The second helping of Boxing Day NXT UK throws a couple of debuts our way, with a wXw favourite and… another animal teaming with the Wild Boar?

We’re still in Liverpool as the crowd get unusually hyped for Deonna Purrazzo and Rhea Ripley getting ready backstage.

James Drake & Zack Gibson vs. Mike Hitchman & Primate
There’s a bit of a heroes welcome for Gibson here. By which I mean, it’s not universal boos, as we get the NXT UK debut of Jay Melrose… better known as Primate, who gets introduced by both of those names.

Given that he had to take time out in March due to what was thought to be a career ending jaw injury, this is quite the turnaround for Primate. He starts on the apron as Wild Boar rolled with Gibson to get out of a wristlock, but a log roll from Boar trips the newly-tagged Drake, who’s quickly dragged into the opposite corner.

In comes Primate to club away on Drake, then throw him with an overhead suplex ahead of an avalanche clothesline into the corner. A forearm from Drake barely registers, but Gibson blind-tags in as he holds the ropes open for Primate to send himself sailing to the floor, where he’s met with the double-team backbreaker on the outside.

Back in the ring, Gibson gets a near-fall on Primate, as the grounded Million Dollar Dream kept the Geordie on the mat. Drake’s back in with a forearm to Primate’s jaw, prompting Mike Hitchman to try and come in… but he’s quickly shooed out as the former PROGRESS tag team champions retained control. Primate fights back with a back body drop, then leaps out to tag in Boar, who unloads on Drake with body blows and clubbering forearms in the corner.

A standing uranage and a back senton keeps Drake down, but an enziguri switches it all around. Or so I thought, as a powerbomb from Boar puts Drake into the corner, where he looked to follow in with a cannonball… but Gibson pulls him away, then tags in as they quickly hit the Ticket To Mayhem as Drake and Gibson get the win out of nothing. That’s quite a thing that it was Boar, not Primate who took the fall, but this was a solid, competitive tag while keeping Drake and Gibson established as the big threat. ***¼

Post-match, Gibson’s got the mic for promo time. Some of the crowd sing along to it, while others boo, as Gibson says he knows a thing or two about winning tournaments. The Liverpool supporters cheer that bit, as Drake looks really out of place. Gibson heels on the crowd by saying that he loves Liverpool, but hates the people as he reiterates what we saw in the “Guide to Liverpool” “last week”. I’d much rather have Zack Gibson as a top singles guy on this brand, but it is what it is I guess.

Backstage, not Glen Joseph is interviewing Trent Seven and Tyler Bate about NXT Takeover: Blackpool. It comes over a little scripted as they prepare for their match with Gallus next week, with the winners going into the tag title tournament final in Blackpool. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Trent turns here…

Dave Mastiff was meant to face Josh Morell – the same guy who did 205 Live a few months back (and 5* Wrestling as Josh Terry)… but he was attacked by Eddie Dennis in the aisle. So no match.

Joseph Conners has a vignette as he bemoans wrestlers who have character. He calls them toys, toys with a shelf-life, because his character (you know “he lost part of an ear”) got old. Conners promises that those “toys” get battered and scratched like him.

Mark Andrews vs. Marcel Barthel
This was the NXT UK debut of the former Axel Dieter Jr, whose music sadly wasn’t the RINGKAMPF theme. The crowd fixed that…

Barthel works a chin bar, taking down Andrews to the mat before a wristlock and another takedown kept the Welshman pinned to the mat. A hammerlock makes things a little more painful, especially as Barthel bridges over as I wistfully remember the days he ruled wXw. Andrews eventually flips free and lands a couple of arm drags before a ‘rana sent Barthel into the corner.

Barthel comes back with some elbows to the back of the neck, before he counters another ‘rana into a facebuster. A knee to the face gets Barthel a near-fall, as Andrews is kept grounded with a chinlock that is eventually elbowed out of, while the crowd chants for RINGKAMPF some more. It’s enough for Barthel to pound on Andrews in the corner some more, before a baseball slide dropkick caught Andrews brutally through the ropes.

Andrews tries to fight back, but he’s caught with an uppercut in the corner for a near-fall, following up with a modified chinbar/armbar submission attempt. A roll-up from Andrews gets a near-fall, as he tried to chain together offence with some forearms and chops, before a knee slide and an enziguiri took Barthel down. The Stomp 182 follows from Andrews, but he takes too long to go up top as Barthel rolled outside for safety.

There’s a game of cat and mouse that ends when Andrews runs up the steps for a cannonball into Barthel on the floor. Just as Andrews was looking to get ahead, Fabian Aichner comes out and distracts the Welshman, who runs into a small package for a near-fall, before an inverted gutwrench suplex drew another near-fall for the German.

A suplex from Barthel’s countered into Stundog Millionaire, but Aichner’s still at ringside, providing a distraction as Andrews nearly Brock Lesnar’d himself on a shooting star press. He’s quickly on the apron, but he’s shoved to the outside as he went for a springboard, allowing Aichner to hit a cheapshot before throwing Andrews back in, as Barthel finished off Andrews with a backflip version of the old Landungsbrücke. A great debut for Barthel, helped by the fact that he got to hit his finish and not just win because of the outside interference. ***½

How the hell have WWE wasted Marcel Barthel for so long?!

Nigel McGuinness says we’re seeing the start of a European Union. Like the other vote, I want to keep this one too.

They show a video package of Toni Storm’s 2018 under the auspices of WWE, featuring her Mae Young Classic final win, going through to her challenging Rhea Ripley “last week”. Yep, they’re really parlaying the Mae Young Classic just into a NXT UK women’s title shot.

There’s a Travis Banks video package, as he’s back in action next week.

NXT UK Women’s Championship: Deonna Purrazzo vs. Rhea Ripley (c)
Purrazzo comes flying into Ripley with a pump kick at the bell, then with a set of headscissors before an armdrag took the champion into an armbar.

Purrazzo tweaks away at Ripley’s wrist too, but Rhea hits back in the corner with some forearms before Purrazzo goes all World of Sport on us on the way to a roll-up. Some idiots “whoop whoop” Deonna, because of course, you’re only as good as the person you’re dating. I’m being sarcastic before anyone goes after me for that…

The pair head outside as Ripley avoids a PK on the apron, before pulling Purrazzo onto the apron with an Electric Chair drop. Back in the ring, Ripley stomps on Purrazzo’s back as she tried to wear down her challenger some more, following up with a stalling suplex for a two-count. Ripley keeps targeting the lower back, using some body scissors with forearms to the back, but Purrazzo eventually breaks the body scissors before she’s kicked to the mat.

Ripley’s virtually playing with Purrazzo here, but Rhea rolls through a sunset flip attempt and comes back with an inverted cloverleaf. Purrazzo has to hand walk to the ropes to get free, then evade a corner charge before she pulled Ripley down by the foot for a two-count. Ripley fights back, taking Purrazzo outside as she poses… and she takes her time going after her, as Ripley measured up for a suplex.

Purrazzo counters by scrambling onto the apron, before launching in with a cannonball off the apron. Back in the ring, a Flatliner into a Koji Clutch looked to catch Ripley unawares, but the Aussie gets free as the pair trade chops and forearms. A flapjack stops Purrazzo in her tracks for a near-fall, following up with a superplex attempt that Deonna flipped out of before countering with a German superplex!

Another Flatliner from Purrazzo flips Ripley over for a near-fall, but her attempt to stay on top backfires as Ripley pulls Deonna into the corner, before she rushed into the Riptide powerbomb for the win. This was pretty even, but the crowd (save for those whoop whoopers) weren’t too much into this at times. I’m so not a fan of the “50-50 then rush to a finish” template that we’re getting a lot on this show, but it is what it is… ***

So we’re getting Toni Storm vs. Rhea Ripley at Takeover: Blackpool – something that’s confirmed when Toni makes a save when Rhea tried to beat down Purrazzo after the match as the show ended with the obligatory staredown, and a fist-bump between Storm and Purrazzo. For some reason they wish us a happy new year here, even though that’s… not for a few more days!

A much, much better outing than the first half of this week’s double-header, but it’s still quite telling how much dead wood is on this roster when you compare the episodes. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite for this, but I’m not a fan of them doing the “spotlight” booking for folks like Dakota Kai and Deonna Purrazzo from “full fat NXT” while also ignoring/mishandling the rest of the regular roster, especially when they look to be doing a better job on the men’s side of things.