO DETERMINE #1 CONTENDER FOR NXT WOMEN’S TITLE: TONI STORM VS. KILLER KELLY VS. ISLA DAWN

I’ve seen Toni Storm in the Mae Young classic and she really impressed me. She’s the clear favorite in this match and definitely has the crowd support. The Portuguese Killer Kelly looks like a total bad ass, but this is the first I’ve ever seen her or Isla Dawn. Dawn and Kelly gang up on Storm to start the match as the crowd boos. They hit a cool-looking wheelbarrow DDT on Storm as she rolls out of the ring. Oh you know how much I love that. She stays out there for an exorbitant amount of time as this turns into a one-on-one match between two women that the crowd doesn’t seem to care for. Storm comes back in with a German suplex on Kelly to inject some life back into the match and the crowd. Kelly hits a massive kick on Isla Dawn and throws her back into the ring, but Storm then kicks Kelly to the outside and gets the win over Dawn to earn a match with Shayna Baszler tomorrow night. This match was pretty god damn lame, there was barely and good action.

Match Rating: Two Gold Medals

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HHH introduces Johnny Saint to tell the crowd about the “more” that WWE is bringing to the UK. Saint announces the commencement of the NXT UK brand! This is huge. HHH announces the dates and that there will be a women’s division as well as a tag team division, and that Johnny Saint will be the GM. This is extremely exciting, I’m really pumped and just hope that it’s all shown on the network.

 

SEMIFINAL MATCH: FLASH MORGAN WEBSTER VS. ZACK GIBSON

If Morgan can suck Gibson in and hit precision strikes with his counter attacks, I think he can take this match. It’s a good matchup for him if he wrestles smart. Gibson should corner Webster and keep the pace slow if he can, stay on top of him and work his legs. Surprisingly it’s Webster who takes the idea I had for Gibson and runs with it, nailing and early kick followed by some corner strikes before he starts to take flight. Webster did not wait for counter strike opportunities, but eventually his aggression got the best of him as he went for his finisher way too early. Gibson beats him down on the corner than locks in what looks like the same submission he used to beat Gallagher. Gibson makes the mistake of getting bothered by the crowd chants, giving Webster ample time to recover, counter, and take control of the match. Webster hit one suicide dive but then was caught on his second attempt and got suplexed on the entrance ramp. Ouch. Webster barely beats the count to get back in the ring but Gibson immediately locks in Shankly Gates for the win. This match felt exciting and meaningful, I just thought the ending was a little anti-climactic. We have a heel in the finals, and I expect it’ll be Joe Coffey defeating Travis Banks to meet Gibson in the finals.

Match Rating: Seven Gold Medals

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SEMIFINAL MATCH: TRAVIS BANKS VS. JOE COFFEY

If you can’t tell, I’m really high on Coffey from the little bit of him I’ve seen. I think he’s going to win it all and I really look forward to a match between him and Pete Dunne. They’re doing something similar to him that they did with Tyler Bate last year, with Bate nursing a shoulder injury and Dunne attacking him after his semifinal match to exploit it. Coffey is shown favoring his ribs, which I expect will be used as the face overcoming his injuries to win the tournament. You can see Coffey is slower and not as aggressive in this match as he was against Mastiff, which is smart to make the rib injury more believable. He’s still able to maintain control of the match pretty easily. Banks would be smart to stick and move, make Coffey chase him around the ring and tire himself out. Coffey is relentless, Banks can’t get anything going. Coffey seems to be wrestling like a heel, I can’t figure out why he’s nursing an injury and still wrestling more like a heel. Banks was more of a heel in his quarterfinal match, but he’s the one making a face-type comeback in this one. I dunno. I really like Coffey and I’ll just go with that. It does make me wonder, if Banks is the face here, will he get the win and be a face against Gibson? I don’t think so, I can tell Coffey is money. Both men are down and Banks gets up with a fury, hitting a dropkick and a double stomp for a very near fall. Banks hits a kick and gets a roll-up for the win, and I’m extremely disappointed. Coffey goes full heel and attacks Banks after the match, throwing him should first into the ring post then hitting a discus clothesline. This is the Tyler Bate situation to a T. The match was great, especially the later sequences leading up the pin. Very exciting action.

Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals

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SIX-MAN TAG TEAM MATCH: BRITISH STRONG STYLE VS. THE UNDISPUTED ERA

20-year-old Tyler Bate starts off against 13-year-old Kyle O’Reilly. Their styles match up terrifically. Both are excellent mat technicians Roddy gets the “You sold out!” chant, and Bate holds him as he tags in Dunne. Everyone, especially Dunne, has been waiting for these two to get their hands on each other. Undisputed Era, especially Adam Cole, are great at baiting their opponents into disadvantaged situations. They bend the rules as much as they can, they’re great heels. Dunne gets in against Roddy again and the crowd pops big. He suplexes Cole on top of Roddy and gets a two count. Bate catches teenage hooligan Kyle O’Reilly in mid air and throws him onto Roddy in the corner, they somehow does an airplane on Cole and a giant swing on Roddy at the same time. That was incredible. Roddy caught Dunne in midair with a dropkick. This match is incredibly exciting without being a spotfest. Dunne goes for the Bitter End against whippersnapper O’Reilly but it gets countered into a guillotine. Luckily Dunne is able to get to his corner and shit gets crazy with everyone in the ring, and eventually everyone is down. The crowd is on its feet. After he broke up a two count in the ring, Dunne takes out Roddy and Cole with a moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the outside. Trent Seven and Tyler Bate hit a combination clothesline/dragon suplex on Kyle O’Reilly, who is out past his bedtime, to give the home team the win. I have no critiques here whatsoever. This match was fucking incredibly awesome.

Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals

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Shawn Michaels addresses the crowd prior to the final. Big pops.

 

TOURNAMENT FINALS: TRAVIS BANKS VS. ZACK GIBSON

I feel like Zack Gibson is going to win. From what I’ve seen of him he’s a mat technician/submission specialist, and Banks’ shoulder is injured and taped up. Gibson IMMEDIATELY goes after the injure arm. Pretty boring start to the match with some circling and basic mat wrestling. They brawl for a bit on the outside and Gibson drops Banks’ injured arm across the barrier before throwing him into the steel steps, injured shoulder first. Back in the ring Gibson continues to put strain on Banks’ arm with submission holds and a good hard kick. Banks fights back and Gibson rolls out of the ring, giving both men the opportunity to recover, until Banks hits a suicide dive that looked like it just ended with both men hugging. Excellent counter by Banks on the outside as Gibson tries to throw him into the barricade, but instead he hops onto it and uses it as a springboard for a kick. Now we get both men standing toe to toe and throwing punches in the middle of the ring, and I have to believe that Gibson has the advantage there since he has two good arms. Then they start bitch slapping each other in the face. Banks figures out that if his arm doesn’t work, use his legs, and hits a series of punishing kicks. Gibson is able to lock in Shankly Gates on Banks’ bad arm, but Banks somehow makes it to the ropes to keep the match going. Banks has a nasty cut over his left eye that has to be filling his eye with blood. He has a furious comeback that ends with his Slice of Heaven finisher, where he steps up to the second turnbuckle then jumps off with a flying kick. Gibson recovers and goes for a pin with his feet on the ropes, but the ref catches him at two. While Gibson argues with the ref Banks hits a clothesline and a Michinoku Driver for a two count with the crowd going wild. Gibson hits a finisher as well but Banks kicks out at two, then Gibson locks in the Shankly Gates again and thwarts Banks’ attempt to get to the ropes. Banks taps out and Gibson is the #1 contender for the UK Championship, just as I predicted.

Gibson gets even more heat by faking another handshake after the match. Johnny Saint, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels put over Banks as they make their way to the ring to congratulate Zack Gibson. I don’t even have a prediction for Gibson vs. Dunne yet, that’s a toss up in my opinion. Just as Gibson tries to address the crowd, Dunne makes his way out to the ring to stare down Gibson as the show ends. What an incredible final match, the ending flurries were heart-stopping.

Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals

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Overall Show Rating: Eight Gold Medals

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See you tomorrow for day two!

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