Last time in the Best and Worst of NXT UK: Finn Bálor showed up looking for WALTER but faced Alexander Wolfe instead. 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 March 19, 2020.
Best: The Insecurity Of Kay Lee Ray
NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray has no reason to worry about Dani Luna. Luna arrived on the roster with no fanfare, no onscreen buzz to speak of. Nevertheless, KLR felt it necessary to interrupt Dani’s match with Amale last week and beat her down, just to show her dominance over the division. Because wrestling is wrestling, that leads immediately to a non-title match between them this week, which the Champion wins pretty easily. Dani Luna’s good, but she was never about to rocket to the top of the division. But it’s still not enough for Kay Lee, who beats up on Dani again after winning the match, until Piper Niven makes the save.
And the thing is, it’s not like their isn’t another female babyface who just joined the roster with lots of fanfare. That’s Aoife Valkyrie. So why isn’t Ray going after her? Hell, if she was prioritizing threats to her title, she’d just be sneak-attacking Piper Niven backstage at every opportunity. But KLR knows those attacks would also lead to matches, and those are matches she could conceivably lose. So she’s not a methodical villain, taking down anyone who might be a threat to her, although that’s what she’d have you think. She’s just a bully, picking fights she knows she can win. That’s good storytelling, and perfect characterization.
One little detail I liked is that after this show-opening match ends and Piper runs KLR off, we cut over to Nigel McGuinness and Andy Shepherd at the commentary desk, who do the usual show intro. But in the background between them, we can see Piper helping Dani to her feet and raising her hand to get cheers. It’s a babyface moment we’ve seen a million times, so letting it play out in the background is a nice touch.
As for Aoife Valkyrie, the top heel may not be going after her yet, but the bottom heel most certainly is. We get a very strong backstage promo from Nina Samuels this episode, and she wants a piece of Valkyrie. KLR’s a bully, so she’s going after the girl she knows she can beat. Samuels is a grasping try-hard, so she’s going after the girl she might not be able to beat, but who everyone will be really impressed with her if she does. Nina’s also a theatre kid, so she ends her promo with a Chicago reference. I have doubts that “the name on everybody’s lips” is gonna be Nina after Aoife defeats her, but let’s be honest that didn’t really work out for Roxie Hart either.
Reasons To Hope The Future Happens
NXT UK is a pleasant time capsule right now. Between WWE and AEW both, this is the last show airing with live crowds. That’s because it’s pre-taped several episodes at a time, of course. I’m sure Covid-19 was on the rise when these tapings happened, but nobody knew (or at least everyone was still ignoring) what a big deal it was going to be.
So when Finn Bálor has a staredown with Tyler Bate on his way out the door, which inspires Tyler to ask Saint and Scala for a match, and then they tell him that they’ll get to that but first he’ll be in a 20-man Battle Royal to determine a Number One Contender for TakeOver: Dublin, it’s hard to not wonder, “Will any of this happen, and if it does will it be in an empty Performance Center?” Right now this show is a blast from the past, but in a couple of weeks they’ll run out of pre-taped, pre-Corona material, and I’m not sure what happens then.
Best: A Strapping Young Man With A Big Stick
Okay, I get Ridge Holland now. I’m in. Sure, maybe he doesn’t seem to display all that much personality. And maybe his hat, coat, and nightstick look a bit like he wandered out of one of those old BBC period detective shows. But the thing about Ridge Holland is that he has a truly ridiculous body. Holland’s got one of those Masters of the Universe action figure bodies that almost nobody in NXT UK — the kingdom of fat guys with big bushy beards and little slim guys with well-trimmed beards — comes close to. Only Tyler Bate is really comparable in that regard, and he’s quite a bit shorter.
But the more important thing, depending on how into wrestling bodies you are, is that Ridge knows how to move his too. He’s that rare combination of an aesthetically flawless physical form with the temperament of a guy who seems like he gets in brawls at pubs. He’s not nasty, he’s just tough. Here he’s up against Joseph Conners, who’s started to feel like enough of a legit competitor that it matters when people beat him. Conners works Holland’s knee throughout the match in an attempt to overcome power with skill, but Holland’s got skill too and of course he gets the win. Is Ridge Holland the guy who eventually takes the title off WALTER? If they continue to build him like this, I could see it.
Always Pretty Good: Tap-Out Artist
I have friends who sometimes declare that they miss Chris Hero, and indie wrestler they loved who disappeared into the WWE machine with a much worse name, and didn’t even get to do much on regular NXT. And what I say to those friends, every time it comes up, is “Watch NXT UK.” This is the show where Kassius Ohno gets to be the veteran juggernaut king of wrestling that he never got to be in NXT Domestic. Sure, he’s an obnoxious heel, but that’s just another thing he’s great at.
I don’t even care about Kenny Williams (and is Amir Jordan MIA again already?), but it’s just fun watching Ohno tap dudes out. Kassius is bigger than most dudes, but he’ll use technical wrestling skills to beat them anyway just to show that he can. It’s not winning that he really cares about the most, it’s proving that he knows more about wrestling than anyone. And he does.
Best: Two Plus Seven Makes Three
This was supposed to be a match between Gallus and South Wales Subculture with Bomber Dave Mastiff joining to make it even, but Mark Andrews got attacked backstage, so helpful local daddy Trent Seven steps in. That turns it into a match between the close-knit Scottish team and three guys from England who know each other. At that point I’m not sure what we’re building to exactly, but it makes for an entertaining main event and a good solid win for Gallus. There’s some extra attention given to the enmity between Joe Coffey and Bomber Dave, but considering they already had a Last Man Standing Match it’s hard to imagine here that leads.
But let’s be honest, we don’t know if anything is leading anywhere right now. We don’t know if NXT UK will be able to tape more shows before TakeOver: Dublin, and we don’t even know if that show will happen on April 26. What we know right now is that we have at least two more episodes coming, with full English crowds cheering and singing their weird soccer songs. So the best thing we can do is enjoy the matches as they happen, and try not to worry about what the future holds. Trying not to worry about what the future holds is becoming a full-time business, to be honest.
That’s all for this installment. Join me next week when Jordan Devlin faces Travis Banks, and A-Kid goes up agains Noam Dar.