Why the UK’s Pete Dunne is the Next Great WWE Heel

Image Credit: WWE

If you spent this weekend indoors and are also a wrestling fan, then chances are you tuned in to the WWE Network’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament. This competition saw a roster of the UK’s best homegrown talent taking to a WWE ring for the first time ever in Blackpool, England, competing to be crowned the first ever winner of the United Kingdom Championship. The eventual winner, 19-year-old Dudley boy Tyler Bate, provided an uplifting finale to the two-day tournament, though it was his opponent who has got everyone talking.

Pete Dunne is 23 years old and hails from Birmingham, England. Though short in stature, Dunne is still a sizable chap and runs with the apt moniker “Bruiserweight” as a result, which the denizens of Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom chanted at him during his first few matches on the card. Despite Dunne working in a tournament with more notable UK wrestlers such as Trent Seven, he swiftly began attracting the most positive attention of anyone else on both of the event’s cards, his dastardly heel tactics and arrogance serving to win over the UK audience. However, by his final match against Tyler Bate, the crowd had well and truly turned on Dunne and, like any good heel, his defeat made Bate’s victory seem that much sweeter.

The WWE is at a loss for genuinely detestable heels right now. Arguably the only Superstars on the company’s main roster who are capable of garnering immense heat are The Miz and, much to Vince McMahon’s chagrin, Roman Reigns. Kevin Owens, who is Raw’s Universal Champion and therefore the company’s top heel by default, errs too much on the side of a comedy villain to be truly disliked. Though the WWE may have imbued his character with more cowardice in an effort to force him under the audience’s skin, in reality it’s made him look weaker (remember when he pinned John Cena cleanly?) and less of a threat. On the other hand, Pete Dunne looks both threatening and like an actual, bona fide bastard.

Pete Dunne, refusing to shake Mark Andrews’ hand like a proper heel. (Image Credit: WWE Network)

I’m a 26-year-old living in Birmingham and I can say with absolute certainty that Pete Dunnes exist over here in their thousands. They are the young men who watched one season of Peaky Blinders, used their student loan to buy clothes that make them look like they’re stuck forever in a photograph from 1922, and who then went to the barbers and asked for a Cal Hockley from Titanic. They’re lads who got a degree in sports science but then got way too into pills to maintain a job in that field. They’re insufferable, and Pete Dunne embodies everything that makes them so irritating. He looks like the kind of guy who can’t handle his drink and winds up ending his night by throwing his doner burger at the back of a taxi driver’s head. His mouth is permanently contorted into a snarl, with his angular, pointed Roger Klotz face giving him the appearance of someone who could well be an actual arsehole in reality. This is the best trait a heel can possess. 

I’ve never really given the UK wrestling scene a chance, so my knowledge of each competitor prior to the United Kingdom Championship Tournament was either non-existent or based upon things I’d read/seen online. I’m still not entirely sold on each competitor in the tournament — the only guy outside of Dunne and Bate whose personality was allowed to shine through was Jordan Devlin, but I struggle to get past how much he looks like Finn Balor with Big Head Mode activated — though Dunne’s performance throughout the two-day event has convinced me to start paying closer attention to the stars my home country is developing.  The WWE hasn’t revealed which stars from the United Kingdom Championship Tournament it will be signing, nor its plans for the title in the near future. However, Triple H has already tweeted out his support for Dunne, which indicates that the finalist will have a place on the company’s roster.

Dunne is billed by WWE as weighing 205lbs, which should be seen as no coincidence considering 205 Live‘s 205lb weight limit. While it seems inevitable that Dunne will be joining these ranks in order to bolster WWE’s cruiserweight division, with Neville’s current dominant heel run only just starting to blossom Dunne would perhaps best be suited to a slot on the Raw mid-card. SmackDown already has a reasonable amount of established heels, with AJ Styles leading the roster, Miz and the newly turned Dolph Ziggler occupying the mid-card and The Wyatt Family being the key talking point of the tag division. Meanwhile, Raw is on the cusp of turning Chris Jericho face, Braun Strowman is flirting with a major heavyweight push and no one else is close to approaching The Miz’s level on the flagship brand. WWE’s main roster needs someone we can dislike, and Dunne’s gimmick “guy from Birmingham who dresses like an early 20th century time traveller but who is probably really into House music” is a perfect fit.

Dunne has all the potential to become a major heel in WWE. Though potential doesn’t always equal success in Vince McMahon’s company, there is at least an opening for his talents on the main roster, and Triple H’s backing should serve him well. While I’m interested in finding out more about what the WWE plans for the future of the United Kingdom Championship, I’m more invested in seeing a young lad from Birmingham rise through the ranks of the WWE and, in spite of our awful accent, make a name for himself.

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