Over a decade after the first rumours of a “WWE UK” first floated, we’ve finally got it: the debut episode of what’s become NXT UK. Let’s take a look!

We’re perhaps not going to be on board with this every week, at least from a reviewing perspective, but since the latest WWE brand features quite a few of our favourites, we’ll be keeping tabs on this. This taping comes to you from Cambridge in late July (so about a three month turnaround)…

But first, a video package of all things that tick the boxes marked “WWE, British and wrestling”, with plenty of clips of London, the WWE UK Championship Tournaments and the roster members… and then we crash to titles, with some duplicate shots for the hell of it.

We’re inside the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, with the disembodied voice of Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness doing commentary from afar. Yeah, we see them in front of a green screen; no, it’s not as comical as the stuff Nigel did with JR for the Norwich show last year. The venue looks compact, but the brick walls make it stand out more than any generic venue you’ll see WWE run almost every other week, so a huge thumbs up for that.

Mark Andrews vs. Joe Coffey
Joe was accompanied by his brother Mark, as we’re shown replays of what happened with the pair of them at the Royal Albert Hall in June.

Coffey uses his power early to try and pin Andrews in the opening moments, but referee Joel Allen can only make some two counts as Andrews returns with a ‘rana. A gamengiri from the apron sends a tooth flying as Andrews nails a springboard ‘rana to put himself firmly in control… at least until Coffey hits a version of a Pounce on the Welshman. Coffey keeps up his offence with a Giant Swing facelock for a near-fall, before Andrews gets thrown outside. Mark Coffey threatens to jump Andrews, but it’s just a ruse for Joe to attack him from behind with a clothesline as we see just how little space there is between the ringside and the stage. Think NXT when it was at Centre Stage in Georgia…

Back inside, Andrews boots away the discus lariat and lands a flurry of palm strikes, before a wheelbarrow and a double stomp leaves Coffey prone for a standing corkscrew moonsault. That’s only enough for a near-fall, as Coffey ends up taking an enziguiri out of the corner before he hits a pop-up uppercut and a diving headbutt to take Andrews back into the corner.

A pop-up bodyslam’s good for a two-count, before Andrews lands a Stundog Millionaire that left Joe down by the corner… but Mark Coffey pulls his brother out, only for the pair to get crashed into with a moonsault off the top rope. More interference from Mark Coffey allows Joe to catch Andrews with a belly-to-belly off the top rope, before All The Best For The Bells (the discus lariat) put Andrews down for the count. Not a blow-away match, but a very good outing to get NXT UK underway – it wasn’t completely “WWE-ised” as some feared, but you’d probably see better outside of a TV format. Expect that comparison a LOT. ***¼

Post-match, the Coffeys beat down Andrews before Flash Morgan Webster came out for the save.

We see footage from “earlier today” of Moustache Mountain entering the venue… then a vignette of Eddie Dennis, who introduces himself as a former close, personal friend of Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews. He’s got some stories to tell, as the vignette ends on an ominous note.

Moustache Mountain come out next, and along with Pete Dunne you’d have to say these two are probably bigger than NXT UK on day one. It’s promo time, once the crowd let them speak. Trent Seven calls this the biggest day in British wrestling history, and it’s the Triple H promo but with rather more local voices behind it. Tyler Bate brings up the NXT UK tag team titles, before he bitchily says “there’s no other tag team in NXT UK.” Well, technically, there’s none because we’ve not had any tag matches on this show! Trent wants to face the best opposition they can, and he’s back into Wolverhampton Triple H mode to close out the promo. It’s a good promo to rally the crowd.

Pete Dunne is warming up backstage with a resistance band… but first, a promo package for Dave Mastiff. There’s clips from OTT in there, and he’s next… after a recap of Noam Dar’s return this past June.

Sid Scala vs. Dave Mastiff
Huh. Scala’s not “The Business” (the “Dave from Accounts” cosplay he’s tried out in PROGRESS), but nor is he the Del Boy rip-off. What he is though… is about to get squashed. Sorry.

Mastiff, whose ring gear makes him look like he’s trying out for Aces and Eights, draws a huge “ooh” from the crowd, who reckon he’s gonna kill Scala. The opening forearm has Scala bumping like a champ, before he’s easily picked up for a stalling, no-bump suplex. Scala’s chopped, then thrown across the ring before some Danielson elbows had Scala reeling some more. The crowd laugh at Scala’s offence, before Mastiff kills him with a dropkick. A release German suplex puts Scala in the corner, as the cannonball followed, and that’s all folks! SPLAT. A nice, emphatic squash… and you can’t have enough of those especially if you’re building a monster.

A nameless interviewer is backstage with Nina Samuels. Apparently it’s a guy called Radzi from BBC’s Blue Peter… but I’m a little too old for that show! Nina is happy to be making her debut, and she wants to be the first NXT UK Women’s champion. It feels weird to hear Nina in a spot like this… but in a good way.

Nina Samuels vs. Toni Storm
The crowd is solidly pro-Toni, as you’d expect, and she starts off by taking Samuels to the mat with a headlock.

Nina escaped and returned the favour, before switching to a wristlock and then slapping Toni after that was flipped out of. Toni returns THAT before she ran into Nina with a big boot. Samuels returns by dragging Toni into the corner, before she stretches Toni in the ropes ahead of a dropkick for a two-count. A chinbar keeps Storm down, as Nina was effectively neutralising her Aussie foe, but Toni begins to fight back with some forearms, only to run into a tiltawhirl backbreaker as Nina came close yet again. Another Storm comeback sees her leap over a charge in the corner, before taking Nina back in with a German suplex, leaving her prone for a diving knee, then the Storm Zero neckbreaker slam as Toni gets the win. This was more like the typical WWE competitive squash – Nina got some offence in, but it was clear who they see as the bigger star. **

Next week: Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang!

Johnny Saint’s in the ring ahead of our main event…

NXT United Kingdom Championship: Noam Dar vs. Pete Dunne (c)
The title’s seemingly been renamed the NXT UK title from here on in, as it’s called that on the graphics (but not in the main event entrance).

We start with a tie-up as Dunne took Dar into the ropes, before we get a happy birthday chant from the crowd to Dar. Way to date the show! Noam manages to trip Dunne before some dizzying ahead of a backslide earns him a near-fall, but a clothesline from Dunne quickly neutralises Dar.

Dunne stands on Dar’s knees as he stomps them into the mat, but Dar hits back also with a chop block as Dunne had leapt onto the middle rope. Dar pulls Dunne onto the apron as we get some right hands… but back inside a suplex is countered into an X-Plex by Dunne as he got himself a breather. There’s an enziguiri in the corner from Dunne, who then flips out of a German suplex as he proceeded to Ligerbomb Dar for a near-fall.

Again, Dar goes for the knee as Dunne’s in the ropes, before a Northern Lights suplex picked up a near-fall for the Scotsman. On the apron, Dunne goes in for the joint manipulation as he wrenches on Dar’s wrist, but Noam escapes and plants him with a suplex onto the apron. Ow. Both men beat the count-out, but Dunne’s right back on Dar’s digits before he runs into a headbutt… Dunne comes right back in with a triangle armbar, which Dar rolls out of… and then back into. D’oh! The pair trade forearms and clotheslines, before a clothesline to the back of the head from Dar left them back on the mat as the crowd once again roared. Back to their feet, Dunne’s attempt at a Kimura’s countered with a suplex, before he kicks out Dunne’s legs once more… but he runs into a Dunne forearm as a Better End was countered into a knee-bar!

Dar tries to kick a submission out of Dunne, but the champion makes it to the ropes, before he went right back to Dar’s fingers, bending them backwards ahead of a stomp… as the Bitter End earns him the win. A really good TV main event, but I never got the feeling that Dar was in any real danger of leaving with the belt. ***¾

The show ends with a Cultaholic sign in the crowd… and Pete Dunne on the stage as we fade to black with nothing else teased for next week.

As a debut episode, this was a very solid start for NXT UK – which was exactly what you’d have expected out of a WWE product. Doing the exact opposite of World of Sport, we had matches that (largely) had time to breathe, along with an array of promo pieces that helped introduce up to a dozen wrestlers to a new audience. Sure, not all these names will be new, but it’s better to treat your fans as completely new as being in the know. The rather partisan crowd helps too, as the names WWE are looking to turn into stars were treated as such by the live crowd – although it’ll be interesting to see the reactions to others down the line, and whether WWE try to swim against the tide.

Yeah, there’s some niggles – I’m really going to get tired of those “UK” and “British wrestling” chants by the time these Cambridge tapings are done airing, and I’d have preferred a different commentary team to Joseph and McGuinness. Not that they did anything wrong, but that pairing screams “minor WWE show” a la Main Event and 205 Live, which is hardly going to endear the product to any new WWE fans outside those who are already fans of the UK roster.