NXT UK is back to the Superstar Picks format as this week we get to see Fit Finlay vs. Lord Steven Regal from WCW in 1996, and Bret Hart vs. Dynamite Kid from 1985.
I used to love the Superstars Picks format when they did these earlier in the summer – and while we’re still no closer to any concrete information on a return, NXT UK Takeover Dublin is still technically on the cards for two months’ time… despite Ireland having their coronavirus lockdown tightened during the week. Oh, and that other bit, about them not being part of the UK. I’m not touching that with a bargepole.
– From Prime Time Wrestling in September 1985: Dynamite Kid pinned Bret Hart in 12:20 (***)
– From Mae Young Classic in September 2017: Piper Niven pinned Serena Deeb in 7:10 (***½)
– From WCW Uncensored in March 1996: Belfast Bruiser beat Lord Steven Regal via disqualification in 17:30 (***½)
We open with the new normal – the abrupt title sting – as Andy Shepherd… is in a different room?! He’s finally left the spot in front of his laptop that he’s occupied for the last four months, as he pitched to Ridge Holland to introduce the first match – and it’s from 35 years ago involving a fellow Northerner.
Bret Hart vs. Dynamite Kid
We’re going back to the WWF’s old Prime Time Wrestling show from 1985 for this, coming from the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland.
According to Cagematch, this was the only time these two faced off one-on-one on TV – of course, they had plenty of ring time against each other as the Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation was a staple of the WWF’s tag division in the mid-to-late 80s. Bret tells the referee to check Dynamite’s knee pads before the bell, and we get going with Bret backing into the ropes as he stalled for time. They finally lock-up, but Bret nearly spills outside as they head to the ropes. Yep, those 1980s WWF rings were loose. Bret powders outside complaining of a phantom hair pull, before he returned… but his dropkick is caught and turned into a slingshot as Bret took the top turnbuckle chest-first. That looked nasty. They replay that, as we return to see the referee halfway through his count, but Bret climbs back into the ring as he again backs into the ropes to stall.
They tie up again into the ropes, but Bret cheapshots Dynamite before an Irish whip came to nought, with Dynamite catching a boot before he spun Bret around into an atomic drop. A snap suplex follows for a near-fall, before a chinlock keeps Bret down, but the pair get up, trading hammerlocks, before Dynamite just charged Bret to the outside. Bret thinks twice about rushing back inside, so we’ve more stalling before Bret came in with an arm wringer. Dynamite cartwheels free and uses an arm lift to take Bret down into a wristlock… only for Bret to cheat his way free. Another Irish whip led to a knee to the gut from the Hitman, spinning Dynamite to the mat, before he pulled him up by the hair as the Canadian began to build momentum.
An elbow off the middle rope catches Dynamite on all fours, before more elbows and a leg drop wore him down some more. Dynamite’s taken into the buckles ahead of a headbutt, before he was tossed through the ropes to the outside. A slam follows on the floor, as Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes on commentary almost begged for Bret to be DQ’d for that. Back inside, a pendulum backbreaker gets Bret a two-count as he was trying out his five moves of doom… but a sunset flip from Dynamite almost leads to the flash upset. A stomp from Bret stems the potential comeback, as do some elbows and uppercuts as he looked to out-strike his foe.
Dynamite counters an uppercut into a backslide for a near-fall, before he flipped out of a pendulum backbreaker to hit one of his own. The pair get back to their feet, with Bret pushing Dynamite into the ropes… tying him up too a la Andre as he looked to charge at him, but Dynamite slips out and Bret ties himself in the strands good and proper. That looked really elastic-y, like toy ring stuff. Dynamite mounts a comeback from there with a clothesline and a falling headbutt, before he returned the favour with a hair pull-up from earlier. Bret takes the turnbuckles chest-first from an Irish whip, before Dynamite drops a knee to the face for another two-count, as a back suplex gets another near-fall before a kneedrop off the middle rope keeps the near-falls a-coming. Landover seemed to be booing that last kickout, but they quieten down as Bret shoved out of a side headlock and tripped Dynamite into the ropes.
Bret keeps going as he drops down to counter out of an O’Connor roll, sending Dynamite sailing outside once more. They replay that, but it’s badly timed as they hurriedly cut back to the finish, which saw Dynamite win via a roll-up. By the standards of the time, this was pretty good, but comparing it to pretty much anything from 2020 isn’t a good idea – with the “house show” style of stalling really hurt things early on. It bubbled up nicely for the finish mind… just a shame that the choice to air a replay meant that we missed it! ***
After the match, Jim Neidhart hit the ring to attack Dynamite Kid… but Davey Boy Smith equalises things with a press slam as the Hart Foundation were sent packing.
Andy pitches to a video on the stars of the NXT UK women’s division. Toni Storm’s omission is curious and notable – in spite of her currently not being able to get a title shot while Kay Lee Ray’s champion. The video includes the newly-signed Amale… and in a weird way, didn’t feel like it had the WWE sheen on it?
Piper Niven’s up next to pick a match… as the “women’s match on second” formula continues. She picks one of her own matches, from the Mae Young Classic – but it’s perhaps not a match you’d have guessed.
Piper Niven vs. Serena Deeb
It’s a second round match from the Mae Young Classic in 2017 here, Deeb hugs the trophy on the way to the ring, but she’s instantly cornered as Piper tries to play around with her.
Yup, the JR soundboard returns with “it’s a long way back to Scotland” – that interchangeable phrase that apparently annoyed so many during the initial batch of episodes. A slam from Deeb goes badly wrong as Niven falls on her for an early two-count, before Serena gets a surprise near-fall from a roll-up. Piper keeps up the pressure with a back suplex and a diving crossbody, before a back senton misses… Deeb rebounds with a headlock takedown, before throwing some punches… only for a monkey flip to get caught as Niven instead finds her head thrown into the corners as the monkey flip comes off eventually! A slam gets Piper down too, as does a neckbreaker, but Piper won’t stay down.
Niven stuffs a fireman’s carry and takes Serena into the corner for a swift cannonball, which collects another two-count, but she’s able to escape a Piper Driver and hit a headlock driver of her own for a near-fall. Piper sidesteps a spear, and whips Deeb face-first into the corner a la Bret Hart, before finishing her off with the Vader Bomb… but still Serena kicks out! The crowd chant “one more time”, but instead Piper heads up top – and crashes with a diving headbutt. It doesn’t affect her too badly though as she’s able to avoid another spear, before blasting Serena with the Piper Driver for the win. ***¼
Next week, we’ve more superstar picks… Dave Mastiff picks our main event, and we’re rolling back the years as Mastiff wants us to look out for where Finlay broke the nose and cheekbone with a single punch.
Lord Steven Regal vs. Belfast Bruiser
This one’s from WCW’s Uncensored pay-per-view in 1996… I think this might be the first time a WCW show’s made it to NXT UK. Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes and Bobby Heenan are on commentary, with Dusty having the wackiest pronunciation of Regal’s butler Jeeves.
This was the year with the Doomsday Cage match, and we have a jump start as Finlay – who’s tagged as the Belfast Bruiser and as Fit Finlay throughout – clocked Regal with his half NFL shoulder-padded leather jacket at the bell. Finlay gets a headlock, but gets shoved into the ropes for a hiptoss as Regal fought in with some uppercuts… only to get caught with a big boot as Finlay came back in. An elbow drop follows for a two-count as Finlay wore down the Brit with a short-arm clothesline that barely elicits a peep from the Tupelo crowd. A punt to the back has Regal down, before Regal came back with an uppercut as he looked to choke out Finlay with a cravat-like grip on the mat. Some straight-up punches keep Finlay down as Regal stretched him, but Finlay gets free and snapmares Regal to the mat.
Finlay takes things to the outside, giving Regal a wedgie in the process, before he leapt in with a double sledge. A hot shot drops Regal onto the rails, before he got pulled shoulder-first into the ring post as Finlay used the ring to his advantage. The top rope helps to weaken down Regal’s arm too ahead of an armbar from Finlay, but Regal knees his way free. Uppercuts take Finlay into the corner, before he tried to float out of an Irish whip… but Regal crashes in with a dropkick as he rough-housed his way into some near-falls. They show Konnan on the Spanish commentary team. We know that because they literally taped a piece of paper with the word “SPANISH” scrawled onto the monitor a fair ways away from the ring.
Back to the match, and Finlay’s wearing down Regal on the mat some more, but Regal fights free and stretches Finlay with an armbar/half nelson variation as WCW panned the crowd as they were want to do. Some simple fists keep Regal ahead, but a headbutt snuffs that out as Finlay returns with a slam and a back senton for a near-fall. A chinlock with some sneaky punches keeps things going for Finlay, despite Regal’s attempts to claw his way out. Regal tries to manipulate his way out, rather than go for the ropes, and does so… only for Finlay to clothesline him back down. Finlay drags him onto the ring apron for some clubbering, before he reintroduces Regal to the railings.
Regal switches around as he throws Finlay back inside, but he’s kicked “in the belly welly” before Regal just suplexed him from the ring to the floor. An elbow drop off the apron follows, as Regal bade his time back in the ring, measuring his shots as Bobby and Dusty broke out some geography of the British Isles that would make Michael Cole proud. Finlay grabs another hold, then throws in a shot that actually got the crowd going. Regal grabs Finlay’s leg before he misdirected the referee to hide a low blow… an elbow’s next for some near-falls as Regal manipulated the arms, before a poke to the eye from Finlay set up for something. Regal tries to come back with a sunset flip, but it’s blocked as Regal instead found an opening with another wristlock attempt.
Grinding his knee into Finlay’s head ups the aggression as commentary finally filled in the blanks on their rivalry. Clubbing punches from Regal quickly get cut off as he’s bounced into the corner for a back body drop – complete with lack of finesse, as Dusty put it. More overhead punches follow as Finlay tries to roll Regal for a Boston crab, but it came to nought as Regal instead knocked Finlay loopy with short clotheslines. Heading outside again, Regal throws Finlay into the apron before he got caught with a punch to the throat in the ropes. Finlay’s back with stomps, before he charges Regal into the apron as they brawl outside again. Those shots have busted open Regal’s nose, and Finlay just keeps on top of him as he punches Regal back into the ring, where more stomps followed.
Finlay bounces Regal off the top turnbuckle… before Regal used his feet to propel Finlay impressively to the outside. That impressed me… and needs to be used by someone in 2020. They head down the aisle as Regal throws Finlay into the side of the Doomsday Cage, before the Blue Bloods – Squire David Taylor and Earl Robert Eaton – came out to attack Finlay for the DQ. Usually I’d be pissed at a match going nearly 20 minutes for a DQ finish, but these two worked so well together. Scrappy, in a believable sense, with some afters as they brawled to the back keeping things hot for many matches down the line. A lot of current-era wrestlers could do much worse than watch this for pointers… ***½
Picking from a much deeper library is going to give this show a bump in terms of match quality. NXT UK remains a zombie brand that is clinging onto a feint hope of restarting sometime soon… but with only the women’s division getting any kind of coverage here, you do have to wonder if those plans continually remain up in the air amid the ever-changing world we’re living in?