We ring in the new year with our first helping of NXT UK, as Takeover: Blackpool drew a little closer…

We open with an “in memory” graphic for “Mean” Gene Okerlund, following his sad passing earlier today… from there, it’s inside the Olympia in Liverpool, with the distant voices of Vic “don’t call me Glen” Joseph and Nigel McGuinness welcoming us.

Travis Banks vs. Jamie Ahmed
Ahmed is perhaps better known as Screwface within the NGW-line of promotions. Nigel acknowledges that nickname as the crowd perhaps expected him to be a warm body here for Travis and his new tights.

Banks works a waistlock early, but Ahmed elbows free before he was tripped and rolled through into an attempted rear naked choke. Ahmed scrambles to the ropes for a break, before he began to unleash with right hands onto the New Zealander. There’s a sit-down splash for a near-fall, but Banks begins to fight back with body blows, before he trips Ahmed into the corner. A diving dropkick traps Ahmed in the corner, before a German suplex takes him out of it. There’s a shotgun dropkick and a springboard stomp from Banks, before the Slice of Heaven put Ahmed down for the count. As close to a squash as you’ll get on this show, as they reminded you that Travis Banks is around.

Jordan Devlin interrupts Travis after the match, appearing on the stage with a mic in hand. It amplifies the crowd’s “shit Finn Balor” chants, sadly, as Devlin took a shot at Banks for abandoning his family to chase his dream. Devlin says his catchphrase, then leaves before Banks could go after him.

There’s a video package of the recent Trent Seven/Zack Gibson match, and how the aftermath of that sets up tonight’s main event between Moustache Mountain amd Gallus.

We recap what happened two episodes ago when Dave Mastiff jumped Eddie Dennis after his match with Dan Moloney, and then the payback when Eddie meant that Big Dave couldn’t have his match the following week. “Next week” Eddie and Dave face off again.

Amir Jordan & Kenny Williams vs. Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel
I love how in all of this, they’re packaging Kenny Williams – who’s meant to be a happy go lucky guy who cosplays from Back to the Future – as a stuffy guy because he won’t dance. I guess that passes as a character… but at least they got separate entrances, as Barthel and Aichner got the dreaded “2 names 1 entrance” treatment.

Oh yeah, and a caption that got them the wrong way around. Still, at least we get the clearly-dubbed in current affairs reference by Nigel McGuinness.

Barthel and Williams start off, scrambling for a hammerlock on the mat, before Amir Jordan comes in and scored with an axe handle. That seemed to be the end of his offence as Barthel began to work on Amir’s wrist, only for Jordan to get free and… dance his way into a cross-chop to the throat. From there, Jordan’s thrown into the corner as Barthel and Aichner went for him. Aichner misses a charge into the corner, but he recovers as Jordan’s crossbody is caught… but once Amir got free, he’s quickly knocked down with a kick on the apron from Barthel as the bad guys started to club away on Jordan.

Jordan’s kept cornered as Barthel puts the boots to him, as we led up to his catchphrase: NEIN! Some double-teaming from Barthel and Aichner leads into Jordan taking a spinebuster for a near-fall, before we entered “Amir dives for a tag and gets cut short” territory. Barthel’s back in with a chinlock as he tried to keep Jordan on the mat while a little bit of Nigel died inside him as part of his latest Dad joke. Eventually Jordan got free when he flipped out of a back suplex, and makes a tag out to Kenny Williams, who used his pace to knock Aichner off the apron, then catch him with a tope. For some reason Kenny tagged Jordan back in, and that was his downfall as a release Landungsbrücke almost put Amir away.

Williams came back in to break up the count, but he’s dragged outside and into the barriers by Aichner as Jordan’s left alone as a powerbomb/back suplex combo sees the Italian and the German get the win. This picked up a little at the end, but I didn’t like the opening stages; it truly felt like Barthel and Aichner had no chemistry… but with enough time, they’ll gel, I guess. Also, yay for the good guys costing themselves with Kenny Williams tagging in and quickly tagging out! **¾

Radzi’s recording in the arena from “earlier today”, but he stops to eavesdrop on Deonna Purrazzo claiming that she should take Toni Storm’s spot at Takeover. Toni reads that as a challenge, and we’ve got a match next week.

Backstage, Johnny Saint and Sid Scala are addressing “the media”. Johnny says there’s plans on the way, while Sid touts Rhea Ripley’s title defence. Joe Coffey interrupts and demands an opportunity for the NXT UK championship. Johnny Saint dismisses him… by which he didn’t mean he sacked him.

Candy Floss vs. Jinny
I think we’re back in warm body territory here…

Commentary’s updated to say that Jinny “once held the PROGRESS women’s title” (nice spoiler there!), as we start with Candy Floss… hugging Jinny? She uses Jinny’s temper against her, catching a slap and turning it into a hammerlock, adding in an armbar as the crowd got on Jinny’s case. Jinny escaped the armbar with some headscissors, only for Candy to escape and trip up Jinny by the ropes. Candy Floss plays around, and lands a Codebreaker to the arm before she’s caught in the corner, with Jinny pulling her off the middle rope before planting a forearm for a near-fall.

A key lock follows from Jinny, rolling Candy Floss down for a near-fall, before she threw Candy Floss into the corner to pick up a two-count. Candy Floss fights back with some boots and a shotgun dropkick, taking Jinny into the opposite corner for a face washing dropkick, but Jinny’s back in with a Japanese armdrag and the Touch of Couture ripcord Koppo kick for the win. A template “back and forth match with a sudden finish” for those who love those things, but this crowd seemed largely apathetic. Candy Floss got a lot more in than I thought, but I sense Jinny may be next in line for a shot IF Rhea loses her title at Takeover… **¼

NXT UK Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang)
Gallus tried to jump Moustache Mountain early, but Trent Seven was smart to it as Mark Coffey was quickly taken down for an assisted senton for an early near-fall.

Tyler followed up with a back body drop out of the corner, before Mark Coffey powdered to the outside… which allowed Wolfgang to distract Bate as the Scotsmen turned it around. Wolfgang comes in with a short-arm clothesline for a near-fall on Bate, before a front facelock forced Bate to fight free… which he eventually did so, scoring with headscissors before both men tagged out.

We’re back to Trent and Coffey, with Seven landing some chops and a DDT. A cricket chop and a sit-out side slam gets Seven a near-fall, but his attempt to clock Coffey with the Seven Stars lariat goes awry when a blind tag brought Wolfgang back in, with the big guy throwing himself at Trent with a back senton as he was kept on the mat.

Coffey’s back with a forearm as Trent was kept isolated… and yes, the pace grinds to a halt courtesy of a grounded waistlock. Trent fights back to his feet when Wolfgang took over the hold, which then turned into a bear hug that Trent used a bell clapper to get out of… before he gets tossed onto the ramp. Despite having everything sapped from him, Trent’s able to play a game of cat and mouse that allowed him to tag Tyler back in… and sure enough, Tyler ups the tempo with a tope to Wolfgang. There’s one to Mark Coffey on the outside before he returned to land an uppercut and an Exploder on Wolfgang for a near-fall. Coffey tried to break it up, but instead elbowed his own man as Tyler busts out an airplane spin, before he looked for a German suplex.

Wolfgang backs into the corner to get free as Mark Coffey gets a blind tag in… but somehow Bate stands up out of a rear naked choke and breaks it while giving Wolfgang a German suplex. Now that’s an egregious feat of strength.

Trent gets involved again, knocking Wolfgang outside for a crossbody off the apron, while Tyler’s attempt at a rebound lariat’s knocked away with a clothesline and an enziguiri from Coffey for a near-fall. Mark Coffey signals for help, and out comes Joe Coffey to interrupt… only for Pete Dunne to make the save as those two brawl around the ring.

The tag match is still going on mind you, as Dunne hits an X-Plex onto the apron, and once Tyler hits bop/bang to Mark Coffey, it’s elementary as a rebound lariat-assisted Dragon suplex gets Trent Seven the win. This ended well, but my word that opening was lethargic and almost put me to sleep. ***

Moustache Mountain, unsurprisingly, make it to the tag title match at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool… but now that’s been sorted, Gallus jump British Strong Style… only for the NXT UK “golden boys” to overcome the Scots as we end with the good guys standing tall, with Pete Dunne accepting Coffey’s challenge for Takeover. That prompts Gallus to storm the ring as we go to credits with a brawl… Well, unless Joe Coffey wins the title in Blackpool, we can count down the days until Gallus are no longer a thing.

Well, as a show this sure didn’t do much to add to the buzz for Takeover: Blackpool. A squash and a pair of “spotlight” matches (or “competitive squashes” if you want to be dismissive) meant that we needed a killer main event… and an achingly-long bearhug series killed any chance of that. I’m hoping this’ll change after Takeover, but these shows haven’t even begun to make any stars from people who didn’t come into the show without any “indy cred”. Sure, Dave Mastiff’s perhaps the nearest to have done so on the back of squashes, but the storyline and characters seem to be extracting juice from what they already have, rather than growing any proverbial new fruit to work with.

You can’t keep doing that forever.