WWE UK Championship Tournament 2018—Night 1
The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom
WWE returned to the UK for two consecutive nights at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London for a second WWE UK Championship Tournament on the first night this time with the tournament winner facing WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne on Night two. Night one also featured a women’s triple threat match including Toni Storm with the winner advancing to challenge NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler on Night two and a six-man tag team grudge between The Undisputed Era and British Strong Style
Zack Gibson Defeats Jack Gallagher
Anyone familiar with the British scene will have seen these two face off numerous times. They have such great chemistry and Gibson is such a fantastic heel that this opening match had the crowd instantly invested. The classic British wrestling at the beginning of the match was as good as any wrestling exchanges you will see.
Once Gibson took control he worked meticulously over Gallaghers left arm to set up for his Shankly Gates submission. Gallagher got plenty of offense of his own including a beautiful tope suicida and a tope atomica roll through into a rear naked choke. Gibson’s trademark Ticket to Ride lungblower almost provided the end of Gallagher’s WWE UK Title dreams but Jack survived. Unfortunately he wouldn’t survive the Shankly Gates as he was forced to tap out after he attempted a diving headbutt which Gibson countered with a perfectly placed kick to Gallagher’s already injured left shoulder. A nice way to begin the tournament. ***½
Joe Coffey Defeats Dave Mastiff
Two modern day British heavyweights were up next to give an idea of just how varied the talent in Britain is in 2018. Coffey is a personal favourite and I never tire of seeing him throw men either smaller or in the case of Mastiff much bigger around the ring. This was the perfect match up to establish Coffey as the strongest man in the tournament. To those unfamiliar with the Iron King, the visual of Coffey German suplexing Mastiff will have left a mark. Coffey, adorned in the green, white and gold of his beloved Glasgow Celtic, was just as successful as the Scottish League Champions as he picked up the win following a discus lariat. ***
Flash Morgan Webster Defeats Jordan Devlin
Going into the tournament I had this one down as a guaranteed win for Devlin. Jordan has been one of the best wrestlers in Europe over the past 12 months putting on numerous classic matches in OTT while facing the likes of Matt Riddle, Zack Sabre Jr, Mark Haskins and Speedball Mike Bailey. FMW meanwhile, well I don’t rate him all that much. I genuinely feel like this was the wrong result.
In spite of my dislike of the result I did enjoy the match. Both men worked their asses off and I’m sure those in charge backstage took notice of both competitors. Devlin as a heel in the tournament again this year felt like another misfire as he has been tearing it up all year as a fiery babyface but despite this he still shone and almost advanced in the tournament after a beautiful one man top rope Spanish Fly. Jordan’s frustration following that nearfall lead to Flash picking up the win with his version of the Destino that he calls the Eton Rifle. ***¼
Travis Banks Defeats Ashton Smith
In the last quarterfinal match up we get our first glimpse at the current PROGRESS World Champion “The Kiwi Buzzsaw” Travis Banks as he faced the man I know the least about in this tournament Ashton Smith. This was the first match of the show that failed the phone test as I picked up my phone to check twitter while this one was going on as there was never any doubt who was winning this one. Smith had some moments of offense and even got a nice fighting spirit spot but this one was all about Banks who convincingly got the win via a Kiwi Krusher **¾
Toni Storm Defeats Killer Kelly & Isla Dawn—Winner Faces Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship
This match had one purpose, to build up Toni Storm to challenge Shayna on Night 2 of these shows. Job done. Kelly and Dawn combined to eliminate Storm from the action early on and remained wary of her presence even when she wasn’t on screen. Kelly without a doubt is a future star and already she has an aura around her. Dawn didn’t quite impress on the level of her rivals and it was Dawn who was to fall to Toni’s Storm Zero for the winning pin ***
Zack Gibson Defeats Flash Morgan Webster
I loved this match. Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuinness on commentary really sold the idea of both men needing a quick win if they wanted to have any chance in the final and Flash really came out like a human missile throwing everything he had at Gibson. His risk taking was to prove his downfall though as he attempted a tope suicida which he had successfully utilised against Devlin in the previous round, Liverpools #1 caught him and hit a vicious Helter Skelter (twisting brainbuster) on the ramp. Flash showed great spirit to get back in the ring before being counted out but unfortunately for the Modfather Gibson was primed to lock in the Shankly Gates and the instant tap out followed. This is without a doubt my favourite Flash Morgan Webster match. Two matches in and the Shankly Gates have been solidly established as a torturous submission ***¾
Travis Banks Defeats Joe Coffey
Two semifinals and two matches I have really really enjoyed. While the first semifinal was all about getting in and out as quick as possible this one was all about the Iron King Joe Coffey punishing Travis Banks. Coffey worked over Travis’ back and left arm wearing down the Kiwi Buzzsaw, attempting to slowly and physically grind and rip the fight out of Banks.
Before this tournament I had been very down on Travis but I loved his performance here and he played the fiery underdog that just wouldn’t give up perfectly. He caught Coffey with a roll-up out of nowhere and the PROGRESS World Champion was into the UK Championship Tournament final ***¾
That wasn’t the end though as Coffey attacked Banks after the match and threw him shoulder first into the ringpost and left him laying after a discus lariat. Banks fully established as the injured babyface heading into the final opposite Gibson and his formidable Shankly Gates.
British Strong Style Defeats the Undisputed Era
I expected this match to be good but damn I was blown away! This was magnificent. The crowd were on their feet from the outset and firmly behind British Strong Style and in particular the Bruiserweight Pete Dunne. Dunne was out for revenge against all of The Undisputed Era after Roderick Strong turned on him and aligned with Cole and O’Reilly at Takeover: New Orleans in April. The action in this one never let up and the pace never once slowed. All six men had plenty of opportunities to shine, but Dunne and O’Reilly stood out as two of the best in the game right now.
The momentum shifted between both teams copious times and when Trent Seven fell victim to a double team Axe and Smash from Strong and KOR followed by a Last Shot from Cole, I was sure that was the end but Pete Dunne was there to save his BSS partner. In the end, Tyler Bate got the pin on KOR after a gorgeous double team lariat into a snap dragon suplex by Bate and Seven ****½
Zack Gibson Defeats Travis Banks
In true pro wrestling fashion, Banks comes into this final after two grueling matches with a bullseye squarely on his injured and taped left shoulder. Gibson is like a shark smelling blood going right for the injured arm. Gibson is so aggressive in targeting the arm even the most jaded of fans must feel bad for Banks. Banks one hope in the match is his superior strikes and using them to up the tempo of the match and take Gibson off his game.
This match exploded when Banks was able to reverse an attempted throw by Gibson into the ringside barrier into A Slice of Heaven and both men barely made it back into the ring before a countout. The struggle between both men anytime Gibson attempted to lock in the Shankly Gates made it mean even more when he finally was able to get the submission locked in on the Kiwi Buzzsaw. Banks did what Gallagher and Flash were unable to do before him and survive long enough to reach the ropes in a moment that the crowd exploded for.
Another successful Slice of Heaven and the Kiwi Crusher, the latter of which proved too much for Ashton Smith in the first round, were not enough to put away Liverpool’s No. 1. As both men reached near exhaustion, Gibson struggled to once again lock in the Shankly Gates and this time there was no escape for Banks ****¼
FINAL THOUGHTS: A great show from beginning to end with a tournament that told a wonderful story and firmly established Zach Gibson as a threat to Pete Dunne’s reign as WWE UK Champion. Gibson wasn’t the only guy that gained from this show as WWE in one night did more to build Travis Banks as a babyface star than PROGRESS had done over the course of a summer. As well as a thoroughly enjoyable tournament, there was an awesome six-man tag team match that over-delivered. The show flew by and I can’t recommend watching this show highly enough.