Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT UK: Danny Burch and Pete Dunne tore the house down with some digits-based combat, the Wolfgang Gang solidified their threat, and we gazed in wonder at the impossible 6-foot-5 giant that is Eddie Dennis.
This week we got two new episodes back-to-back again, so if you’d like to watch them, you can do so here and here. If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, click right here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter.
And now, the fifth edition of Best and Worst of NXT UK, covering episodes seven and eight for November 14, 2018.
Best: RIP Train Station To Hell
We’ve finally made it to a new set of tapings — apparently NXT UK’s got 10 years of these things in the can and Pete Dunne is actually in his late 30s now — and it’s time to say goodbye to the spooky train station with evil lighting and that awkward video wall where guys had to cut promos with their backs to the entire crowd. This week we’re coming to you from the Insomnia Gaming Festival in Birmingham, which lacks the delightful Britishness of “Royal Albert Hall” and the comedy name of the “Corn Exchange.” I was hoping they’d shoot it from the Governor’s Croquet Field at the beautiful Green Beat Depository in Yorkshire.
But yeah, it’s a good looking venue, and at least there are some fans on the hard cam side this time. I don’t think I could stomach another six hours of nobody on the roster being able to make eye contact with a human being.
Best: The NXT UK Women’s Championship
This week’s big announcement from NXT’s father figure Triple H and its great, great grandfather figure in Johnny Saint, is an 8-woman tournament for the newly minted (several months ago) NXT UK Women’s Championship. Your competitors are, from left to right:
- Xia Brookside, former Mae Young Classic competitor and Robbie Brookside’s daughter who was born in the form of a snow cone
- Millie McKenzie, the Pete Dunne protege who was once described to be as, “Minoru Suzuki if he was a teenage girl”
- Isla Dawn, the Modern Day Witch, who doesn’t actually do anything witchy, she just *presents*
- Dakota Kai, NXT domestic’s Bayley In Residence who is the captain of Team Kick, even though her finisher is a thing with her knees
- Toni Storm, the 2018 Mae Young Classic winner who’d be a ringer for first UK Women’s Champion if there wasn’t more money in the chase
- Nina Samuels, who is here to lose to someone in round one
- Jinny, the “fashionista” with enviable bone structure who keeps popping in via vignette to remind us that she likes fashion very much
- Rhea Ripley, the SWITCHBABE, who looks like she could cram the other seven women together and rip them all in half at the same time
If you follow WWE on social media you’ve already had the result of the tournament spoiled for you, which isn’t surprising, because the belt was awarded back in August, and the UK Women’s Champion was even supposed to have a match at WWE Evolution before they realized none of the tapings would air in time. I’ll avoid spoiling that here for your convenience, and only kind of dramatically hint at the results non-stop.
Best: Now I Don’t Feel So Bad About Hating On Ligero
Up first on episode one is a quick Jordan Devlin squash of the extremely squashable Sid Scala, who I almost described as the “British Drake Maverick” like an idiot. Sid is my favorite NXT UK jobber so far because he’s such a jobsman. He looks like a premature baby got a chip on its shoulder, put on a pair of red underwear, and started trying to hit people.
After the match, Devlin, who is beginning to look and sound more like Prince Devitt than Finn Bálor, cuts a promo shitting on Ligero for thinking he’s a luchador when “he’s from Leeds,” and makes everybody including NXT interviewer Huey Freeman laugh. I feel better about thinking Ligero was lame now that I see a heel, a face announcer, and an entire crowd of fans laughing about him. Jordan Devlin’s fast-tracking his way to being my favorite guy, not gonna lie. If he shows up riding on Eddie Dennis’ shoulders in a leather jacket trimmed with LED lights, I’m done.
Tag Teams, Back Again?
We flash back to Mustache Mountain saying they want the soon-to-be-formed-like-babby NXT UK Tag Team Championship, which we know because of tape delay exist and look like a pair of spaghetti dinners. 2-for-20 entrees, only at the Green Bean Depository.
Because these titles are going to exist, teams need to start forming, so a lot of free-balling singles guys are becoming tag teams to see what it gets them. This week we get two of those going head-to-head. The “Muscle Cat” who is neither muscular nor a cat, Saxon Huxley, drops Great Value Sheamus Sam Gradwell in favor of teaming with the guy pictured above, Joseph Conners. He lost part of his left ear, which you can see, which makes him intense. His strikes are hard! So far he reminds me of a regular man-sized version of The Chosen One Drew McIntyre. Not current Drew McIntyre, mind you, who reminds me of that giant you have to team up with everyone to defeat in Final Fantasy IV. The other team pairs up Amir Jordan with Kenny Williams in a very 205 Live jobber team.
The heels win, of course, but once again Kenny Williams impressed me more than anyone. That kid’s got a natural grace to him that’s hard to explain. His footsteps just look and feel light. It’s the same thing Kofi Kingston has, which makes his acrobatic stuff (especially in Royal Rumbles) make sense. He just looks like his center of gravity is in his head. Kenny Williams is my lowest-ass-card guy, saying it now.
Best: b i g s t r o n g b o i
The best match of episode seven (the force awakens) is Tyler Bate vs. James Drake, who you may remember as the “grit your teeth” guy from last week. The best part of the match is that when you’re watching it here, it doesn’t seem like it’s happening for much of a reason other than to put Tyler Bate over as a singles star in addition to his highly popularized tag stuff. In episode eight, it actually matters! We’ll get to that in a sec.
The first thing I want to note is how great NXT UK’s been at these back-and-forth type of TV main events, because since viewers like me aren’t profusely familiar with everyone, we don’t necessarily come into them going, “oh, ____ is obviously going to win.” Not like we’re watching Bobby Lashley wrestle Jinder Mahal and sitting through four minutes of Jinder chinlocks while they try to convince us he’s going to take it, you know? Bate’s a little different, I guess, because he’s almost in too good of a shape for the rest of the roster, so he comes across like one of those old NWA or World Class mid-card babyfaces who’d show up looking like Mr. goddamn Olympia in bikini briefs to wrestle guys who look like they work at the gas station.
“Grit your teeth” is a name I’m always going to make fun of, but I love that he hit it so hard in this match that it fucked up NXT UK’s hit detection, and Bate just kinda floated above him somehow and bounced off his back. It felt like a car wreck. Once I’m done obsessing over him looking like Seth Green pretending to be Adam Page and calling himself “Mr. Mayhem,” I’m going to dig Drake a lot.
Best: Seven Down
Jumping ahead to episode eight, we get that promised Trent Seven vs. Zack Gibson match, and Big Strong Boi shows up to keep Gibson from bailing. I like when babyfaces are friends like that, because it makes sense in the context of the match, but is still technically “unfair” enough for Nigel McGuiness to side with the heel. And for ME to side with the heel, because I’m nothing if not the fakest Internet millennial Jesse Ventura.
Bate was too busy smirking at his good deeds to see a man yelling GRIT YOUR TEETH over and over sneaking up on him to toss him into the ring steps, as James Drake shows back up to even the odds (which were only uneven because the heel was trying to bail, but semantics). Drake helps Gibson get the win over Seven, and now Progress Wrestling’s own Grizzled Young Veterans are together as a unit on NXT television. That’s so good for the tag team division, so good for Mustache Mountain (as they can actually have rivals now, instead of just floating around as waving guest stars), and so good for the continued identity of the new brand. I was gonna be sad if Wolfgang And Friends was the only faction running around.
Oh, speaking of, they show up after the match too, because like the jokes have said, they are the NXT UK version of the nWo.
Somewhere In The Middle: Lupine Fiasco
First of all, +1 to reader Obi Wan Jabroni for giving me the best possible name for Wolfgang and the Coffey Brothers’ faction. “Maxwell Howls” was also a good suggestion. Spoiler alert, the readers are way funnier than me.
Anyway, the actual main event of episode seven (angel) is Wolfgang vs. Straford-Upon-Maven. It’s shorter than Drake vs. Bate, nowhere near as competitive and good, and … eh, it’s fine. It’s another step in establishing Wolfgang and the Coffey Brothers as a threat, but we’ve done a lot of that so far. I’m going to attempt to start calling the Coffeys “Weezing,” because Weezing is basically two Koffings. I am really gonna need to see something out of Ashton Smith soon, because the crowd halfheartedly going “boop!” during parts of his entrance theme isn’t enough.
Best: The Women’s Tournament
Episode eight (the last jedi) gives us our first first-round matches in the NXT UK Women’s Championship tournament, starting off with Dakota Kai vs. Nina Samuels. I already made the joke about how Samuels was only here to lose to someone in round one, and sure enough, she gets paired with the most “known” NXT character right out of the gate. Samuels might as well be one of those supporting characters on GLOW who shows up to say a sarcastic line in the background but two seasons in still hasn’t gotten her own episode.
I’m still worried about Kai’s finisher — the “Kai-ropractor,” because the first thing they ask you on your NXT UK job application is, “do your moves have ridiculous names?” — and it looks about as bad as it’s ever looked here. Samuels doesn’t look like she’s sure she knows how to take the move, so Kai just kinda buffers mid-animation and they flip over about half-way. I’m not trying to write this move out of existence, I just don’t want to write the An NXT Star Suffered A Major Injury At Last Night’s Tapings post.
Okay, Millie McKenzie is the shit.
I’m going to guess Jinny just knows how to work a heel kind of match really well, because coming out of this my major thought was, “Millie is 18, and has been training for just about a year? She’s clearly a dozen times better than Jinny.” As the match went on, I kinda realized that’s how it’d be designed, so hey, I’m in. I don’t know if Millie is teenage Minoru Suzuki, but she’s certainly teenage Pete Dunne, and while I’m not sure NXT UK’s ever going to do intergender wrestling (as it’s under the WWE umbrella), I sure wouldn’t hate to see the goddamn Bruisermates show up in a tag team tournament.
Some of Jinny’s stuff looked nice, her submissions and that ripcord Koppu kick especially, but she seems born and bred to be the kind of wrestling heel that beats someone in round one of a tournament, only to lose to someone better in round two. Happy to be proven wrong!
Finally, The Saga Of Tyson T-Bone
As a reminder, I’m still getting used to who everyone is and am not deeply versed in current Britwres, so a lot of this column’s early days will be first impressions. I don’t think anyone has made as hilariously bad a first impression one me than TYSON T-BONE, a guy in wrinkly cargo pants whose name is “Tyson T-Bone.” His strikes are hard! But yeah, no, it’s not 1998 and Gadzooks went out of business, I’m not cheering anybody in cargo pants unless they walk out through the crowd announcing themselves with the phonetic alphabet.
T-Bone (who doesn’t even T-bone anybody) defeats American Gladiators contestant Jake Constantinou with a lariat. Tyson T-Bone looks and wrestles exactly like that guy at your local indie who SEEMS like he’s in good shape and has a deep tan and a ton of tattoos, but mostly just hits people for real and never really got anywhere because he’s up his own ass. You know the guy. Again, I’m happy to be wrong, and I’m happy to see another body type on NXT UK, I just … man, was Freddy Filet Mignon taken?
T-Bone returns his steak a few minutes later during Dave Mastiff’s squash of a guy I’m just going to pretend they said was named Damn Bologna. It was “Dan Maloney,” but give me this. This leads to a backstage confrontation between the two hosses, one of whom we literally just met, in classic First Episode Of Nitro style.
You know, I’m ready for a big hoss fight (and I assume T-Bone’s around just so Mastiff can plow through him), but I’m more interested in Johnny Saint getting between two big guys and screaming at them until they stop fighting. I wish he’d curled up into a ball between them and defeated both of them with the Lady of the Lake. Can we get Johnny Saint in the ring one of these episodes? I know he can still go. If I can’t get William Regal vs. Pete Dunne because of neck surgeries, I at least want Johnny Saint shutting down some 20-year old with a snapmare and a ridiculous submission where he looks like a drinking bird.