The second episode of NXT UK since their return from pandemic hiatus stepped up things a lot from last week. For one thing, NXT UK Champion WALTER was back in action, even if it was just a short non-title match against Saxon Huxley that served mainly to remind everyone what WALTER’s like and how easily he can dominate someone like Huxley, who is himself not a small or unintimidating man.
They also had Pete Dunne show up as a special guest to help with the drawing to determine the first round matchups in the UK Heritage Cup tournament. It was a little weird to hear Pete talk about the legacy of British wrestling and then say “and you’re the future” to a bunch of his peers, several of whom are older than him. But the important thing is that he bent back Noam Dar’s fingers when the Scottish Supernova’s behavior got out of hand, and next week, he’s going to be the special guest referee in Dar’s match against Alexander Wolfe, which should be pretty violent. As for the match-ups, Joseph Conners will face Bomber Dave Mastiff, Flash Morgan Webster will go up against A-Kid, and Trent Seven faces the “Wildcard” entrant, who I believe will be decided in a triple threat match next week.
Pretty Deadly, who seem like they might be taking on Eddie Dennis as a coach or manager, defeated the Hunt. There was talk about the Hunt’s tendency to lose, which sounds like they’re hinting a heel turn. Considering Wild Boar and Primate are barely verbal semi-human monsters already, it would kind of make sense for them to go that way.
By a wide margin, the highlight of the show — and he first time I felt compelled to say “Oh damn, NXT UK is BACK!” — was the main event, in which Kay Lee Ray defended the NXT UK Women’s Championship against Piper Niven. After months of KLR keeping that belt at home with nary a mention of its existence on WWE TV, this match was a good reminder that for the women of this division, it’s everything.
The match started conventionally, with Piper being big and big-hearted and strong, and KLR being bendy, devious, and psychological. But then they were on the outside, and Kay Lee tried to knee Piper’s head against the steps, but Piper dodged and it was Kay Lee’s knee that was smashed against the steel. She crumpled and was immediately attended to by officials, who insisted they could end the match and do it again later. Kay Lee seemed barely able to stand on her own, and Piper was extremely upset but accepted that today wasn’t going to be the day.
Then the challenger made the mistake of being nice to the champion. She approached as KLR was being helped to the back, and said it was fine and they could fight for that title another day. Kay Lee seemed incensed about the idea of giving Piper another chance to take her title later, and she broke away from the officials who were helping her to the back and struck Niven in the face.
Piper wasted no time then, grabbing the injured champ and throwing her back into the ring. From there, the match continued, with KLR selling her messed up knee the entire time. Once her offer to call off the match was rejected, Piper didn’t hesitate to wrench that injured knee in every direction. I’ve even seen people online saying this might be a double turn, but I don’t think it’s that (at least not yet). It’s just Kay Lee Ray being an unusual sort of heel who refuses to give up, and Piper having to find a more brutal side of herself in response.
At one point Kay Lee, seemingly by accident, pulled one of the bottom turnbuckle pads off, so when Piper went for a cannonball KLR was able to dodge, Piper’s back hit bare metal, and Kay Lee Ray got the pin to retain. It was a hell of a match in more ways than one. As it ended, Jinny showed up to eye Kay Lee and the Championship, making it clear that there’s no time for rest or recovery when you’re the Women’s Champion.
And now that I think about it, Jinny is a notorious heel, so maybe we are going to see a less villainous Kay Lee Ray going forward. In any case, a heel who refuses to quit is much easier to root for than the usual WWE cowardly heel, which Jinny embodies. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.