Three months on the brand’s start, NXT UK headed back where the foundations were laid – as they went to Blackpool for a Takeover.
Twenty four episodes of TV in (so six months condensed into three months), and we’ve got some pretty firmed-up storylines, with Gallus vs. British Strong Style having run throughout the show so far, and is the main event of the first Takeover, as Pete Dunne defends the NXT UK title against Joe Coffey. In the pre-show they showed footage of the opening of the NXT UK Performance Centre (we’re adding the correct, ENGLISH spelling), and footage of Travis Banks being attacked by Jordan Devlin backstage, leaving him with a knee injury.
The main show opened with footage from the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament two years ago, with really-young Tyler Bate… THAT title match between Bate and Pete Dunne in Chicago… through to the announcement of NXT UK launching from Royal Albert Hall last summer. It was a very swish, WWE-like package – with none of the tarnish we’ve seen production-wise from the TV. Hopefully the high bar is met throughout! We’re inside the Empress Ballroom alongside someone who’s a big Father Ted fan… and hey, Nigel McGuinness and Vic Joseph ARE NOT on a green screen! This must be odd for them!
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.
I can’t screencap everything but my God, THAT Zack Gibson sign. A royal flush.
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
Sid Scala and Johnny Saint politely applaud the new champions on the stage as we fade to an advert for the “full fat” Takeover in two weeks’ time.
Backstage, Pete Dunne is applying wrist tape menacingly… then we see a replay from the pre-show where Travis Banks and Jordan Devlin attacked each other in their suits. Like a wedding that’d badly gone out of control, complete with Jordan calling Jack Starz “a little dope”. Travis was left clutching his left knee, so look for that to be the focal point, rather than Sid Scala’s turtleneck…
Travis Banks vs. Jordan Devlin
Banks has newer gear and is still shaking out his left knee a little. I hope they don’t go “subtlety-hammer” with that…
Banks jumped Devlin with a tope as he came down the aisle as this one started hot, but his aggression backfired as Devlin sent him running into the ring steps. One chop block later, Devlin smashed Banks’ leg into the ring steps as referees broke it up, with Sid Scala coming out in a shirt, rather than that hideous turtleneck under his suit. No match, then! Devlin brags about it in the ring, and then says he’s taking some in some promo time. We see Johnny Saint has some news for Sid Scala, and we have a back-up in place. Why didn’t they just get security to stop them from needing a back-up at all?
Jordan Devlin vs. Finn Balor
Well, let’s see if those chants hold water eh? Balor and Devlin’s gear are negatives of the other, half black and white, for those who look into those. Much like Neville was a surprise in 2017, we’re getting surprise Finn Balor in 2019. Similar physiques too…
There’s a slap from Devlin at the bell, but he’s quickly met with a Slingblade from Balor, who then looked for an early Coup de Grace, only for Devlin to roll to the outside. Devlin tries to run away, but Balor won’t have any of it, but Devlin wins the game of cat and mouse, getting to the ring first as he kicked the rope into Balor’s midsection as he was returning through the ropes. Devlin keeps the match outside as he brawled with Balor, then mocked his poses as the “Irish Ace” was making the most of every chance he had to attack Balor, but Finn’s back with a gamengiri off the apron before another crack at the Coup de Grace ended with a dropkick that took him to the floor.
Back inside, Devlin trades chops with Balor, before he lands a uranage and a standing moonsault for a two-count. The crowd’s a little burnt out it seems after that massive opener and this surprise, but they’re still hot, as Devlin brings the pace down. He countered a Bloody Sunday with an overhead kick… but Balor’s got one of those too as (fittingly) the pair were each others’ equals. A double stomp from Balor has Devlin reeling, as he then set up for the lifting reverse DDT, but Devlin knees his way free, only for Balor to hit the move anyway for a near-fall. Devlin came close moments later with the pull-up Saito suplex, following up with a series of punts to Balor’s ribs. One of those gets caught as Balor throws in some aggressive stomps, forcing Devlin to the outside, where he’s met with a PK on the apron.
Balor throws Devlin back in and heads up again, but yet again the Coup de Grace is avoided as Devlin almost nicked a win with a roll-up (and with feet on the ropes). Not arguing the call, Devlin heads up top, but crashed and burned with a moonsault into Balor’s knees before a brainbuster and a Coup de Grace got the finish. A nice, competitive match, with the “senior” Balor winning – but this is a match that probably would have been better away from the auspices of WWE. ***½
Joe Coffey’s shadow boxing, while the rest of Gallus add more tape to his fists… Luke Menzies is shown at ringside. There’s not much of a pop for him, but they say that he’s going to be a part of NXT UK moving forward.
No Disqualification: Eddie Dennis vs. Dave Mastiff
Built up on TV, this got the no-DQ stipulation after the hideous finish a few weeks back.
Eddie and Dave start by wheeling punches into each other, giving Eddie a chance to show the sparkly “EDDIE DENNIS TAKE OVER” on his arse. Mastiff quickly splats into him with a crossbody as the match heads outside, where Mastiff throws Eddie into the ring steps, which he flips on their side so he can… use them as a weapon. Shiny ring steps. Mastiff slides the bottom half of the steps into the ring, as Eddie rolls outside and finds a Kendo stick under the ring. CRACK! Those shots leave Mastiff in the ropes as Eddie rips up the padding on the outside, revealing the Empress Ballroom’s hard wood floor, but instead he goes back inside for more Kendo stick shots. The stick’s used for a side Russian legsweep for a near-fall.
Mastiff commandeers the stick though and issues some receipts to Eddie, who’s in a world of hurt from those shots, primarily because they left him prone for a powerbomb. The ring steps get moved next, but Eddie made the most of them, countering a crossbody with a spine-rearranging of a landing onto them from a swinging side slam. THAT LOOKED LIKE IT SUCKED. Heading outside, Eddie hurls the ring announcer out of his chair so he could grab it… but Mastiff ducks it and counters with a Finlay roll. He pauses ahead of the back senton, as instead he looked at the turnbuckles and decided to scale them. It backfires as Eddie caught him for a Severn Bridge crucifix bomb!
We get more plunder in the form of a table. Eddie, no… remember Wembley. Mastiff back body drops out of a Severn Bridge, then teased an unlikely German suplex off the apron onto the exposed floor… instead dumping Eddie with the Finlay roll and back senton onto the hard wood. Ow. Back inside, Mastiff stuns me with an Arabian moonsault, but that misses as Eddie hits back with a Next Stop Driver for a near-fall! From there, Eddie whacks Mastiff in the back with a chair, before lifting him into the turnbuckles as he eyed up that table… a Severn Bridge looked to follow, but Mastiff slips out and instead throws clotheslines before dumping Eddie with a German suplex! Eddie stands up by the table and then gets cannonballed through it, which thankfully gave, and that’s enough for Dave Mastiff to get the win. I see what they were going for, but it felt lacking in places. Very WWE-like – set up a spot, then come back to it, but for my money the wrong guy won. I just don’t see what you can do with babyface Mastiff if the champion is also a good guy. ***
We see glamorous shots of Blackpool… and then Alpha Female and Kay Lee Ray are shown in the crowd. WELL THEN.
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 echos 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
NXT UK Championship: Joe Coffey vs. Pete Dunne (c)
Gallus do their usual thing of appearing on the stage but going to the back so Joe can wrestle one-on-one.
Coffey starts the match with his cross-armed pose, before we had a lock-up with both men ending in the ropes for a clean break. A wristlock forces Dunne to roll and flip free, before he responds with a simple forearm that Coffey shrugged off. Dunne responded by taking Coffey down for some finger tweaking, then with a leg grapevine that Coffey countered by grabbing a simple headlock.
Coffey tries for a Boston crab, but Dunne blocked it and goes for an armbar as we’re still at stalemate, which quickly ended with some snap uppercuts from Coffey… who then went to a nerve hold. Eh, it was acceptable in the 80s… Some rope running followed which ended with Dunne’s equivalent of a pounce, as he followed that up with a nice Regal Stretch! After getting to the ropes, Coffey tries for a pop-up uppercut, but instead Dunne countered with a mounted key lock… one that Coffey quickly tries to suplex free from, only for Dunne to knee his way free and back into that wristlock. That suplex is landed anyway as Coffey gets a near-fall, before he dumped Dunne awkwardly to the outside. Dunne backflips off the stairs to avoid Coffey’s offence, returning with an enziguiri before some awkwardness led to Coffey landing a pop-up slam onto the entrance ramp.
Dunne beats a count-out, but just rolls into some stomps from Coffey, ahead of a pendulum backbreaker and a sidewalk slam that drew a near-fall. Some stomps from Coffey keep Dunne down by the ropes as the crowd’s chants forced Vic Joseph to stifle a laugh on commentary, as we’re back to the bear hug… because the pace needed to come down just a little more. Headbutts and forearms from Dunne looked to get him free, but Coffey squeezed harder on the bear hug instead, at least until Dunne played “got ya nose”. Coffey’s right back with an overhead belly to belly for a near-fall as I presume he found his nose quickly. Dunne does his “I take some forearms then send you flying across the ring with one” deal, before another backflip over Coffey led to an enziguiri in the corner, and then a flip out of a German suplex as we’re back outside with Dunne hitting an Orihara moonsault as he gave chase.
Inside again, Coffey’s back with forearms only to get met with an X-Plex for a two-count. A double-jump crossbody and some shoulder charges trap Dunne, as a powerbomb nearly puts the champion away, as he then followed up with a raised Boston crab, then a regular one. After getting to the ropes, Dunne headbutts Coffey back to the mat for another break. Coffey flips out of a German suplex, but his follow-up clothesline is caught and turned into a Koji clutch by Dunne, then an Anaconda Vice, but Coffey counters out into a tombstone attempt, only for him to lose Dunne, who grabs an ankle lock instead. Another German suplex had Dunne in trouble, but he counters a charge from Coffey with a knee to the head, before another forearm swat away the springboard crossbody.
A Bitter End’s next for a near-fall… prompting Coffey to roll outside. He sees Dunne go to follow-up, but instead we end up on the apron with a shoulder charge sending Dunne into the ring post before a sitout powerbomb onto the apron left both men down on the floor once more. They tease a double count-out, but both men beat it as we’re back to the punches from Coffey… but Dunne catches him with some captured stomps on the mat, then stomps to the hands before he ran into a pop-up uppercut.
An enziguri counters Awra Best for the Bells, which Coffey lands moments later for a near-fall. Another crack at the discus lariat ends with Dunne countering into a cross armbar as he had eyes on Coffey’s fingers, snapping them away only for Coffey to roll over and power into buckle bomb. Dunne won’t let go, so Coffey climbs the turnbuckles and turns it into a top rope powerbomb to finally get himself free. The crowd fired up as the pair squared off and raced into each other with forearms and punches, with Dunne clearly edging ahead as Coffey was in the ropes, needing a referee separation to save him. He capitalises on that though, suckering Dunne with a left hand ahead of an elevated German suplex for a near-fall. There’s chants of “are you watching Vince McMahon?” – I’d hope so, but if he doesn’t watch “full fat” Takeovers, then there’s no way he’s watching this.
Coffey pounds away on the downed Dunne, hoping for a TKO, but instead Coffey pulls up Dunne for a Bitter End… it’s countered into a DDT as Dunne hits his move instead… with Coffey rolling out of the ring to prevent a pin. From the apron, Coffey partly lands Awra Best for the Bells, but he can’t follow-up quickly, instead pulling Dunne into the corner as he looked for something else off the top rope. Something something, this is my Kingdom, but then Coffey spills to the floor awkwardly. Oof. That sums up a lot of this match, sadly.
There’s a clothesline on the outside, before Coffey looked for a gutwrench suplex… Dunne tries to counter into a Bitter End, but Coffey countered that into a slam for a two-count. They go back up top, but this time they both fall as it looked like Dunne was going for a belly-to-belly. Both men get back to their feet and back in the ring, with Dunne landing a discus forearm, then another Bitter End for a near-fall… he then pulls Coffey into a triangle armbar for some finger tweaking, and mercifully… that is it.
This match may have been “technically fine”, but for a main event it was the proverbial goose egg. Dunne and Coffey lacked chemistry and at times seemed to be wrestling different matches, such was the pauses to check each other’s position and those two unfortunate slips at the end, which I guess were meant to play into the finish. To their credit, it did pick up towards the end of the match, but considering how hot the opener was, this was a complete 180. Sadly, the style issues showed in the crowd responses too as this was very much not the style that made British wrestling hot. **¾
The show ends with Pete Dunne celebrating with his title, as we go off the air. Those who were expecting a big surprise at the end… should have waited! WALTER ROCKS UP!
Blackpool didn’t exactly let go as I’d have expected, but WALTER (complete with his proper music) heads to the ring and stares down Pete Dunne. Joe Coffey tries to interject, but WALTER rightfully boots him out of the ring as we close on a staredown between WALTER and Pete Dunne. After that main event goose egg, I’m suddenly massively invested!
Takeover: Blackpool was a good show, but it says a lot about the wrestlers that were on the show and how they were (not) built on TV when the hottest match was the opener… and that they had no other option for a “hot opener” to start NXT UK Takeovers with. Perhaps not the home run of a show you’d have expected; everything delivered, but the crowd got too hot too soon and burned out badly in the middle and threatened to end with a total whimper until the end.
A good show to build from, with that big surprise at the end, but there’s plenty of work to be done on this fledgling brand.