Last time in the Best and Worst of NXT UK: It was the end of April, and NXT UK put out a “Hidden Gems” episode featuring matches that had never aired on TV before. Now it’s the end of May, and they’ve done that again. It’s become more feasible now that tapings will be possible in the foreseeable future, but in the meantime don’t be surprised if we’re back at the end of June for another Hidden Gems edition even more bottom-of-the-barrel than this one. 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 Hidden Gems, from May 28, 2020.
Best: Prince And The Revolution
This is a recent match — in fact I believe it’s from the last taping in March — so we’re getting fully formed Heel Finn Bálor versus Travis Banks Kenny Williams, one of the six or seven guys in the UK brand with a similar look to Finn Bálor. The just-recorded socially distanced commentary from Tom Philips and Andy Shepherd is hyping up the NXT In Your House match between Finn and Damian Priest, while the Finn of almost three months ago in the ring is focused on WALTER. We know this because more than once he looks into the camera and addresses WALTER.
That part’s a little weird, because Finn talks as if WALTER’s a babyface, despite the big guy being one of NXT UK’s nastiest heels. Finn’s doing that heel thing where he’s beating up a guy he doesn’t care about to show how he’s going to beat up the guy he does care about, but there’s no way WALTER cares what happens to Kenny Williams, nor does he see Kenny’s fate as predictive of his own.
All that is secondary to the match itself, which is great. Finn is so dominant in the beginning that I worried it was going to be a squash, but then Kenny gets it together and manages some offense against the Prince. Of course he never really stands a chance. I’ll go ahead and spoil the rest of the matches now: This is an episode of NXT UK in which nobody from the current NXT UK roster wins their match. But heel or not, I can’t help but root for Bálor over Williams. Not just because my Irish granddad would roll over in his grave if I cheered for the Englishman over the Irishman, but because Finn rules pretty hard and Kenny is just, you know, this guy. So I was more than ready by the time the Coup De Grâce came and ended things.
Worst: The Actor’s Nightmare
This was apparently Rhea Ripley’s last NXT UK match, and I guess they never aired it because it’s less than five minutes and against Nina Samuels. And honestly, even at that length it feels like it takes Rhea too long to put her away. Nina’s gimmick is “delusional grownup theatre kid” while Rhea’s gimmick is “has huge muscles and will kick your goddamned ass.” Rhea doesn’t need to be selling basically anything the woman who competes with Isla Dawn for bottom of the UK women’s division card can do. Just Riptide her and pin her. But of course, four minutes in that’s exactly what she does. I fear NXT UK may have already run out of unaired women’s division matches that could reasonably be called “Hidden Gems.”
Worst: Down With The Thickness
I know Killian Dane’s lost a bit of weight since he was the hulking monster of Sanity, but it’s still pretty funny how he’s such a beast in NXT Domestic, but then you bring him over to NXT UK and he just looks like the long-lost fourth member of Gallus. The only thing that makes Killian more beastly than five or six guys on this roster is the amount of hair growing on his shoulders, and Wild Boar might compete with him even on that front.
Still, Dane’s more than a match for Kenny Williams Travis Banks, who’s known as the Kiwi Buzzsaw because he’s from New Zealand and I tend to snore when he’s wrestling. That’s not really fair. I quite liked his title shot against WALTER. But Killian Dane isn’t WALTER, and this isn’t a title match, it’s a dark match from Download Fest that they haven’t bothered to air until two and a half months into a pandemic with no new tapings. So it is what it is. Dane wins, because I guess he needs to be protected for whatever they’ve got him doing over in NXT Domestic (is it nothing? I feel like at the moment it’s nothing), and at last we can move on to the main event.
Best: Where There’s Smoke
Okay, this match is pretty cool. It’s a Six-Man Tag featuring the Street Profits and Matt Riddle versus the Grizzled Young Veterans and Joseph “just here to take the pin” Conners. This is definitely the coolest thing Conners has ever been involved in, but imagine how great this match would be if the GYVs were teaming with Noam Dar or Jordan Devlin. I imagine those guys were too busy with whatever else was going on at the taping where this was the Dark Match “Main Event.”
The segment starts with a Zack Gibson promo, which is never a bad thing. Then he hands the mic to James Drake, and commentary says “We’ll find out what Drake has to say after this.” They run an ad, and when we return Joseph Conners is talking. It’s actually kind of a good gag. Conners says the three of them will take on anyone in the world, and that brings out three of the most American Superstars imaginable, the Street Profits and Riddle. And since this is from last summer, both the Grizzled Young Veterans and the Street Profits are holding their brands’ respective Tag Team Titles.
Plus, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins are hanging out with Matt Riddle, a guy who always has the smoke, so they’ve got everything they’ve ever wanted in this moment.
The match is really great, and really serves to show what Gibson and Drake can do. Ford spends quite a while as the Face in Peril, unable to make a tag, and he’s as great in that role as he is at everything else. Plus we get to see Riddle throwing dudes around like it’s nothing, and Gibson imitating Dawkins’ mixing bowl taunt. It’s good stuff all around, and honestly makes this episode worth a watch.
I don’t know if there are any more Hidden Gems left in the bag after this episode, but it’s looking like we may get a chance to find out. Whenever more new stuff airs, I’ll be here to recap it.