Last time in the last Best and Worst of NXT UK: Piper Niven defeated Rhea Ripley, and Imperium devastated Mustache Mountain, forcing Trent Seven to watch as WALTER brutally beat Tyler Bate. 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 July 10, 2019.
Worst: Levels Of Reality Removed
I don’t mean to expose the business here, but I think we all know that NXT UK doesn’t take place in quite the same world that we live in. NXT UK takes place in a world where the events of its individual TV episodes happen a week apart from each other, instead of being taped in big blocks. That means it also takes place in a world where the Download Music Festival is like a month long, at least. Can you imagine how dirty all those metalheads must be by week three? And like all wrestling shows, NXT UK also takes place in a world where doing violence to other people with your bare hands isn’t just a reasonable choice in certain extreme circumstances, it’s a choice almost everyone makes, with the biggest different being why they make it, and whether or not we’re meant to respect their reasons.
Take Ashton Smith, for instance. He hasn’t gotten a lot of character time on NXT UK, but it’s pretty clear that he’s one of those guys who participates in the violence of wrestling out of a desire to prove himself. He needs to show the world that he’s more than just a mashup of Ricochet and Cesaro, who also kind of looks like Jesse Williams but has a tattoo of a necklace. He needs to show the world that he’s a potential champion, and socially acceptable violence is his path to that goal.
Ilja Dragunov doesn’t need those sorts of reasons. He does violence because he was made for it. He’s a red-eyed monster from the cartoon version of Russia that existed in the movies and wrestling of the 1980s (and which might not actually be so different from the real Russia that exists in 2019). Ilja Dragunov looks like a flawed clone of Ivan Drago, and considering the names I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Despite the necklace tat, Ashton Smith seems more or less like a guy who could exist in the real world, whereas Ilja is a cartoon devil. I don’t know where that takes him in this company, but I’m curious about it.
That curiosity isn’t enough for me to give this match a best, though. It’s a pretty good first match on a good episode of NXT UK, but it’s still a pretty boring guy and a ridiculous cartoon fighting for no particular reason. Taking out Smith makes Dragunov looks strong, sure, but I don’t even know where he goes next. What can a cartoon monster do on a brand that’s currently being dominated by humorless fascist heels? Time will tell, and I feel like it’s a problem that Ilja is charismatic and weird enough to overcome if given half a chance. We’ll just have to see.