Well, after a long layoff due to a little something called Covid-19, and against the backdrop of a hashtag-shaped elephant in the room where female fans and wrestlers began #speakingout about abuse, NXT UK is back. And in a fancy new home too, courtesy of BT Sport in London.
Shawn and Triple H open up the show, talking about the talent that’s been chomping at the bit to come back. The BT Sport TV Studio really does look quite lovely.
We get a little video package showcasing Noam Dar, Gallus, A-Kid, Andrews & Webster, The Hunt, Jinny, Dave Mastiff, Aoife Valkyrie, Kay Lee Ray, Imperium, Walter and Ilja Dragunov – I guess they’re going to be our flag-bearers for a while.
And we’re off with “God of War” – the brand new theme tune courtesy of Wargasm to kick things off. The original is a little sweary, but I guessed we might get a slightly more TV-friendly edit. Even if the preceding show on the WWE Network featured a match with Walter taking on Trent Severn and the crowd chanting “arsehole” as clear as day. But I digress. You have to feel a little sorry for the band, because if Sony didn’t break the news of a certain God of War video game sequel yesterday, you’d imagine the band would get a decent bit of traction from owning the hashtag and opening the show.
Let’s re-balance things: #wargasm, #wargasm, #wargasm. Stream their stuff. Share the love.
It’s been six months, people: six months since we’ve had new NXT UK action. It’s been too long. Andy Shepherd and Nigel McGuinness are our hosts, and we join Sid Scala, who is already in the ring.
Scala starts pimping the show, but is rudely interrupted by Ilja Dragunov, who expends an awful lot of energy beating up the floor and the ring. You mad Russian, you.
Seeing Dragunov gesticulate to an empty arena really does make his mannerisms look more crazy than they already are. No criticism. I’m here for it.
Dragunov really gets in Scala’s face, complaining about being kept waiting for so long. Sorry dude: Covid-19 happened. He’s spraying it as he’s saying it, too – right in Scala’s personal space. No, not that personal space. Let’s just hope he’s been Covid tested.
Here comes Noam Dar in his 800 V-bucks Fortnite skin gear, but Dragunov is having none of it because he prefers Apex Legends. Noam gets absolutely levelled by a Dragunov clothesline, and refs break things up. Scala makes the call, and we have our main event lined up for this evening.
Gallus Vs Kenny Williams & Amir Jordan
Our first match proper has Gallus facing off against Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan in non-title competition. Coffey and Wolfgang look good – Wolfgang especially seems to have trimmed down some.
Man, I love those tag team belts. NXT UK really do have the best looking belts in the WWE, huh?
We get a nice back and forth match where the smaller, faster guys use quick tags to keep the bigger men disoriented. Nigel McGuinness shares that Wolfgang has a tattoo of the Hulk Hogan movie Suburban Commando on his arm. McGuinness can go home now. He’s earned his wage for the night.
These guys don’t seem to have missed a beat, which is great to see.
The hard cam seems a little closer to the ring this time – I guess with no audience you don’t have to worry about blocking anyone’s view. Makes the lock off cam seem much more intimate – I like it.
Some lovely moments where Williams channels Shawn Michaels with a nip up and a skin the cat – he’s looking good in this one. He even borrows Finn Balor’s Slingblade for good measure. The end comes with a savate meets enziguri kick / powerslam double team combo from Gallus on Jordan. Great showing by both teams – Williams in particular did himself proud there.
Then we get the rest of the NXT UK Tag Team division coming out to stare down the champs – in that one shot right there, we see more active tag teams than in the rest of the WWE main roster combined. Nice touch with Barthel and Aichner also shown looking on – but just on the big screen, rather than at ringside. See? Heels don’t come to stare down heels.
From there, we’ve got a package about Saxon Huxley. “All alone in isolation, my mind began to eat itself” warns Huxley. And you only had to worry about bulk buying toilet roll. He’s gonna come after Walter, apparently. His mind really must have eaten itself is his first target is the Ring General.
We’ve got the NXT UK Women’s Champ Kay Lee Ray up next. She’s got a mic, and she’s here to tell us she’s going to defend her title next week against Piper Niven – the first title defence in NXT UK for six months, observes Shepherd.
Kay acknowledges the history between the two. It’s lovely to see this. Younger fans might not get how much of a big deal it is, but for long-time watchers like me to hear the WWE acknowledge the past lives of their stars, well… it would have been inconceivable back in the day.
Piper Niven is out next. She accuses Kay of “GBH of the earholes” – that’s grievous bodily harm for our non-UK readers – a criminal conviction for beating someone up.
“Why don’t you tell everyone how many times I’ve beaten you in Japan?” asks Piper. In my head, there’s an imaginary crowd that goes “Oooooooooooh” for that one.
“You have not beaten this Kay Lee Ray,” she fires back – before taking an attempted cheap shot that Niven easily blocks. Kay plays the weasley heel champ brilliantly, and Niven looked strong there.
What’s that? A promo that elevates both talents? Get outta here.
Next up we’ve got a package for our next match. They’re clearly presenting these guys like it’s a viewer’s first time watching them. Smart.
Isla Dawn Vs Aoife Valkyrie
Aoife is from Dublin, therefore I pick her to win. Weirdly, the crowd noise (can’t tell if it’s canned or if there’s talent off camera providing the responses) seems MUCH louder in this match. Odd. I’m going to jump back later and see if I’m imagining it, or it really has had the volume turned up for this one.
Dawn is really stiff here – she’s tying Valkyrie in knots, hitting hard, controlling the arms, surfboarding the body, pinning Valkyrie’s hand to the mat by stomping on it. Great, great chain wrestling and limb control.
Valkyrie got bloody somewhere along the way, before pulling a top rope legdrop out of nowhere for a quicker than I expected win. That surprised me. Great outing for both women.
Next up we’ve got a promo for the NXT UK Heritage Cup, which we can only hope will be more hotly contested than the Samovar Trophy that the British Bulldog won in a Battle Royal at the Albert Hall way back in 1991. Don’t remember it? Yeah, it never got mentioned again. Probably for the best, as a Samovar is essentially a Russian Tea Urn. You know, for holding boiling water and making tea in. Because we were in Britain… and Brits drink tea and… that’s where the logic ends. That’s the WWF in 1991 for you, I guess.
As William Regal announced, it’s an old-school British wrestling rules match – contested in rounds. The competitor with the most falls or submissions wins – K.O’s or DQs end the match outright. We’re going to have six three-minute rounds with 20-second breaks in between each round. Best two out of three decisions win. I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to see Flash Morgan Webster, Noam Dar, Alexander Wolfe, A-Kid, “The Bomber” Dave Mastiff, Trent Seven and Joseph Conners compete, plus a mystery eighth opponent. No, it’s definitely not me.
A little part of me hopes they bring back public warnings. And if you don’t know what they are, look for old episodes of World of Sport on YouTube. You’ll thank me later.
Hey! Pete Dunne is back next week for a draw to determine who faces who in the tourney. Be great to see Pete back home. Wonder if he’ll find himself actually in the tournament. If you remember, Pete has something of a history in taking matters into his own hands when tournament brackets are announced…
Wow, this hour is going quickly. We’re at the main event already.
Ilja Dragunov Vs Noam Dar
Hard hitting match straight from the off with both men putting on a bit of a clinic. Dar lands some particularly stiff kicks to the chest of Dragunov, bruising him almost immediately, before going all Rugged Ronnie Garvin on his opponent, stomping on all of Dragunov’s extremities. Another super stiff kick from Dar and a sharp elbow to the face nearly knocks Dragunov out, but the Russian bounces back with a textbook vertical suplex to provide the first breather in the match. They’re tearing into one another here.
A sickening short clothesline takes Dar’s head off. I think Dragunov must have hurt his hand here – it looks like he took one of those stiff Dar kicks right to the back of the hand. Hope it’s not a broken metacarpal or four (and yes, I loved it when Gorilla Monsoon used to talk about people being dropped on their external occipital protuberance. Heenan has been gone for three years today, as an aside. I miss ’em both).
Dar is really going for the elbows to the head – if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was hoping to get some colour from Dragunov in this match.
A Constantine Special – think of a 6-1-9 that leads straight to a short clothesline – almost kills Dar, but he bounces back with more hard hitting offence, kicks, palm strikes, more kicks, elbows. Dar goes straight from a pin attempt to a fujiwara arm bar. “This is wrestling”, says the imaginary crowd in my head.
Open handed chops from the Russian, Dar kicks back, Gotch Lift Suplex into a rollthrough cover doesn’t get it. Dragunov Hulks up. Damn, these guys work well together. The imaginary crowd shouts “Fight forever” – but then Imperium kinda ruins that, when Alexander Wolfe appears out of nowhere to distract Dragunov. It backfires. One Torpedo Moscow running headbutt later, and Dar is beaten. Wow.
That. Was. Great.
Dragunov celebrates in the ring… until Walter’s music hits. And the Champ… is… here. No, no. Not him. OUR champ.
Walter stares Dragunov down, as both men lock eyes. These two have had some absolute classics (check out their match from Progress on the WWE Network as a starter). When they go at it again, it should be amazing.
That’s a really, really strong start to the new NXT UK. Slick, hard-hitting, and leaving you wanting more. You can’t ask for better than that.
My my my, folks. NXT UK is back in style. Welcome back, guys and girls. We’ve missed you.