NXT UK relives the rise of The Bruiserweight!
As NXT UK continues the retrospective, we go all the way back to TakeOver: Chicago in 2017! It’s Tyler Bate VS Pete Dunne for the WWE UK Championship!
- 5/20/17 – WWE United Kingdom Championship: Tyler Bate VS Pete Dunne; Dunne wins and becomes the new WWE UK Champion.
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Andy Shepherd welcomes us back to the show!
We take a deeper look at the match that proved to be incredibly important for both British wrestling and the NXT UK brand’s formation. Tyler Bate was only 19 years old when he shocked the world to become the inaugural WWE United Kingdom Champion in January of 2017. The man he beat in the finals, Pete Dunne, worked his way up to become #1 contender, even defeating the third piece of British Strong Style, Trent Seven, to do it. It was only natural that the championship match would be signed for TakeOver: Chicago for Backlash weekend.
Shepherd interviews Bate and Dunne via video call.
“Let’s rewind to May, 2017.” Heading into Chicago, Dunne knew he would be going up against someone who for many years was a friend in Bate. What was that like? “Honestly, it made it easier.” Going onto such a massive stage against someone he knew, someone he came up with, having that comfort for such an unusual stage was the best thing about it all. For Bate, he and Dunne mesh really well. The match in January was so well received, was there any pressure in the rematch to follow up? There’s always a level of pressure, because you want to be the best you can on that day. They took the opportunity to make the most of it.
Walking in, they didn’t think it’d be as big and special as it ended up being, but they did understand that it was the newest chapter in the newest title’s story, with hopes that it’d come with the newest brand. Dunne and Bate felt that gravity, and they wanted the world to feel it, too. Everything was so up in the air, then the match happened, and it was a sample of what NXT UK would be. It felt completely natural, even with the pressure. Everything in Dunne’s career led him to that moment, and Bate knew that all they could do to increase getting a brand was by having the best possible match they could. And they got a standing ovation because they did. What they did that night gave them all a huge confidence boost. The UK has always wanted something like this, and now so does the rest of the world.
Shepherd talks with Ryan Satin.
Where in the wrestling world was Satin at that point? Satin admits he wasn’t incredibly knowledgeable. He knew about things from the internet but he wasn’t die hard. So that original tournament was really his introduction to the UK scene. He took it all in and learned about the people that would be joining the WWE. What were his thoughts on the tournament in January giving those opportunities to the crop of relatively unknown wrestlers? What were his thoughts on the brand that was being built? Satin was “stoked” seeing the tournament. He watched the material put out by the WWE but he didn’t do a lot of research. But Bate was the one that stuck out to him. Satin had seen Dunne on the American indies, but Bate stuck out in that field. “Man, this guy is something special!” Bate, Seven and Dunne were the big names and this tournament showed why.
Fast forward to Chicago, what were his expectations for the rematch? Satin had high hopes, mostly because this was a title and roster without a show. They had something to still prove to the WWE. Dunne and Bate were really hoping to show they were better than everyone else. They weren’t just another one of the guys, they wanted to show the world what they were missing. Dunne and Bate blew it out of the water that night. And now, fast forward to today, just over three years later, we have the NXT UK brand. But looking back at that moment, everyone says it was pivotal. What is the legacy of this one night in Chicago? “This match was everything for NXT UK.” Without it, because of how great it was, there would not be an NXT UK. This was the thing to look at as an example of what the world would get. It is obvious that this match built NXT UK and gave it the chance to be as successful as it is.
Shepherd interviews other NXT UK originals.
Trent Seven, Mark Andrews and Wolfgang were also part of that original tournament field and have been along for the ride with Bate and Dunne. Reflecting back on the match that was pivotal to both NXT UK’s formation and to the entire UK wrestling scene. Trent Seven could’ve been in Dunne’s shoes. Heading into the match, was there any jealousy or regret? Seven says the very night, not even being there live is what hurt, because he would’ve loved to have felt the energy in person. What was happening with this ambiguous brand at the time? Wolfgang says this brand didn’t come out of nowhere. The WWE saw the united effort from England to Scotland to Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland, everyone working up and down the island to create a scene where they didn’t need to go to America but America would come to them. And now, they can aspire to be THE United Kingdom Champion.
Andrews adds that they didn’t have a brand with the tournament, they had to define it. But what they had was a title, and whoever held it would be the one to represent everyone’s hard work. Suddenly, everyone was wondering, “Whoa, what’s going on in the UK?” And then Chicago happens, and together, Bate and Dunne changed the game. In Andrews’ opinion, that is a measuring stick to base all other matches on. That is what everyone wants to achieve. Wolfgang says he didn’t doubt they could deliver on that stage, on that card with some of the best America has produced. They have done that same thing with just 20 thousand watching, but now the world got to see it, too.
Shepherd asks Seven specifically, given Bate and Dunne are two of his best friends, they were on that platform, what was it like to watch that? Seven admits that there were tears. You can watch matches as a fan, watch it all unfold, but as he sat at home like he is now, and he was standing up out of his seat at times! As the crowd stood for the ovation, so did he. He wept because of how proud of these two young men who lived only 15 miles away from each other. At the time, they were only 19 and 22, and they went out there and everyone learned who they were. The chants for “UK!” alone meant so much. “It’s just an incredibly proud moment.”
Wolfgang adds that he loved seeing those two in their element, against each other, and watching the crowd realize moment after moment, “These guys are actually killing it. No, wait, these guys are the best we’ve ever seen.” Andrews adds, “It’s not everyday you get to see two unknown dudes go out there and absolutely kill it in the way that they did.” Andrews himself is still proud of that match and always will be. So how pivotal was this night in Chicago to British wrestling? Wolfgang says it’s monumental. After all, they’re dedicating an entire episode to talk about it. “If it wasn’t for that match begin so successful, maybe there wouldn’t be an NXT UK.”
Andrews adds that if those two had flubbed it, which there’s no way they ever could have, because those two are not arrogant about their abilities. Seven says in many different ways, that is perhaps the greatest match in the modern era. Wolfgang will be the first to thank Dunne and Bate, “Cheers, boys.” The pressure paid off and they did the UK roster proud.
Shepherd interviews Shawn Michaels and other icons.
How aware was HBK of the UK scene? Had he been keeping up with the movement? Yes! He was already all in on it and sold on everything. The introduction of the tournament alone, with Triple H and William Regal bringing out the field was great. NXT UK coach Johnny Moss knew everyone who knew those guys would already be excited for this, but no one expected to be as great as it was. Regal says the tournament was far more of a success than anyone expected, HBK adds that he has admiration for what everyone was doing in the ring. Moss says there is so much heritage in British wrestling, and HBK says it was a big throwback to a time that people thought had ended, and it proved those people wrong.
Shepherd says that while Bate was the inaugural winner and impressive in that way, Dunne also made a huge impression. What were their thoughts on those two young men and the potential they showed. HBK says the entire tournament was special, but it was hard not to notice those two. Regal says those were the first two he called. HBK speaks on their styles, with Dunne being “grungy, rough, tough, working of holds and punishing and grinding,” and Bate being “a bit more flashy, young, wholesome.” Moss adds that obviously Chicago took things to a new atmosphere. Regal hearing that match was coming, he loved it. Moss says a city like Chicago, with how rough and tough it is, it just fit. Regal knew it was going to be great, but will the crowd see that? HBK says there was a desire and a passion from both the wrestlers and the fans that it allowed that connection.
Moss felt the hair on his arms stand up hearing American fans chant for the UK. It was like watching England winning the world cup. He got into it, “Do it for the UK!” Bate and Dunne showed everyone who they were, and what British wrestling is about. “This brand really took shape that night in Chicago.” HBK says the focus moving to the UK really made it all feel real. Moss says if you put it on the scales, it tipped it over. HBK knew they had the pressure on them, but that’s what HBK as a viewer was wanting. Regal says this is perhaps one of the most important matches in the history of WWE. HBK says that match encapsulated a frame of mind that HBK wanted to have as a coach and producer, and you cannot step away from that. “That is the night everything changed.” Regal says that is the match that brought us to where we are today, and Moss thanks both Bate and Dunne for it.
Bate and Dunne reflect on their journey to the WWE.
Starting their training to becoming big stars in the UK through Progress Wrestling, including Dunne becoming Progress Wrestling Champion, to then fighting for the WWE United Kingdom Championship. Bate was deeply honored to be the first-ever, and was waiting to spring his surprises in Chicago. But Dunne felt it was inevitable that the title would be his.
NXT UK will have more Superstar Picks next week!
That’s right! Another round of NXT UK superstars will share their favorite matches of all time! Have your favorites been picked yet?
WWE United Kingdom Championship: Tyler Bate VS Pete Dunne!
In the four months between first winning this title and arriving in Chicago, the Big Strong Boy proved he was worthy by turning away quite a crop of contenders. But in those same four months, the Bruiserweight tore through anyone and everyone what stood in his way. Bate had a dream come true, but Dunne loves to end those dreams. Witness the moment history was made and a brand was set in motion!
The introductions are made, the belt is raised, and this highly anticipated rematch from Blackpool begins!
Fans are already loud for the Bruiserweight as he and Bate circle. They tie up, Dunne waistlocks and slams Bate. The fans duel as Dunne facelocks, and here we hear from Dunne that he knew right away that Chicago was still lukewarm. Many fans were seeing these two for the first time, feeling out what they were about, so the key there was to stay calm and focused. Bate works against the facelock, rolls, but Dunne holds on. Dunne cranks but Bate fights his way up, wrenches out, and clamps on with a wristlock. Dunne rolls, snapmares and wraps a chinlock on, only for Bate to slip out to his own wristlock. Dunne headscissors to wrangle Bate down! Bate tries to get up but Dunne grabs an arm. Dunne hooks that arm, but Bate moves around. Bate hops to a headstand, but Dunne pushes him back down.
Bate speaks now, saying the sensation at the start was that he was “very, very excited,” but he didn’t want that affecting his focus. Because knowing Dunne, and knowing his tactics, “he can be a very naughty boy sometimes.” That meant Bate had to be on high alert the whole time.
Dunne keeps Bate down with the squeeze and then some elbows while the fans duel, “Tyler Bate!” “Bruiserweight!” Bate hops around again and headstands again, to then twist and slip free! The fans applaud that great exchange and the two reset. Bate and Dunne tie up, Dunne grinds forearms in to get a chinbar and wrangle Bate down. Dunne twists the wrist while he digs a knee into Bate’s head. Dunne digs knuckles into the ribs, then twists the wrist even more. Bate endures as the fans rally up. Bate gets up, spins through, rolls and then handsprings to bridge and spin back for another handspring! Bate breaks free and dropkicks Dunne out of the ring! Fans fire up as Bate kips up and checks the mustache!
We hear from Dunne again as he says being in the ring with someone like Bate, trying to get ahead and show what they can do, obviously knowing each other so well, they fed off each other. It obviously shows in the match, with the joint manipulation Dunne was getting. Maybe it wasn’t the American fans’ thing but maybe they hadn’t seen it before. It was mostly about establishing who Dunne and Bate were as wrestlers.
The ring count climbs but Bate hurries after Dunne at 4, but Dunne ROCKS him with that forearm! Dunne brings Bate around the way and to the ring steps. Dunne wrenches the wrist, twists the fingers, but Bate avoids the stomp to DECK Dunne! The ring count passes 5 but Bate leaps and uppercuts Dunne down! The fans cheer as Bate gets Dunne in at 8, only for Dunne to bail out the side. Bate goes around the way but Dunne ROCKS him again! Dunne gives Bate an APRON X-PLEX! The fans cheer that, Chicago loves aggression. Dunne brings Bate up to throw some hands and toying kicks. Dunne DECKS Bate and Chicago fires up for him. Bate crawls to a corner but Dunne brings him up to wrench the arm for a hammerlock. Dunne grinds Bate down, stands on his head then grabs the other arm. The fans are dueling as Dunne bends Bate’s fingers back and to the sides! Dunne stands on the armpit to then STOMP it!
Bate crawls but Dunne stands on his foot so he can’t get away. Dunne throws big forearms then grabs an arm to keep Bate’s guard open as he stomps again and again and again! Dunne still toys with Bate but Bate gets mad now. The fans boo Dunne but Bate glares at him. The fans cheer as Bate grabs Dunne for an EXPLODER! Both men slowly rise and the fans rally up. Bate runs at Dunne corner to corner for an uppercut! Bate goes corner to corner again, comes back and uppercuts even harder! Bate tries for the third but gets a running enziguri! Dunne brings Bate up, another X-Plex, but Bate lands on his feet! Standing shooting star! DEAD LIFT SAIDO! Bridging cover, TWO!! Dunne survives and Bate can’t believe it! The fans cheer and duel again as both men are down. Chicago loves “NXT! NXT!” for giving us this match.
Bate goes to a corner and brings himself up with the ropes. The fans chant for “UK! UK!” as Bate runs for another Shooting Star! But into a TRIANGLE HOLD! Dunne has Bate and hammers away with fists and elbows! Bate endures the squeeze and the hammering to go for a cover! ONE, and Dunne holds on. But Bate powers up for a DEAD LIFT BOMB!! We hear from Dunne as he speaks to this moment, specifically the fans chanting for UK. Dunne had done so many shows, and in some cases, even if it was taped in the UK it was presented as American wrestling so fans would be chanting “USA! USA!” instead. So it was surreal to be in Chicago and hearing chants for UK. The fans are fired up as Bate manages to rise. “This is Awesome!” and far from over as Bate clutches the bad arm.
Bate calls for a spin and he brings Dunne up to a fireman’s carry. Bate starts the airplane spin! He goes around and around and around, picking up speed! Bate hits just under 20 rotations and finally drops Dunne. Cover, TWO!! Both men are down, if mostly because they’re dizzy, but the fans rally up for them. Bate manages to stand first, and the fans get even more fired up as he dead lifts Dunne again! German Suplex, but Dunne lands on his feet! Bate dodges, goes up and up but leaps into a BIG forearm! Dunne brings Bate back up for an X-Plex SIT OUT POWERBOMB!! Cover, TWO!! Bate lives and shocks Dunne! But Chicago is thunderous in a standing ovation!! Dunne kicks at Bate while he’s down and the fans chant “UK! UK!”
We hear from Bate on doing the airplane spin, he was thinking, “When can I stop? When can I put Pete down and just rest?” It is the most effect move in his arsenal that also completely ruins himself, if for a short period of time. It has its pros and cons. The pros: it is the reaction from the fans over it, because it isn’t often that happens.
Bate throws hands back and the two are starting to brawl. They pick up speed again as they just throw hands!! They slow down, wobble, but Bop up, BANG! Dunne drops but Bate has to take a moment to catch his breath. Bate brings Dunne up, ENZIGURI! Bate sits up and Dunne grinds forehead to forehead with him. The two get up again, throw more hands, Bate rebounds off ropes for the rolling kick! Dunne rebounds for the basement BOOT! Bate’s back up, Dunne side steps, rebound LARIAT! And Chicago is standing again! Cover, TWO!! Dunne survives but Bate is too exhausted to be frustrated. Chicago is loving the “UK! UK!” Bate and Dunne stir, slowly rise, and Chicago hopes they “Fight Forever!” But someone has to win and Bate stalks Dunne. Bate powers up, brings Dunne in, underhooks, but Dunne slips out the back! Pump handle, BITTER- DDT!! Bate counters Dunne’s move and Chicago loses its mind!
We hear from Bate again about this being the point in the match where they reached that moment. That moment where it is very difficult, late in the match, blood pumping full of adrenaline, that you see the perfect opportunity to “gracefully jump out of the ropes and dive onto your opponent, and everything’s going to be great and it’s all gonna work out for you.” Though as we’re about to see, Bate got ahead of himself and it goes the other way. It is the thorn in his side, to say the least.
Dunne bails out of the ring and a ring count climbs. But Bate skips that to go to the apron, for an ASAI MOONSAULT! Bate puts Dunne back in, climbs up top, CORKSCREW SENTON!! Cover, TWO!?! Dunne survives and bails out again, to Bate’s shock! Chicago is thunderous for “UK!” as Bate sees where Dunne went. Bate builds speed and FLIES! Into a forearm shot!! Dunne puts Bate in, pump handles, BITTER END!! Cover, Dunne wins!!
Winner: Pete Dunne, by pinfall (NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion)
The Bruiserweight is victorious, the inevitable has happened! Dunne becomes just the second-ever WWE UK Champion!
We hear from Dunne one more time that obviously standing there with the title and hitting his pose, it was very special. Dunne’s life completely changed from being relatively unknown, living with his parents in a small little working town like Birmingham, then to this huge arena in Chicago in front of a crowd chanting for the UK, him and Bate, it all hit him. He went from a nobody to a household name, if you will. Standing there with the title, he just knew his life had changed forever.
Bate speaks now, saying what he felt with Dunne’s song playing and him down in defeat, it was initially disappointment in himself. He would say he was self-loathing, felt like he wasn’t good enough. He remembered the fight he gave, he remembered the effort he gave and the punishment he took and how he kept going. It was all those things that got him out of that bad place. While neither Big Strong Boy or Bruiserweight is a champion today, surely they will both be back for gold!
Definitely a brilliant episode for NXT UK. It was great to hear Bate, Dunne and a lot of other names involved with NXT UK talk about that great match. To give some behind-the-scenes for making this article, I no longer had this match on written record somewhere. But that actually might’ve been for the better, because I had to watch this match again, and it was such a great match to rewatch. This match definitely got non-UK fans onboard for an entire show, and it set the tone for NXT UK’s events to follow, such as the second tournament, TakeOver: Blackpool and beyond.
My Score: 8.7/10