WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang
Going into Night 2 of this tournament, Tyler Bate and Wolfgang were both standouts after their performances the previous night. These competitors would only stand out more in their quarter-final matches, proving that they are indeed two world-class athletes. Then, the semi-finals came. These two hard hitters finally met, and what would transpire would be a truly special contest.
The moment the match starts I’m completely absorbed by the atmosphere. Both guys were over but Tyler was far and away the more beloved. Look at the faces of both Wolfgang and Bate. While Tyler looks appreciative of the reception, Wolfgang looks livid. His reaction told the whole story: Wolfie felt betrayed. He was a fan favorite in this tournament, garnering cheers in both of his previous matches. Here however, Wolfgang was treated like the bad guy. Wolfgang’s annoyance with the crowd distracts him enough for Tyler to get a good punch in. This is very consistent storytelling. In all of Wolfgang’s tournament matches, his opponent gets the first shot in. This emphasizes Wolfgang’s biggest weakness: he’s easily distracted, or lacks foresight. This comes back later in the match as well.
Throughout the tournament the characteristics of Tyler Bate that were most emphasized were his strength and resilience. This makes Wolfgang a perfect opponent for him, as the size difference establishes a David/Goliath dynamic and makes the crowd ask “can he lift him up?” This is made more compelling when Tyler fails his attempt at getting Wolfie up for an airplane spin. Wolfgang also overwhelms Bate with a plethora of power moves, yet Bate keeps surviving. Strength and resilience were the focus.
As the match progresses, Wolfgang puts in one of the most subtle heel performances I’ve seen in some time. He doesn’t take any cheap shots, spit, pull hair, or poke eyes. His wrestling was basically the same, just slightly slowed down and with more frustration. The crowd didn’t take kindly to Wolfgang’s visible annoyance. The second call back of the match happens when Tyler knocks Wolfgang down by attacking the knee Wolfie injured in his previous match with Trent Seven. This not only shows that Tyler did his homework, it also shows that events from past matches have lasting consequences.
The finish of this match was simply beautiful. After turning Tyler inside out with a spear, Wolfgang gets distracted by the crowd once again. His disgust at the crowd’s preference of Tyler was at its most palpable. It was only for a second but Wolfgang almost appeared to mock the crowd’s pro-Tyler chants. Unfortunately, his lack of concentration finally became his downfall. Tyler counters Wolfie’s attempt at a gutbuster and hits the Tyler Driver ’97 out of nowhere for the three count. It was clear Wolfgang took too long to capitalize and gave Tyler enough time to recover. This finish is great for three reasons. One, Tyler hitting the Tyler Driver paid off the “can he lift him up?” story. Two, the suddenness of the finish put over the Tyler Driver as a guaranteed match ender. Three, Wolfgang’s most consistent weakness finally cost him the tournament.
It’s amazing how much psychology was crammed into this match in such a short time. The callbacks, the selling, the facials, the way they worked the crowd. All of it was executed to perfection. Both guys came out of this match looking like superstars on par with any wrestler in the world. This is my favorite sub-10 minute match of the year so far, and the most underrated match of the entire tournament. A six-minute storytelling masterpiece.