WWE kicked off the New Year with a busy week of news, but I’ll be kicking things off this week with a preview of the very first NXT UK Takeover special.
NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool
First of all, if you aren’t already watching NXT UK, you should be. The seeds were first planted a couple of years ago when they held the first UK Tournament to crown the first WWE UK Champion. Tyler Bate won that belt and, along with a few other stand outs from that tournament, made sporadic appearances on NXT TV to keep the division brewing. Bate eventually dropped the title to “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne who has now held onto the belt for over a year. In the summer of 2018 they held a 2nd UK tournament, and used it as the jumping off point to finally launch a weekly NXT UK show on the Network. They’ve spent the first few months of the new show establishing the characters and building the brand. Now they finally get to show what they’ve built with a live Takeover special.
WWE UK Title: “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne(c) vs “Iron King” Joe Coffey
Dunne has been one of the key building blocks of WWE’s UK project since day one. He was a finalist in the first UK tournament and eventually became only the 2nd man to ever hold the UK title. He has successfully defended the belt against members of both the NXT and the NXT UK rosters. He now faces one of his toughest challengers to date. Joe Coffey has quickly risen the ranks of the fledgling UK brand in part due to the formation of the Gallus faction. With his brother Mark and fellow Scottsman Wolfgang by his side, Joe Coffey has led Gallus to a lengthy rivalry with the fan favorites of British Strong Style (a faction consisting of Dunne, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven). Will the Bruiserweight continue his historic title reign, or will the Iron King ascend the throne?
NXT UK Women’s Title: Rhea Ripley(c) vs Toni Storm
Ripley made her WWE debut as part of the first Mae Young classic where she seemed to be a relatively happy young woman. By the time the 2nd MYC came along, she had used her time at the Performance center to transform into powerhouse with a bad attitude. This new attitude lead her to the semi-finals of MYC2, and eventually she defeated Toni Storm to be crowned the first ever NXT UK Women’s Champion. Storm also competed in both MYC tournaments, emerging as the winner of MYC2. As the reigning MYC winner, her reward was a title shot of her choosing, and she chose to cash in that opportunity for a crack at dethroning Ripley.
NXT UK Tag Titles: Mustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) vs “Liverpool’s #1” Zack Gibson and James Drake
NXT UK has focused quite a bit in its first few months on building a solid tag division. In the last few weeks a mini tournament was held in which Mustache Mountain defeated their rivals Gallus and Gibson and Drake defeated the team of Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster. Now they square off in Blackpool for the right to be called the first ever NXT UK Tag Champions. As the more established team, Mustache Mountain has to be considered the favorites. They even toppled the Undisputed Era for a brief run with the NXT Tag Titles last year. That said, Zack Gibson was the winner of 2018’s UK tournament and has since been built up as one of the top heels on the brand. James Drake, though less established as a character, has proven to be a strong partner for Gibson. Since forming the team is undefeated and looking to continue that streak by winning the titles on Saturday.
No Disqualification Match: “Bomber” Dave Mastiff vs Eddie Dennis
Two of the UK brand’s larger brawlers have established a rivalry so heated that a No DQ match was made to settle the score. Mastiff is currently undefeated, and Dennis’ only loss was at the hands of Mastiff.
“Kiwi Buzzsaw” Travis Banks vs “Irish Ace” Jordan Devlin
Both men are seemingly being groomed as stars for the brand, and their brief but heated rivalry led to the last minute booking of this match to complete the Takeover card.
The WWE Network appears to be running a marathon of NXT UK episodes leading up to the big event with the event preshow beginning at 1:30 EST. Takeover: Blackpool officially begins at 2pm EST live from the UK. Check back with the Scrum later in the day for my full recap and review.
PPV Event Plans
We’re only 2 weeks away from Royal Rumble weekend, so here’s what we know currently about what they have planned.
NXT Takeover Pheonix: Jan 26:
All titles are being defended, but there’s still room for one more undercard match to be added. My guess is that Matt Riddle and Kassius Ohno will get a chance to continue their rivalry, but we’ll have to wait and see.
NXT Title: Tommaso Cimpa© vs Aleister Black
NXT Womens Title: Shayna Baszler© vs Bianca Belair
NXT Tag Titles: Undisputed Era© vs War Raiders
NXT North American Title: Ricochet© vs Johnny Gargano
Royal Rumble: Jan 27:
On Raw, Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax to earn a title shot against Ronda Rousey (no official word yet if this takes her out of the Rumble match). On SDL, Becky Lynch defeated both Carmella and Charlotte in a triple threat main event to face Asuka for the title at the Rumble. Also on SDL, Miz challenged the Bar to a tag title match on behalf of himself and Shane McMahon. Numerous people continued to declare themselves for the Rumble matches. Check out the updated card below.
What we know so far…
Universal Title: Brock Lesnar© vs Braun Strowman
WWE Title: Daniel Bryan© vs AJ Styles
Raw Women’s Title: Ronda Rousey© vs Sasha Banks
Smackdown Women’s Title: Asuka© vs Becky Lynch
Smackdown Tag Titles: The Bar© vs Miz & Shane McMahon (I assume Miz will eventually come up with a catchy name for this tandem)
Men’s Rumble: Drew McIntyre, Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Samoa Joe, Dean ambrose, John Cena, Elias, Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal, Apollo Crews, Andrade Almas, Mustapha Ali, Rey Mysterio, R-Truth (#30)
Women’s Rumble: Natalya, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Alicia Fox, Zelina Vega, Carmella (#30)
Cruiserweight Title 4 Way: Buddy Murphy© vs Kalisto vs Akira Tozawa vs Hideo
WWE has announced a tournament to be held during the Fan Axxess sessions Royal Rumble weekend. The event is called Worlds Collide and will feature 5 superstars each from NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live. They start Saturday morning of Axxess with all 15 men in a battle royal. The order of elimination is supposed to determine 1st round matches with the winner of the battle royal getting a 1st round bye. Tournament matches will continue throughout Saturday and Sunday Axxess sessions and be taped for a Network special. The ultimate winner of the tournament earns the right to challenge for any title on any of the 3 brands.
Announced participants are Adam Cole (Bay Bay), Velveteen Dream, Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee, and Otis Dozovic from NXT (Dozivic seems an odd choice since it’s already been announce that he’s on his way to the main roster). From NXT UK the participants are Mark Andrews, Tyler Bate, Travis Banks, Jordan Devlin, and Zack Gibson. The 205 contenders are Cedric Alexander, Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, TJP, and one more superstar to be named later.
It’s a big week for the UK. Not only do they have their first live Takeover special this Saturday, they also officially opened the new Performance Center in London. This is the first of what WWE hopes will be many international PCs, and will provide a state of the art training facility for the talents they currently have signed for the NXT UK brand.
Additionally, following the the UK Takeover event on Saturday, the WWE Network will be airing “The Nigel McGuinness Story.” Take a look back at the legendary career of one of the greatest stars never to wrestle for the WWE and see what led to his current career as one of WWE’s best announcers.
In spite of the fact that he did appear on Raw this week, Braun Strowman is still not medically cleared for action following his recent elbow surgery. Clearly the company is not concerned that he will be cleared in time for his Rumble match against Lesnar at the end of the month since they continue building toward that match.
Erick Rowan, who has been out of action since dropping the SDL tag titles months ago, spent time at the PC this week training for his return to the ring.
Word on Jason Jordan is that he continues to have difficulty with gripping power and controlling his hand. He’s been out of action for nearly a year, but has been training for a backstage role should he be unable to return to the ring ever again.
Another injured star who might get a shot at a slightly different role is former NFL player Tino Sabbatelli. Tino suffered a torn pectoral muscle at an NXT event back in May, and there are rumors now that he might get a shot as an announcer.
There’s a whole lot of free agent rumors swirling currently. The biggest name of course being Kenny Omega. His New Japan contract is said to expire at the end of this month. He has made public comments that COULD suggest that he is leaving NJPW, BUT those comments could also be seen as an in character tease. Several reports have suggested that WWE has made Omega a sizeable offer, however his former Bullet Club friends have also just started a new promotion which he could help build from the ground up. While Omega is the star everyone is watching, another NJPW vet is also poised to leave that company at the end of the month. Kushida is currently expected to join WWE and report to the Performance Center this Spring. Until we get an official announcement from the company though he’s someone else we’ll have to keep an eye on.
Another face expected to sign with WWE soon is Piper Niven. Fans may remember her participation in the first Mae Young Classic back in 2017. There are rumors that AEW is interested in landing Niven, but at this point it is expected that she returns to an NXT ring when her current contract with World of Sports expires.
Assorted News and Notes
Two of the new NXT call ups worked dark matches prior to Monday night Raw this week. Lacey Evans worked with Natalya and reportedly got in a lot of offense before ultimately losing to the veteran. Then EC3 worked a short match with Curt Hawkins and added to the former Edgehead’s losing streak. While certainly not a guarantee, I’m guessing this is a sign both Evans and EC3 are coming to Raw.
Finally, it was a week of cryptic tweeting from a few popular stars. Rusev and Lana both made reference to some major life changes. It almost sounded like a baby announcement, but with Lana recently taking bumps as part of her husband’s US Title rivalry against Shinsuke Nakamura, some are thinking it might be a swerve that results in the new member of their family being a new pet. Tye Dillinger also made a somewhat vague social media post thanking supporters for his 17 years in the ring. To me, it sounded like a retirement speech, but it was posted on the same day as AEW’s big rally. Is the “Perfect 10” leaving WWE for potentially greener pastures? Is he retiring completely to stay home with his dogs? We’ll just have to wait and see as always.
- Bolts get a Western Conference win, beat Sharks at Amalie January 19, 2019
- Five Keys: Offense January 19, 2019
- Major Changes To The Royal Rumble Card January 18, 2019
- Back-and-forth game goes Maple Leafs way January 17, 2019
- Vasilevskiy’s efforts dim Stars, lift Lightning to victory January 16, 2019
- An epic lucha showdown on Smackdown Live January 15, 2019
- Randle El, Grimm added to Bucs coaching staff January 15, 2019
- The Extraordinary and the Almighty prevail on action-packed night January 14, 2019
- Rays sign Avisail Garcia to one-year deal January 14, 2019
- Crashing the Net: Grinding out wins will be continued key for Bolts before all star break January 14, 2019