NXT TakeOver: Chicago is Ready for WWE UK’s Pete Dunne


NXT TakeOver: Chicago is ready for Pete Dunne, who could be in line for a WWE UK Championship reign.

The United Kingdom Championship Tournament opened a lot of eyes, not only in heading toward uncharted territory for WWE, but the exposure for a group of wrestlers who were part of promotions like PROGRESS and ICW. Tyler Bate, Mark Andrews, Trent Seven and Wolfgang all stood out in their bouts, advancing far into the event. However, the one who looked like a bonafide Superstar was Pete Dunne.

On Saturday, Dunne will walk into the biggest match of his WWE career against Bate. They’ll face off for the UK Championship at NXT TakeOver: Chicago, contesting for the belt in front of 10,000-plus fans. It will be an American wrestling show unlike any other that Dunne has been part of, but he should be ready to step up and potentially win the title.

The possible non-wrestling landmark moment of the UK Tournament involved the Bruiserweight. He viciously attacked Sam Gradwell during the end of Day One, which had William Regal fuming, but Triple H uttered some surprising praise. “Make a name for yourself,” said the Game. It’s safe to say Dunne has done that.

If it wasn’t for WWE wanting the babyface pop to close the UK Tournament, the championship would have been Dunne’s. He was arguably the focus of the two-day event, not Bate. From the Gradwell attack to Regal hating him, the Triple H comment, the hard-nosed charisma, and the multiple, star-making in-ring showings, it became difficult to turn away from what this 23-year-old was doing. That’s not to say Bate didn’t look great, because he came in a very close second, but Dunne looked like he could go to the main roster the next day if WWE really wanted that to happen.

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Despite being a heel, fans gravitated to Dunne because as we’ve seen with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, it’s difficult to boo a talented individual, no matter what they’re telling you to jeer at. It’s why Styles had to become a face again, as no one would go along with his harsh comments on SmackDown Live. While not quite at that level, Dunne is garnering support for just about anything he does.

At the WWE UK Special, Dunne proved again why he belongs at the top. His match with Trent Seven tore the house down, using sharp in-ring psychology from start to finish. Dunne worked the already-injured arm of Seven’s, using it to ground the long-time British star, before going to a second gear and sending this match onto another level. The Bitter End onto the hurt body part was a fitting conclusion to this, which gave Dunne his TakeOver opportunity.

It wouldn’t be a WWE UK show without pre or post-match attacks from YxB, either. His attack on Seven meant something for their match, but the one on Mark Andrews, which came after his bout with Bate, had no reason. Does it matter, though? Because we not only received the latest “William Regal face,” but it shows Dunne just not caring about anything else around him. He wants to make an impact in any way possible, downing everyone in his path — even if it’s someone just walking away after their match.

This all sets up Dunne’s biggest opportunity on Saturday night, and it’s one he has a great chance of walking out of victoriously.

WWE has let Bate run through a four-month title reign, allowing him to be established with multiple successful defenses. So if this was to end on Saturday, then it would be difficult to complain about what the 20-year-old did.

Not only has Dunne done all of this to deserve a championship run, he makes sense as the Superstar to win the belt. It would have him walk into the eventual UK show WWE’s developing as the champion, building up to an eventual defense against a babyface. This may be against Bate again, who could win the belt back as a babyface victory to spark some early hype, if WWE wants to use a similar formula to 205 Live’s debut.

There are other options, however, like Wolfgang, Andrews or Seven. Bate’s the alpha face of the WWE UK Division, though, and may make the most sense for an early second reign.

We could always be in for a lengthy run out of Dunne, who has shown through PROGRESS and other British promotions he can be a top-tier champion. He’s even the current holder of the PROGRESS World Championship, being allowed to carry (or chomp on) it his UK Special entrance. That’s your latest “Wrestling in 2017” moment.

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Saturday may be Dunne’s night. He’ll have the opportunity to put on another incredible showing with Bate and make everyone have to top what they do. It could lead to championship gold, but either way, fans are in for a treat.