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    Friday, January 11, 2019

    NXT in the UK (01/09/19): The Final Week Before Blackpool

    NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool is finally upon us! We're on the final two episodes before the historic PPV, NXT UK's first-ever, and we've officially crowned the two tag teams that'll face each other at said PPV for the NXT UK Tag Team Championships. We also had a face-off between NXT UK Women's Champion Rhea Ripley and her challenger and fellow Aussie, fan favorite Toni Storm. To end the week, Gallus and British Strong Style collided in brutal fashion, plugging the United Kingdom Championship battle at the same PPV between reigning champion Pete Dunne and challenger Joe Coffey. Oh, and one more match was added to that card, and it's a pretty exciting one. NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool is officially brilliant.

    A part of me feels like I'm jumping the gun with that previous statement, but then my confidence gets boosted by that discussion panel between NXT UK Women's Champion Rhea Ripley and her challenger Toni Storm. Storm was one of the favorites to win the first Mae Young Classic Tournament, but it took her a second try to actually win. She was also one of the favorites to win the NXT UK Women's Championship, but will this second try end up in success? She seems to believe so, and her argument was solid. There's another easy argument to be made in Ripley and Storm being Australians fighting for the title of another country, but Storm's reminder that she's called the UK her home for the past five years was a great rebuttal to anyone with that sentiment.

    When Ripley was given the time to reply, she played her role properly. Rhea does not give a shit about any of us but she's smart enough to keep her tactics to herself. She's also pretty confident, reminding us all that she's beat Storm before and she could do it again. Toni might have beaten every challenge that was laid in front of her during the 2018 Mae Young Classic but she never beat Rhea. Ripley went on to proclaim herself as 110% herself, not a copy of Storm, and that the title will never ever be Toni's. That face-off gave me chills, I have to be honest. Both these women hyped me up for their title match at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool

    My money's still on Ripley, though, even if I do love Toni to my bones. I'm still betting on that Tegan Nox feud, and her return may herald the second NXT UK Women's Championship reign. Until then, Rhea's definitely keeping her throne. 

    In episode one, James Drake and Zack Gibson brutally took down Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster to advance to the NXT UK Tag Team Championship match at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool where the first team to advance, Moustache Mountain, will be waiting to fight them. After Gibson hit Andrews with Helter Skelter on the ramp, I knew the match was over. Webster was left alone and became easy pickings for the Grizzled Young Veterans. 

    In episode two, Drake and Gibson reminded everyone that they are undefeated and they deserve the titles. In fact, they've already cleared a spot on their mantle for them. Gibson is never not confident. I'm looking forward to that early celebration on Facebook Live where they said they'll celebrate the fall of Moustache Mountain and the rise of the Grizzled Young Veterans.

    This is traditionally smart booking, pitting two valiant faces against two smarmy heels. I've been 100% confident that Moustache Mountain will win those titles and become the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions, especially considering that this pair are former NXT Tag Team Champions, but now I'm not sure. 

    Gibson has been on a roll lately, especially with his promos, and Drake could ride those coattails to a title win. Gibson also won the 2018 United Kingdom Championship Tournament but lost his hard-earned title opportunity to United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. Maybe becoming the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champion with Drake could be his consolation prize? I mean, it's not even a consolation prize in essence, because in my humble opinion becoming a first-ever champion is way better than becoming an nth champion. Then again, dethroning the longest reigning United Kingdom Champion could put anyone on another level. Hmm. 

    Jordan Devlin spoiled Damien Weir's debut in episode one, "killing" the "import" from Germany (get it? because Import Killer!) with Ireland's Call. To be fair to Weir, he did try his best, but Devlin just brought his A-game in this one as well as his rudeness. After the match, Jordan tried to interview himself but Travis Banks ran out to send him packing. Banks is still not over Jordan's insults from last week and wants to fight, but Jordan was not in the mood, so he just walked away. 

    Jordan did end up getting in the mood in episode two, but it was a different mood. While Banks fought Tyson T-Bone in their scheduled match, Jordan came out dressed as Travis in an attempt to distract him but to no avail. After taking out Tyson's partner Saxon Huxley who tried to provide more interference, Banks got himself the win with a Slice of Heaven. Finally, Jordan got in the mood to fight while the bell was still ringing, charging into the ring to brawl with Banks. Travis almost caught him with the second Slice of Heaven of the night, but the Irish Ace was quick to run away.

    Travis Banks and Jordan Devlin are both promising wrestlers, so I am very excited to see them square off at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool. Banks was the clear favorite to win the 2018 United Kingdom Champion Tournament while Devlin was trained by Finn Bálor himself. Jordan already had his title shot against United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne, so I'm wondering if Banks is going to put him down to get his own well-deserved title shot. 

    That is, if Pete Dunne is still champion after Blackpool. Whatever the case may be, these two are going to put on an amazing show. Their match might even steal the show, though with the way the PPV card is looking, that's going to be a hard job. Every match on that card seems set to be a show-stealer.

    In episode 1, Gallus came out in full force, with Joe Coffey getting on the mic to share some truths: (A) nobody likes them and (B) they don't care. He also hyped up Gallus' match against British Strong Style in the next episode, though he's keeping his eyes on the United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. Joe claimed that Dunne would be lucky to walk out of the ring at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool because NXT UK is their kingdom and the top prize will come home with him.

    Hot damn. I am 100% afraid of Joe Coffey. Not only is this guy built to destroy any idiot who crosses him but he also seems very, very aggressive. I would not want to be that idiot who bumps into him in an alley when he's in a bad mood.

    The aforementioned battle between Gallus and British Strong Style actually happened in episode two this week, and it was, hands-down, the best match of this week. The two teams have been butting heads for months now, and we finally got to see them go head-to-head. At one point, British Strong Style cleared the ring to stand tall. Both members of Moustache Mountain inevitably fell prey to a three-man assault from Gallus. Trent Seven's moment came when Joe hurled him into the steel ring steps before roaring back with a thunderous Superplex on the Iron King.

    The first-ever United Kingdom Champion, Tyler Bate, took the spotlight by performing one of the longest airplane spins in recent memory as well as taking everyone out with a corkscrew senton off the ring post and out on the floor. Pete Dunne also had his time to shine, showing off with a back-to-back-to-back submission on both Wolfgang and Mark Coffey. Mark's brother Joe was not amused with this and almost took out the champion with an earth-shattering powerbomb. In the end, Joe hit Bate with All the Best for the Bells to proclaim Gallus's dominance and give himself an incredible momentum heading into his title opportunity at NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool.

    What a freaking match.

    FINAL DECREE: With the exception of the NXT UK Women's Championship segment between Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm, most of the main storylines heading into NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool ran right through both episodes this week, so it's a little hard for me to separate them for individual grading.

    Episode one gave us the aforementioned women's title segment, the aforementioned Gallus promo, Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan's first tag team victory, Isla Dawn going over Xia Brookside, and of course the skirmish between the teams of Zack Gibson and James Drake versus Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster for the right to compete for and become the first-ever holders of the NXT UK Tag Team Championships. Yes, it was a packed show.

    Episode two, however, only had three matches: Ligero versus Joseph Conners, Travis Banks versus Tyson T-Bone, and the massive war that was Gallus versus British Strong Style. Both shows contributed to the road to Takeover: Blackpool, with episode one finalizing the NXT UK Tag Team Championship match and episode two adding one more match to the card.

    This week's NXT UK gets an A for episode one, and because it only had three matches, a B for episode two.  

    The Few Hunky-Dories:

    • The tag team of Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan finally tasted victory, beating Jamie Ahmed and Dan Moloney who were teaming for the first time in NXT UK. The match was pretty good, but it was the backstage interview after the match that actually interested me. Williams and Jordan said they were finally on the same page, but that interview revealed that they still need to work on a few things. Amir wanted to dance, obviously, but Kenny didn't, and their timing wasn't that excellent. At one point, Kenny wanted to talk first but Amir went on ahead. Kenny then interrupted Amir while he was still talking. I'm not sure if that's part of their storyline, but it's an interesting path to take.
    • Man, Xia Brookside is cute! That said, there was plenty of respect between Xia and Isla Dawn, and I loved that. The crowd also seemed torn between them. Dawn ended up going over Xia, reversing the hometown heroine's attempt at a victory roll for a pin of her own, and a successful one at that. I really liked how these two traded straightjacket holds. I've never seen anything like that before, or maybe I'm just forgetting stuff, but you don't really see the straightjacket hold get this much spotlight on WWE and creatively, too. After the match, UK's Cruella de Vil, Jinny, attacked Isla in the backstage area because she's such an evil buttface. Don't let her near your dalmatians, Dawn!
    • Joseph Conners' Kassius Ohno-inspired schtick did not help him against Ligero who picked up the win with that springboard DDT. That was good news for Ligero because Ohno just murdered Matt Riddle over on NXT. Conners should try that.
    • We had a bunch of Eddie Dennis and Dave Mastiff videos in both episodes, so those were good. Dave's winning that match, I'm 100% sure that's what's going to happen. 100%. (Don't save this article and tweet me if I'm wrong please.) 
    • Immediately following NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool, Nigel McGuinness' documentary will air. I am stoked for that, as the former Fourtune member (as Desmond Wolfe) was one of my favorite wrestlers before his heartbreaking retirement. I'm not going to miss that documentary, and neither should you. 
    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. Stay away from my dalmatians, Jinny!

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    Item Reviewed: NXT in the UK (01/09/19): The Final Week Before Blackpool Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pepe Serapio
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