Territorial Waters: How WWE’s UK Tournament Was Important in Shaping Indie Wrestling
Updated: Apr 3
This past weekend, the WWE ran their inaugural United Kingdom Championship Tournament from Blackpool, England. The 2-day event featured 16 competitors from the UK indie scene representing promotions such as PROGRESS, ICW, and WCPW, showcasing some the European region’s best talent. Following up from the summer’s Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Championship Tournament served as the new unique experiment for Network content and it surely delivered when it needed to. While most of the matches were relatively short, the emphasis on booking and storylines that build upon the results made for a compelling group of shows. That all culminated on Sunday Afternoon eastern standard time when Tyler Bate became the first-ever WWE UK Champion, defeating Pete Dunne in an excellent main event Final.
At 19 years old and 10 months, Bate is the 2nd youngest WWE Champion ever (the first being Rene Dupree at 19 years and 6 months). Another rarity is that Bate is a non-contracted freelancer to win a title, A feat like that hasn’t happened since the 1990s and even then, those title reigns were barely recognized by WWE. It makes viewers wonder how will the title be treated going forward and if the tournament participants will even appear on WWE television. In an effort to expand their content and programming, the promotion is looking to reach new heights shaping the wrestling industry.
As reported by PWInsider, WWE has reached an agreement with Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) to produce programming in the near future. Whether it would be live streaming or on demand has yet to be determined, but third-party content has always been the ultimate goal for the company. The multi-year deal could be used as precursor to a live UK show for WWE down the line and a trial period to bring in future independent promotions on the Network as well. Dating back to their relationship with EVOLVE, Paul Levesque and company is hell-bent on bringing it a territory-like monopoly on the indies.
Tyler Bate is slated to defend the UK Championship on the ICW shows along on other indies to increase promotion and build more relationships across the pond for WWE. It is even more likely that names like Trent Seven, Pete Dunne, Wolfgang, and Mark Andrews to appear not only on ICW, but on NXT as well. That in itself is even more needed as NXT is en route for another talent purge post-WrestleMania weekend and they need more stars to help keep it afloat. Nigel McGuiness – who helped announced the tournament with Michael Cole – can also appear on NXT for commentary to replace Corey Graves and Tom Phillips.
There’s a lot of breathing room for WWE to work this new deal to perfection as the successes of both the Cruiserweight Classic and United Kingdom Tournament could bring more events like those onto the Network. With their deals in across Asia, they could take advantage of New Japan’s impending expansion by having a tournament that showcase Japanese names that aren’t that known outside of Bushiroad (Daisuke Sekimoto rings a bell) and also increase expansion in Mexico (Rey Fenix and Flamita are somehow STILL available). Whichever they choose and however they go, hardcore fans will surely be watching.