As NXT UK prepares for a return, we have a recap show as the light is shone on the upcoming clash between WALTER and Ilja Dragunov.

NXT UK returns “properly” in two weeks time – and judging by social media, they’ve been filming content this week. In the meantime, we’ve got this special – featuring one unaired match and other vignettes to get us ready.

Quick Results
WALTER pinned Ridge Holland in 9:00 (***¼)
From NXT UK, April 2020: Ilja Dragunov won a battle royal to become number one contender to the NXT UK Championship (match clipped)

We open with the shortened title screen as Andy Shepherd’s back in his living room, hyping up the return of new NXT UK in two weeks’ time. They quickly show us the BT Sport studio… and then it’s off to a new match.

Ridge Holland vs. WALTER
This one was from the Coventry tapings that they never quite finished showing before lockdown. They call it the biggest match in Ridge’s career… as opposed to the ladder match qualifier on NXT a few weeks back? I guess it depends on what time line they use.

The pair circle at the bell, with the opening lock-up seeing WALTER take Ridge into the corner… with an attempted chop on the break. Ridge throws a forearm instead, but WALTER fires back before he came off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. Ridge has a few of his own, before he scooped up WALTER off the ropes for an Andre slam! WALTER rolls outside, but Holland stays on top of him with some clubbering… only for WALTER to hit back with a chop and a back suplex on the apron. Back inside, Ridge tries to take his shots, but he’s taken down in a chinlock as the NXT UK champion looked to assert himself on the mat. An overhead wristlock has Ridge back on his knees, before a knuckle lock took Ridge down into a bridge… which WALTER stomped apart.

He twists Holland’s neck and arm between his legs, but Ridge is back with some kicks… only for WALTER to knock him back into the ropes. A simple slam dumps Ridge by the ropes, before WALTER began to uncork some chops. Holland demanded more, which he got, before ducking one as he came back in with clotheslines. Another chop stops Ridge again, but he decks WALTER with a clothesline as both men were left laying. Ridge is back with a back body drop as he found a second wind, but a goozle and a palm strike stops all that before Holland countered a sleeper with… a torture rack?! He racked him! He can’t hold WALTER for long though, opting to follow up with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall.

Holland keeps going with a charge into the corner, but WALTER fires back with a shotgun dropkick, before Holland’s attempt at an Alabama Slam ended with WALTER grabbing the ropes. Instead, in the corner, he catches WALTER with a powerbomb, before an Emerald Fusion-like driver almost sealed the upset.

From there, WALTER found his second wind with a uranage suplex for a near-fall, before he roughed up Ridge with some kicks to force him onto the apron. Crossface punches follow as Ridge was trapped in the ropes, only for one to get caught as Ridge issued some of his own. Out of nowhere, Alexander Wolfe comes out to distract Ridge, and that pays off as WALTER boots and clotheslines Ridge for the win. This was pretty damn good – of course, it snaps Ridge’s unbeaten run on NXT UK, but they had the out in terms of WALTER needing help – and it sets up for a Holland/Wolfe deal if they choose to go that way. ***¼

We get a vignette on WALTER now, with talking heads like William Regal, Drew McIntyre and Adam Cole putting him over as the real deal. They throw in clips from World Collide of WALTER wrecking house, and some from Survivor Series too, before William Regal talks over his war with WALTER at PROGRESS a few years back. Thatcher reckons nobody’ll be able to stop WALTER after his time off…

After a break, there’s a spot on the NXT UK tag division – starting with Gallus retaining the tag titles at Takeover: Blackpool 2. It’s the same spot they aired last week, with a few clips from the teams putting over their chances as they’ve managed to get them in front of a camera at the UK PC.

Ilja Dragunov’s Rise
Andy’s back to talk up Ilja Dragunov’s rise from the indies into NXT UK, as he then pitches to a promo piece. There’s clips of Ilja from NXT UK, PROGRESS and wXw, as he tells us his story – his family moving from Russia to Germany when he was three, with the hopes of building a better life.

Dragunov tells us how his mum went from being a teacher in Russia to having to start at the bottom because her degree wasn’t valued in Germany – and how her work ethic passed itself onto him. He recalls life in Germany as a kid, not fitting in, and growing up as an outsider, before he brought up a story of what I guess was his first taste of Pringles – out of a rubbish bin. The “taste of a better life”, as he put it. They take us to where he lived as a kid, with stories of racist bullies – a story that apparently formed his rock bottom, a feeling Ilja never wanted to feel again.

Eventually, Ilja found wrestling – a place he could express himself, a place he called home. It’s a celebration of his life, of how nothing was easy, and how hard word pays off. Of course I’m going to compare it to the three-part documentary wXw did a few years back, and while this wasn’t as detailed, this was an immensely great character piece that really reminded you of who Ilja Dragunov is/was. If you forgot.

Next week: they’re got a “huge announcement about the future of NXT UK.” Ooh, we’re in TNA territory here! Also, they announce who’s next in line for Kay Lee Ray as NXT UK Women’s champion.

WALTER’s back as he discusses his shared past with Ilja, looking forward to the “biggest fight” that’s upcoming. That gives way to a recap of the battle royal that aired in April, where Ilja won the battle royal to get his shot at WALTER – and yet again they’re highlighting roster members’ home countries whenever they flash up on screen. Are they establishing that for some World Cup/European championships gimmick? They then play the closing moments of the battle royal…

NXT UK Number One Contender’s Battle Royal
Our final four’s Wolfe, Coffey, Bate and Dragunov… who run into each other to zero reaction. Good job. It breaks into a slugfest, before a Giant Swing headlock from Coffey ragdolls Ilja around the ring.

YET ANOTHER AIRPLANE SPIN from Tyler’s teased, but he goes for a rebound lariat instead before Coffey’s double-jump crossbody took down the first NXT UK champ. A charge from Coffey sends Dragunov and Bate crashing into the corner, but Wolfe saves Ilja from an elimination before Ilja got used to eliminate Coffey. To golf claps. Wolfe gets peppered by Bate and Dragunov… he recovers to DDT Ilja, before a German suplex on Tyler was flipped out of. Wolfe hits that German anyway, before he tried to launch Tyler to the outside, only for Bate to recover and hit a rebound lariat. Ilja sparks up to clothesline Wolfe to the outside – so it’s Tyler and Dragunov for a shot at WALTER then…

Dragunov takes down Ilja for a back senton, but had to block a clothesline as he took Tyler to the ropes for some chops to the neck wearing down Bate. Bop and Bang surprise Ilja, but Dragunov is back as he leaps into Tyler… who counters with an Exploder, then a standing shooting star press, before YET ANOTHER AIRPLANE SPIN is escaped. A clothesline from Ilja has Tyler rocked, but a rebound lariat brings Bate back before a Konstantin-Spezial puts us back to square one. More back-and-forth leads Ilja into lifting Tyler onto the apron, before Tyler lifted Ilja across the corner. They’re both fighting by a suspiciously loose turnbuckle pad, as Tyler climbs the ropes to try and suplex Ilja to the floor. He’s hoping NXT UK has some stellar freeze-frame technology, eh? Ilja just throws Tyler back inside before a super back senton lands flush… a Torpedo Moscau’s countered with a Koppo kick, before a Tyler Driver’s met with Ilja lifting Tyler over the ropes, as a Torpedo Moscau stopped Tyler in the middle of skinning the cat… and Ilja wins! ***

The show ends with Ilja celebrating his win… and that’s it! I’d originally dismissed WALTER/Holland as a squash based on spoilers, but that was a mighty fine TV match that launched a decent recap episode of NXT UK. The mini-documentary on Ilja Dragunov is up there with the best character segments this brand has done. Whether this is going to be enough to spark interest in a dormant brand remains to be seen, but they’re giving it a damn good shot.