NXT 2.0 has arrived! While fans are divided about the brand’s new look and direction, one thing is clear: NXT continues to deliver some of the best matches and overall storytelling WWE has to offer. And perhaps no superstar has more potential than “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne.
At just 27, Dunne has already made a name for himself, with wrestling legends like Triple H and Shawn Michaels singing Dunne’s praises. It’s clear The Bruiserweight is poised to have a storied career, and he already has a strong library of stellar matches that speak for themselves. Let’s take a look at three of his best in NXT.
Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate (NXT TakeOver: Chicago)
If you haven’t seen Dunne work, and particularly if you’re a lapsed pro wrestling fan (we don’t blame you), this is the place to start. WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross serves as guest commentator. His iconic voice helps legitimize two young athletes eager to prove themselves on a big stage.
Dunne and Bate have history prior to WWE, but you don’t need that background to get into the fight. Dunne wants payback after having lost to Bate in the United Kingdom Championship Tournament finals to crown the first-ever WWE United Kingdom Champion. In the pre-match package, a brooding Dunne reveals he wants more than payback – he wants to crush the babyface Bate’s dreams.
What follows is a top-to-bottom wrestling clinic, including technical mat wrestling, stylish high spots, and strong character work. Bate pulls out all the stops, including a picture-perfect moonsault from the top rope to the outside, but it isn’t enough to put the challenger away. Dunne hits his finishing move The Bitter End to begin his legendary title reign.
Pete Dunne vs. WALTER (NXT TakeOver: New York)
After winning the title from Bate, Dunne was on an impressive winning streak. The Bruiserweight had successfully defended his title for a record title reign of 685 days. But at NXT TakeOver: New York, Dunne had to face his most intimidating challenger yet: Walter.
Historically, Dunne has struggled against larger opponents. The 6’4”, 300-pound Walter proved to be an imposing figure, punishing the champ with his trademark ear-splitting chops that left visible welts. Dunne gave a valiant effort, but it was lights out for the champ after the big man hit a top-rope splash.
Watching Dunne work as a face is a treat, especially if you’re already familiar with his more heelish tendencies he’s better known for. He’s still the same character – it’s the smaller nuances that flip a switch and help get the crowd behind him.
Pete Dunne vs. Finn Bálor (NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day)
After COVID, wrestling without crowds proved to be difficult, both for the performers as well as spectators. Chalk it up to pro wrestling's circus roots; wrestling thrives on audience reaction. But Dunne and veteran Finn Bálor worked around these limitations to deliver a technical masterpiece that highlights how in-ring psychology can make something as seemingly simple as an armbar feel more brutal – and entertaining – than a chair shot.
Part of that was because of the match build, which perfectly set up a personal feud. Bálor told an eager Dunne everyone wanted a shot at the champion, and that he needed to “Wait in line.” This didn’t sit well with the former United Kingdom Champion, who felt he deserved more respect from the grizzled veteran.
“Everyone in Europe wanted to follow in Finn Bálor’s footsteps. Not me,” said Dunne, back in full heel mode. “They see the posterboy for European wrestling. I see a geezer with a glass jaw.”
We won’t spoil this one. Watch the full match for yourself!
And for more on entertainment, local events, and lifestyle tips, visit the Olympus at Waterside Estates blog.