NXT’s UK division is rolling into Cardiff, Wales this weekend with some red hot rivalries and every title on the line. Not only that, but Raw Superstar Cesaro is in attendance. Who will step up to answer his open challenge? Let’s get to the show and see what the future holds for WWE’s brightest European superstars!
Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuiness are on commentary. Aiden English was with them for the 30 minute preshow, but disappeared when the main show began.
“Scottish Super Nova” Noam Dar vs “Kiwi Buzzsaw” Travis Banks
Though it has nothing to do with the actual action, I have to say that I really love the way this division really embraces nicknames as part of their superstar’s identities. It’s such a contrast from the main WWE product where rising stars often don’t even get to keep a first and last name (see Rusev, Ali, Andrade, etc…).
The perpetually cocky Dar came into this match playing his usual games. Meanwhile Banks was fired up to put that ego in check. After both men failed to get a submission victory, the shifted gears and picked up the aggression with some hard hitting action in and out of the ring. These 2 men are so evenly matched that it nearly seemed a stalemate at one point.
As I stated a few days ago, this was such an even match up that the winner would likely be determined based on future plans. As I suspected, it’s Dar who was kept on a hot streak until someone else eventually does manage to put his ginormous ego in check.
Cesaro’s Open Challenge
We didn’t have to wait long to see who would step up to Cesaro. The intense young Russian Ilja Dragunov wants to continue proving himself against top tier talent. Thus far Dragunov only has one loss on his NXT record, to Kassius Ohno, but even in that loss he made a strong impression.
The Swiss Cyborg is one of the absolute best workers on the entire WWE roster. He can have a great match with nearly anyone, and that made him an excellent choice for this special appearance. The veteran worked a mostly methodical pace to counteract the more excitable nature of the Russian. He even took his young foe on a full 40 rotations on the Cesaro Swing!
Make no mistake though, this match was the latest chapter in Dragunov’s story. Win or lose he puts up a strong fight and wins over the crowd a little more each time. The company clearly sees him as a major star of the future and are doing an excellent job of building him a reputation that’s based on excellent in ring battles.
Much like the loss to Ohno, this was a case where the younger star won even by losing. He held his own against a seasoned veteran and earned the respect of both the audience and his opponent in the process.
UK Tag Title Triple Threat
The first ever NXT UK Tag Champs the Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)from Liverpool are putting their belts on the line against the Scottish muscle of Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) and the hometown heroes of the night, Welsh wrestlers Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster. The Welshmen are the definition of underdogs here, but that seems to make them that much more popular to the Cardiff crowd.
The main story of the match was the 2 against 4 battle of the smaller Andrews and Webster using their speed and high flying to battle the size and strength of both other teams. If Gallus and GYV hadn’t been so busy getting in each other’s way, they might not have been quite as vulnerable. Late in the match The champs actually worked with the Welsh team to remove Gallus from the picture so they could battle two on two. Alas, the hearts of the heroes would not be denied.
Winners: New Tag Champs Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster
This was a fantastic three team match that served to tell a great story of hometown heroes overcoming big odds to be only the 2nd team ever to hold the UK tag titles.
Last Man Standing
Gallus may have just failed to capture the tag titles, but now their leader Joe Coffey needs to brush that off as he goes to war with Bomber Dave Mastiff. It didn’t take long for these two monsters to start wrecking things as the top turnbuckle broke within the first few moments of the match!
Clearly our friends across the pond favor slightly different weaponry than we do here in the US. Pool cues and cricket bats stood in for the usual kendo sticks and sledge hammers. There were also tables and chairs though to keep things somewhat familiar. One particularly fun moment saw a smiling Mastiff pick up two chairs, hand one to Coffey, and then they ran towards each other like a pair of rams.
Eventually they made their way up above the announcers area and came falling together from the stage through multiple tables. The ref was counting them both down as they reached for anything they could get their hands on to climb back to their feet. At the count of 9, Coffey kicked away Mastiff’s support and remained the last man standing.
Winner: Joe Coffey
Very creative match involving some spots we don’t normally see in similar matches stateside. There’s something special about watching two big men that are capable of things you don’t expect based on their size. They were like two massive rhinos here bringing destruction to every corner of the arena.
UK Women’s Championship
Though Kay Lee Ray is a relative new comer to the roster of NXT UK, she and Toni Storm have worked together all over the world and know each other quite well. They have excellent chemistry in the ring, but I must say I was a bit surprised that the match wasn’t a bit longer. You would think maybe the show as a whole were running long, but there’s a full hour left and only one more match.
Winner: New Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray
Although this was indeed the outcome I expected, the fact that it wasn’t a closer battle leads me to believe there might be plans to move Storm out of this division. I had always seen her as the centerpiece of the UK women’s division, but lately she’s been taking a back seat to much more interesting stories being told by other rising stars. perhaps the powers that be feel she’s no longer needed as that centerpiece and have other plans for her future. If that’s true, the UK division should be in excellent hands with the veteran Ray and a good mix of challengers such as Piper Niven and Xia Brookside.
WWE UK Championship
Tyler Bate is the last hope for British Strong Style to overcome Imperium and take back the title previously held by himself and his friend Pete Dunne. The “big strong boy” will need to bring every ounce of his strength to dethrone the man who ended Dunne’s historically long title reign, Walter.
Bate was going blow for blow with Walter for the 1st part of the match, but then the big champ took things outside and tried to do serious damage to the challenger. There was a scary moment where Walter tossed Tyler at the ring post. It seemed like the plan was for him to take the hit with his back, but for whatever reason he ended up taking it instead with his head and neck. The medic had to check on Bate before they were able to continue. While they did keep going, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn later that Bate is being monitored for a possible concussion.
Bate rejoined the match and continued to fight with all of his heart. Alas, the Austrian Ring General treated him like a rag doll. The fact that Tyler was able to stay in this match for as long as he did, including an impressive rally late in the match, is a testament to how much talent this young man possesses.
Every time you think Bate can’t possibly go on, he somehow manages to rally. Back and forth these men fought, both refusing to stay down for the count. The crowd is on their feet, singing their praises for the effort of both men.
Winner: Walter retains the title
Not to take anything away from the champ, but this was a star-making performance by Tyler Bate. Clearly, he was already one of the founding stars of the the NXT UK brand, but this is the kind of showing that proves he’s a future top star for WWE as a whole. This was phenomenal!
Overall a good show. Not every match quite lived up to expectations, but the main event alone was worth the price of admission. It was easily a match of the year candidate. After Walter left the ring and joined his Imperium cohorts to pose on stage, Bate was joined in the ring by Trent Seven and Pete Dunne. I could be wrong, but I got the distinct feeling that the “founding fathers” of NXT UK were having their curtain call moment. We’ve already seen Dunne pursuing the North American title on NXT, and I suspect he’ll soon be joined stateside by Mustache Mountain.
September 15- WWE Clash of Champions
September 18- NXT Debuts live on USA
October 6- WWE Hell in a Cell
November 23- NXT TakeOver: Wargames III
November 24- WWE Survivor Series
December 15- WWE TLC
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