Editorial Columns

Is Pete Dunne too big for NXT UK?

Following his meteoric rise over the past few years, Peter Barnes asks the question; Is Pete Dunne too big for NXT UK?

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Yes. Good night folks, thanks for reading.

Ok, I’ll be serious now. There are many murmurs going around that suggest Pete Dunne is too big for the NXT UK brand, so I will explore that idea, and whether that’s a good thing or not.

To put things plainly, Pete Dunne has experienced an almost meteoric rise from being part of the Natural Progression Series at Chapter 13, to being the final entrant in the War Games II match. Even from taking part in the inaugural UK Championship tournament at Blackpool in 2017, to participating in the Match of the Year of all of NXT last year, that is a huge step up. You must consider the matches that this was up against, the Authors of Pain vs Team DIY match where Tommaso Ciampa turned on Johnny, Asuka vs Ember Moon and Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream to name but three. In short, Pete Dunne is a bit of a big deal, but is he too big for NXT UK?

The whole purpose of NXT UK is to get British (and Irish) wrestlers over and give them screen time. Depending on who you believe, it’s also to kill the independent scene/reward the hard-working wrestlers and create space for more aspiring wrestlers to follow their dreams, thus creating more stars. Either way, it certainly does the job of popularising the independent wrestlers of the UK. Without the tournament that preceded it, or the current TV show, it’s highly unlikely that I would know who Wolfgang was, or care as much about any of British Strong Style, let alone think that Ashton Smith is as big a deal as he is.

It is indisputable that Pete Dunne is one of the most well-known active British wrestlers within the WWE right now. He’s thriving on NXT and as said before, he’s had a match of the year award, and main evented the most recent Take:Over. Having him on NXT UK seems natural to me, he’s a big UK star, on a UK brand. Logic right there ladies and gents. But then if you look closely, does he need to be on the UK show? I’m not convinced he does.  With our without, people will get over and stars will be made. Sure he’s a ready made star, and his matches against Noam Dar and Danny Burch have helped showcase them massively, in a way that I don’t think 205 Live or NXT respectively have. I’d never have seen Danny in a singles match, and certainly not push someone as close as he did against Dunne in their absolute barnburner, and I haven’t seen him in a match since he took on Undisputed with Oney Lorcan at his side. Likewise, Dar is outside of the title picture on 205 Live, after having been involved in that storyline with Alicia Fooooooox on RAW/205.

On the other hand, Dunne is featuring regularly, getting huge reactions from crowds and entertaining as a constant thorn in Undisputed’s side and an uneasy bed-fellow with Ricochet. He seems at home on NXT and with the best will in the world, NXT UK seems a little beneath him. It’s like Manchester City (other clubs are available) playing in the Non-leagues.

The question is then, if Petahhh is too big for NXT UK, does it harm or benefit the brand that he’s there. I mean, he adds prestige to it, and is a heck of a draw. If I was an American fan, and heard of a show that featured more Pete Dunne goodness, I would watch the heck out of it. His name being involved is guaranteed to get eyes on the product, which is what WWE want. I can’t help but feel though, that having him there, does restrict who else can shine. Think of it this way, all the stars are in the sky all the time. They don’t migrate south when it’s daytime, they don’t look at their watches and go ‘well the sun’s about to come up, I better get going’. They are there all the time, but the Sun, which gives us all the warmth and goodness, outshines them and you cannot notice the other stars.

The WWE are running the risk of Pete being the Sun itself. Sure he gives us fingersnaps and all other joint manipulating goodness, but he could end up outshining everyone else, and them not being noticed. Would he be less of a draw without the NXT UK title? I think the answer there is no. He doesn’t need the title to be popular, losing it won’t hurt him at all.

Long story short, Pete Dunne is bigger than the brand. You can go as far as to say that he’s too big and that being in NXT UK risks stagnating him, and not letting the other talent shine through. And that’s not meant as an attack on Pete, it’s not his fault that he’s popular or the brightest talent in the NXT UK sky. It’s a positive that he deserves to be on bigger stages than NXT UK. The best option I see for him, would be to use him as an attraction wrestler, having one or two matches here and there, coming down from NXT to tune up for a big match perhaps, and then to cement his position as a leading light of NXT. He can lose his title to whomever the WWE choose to give the rub to, and my prediction there is Ashton Smith, give him a Rocket Boost, Whoop, to the top of the card and let the scene flourish as it undoubtedly will.

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