Features

5-Star Match Reviews: WALTER vs. Tyler Bate – NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff (8/31/19), by Alex Podgorski

The WWE NXT UK show is one of the best wrestling shows and companies in the world right now. They have a great roster, they put on fantastic matches, and the commentary is great. There was even that one time Michael Cole did commentary on one of their shows and he did an excellent job. Then again, this was because he didn’t have an absolute madman yelling nonsense into his headset.

But those things aren’t the main reason why NXT UK is so great. Their biggest asset, both literally and figuratively, is this man.

Simply put, WALTER is awesome! He’s the best wrestling throwback around. He is simply a wrestler, and a damn good one at that. Everything about WALTER is simple yet effective. His ring attire is straightforward black boots and trunks and there isn’t a hint of flashiness to his appearance. He isn’t one of those overly-muscular bodybuilder types that look impressive but can’t wrestle for more than ten seconds. Instead, he has a menacing, Stan Hansen-like body and a face that just screams ‘European bad guy’. If they were looking for an evil henchman for the next Bond film, WALTER would be the perfect choice.

But WALTER is more than just a menacing face. He wrestles very different from 99% of WWE’s entire roster. WALTER wrestles in a slower, methodical style whereby every move he uses is simple but is done for a reason. He doesn’t rely on complex submission holds, lengthy setup for his big moves, or ten thousand superkicks. His four biggest moves are a powerbomb, a lariat, a diving splash and a sleeper suplex. All of them are simple, yet he uses them with brutal efficiency.

Oh, and he likes to chop the ever-loving shit out of his opponents. Then again, that shouldn’t surprise anyone given that he wrestled against, and wrestles like, King’s Road legend Kenta Kobashi.

This match was rated over five stars at *****1/4 by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. When our own TJRWrestling owner John Canton reviewed it, he rated it ****3/4 on the five star scale. John loved the match, but noted that maybe it went a bit too long and the pacing was a bit too slow to be five stars, but he still liked the match a lot.

The Story

WALTER is the leader of the Imperium stable and they’ve been at war with British Strong Style, of which Tyler Bate is a member. WALTER, in particular, was on a tear at this point, going undefeated in singles competition. He had also defeated Bate’s fellow BSS member Pete Dunne four months prior to win the NXT UK Championship for the first time.

Tyler Bate, who was only 22 in this match – was out for revenge against WALTER and also hoped to make history by becoming the first-ever two-time NXT UK Champion. The question was, could he do it?

The Match

This match took place on August 31, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales at WWE NXT Takeover Cardiff if you’re looking for it on WWE Network.

The bell rings and the fans are overwhelmingly in Bate’s corner. Bate ducks a big chop and scores a kick to the calf to set the tone. They start a Greco-Roman knuckle lock and WALTER pushes Bate down and gets a one-count. He gets a quick two-count right after, but Bate bridges out with WALTER on top of him. Wow, that must take considerable strength.

We get a back-and-forth strike exchange with Bate trying to kick WALTER in the calf yet again but WALTER grounds him with a headlock takedown. WALTER keeps this cinched in for a long time but Bate fights back by trying to deadlift WALTER but fails. Bate whips WALTER off but WALTER thunders back with a huge shoulder block that sends Bate plummeting to the mat with great force.

WALTER goes for the powerbomb but Bate escapes. Bate goes for the Tyler Driver ’97 but WALTER tosses him off. Bate lands on his feet, ducks a clothesline and tries a shoulder block but WALTER barely moves. He tries again but big WALTER leapfrogs over him and charges, only for the much smaller Bate to lift WALTER up for a big slam reminiscent of Hogan-André from WrestleMania III.

Bate shoulder tackles WALTER, sending him out of the ring. WALTER gets back in and deflects Bate’s dropkicks. He goes for a big slam of his own but Bate holds onto WALTER’s arm to avoid it. Clever escape. So WALTER slams Bate into the top turnbuckle. He attempts an Oklahoma Stampede but Bate escapes and hurricanranas WALTER out of the ring again.

Bate charges and dives through the ropes, but WALTER catches him, chops him hard in the chest then lands a Kevin Owens-style apron powerbomb. Ouch. That looked painful. As Bate tries to re-enter, WALTER kicks him out and gives chase. A short ringside brawl ends with WALTER smashing Bate into the ring barricade and then booting him hard in the face. But WALTER’s not done. He lifts bate up and powerbombs him into the steel ringpost. Good God, that was brutal.

WALTER gets into the ring as the doctors check on Bate and the fans chant ‘fuck you WALTER’. Back in the ring, WALTER kicks Bate mockingly. He scoop slams Bate and punts him hard in the back, keeping bate grounded. WALTER taunts him to get up, but Bate’s back hurts him so much the best he can do is try and kick from a grounded position. Bate tries to fire back with some forearms but WALTER keeps stomping him back down. WALTER applies a vicious-looking chinlock and as soon as Bate makes it to his feet WALTER punts him in the back yet again.

WALTER pummels Bate’s chest some more and then applies a sleeperhold. Bate reaches the rope out of desperation, and when WALTER smacks him Bate fires back with a huge left hand. Bate tries to show his strength by lifting WALTER onto his shoulders Cena-style, but he buckles under WALTER’s weight.. Bate reaches the ropes again but WALTER continues to punish him with Sheamus-style forearm clubs to the chest. Bate falls out of the ring but returns at the count of eight.

WALTER doesn’t wait and locks in a double arm submission hold while also forcing hit boot into Bate’s back. Bate tries to reverse it in the classic APJW strength spot, but WALTER keeps it locked in. He tries for a second time and after a struggle, he manages to reverse it…no, WALTER reverses it himself…no wait, Bate flip dropkicks his way out of it. Great counter. But he can’t capitalize because here comes WALTER with a big sitting splash onto Bate’s chest for a two-count.

A brutal chop to the chest drops Bate once again and WALTER kicks Bate in the corner. As WALTER taunts him Bate answers with a chop but WALTER no-sells it. So Bate chops him again but WALTER eats it like it’s nothing. He smashes Bate’s back yet again and slams him onto the top turnbuckle. Then, to add more insult and injury, WALTER lands a foot choke on an upside down Bate, stretching Bate’s back while also jamming his foot into his face. Bate lands on the apron and WALTER gives chase.

Walter teases a powerbomb from the apron but Bate hooks one leg around the rope. Excellent ring awareness by Bate. WALTER lands some hard forearms to Bate, but on the third one Bate teases an exploder suplex. WALTER escapes with some elbows, but it isn’t enough. Apron exploder suplex to the floor by Bate! Wow, what a crazy move. I haven’t seen that in fifteen years!

Bate gets up first and smashes WALTER into the barricade. Back in the ring he hits some leg drops and starts firing back with forearms and uppercuts. He tries to keep this up with a diving moves but WALTER chops him in midair. Literally, WALTER just swats him away like a fly, and then applies a Boston crab. But WALTER doesn’t stop there; as bate tries to escape, WALTER adds a knee, turning it into a torture crab and turning poor Bate almost vertical. Then, to add more pressure, WALTER goes to another side headlock. Bate tries to crawl to the ropes, but WALTER locks in another modified chinlock to keep him in place. Finally, Bate reaches the ropes with his foot, forcing WALTER to release the hold.

WALTER continues to punish Bate with chops and attempts a vertical suplex but wait, Bate’s fighting back again,.He teases a vertical suplex of his own. He gets WALTER hallway up, he’s almost there…no, WALTER blocks it and chops him so hard he falls on his ass. WALTER lifts Bate up for the suplex but Bate knees him in the head. The crowd’s coming alive. Bate heaves and heaves, and suplexes the giant Austrian. The crowd goes nuts.

Bate lands multiple forearms and uppercuts and starts charging with clotheslines, but WALTER won’t budge. He goes for his fourth but WALTER hits an elbow smash to the face. Bate bounces on the ropes and lands an abisengiri kick. He teases a German suplex but can’t get him more than a few inches off the ground. WALTER tries to elbow his way out but bate catches his arm and lands another exploder suplex. Excellent counter-wrestling here. Then Bate kips up Shawn Michaels-style. Where is he getting this strength from?

A running shooting star splash gets a two-count for Bate. He teases the Tyler Driver ’97 but WALTER blocks it and nails another elbow smash. Bate reverses a strike into a backslide attempt but WALTER lands on his feet. Wait, no, Bate’s going for the Tyler driver again, but now WALTER flips him off (literally) and he lands hard. Bate gets up in a corner and WALTER charges but Bate flips over him. But then Bate’s back gives out and he winces in pain, giving WALTER an opening. Walter lands a huge standing dropkick that sends Bate careening to the other side of the ring. Walter goes for the powerbomb – NO, it gets countered. Yoshi Tonic by Bate! Wow, what a fantastic reversal. The referee counts one…two…thr—NO, WALTER kicks out at 2.8.

Bate climbs the turnbuckle but WALTER reaches the ropes. Walter hammers away on Bate as he holds onto the top turnbuckle. Bate gains control and teases a suplex from the top rope to the floor. The fans are getting anxious. But WALTER fights his way out it and the crowd boos. Then WALTER hits another devastating chop to the chest that drops Bate like a sack of bricks. WALTER ascends the top rope but Bate lands a jumping head-butt. He catches WALTER on the top rope and WALTER looks like he’s going for a chop but Bate catches his hand and snaps the fingers. The crowd goes wild. Avalanche exploder suplex from Bate. Bate crawls for a cover…but WALTER kicks out at 2.8. This is fantastic.

They exchange grounded strikes and Bate attacks WALTER’s ankle. They have another strike exchange when as they get to their feet. Each time WALTER chops bate down, he fires up and fights back with lefts and rights. WALTER continues with his vicious chops but Bate starts no-selling them like WALTER did earlier. Bate tries to stay standing but WALTER downs him with a forearm. But WALTER’s exhausted and lands right on top of Bate. All of WALTER’s weight is now crushing poor Bate’s lower back. The guy must be in immense pain.

Both guys get up slowly and fight back some more. WALTER hits a fury of palm strikes and Bate fires back with a headbutt attempt…but WALTER catches him and lands an exploder suplex of his own. WALTER doesn’t go for a pin but attempts a powerbomb, but Bate kicks him in the face. Bate tries a fireman’s carry and manages an airplane spin. Good God that must be insanely hard to do. Bate places WALTER on the top turnbuckle and then hoists him into the torture rack. Oh My God! Bate drills him with a modified Burning Hammer. What the Hell?! WALTER got dropped straight on his face and chest. Both men are down. Bate inches his way to pin WALTER in any way he can. A hand, a finger, that’s all he needs. But WALTER rolls to safety, robbing Bate of his win. Bate was so close!

As WALTER catches his breath outside, Bate lands a suicide bulldog and then an over-the-top-rope suicide dive as well. This guy must have a bottomless well of energy. Back in the ring, Bate musters some more strength and lands a heaving bridging German suplex but WALTER kicks out again. Bate attempts a Tyler Driver ’97 but WALTER reverses it into a pinning combo for another two-count. But Bate manages to bridge out (damn, what strength), and lands the Tyler Driver ’97. It’s over, we have a new champ—NO, WALTER kicks out again. My God, this is awesome. Spiral tap by Bate. The ref’s counting. No, WALTER kicks out.

Bate starts un-taping his wrists, and unleashes a ton of strikes on WALTER. The ref pulls Bate from the corner and WALTER charges out with more furious chops. He boots Bate in the face and applies a sleeperhold. But somehow, Bate gets to his feet with a 300-plus-pound WALTER on his back. Is this guy Superman’s grandson or something?. Bate falls backwards and the hold is broken…for four seconds, because WALTER gets up and locks it in again. WALTER keeps it locked in as they get to their feet.

Bate tries to climb the ropes to escape but WALTER tosses him off. More forearms against the ropes by WALTER and the sleeper’s re-applied. Bate manages to pull WALTER over the rope but the sleeper’s still locked in. Bate tries to elbow his way out but WALTER chops him hard in the back yet again. But WALTER isn’t finished. He hooks in the sleeper and…apron sleeper suplex. Holy shit! That looked devastating. Walter tosses Bate back into the ring and climbs the top rope. Diving splash. That’s how he beat Bate’s friend Pete Dunne for the title in New York. The referee counts one…two…thr—NO, Bate kicks out. Bate Kicks out! The crowd erupts in cheers.

Another sleeper suplex by WALTER. Bate kicks out once more. Frustrated, WALTER slaps Bate hard, so hard it sounds like he cracked the bones in Bate’s jaw. He lifts Bate up. Powerbomb! It’s over, the ref starts count—no, Bate kicks out at one! At ONE! Damn, this is insane. Bate has the entire arena on their feet. Bate just won’t die. Even WALTER’s shocked at Bate’s will to win But WALTER has one last weapon up his sleeve. He cocks his arm…running lariat. He damn near cleaved Bate’s head off.

The referee counts one…two…three! That’s it. Walter wins.

Winner and STILL WWE NXT UK Champion after 42:11: WALTER

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7jceuu

Review

Hell yes, that was an awesome match! It was a classic AJPW King’s Road match with a modern, NXT twist. The first act featured both guys jockeying for control, which WALTER won as soon as he dropped Bate with that ringpost Powerbomb. The middle had all those painful submission holds meant to wear each guy down. Then the final act was the finishing stretch in which finishers and big moves were layered on top of each other until one man couldn’t go any further.

WALTER and Bate did an outstanding job putting on a war while retelling the tried and tested David vs. Goliath tale. Bate had to fight from underneath for a good portion of the match and he showed tremendous babyface fire. The crowd loved him from the beginning, but after seeing him get the tar beat out of him and him not quitting, they became even more desperate to see him win. Bate was unbelievably impressive in this match. That tiny little man managed to deadlift the 300-pound WALTER more than once, which was amazing both as a feat of strength and as a storytelling device. He was trying to overcome incredible odds, and he got closer and closer each time. But Goliath won this time, and WALTER remains undefeated in singles competition.

I wouldn’t call this a war of attrition because WALTER had the advantage for a good long while. If anything, this was more about Bate overcoming extreme pain and exhaustion while still mustering enough strength to not only fight back but also out-wrestle a much bigger opponent. Both guys did a tremendous job of selling each other’s offense, with Bate in particular looking like he wasn’t going to leave the ring in one piece. He was an excellent underdog that fought like crazy against a menacing giant. I also really enjoyed the clever spot they did when WALTER fell on Bate. It was unique because WALTER was exhausted but instead of falling away from Bate, he landed on top of him, turning Bate’s momentum against him. That turned an otherwise typical ‘rest up’ segment into a dire situation for Bate that gave the match more drama.

But the main reason why I liked this match was one of the smallest features that likely went unnoticed by most people. WALTER and Bate didn’t just land their big moves after one attempt; they teased big spots to make each successful move matter more. When Bate tried to suplex WALTER, he had two failed attempts and landed on the third, making that move feel more important. When WALTER teases powerbombing Bate on the apron, Bate wrapped his leg around the rope to make WALTER try harder to lift him while also adding a greater sense of danger to it and also showcasing Bate’s ring awareness. And when WALTER did land the Powerbomb in the ring after so many failed attempts and reversals, it was built perfectly as a believable, match-ending move. But Bate kicked out of it at the count of one, causing the crowd to erupt like a volcano. That is how wrestling storytelling is done.

Final Rating: *****

I adored this match. It was an NXT rendition of a wrestling style made world-famous over two decades earlier and it was still as good as those older classics. It felt like a war, it had so many classic twists and turns, and everything was layered in a way that made stuff from earlier in the match mean something. There was no wasted motion here. Even WALTER’s terrifying chops all made sense because they knocked the wind out of his opponent (and also because they hurt like hell).

Some people might not like stuff like this because of the slower pace, but that’s also what makes it stand out. So many matches we see today start off at a blistering pace that makes it hard to digest what’s happening. In this match, WALTER and Bate wrestled more ‘methodically’ but not in a way to make the match boring. Instead, the match pacing and both wrestlers’ sense of timing were right on the money. It struck a balance between being slower and more drawn-out, allowing the smaller moves to build up to an exciting and unpredictable finishing sprint.

So while this might not be the best match in wrestling history, in my opinion, it’s the best match in NXT history.