Last time in the Best and Worst of NXT UK: Aoife Valkyrie defeated Nina Samuels, and Travis Banks did his best against Jordan Devlin. 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 April 2, 2020.
Things I Love #1: This episode features one match with almost the entire men’s roster in it, which basically takes up the second half of the show. So what do they do? Spend the first half of the show on two matches that feature the women’s roster. Any non-NXT wrestling show (including AEW Dynamite) would have found a way to fill out that time without any extra focus on the women, and I’m glad this brand is different in that regard.
Things I Love #2: It’s great that Kay Lee Ray and Jinny seem to get along. They’re both cocky heels, so their readiness to team up might be a surprise. But all Jinny cares about is being the most stylish queen in NXT UK, and all Kay Lee cares about is the Women’s Championship. Jinny’s not after the title (at least not right now) so she’s no threat to Kay Lee, and Kay Lee only ever wears jeans when she’s not in ring gear, so she’s no threat to Jinny. Plus teaming up with KLR helps Jinny feel important, and teaming up with Jinny helps KLR look strong against her probably next challenger Piper Niven. I love it when people get along and character motivations make sense.
The team-up between Niven and Dani Luna is if anything less cohesive than the heel alliance, but that makes sense too. Dani’s brand new and does’t really know anyone, and all of Piper’s previous friends have either turned to the dark side or fled the show for Parts Unknown. So it seems likely early on that the heel team will win, and sure enough, they do.
If I have a complaint about this match, it’s that they do a little too much of that clichéd thing where the heels are cheating and the babyface who’s not legal (Piper in this case) tries to get in the ring to deal with it, so the ref spends like a full two minutes turned entirely toward the babyface corner yelling to stay out of the ring while the heels do whatever they want behind his back. You’d think refs would eventually learn which wrestlers can be trusted. But that’s just wrestling, I guess.
The Changeling Returns
Literal Faery Childe Xia Brookside is back from a hiatus (and what an episode to return on!) and celebrates by getting a solid win against Amale, who’s name I really wish was pronounced Ah-mah-lay but apparently it isn’t. This is almost a squash, but it makes Xia look strong on her return. It also reverses the body image stereotyping of the first match, by pitting a likable skinny girl against a bad girl with a booty. I’m not sure that needed doing, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional, but they did it all the same.
Xia’s growing a lot as a performer, which I like watching. That finisher is a little slow and awkward in the middle, but I like what she’s going for. Hopefully she’ll be able to keep training for however long the show’s not taping. She’s from a wrestling family, so you have to assume she’s well-equipped for working out. (Is there a “Brookside Dungeon?”)
The Final Blow-Out
It’s pretty great actually that the last match before an unannounced hiatus of undetermined length is a 20-man Battle Royal. Just let all the guys get in the ring one last time to do all their shit before everybody goes home. Not that they knew what was going to happen when they taped this, but it was well into March so they may have at least had an inkling that things were about to get weird.
Here are some things I liked in the Battle Royal:
- Moustache Mountain entering together and smiling at each other like “Are we really going to fight if it comes down to it?”
- A-Kid using Saxton Huxley to avoid letting his feet hit the ground when he gets thrown over the top rope. You could call this “the Kofi spot” but I don’t think Kofi has ever ridden a man like a beast of burden.
- The fact that the Tag Team members of both Gallus and Imperium aren’t in the match. A three man faction would be too strong in a match like this, especially if it’s guys as big as Gallus or as skilled as Imperium. Leaving those guys out lets Joe Coffey and Alexander Wolfe look strong on their own (especially since they both make it to the final four) with dominating unfairly.
- Moustache Mountain really fighting each other when it does come down to it.
- Bomber Dave Mastiff being the guy it takes a whole bunch of guys to toss out.
- Ilja Dragunov and Tyler Bate as the final two. I know they’re both faces, but they look great in the ring together and I hope this leads to a one-on-one match down the road (even if it’s way down the road).
- Ilja winning. He’s been on the rise since his arrival, and this is a great look for wrestling’s most likable Soviet Super-Soldier. Plus he eliminates Bate because Tyler can’t help showing off instead of stepping through the ropes like a normal person, which illustrates Tyler’s number one flaw.
Of course, we don’t know when Ilja will actually get his shot at WALTER, because this is the last episode of NXT UK that was taped before the Coronavirus shut everything down. The plan had been to record some episode at WrestleMania Axxess like last year, but obviously that’s not happening. They don’t mention this on the air, but they do promote a “Rise of NXT UK” recap show for next week. We’ll see what happens the week after that, and the week after that, and so on. I’ve grown to love this show, and I’ll miss it for however long its gone. At the same time, I can’t say I’m sad that they’re not just recording crowd-free episodes at the UK Performance Center.
So we don’t know when there will be more new episodes of NXT UK, but when there are I’ll be here to recap them.
Goodbye, crowds. I hope it’s not forever.