The Boxing Day edition of NXT UK was a “Best of” as we took a look back at the brand’s 2019.

With Takeover: Blackpool in a little over two weeks, it’s odd to take a week off, but here we go. We’ll be copying/pasting reviews of matches they replay…

We’ve got the usual open, sadly without festive adornments or Santa’s hats photoshopped… and we’re literally at ringside with Tom Phillips and Nigel McGuinness. Tom’s still trying to remember that Boxing Day is a thing, and they show some slow-mo footage of debutants, factions and title wins.

They remind us that WALTER vs. Joe Coffey for the WWE UK title is on Takeover: Blackpool 2. As is that four-way ladder match and the three-way women’s title match… which segues into clips of Rhea Ripley defending that same title against Toni Storm from NXT UK Takeover Blackpool from this past January.

Takeover: Blackpool – January 12, 2019: NXT UK Women’s Championship: Toni Storm vs. Rhea Ripley (c)
A rematch from the tournament finals, but we’ve got duelling chants as Rhea’s attempt to jump Toni backfired, with Toni instead scrambling as she began to throw forearms to the champion’s head.

Ripley quickly gets on top, as the pair roll on the mat with some ground and pound, before Ripley powdered outside. The Benny Hill chase around the ring is next, which led to Ripley pulling on Toni’s hair in the ropes before shoving her back-first into the barricade as we got echoes of the tournament final. Just with less tears. Shoulder charges trap Toni in the corner, eventually pulling Storm down to the mat for a two-count as some body scissors keep the challenger down. Toni swivels into the mount as she throws forearms to get herself free, only for Ripley to rebound with a couple of body slams for another near-fall. Storm gives herself some hope, shoving Ripley into the ring post, before she missed a hip attack, allowing Rhea to blast her with a dropkick for a near-fall.

Ripley remains on top, throwing Toni into the corners by the hair, prompting Toni into a bit of a fightback, cracking Rhea with a headbutt that left both women down. We’re into duelling boo/yay forearms, which give way to a hockey fight, before some German suplexes led to some finisher teases. The Riptide powerbomb’s countered with a crossbody as Toni came close. A Storm Zero Tiger Driver’s countered with a back body drop as some near-falls gave way to Ripley tying up Toni in an inverted Cloverleaf… Toni rolls through with an ankle lock, taking Ripley into the corner ahead of a hip attack and a bridging German suplex for another two-count. More forearms from Toni follow, but she’s caught with Riptide for a near-fall as Ripley showed the first chink in her armour perhaps?

Ripley retained the upper hand by clutching onto Toni’s wrist for some short-arm clotheslines, only for Toni to hit back with a Storm Zero out of nowhere for another near-fall. More forearms set up Ripley for another Riptide, but Toni escapes with a hair pull and lands a second Storm Zero to win the title! Considering the relative inexperience, this was a pretty decent match that perhaps had another gear to go into… just not on this show. I liked how Toni had to sort-of cheat to win, by grabbing the hair to get an edge, but Ripley’s loss was given away (some felt) by her not being on the poster for the February TV tapings. ***¼

That bleeds into a vignette for Toni, then a selfie promo… and then the same pair for Kay Lee Ray… and then footage from the finish of Toni Storm’s title loss to Kay Lee Ray from Takeover: Cardiff.

Takeover: Cardiff – August 31, 2019: NXT UK Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm (c)
Whomever did the captions here was having a nightmare, calling out the Twitters of “Key Lee Ray” and “Toni Sorm”. Before the bell even sounded, commentary was pointing out how “gotten to” Toni’d been… and she starts by charging at Kay Lee Ray, who just powders outside to try and dictate the pace.

Playing keep-away, Kay Lee ends up getting caught with a tope as Storm leapt outside, before she looked to batter Kay Lee in the corner. There’s a turnaround as Kay Lee tried to stretch the champion on the mat, but Toni – apparently in tears – fought back with a superkick and a diving clothesline. Another clothesline drops Kay Lee, who tried to respond with a Gory bomb, only for Toni to counter with a Code Red.

A Storm Zero’s next for a near-fall, but Kay Lee’s back with a superkick and a Gory Bomb… but Toni barely kicks out in time, then headed up top for an avalanche Storm Zero… but instead she’s got to make do with a German suplex. A delayed cover led to a two-count as Kay Lee got her foot on the rope, with Toni following in with a low-pe as she stayed on top of her challenger. Kay Lee comes back in with a knee before a step-up senton to the floor almost went awry. Back inside, Kay Lee hits two more Gory Bombs – including one into the ropes – and that’s all. This felt a little flat, but with Toni reportedly carrying an injury, I guess this was expected to some level. Hopefully Kay Lee Ray’ll be able to grow into the title, because judging by the lack of reaction, the bad guy character hasn’t quite established itself with this fanbase. **½

They replay Piper Niven’s debut from this past March… you know what’s next. Vignette! There’s no match of hers to replay though…

They show highlights of Travis Banks vs. Jordan Devlin from TV in February, featuring Banks’ balcony dive in Coventry’s Skydome, and then, commercials.

Next: the Grizzled Young Veteran’s promo from Download Festival, complete with incidental music as they focus on them wearing carrier bags over their shoes. Ah, I like it when my good promos sound like Home Alone.

Back to Tom and Nigel at ringside, as they build up the ladder match at Takeover: Blackpool 2. It’s Gallus vs. Imperium vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Andrews & Webster in that four-way… and for some reason that’s the cue for heavily edited clips from last year’s tag match.

Takeover: Blackpool – January 12, 2019: NXT UK Tag Team Championship: Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. Zack Gibson & James Drake
Well, why not start the show off hot? Drake and Gibson have yet another new entrance video, with the generic “show two names with a slash between them” format that every enhancement team gets in NXT.

Gibson and Bate start off as we see how Moustache Mountain have gone old school with the trunks and tights look a la the British Bulldogs. This is a molten hot crowd as Bate gets wrestled down to the mat in a wristlock, with Gibson resisting an attempt to get free before Tyler countered with headscissors as the crowd exposed themselves to their own smelly socks. Yeah. Shoes off.

A knuckle lock from Gibson forces Tyler to bridge up to avoid a pin, as he was showing off his neck bridges here, backflipping into a strait-jacket choke. What the hell was that?! James Drake tags in, prompting Tyler to leave the ring to avoid even the risk of some double-teaming, as Bate went the long way around to tag in Trent Seven, who went to work on Drake with some chops for barely a one-count.

Tyler’s back in for the flip senton off of Trent’s shoulders, but Zack Gibson interferes too, pulling James Drake to the outside as Moustache Mountain threatened to get back into it. A World of Sport-like series leads Bate into a roll-up for a near-fall, before Tyler caught a tagged-in Gibson with a ‘rana as the (former/future) Grizzled Young Veterans struggled to get going. Trent lands a comedy-free crossbody for a near-fall, before he unloads more chops on Drake and Gibson. There’s a hiptoss from Trent to Drake, who quickly tags out as Trent snuffed out an attack from the supposedly-blind tag before running into a tope on Drake on the outside. It looked like Trent had jacked up his elbow doing that, and matters weren’t helped when a game of cat and mouse led Trent into an attack on the outside. Things settled down via an armbar from Drake, before Trent ate the slingshot backbreaker/kneedrop/whatever on the outside.

Trent remains isolated as he took a ripcord into a discus forearm from Drake and Gibson, with the latter then grounding him with another cobra clutch. Somewhere in that, James Drake “accidentally” tagged in as the beating continued on Trent, who was bleeding from the forearm… but Trent’s able to make the desperation leap and tag in Tyler Bate as Blackpool became unglued. Tyler resisted the two-on-one offence, using a back body drop on Drake then a diving uppercut to Zack. There’s an airplane spin to Gibson, before Tyler… STACKED THEM UP FOR AN AIRPLANE SPIN. Show off.

On the apron, Tyler prepared to dump Drake into Gibson on the floor with an Exploder, complete with a satisfying thud. Back in the ring, Bate sets up for a Tyler Driver, but Gibson back body drops free before he’s met with Bop and Bang… in comes Trent for a running powerslam, with a swandive headbutt from Tyler completing the Bulldogs throwback for a near-fall. Bate heads out for a tope, but can’t stop Drake breaking up the cover after Trent’s Burning Hammer looked to put away Gibson. Tags bring Drake and Bate in for some indy’riffic near-falls, but it’s Moustache Mountain who edged ahead, only for Tyler’s rebound lariat to get intercepted with Gibson’s Ticket to Ride, as Trent’s again isolated, with a Helter Skelter from Gibson and a 450 from Drake getting another near-fall!

Trent fights back again, shoving Drake and Gibson into each other before he’s caught for an enziguiri as Gibson followed up with an attempt at the Shankly Gates. He eventually gets the hold in, as Drake runs in to neutralise Tyler with his own version of the hold… but Bate stands up and breaks it up with a death valley driver! Bate and Drake return as Tyler’s got body blows for days, finishing with a Koppo kick to both of his opponents at the same time. Another tag brings in Trent, who hits the Dragon suplex aided by a rebound lariat for a near-fall as his arm’s causing issues… Gibson interferes again, catching Bate on his shoulders on the floor as a tope from Gibson gave us a DEADLY DOOMSDAY DEVICE. Holy crap!

Trent tries to make a save, but the numbers game instantly kills him, as Drake and Gibson take him back inside for the tombstone Ticket to Ride… and that’s enough to crown the first tag team champions! An insanely good match that just about threatened to start dragging, and if this is the standard of the show, then we’re in for a good night. ****½

Cue a promo package that recapped what was ultimately the three-way from Takeover: Cardiff, and of course, we join that match in progress!

Takeover: Cardiff – August 31, 2019: NXT UK Tag Team Title Championship: Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews vs. Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) vs.Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) (c)
They’ve stopped themselves from officially using the “South Wales Sub Culture” moniker that got mocked by many – and needless to say, Flash and Andrews were the strong favourites in their homeland.

Gibson and Andrews start us off as the crowd started to take off their shoes… not to worry though, Zack ignores it all as he went to work on Andrews’ left arm. We’ve a quick tag as Flash and Drake comes in, combining his Special Brew Flip and a standing Andrews moonsault for a two-count, with the Welshmen looking to build up some steam… only for Flash to get blind-tagged out by Wolfgang.

Gibson tries to slow the pace by pulling his partner outside, before Drake returned and blind-tagged out so Flash could take some shots. It didn’t quite work like that as he got the upper hand of Wolfgang before all three teams hit the ring for a stand-off… and surprise surprise, Chris Roberts struggled with handling tag team stuff. Flash looked to force the issue, working over Gibson with a round-the-post headscissors but the tide changes back in the ring as Drake’s step-up dropkick off Gibson took Flash down. A slingshot backbreaker on the outside keeps the champions ahead, while Drake tried his best to keep that going… only for Mark Coffey to blind tag himself in. The villainous teams seemed to do that a lot, but lost sight of Flash, who dove out to tag in Andrews, who merged a wheelbarrow roll-through into a DDT before Gallus came in and took a backflip kick too.

Flash is back as an assisted 450 splash on Gibson nearly led to a title change, but Drake makes a save before Flash just cannonballed off the top into the champions. Gallus came in and were apparently legal, with Wolfgang slingshotting Andrews into a death valley driver for a near-fall, before Flash returned to become a nuisance again, helping with a bicycle knee to spark a reverse ‘rana from Andrews for another near-fall. Andrews and Coffey end up on the top rope, with the Scotsman teasing a suplex to the floor, but instead Coffey’s pushed into the pile below as a shooting star press to the floor proved to be the exclamation mark. Back in the ring, Gibson’s caught with a Stundog Millionaire, before Webster’s Shadows Over Malice senton bomb almost led to the win… Gibson kicks out, and quickly took Andrews into the corner for a Drake dropkick, following up with a Helter Skelter and an Organ Crusher 450 splash for another near-fall.

Gallus blind-tag themselves back in as Wolfgang threw Coffey to the outside into the pile, but they take too long to follow-up as Flash easily comes in to break up a cover on Andrews. That led to a six-way brawl among everyone, clearing out with the Scots and the Welsh… Flash’s slingshot into a Destroyer before Wolfgang ate a Doomsday tope on the outside, which left us with the champions and the Welshmen. They have a staredown as another brawl erupts, leading to a double Stundog from Andrews, leaving Drake laying as Flash returned with a 630?!

That should have won it, but Gibson pulls out the ref (apparently risking disqualification in a three-way…). Flash tries to keep up the momentum, but he misses a blind tag and eats a Ticket to Mayhem before Drake wiped out Gallus with a tope. Gibson’s pin’s broken up by a shooting star press from Andrews, who puts Webster on top straight away… and we have new champions! A heck of a match, as the team that’s been ravaged by injury leave Wales with the gold. A nice feel good moment for Cardiff. ****

Flash and Mandrews have a selfie promo of their own… and then we’ve highlights of Dave Mastiff vs. Joe Coffey’s double count-out from this past August. Big Dave’s got a promo in his gym too, bigging up Joe Coffey.

But first, they go over Jordan Devlin’s mini-feud with Dave Mastiff from earlier in the year. Jordan’s got his promo next, crowing over beating Mastiff before he built up his match with Tyler Bate.

Next: a promo package on Ilja Dragunov, which bled into highlights of the Cesaro/Dragunov match from Takeover: Cardiff. This was more of a music video kinda deal, focusing on kick-outs rather than anything resembling the whole match.

We get a gallery of everyone’s promo shots as Nigel McGuinness bigs up 2020, and finally extended clips of something NOT from Takeover!

NXT UK #66: Noam Dar vs. Trent Seven
Dar’s out with Trent’s towel that he’s drawn on, and it must be Trent’s only towel judging by his entrance.

Smartly, Dar attacked Trent with a low dropkick as Seven was doing his log roll thing, and the jump start continued as Trent got thrown into the ring steps. Dar ties Trent to the ring post with his towel (ha!), before a drive-by dropkick sandwiched Trent’s arm and the ring post as we still weren’t officially started.

Trent rolls back in as the bell sounds, and he wallops Dar with a lariat at the bell for a near-fall. Christ! Dar’s in the ropes, but Trent jumps on him before he went to town with arm drags, slams and a Hogan-ish legdrop for a near-fall. Dar tries to pratfall Trent, but he’s just stomped on before a Burning Hammer was escaped, allowing Dar to drop Trent’s arm across the top rope.

That switcheroo led to nought as a standing uranage took down Dar in the corner… but Trent then went up top and was caught with a chop block as he crashed down to earth with a bump, with a Fisherman suplex almost getting Dar the win. Trent’s back on the defensive, getting thrown into the ropes for a near-fall as Dar began to work over the leg, throwing in a modified STF with some Pete Dunne-like finger tweaking. Remember the match they had way back when?

Dar looks to hang up Trent on the top rope, but some lost balance led to Trent falling awkwardly to the outside, forcing him to beat the count back in. Of course, Dar pounces, then looked for more British Strong Style trolling, only for Dar to fail with a Tyler Driver as Trent found a second wind. Chops looked to lead into a DDT, but Dar sweeps the legs and goes in for an ankle lock that’s quickly escaped.

Trent took Dar outside for a tope, before going up top again… and this time he has to pause before crashing and burning on a Whisper in the Wind. Out of nowhere though, Trent hits an Emerald Fusion on Dar after blocking the North Sea Fisherman Driver, before a Seven Star lariat’s blocked. Dar’s quickly back with a Flatliner for a two-count, then quickly turned into an ankle lock that had Trent rolling instantly into the ropes for a break. Trent’s back with a chop on the apron, suckering Dar into a DDT on the edge of the ring, which was good for an eventual two-count, but Trent’s knee is causing him more problems, as he limped back in to pick up Noam. A Seven Star lariat misses, but a Dragon suplex didn’t, nor did the spinning backfist as Trent finally lands the lariat for a near-fall. There’s a few cheeky kicks from Trent on the deck, as both men traded rights, only for Trent to miss a kick, hanging his leg in the ropes.

Dar pounces again with a stomp to the bad leg, before he shrugged off a superkick and rolled Trent back down into an ankle lock, throwing kicks with his good foot until Trent’s resolve took him to the bottom rope. From there, Dar retrieves the towel to troll Trent with some more, but a roll-up nearly got Trent the win, before a thrust kick from Dar led to another near-fall… but Trent’s back with the British Strong Style favourites… bop/bang, the finger snap, and a Burning Hammer as Trent finally snatched the win! This told a really good story of Trent overcoming the whippersnapper Dar, but if Pete and Tyler are done in NXT UK, then Trent needs to be kept away from tribute spots. If you usually skip NXT UK… watch this main event! ***¾

They then go all the way back to the first NXT UK of 2019, recapping the contract signing for Joe Coffey vs. Pete Dunne. Next: the debut of WALTER, as he killed Jack Stars back in January, which we relive in vignette form, which has Tom Phillips recoiling at the idea of facing WALTER. They replay WALTER chopping Jack Starz, before Nigel prepared to chop Tom… and we have timely technical difficulties.

They return to plug the NXT UK Takeover Blackpool 2 theme (christ, that’s a mouthful), and then trail the WALTER/Joe Coffey match. We get a video package to recap WALTER beating Pete Dunne at Takeover: New York back in April, followed up with a promo on Imperium… and clips of WALTER/Tyler Bate from Takeover: Cardiff. The natural conclusion? Joe Coffey in his living room talking about WALTER, vowing to put down the Ring General and claim his kingdom. Tom and Nigel sign-off by plugging Ilja Dragunov vs. Alexander Wolfe in a no-DQ match next week, and that’s all folks.

Truthfully, they tried to – and did – pack a LOT into an hour of TV time. For my money, it’s a bit of an admission that the vast majority of important stuff happened on Takeovers – which doesn’t help in building the week-to-week shows. If you’ve an hour to kill, this isn’t the worst thing to watch, but the show tried to do far too much in the time it had. Pick the key events, play them out… but the barrage of brief clips did little for me.