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Pete Dunne Is Ready to Carry the NXT Brand

The Week in Wrestling: Pete Dunne reinvents himself; The Undertaker is on Cameo; "Masked Wrestler's" next move and more.

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Pete Dunne: "I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m focused, and I have more of an edge to me than I’ve ever had"

Pete Dunne has already served as the top champion for NXT UK and Progress. Next on his list is a run as the undisputed face of his current brand as NXT Champion.

A new-look Dunne returned to NXT at the end of October, flashing an evil streak by aligning himself with Pat McAfee’s "Kings of NXT" stable. And he is chasing his goals with a revamped physique, having shed 40 pounds over the past eight months.

“I couldn’t leave the U.K. because of the travel ban, so it became a chance to reset my goals,” said Dunne. “I’ve done this since I was 12 years old and this was the most time off I’ve ever had. When it’s your job and it’s day–in and day–out, you’re so close to it that you can lose focus of the bigger picture. I was able to get in the best shape of my life and completely focus on what I wanted. The NXT title is atop that list.

Dunne intends to take full advantage of his improved cardiovascular condition each time he steps back into the ring.

“I’ve never had the time to purely focus on my training,” said Dunne, who added that he has no current plans to change his gear. “My main focus is performance. I want to put on better matches in the ring and stay injury-free, so it’s not about aesthetics.

“This was something I could control. I definitely feel better for it, and I kept my muscle mass. I’ve only had one match since coming back, a tag match with Ilja Dragunov, and I can’t wait to get started in the States.”

Dunne–whose name is Peter England–is a product of Birmingham, England. A master of joint manipulation in the ring, the 27-year-old now plans to show off a unique style that was built through traditional British wrestling training with roots that connect to his time learning the strong style of Japanese wrestling. The work of AJ Styles is also a massive influence, as Dunne has watched nearly every piece of footage from his career.

“I can carry a brand,” said Dunne. “I did it in the UK with an entire brand basically built around me, and my in-ring work speaks for itself. Now I’m with Pat McAfee, who is incredibly charismatic. It’s a winning combination.”

While not heavily featured yet on the main roster, Dunne did make an appearance in the 2019 Royal Rumble match. He also had a singles match for the NXT Championship against Adam Cole at last year’s Survivor Series.

His history with Cole continues to extend, though this time with the babyface-heel dynamic reversed. Cole is now working as a babyface in NXT, and he and the rest of The Undisputed Era are set to meet their antagonists–Dunne, McAfee, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorcan–on Dec. 6 in a WarGames match.

“I’ve been in WarGames with Undisputed Era before, and they bring the best out of you,” said Dunne. “My goal is to always bring the best out of them. That’s our competition, and WarGames is even more competitive. It’s great for Oney and Danny to be on this platform, and they’re going to get a huge spot to show they can hang with The Undisputed Era.”

A successful WarGames program should elevate Dunne into a program with NXT Champion Finn Balor, and the thought of a title run and ascent to global stardom in WWE has kept Dunne hungry throughout his inactive stretch during the pandemic.

“I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m focused, and I have more of an edge to me than I’ve ever had,” said Dunne. “I’m evolving and so is the Bruiserweight character, and I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.”

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The (online) week in wrestling


• The Undertaker’s clips on Cameo are appointment viewing. 

• Congrats to Jon Moxley and Renee Paquette, who are expecting their first child.

• News broke that WWE settled a class-action shareholders lawsuit for $39 million that connected to business dealings in Saudi Arabia, and Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston unearthed this interesting piece of information.

• If you were waiting on an Undertaker/Snoop collaboration, then you were in luck this past weekend–and this video was especially fun to watch.

• Bill Eadie, best known from his work in Demolition, offered some kind words to FTR in response to their recent tribute to Ax and Smash. Demolition never receives the credit they deserve from WWE, so it is especially meaningful to see a tip of the cap from Dax and Cash.

• Congrats to Sonny Kiss on earning a college degree.

• Is there a better moonsault in wrestling than Jacob Fatu’s? Fatu defeated Davey Boy Smith Jr. in MLW’s return last week.

• You have to admit that Swoggle does have a similar hairstyle to AJ Styles.

• With the topic of a union in pro wrestling so prevalent, Kenny Herzog brought labor organizer David Hill on his Outside Interference podcast to discuss the subject in sharper detail.

• The finale of The Masked Wrestler airs Wednesday night on IWTV. 

After being revealed on ‘The Masked Wrestler’, Tony Deppen is ready for a shot at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle

Tony Deppen was revealed on last week’s edition of The Masked Wrestler, losing his semi-final match after taking the receiving end of a low blow.

Following the loss, Deppen voiced his disapproval, unleashing a string of obscenities and vowing revenge. The entire scene captured Deppen’s enthusiasm, passion, and personality, which are the traits, along with a motor in the ring, that have allowed him to become one of independent wrestling’s standout talents.

Born and raised in Shamokin, PA., the 32-year-old Deppen brings a dynamic style to his in-ring work. He also relishes his role as an instigator and agitator, and his ability to be a disruptive force further heightens his work.

“That’s the best part, giving people an opportunity to let loose on their everyday problems by making them boo, cheer, laugh, or even curse at me,” said Deppen, who has been wrestling for 11 years. “I can get all of those reactions of a crowd in one match sometimes, and it’s something that I’ll always enjoy.”

Deppen’s work has earned him a spot on Ring of Honor’s signature Final Battle pay per view this December. He wrestled a highly entertaining 12-minute match against PJ Black in the opening round of ROH’s recent tournament to crown a new Pure Champion, and would make an outstanding choice for a match with reigning champ Jonathan Gresham at the pay per view on Dec. 18.

“The opportunity to work Final Battle means a lot to me,” said Deppen. “I’m a big independent wrestling fan and I’ve been watching independent wrestling for way too long. I have wrestled so many high-caliber tournaments and shows.

“I did CZW, Japan, PWG, and Ring of Honor is the last one for me, so this makes the independent wrestling fan in me very happy. And to be able to work on a Final Battle is a cherry on top.”

Deppen and his wife just brought their first child into the world, providing even more incentive for the indie wrestling veteran to find a long-term home and steady paycheck in 2021.

“Ideally, I would like to get signed,” said Deppen. “I’m not saying I’ll take the first offer, because there is a lot more that goes into it. I want to sign a contract that helps me make a living for my family. So I’ll keep grinding, either until my wheels fall off or somebody throws me some money.”

Tweet of the Week

Sami Zayn lost his match against Bobby Lashley at the Survivor Series, but he won the Twitter battle here.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.