NXT UK began life on Thursday as they wrapped up their stay in Cardiff with local lass Tegan Nox in the main event.

Hey, who knew the WWE Network hated going full screen on a second screen? Nigel McGuinness and Vic Joseph are your commentators, as always on this first Thursday night of NXT UK.

Piper Niven vs. Isla Dawn
Call me picky, but I don’t think “modern day witch” with “working class values” is a character that you can flesh out much…

Niven starts by working the wrist of Dawn early on, but Isla bridges and spins out, but a pumphandle is blocked as Niven just switched out into a headlock takedown. Isla manages to get free and trap Niven in a chinbar, but Piper gets free and into the ropes as Dawn was looking for a back suplex. A back elbow stops Niven, as does a dropkick, before she caught Dawn’s crossbody and dumped her with a slam. Niven’s leaping splash gets a near-fall, as she proceeded to ground Isla with a grounded Cobra clutch, wrenching back on her to try and force a stoppage, only for Isla to spin out and land a Saito suplex.

Dawn builds momentum with a running knee for a two-count, before dropkicks and a running Meteora drew another near-fall. Isla grounds Niven with a front facelock, but Piper’s back with a headbutt and a Michinoku driver… and just like that, Niven wins. Isla’s still looking for her second singles win of the year… This was fine, but had the usual NXT UK issues of the crowd barely biting for anything. **½

Earlier today, Ilja Dragunov’s seen coming out of the trainer’s room… he’s not cleared to compete because of a shoulder injury. Alexander Wolfe is right by him, and he’s going to take his place later tonight as he gave an ominous message about Ilja needing to think about his future.

I pay the price for turning up the volume to hear them as a LOUD Rock trailer follows…

A vignette for The Hunt follows… they’re back next week… and then we go to “moments ago” as Radzi interviews Piper Niven. She wants to join the queue for a title shot. Jinny wants that shot, and interrupts as Jazzy Gabert attacks Niven from behind. Hey James Mason!

Alexander Wolfe vs. Saxon Huxley
Given Huxley’s win/loss record, is it any wonder why Wolfe snatched this match out of Ilja’s hands?

Wolfe takes down Huxley early on, looking to wear him down with a side headlock from the off, before we went straight to the obligatory shoulder tackles. Huxley’s headlock takedown had Wolfe on the defensive, following up with an armbar as the German tried to escape. Commentary suggested that Huxley’s now back as a singles guy, bringing up his team with Tyson T-Bone in the past tense… much like how Huxley’s offence was in the past after he ate a knee from Wolfe, who jumped on him with some ground and pound quickly thereafter.

Huxley blocks a suplex, but got taken down into an armbar from Wolfe, before the suplex quickly followed after a nice uppercut from the German. Wolfe rips at Huxley’s nose as the pace slowed down, allowing Huxley to fight back in, only to get taken down with a Dragon screw on the mat. Another grounded headlock keeps the crowd quiet, before Huxley threw his way free. An enziguiri from Wolfe stops any idea of a comeback, before an exploding Thesz Press gave Huxley another opening. A kick from Huxley has the crowd going, as he continued to push Wolfe away, but a big boot just sees the Hartlepool man hung up in the ropes as the Dresden native hit an apt German suplex, then a sit-out powerbomb for the win. This was fine, as they continue to establish Wolfe as a singles guy here… but almost still the odd-man-out in Imperium. **½

Backstage, Media Jim is REALLY QUIET and is holding a handheld mic as he interviews Be A Star Ashton Smith. Ashton’s quickly cut off by Zack Gibson and James Drake, who mock Media Jim for being low down the totem pole. “Are you one of those podcasts that no-one listens to”. Insert your own punchline here. Speaking of punchlines, what on earth is James Drake wearing? Your nan’s curtains?

Smith pokes fun at Drake finally speaking, but Gibson cuts him off for having a poor win-loss record. Zack threatens to make Ashton change in the corridor, which led to Smith going to pick a partner as I guess the former tag champions have a match next week.

Back in the arena, Mike Bird’s heading to the ring for a match! He gets a nice reaction, being local and all, but his opponent is dragged out as Gallus seemingly had laid out Jack Starz. Commentary does a good job of telling us who Bird is, as Wolfgang and Mark Coffey went to threaten him as he credited for being responsible for training the current NXT UK tag champs.

Which makes him a target for the Scotsmen. They offered a handshake, but instead Wolfgang jumped Bird until Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews made the save. Except Joe Coffey also ran out and actually beat Webster to the ring, pulling him away before Webster could get in. I howled at Joe outpacing “Flash”. Might need a new nickname there. Gallus make the most of their 3-on-2 advantage as they stood over Webster and Andrews.

Via Twitter, Johnny Saint makes Piper Niven vs. Jazzy Gabert for next week…

Tegan Nox vs. Kay Lee Ray
This is non-title, as Tegan got a pretty good reaction for her second match in these tapings.

We start with some hair-pulling as Kay Lee tried to stop Tegan from grabbing a hold, with the Scotswoman taking things to the corner… only for Nox to send her packing. Ray runs back in, but takes some armdrags and hiptosses, before a chop from Tegan sent Ray down to the mat. More chops follow in the corner ahead of a crossbody that got a near-fall as Kay Lee again powders.

Nox gives chase in the aisle, knocking the champion down before she frogmarched her back to the ring. Kay Lee hits what looked like a low blow, but she focuses on the injured knees of Nox, before she grounded her with an abdominal stretch. Tegan tries to sneak in a pinning attempt, but Kay Lee kicked out and went back on offence, snapmaring Nox through for a kick to the chest as Nox was feeling her knee. I get flashbacks of last year’s Mae Young Classic as Tegan shrieked in agony while her knee was stood on, before Kay Lee tried to kick her leg out of her leg.

Kay Lee heads up top, but crashed and burned on a senton bomb before a shoulder charge in the corner whiffed, with Kay Lee hitting the ring post. It bought Tegan time to recover, as the crowd went in for yay/boo shots while Nox built up a head of steam. A running uppercut caught Ray in the corner, before Tegan pulled out a Molly Go Round as I pop… but Nox can only get a near-fall out of it.

Just like that though, Kay Lee Ray looked to make a comeback, only to see her Gory bomb countered into a sunset flip for a near-fall. Nox’s superkick’s good for a two-count, thanks to a delayed cover as her leg buckled after the kick landed. A tornado DDT out of the corner pushes Kay Lee Ray back into it for a near-fall, before she rolled Tegan into a guillotine choke, only for the pile to roll around the ring as Tegan almost got to the ropes. Kay Lee rolls them back into the middle of the ring, where Nox powered up and powerbombed her way free. Ray reapplies the hold straight away though, but this time Nox rolls into the ropes as Kay Lee Ray looked to keep the pressure on… only to run into a chokeslam for a near-fall. Tick off Molly Holly and Kane here! Tegan heads up top, but gets crotched by Ray as the Scotswoman sent her crashing back to the mat.

Somehow, Nox countered a Gory bomb into a Destroyer for a near-fall, following up with a Shining Wizard for another two-count… but when those didn’t get the job done, you felt that Tegan’s moment was up. The pair head to the apron, but a running knee sees Nox hit the ring post as the screams return… and it’s an open door from there for Kay Lee Ray, who got the win with a Gory bomb. I liked how Nox was forced to push for something extra to get a win, only for it to backfire spectacularly as Kay Lee Ray snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. ***¼

Another week of NXT UK, and another solid episode… but in the new wrestling landscape where the world and its dog has a weekly TV show, just being “solid” is really your low bar these days. There’s some interesting seeds being planted for the future, with a potential Imperium/Ilja feud down the line… hey, didn’t WALTER and Ilja have some absolute bangers not too long ago (even if it’ll mess up their most recent story in wXw where they were tag team champions…)