This was the finals of Paul’s UK tourney thing with the winner becoming the first WWE United Kingdom Champion.
This was one of the most interesting, entertaining, and objectively successful main events for WWE in the last couple of years. That’s not to say there haven’t been better main events, but few in recent memory have been as interesting to see unfold as this one.
From just an in-ring storytelling perspective, this match basically had the ambition of a Sasha Banks vs. Bayley NXT special match (basically the highest compliment one can give for in-ring storytelling).
After Bate had won his semifinal bout, Dunne came out and attacked him. That attack continued the excellent “Pete Dunne is a massive dickhead” storyline that was going on all weekend. Dunne’s actions left Bate with an injured shoulder, and there was a tease that he would not be able to compete in the final.
Bate managed to get medically cleared though (and in RECORD time I might add) but needed to have his shoulder taped up. Based on what we learned about Dunne in the quarterfinal round, we knew he was going to target and exploit that injury. Sometimes though knowing what’s to come makes everything a little bit sweeter in wrestling.
The first half of the match was what you expected, but the execution was so good that predictability of it did not matter one bit. Dunne knew he had the upper-hand and patiently waited to aim for the bulls-eye. He got firm control of Bate by targeting the shoulder eventually, and he seemed well on his way to victory.
Bate picked the classic strategy for making an effective and exciting comeback: he went big. Bate essentially used three huge spots to even things up in the match: reversing a triangle into a Rampage Powerbomb, a fucking Fosbury Flop, and then a 450 double stomp. (Yes, I just used a colon twice in that two-sentence paragraph. It’s a free blog. Get over it.)
Basing your comebacks around big moves when you’ve been underneath for a while is just great pro wrestling psychology. They all stand out as important AND maintain the basic logic of pro wrestling that connecting on a handful of big maneuvers should pay big dividends.
The Rampage Powerbomb spot was certainly questionable though. They probably JUSSSSST got away with it, but it was a strange decision all the same given that the match and tournament had such a high attention to detail. Why not do something that did not involve a deadlift-one-armed-move with an injured arm?
From there, the match took another odd path. They made the mistake of having Bate sit in a number of arm submissions that Dunne applied to the injured area. This is is classic pro wrestling psychology mistake. There is so much more drama to be had from conditioning fans to believe that submissions nearly always mean instant victory. Sitting in them for long stretches of time is basically the equivalent of finisher kickouts. How bad is Dunne’s submission game that he can’t make Bate submit to fully applied holds on a very damaged limb?
The last two bits did not come anywhere close to ruining the match, but they definitely took some juice out of the story. The emotion of the match was thankfully not derailed though. Bate won the title shortly after surviving the arm submissions in one of the most emotionally satisfying finishes in recent WWE memory.
This match (and the tournament as a whole) was a tremendous success that frankly just causes a million questions to go through one’s head. How does WWE produce something like this and not chase that feeling all the time?
When I write that, I don’t mean ALWAYS pushing indie dorks and wee lads in small venues. I mean, why don’t you put on a product that your paying audience clearly wants to see? It’s really not that hard. This can be what Raw is, right? It’s what #SDLive is right now! It’s what NXT has inconsistently been for the last couple of years! It’s what the CWC was in its first year! Chase that feeling. Make a product that actually does make people happy. It’s a wonderful thing and far easier to do than you realize.
Speaking of chasing feelings: indie wrestlers, you’re not getting off on this one either. Why aren’t you this good when Uncle Paul isn’t watching? Why aren’t you exhibiting this high level of attention to detail when you’re not on the Network? It’s not that you’re not working hard. It’s not that you’re not putting your body through hell. Your mental effort though on your indie shows is just not where it needs to be. Simple psychology touches and storytelling decisions increase in-ring quality and audience satisfaction a hundred-fold. It’s possible. You just proved it here. Chase that feeling. You know it’s more satisfying. I can see it in your eyes.