It’s easy to see why there is so much hype, again, around the WWE UK Championship Tournament: the UK wrestling scene is one of the best on the planet. And now that round one is in the books thanks to the NXT shows at Download Fest, we should probably get to know the wrestlers that will be at the Royal Albert Hall.
First: Liverpool’s Number One, Zack Gibson.
Gibson is coming into the tournament with the best heat out of any of the competitors. He’s good on the mic and knows how to get a crowd to hate him by sticking to his “SOOOON TO BE RECOGNIZED AS THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE” catch phrase. His finishing move, the Shankly Gate, is a modified arm-bar, so look for him to soften up the arm of opponent throughout the match. While he is the best pure heel left in the tournament, don’t expect him to make it to finals; he is in a tag-team with fellow competitor James Drake as the Grizzled Young Vets, and there is a good chance we’ll see them as a unit on day two.
Must watch match: Zack Gibson vs. Bobby Jones Jr. – Over the Top Wrestling – WrasslePops
Second: Gentleman Jack Gallagher.
By now most of you are familiar with the ability of Gallagher. The grappler from Manchester should be everyone’s sleeper pick to face Pete Dunne in the finals purely based on him being, arguably, the most recognizable wrestler in the tournament. He’s a wicked striker with a legitimate MMA background to back it up, and he’s no slouch at submissions either. He squared off in a classic mat-based match with Drew Gulak in the first round, showcasing his technical ability. He also had a fantastic match with Pete Dunne in Progress earlier this year for the UK Championship and you shouldn’t expect anything less from him in this tournament.
Must watch match: Jack Gallagher vs. Pete Dunne – Progress Wrestling – Chapter 29
Third: The Mod-Father, Flash Morgan Webster.
Flash has been having a breakout year; he’s back from an injury and doing some of the best work of his career. He’s a Progress regular, a mainstay at PWG and recently debuted on 205 Live. He definitely has the most defined gimmick in the tournament and, seeing as how WWE loves a guy with a gimmick, it could serve him very well. He can fly and has some innovative strikes, which makes him fun to watch. I’m not banking on him getting too far, but I think he is punching his ticket to regular spot on 205 Live.
Must watch match: Flash Morgan Webster vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – Progress Wrestling – Chapter 29
Fourth: The Import Killer, Jordan Devlin.
Once again, everyone should expect to hear the comparisons between Jordan and Finn Balor, but Devlin has really carved out his own spot leading into this year’s tournament. He’s the top guy in Ireland’s Over the Top Wrestling promotion and has beaten every non-Irishman put in front of him. He is a much better competitor than he’ll probably be given credit for and he’s going to be a magnet for jeers based on his *perceived* huge head. If and when an actual WWE UK program comes into being, expect him to be a top guy.
Must watch match: Jordan Devlin and Scotty Davis vs. Aussie Open – Over the Top Wrestling – OTT Contenders
Fifth: The Iron Man, Joe Coffey.
Joe Coffey is arguably the standard-bearer for Scottish independent wrestling (if we take Drew McIntyre out of the equation). He’s the definition of a power-guy that likes to show that he’s not a one-trick pony, which leads for some interesting and innovative moves. As a former ICW Champion, he’s the perfect fit for this tournament; a literal who’s-who of British wrestling. His finisher is a discus lariat and it’s a strong-style hit to say the least. Expect a big man showcase when he faces off with Dave Mastiff in the quarter finals.
Must watch match: Joe Coffey vs. Keith Lee – Insane Championship Wrestling – Fear and Loathing Tour 2017
Sixth: The Bastard, Dave Mastiff.
Here’s your BIG man, folks. Mastiff is coming into this tournament at well over 300 pounds and looks every bit of it. He would have been in last year’s tournament if it wasn’t for the attempted World of Sport reboot that did not come to fruition (Zack Gibson was also involved in the project). Mastiff also uses the discus lariat as a finisher, but he’ll probably forced to use something along the lines of a senton or cannon-ball style maneuver as his means to put down his opponents in this tournament. I’d be surprised to see him go over Joe Coffey, but don’t sleep on him.
Must watch match: Dave Mastiff vs. Big Damo (Killian Dane) – Insane Championship Wrestling – Alex Kidd In London
Seventh: The Kiwi Buzzsaw, Travis Banks.
If you haven’t heard about Travis Banks yet, there is something wrong. He’s a trainer at Fight Club Pro, the current Progress champion, and is slated to be in WXW’s 16 Carat tournament. One thing to watch out for is that he’s recently become a heel again in Progress, so there may be some heat on him amongst the crowd. It’ll be interesting to see what finishing move he uses in this tournament because his typical finishing submission, the Lion’s Clutch, is the same move as the Gargano Escape. He should run through Ashton Smith and I expect to see Banks in the finals; you should too.
Must watch match: Travis Banks vs. WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr – Defiant Wrestling – Road To Destruction
Eighth: The Prestige, Ashton Smith.
Admittedly, this is the wrestler that I am least familiar with in this tournament. I had expected Joseph Conners to win this first round match up but I was pleasantly surprised to see someone unexpected in the quarterfinals. Smith has been in a pretty successful and fun to watch tag team with Rampage Brown, so he definitely has the pedigree to put on a good match. I don’t see him getting through the Kiwi Buzzsaw though.
Must watch match: Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown vs. Age of Orion – Insane Championship Wrestling – Fight Night
Gibson vs. Gallagher – Gibson
Webster vs. Devlin – Devlin
Coffey vs. Mastiff – Coffey
Banks vs. Smith – Banks
Gibson vs. Devlin – Devlin
Coffey vs. Banks – Banks
Devlin vs. Banks – Banks
I’ll be live tweeting the tournament June 25 and 26 so make sure you follow me at @longuistics1 for my latest takes on the action!