Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT UK: Toni Storm successfully defended her title against Rhea Ripley.
Click here to watch the show on WWE Network. If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT UK, click right here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter if you want. And now, the Best and Worst of NXT UK from February 27, 2019.
Best: Hold Me Closer Tiny Mustache
Just last week, I was honest about the fact that mat-based British wrestling isn’t always the easiest for me to relate to, but that I’m hoping to learn to appreciate it from this show. So I admit, when I realized that this episode was opening with Jack Gallagher versus Tyler Bate, there was definitely a small voice in my head that said “Oh no.” What I wasn’t taking into account is that Bate and Gallagher are so athletic, so full of energy, and frankly at times so cartoonish that they make it work for me. There are lots of holds, sure, but some of them are super weird looking. Sometimes they’re upside down. Sometimes Tyler will practically backflip out of one. Sometimes Jack gets caught in an awkward position and aggressively crabwalks all around the ring.
Eventually Gallagher got frustrated that none of his holds could keep Bate trapped, and so he just started hitting him. That’s part of what makes Jack a great heel. He’s very fancy and all about the proper way of doing things, until he’s too angry to care, and then he just beats you up. Except of course that Tyler is a great striker too, and it doesn’t take many hits from Jack to get him fired up.
The match culminates in that trick where the two guys are locked up in a pinning position, but tilt-a-whirl around the ring switching off whose back is on the mat. It’s one of the sillier tropes of in-ring storytelling, but in a match like this it’s fine. I don’t mean to paint mustachioed British lads with a broad brush, but there’s a bit of the doppelgänger about this match. These two guys seem made to fight each other, and I expect we’ll see more of them together, especially since Tyler snuck out a win with a rollup after all that struggle. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long skillful build toward a high-stakes Mustache Versus Mustache Match the weekend of WrestleMania 36.
Best/Worst/Indifferent: Meanwhile, Some Nonsense Occurs
We got some of that handheld cam “backstage footage” of Jordan Devlin attacking Travis Banks during a training session at the UK Performance Center. I know the UK PC is shiny and new and they want to show it off, but a pull-apart brawl (which is what this becomes) doesn’t work nearly as well without a crowd to lose their minds over it, and it works even less well in a huge well-lit room that seems to have about nine people in it.
After that, we got a video package about Walter that tells us nothing beyond what we knew, which is mostly that he’s quite large and hits people. Then there was a video of Nina Samuels, which was all about how theatrical she is, and then a pretty charming backstage promo from Eddie Dennis about how he’s coming back even meaner after his loss at TakeOver Blackpool. Later in the show, Ligero cut a backstage promo on Joseph Conners, and wow that mask looks weird in closeup.
Worst: Hero’s Duty
Look, I get it. You’re doing the whole crossover thing in all of these episodes that were filmed during Royal Rumble weekend, and you want Walter to prove himself against a big guy from NXT USA. The problem is that you chose Kassius Ohno, whose entire job is putting guys over. So I’m watching this match and Walter’s doing all the same moves he usually does, and Ohno is looking like he’s holding his own, and all I’m thinking is “How long until Walter wins this match?” If I didn’t know Kassius Ohno and how NXT usually uses him, it probably would have been easier to engage with this. I guess they wanted to save the NXT guys who might have a chance against Walter (Matt Riddle and Keith Lee come to mind) for a possible bigger match down the road, where they might actually have a chance against Walter. I just didn’t get much out of this.
Best: Oney ‘Cause You Left Me
After what I just said about the last match, I suppose I have to concede that the finish of this match was a foregone conclusion as well. It’s a little unclear which NXT Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch really belong to, which I guess is inevitable when you have one guy from each country on the same team, but they were definitely treated like visitors here. There was certainly very little risk that they’d take the Tag Titles off of the Grizzled Young Veterans in this match. The thing is, though, these four guys are so much fun to watch that I was engaged on a level that I never was with KO and Walter (even though I like those guys too).
Oney Lorcan in particular is a standout. He’s incredibly charismatic despite looking like the secret twin brother who lives in Cesaro’s attack, and when he gets really worked up and aggressive, he’s even better. This whole match is a worth a watch, but nothing tops the moment when Lorcan and Gibson are standing face to face in the middle of the ring, with each other’s partners in submission holds, just snarling and slapping each other. It’s exactly the kind of over-the-top, enthusiastically aggressive moment that pro wrestling is so great at, and these guys are really great at pro wrestling.
That’s all for this week. Join me next week when Joseph Conners gets another match against Joseph Conners, and Jordan Devlin fights Travis Banks in a Falls Count Anywhere match.