NXT UK took a look into its archives for some previously-unaired matches this week – including one of the best in the brand’s short history.
By my reckoning, we’re back to “regular NXT UK” content – in that it’s matches… this week, we’re going through the archive and digging up some unaired matches from the brand’s short history. In the earlier days of NXT UK, WWE advertised some NXT names and flew them over to help increase ticket sales – but for the most part, their matches didn’t make TV. Until now. Hey, was that Kassius Ohno in the opening titles?
We’re joined by Tom Phillips this week, clearly in Full Sail as they’ve filmed some stuff on set. Hey, there’s newly-released Deonna Purrazzo! She’ll be facing Toni Storm in a match taped at Download Festival last year. Andy Shepherd and Tom Phillips are on commentary…
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Toni Storm
We open with Deonna and Toni trading holds as Andy reminds us this happened a few months earlier on TV, with Toni winning there. Of course here, she was NXT UK Women’s Champion…
Some headscissors on the mat give Deonna something to escape, but Purrazzo has the same luck as Toni handstands out of some retaliatory headscissors. Deonna refuses a handshake and kicks Toni in the gut, only to get taken down with a low dropkick for just a one-count, as Storm built up a head of steam. A half crab from Storm forces Purrazzo into the ropes, following up with a running front kick as the then-champion dominated. At least until Deonna went after Toni’s left arm, which followed up with her taking Toni into the corner for some mudhole stomping. Storm fought back with some forearms, before she got taken down and tied up in knots, with Deonna just mounting her neck.
An old-school stomp to the face followed, as does a short-arm clothesline as someone else’s set bled into the background audio. Purrazzo manipulates Toni’s elbow and stomps on it for some two-counts, before another fight back was caught out with Purrazzo hitting a Flatliner, then seamlessly taking it into a Koji clutch. Toni tries to roll back to pin Deonna while in the hold, getting a near-fall as yay/boo punches break out, leading to Toni surprising Purrazzo with a hattrick of rolling German suplexes. All that’s left is a Storm Zero, but Deonna blocks it and went for a Fujiwara armbar… then a pump kick instead for a near-fall. Another fightback from Toni saw her crack Deonna with a headbutt, before another Fujiwara armbar attempt was met with chants of “we want tables”.
Purrazzo morphed that into almost a Rings of Saturn, torquing both arms, before switching back to the Fujiwara armbar as Toni got to the ropes. Chops from Deonna sting Storm, but Toni caught her with a rebound clothesline before a Storm Zero got the win. An unsurprisingly good match, showing just how bad WWE dropped the ball with Deonna in NXT. Not a fan of the “suddenly hit two moves and win” finishes though. ***¼
Next… Ligero vs. Matt Riddle. Yup.
Ligero vs. Matt Riddle
Surprisingly, this never happened on the indies. This is from the Plymouth tapings last July, with the entrances edited out. During the spell when Ligero was trying out the horned shoulder pads…
Riddle ragdolls Ligero early with a waistlock takedown, before he went after Ligero’s arm en route to a headlock takedown. Headscissors from Ligero get escaped, but he’s back in with a side headlock as he clings onto Riddle for dear life, but it backfires as a back suplex from Riddle broke the hold. Briefly. Riddle shoots Ligero into the ropes, and ends up eating a ‘rana and a dropkick for barely a one-count, before Riddle uncorked some rolling gutwrench suplexes. An overhead kick from Riddle has Ligero down, before forearms trap the masked man in the corner ahead of an Exploder suplex. Ligero ducks a PK, but can’t avoid a back senton as Riddle hits the PK anyway as Plymouth were in fine voice for Riddle.
A stalling suplex is next for Ligero, but Riddle turns it into a Jackhammer for a near-fall. I’m howling. Of course it drew Goldberg chants. And “Bro-berg” chants. Another back senton squashes Ligero, before Riddle looked to go up top for a moonsault… only to get caught with an avalanche German suplex. A missed enziguiri from Ligero looked to cost him, but he takes Riddle outside for an aborted dive… and found his way back with rebound headscissors off the apron. Riddle’s taken back inside as a springboard stunner lands for a near-fall, before Riddle looked for a Bro 2 Sleep… Ligero escapes, then rolled Riddle into a kick before a Fireman’s carry slam nearly got the job done.
Ligero heads up top for a Mexican Wave splash… which still only gets a near-fall, before a C4L was blocked by Riddle, who worked his way neatly into a powerbomb, then a Tiger Knee, as a Bro-stone and a twisting Bro-ton/moonsault got the win. Excellent stuff this, going by regular standards. Who knew that crowds would get excited for stars?! ***½
Isla Dawn vs. Shayna Baszler
We’re back to Download for this one, and this one at the time was for the NXT Women’s title. That’s not acknowledged on commentary for the obvious reasons.
We open with a lock-up as Dawn’s taken into the corner… before she returned the favour. A roll-up from Dawn after a missed kick gets the Scotswoman on top, before she trapped a frustrated Baszler in a side headlock. That’s quickly escaped as the then-champion held on, until Dawn went for a sunset flip roll-up, getting a near-fall. A suplex follows from Isla, floating over for a near-fall as Baszler rolled outside for respite. After taking Isla into the ring steps, Baszler took over, rolling her to the mat for a kick to the back for a near-fall, before Shayna trapped the arm and stomped on the elbow. Shayna keeps on the arm, working in a double wristlock before another flash roll-up just angered the then-champion.
Baszler mounts Dawn for some ground and pound, then went back to the arm as the pace slowed down. Rolling Dawn down with another double wristlock, Baszler remained on top as the crowd started to get behind Isla, who low bridges Shayna to the outside. Shayna’s right back inside though, and ends up eating a back suplex as Dawn builds a head of steam, looking for a half nelson suplex, but she just gets pancaked with a gutwrench facebuster for a near-fall. A head kick from Dawn nearly KO’s Baszler, but she rolls through to trip Isla as a running knee strike took the champion to the Kirifuda clutch… and there’s the submission. This perhaps felt a little too long with the crowd not really believing in Dawn for her title shot. **½
Tom Phillips is back in Full Sail… he’s shilling NXT UK tapings being unpredictable as he pitches to an interview with Ilja Dragunov. Andy Shepherd’s joining him via Skype, as we get our dose of “unconventional TV”. Ilja tells us that he doesn’t get tired of working, no matter what the situation is, and so he doesn’t need to prepare. Ilja builds himself up for the match with WALTER at a time to be determined, and I’ll be honest, that’s the one match that should really kickstart this show when things get back to normal.
I got a nice vibe of 80s and 90s World Cup commentary from Andy Shepherd’s internet connection during all this.
Next week: a special on the Rise of Imperium.
Ilja Dragunov vs. A-Kid
This came from the most recent tapings from Coventry… which kinda suggests those “lost” episodes won’t see light of day as they were originally intended.
We open with A-Kid taking Dragunov into the corner, then to the mat with a waistlock takedown. A headlock takes Ilja to the mat as A-Kid looked to wear down the Russian, but Dragunov escapes and locks in some headscissors that the Spaniard swiftly escaped as he looked to switch into a bow-and-arrow hold. Dragunov gets out and snapmares A-Kid to the mat for a chinlock, but A-Kid gets out quickly into an armbar, then into some more headscissors, before we reached the obligatory stand-off. A-Kid keeps up on Dragunov, going back to a cross armbar until Ilja rolled him up for a near-fall… the roll-ups keep coming as the pace stays high… and we’re back to the stand-off.
A wristlock from Ilja’s innovatively countered with a kip-up into headscissors from A-Kid, as the Spaniard dished out a wristlock of his own, but then it’s another stand-off. A-Kid grabs the wrist again, only for Ilja to duck out and hit a spinning back chop, then a back senton to nudge ahead, as the Russian changed the game plan, cartwheeling into a crossbody for a near-fall. A-Kid rolls outside, has avoid a faked-out dive before a dropkick knocked him to the floor for a flying chop off the top rope. Ilja aborts a back senton off the top as A-Kid goes back to grappling, rolling Ilja into a dropkick, as a German suplex followed… but A-Kid couldn’t steady himself and had to grab a waistlock as another German suplex looked to follow… instead, a rolling Northern Lights suplex downs Dragunov as A-Kid went back to the armbar. It’s turned into a triangle armbar, but Ilja tried to powerbomb free, only for the pair to tangle themselves in the ropes.
Going up top again, A-Kid nails a crossbody for a near-fall, before a satellite DDT is blocked, with Ilja just obliterating A-Kid with a swivelling clothesline. The Konstantin-Spezial followed for another near-fall, but A-Kid tries to fight back with another armbar. It’s pushed away as Ilja peppers him with shots, leading to a teardrop German suplex for a near-fall, before A-Kid again goes back to the arm. This time Ilja chops him away before getting tripped down as a toe hold from A-Kid looked to do some damage. As did a knee strike as Ilja slipped into A-Kid… recovering to win a battle of enziguiri. Ilja gets back to his feet, but gets caught on the top rope with another enziguiri as a Spanish Fly brought down Dragunov as a diving kick nearly got the upset.
Dragunov snaps back with a double leg takedown after that, then puts A-Kid down with a back senton off the top… as the Torpedo Moscau wipes out A-Kid for the win. Fan. Bloody. Tastic. Easily one of the best matches in the history of this show – and that loss would have done a LOT for A-Kid, had the wider situation not taken over. ****¼
Hopefully this is the first of many episodes in this format. Three really good matches, and a fourth that perhaps didn’t land made this one of the better episodes of this show. Without being too flippant, “matches without consequence” has made a large part of regular NXT UK’s format, and if they’ve got a lot of this sort of content in the tank (they have), then why not repurpose it to fill time? Especially given that the Download tapings from last year had a LOT of unaired matches on… They’ll need to pad it out mind you, which I guess is why the ever-changing format give us another clip show next week.