This past weekend saw WWE host another successful network-exclusive tournament as the first-ever United Kingdom champion was crowned. Along with this success comes the inevitable comparison to WWE’s previous tournament of this kind, the Cruiserweight Classic, but which was better?
There were plenty of differences between the two events, such as the United Kingdom Championship tournament taking place over a single weekend, as opposed to the two-month CWC tournament, although the formats seemed as though they would be quite similar, particularly on the first night of the UKCT.
As with the CWC, we were introduced to the 16 British competitors with a short sit-down interview package being shown prior to the matches.
However, at the conclusion of Saturday night’s show, WWE showed us that the UKCT would have more storylines and shenanigans than the purely wrestling-based coverage of CWC, with Pete Dunne taking a cheap shot at his quarterfinal opponent, Sam Gradwell, as the first night of the UKCT went off the air.
This added some much-needed controversy to the tournament after the decent, yet fairly uneventful, opening night.
The other aspect of the UKCT that helped it differ from the CWC was the passionate and rabid British fans that were in attendance over the two nights. The pro-wrestling fanbase of the United Kingdom has become known as one of the best in the world and they proved why yet again, this past weekend.
The atmosphere was electric on both nights of the UKCT and when the viewers at home see how much fun the fans are having, it helps them get invested in the action too.
Also, when there was a bit of a lull in the broadcast, the crowd were on hand to entertain the viewers with their typically humorous chants. The highlights of which were the ‘Let’s go Jesus/Jesus sucks’ chant, during the Saxon Huxley match, and the ‘Your head’s too big for you’ chant aimed at Jordan Devlin.
Speaking of Jordan Devlin, he was one of the talents that benefited greatly from WWE’s character-developing coverage of the tournament. After being introduced as Finn Balor’s protégée, Devlin transitioned into a cowardly heel character following his cheap and controversial win in the first round and became one of the most hated competitors in the UKCT by the time the second night of action came around.
It was on the second night of the UKCT that the tournament really came into its own, with longer matches and even further character development, the fans became more and more invested in the action as the contest progressed.
The undoubted star of the UKCT was Pete Dunne, who was featured heavily on both nights and was established as the top heel in the competition, as he ruthlessly attacked anybody who got in his way. Any top heel in a tournament needs a top babyface to compete against in the final, and Dunne got that in the form of 19-year-old, Tyler Bate.
Bate’s youthful enthusiasm and quirky personality made him a solid favourite with the fans in Blackpool and, although not considered a front-runner prior to the tournament, everybody was firmly behind him by the time the final came around.
This was largely due to yet another vicious attack on Bate by Pete Dunne after his semi-final victory, which put his health in question heading into the UK Championship match. The simple, yet effective, storytelling by WWE over the course of UKCT made for a finale that felt prestigious and had the fans on the edge of their seats throughout.
The brave and courageous, Tyler Bate went on to beat the ‘Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne to become the first-ever WWE United Kingdom champion, much to the joy of the British fans who felt as though they had just seen a star being born.
So how did this compare to the Cruiserweight Classic tournament from last summer?
It’s fair to say that the CWC had more star power with the likes of Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. competing in the tournament, not to mention WWE veterans such as Tajiri and Brian Kendrick also taking part.
Plus, it could be said that the match quality was significantly higher in CWC with matches such as Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander and Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasso Ciampa receiving rave reviews.
However, for me, the storytelling and character development in the UKCT places it slightly higher than the CWC. Although the aftermath of the tournament and the future of the WWE United Kingdom Championship is unclear, I feel the potential future for the British competitors is greater than that of the Cruiserweights.
It certainly seems that WWE has created bigger stars in Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate than they did in CWC finalists, TJ Perkins and Gran Metalik. But what did you guys think? Did you prefer the athletically astounding action in the CWC or the storyline-driven coverage of the UKCT? Let us know in the comments below.
However you feel, one thing is for sure, WWE has found something special with these WWE Network-exclusive tournaments and, I, for one am eagerly awaiting the next one.
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