Ilja Dragunov puts his NXT UK title on the line in this week’s main event, defending in an empty arena match against Jordan Devlin.
Charlie Dempsey, Teoman & Rohan Raja submitted Wolfgang, Mark Coffey & Joe Coffey in 11:18 (***)
Jinny pinned Amale in 6:31 (***)
Falls Count Anywhere: Ilja Dragunov pinned Jordan Devlin in 21:43 to retain the NXT UK Championship (**½)
We open with a video package ahead of tonight’s empty arena main event, with a lot of the clips being from, erm, the empty arena days of NXT UK.
Andy Shepherd and Nigel McGuinness are on the call, and we’ve got fans to start off with. I hope there’s footage of them being shepherded out of the room later…
Die Familie (Teoman, Rohan Raja & Charlie Dempsey) vs. Gallus (Joe Coffey, Mark Coffey & Wolfgang)
We open with trios action and the next step in this feud… and a very rare “we want Gallus” chant.
Teoman and Joe Coffey start us off, but it’s the Scots who pull ahead first, with Mark Coffey coming in to take down the German for a grounded cobra clutch. Wolfgang’s in, but loses Teoman… before he hiptossed Raja and went to work on the arm. Mark’s back in, but gets distracted by Dempsey, allowing Raja to take him off the top rope and throw some stomps. Teoman’s back for a bad pun from Nigel… a wristlock torques Mark Coffey briefly, before a missile dropkick to the back of Mark landed for a near-fall. Dempsey’s in to slow things down a little, grabbing a front facelock, charging Coffey into the corner before the pair traded uppercuts.
A spinning chop takes Mark Coffey down for a two-count, before a twisting armbar kept Mark in trouble… but it gives way to a Key lock as Raja returned to keep putting the boots to Mark. Dempsey tags back in for an uppercut that gets a two-count, thanks to Joe Coffey breaking it up… Dempsey gets distracted from that and took a back suplex, but was able to tag in Raja… who then tagged in Teoman, as a back body drop freed Mark to make that tag. Wolfgang’s legal and clears house, hitting a double sledge to Teoman, then an Exploder for a two-count. Another comeback leads to Raja tagging in for a reverse DDT that nearly wins it, before Joe Coffey tagged in as Gallus cleared the path again. A leaping shoulder block takes Raja down, as did an overhead belly-to-belly, before a springboard crossbody gets Joe a near-fall.
Rohan gets free to tag in Dempsey once more, with Dempsey’s double underhook suplex nearly winning it… as we start turning up the near-falls with a high/low to Dempsey, the match gets increasingly fraught, leading to Wolfgang scooping up Dempsey… but Teoman chops out the knee as Dempsey applies a modified STF for the stoppage. Some good stuff from Dempsey, but in spite of the Main Event commentary this did not feel like anything close to a blow-off. ***
We recap the tag title contenders tournament, with sit-down promos from Oliver Carter & Ashton Smith, and Dave Mastiff & Jack Starz. That cardigan Dave’s wearing looks proper itchy… he tells us he knows Ashton Smith like the back of his hand, and if they can get rid of Oliver Carter, it’ll be pretty straightforward in next week’s finals.
Backstage, Jordan Devlin is doing DDP Yoga…
Jinny vs. Amale
They’ve built this one up well, even if the content of the promos has been a little questionable to some.
Jinny starts off aggressive, but she’s quickly taken down with a headlock takedown before she fought out of it, pushing Amale into the ropes, only to get charged down. Amale keeps going with forearms, before Jinny grabbed the arm and wrapped it around the ropes. A bodyslam from Amale dropped Jinny ahead of a flip senton and a low dropkick for a two-count. Amale’s back on the defensive as she’s charged into the ropes before an arm whip had her down… Garvin-ish stomps follow, then knees as an armbar looked to force a stoppage. Jinny rakes her nails into the arms, but Amale fights free ahead of a sunset flip for a near-fall… only for Jinny to pull her back by the hair.
Knees to the ribs wind Amale, with an Octopus stretch following, but Amale gets free and hiptossed Jinny away. A push-down stomp keeps Amale ahead, as clotheslines bounce Jinny off the mat, before she got thrown into the middle buckle. Amale adds a pump kick too, then a Northern lights for a near-fall, before the Hope Breaker was stopped with a hair pull. Jinny takes things into the corner, and you can see this a mile off… roll-up, with Jinny propping her legs onto the rope just in time for the three-count, and that’s all folks. A decent sprint of a match, but the finish was a bit of a drag as This Feud Must Continue. ***
Next week: we’ve a Japanese Street Fight with Meiko Satomura defending the NXT UK Women’s title against Blair Davenport… we get a video package for this… and hey, they superimpose the Empty Arena Match graphic on the screen as they’re clearing out the arena!
Nathan Frazer’s somewhere talking about his loss to WALTER… and he’s interrupted by die Familie. Frazer tries to congratulate them, then talked his way into a match with Teoman.
Andy Shepherd’s in the darkened arena for our main event – it’s like they just added chairs to the covid-era tapings…
Falls Count Anywhere for NXT UK Championship: Jordan Devlin vs. Ilja Dragunov (c)
These two have met once before – back in PROGRESS in 2019 – but this time we’ve got an empty arena match as Devlin wanted to make sure Ilja couldn’t feed off the crowd. And in the process, I guess, make people ponder out loud about a title change…
Also, if this is empty arena, that means we shouldn’t be getting that dubbed in crowd noise, right? Devlin headbutted Dragunov during the introductions, but we get going anyway as Dragunov starts with German suplexes, forcing Devlin into the ropes for a break, only for him to mule kick his way free. Ilja gets tied up in the ropes a la Andre as Devlin slapped the champion, then rolled outside to grab a chair, which Dragunov kicked away at first.
Right hands from Devlin keep the still-tied Dragunov at bay, so Devlin rolls outside again, and this time grabs a screwdriver. That’s kicked away as Dragunov gets free, before they spilled outside with Ilja chopping his way back into things. Fighting around ringside, Devlin’s taken between the ring and the barriers, before a swivelling clothesline dropped the challenger. Andy plugs the upcoming NXT special with the same pitch he does for a near-fall kick-out as Dragunov took Devlin back to the barriers, but another Irish whip’s stopped as Ilja’s head suddenly hurts. He’s thrown into the ring steps after that, but as Devlin took his time putting some of the ring steps into the ring… Dragunov returned with a dropkick to take the Irishman through the security walls. TROPE!
In the no-crowd, Devlin’s thrown into the laid-out seats (which weren’t put away despite the crowd having been farmed out earlier). Devlin’s suplexed onto some of them in the no-crowd, before they brawled towards a conveniently placed table with a PC and some monitors. Seems legit. Dragunov pulls up Devlin for a teardrop suplex, but an eye rake stops it before Dragunov’s attempt to launch a Torpedo Moscau into Devlin saw him crash and burn through the table for a near-fall. Ilja’s thrown into a gear box from there, then squashed between two, before Dragunov had to block a suplex.
Ilja tries to suplex Devlin, but the Irishman rakes the eyes as he goes on top of the case… and moonsaults off of it. They brawl back into the arena as we continue the Backstage Assault portion of things, just without a loading screen, with Devlin throwing Dragunov over the guard rails before he pulled out another table. Dragunov commandeers it and heads into the ring, but gets caught with a chairshot to the back, as Jordan looked for a Devlinside through a table, before some rapid-fire elbows from Ilja knocked out the Irishman, ahead of a suplex onto a chair for another near-fall.
Dragunov heads up top, but a chair shot to the knee brings him down, before a one-man Fidget Spinner nearly led to a new champion. A Devlinside’s next, but Dragunov blocks it and hits a death valley driver through the table for a shouty near-fall. Dragunov goes for a Torpedo Moscau again, but he slumps down as his head’s hurting again… Devlin trash talks Ilja back to his feet, then cracked him with another headbutt, before a brainbuster planted Dragunov for a near-fall. We’re getting deep into the amateur dramatics – the “why am I so evil?” ish stuff that plagued the old NXT towards the end. Devlin goes outside for more plunder, and finds some hefty cable ties, which he whipped Ilja with before they were used to tie Ilja’s hands behind his back. More monologues lead to Devlin whacking Ilja with chairshots as he teased a conchairto on the ring steps… Ilja avoids it, then came back with a Torpedo Moscau before crawling over to Devlin for the pin.
Presentation is a big part of wrestling – the call to make this Empty Arena hurt things, as the lack of a crowd meant that we just had a lot of agonised shouting… and that’s on top of the added commentary. Stylistically, this didn’t click for me – it might very well do for you, but this just seemed to revisit all the stuff we learned didn’t work in empty-arena wrestling, and added the worst excesses of NXT 1.0. **½
This was looking to be a good episode of NXT UK, as the show looks to be on form at least when it comes to building and (mostly) delivering big matches. Of course, long-time fans know how cyclical things get here, so we’re due a major down week soon – but with next week having a tournament final and a women’s title match, it may not be then!