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    Friday, October 19, 2018

    NXT in the UK (10/17/18): This Kingdom Rises

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment we've all been waiting for: NXT UK is here, and I am here to review its very first episode. I am all kinds of stoked while writing this because I've been a fan of this brand, its promise and possibilities, since the first WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament early last year.

    Heck, I more or less got this gig with Smark Henry by reviewing the second WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament as an audition. That was never published, of course—because it was an audition—but I was very proud of how that came out. I just really love me some good old-fashioned mat wrestling peppered with stiff strikes and brilliant psychology. But enough about me and the things I love, let's proceed with the things we all love, shall we?

    Speaking of the second WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, do you guys remember when Joe Coffey snapped and massacred Travis Banks after Banks eliminated him in the semi-finals? The attack more or less led to the defeat of a game Banks at the hands of the tournament's eventual winner and everyone's most hated wrestler on this side of the Atlantic, Zack Gibson

    Mark Andrews, who has recently been making appearances for NXT and 205 Live, was also attacked by Joe and his brother Mark, though this was during the Fatal Four-way Four-way Fatal match to determine the #1 contender for the WWE United Kingdom Championship on the second day of the event. The Coffey Brothers made a statement by destroying the three competitors involved in that match, including an injured Banks, but was that really smart of them, considering that they also made a lot of enemies in just one day?

    One of those enemies sought to exact his revenge on Joe in this brilliant bout built around the age-old contrasting styles of the highflyer and the powerhouse, but with the other Coffey brother's distraction and eventual interference at ringside, Andrews had his work cut out for him. To say that the odds were stacked against Andrews would be an understatement, but even though he lost this match, his portrayal of a plucky underdog made him somewhat of a different kind of winner. With this victory, Joe Coffey begins his dominance, his equally terrifying brother Mark by his side. 

    The post-match beat down of Andrews by the Coffey Brothers was definitely dastardly. Thankfully, Flash Morgan Webster, another one of the enemies the brothers made in just one day, came out to end the attack, swinging his helmet at them like a mad (or should I say mod?) man. There's a long line of people wanting to get their hands on the Coffey Brothers and it looks like Webster might be raring to get his turn. All in all, this was a great first match for the first episode of NXT UK as well as a great introduction to all guys involved.

    Everyone loves the former NXT Tag Team Champions Moustache Mountain, Trent Seven and the first-ever and youngest WWE United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate. It was a great idea to have these two tease the NXT UK Tag Team Championships, considering the live crowd was pretty vocal about their love for these guys. Now that's what you call a hometown pop! 

    You know what would be another great idea? Having them become the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions. We all know they both deserve it, especially Bate, but we'll have to wait and see what other teams lay their claim on the UK's tag team gold. The Coffey Brothers will probably be one of those teams, right? Good luck, Moustache Mountain. Yes, it's spelled "moustache," not "mustache." It's NXT UK, not NXT. Get with the program, gents.

    Dave Mastiff is one scary beast. If this match was a preview of things to come, then RIP NXT UK locker room because the self-proclaimed Best Heavyweight in the World is going to plow through all of you on his way to the top. I can't wait to see what destruction The Bomber wreaks next. Does that make me sound evil? I just can't help it! Dave's got me in a trance. 

    It's absolutely impressive how a man his size can be so freaking athletic. That dropkick was a jaw-dropping sight to behold. That cannonball? I felt that. I really did. I could only wince as I watched that move demolish Dave's poor opponent. Sorry, Sid. Your luck was horrible tonight.

    Full disclosure: Toni Storm is one of my favorite wrestlers in the world. There's just something about her that has effortlessly won me over. It could be her Motley Crew aesthetics, her strong style-inspired striking ability, or even that brash confidence bordering on arrogance. Whatever it is, I'm always pumped during her matches. Case in point: Her first match on NXT UK against an ambitious Nina Samuels. 

    Samuels clearly overstepped with that slap and Storm made her pay dearly for it. Those stiff forearms looked like they really did a number on Nina. Nina's tilt-a-whirl backbreaker response was a little sloppy, but a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker? Come on. That at least made up for it. This looked like a real fight between two female warriors and I was all for it from start to finish. It's Toni time!

    Wait, we're getting a WWE United Kingdom Championship match for the very first main event of the very first episode of NXT UK? GM Johnny Saint, you are too generous! Prior to the actual match, GM Saint came out to introduce both competitors, and of course, shake their hands. Man, what a gentleman! That's how you start a championship match, guys. Take notes. 

    For those who forgot, Noam Dar, a staple of 205 Live, made his surprise return by winning the #1 contendership for this title last June. That was the same Fatal Four-way match I was talking about, the one the Coffey Brothers "attended late." For those who never forgot, yes, Pete Dunne has been champion for a really long time. 400+ days, I believe. He's just the second champion, though, and was able to fend off the second United Kingdom Championship Tournament winner Zack Gibson's challenge at the conclusion of that tournament

    I thought it was an interesting start to the title match when both competitors mocked each other. Although Dunne has played more of a tweener role as of late, his mean streak still overshadows his compassion, making him more heel than face. Prior to the injury that sidelined Noam for months, the Scottish Supernova was being smarmy on 205 Live as part of the *shudders* Zo Train. That means that this was technically a battle of heels, an intimidating feat if not for the great wrestling involved. 

    Noam showcased his fluency in soccer kicks at the expense of the champ who found creative ways to inflict damage to the challenger's digits. At one point, Dar responded to one of Pete's finger manipulations with a release fisherman’s suplex on the apron and I almost lost it. The striking from both men were pretty stiff and the mat wrestling was as technical as it could get. A Bitter End reversed into a kneebar? That almost got me. In the end, Noam Dar's youthful arrogance cost him the title opportunity, taunting the champ one too many times, which gave Dunne the opening he needed to twist and stomp on (ouch!) that pinky for Dar's inevitable Bitter End.

    My favorite part actually came after the match: Pete offered his hand as a sign of respect but pinkies ended up raised instead. Nigel McGuinness on commentary called that "a different kind of show of respect," which made me chuckle a bit. If anything, "different" is what NXT UK certainly provides.

    FINAL DECREE: The first episode of NXT UK managed to strike a peaceful balance between the past and the future, both of which juxtaposed in the show's opener with Keith David narrating the history of UK combat sports and WWE events in the country and Triple H making his "We are NXT" speech. Although I thought it would've been more thematically impressive if NXT UK had a female GM, its queen of sorts, the legendary Johnny Saint taking the helm is definitely more than exciting. The Brit-Hop opening theme is all sorts of awesome, and with Nigel McGuinness on commentary and a plethora of interesting talents all hungry and ready to make their names, this show is definitely UK's own. The Queen would be proud. This first episode of NXT UK gets a brilliant A.

    The Few Hunky-Dories:
    • Eddie Dennis has a few stories to tell, but we won't hear them until at least next week. The former headteacher who calls himself The Pride of Wales is apparently friends with both Mark Andrews and the United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. How will that fun fact factor in the goings-on at NXT UK? Tune in next week to find out.
    • Next week's main event will apparently feature Tyler Bate facing Wolfgang. If you've seen Bate's work from the first United Kingdom Championship Tournament to NXT, then you'd know this kid is packed with talent. You can't sleep on Wolfgang either, as this guy can surprise you in ways you'd never expect. Next week is going to be just as physical, if not more, but with a few hilarious tidbits here and there courtesy of Bate's dizzying airplane spin and comedic but painful sucker punch. 
    Images from WWE


    Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. According to him, Kevin Owens is his best friend in the whole wide world. 
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    Item Reviewed: NXT in the UK (10/17/18): This Kingdom Rises Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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