At 20, most people are going to college or trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Not Tyler Bate. He's already a WWE star in the making.
The Dudley, England, native is the inaugural WWE United Kingdom champion and the face of a burgeoning brand. A dynamic in-ring performer and a mustached bruiser with a heartthrob smile, Bate became the youngest person in WWE history to win a singles title when he knocked off Pete Dunne in January.
He was only 19 when he emerged from the United Kingdom Championship Tournament the victor, confetti stuck to his sweaty torso, as Trent Seven, Jordan Devlin and other European stars hoisted him on their shoulders.
That moment followed a whirlwind weekend during which Bate delivered a quartet of strong performances and became the fan favorite of the event.
How has he been able to seize championship gold so young? How has he grasped the art of pro wrestling so quickly? Bate himself isn't sure.
"I don't rightly know," Bate told Bleacher Report. "My friends have always called me an alien."
Bate credited surrounding himself with knowledgeable people and being gifted with natural athleticism for his progress. He played a number of sports as a kid, including a surprising one for a guy who suplexes people for a living.
"I did gymnastics at a young age," Bate said. "It gave me good control of my body."
A drastic change in his diet aided him on the mat as well.
Bate explained that he went vegan just over a year ago. He had been loading up on meat and rice and wasn't happy with the results.
"I was feeling bloated all the time, feeling really heavy and groggy," Bate said. "As soon as I turned vegan, that kind of went away. I felt a lot lighter."
Recalling the fervent reaction he received from the crowd during his run to the UK tourney final, The Iron Master seemed blown away by it all. While part of the audience those nights was made up of fans who knew his work on the UK independent scene, many were just getting to know Bate and his peers.
"It was an amazing experience really," Bate explained. "It was cool to start fresh and teach new fans who we were."
And the audience will soon get to see what Bate has to offer between the ropes again. He will defend his title at the UK Championship Special set to premiere on the WWE Network on Friday at 3 p.m. ET and then re-air at 8 p.m.
When Bate faces Mark Andrews, fans can expect to see him make full use of Bip and Bop, his trusty fists.
He'll be showing a variety of other skills too. Bate strives to be a Swiss Army knife of a wrestler.
"I'd say what makes me stand out is that I pride myself on being quite an adaptable wrestler to any kind of style, whether it be technical, picking people up and throwing them over my head or even flipping around the ring," Bate said.
The audience won't have to wait long to see Bate in action after that. He will clash with Dunne, the man he battled with to win the UK title, as the Brits invade NXT TakeOver: Chicago. The live special will stream on the WWE Network from the Allstate Arena on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Dunne is, in Bate's mind, an ideal opponent as the champ looks to demonstrate what the WWE UK division is all about.
"Myself and Pete are two of the best people to represent what the UK style has to offer," Bate said. "I'm looking forward to taking that pressure and making the most of it."
As for what will happen once the bell rings, expect headbutts, biting and bent fingers. The Bruiserweight is a nasty, ferocious competitor, and Bate is well aware of that.
"You don't even need me to tell you how physical he is," he noted. "All you have to do is watch the first 30 seconds of a Pete Dunne match. He had a big hand in training me, so I know all his secrets. There's nothing he can pull out that would surprise me."
What's ahead for the UK branch of the WWE brand is unclear. A weekly show is expected to arrive at some point. WWE may look to incorporate the Brits and Irishmen into Raw or SmackDown as the company has done with the cruiserweight division on Monday nights.
Regardless of where the road veers for Bate and his UK brethren, the goal for the Superstars will be to maintain what they've begun.
"It's all about keeping the momentum that we've built so far," Bate said.
As for Saturday in the Windy City? Bate is thrilled about the energy the audience will bring.
"I'm very much looking forward to the fans, as typical as that sounds," Bate said. "Chicago fans are quite infamous for being rowdy, louder-than-everyone-else fans. "
And when he and Dunne meet again, the two grapplers are in position to outdo their Jan. 15 collision.
They will be more rested, for one. Their clash in Chicago won't be their fourth match of the night as it was in Blackpool. And Bate believes he and Dunne were just getting started in that tournament final.
"When I first faced Pete at the UK tournament, we barely scratched the surface of what we can do and show the WWE Universe," he said. "Both of us have plenty more tricks in the bag that we can pull out. It's just going to be balls to the wall."
Bate is equal parts humble and confident, a student of the mat game and a physical protege. He sounds intent on making the next chapter of the WWE UK story a thrilling one.
It will be a joyride seeing the young man try.
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