Thursday afternoon NXT UK played host to what may well be Rhea Ripley’s farewell to the brand, as she teamed with Piper Niven to take on Jazzy Gabert and Jinny.

We’ve an earlier start time than usual as NXT UK got pre-empted for Crown Jewel. Yeah… Tom Phillips and Nigel McGuinness are live on commentary from Brentwood. Yes, the town crier’s still there…

Jinny & Jazzy Gabert vs. Rhea Ripley & Piper Niven
This was set up when Rhea Ripley helped nullify Jazzy Gabert a few weeks back – aiding Piper Niven in beating Jinny.

Jinny and Piper start off, after a little debate between Jinny and Jazzy… Gabert tries to distract Piper at the bell, but it backfires as Piper’s able to take down Jinny with a slam for a nonchalant one-count. Rhea Ripley tags in and dumps Jinny with a series of short-arm clotheslines, finishing with a ripcord clothesline for good measure, as poor Jinny was getting ragdolled here.

Ripley follows Jinny to the outside, where Jinny was caught between a rock and a hard place as Piper provided a distraction for Ripley to pick up Jinny… walk her up the stairs and slam her into the ring. A hard Irish whip sees Jinny bounce off the corners, followed up with a cravat/snapmare and a low dropkick… and if I didn’t know any better, I’d have guessed that Jinny was on the outs based on this opening.

Eventually Jinny got free, with some help from a cheapshot on the apron from Jazzy, who got the tag in as the tide changed a little. Jinny’s back with an Octopus-like stretch, but Rhea’s able to walk away… only for Jinny to plaster her with a series of palm strikes and a forearm before Rhea decked her in return. Tags bring in Niven and Gabert, as the two hosses traded shoulder tackles ahead of a crossbody from Niven….

A slam awaits for Jinny, who’s thrown onto Jazzy ahead of a back senton to the pile, but Gabert responds with a spear for a near-fall. All four women stay in the ring as Tom Scarborough showed his usual efficiency in refereeing tag matches, before the ring cleared with Ripley’s flip senton that almost ended badly for her as she nearly clipped the apron on the way down. She tosses Gabert back inside, as a Michinoku driver from Niven gets the win. This was almost a goddamn squash, looking back at the run of play, but thank God Ripley’s flip senton didn’t go as badly as it looked. **¾

Ripley exits stage left, leaving the spotlight for Piper Niven. Given what’s going on on NXT, I’d guess this is as good as a farewell.

We’re a video package for A-Kid, who “debuts next”. I must have dreamt that squash against Gallus… perhaps that’s why he’s got that perma-scowl?

A-Kid vs. Kassius Ohno
Christ, this is quite the test for A-Kid. Talk about throwing the lad in at the deep end…

A-Kid looks to out-grapple Ohno early, but Ohno takes him down to the mat with an armbar, which gets countered as A-Kid looked to turn it into a crucifix-like pin. A side headlock sees A-Kid cling onto Ohno, but headscissors gets Ohno free as he looked to suffocate the Spaniard… only for A-Kid to counter out into a leg grapevine and some brief Cattle Mutilation. Ohno rolls free, but couldn’t avoid a lucha roll-up, or a dropkick before Ohno threw aside his arm sleeve to distract the ref for a cross-chop to the throat. Ohno wrenches on the arms next, then worked into a stranglehold, before he ragdolled the Spaniard into a back senton for a near-fall.

A-Kid looks to work a knuckle lock, and succeeds with a ‘rana before he rolled up Ohno from a boot. A rolling elbow’s countered into a cross armbar, but Ohno got free and took A-Kid outside where the pair exchanged strikes, which was Ohno’s downfall as rather than leave A-Kid for dead, he went to roll in the Spaniard… who hit a 619 on the apron before sneaking in for the count-out win. A weird choice from Ohno, and he paid for it. ***¼

Of course, Ohno obliterates A-Kid after the bell, trapping him in a Kassius Clutch before Tyler Bate sauntered out to make the save. The crowd popped because they see Bate as a star – and as good as some of the reactions are, there’s been scant stars created on this brand in the year-plus of TV they’ve had.

Earlier this week, Killer Kelly was interviewed… she tells us she’s medically cleared. I don’t think we were ever told she was injured. She talks about needing to pick a fight to get a match, and Isla Dawn walks by. Uh oh.

Roy Johnson vs. Joseph Conners
This was Johnson’s first televised outing for WWE in nearly THREE YEARS. He lost to Pete Dunne in the first round of the inaugural UK Championship tournament, then beat HC Dyer on a non-televised part of those Norwich garden chair shows. Remember The Pledge?

Johnson gave Conners the slip early on, until a diving clothesline turned things around, with Conners turning up the aggression, dragging Johnson into the ring post for some stretching. A baseball slide dropkick makes it worse, as Conners kept screaming things like “nice to see you, Roy”. I think his bullet points told him to mention “this is Roy’s first match here in a while”… Some clubbering on the outside led to a turnaround as Johnson took over back in the ring with a clothesline and a backbreaker. “Big Wavy” pulls down the straps, but the Last Set’s stopped with an eye rake as Connors shoved him into the corner. A reverse neck snap followed, as did the Don’t Look Down, and that’s all. Aggressively fine, but this is exactly the kind of match-up that detractors of this brand poke fun at. Very 2017. Now, are they doing anything with Joseph Conners for the next month, or is he still going to be spinning his wheels forevermore? **¼

HAH! Conners doesn’t even get to leave the aisle before Kay Lee Ray’s music and entrance hits. They never do that… Kay Lee brags about sending Toni Storm packing as this sure came off like a phantom write-out for her. Kay Lee pokes fun next at Xia Brookside, who’s been angling for a title shot in those vlog vignettes…

Next week: up close with Piper Niven. So we’re back to sit-down promos?

Gallus are outside cutting a promo with their shiny tag titles. “The Gallus firm” call out Imperium, and say that next week Joe Coffey’s doing a wrestle. Also next week: Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster again. That’s the fourth time they’ve had a straight-up tag match… methinks the division is a little thin on the ground. I mean, who else is there who tags regularly? The Hunt’s about the only other team around who gets the odd win…

Dave Mastiff vs. Jordan Devlin
Devlin jumps Mastiff before the bell as the Irishman was looking to force the issue… then baseball slid outside when Mastiff tried to whip him into the corner.

Mastiff tries to give chase, but he just catches Devlin back inside before he took a slap. Bad idea. Mastiff just flips Devlin to the mat, then dumps him with a back body drop and another slap. Stomps and an uppercut take Devlin into the corner, who’s then hurled out of it with a Beele throw. Devlin gets lifted up top, but he manages to counter by dropping Mastiff’s arm across the top rope… and that’s the body part Jordan’s going to work on. An arm whip and a standing moonsault is our Air Jordan approximation here, before he just stood on Mastiff’s face ahead of an arm snap.

A legdrop traps Mastiff’s arm, as Devlin continued to commandeer proceedings, using some short arm scissors to keep Mastiff on the mat. Mastiff rolls backwards and hoists up Devlin for a falling powerbomb to get himself free, but Devlin’s back to his feet, trading forearms… which played into Mastiff’s wheelhouse. Devlin goes for a floatover Destroyer, but gets caught and thrown with an overhead belly-to-belly instead as chants of “cosplay Balor” make me weep. Jordan weeps moments later after he got crushed with a back senton for a near-fall, before he fought back by kicking Mastiff’s leg out.

A Devlinside perhaps wasn’t the best idea, as Mastiff was just dead weight… and he’s countered with a headbut. Devlin responds in kind, only for an Irish whip to send him into the corner, then hurtling outside a la Shawn Michaels. Mastiff follows him out, and teases a Finlay roll on the floor, only for Devlin to slip out… then go for a PK, which got caught and turned into that Finlay roll instead. Devlin recovers to hand Mastiff’s arm on the top rope, following in with a slingshot cutter and a top rope moonsault… which isn’t enough for the win. A second moonsault sees Devlin crash and burn into Mastiff’s boots, as a cannonball awaited the Irishman in the corner, which had enough force into it to send Devlin sliding outside as Mastiff just didn’t follow up.

Dragging Devlin back towards the ring, Mastiff teased an avalanche Finlay roll, but Jordan elbows out and hits a gamengiri… before pulling Mastiff to the mat with a Devlinside off the top for the win. I enjoyed this a heck of a lot more than I expected to. Not wanting to sound like “that” fan, but shouldn’t Jordan be beyond dragging the best match out of everyone on the roster these days? ***½

After the trademark bug, we’re sent backstage as Alexander Wolfe and Ilja Dragunov are in the middle of a discussion. Wolfe tells Ilja to “make up his mind”. Is he trying to recruit Ilja into Imperium? This ends… in a very wacky manner, if the spoilers are to be believed.

All in all, a decent episode of NXT UK, but one that again served as a microcosm of the brand. I just don’t understand why Joseph Conners keeps getting trotted out once a month with no progression, but I guess the whole brand is largely spinning its wheels. At least they’re trying something in terms of making new names, “replacing” the likes of the Rhea Ripleys and Tyler Bates who are looking to be moving on up… but the issues remain evident throughout the roster.