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    Saturday, September 19, 2020

    NXT in the UK (9/17/20): Ilja, The Magic Dragunov

    Ilja Dragunov and Noam Dar on NXT UK

    After an excruciating six months away from the ring thanks to lockdown measures in the UK, NXT UK is finally back on the WWE Network. Hello, it's ya boy Ro, and I've always wanted to give my thoughts on arguably the pound-for-pound best in-ring product in all of WWE's programming, especially after we stopped doing this column a long while back—and I figured the post-lockdown return would be a good place to start.

    First things first: I don't know if it was just me and I misunderstood the promotion heading into the brand's return, but I honestly thought they were going to pull an ROH and get in there with the announced NXT UK Heritage Cup tournament right out the gate, as well as the long-delayed NXT UK Championship match between Ilja Dragunov and WALTER. That's not the case, as we get what I'll call a regular episode of the show that sets the table for everyone tuning in.

    We get representation for all three divisions of the show—a tag team match featuring the NXT UK tag champs (and the rest of the pretty deep pool making an appearance), a women's match, and the #1 contender to the NXT UK Championship Dragunov getting a damn good showing against a Heritage Cup contender. 


    The evening's theme was strong and simple, as everyone states outright that they've got cabin fever and they've been waiting six long months to wrestle again. With people all over the world getting antsy over their respective countries' lockdowns, it's a pretty good hook that's easy to relate to. It almost gets to the point where it's hammered over our heads too much, and to a point where you can palpably feel that desire ended up in some overachieving wrestling, for lack of a better term. I mean, even Ilja Dragunov, who's already the most gigil wrestler I've ever seen, feels extra excited to do his thing. Go watch that.

    Out of all the empty-arena wrestling we've seen over the past six months, this might be some of the best—resulting in what I think is a sad waste due to the lack of a real audience atmosphere. But I've always held that when there's no crowd, you gotta do everything to patch over the silence. That means as few lulls as possible and more action crammed in. They did exactly that, and it's great, but I just hope they can do something about the crowd like they do at the US Performance Center.

    You might also wonder how the roster looks like now with all the #SpeakingOut firings and suspensions, and I'm glad to mention that with everything they're putting on, it seems like there were no big losses. The most glaring absence, I think, is Joe Coffey, but only because Gallus are the tag team champions.

    With the guys and girls raring to go after six months, it looks like we'll be in for a fun month or two—and more, I hope—of NXT UK. If you want to add some undeniably good wrestling back into your diet (watch it slowly fill up again as things move back to normal) you can't go wrong with this show. One hour out of your week is also a great deal.

    NXT UK 9/17/20 Final Grade: A-

    Quick predictions for the NXT UK Heritage Cup

    Surprise entrant: Pete Dunne
    Winner: Pete Dunne if he's joining; if not, Dave Mastiff

    Photo from WWE

    *****

    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry, one of the four hosts of the Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast, and is associated with Philippine Wrestling Revolution. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, and he likes taking your wrestling questions over on his Curiouscat account.
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    Item Reviewed: NXT in the UK (9/17/20): Ilja, The Magic Dragunov Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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