Spin the wheel, make the deal! This week on NXT UK, it’s random matches from the WWE library with European connections.
Given that the proposed Glasgow tapings next month have been officially cancelled, we’re likely to be going for quite some more time on this Rolodex…
From Great American Bash 2006 – Finlay pinned William Regal to retain the WWE United States Championship in 14:00 (***)
From NXT UK #12 – Rhea Ripley pinned Toni Storm to win the WWE NXT UK Women’s Championship in 9:30 (***¼)
From SummerSlam 1992 – British Bulldog pinned Bret Hart to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship in 25:00 (****¼) (match clipped)
We’ve another monster episode this week, with the runtime listed as 1h 12m. Given these are all clip shows, it’s not the way. Andy Shepherd’s in his living room again on hosting duties. Apparently this is a “championship edition” with all title matches.
Sam Gradwell picks a match from Great American Bash 2006. Apparently we’re all yoghurts… I think this may have been Sam’s first appearance on this show in the better part of two years.
WWE United States Championship: William Regal vs. Finlay (c)
For some reason the lower third has him down as “Fit Finlay”… at the time, Regal and Finlay were a duo, and they’re caught off guard here as the advertised Finlay/Lashley match was thrown out. I remember seeing this on a house show in England a few months earlier, and absolutely loved the match…
We get going with Regal going outside in search of the as-yet-unnamed Hornswoggle. He can’t find the “little bastard,” and then threatens to walk out, only for Finlay to roll him up for a two-count. Regal’s not too thrilled with that, so he struck Finlay, before the pair locked up and ended up holding onto it for so long they rolled outside… then went back into the ring, while still holding onto the tie-up. They make it to the corner, which gets a break, before Regal tripped Finlay… but he can’t push on, as Finlay got back up, before he got hurled outside as the Northern Irishman went in search of a shoulder tackle. Regal follows up with an uppercut, but he has his leg grabbed on the outside as the future Hornswoggle came out from under the ring, whacking Regal in the leg with the shillelagh.
The referee misses all of that as Regal heads back inside into a clothesline as Finlay gets a near-fall, before he began to work over Regal on the mat. They trade uppercuts for fun, before Finlay took Regal into the corner for some shots to the midsection. Regal’s bounced from corner-to-corner, before Regal finally fought back with a butterfly suplex that got him a two-count to start the comeback. Except Hornswoggle popped back up and dragged Regal’s arm under the ring as he bit away on the Brit. Finlay capitalises with some stomping, but Regal knees his way back into it. A drop toe hold’s blocked, but Regal locks in a chinlock as JBL on commentary fills in with some English/Irish history. Man, they sure loved telling us Regal fought in the carnivals as a 14-year-old, eh?
Finlay gets free and charges through Regal with a body attack, before a sit-out splash led to Finlay taking Regal outside and into the apron. Regal rolls back inside, and gets snapmared as a chinlock followed, but Regal shoves his way free… only for the pair to clash heads in the corner.
Regal’s back up first as he stomped away on Finlay, then used his boot to choke as Regal tried to force the win. A dropkick catches Finlay for another two-count, while a knee drop out of the corner kept the methodical, but effective flow going. Finlay’s tossed outside again as we started to get “boring” chants… so Finlay traps Regal in the ring apron with some headbutts.
Eventually Regal gets free and back inside, but he’s lost his boot… which gives Finlay something to repeatedly stomp on. Finlay misses a shoulder charge into the corner, and almost loses via roll-up, before Regal went for the shillelagh… out comes Hornswoggle with Regal’s boot, which Finlay clocks him with, and that’s enough to get the win as Finlay had his feet on the ropes. This was back when “troll” was a slang term for “little guys,” rather than a description for seemingly half of the Internet. Speaking of which, Indianapolis did not care for this match at all, which was a bit harsh – while not the “house style,” this was pretty good, if you take out the abundance of Hornswoggle. ***
They show the post-match with Hornswoggle celebrating with the title, only to get thrown under the ring again.
Noam Dar has a MIGHTY quarantine beard. He’s looking for competition outside the ring, even against Tyler Bate in a game of Snakes ‘n’ Ladders. Is this a tease of a new format? Anyway, Piper Niven’s pick is up next, and she picks the finals of the NXT UK women’s title tournament. Hey, remember when Millie McKenzie was involved here in the very early days?
NXT UK Women’s Championship Tournament – Final: Rhea Ripley vs. Toni Storm
Once again they dub in Toni Storm’s new theme ahead of the battle of the Mae Young Classic semi-finalist and the eventual winner. It’s so weird seeing early-days Rhea in 2020…
These two had met once before, in a previous life in 2014 when Ripley won a three-way. We get the main event introductions, and the Undertaker lights, which left a weird glow around both finalists, as the NXT UK women’s champion was being fought between two Australians. Ripley shoves Storm and poses at the bell… Toni just replies with a barrage of forearms as she looked to make short work of things. We’re quickly into the corner for a hip attack, as Ripley rolls outside and into the path of a low-pe as Storm found her mark. After Toni missed a hip attack in the guard rails, Rhea’s quickly putting the boots to Toni, before she seemed to aggravate Storm’s back after charging her into the apron. On the apron, Ripley looked to make things worse, but Storm broke free of a suplex as she instead took a back body drop that left her in tears.
Ripley returned to the ring as Storm had to beat the ten-count to keep the match alive, but the bruising on her back was visible as Rhea kept up the beating, whipping Toni into the corner as commentary brought up Ripley’s stoppage victory over Tegan Nox. Yeah, I was getting vibes of that here, especially with the knowledge that Storm’s selling was realistic for a reason here. Ripley kicks out the legs of Storm, before some grounded body scissors forced the Mae Young Classic winner to swivel out and throw some punches to get free. More shots ended with a shin breaker as Ripley pounced with an inverted Cloverleaf, forcing Storm into the ropes for relief. Storm tries to fight back with right hands before an attempted deadlift German suplex couldn’t come off… so Ripley instead goes for a suplex of her own, only for Storm to land the German afterall!
A headbutt from Storm leads to another German suplex, getting a near-fall, before more hip attacks and some double knees drew a near-fall. Storm puts some more boots to Ripley as she seemed to measure up for something, but a dropkick cuts her off as the pair seemed to scramble for more and more pinning attempts. Storm comes close with a Euro clutch, before a Storm Zero’s countered with a backdrop to the floor, as Rhea adds more pain by throwing Toni into the guard rails. That gets a near-fall when they get back in the ring, before Ripley’s attempt at Riptide was avoided. Storm can’t get the Storm Zero off afterall, which leaves her easy pickings for Riptide as Ripley gets the win. You could hear the audible gasps in the room on that result – as Ripley picked up her first gold in WWE. A really solid match, especially considering that Toni gutted through an injury seemingly picked up early on to ensure the final didn’t end in short order. 2018 me would have been shocked at how divergent the careers of these two ended up being, at least in the short-to-medium term… ***¼
They show the post-match stuff with Triple H and Johnny Saint handing Rhea the title belt, while the remainder of the roster applauded from the aisle.
Noam Dar’s brushing his teeth. He’s still counting down the days in lockdown, and is fed up of quiz nights. He’s itching to get back into the ring after “this period” of time. Amir Jordan’s pick is next. The “Bhangra Bad Boy” has a banger… but first, a promo for Aoife Valkyrie. She’s been watching and it’s time for NXT UK to be transformed.. She’s going for the women’s title, whenever that may be. Then, Noam Dar’s back whinging. He wants to be called “an essential service,” I guess so he can wrestle again. I mean, it worked for the lads in Florida…
Back to the show, because Amir Jordan’s taken us back to Wembley Stadium in 1992. I swear he’d have been negative years old then. They have a video package to summarise how we got to this match, before Amir says a few words and pitches to the match itself.
WWF Intercontinental Championship: British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart (c)
The last major PPV to be held outside of North America, SummerSlam was taped on a Saturday night in the UK, but didn’t get broadcast until the Monday. There’s something that can’t be replicated these days without spoilers, thanks to the internet…
The Bulldog came out first, with Lennox Lewis waving the Union Jack for him, and almost the entirety of Wembley Stadium erupted for him. Bret Hart got a good response too, as opposed to the heel reaction you’d have expected were this family feud to have been done in the modern era. The two get into a shoving match at the bell, before a headlock leads to Bulldog being shoved off, and eventually shoulder tackling Bret out of the ring, and almost into the crowd. That’s the cue to go to a commercial break, as we shoehorn in the current day TV format into a 30-year old match. Never change, WWE…
We return as the Bulldog’s working over Bret’s arm, only to get shoved into the ropes as Bret came back with a knee to the midsection. From there, Bret dropped a knee over the Bulldog’s head, then went into a rear chinlock, and lands a back elbow after the Bulldog thought he’d worked himself free. Bret takes down the Bulldog with an inverted atomic drop (or, if you’re Vince McMahon, a “reverse piledriver”), before he counters another crucifix pinfall attempt with a Samoan drop for a two-count. From another headlock, Bret’s shot into the ropes, and after a leap frog from the Bulldog, Hart gets monkey flipped into the ropes.
It’s now the Bulldog with the upper hand, but only briefly as a charge into the corner is stopped with two boots from the Hitman, who follows with a bulldog out of the corner to the Bulldog. Bret goes to the top rope and gets caught a la Ric Flair, and takes a press slam to the mat. Bulldog then goes airborne, and misses with what I think was meant to have been a top rope kneedrop or a swandive headbutt that he backed out of. Bret throws Bulldog’s head into the mat, before the Bulldog tries to shove Bret into the ropes via a waistlock, but Bret ducked and that sent the Bulldog flying out to the floor, getting the Hitman his first negative response of the match.
The Hitman launches himself to the outside with a plancha that turned into a neckbreaker on the way down, before he slammed the Bulldog’s back into the ringpost. Back inside, Bret keeps pounding on the Bulldog’s back, before taking Davey Boy down with a dropkick and a big back body drop! Thanks Bret! He keeps the Bulldog at bay with a rear chinlock, before a suplex gets Bret another two-count… and it’s back to the rear chinlock. Bulldog surprises Bret with a backslide for a near-fall, but Bret countered right back with a backbreaker, then an elbow drop off the middle rope. Bret starts to resort to dirty tactics by using the Bulldog’s braided hair to yank him off the mat, then starts throwing some punches before returning to moves with another snapmare and a rear chinlock. Bret ducks a clothesline and catches the Bulldog in a sleeperhold, but the Bulldog crawled his way to the bottom rope to force a break.
Another sleeper follows, which gets broken when the Bulldog stands up and backs into the corner, but Bret gets back up and just applies it again… and the Bulldog breaks it again. Bulldog sends Bret into the ropes and goes for a press slam, and loses him almost instantly as Bret gets dumped into the middle rope, and you can see where the stories about the Bulldog being “beyond running on fumes by this point” came from. A series of clotheslines took Bret down for another two-count for the homeland favourite, and he repeats the press slam spot correctly this time, also for a two-count. A stalling suplex sees the Bulldog hold up Bret for seven seconds before crashing down for another near-fall, as Bret gets sent chest-first into the turnbuckles. Still a near-fall, though, and the Bulldog signals for his finisher… and he connects with a running powerslam as Bret kicks out just before the count of three. A tired Bret gets shoved onto the apron by the Bulldog, but his attempt to suplex the Hitman back in is switched in mid-air, and Bret lands a German suplex for another two-count. Bulldog blocks a vertical suplex, then places Bret on the top rope, with a superplex back into the ring getting yet-another near-fall for the challenger.
Both men got floored with a double clothesline, but from the mat Bret worked the Bulldog’s legs into place and worked his way into a Sharpshooter. Bulldog made his way to the ropes for the break, and was quickly met with a forearm by Bret, who ran off the ropes for a sunset flip… but the Bulldog sat down on him and took the win with a suspect fast count… but who cares?! A legendary ending to an all-time classic match – which just about holds up almost 30 years on, despite those stories about just how much of the work Bret had to do here! ****¼
They show the post-match stuff as well, with the warring family members making up as the night ended with hugs and fireworks. Next week: NXT UK’s Most Brilliant. Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate. From NXT Takeover: Chicago. That’ll be a fun one to retell, although Shawn Michaels appeared in the package for this, so I expect some talking heads from the “full fat” NXT side of things.
These Superstar Picks episodes have been one of my favourite formats of NXT UK during this time off. I’m never going to say no to seeing Bret vs. Bulldog from 92, but the more they do these “best matches featuring European wrestlers” formats, the more it gives away just how little they focused on this continent for the longest time.