Pete Dunne Talks All Things WWE UK Ahead Of Royal Albert Hall Shows
WWE's United Kingdom brand looks to soar to new heights when they emanate from the iconic Royal Albert Hall, London on June 18 and 19.
They've already hosted shows at Blackpool's Empress Ballroom and Norwich's Epic Studios but the two nights of wrestling next month looks to serve up to a whole new spectacle completely.
UK champion Pete Dunne is understandably buzzing about the opportunity to perform on such a stage.
"It's really exciting," he told SPORTbible.
"I think it's a culmination of what we've done thus far - even before the WWE UK stuff came in, just building this UK scene with promotions like PROGRESS and ICW.
"To do a venue which is so prestigious, it really is something special."
Not only will fans be treated to the return of the legendary 'King of the Ring' tournament on night one to determine a new No.1 contender for Dunne's title on night two, every single NXT title will be on the line.
What's more, it's also been confirmed that Dunne will be teaming with Trent Seven and Tyler Bate, reforming the 'British Strong Style' faction to come up against the Undisputed Era: NXT North American champion Adam Cole and tag-team champions Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong - the latter who turned on Dunne at NXT Takeover: New Orleans.
"Being able to do all this with my peers and my friends and do it on a stage as big as that is really cool," he added.
"Especially because a lot of new faces are going to be coming into this tournament - whether it be people I'd been hoping would get a chance to sign - and they are going to have their own moment just like we had."
There's a lot of speculation as to who might be the new additions to the UK brand and it only felt right to follow up by asking the Bruiserweight about the guys he feels should get the nod.
"I urge people to go and watch PROGRESS, ICW and places like that and they'll see the depth of talent themselves. There's a few people like Zack Gibson, Flash Morgan Webster, Chris Brookes (CCK) and Travis Banks - all these guys are based in the UK that are killing it all over the country three, four or five times a week.
"It would be great seeing some of them get a shot on this one. And if not ,it's good to see how it's developing - how you can start off on the smaller shows, get yourself on places like PROGRESS and this stuff [WWE] seems achievable now. There's a clear pathway that wasn't there seven years ago."
Dunne claimed the UK title by beating Tyler Bate, the ludicrously talented 20-year old grappler who he helped train, at NXT Takeover: Chicago in what was voted NXT's Match of the Year.
He's held it for nearly a year, defending it all over the world and bringing a sense of prestige to the championship.
The 24-year old does feel proud to be the face of the UK brand, but feels it's a collective effort at the same time.
"I obviously feel proud of what I've done and the fact I've brought it this far. Being in a position to get the most exposure and being on NXT and stuff, it is a responsibility - I don't feel pressure as such but there is that responsibility there to make sure I'm not just representing myself right, but the UK brand in general.
"But there's still that collective effort. It was the same when Tyler was holding the title - the same mentality that we want to kill it and put on the best shows possible. We want to make it hard for NXT shows to match it, that was the outlook in Blackpool and hopefully that'll be the same again at the Royal Albert hall."
As the UK title holder, out of all the guys signed to the WWE UK brand, Dunne has featured most prominently on NXT TV as well as having two Takeover appearances to his name.
At the same time, he is able to fulfil a fair share of his independent commitments and live a pretty enjoyable wrestling life at the moment.
"I really get the best of both worlds and wouldn't change it for the world. Half my time is spent in Orlando with NXT and I still get to go out and travel the world - I was in Canada recently and I was in Australia.
"You really get to see how far that NXT, WWE and PROGRESS reach goes - we were selling out shows in Perth in Australia and I'm always blown away by the reception that we get.
"One of the coolest things is not only being a part of WWE and getting to know all the faces behind it from around the world, I get that independent life that I enjoy so much."
Once again a select crop of UK talent are involved in the WWE European tour which recently kicked off - with several slated to feature on 205 Live.
At Raw in Manchester in November, Dunne made his RAW debut in emphatic fashion when he destroyed then-Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore after being introduced by General Manager Kurt Angle.
"That was a crazy experience. I think from debuting in Blackpool and how fast things have been moving, doing a couple of Takeovers and doing multiple main roster tours - being able to finally do a live episode of Raw, I really am blessed to be able to have got there so fast.
"After putting in 11-12 years of work into it, it all feels to have come full circle for me in the space of 12 months."
Dunne turned up on Raw six months ago in a champion vs champion match and there's huge interest in him doing the same on this tour, only this time fans are clamouring for him to get in the ring with Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins, who is doing open challenges.
He is interested in those types of showdowns in the future, but his focus lies elsewhere at present.
"Of course that would be great. There's so many people I'd love to work with like Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan coming back now - there's a huge list of people but honestly right now my priority is making this UK show a success.
"If we can be the first sort of territory being established, almost being the guinea pig and making it work, it will do absolute wonders for the wrestling scene in general. That's my responsibility and focus for now and then down the line I'd love the chance to work with people Rollins, Bryan, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn."
A bout with Universal Champion with Brock Lesnar, who Dunne feels he can hang with, is his ultimate dream match.
But he also his two opponents in mind when it comes to the possibility of defending the UK Championship on the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania.
"The obvious one that springs to mind would be me and Tyler again with what we've done already; getting to work together in Blackpool and then in Chicago, it would be great to come full circle.
"And if it could be anyone, something that could never happen but I can only hope, it would be William Regal. That would be amazing."
ITV's World of Sport Wrestling are giving their revival another go after their last attempts - which ran alongside WWE's UK tournament - didn't go to plan.
They recently ran tapings at Epic Studios, where WWE UK did two shows just over a year ago, and have snapped up some big names in British wrestling.
Dunne welcomes the competition but stresses that the Royal Albert Hall shows will be something special.
"Of course. All my friends in the UK, whether they be part of WWE, World of Sport, New Japan or Ring of Honor, the more opportunities, the better.
"But in terms of the way I look at it, I want to put on the best show and I'm confident the Royal Albert Hall shows will blow people away."