With everything up in the air, regular NXT UK programming’s on hold… so instead, we’re getting a look back at the Rise of NXT UK.
With NXT UK Takeover Dublin originally slated to take place on April 26, I’m assuming that the company has at least three weeks of shows in the can… that all heavily talk up that Dublin show. So, much like how NWA Powerrr has gone off the air because their remaining shows talk up another show that’s been delayed, NXT UK’s being replaced with clip shows. We start with footage from December 2016, and the press conference that announced the WWE United Kingdom Championship… and then it’s into the opening titles. We’re in Andy Shepherd’s living room, with some wacky white balance and saturation, as he pitches back to January 2017 – and a time where nobody had proper entrance videos…
WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Quarter-Final: Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin
Bate and Devlin have picture-in-picture promos looking back at this. Devlin’s got the best video quality so far today. Our review at the time then… Jordan Devlin was pretty much over as a heel, thanks in no small part to what happened against Danny Burch last night. Tyler doesn’t shake the hand, and he pays for taking care of his moustache instead as Devlin stomps on him in the corner.
Devlin’s tossed to the outside as the crowd call him a “shit Finn Balor”, and that leaves Bate open to drop Jordan with a tope into the aisle! Back in the ring, Devlin pokes Bate in the eye and slams him down as he went in with some windmill grounded punches on the 19 year old. From a knuckle-lock, Devlin pushes Bate’s shoulders down for some near-falls as Bate bridges free before he monkey flips the Irishman away. Bate flies in with an European uppercut out of the corner, and it’s time for Devlin to go for an airplane spin… well, it would if he hadn’t elbowed free. Bate catches a cross body and goes for the spin anyway! Devlin spills out of the ring, but he replies by springing the top rope into Bate’s face, before missing a moonsault off the top rope.
A knee strike from Devlin sends Bate down, then he spends too long going for another moonsault, as he misses and goes for the Tyler Driver, but it’s turned into a ‘rana for a near-fall from Devlin. An enziguiri knocks Bate down, and this time it doesn’t draw blood. After asking the referee to check on his foe, a blood-less Bate rocks Devlin with a punch, then lands the Tyler Driver ‘97 – and we’ll be hearing fake-Sledgehammer again as Tyler takes on Wolfgang in the semis! A good quarter-final match – usual time-limit complaints, but a hell of a finishing run here. **¾
Wow, that’s what a crowd sounds like?
Andy Shepherd voices over clips of Bate beating Wolfgang in the semi-finals… and clips from the other semi-final, of Pete Dunne beating Mark Andrews, so you know what’s next. Nope, it’s just clips of the final and Tyler’s ticker-tape parade.
Still to come… remember when they ran Royal Albert Hall?
Andy’s back as they credit NXT UK for the resurgence in British wrestling. Uh huh. Maybe to a global audience, I guess. Anyway, from there it’s to Royal Albert Hall in June 2018, and some more picture-in-picture promos, which reveal Zack’s growing his hair out during quarantine. Yes, we’re getting the opener to 2018’s United Kingdom Championship tournament. This one was real good… and the crowd was positively molten compared to today.
WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Quarter-Final: Jack Gallagher vs. Zack Gibson
Huge roar for Gallagher to open the show, and we start off with technical stuff as Gibson gets serenaded with some familiar songs aimed his way.
Gallagher nearly snatches it with an early roll-up, before confusing Gibson as he rolled himself into a ball… but the Scouser’s right back in as he targeted Jack’s arm. An armbar suplex takes Gallagher into the corner as there’s been some slight tinkering to the crowd’s anti-Gibson chants, before Zack just whipped the Gentleman hard into the corners. Gibson stays with all of the chinholds, wearing down the neck of Gallagher, only for Jack to come back with elbow shots to send the Scouser into the ropes. A deadlift suplex keeps Gallagher in it, but Zack just charges him into the corner as he set up for the Ticket to Ride out of the corner. That’s enough for a near-fall, as Gibson manages to cut-off a comeback from Gallagher, catching a corner dropkick and turning it into a powerbomb.
Zack struggled to follow-up though and got caught in an arm triangle as Gallagher looked to catch him on the break (to use a football reference), scoring again with a nice slingshot into a sleeperhold. Gibson powders to the outside for respite, but gets dived on as Gallagher throws him back in for a dropkick… but it’s not enough! Gibson instantly retaliates as he throws Gallagher into the ring post… and in beating the count-out, Gallagher walks into a lariat and a tombstone lungblower as he’s seemingly on his last legs. Gallagher had one last shout, but he just leaps into the legs of Gibson, who instantly locks in the Shankly Gates… and that’s Zack in the semis. Knowing very little about their heated rivalry in the north-west, these two brought the intensity and made it more than just a tournament. A hell of an opener… follow that! ****
We get clips of the remainder of Gibson’s tournament, with wins over Travis Banks, before we’re shown how Moustache Mountain won the NXT tag titles on the second of those shows. Which also saw the formal announcement of NXT UK, which means we go to where it all started: Cambridge.
Andy’s back, as he talks about the debut episode of NXT UK… and then we cut to the first ever match on NXT UK TV… and boy, how rinky dink did some of this look then? Basic entrance videos that didn’t even fill the screen, and Joe Coffey didn’t even have the famous Gallus music.
Mark Andrews vs. Joe Coffey
Joe was accompanied by his brother Mark, as we’re shown replays of what happened with the pair of them at the Royal Albert Hall in June.
Coffey uses his power early to try and pin Andrews in the opening moments, but referee Joel Allen can only make some two counts as Andrews returns with a ‘rana. A gamengiri from the apron sends a tooth flying as Andrews nails a springboard ‘rana to put himself firmly in control… at least until Coffey hits a version of a Pounce on the Welshman. Coffey keeps up his offence with a Giant Swing facelock for a near-fall, before Andrews gets thrown outside. Mark Coffey threatens to jump Andrews, but it’s just a ruse for Joe to attack him from behind with a clothesline as we see just how little space there is between the ringside and the stage. Think NXT when it was at Centre Stage in Georgia…
Back inside, Andrews boots away the discus lariat and lands a flurry of palm strikes, before a wheelbarrow and a double stomp leaves Coffey prone for a standing corkscrew moonsault. That’s only enough for a near-fall, as Coffey ends up taking an enziguiri out of the corner before he hits a pop-up uppercut and a diving headbutt to take Andrews back into the corner. A pop-up bodyslam’s good for a two-count, before Andrews lands a Stundog Millionaire that left Joe down by the corner… but Mark Coffey pulls his brother out, only for the pair to get crashed into with a moonsault off the top rope. More interference from Mark Coffey allows Joe to catch Andrews with a belly-to-belly off the top rope, before All The Best For The Bells (the discus lariat) put Andrews down for the count. Not a blow-away match, but a very good outing to get NXT UK underway – it wasn’t completely “WWE-ised” as some feared, but you’d probably see better outside of a TV format. That’s a comparison you’ll see a LOT… ***¼
They show the Coffeys’ attack on Andrews after the match, and Flash Morgan Webster’s save. Christ, they’ve been doing Gallus vs. the Welsh lads in some form since day one. More clips of NXT UK on the road, albeit mostly from Download festival, as we’re then taken back to those tapings in Norwich that you probably forgot about. A full year before NXT UK was even officially a thing…
Next week: NXT UK superstars pick some of their favourite and influential matches. We’re in for a lot of clip shows, folks…
Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven
This was to get a shot at Tyler Bate’s WWE UK title… and it’s the first outing of Pete’s music, as a slightly heavier version of the song he’s using in PROGRESS, but not quite the finished, bass-heavy version. Speaking of, Pete had the PROGRESS title between his teeth, which is REALLY WEIRD TO SEE. Even more so in 2020.
We get underway with chants of British Strong Style, as Dunne tried to avoid Trent early whilst JR decided to ruminate over Peter’s kneecap tattoo. Dunne goes for an armbar, but Trent releases himself as he went in with a chop to send Dunne into the corner, before he pulled Pete off the top rope and into a clothesline. Dunne comes back by kicking away at Trent’s taped elbow, before taking him outside to trap the arm between the ring and steps… and yes, kick the steps into the injured limb. They return to the ring where Dunne continues to work over the arm, pulling at the tape to help him pull the arm all the way back into a pinning predicament.
It’s all arm work from Dunne here, before Trent looked to chop his way back in – using the injured arm – en route to landing a DDT to give him a breather. We see a tope from Trent, but when he returned to the ring he was back on the defensive, before trying for a Bitter End that was blocked and turned into a Seven Star lariat that was also blocked. Dunne keeps up the pressure with a snap German suplex off the ropes, before Seven landed almost a Next Stop Driver for a near-fall. A charge from Trent misses as Dunne sends him shoulder first into the ring post, as an X-plex release suplex followed for a two-count. From there, Dunne goes for a Kimura that’s quickly broken through the ropes, so they head outside as Trent’s whipped shoulder-first into the crowd barriers.
They head onto the apron as Pete toys with Trent some more, but it ends badly as his attempted suplex was blocked and turned into a Dragon suplex on the apron! Yeah, that one may not be a regular occurrence on the main shows! Both men narrowly beat that ten-count, before Dunne wrenched away at the injured arm to free himself of a superplex attempt, but instead Trent comes back with a Dragon superplex… but Dunne lands on his feet! Seven gets back up and flattens Peter with a lariat for a near-fall, prompting chants of “British wrestling”.
Trent goes for the Seven Star lariat again, but Dunne counters with a mounted Kimura, only for Trent to power back up and land a Dragon suplex! A spinning backfist takes Trent into a torture rack, but Dunne escapes and gets the Bitter End, and that’s all folks! The elbow injury both added and removed something from this match, as this wasn’t the all-out war you’d see elsewhere, but this was a really good outing from two of Britain’s best at the time. ****
Of course, that’s not all – we get clips of Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate from NXT Takeover: Chicago in May 2017. I’d dare say that match gets aired in full in a future clip show as we close with a montage of Pete Dunne and his rise into “full fat” NXT, via the debut of WALTER in 2019 as we fade to black. So, as expected, this was a skim through NXT UK’s brief tenure – and one that perhaps charts some of the diminishing returns, at least in terms of crowd reactions. I miss NXT UK taping in non-identikit venues, with that match in Cambridge standing out massively because it’s not in A Generic, Darkened Room…
For the foreseeable future, we’ll be getting clip shows it seems – unless WWE’s able to do something with the 2-3 episodes in the can. Hours before this was aired, it was announced that the WWE’s UK tour in May was rescheduled, while May’s NXT UK tapings in Bournemouth were flat-out cancelled. Add in the cancellation of Download festival, and there’s no NXT UK tapings on the books until late July – and that’s assuming the coronavirus situation clears up to the point where mass gatherings are allowed by that point, unless local travel restrictions are loosened to let WWE somehow do empty arena stuff at the UK Performance Centre.