On January 15th 2017, Tyler Bate met Pete Dunne in the finals of the WWE UK tournament. The winner would be crowned the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion, a brand new division created by WWE. Bate pinned Dunne, becoming the youngest singles champion in WWE history.
Just over four months later, Pete Dunne would be victorious in their rematch, defeating Tyler Bate and taking the UK title in an all-time classic bout at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. Even though this TakeOver is primarily remembered for the aftermath of the main event — where Tommaso Ciampa turned on his DIY tag team partner Johnny Gargano, kickstarting one the of the greatest wrestling stories ever told — Dunne v. Bate II is still fondly remembered. Their match truly put WWE’s UK division on the wrestling map.
And then the division went silent. Rumors of a UK-only show on the WWE Network would swirl and fade, and the UK roster would perform sporadically for months and months on NXT. Pete Dunne would show up from time to time, defend his championship, and leave. And oddly enough, it worked.
Pete Dunne wrestled on NXT, under the radar, slowly building up goodwill and getting reps in during an incredibly exciting time for the third brand. And because of the manner and pace of his booking, he got over.
And then, before you knew it, Pete Dunne had been champion for over a year. A second UK tournament was held, which saw Zack Gibson win, setting up a championship match for the UK belt, which aired on June 26th. Pete Dunne still retained. Then NXT UK officially became its own show on the network and they got their first ever TakeOver. Joe Coffey became the number one contender to the title and the main event was set. Dunne retained.
After the match, in the twilight of Dunne’s post-victory celebration, Antonio Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 came ringing out in the Blackpool arena. WALTER was here. This set up the NXT UK championship match at NXT TakeOver: New York, the day before WresleMania 35. And finally, after a two year reign, Pete Dunne was defeated.
That was two years ago. WALTER is still UK champion today.
In the four and a half years since the United Kingdom Championship was created, there have been only three men who’ve held the belt. When you compare that to the WWE Championship in that same time period, there have been fourteen title changes, with eleven different champions. Comparing the two isn’t exactly fair, but it does provide an interesting context. Even within NXT, there were eleven title changes since that UK tournament.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that NXT UK was shut down for several months last year due to the pandemic, meaning that WALTER didn’t have to defend his title. But even with the pandemic helping pad his statistics, the Ring General has been nothing short of a brutal and dominant champion.
WALTER’s title defenses read successfully as follows: Pete Dunne in a rematch; Travis Banks (who he had previously defeated to end Banks’ lengthy Progress Wrestling title reign); Tyler Bate at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff, in what may very well may be my favorite wrestling match of all time; Joe Coffey at the following TakeOver; Dave Mastiff; Ilja Dragunov; A-Kid; Tomasso Ciampa,; and, finally, Rampage Brown at NXT UK: Prelude.
So, who beats WALTER? Nobody. Why should they?
The Ring General does next to nothing in his matches — at least when you compare to modern pro-wrestling — and it’s a work of art. He defeated Tyler Bate with a clothesline to the back of the head. He defeated Ciampa with a chop! His finish is a splash from the top rope. And it’s all because he’s a 300 pound bear.
A few years ago, WALTER was on Steve Austin’s podcast. Austin asked him if any wrestlers ever complained about getting chopped. The champ said yes some had, but to stop complaining. To paraphrase, WALTER said it hurts, but it’s not dangerous.
And something about that has stuck with me ever since then. Pro wrestling is a lot of weird and fantastical things — a circus, an a la carte — but at its core it’s about portraying two competitors in a fight. WALTER is 300 pounds. There isn’t much a 300 pound man would need to do to kick your ass. So he doesn’t.
What he does to his opponents is incredibly painful. But it’s supposed to be. Wrestling may not be “real,” but it hurts just the same. You may know in advance that WALTER is going to chop you — hell, you may have called for the spot — but that only means that WALTER has to actually chop you in the chest.
So, who beats WALTER? Okay, seriously, who takes this guy out? When we really break it down, there is only one man that comes to mind. We have to go back, though, before the pandemic hit. One man had the leader of Imperium in his sight; a prince.
Finn Balor was set to take on the Ring General, but the pandemic changed that. In the meantime, Balor picked up his second NXT Championship, and fended off challengers for months. When he’s finished his business in Orlando, Balor can very well turn his attention to WALTER.
After all, WALTER seems to have the toughest time with smaller wrestlers. He can match strength with any heavyweight but it’s the stamina of the crusierweights he often struggles against.
So, who beats WALTER? It will take a prince, or perhaps a demon. But until then, WALTER chops and WALTER wins.
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