NXT UK began its brief holiday in Phoenix as we had some cross-brand action from Royal Rumble weekend!
Say what you will about “why are NXT UK taping in America?” and some perhaps-cynical takes you can make about the move…
The show opens with a graphic “in memory of Pedro Morales”, before it’s straight to the Phoenix Convention Centre, and a parade of belts (did you know you can get a NXT UK title for $400?). Nigel McGuinness and Vic Joseph run down the main event, before we go to the rung as Toni Storm makes her way out. We’ve got the generic NXT ring apron here, if you’re wondering “did they go to any length to make this show stand out”? Toni talks about winning the Mae Young Classic, then winning the NXT UK Women’s title… before she called out Rhea Ripley for her general behaviour, labelling her a bully. Rhea of course comes out for her retort, saying that people should be comparing Toni to her, before Toni decided the time for talking was over, as she sparked a brawl. By the numbers, but we’re already spotting that the crowd only “knows the stars”.
Noam Dar vs. Jordan Devlin
Last seen on the initial tapings, we’ve got Noam Dar back on NXT UK!
Devlin and Dar look to work over the wrist early on, but it’s the Irishman who edged ahead, only for Dar to use an armdrag to reverse things. A pratfall from Dar sends Devlin down, before he swings Devlin around ahead of a backslide for a two-count, before Devlin started to hit back with a uranage and a standing moonsault for a near-fall of his own. This crowd feels like I’m watching wrestling in a vacuum, barely getting any reaction as Devlin’s over-the-shoulder backbreaker dropped Dar. There’s a guy in the front row who looks like he’s regretting several life decisions, which may or may not include sitting on his hands for this match. Devlin puts some boots to Dar, who struggled to get away from the Irishman, only to get caught with a floatover suplex for a near-fall.
A double arm stretch keeps Dar down, but Devlin gives him an opening after he crashed and burned on a springboard crossbody. It gets worse when Dar kicks Devlin out of the ropes, following up with a release Northern Lights suplex and an ankle lock… but Devlin escapes and comes back with a slingshot cutter a la Chris Brookes for a near-fall. A kick from Dar takes Devlin to the outside, only for Dar to charge himself into the ring steps as the Scotsman seemingly tweaked his ankle. Of course, Devlin pounces on that, sandwiching the ankle between the ring steps, before Travis Banks came down rather anonymously. Seriously, even commentary took a while to twig who it was, as the crowd didn’t react.
Both men eventually get back into the ring, where Devlin tries to win with his feet on the ropes – but Banks pushes the feet off, and after he swung and missed at Devlin, Dar rolled up the Irishman for the win. A decent match held in front of a dead crowd. One that seemed to neither know, nor care for the Devlin/Banks storyline. I feared that. **¾
Post-match, Devlin attacks Dar from behind, pulling him into the Saito suplex before Travis Banks dragged Devlin outside for a brawl. Man, if I knew nothing of this brand, I’d say Banks was coming across as such a dick doing that…
In two weeks, WALTER vs. Kassius Ohno! Please, Phoenix, don’t make this match suck… Next week: Rhea Ripley challenges Toni Storm for the NXT UK Women’s title.
Jinny vs. Mia Yim
An interesting match-up on paper, and it started on the mat with Yim’s attempt at a headlock being countered as Jinny got an armbar – complete with some scratches.
Yim rebounds with some pinning attempts as she collected a hattrick of two-counts, before she neatly cartwheeled out of a ‘rana from Jinny. The response from Jinny? A forearm and a clubbering before she dragged Yim into the turnbuckles with a flatliner for a near-fall. Jinny continued to rough up Yim, throwing her head into the mat repeatedly before a palm strike drew just a one-count. An axe kick followed for a two-count, before more slaps from Jinny led to her tripping Yim into a seated Romero special, except Mia gets a hand free and dragged herself to the rope.
Jinny wheels away with more punches, only for Yim to respond with a tarantula in the ropes. Of course, she can’t keep the hold on, so she lets go and follows in with a neckbreaker before some kicks and chops took Jinny back into the corner. Yim follows that up with a cannonball for a stacked-up two-count, before Jinny caught a kick and swept the leg into a facebuster. Undeterred, Yim’s back with a German suplex into the turnbuckles, but Jinny rolls to the outside for respite… and we’re quickly at the finish when she beat Yim back to the ring, meaning she was able to catch her in the ropes with a head kick as a roll-up with the feet on the ropes got the win. Much like the opener, this was fine on paper, but this may as well have been an empty arena match for all the crowd cared. **½
Wolfgang vs. Pete Dunne
Dunne got the loudest reaction of the show, but thanks to the acoustics here, it didn’t sound like anything special until we got to the chants.
The main event’s a non-title outing, because of course it is, as Wolfgang started by working over Dunne’s arm… only for Pete to get free and shove him to the mat. Wolfgang rolls to the outside as we get to hear individual hecklers… and he’s right back in with a cheapshot forearm as he turned the tide. Stomps keep Dunne on the mat, with a chinlock quickly being fought out of as Dunne hit back with a forearm. Now the crowd make noise, although it seems to be the vocal front row (with the guy from earlier having left)… they appreciate Dunne’s missile dropkick to the knee, before he punched out Wolfgang en route to a knee bar that sent the Scotsman into the ropes.
Wolfgang throws Dunne to the outside as the champion tried to charge at him, and the slow pace continues as Wolfgang followed him out… and rolled him back in. Dunne’s back to his feet and back on the arm as he stomped on the elbow, following up with a mounted Key lock, only for Wolfgang to counter by dumping Dunne on the top rope with a Snake Eyes. Dunne tries to fight back by stomping on Wolfgang’s ankles, ahead of a snap German suplex, before a backflip traps Wolfgang in the corner for an enziguiri. Wolfgang tries for a German suplex of his own, but Dunne flips out and comes in with a Bitter End for a near-fall. The pressure stays on Wolfgang as Dunne stomps away some more, then traps him in a triangle armbar.
Wolfgang broke that up by powerbombing Dunne into the corner before a cross-legged suplex/facebuster thingie gets him a near-fall. To near silence, save for the person shrieking at the prospect of Dunne losing. After Wolfgang took too long to climb the ropes, Dunne kipped up and landed a gamengiri before he went up for a superplex. There’s no pin attempt, as Dunne instead stomps on the hand, before a Wolfgang lariat snuffed him out, with a fireman’s carry gutbuster dropping Dunne once more. There’s a heavily-delayed two-count as Wolfgang dragged himself over, before he then scaled the ropes again, only for the Howling senton to miss as Dunne caught him on impact in a cross armbar for the flash submission. I really wish this show was held in front of a crowd that at least sounded interested, because this was a really good match (by TV standards) that was held in front of crushing indifference. ***
Dunne celebrates with his title, and we go off the air with no reminders of what’s on next week. Yeah, this was a low-effort “tape some stuff and throw it out there” show, unfortunately.
As I said in the past, there was absolutely no need for these shows to be held in the States… after all, it’s NXT UK – the whole selling point of it is that it’s a British show. I don’t want to be overly negative about this, but this was exactly the sort of show I feared when WWE mentioned “we’re taping NXT UK in Phoenix”. This was a crowd that was there on the off chance they saw a big star – which they fortunately did when Pete Dunne came out. The lack of reactions severely hurt this show, so if you’re going on star ratings, well, take these next few shows’ with a pinch of salt.
Other than “well, we had all the guys over for the Royal Rumble and it’s cheaper do the tapings here”, there was little reason for these shows to exist, and after the euphoria of Takeover a few weeks ago… we’re back to the beige, mostly-directionless tripe on these weekly shows. The Coventry tapings cannot he held and broadcast soon enough.