WWE are set to host the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament for the second year in a row, but things have changed slightly this time. Last year saw a two-day, 16-man single elimination tournament take place in Blackpool to determine the inaugural United Kingdom Champion. Whilst the general structure of the tournament remains the same, the format has changed enough to warrant an explanation.
Fifteen competitors known for their work on the UK independent scene, and Drew Gulak, will take on one another to determine not a new champion, but a number one contender. The tournament also takes place over a slightly longer period, with the first round matches taking place over a three day weekend at the Download music festival. Eight competitors will then move on to a special on the WWE Network, emanating from the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Night one will see the quarter finals, the semi finals and the final of the tournament, alongside a special exhibition match between British Strong Style and The Undisputed Era. Night Two sees the odd pairings of Aleister Black and Ricochet take on the Velveteen Dream and EC3. The North American, Tag Team and Women’s Championships will also be on the line, alongside the (presumably) main event for the United Kingdom Championship – Pete Dunne defending against the winner of the tournament.
Who is actually in the tournament though? It’s a mix of old faces and new, including some talent only just signed. Returning from last year, Tucker, Jordan Devlin, James Drake Joseph Conners and Tyson T-Bone are joined by 205 Live roster members Drew Gulak and Gentleman Jack Gallagher, filling up near half of the available slots in the brackets. The other nine are all near enough new to WWE, with some having made brief appearances on television before, or having wrestled at Wrestlemania Axxess.
Dave Mastiff, Kenny Williams, Ashton Smith, Amir Jordan, Flash Morgan Webster, Joe Coffey, Ligero, Travis Banks and Zack Gibson fill out the field. These are some of the biggest and brightest talents of the UK independent circuit, and a couple of them could be set for major success in WWE, just like Tyler and Pete before them. We’re going to take a look at a few exciting entrants to the tournament, starting with the Kiwi Buzzsaw – Travis Banks.
Banks, originally from New Zealand, but residing in the UK is easily one of the biggest stars in England today. He’s the current Progress Champion (beating Pete Dunne for the title in September of last year), and is known for blisteringly fast, aggressive strikes and an unmatched fire in the ring. Banks may seem fairly small in comparison to top American stars like Reigns or Lesnar, but despite his smaller stature, it’s hard to bet against someone who could probably crush your windpipe with a single strike. He’s also been a fairly major player in WCPW/Defiant wrestling, but won’t be making further appearances now that he’s signed with WWE. Still it’s worth seeking out some of his matches, as many of them were uploaded to YouTube by the promotion.
Another smaller wrestler taking part in the tournament is Flash Morgan Webster. Hailing from a town called Malice, this Mod combines some unique aerial maneuvers with a number of submission holds to wear his foes down over time. Some might look at Flash and say that he’s all style over substance, but give him an opportunity and he can turn water in to wine.
The Iron King, Joe Coffey, is a big, solid, Glaswegian lad. By far, one of the heavier entrants in the tournament this year, Coffey is famous for his slow, rigid grappling and power moves. Power doesn’t quite describe them though – as Coffey likes to put his entire body weight in to his strikes, including a horrifying lariat that could easily take anybody’s head off.
If Lucha Libre is more your thing, have a look at Ligero (who seems to have lost the El at the start of his name somewhere en route to the tournament). From Los Sanchos in Mexico, as opposed to Leeds as WWE would have you believe, Ligero is ridiculously talented and can wrestle more or less any style of match needed. He can play the heel, the face, wrestle a hilarious comedy match or wrestle an absolute classic for a world title.
Finally, we have my personal pick to win it all, and even go on to become the new United Kingdom Champion, Liverpool’s Number One – Zack Gibson. I’m absolutely baffled as to why Gibson hasn’t had more success on the independent scene beforehand. Arguably, his gimmick is a little specific, but he’s a brilliant heel regardless and can back it up between the ropes any day of the week. Gibson, as the moniker might suggest, comes from Liverpool, and he’s convinced that he’s the best wrestler to ever exist. He’s not a big fan of pageantry or tomfoolery. He can draw legitimate heel heat and is more or less booed out of the building on sight – but in a good way.
It’s certainly worth doing a bit of background research in to the competitors if you’ve chance, particularly Banks and Gibson. Even if you’re not able to, WWE are usually very good at introducing all of the different characters and personalities in these sort of tournaments anyway. I’ve also included a very crudely edited set of brackets and predictions to show who I think will win each match. The tournament airs on tape delay on the 25th and 26th of June, so sit back, and enjoy some of the very best our country has to offer.
If you enjoyed reading this and other articles by Ellie Zoe on Bunkazilla, why not support her directly on Ko-Fi? Click the button below to help support Ellie!