With Takeover: Cardiff in a shade over three weeks the build continues on NXT UK!

The show opened with a video package to remember the late Harley Race… and yes, we’re back in Plymouth for the latest round, with Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness on commentary.

Noam Dar vs. Ashton Smith
Reckon Ashton Smith’ll get his first TV win in over a year’s worth of episodes (if you count weekly)?

Smith started by taking Dar into the corner, but he’s quickly stuffed as Dar sits down during a roll through attempt and took control of the arm. When the wristlock’s reversed, Dar runs into the ropes before he tried for a cheapshot… which sort-of paid off, before he ran into a dropkick as Smith was threatening to build up some momentum. A back elbow rocks Dar… who then took the referee aside as he claimed that he’d been mortally wounded. Of course, it’s a ruse as he lifted a charging Smith to the outside. Back in the ring, Dar keeps up on the arm as he wrestled Smith to the mat, before a blocked enziguiri led to an ankle lock. Smith rolled free quickly and ran in with a clothesline, then a diving knee as the momentum swung again.

Dar struck back as he measured up Smith for something… but Smith was playing possum himself and caught Dar with a small package for a near-fall. A superkick followed, before his flying leg lariat off the middle rope missed… Dar’s in with the Nova Roller, and that’s enough for the win. A perfectly fine match, and for all that commentary puts over Smith, a year plus of TV losses has him well and truly pigeon-holed in the eyes of this crowd at least. **¾

Radzi’s out to interview Dar. Noam talks like he’s a footballer, putting in a “transfer request” to join NXT UK, before saying he’d been given a big contract with benefits. Such as the promise that he’ll be at Takeover: Cardiff.

WALTER and Tyler Bate’s heads float around on the match graphic as they segue to Tyler seeing a trainer at the Harry in Enfield. Media Jim’s back to nag him… apparently Trent Seven’s not medically cleared, as Tyler stares down the barrel of the camera lens to tell us he won’t allow WALTER nor Imperium to treat the WWE UK belt like they have done.

The Grizzled Young Veterans head out next in their suits, so no, they’re not doing a wrestle here. You know the score here: shoes off, James Drake barely talks. Gibson addresses Gallus’ request for a title shot in Cardiff, saying that Gallus have beaten nobodies while they’ve defended against the best. Gallus come out to rebuke that, but they’re interrupted by Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster, wearing jackets that branded them as South Wales Subculture. Looks like that tag’s sticking then. They want a chance to be involved in their hometown, and it looks like this’ll be a triple threat…

Except Zack Gibson tells them that who they face isn’t up to them – he leaves it in the hands of Johnny Saint, with some parting words suggesting that Flash and Andrews need to earn their way to Takeover.

A video package for Takeover: Cardiff follows, with talking heads like Jinny, Mark Andrews and Xia Brookside talking about how great it’d be to be on the show. Ligero wants to use it as a way to inspire people to chase their dreams, while Nina Samuels just wants the spotlight on her. Hey, there’s Killer Kelly wanting to get a chance on Takeover, and I’m wondering how many of the faces in this package will actually have a match on the show…

Radzi interrogates Travis Banks as he comes out of Johnny Saint’s office. Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster go in after him, as Banks tells us that Noam Dar’s spot on Takeover isn’t guaranteed. I guess that’s going to be a match? Flash and Mark are quickly out, and then the feed literally goes blank. A refresh tells us they’re getting an opportunity in the coming weeks…

Jinny & Jazzy Gabert vs. Piper Niven & Xia Brookside
Piper’s wearing a Lionheart armband, which is a nice little touch.

Xia and Jinny start us off, with Jinny running into a dropkick before she got taken into the corner. Forearms follow as Brookside exchanged quick tags with Niven. Some headscissors from Jinny got her back in as Gabert provides a distraction to allow Jinny to clock Xia with a forearm for a quick two-count, before Jazzy got the tag in. A spinning slam drops Xia as Jazzy was egging on Niven, but Jinny’s quickly back in… only to watch helplessly as Niven got the tag in. There’s a big slam on Jinny as they tease Niven/Gabert, but again it’s a distraction as Jinny tries some headscissors, only to get powerbombed into the corner as we finally got the hoss fight.

Back-and-forth forearms follow until Niven landed a headbutt, then a diving crossbody for a near-fall. Brookside’s back in, but she’s quickly caught in a sidewalk slam as Gabert countered some headscissors, before Jinny returned and threw Xia outside. Rhea Ripley wanders to the ring as the referee gets distracted… but not to worry, Piper Niven decided to brawl with Ripley to the back as this became a virtual handicap match. A handicap match that Xia tried to win with a Codebreaker… but she realises she’s on her own and we get the sad eyes. Still, Xia pushed on with a hairmare, then with some headscissors and some running knees in the corner for a near-fall. A blind tag brings Gabert back in, but Xia leaps onto the pair of them with a crossbody… only for another Codebreaker to get caught as a clothesline dropped Brookside. One Dominator later, and that’s the match. Hey, why wasn’t a DQ called when Rhea brawled with Niven to the back? That wasn’t exactly a one-sided brawl… but that moan aside, this was a pretty decent tag, which I thought was going to be too-fast paced, but settled down fairly well. I do like how they’re setting up a murder’s row of hoss fights in the women’s division mind you… **¾

We’ve another video package to build up Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm, complete with footage from ICW, wXw and PROGRESS. Toni mentioned how she wanted to “be just like Kay Lee Ray” as I swear I saw myself briefly in this. Hey Gunni!

Someone new is interviewing Ilja in a darkened room. Kassius Ohno interrupts by putting the light on as he mocks Ilja’s old music, before Ilja grunted at him. They face-off next week, as do Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Coffey.

Joe Coffey vs. Dave Mastiff
Taking out the Harley Race package at the top of the show, we’ve got about ten minutes left if we’re still going to the “proper TV show” length… Gallus join Coffey on the stage, but they are quickly dismissed.

Dave Mastiff has a new entrance video, which is very unsubtle because it has an old WW2 bomb in his logo now. The two charge into each other like bulls, as the exchange of shoulder tackles gave way to swinging forearms before a hiptoss from Mastiff took down Coffey for just a one-count. Coffey rips off a turnbuckle pad as Mastiff pulled him out for a German suplex… but his follow-up German cannonball was stopped with a shoulder tackle that sent Mastiff towards the exposed buckle. Hmm. Coffey keeps up the beating, focusing on Mastiff’s midsection before landing a pendulum backbreaker.

Mastiff tries to fight back, but Coffey’s got an armbar on him as Mastiff tried to slam his way free – but the bad ribs were too much as he couldn’t complete the move. A headbutt was more successful though, as that slam came off… but Coffey’s back up first. A German suplex and a back body drop follows out of Big Dave though as the match went back to strikes, with Coffey spilling to the outside. Coffey looks to be on jelly legs, so rather than take a count-out, Mastiff wanders outside to keep up the brawling, clobbering him with a clothesline to the back of the head as both men looked the worse for wear. They head back to the ring as Mastiff followed up with a series of Danielson elbows to the bloodied Coffey.

Coffey tries to hit a springboard crossbody out of the corner, but he has no balance and got pulled down by Mastiff for a near-fall… then rolled to the apron as Mastiff’s clothesline kept him on the apron. He follows him again, but Coffey caught him with a shoulder charge to send Mastiff into the ring post, leaving both men laying on the floor. They fight back to their feet as the referee continues the count… and a duelling shot left them back on the deck as Joel Allen hit the count of ten. It’s a double count-out, which this crowd was not happy to hear, as Coffey and Mastiff snarled at each other from opposite sides of the aisle to close out the show. ***

So, not much “new” build for Takeover this week as the emphasis was placed on what’d already been announced rather than adding new matches to the card. I’m guessing the card’ll be fully fleshed out in the next fortnight as the buzz should begin to ramp up. Since we brought it up last week… Harley Race video aside, NXT UK again came in well under the “regular” hour format as suspicions around a possible move to “regular” TV remain.