As the WWE attempts to scour the world for talents that not only transcend in the ring, but around the globe as characters, it’s time that they recognize they have already have a superstar in the making in the form of the current United Kingdom Champion, Pete Dunne.
Dunne recently made his Monday Night Raw debut back on Nov. 6 when he defeated Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore in a “Bruiserweight vs. Cruiserweight” match. Take that as an example: the man already has a perfect nickname and holds a win over the champion of a division the WWE has invested a weekly hourly show into.
His run in November continued when he defended the United Kingdom Championship against Johnny Gargano prior to NXT TakeOver: WarGames (which actually aired this past week as part of NXT’s weekly programming). The match had literally no build-up, which is likely why it did not make the final card, but it was a scintillating contest worthy of being on any PPV event the WWE has churned out this year.
This takes us back to May. Dunne was not yet the champion; that honor belonged to Tyler Bate, winner of the initial United Kingdom Championship Tournament. Bate has a bright future in his own right, but the fact that Dunne didn’t walk out with the belt in the first place came as a surprise.
Once the two locked up at TakeOver: Chicago, they changed the game. Their showdown was so brilliant that it has forced its way into the conversation for Match of the Year not just for the U.K. branch of the WWE, and not just for NXT, but for the WWE as a whole. The match also happened to be Dunne’s coronation, winning the title for the first time and becoming the new face of British wrestling.
Dunne has already climbed the mountain in Progress Wrestling, where he is a one-time champion. The man from Birmingham, England, has taken to the craft from a young age, moving up the wrestling scene and fortuitously coming of age as the WWE has chosen to expand their influence into the United Kingdom.
How often is it that the WWE actually gets a potential star while they’re on the come up? They did so with John Cena and Randy Orton, and while those are lofty comparisons, they have also done so with someone like Adam Cole, who still just 28 years old and only beginning his WWE journey. A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe are legendary competitors, but the WWE snagged them later in their career; imagine had they been with the company the whole time? With Dunne, he just turned 24 years old and has already shown more than just flashes of potential greatness.
The WWE is coming off a six-month bender of having Jinder Mahal walk around as WWE Champion. For all the positive things that Mahal did to look the part of a heel, there’s no denying that his push to the main event of SmackDown Live was certainly not hindered by the fact that the company hailed him from India. Getting a superstar to appeal to wide swaths of a particular population is a tactic the WWE has used many times over the years, although it appears we are in the midst of the Golden Age.
Wrestling has gone global. At TakeOver: WarGames last Saturday, Drew McIntyre (from Scotland) defended the NXT Championship against Andrade “Cien” Almas (from Mexico). Come the WarGames Match main event, on display was Alexander Wolfe (from Germany), Killian Dain (from Northern Ireland), Eric Young and Kyle O’Reilly (from Canada), and Rezar (from Netherlands), showing that international flavor isn’t just a convenience, it’s sought after.
It’s not just that Dunne hails from another country or is still so young that helps his superstar potential, it’s the simple fact that he’s a damn good in-ring worker. He rarely appears on television, yet every time he appears, the crowd goes nuts for the young Brit. He has everything from the trademark gear, to the idiosyncrasies that make him unique from his hair, to his kneecap tattoo, to holding the title between his mouthpiece and teeth.
Before Dunne can become a major player on Monday or Tuesday nights, the WWE must first figure out what they’re doing with the U.K. division. If nothing else, the process has garnered them Dunne, who is sure to have just begun his long lineage of putting on stellar matches for the company.