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    Friday, January 4, 2019

    NXT in the UK (1/2/19): A Mountain Delays A Kingdom, The Iron King Declares War

    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to European wrestling in 2019! With NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool just around the corner, this week's two episodes did well to hype some of the scheduled matches on the brand's first-ever PPV event.

    Two factions were featured front-and-center, with British Strong Style (United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne with Moustache Mountain's Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) and Gallus (Wolfgang and the Coffey Brothers, Joe and Mark) going for each other's throats in both episodes. Toni Storm, who will face NXT UK Women's Champion Rhea Ripley at Takeover: Blackpool, competed in a friendly duel with the Virtuosa, Deonna Purrazzo, because both these world-renowned talents want to be number one. Finally, in the main event of the second episode of this week's NXT UK, Eddie Dennis and Dave Mastiff collided for the last time. Or did they?

    First things first, though, let's take a quick look at NXT UK's first year. Like most wrestling shows, NXT UK has had its fair share of ups and downs; mostly ups, with this reviewer honestly unable to think of any real downs this great brand has had. Maybe its accessibility to the general public? That's not its fault entirely, however. 

    NXT UK has featured the best of the best in the UK wrestling scene from Tyler Bate's technical genius to Jordan Devlin's high-flying brutality, from Zack Gibson's nuclear heat promos to Toni Storm's 100% face rating, among many others. Led by the legendary GM Johnny Saint with creative support from NXT daddy Triple H, this brand has done little to no mistakes, succeeding in most aspects of the business outside of maybe logistics. My friends in the UK won't stop spoiling me with the results, indifferent to our difference in sleep schedules. Rude. 

    That said, "what about the two-episodes format, Shawarma Joe? Is it helping the brand? Or is it making things worse?" Glad you asked, Little Jimmy. It's a little bit of both for me, I think. Prior to donning the format we now know and perhaps even love, NXT UK was way behind in that they already had a women's champion that could've been added to that historic Evolution PPV

    Unfortunately, since the title itself had yet to be announced on the brand, not to mention the championship tournament that featured some of the best female wrestlers the UK scene has had was still a long ways from even rearing its head, that title defense was pulled and relegated to a dark match. I was not a fan of that move but I do understand the reason for it. 

    Again, NXT UK's worst and perhaps only bad quality is its logistics. With that in mind, I think the format has helped the brand catch up, though I hope they start going back to the traditional one-episode-a-week format once they get their timelines straight. It's less awkward and more prestigious that way, I think.

    Speaking of prestige, Toni Storm versus Deonna Purrazzo was just exquisite. In this week's first episode, Storm and Purrazzo were seen arguing backstage. Purrazzo wanted to be at NXT UK: Takeover Blackpool as well, fighting for the NXT UK Women's Championship against Rhea Ripley, so they agreed to fight each other instead in this week's second episode to prove who was better. Spoiler alert: It was Toni Storm who, after the match, was taunted by the reigning NXT UK Women's Champion. Straya!

    You can't go wrong with either Toni or Deonna, I have to say. These two are well-traveled masters of their craft. I thought it was a little odd that Deonna was already arguing about her worth as an NXT UK Women's Championship contender, considering she has just arrived in NXT UK and she doesn't actually have that much experience in the brand compared to Toni and even Rhea. Both Australians competed in the aforementioned tournament for the title while Deonna was busy elsewhere. Granted that Deonna is also an indie queen like Toni, but that still came off as quite of a reach for me, maybe even a little arrogant. Americans, am I right? Chips versus fries? No? 

    I don't know about you guys, but prior to the actual match, I was questioning whether this was actually necessary. This, I think, is NXT UK's biggest extended feud apart from the British Strong Style versus Gallus storyline. We've seen both men put their undefeated streaks on the line and Mastiff came out on top. That felt like a marquee match on its own, with Dave moving on from Eddie. But, no! Eddie ended up attacking Dave, Dave ended up attacking Eddie, so when the PPV was announced, I was 100% sure that this was going to be on NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool anyway as some sort of a blood feud match. It's a No DQ match? Close enough.

    The advertised match for this week's second episode, technically its main event, never actually led to anything after both men ended up brawling on the ramp and ring apron until GM Johnny Saint came out on stage and booked what I had already thought was only logical. Still, props to GM Saint for, well, being logical. That's one thing I love about him and NXT UK. It seems that every decision he makes is pretty much logical, from a cause to the effect, and not just a random main event featuring two veterans wrestling each other for their tenth year. 

    In the end, while I had to raise an eyebrow at its placement on the show's card, I still thought this match wasn't a bad way to generate more hype for the No DQ match. Emphasis on more, considering we've seen and established that these two men really hate each other.

    Speaking of men that hate each other, Moustache Mountain's Tyler Bate and Trent Seven versus Gallus' Mark Coffey and Wolfgang was the main event of the first episode, with the winning tag team advancing to the NXT UK tag team finals at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool. Joe Coffey was nowhere to be found at the start of this match, so we were led to believe it would be a fair fight. Ha! You fools!

    Joe ended up coming down during the match because it's his kingdom. Unfortunately, United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne came out as well to neutralize him, leading to both men fighting each other on the ramp. That ring apron X-Plex by Dunne on Joe hurt my sides. Back in the ring, though, Moustache Mountain took advantage, and Joe's brother Mark was pinned after that full nelson/springboard clothesline combination finisher.

    The loss didn't sit well with Joe who continued his attack on Dunne after the match. The rest of Gallus joined in the melee and took down Moustache Mountain until Dunne made a comeback, taking out the heels before getting on the mic to reveal that he himself sought out GM Saint to make his match with Joe Coffey at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool official, the same title match Joe himself had earlier demanded from GM Saint and Assistant to the GM Sid Scala. Then they fought each other again to end the first episode.

    That was pretty fun, I'm not going to lie. The match between Moustache Mountain and Gallus was great, but at the back of my mind, I knew the big strong bois were winning. Maybe if they were facing the Coffey Brothers, I would've had bigger doubts, but it was Mark Coffey and Wolfgang who don't sound like a true pairing compared to Joe and Mark Coffey. Thankfully, next week, we're getting British Strong Style versus Gallus in a proper six-man tag team match, so we might finally see which faction is currently at the top.

    That's next week, though, and we still have the second episode where a contract signing for the NXT UK Championship match took place. I'm not a huge fan of contract signings, not at all, but to be fair, they're great for a last promo/face-to-face between champion and challenger. The more intense, the better, and boy, was this intense!

    Joe's line about two CEOs of a company getting together to discuss business for the first time was a little weird for me but I get what he was trying to do. NXT UK will be his kingdom, after all, so, uhm, finances. I loved the part where he asked GM Saint and Assistant to the GM Sid Scala to leave the ring, so he can have a moment alone with the Bruiserweight. It's not a smart line because even if it's just the two of them in that ring, there's still a live crowd watching them and more through the WWE Network. It was a great mood set-up, though, and I loved it. Joe claiming that Dunne's only been a champion this long because he hasn't been around to take the title from him was amazing. The Iron King was pure hype in this.

    I thought Dunne grabbing Joe's hand, breaking his fingers, and mocking his kingly speech was an excellent response. You don't usually have that because it might endanger the mystique of the preceding promo but there was no endangering Joe's threats here, especially when Gallus came out, allowing the Iron King to powerbomb Dunne through the table. Holy heck, I'm starting to get concerned about Dunne's title reign. Is Joe really taking that belt off the Bruiserweight? Will the Iron King rise and conquer NXT UK as his own kingdom? Blackpool is going to be one heck of a battleground.

    FINAL DECREE: It's a new year, so we're trying something new by giving each episode of the same week their own respective grades.

    Episode one introduced a new feud in Travis Banks versus Jordan Devlin while at the same time progressing two tag team storylines in Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel coming together against Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan, as well as Moustache Mountain beating Gallus for that PPV tag team championship spot. Everything looked and felt neat storyline-wise.

    Episode 2 gave us "Wild Boar" Mike Hitchman's first victory along with the Toni Storm versus Deonna Purrazzo match, but I just felt let down regarding that slot given to the "Bomber" Dave Mastiff versus Eddie Dennis. They were supposed to be the final match of the night, the main event, and it just ended in a pretty quick double disqualification that doesn't really provide anything new in terms of furthering the feud outside of a reveal that could've been made a week ago.

    That said, this week's NXT UK gets an A for Episode 1, and strangely, a B for Episode 2. Both are fantastic shows to watch, so please don't miss a single episode.  

    The Few Hunky-Dories:

    • In episode one, Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan continued their tag team losing streak, this time against the newly formed alliance of Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner. In episode two, Aichner and Barthel were seen backstage, yelling at Assistant to the GM Sid Scala, claiming that they deserve to be in the semi-final tag team match next week and threatening Sid. I thought it was impressive how Sid stood his ground against them, but will he pay for that, considering he can still go in the ring? Barthel and Aichner feel like they have the makings of a great tag team in this brand, so keep an eye on them.
    • Unfortunately, it seems like Barthel and Aichner are not getting what they want, as in episode two, GM Saint and Assistant to the GM Sid announced backstage that next week, the last semi-final match to determine who will fight for the NXT UK Tag Team Championships at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool will feature Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews against James Drake and Zack Gibson. Why do I feel like Barthel and Aichner are going to attack Webster and Andrews during that match? Oh, right. Unfinished business.
    • Travis Banks returned in action after a long while, beating Jamie Ahmed in episode one. Jordan Devlin unexpectedly came out after the match to insult Banks, talking about his estranged relationship with his mother like a huge arsehole. Is Jordan officially doing his Import Killer gimmick now? In episode two, Banks stated backstage that he loves his country and would also love to beat Jordan up. This is going to be a pretty great feud, considering the talent involved, but I wonder who'll get the rub with a victory. Hmm.
    • In episode one, evil Jinny faced fun-loving Candy Floss and won. I like Candy Floss. A lot. Jinny is shaping up to be a dangerous heel. Must be the embarrassment of losing the opportunity to represent your own country as its women's champion. Hehehe. 
    • In episode two, "Wild Boar" Mike Hitchman finally had his taste of victory after mauling Josh Morrell. I think the Wild Boar could do with a better finisher than just a simple top rope splash, but at the same time, I'm just happy he starts the new year with a win. Oink oink.
    • Oh, and Joseph Conners was also backstage in episode two, talking about joining NXT UK being a lie, there being no "we" in NXT UK, only yourself, and that he'll break every one of the new toys if he has to. Sounds like someone has been watching Kassius Ohno. Noice. 
    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. Rest in peace, "Mean" Gene Okerlund. You will be missed.

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    Item Reviewed: NXT in the UK (1/2/19): A Mountain Delays A Kingdom, The Iron King Declares War Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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