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By Mike Johnson on 2021-05-31 09:30:00

WWE NXT sets the stage for Takeover: In Your House 2021 tomorrow evening with a big Triple Threat match.  This past Friday, Pete Dunne sat down with to reflect on launching the NXT UK brand, his opponents tomorrow on the USA Network, the legacy of physicality he carries and much more.

Mike Johnson: WWE NXT has been on quite a roll lately, and this Tuesday evening on the USA Network will be no exception. The announced main event for that broadcast has huge ramifications for TakeOver: In Your House. The winner of a big Triple Threat will be challenging Karrion Kross for the NXT championship that evening. Kyle O'Reilly, Johnny Gargano and our guest this time who helped put WWE NXT UK on the map in a major way, The Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne. Sir, it's been a while since we spoke, I think we spoke at the Performance Center last October or so, right when NXT was shifting over to the USA network. How are you? How are things, sir?

Pete Dunne: Yeah, I'm great, thanks. I'm all settled back in the States now. Obviously I had to go home for a while there in the middle, but it's nice to be back rolled in again, and being featured so heavily on NXT again.

Mike Johnson: You have been featured, we've seen major matches with Kushida, major matches with a lot of others, but this week on Tuesday, the Triple Threat Match, you've got your work cut out for you with Johnny Gargano and Kyle O'Reilly, obviously major ramifications for this, as I mentioned. Thoughts on the Triple Threat Match and what fans can expect when it hits the ring on Tuesday on the USA Network?

Pete Dunne: Yeah, I think the great thing about being a part of NXT is there's so many of these different match-ups that you look forward to. Obviously, Kushida, you named him, he's one of them, I've wanted to wrestle him for a long time. And Johnny Gargano is somebody who... I think we've had one match on the independents and one match in WWE, but that's it. So even though we've both been in the company for so long, we haven't crossed paths very much. So that's obviously something I'm really looking forward to. And then as for Kyle, and anytime you're in there with any of the Undisputed Era lot, and I've done that a lot since I've been with WWE, it's a real competition, it's a fight and that's something I really look forward to and I'm excited for every time. So putting both of them in there with me, I think it's a recipe for something special.

Mike Johnson:  When I look at this bout, especially with yourself and Kyle, my expectation is very stiff, hard-hitting physicality all the way through this match. The last time we spoke, I mentioned how I feel like you carry the spirit of William Regal, Danny Boy Collins and Fit Finlay and all these other guys from the European scene. When it comes to that physicality, why do you think it has worked so well for you? And how hard is it to maintain the consistency of that, given the punishment it puts on your body?

Pete Dunne: Yeah. I just wanted to mesh all aspects of wrestling... Well, I grew up in wrestling myself, and with aspects that I take from growing up in Britain, learning to wrestle, and then a big formative part of my career was going over to Japan with Michinoku Pro, so the element of that Japanese style, and then, I just try and pull from all different parts of wrestling that I grew up enjoying, and obviously I'm very proud of being from Britain and the heritage that it has for pro wrestling, so I'd like to keep that alive in my own way. And in terms of what it puts on your body, I think maybe there's other styles that might be worse. You see a lot of high flyers that are doing a lot more high-risk stuff, but obviously it is very physical, it is quite demanding, but I enjoy every minute of it. So it's not something that I think about too much, I just make sure my training, my diet, my recovery, all of that is on point, and fingers crossed, I should be good.

Mike Johnson: So if you end up successful on Tuesday, you move on to TakeOver: In Your House on June 13th, to challenge the current reigning and defending champion, Karrion Kross. Kross just defeated Finn Balor, who you obviously had history with, at Vengeance Day a few months back. Thoughts on Kross' ascension to the NXT championship, and how you and he might mesh in the ring, if that ends up being the bout at TakeOver?

Pete Dunne: Like you say, with my style being as physical as it is, and the way the Kross wrestles, I think it does mesh together quite well. He's somebody that I had my eye on just before he got to the company, and then seeing the way he's come in, and he's breezing through so fast. Obviously he had the injury, but to come back and do it all over again is impressive, and I definitely would like to work with him down the line. And for me personally, it's just a case of, I've been in NXT now for coming up to five years, I had that obviously long run in the UK with the UK title, and had a brief run with Matt Riddle as the tag champion. But I really do feel like now I'm here, I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm doing the best work I've ever done, and it's time to take that next step. And if Kross' is who I'd do that against, then so be it, and I can't wait to get rolling.

Mike Johnson: Now, at the veteran age of 27, you will get to always be able to hang your hat, so to speak, that at a very young age, you helped raise and establish the NXT UK brand, as it's now known in WWE. Obviously you're here in the States full-time, for the most part, but what's it like keeping tabs on the baby that you helped raise, and what are your thoughts on the current day NXT UK product?

Pete Dunne: Yeah, I've definitely tried to stay involved. When I was back in the UK, I was able to work backstage and it's almost more rewarding for me, being a part of that process, than it is actually being in the ring. I have a certain set of expectations for myself, right, and I'm never truly happy with a match that I've done. I'll come to the back and I'll start criticizing myself, and trying to work out where we can improve, but obviously being a part of that process, seeing people that are maybe not as far down the line as I am, and working with them and helping them to improve and get better, is always something I find really rewarding, and hopefully can be a future career for me, down the line.   Obviously, it's tough right now with NXT UK. Obviously the lockdown measures and whatnot in the UK and the fact that there's no audience, it can be difficult for talent brushing. They're all doing a great job. And the fact that I'm still able to be a small part of these stables, even though I'm the other side of the world, is a great thing. And I'm glad that at the very least I get to be a part of it in some manner.

Mike Johnson:  As part of NXT, you've been competing in the Capitol Wrestling Center for quite a bit. The morning that we're recording this, WWE just announced a ton of new dates, including SummerSlam's official date. How excited are you for NXT to get to the point where it can go back on the road and it can return to competition in front of live audiences?

Pete Dunne: Yeah, of course what we do, obviously, is all about the live audience, right? But there's part of me that started to enjoy the challenge of having these smaller audiences. I was never somebody that turned my nose up for that in the first place, right? I always loved independent wrestling, whether it was in front of 50 fans in the UK or the much bigger stuff when the UK started to pick up a bit more. So it's sort of been that I'm used to it. For my style personally, maybe as far as some forms of pro wrestling go, maybe my style can work a bit better in that sort of intimate atmosphere. So I've just taken it up until now as a challenge, and still trying to get across who I am and what I do with that smaller audience, it is difficult in a different way, but it's also been rewarding to take on that challenge and see what we can do with it.

Mike Johnson: There was a period of time where Pat McAfee was associated with you. Thoughts on McAfee and his just incredible aptitude for pro wrestling thus far?

Pete Dunne: Yeah. I think the thing to say about Pat is, you see a lot of people coming in and out of the company and wrestling in general over the years. With him, I think even as a viewer or knowing him behind the scenes, he's there because he loves wrestling. I think that's important, and I think it really shows through. And his performances in the ring are obviously really entertaining, for somebody who hasn't really trained in this and doesn't know much about it, he throws himself full steam ahead. And he put on a couple of really insane matches. And honestly, I wish we would have got a chance to do a bit more with him, but I'm happy now that he's in the commentary role, it's something else for him to sink his teeth into. But well, who knows down the line, maybe we'll be able to get back together and do some more.

Mike Johnson: Over the last year you had forged the relationship with Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan on NXT programming. Obviously Danny is out injured at the moment. We hope he comes back soon and safe. Thoughts on working with him and especially Oney Lorcan over the last year?

Pete Dunne: Yeah. Danny's somebody who I've known for years and years and years. Obviously when I started wrestling at 12 years old, he was on top of the UK scene back then. So it's somebody I've been aware of and known for a very long time. So it's great to see him finally taking that step, winning the tag titles, and I know how much that moment meant to him. And then as for Oney, he's another person I've known for many years, and I really do think that he's untapped potential. He's amazing in the ring, and I think a lot of people who follow his stuff in places like PWG would know that. And I'm glad that we're going to get a chance now to start showing the world on a bigger platform.

Mike Johnson: So focusing back on the Triple Threat Match this Tuesday, as you mentioned, you've only had a couple of times to wrestle Johnny Gargano, especially under the WWE umbrella. Obviously he brings a very different element, with The Way and Indi and Candice and Austin Theory, obviously very, very different from the presentation that you bring to WWE NXT. Thoughts on the seriousness of The Bruiserweight and the more sports entertainment-centric presentation of The Way intersecting potentially during this Triple Threat Match?

Pete Dunne: Yeah. I felt like myself and The Way are two opposite ends of the spectrum, right? I'm sort of uber serious and moody and they're the opposite end of the spectrum. And it's entertaining, I'll say that much, but I'm just looking forward to being in there with Johnny, I think it's a match that, even if it was a singles match, it's something that we haven't really explored too much. And then throwing Kyle into the mix makes it even more interesting, so I'm excited.

Mike Johnson: You mentioned not really getting a chance to explore that much with Gargano yet. You've worked with a lot of different talents over the last couple of months. Last week we saw you with Bobby Fish, you recently had a chance to wrestle Leon Ruff, you worked recently with Jake Atlas. Obviously there's a huge plethora of talent stacked in that performance center, in the Capitol Wrestling Center every week. Is there someone that you're just dying to have the chance to step opposite the ring with in NXT, that you just haven't had that opportunity yet? Who's on the hit list, if there is one right now?

Pete Dunne: I'll take it across the NXT UK, and he's somebody that I have worked with on the independents a couple of times, and that'd be A-Kid. For his age and his experience in wrestling, and the fact that he pretty much taught himself in a country where there isn't a lot of wrestling, technically he's unbelievable. And I think there's way more room for him to grow and get even better, so I would love it if he could come over here and we could get a match together on NXT, and show the world what he's capable of. Because, like I said, the fact that his story seems similar to a lot of us in the UK, that kind of had to work it out ourselves, except it's even more difficult, because over in Spain there just was no pro wrestling really, and he's gone out and taught himself and now he's genuinely one of the best technical wrestlers in the world right now. So I can't wait for more of the world to see that. And hopefully we can get him out here and we can put on a show.

Mike Johnson: How much do you think having the WWE Performance Center in the UK will impact and change the development of talents that follow you, A-Kid, Tyler Bate, etc. from the European scene as they develop? How different do you think your career might have been if that building existed when you were trying to figure it out?

Pete Dunne: Yeah, it's a tough one for me personally, because my sort of ascent through the company has been so different to other people. Obviously I was holding a WWE title and still doing independent attendances for quite a while there. So I think my career would be very different. But luckily we have access to, in between those independent shows and NXT UK, I mean, it wasn't even NXT UK, it was WWE UK still. We'd be able to come out here for four, five, six weeks at a time and pick up what we could from the Performance Center, but then in terms of, for the current crop that are over that right now, especially with the pandemic, it's been crucial because there's been no other chance to learn, there's no live events, they're not on shows, they're not doing independents. So having that there has been the only way to sort of stay fresh and be prepared for the return to normal.  So right now it's crucial, and going forward it's going to be even more crucial, because obviously there was a great crop of talent coming out of the UK, and now we've all got signed up in different places and are in different points in our career. And there's a new crop of talent there that need to develop and need to get better and need to learn, and luckily all the tools are right there in that building. So I'm excited to see what the future holds for them.

Mike Johnson:  Last question as I know we're running out of time, why should fans make sure that they're watching the Triple Threat Match this Tuesday on WWE NXT?

Pete Dunne: I think people now are going to be familiar with my work, Johnny's work, Kyle's work and familiar with NXT TakeOvers. And to me, this is a TakeOver quality match-up. Look at the three of us in it, the three of us have had multiple matches with different people, different TakeOvers and people have always been excited about it. So don't see why now throwing the three of us in together, putting us out there on TV, and showing the world what we can do and what NXT is about would be any different. It's going to be a recipe for something special, I'm sure.

Mike Johnson:   You can follow our guest Pete Dunne on Twitter and Instagram @PeteDunneYxB. Pete, we wish you nothing but continued success and health. And we look forward to the Triple Threat Match and seeing what your path is as WWE NXT heads to In Your House TakeOver on June 13th, and we look forward to talking to you down the line and we wish you the best.  Thank you so much.

Pete Dunne: Cheers, mate.

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