NXT UK TAKEOVER BLACKPOOL
JANUARY 12, 2019
BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND AT EMPRESS BALLROOM
REPORT BY ALAN “ALAN 4L” COUNIHAN, PWTORCH COLUMNIST
Much like the two shows which emanated from Royal Albert Hall in June, the latest big event showcasing the wrestlers of the NXT:UK brand wasn’t exactly the talk of the town in the days prior. However much like June’s effort, the first ever NXT:UK Takeover ended up delivering when it was time to and provided the brand with a much needed jolt in the arm.
The weekly show on the WWE Network became weekly shows plural very early into its run and for many fans that was too much of an ask in an already saturated landscape. Despite having some very good matches like Pete Dunne vs. Jordan Devlin and Noam Dar vs. Zack Gibson, NXT:UK simply didn’t have a lot of buzz. On top of that, the big show was placed during a crazy busy time in wrestling with the Tokyo Dome & the launch of AEW just passed and Royal Rumble weekend on the horizon. However a live show with the Takeover brand attached to it was always going to be an opportunity to get a few more eyes on the product, and it was clear that everyone involved in the show felt they needed to make it a homerun. Combining that motivation with a Blackpool crowd that were just as lively as they were for the inaugural WWE:UK tournament two years ago, and the result was a very fun night for those who decided to tune in.
(1) Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) vs. Grizzled Young Vets (James Drake & Zack Gibson) – NXT UK Tag Team Title match
The successful formula of Moustache Mountain kicking off a Takeover show worked as well as it did this past Summer in Chicago. Trent & Tyler bring an energy that fires up crowds and they have a really strong connection with their fans, particularly in the UK. They were sporting British Bulldogs style tights and with his current physique and incredible athleticism, Bate could definitely pass as Dynamite. Trent as Davey Boy….. well that’s a bit more of a stretch.
Drake & Gibson have been a regular tandem in PROGRESS for nearly two years and are close friends and business partners outside the ring as well. They have great chemistry as a team, and as personalities could best be compared to Dastardly & Muttley. This match however was Muttley’s chance to step out in front of Dick Dastardly and get some of the limelight for himself.
NXT brass must be high on Drake because they made a concerted effort to highlight the fact that he was the key to the GYV winning the match and becoming the first ever NXT:UK tag champs. In the lead-up to the finish, he hit an incredible topé suicida that nobody saw coming due to the fact that Tyler was positioned on Gibson’s shoulders. Then as Trent tried to soar through the ropes, Drake had the awareness to cut him off with a dropkick. They rolled him in and finished him off with the Ticket To Mayhem while the announcers really put JD over.
Moustache Mountain got plenty of shine in this one too, with Bate exhibiting many crazy feats of athleticism such as a wild double airplane spin, a ridiculous backwards flip from a neck bridge and a shooting star press to the floor. Seven played a great face in peril after getting his head busted open accidentally via an elbow smash. They are as complete a team as there is in the world right now, and young Tyler is getting better at the same rate as his fashion sense gets wilder – and that is FAST let me tell you.
This was a great match and a great way to open the show. It’s set a nice early bar for tag team matches in 2019 to clear.
Match Rating : 8.5/10
(2) Jordan Devlin vs. Finn Balor
What was supposed to be Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks took an unexpected turn after Devlin attacked The Kiwi Buzzsaw backstage and then finished the job before the bell rang in the ring. The result was authority figures Sid Scala and Johnny Saint coming out and announcing a replacement to make the bout an all Irish affair. Yes, the Irish Ace would go one on one against his trainer for the first time ever (with camera’s present anyway).
Balor’s entrance got one of the biggest pops of the night. He had broken Devlin into wrestling alongside co-trainer Paul Tracey in Bray’s NWA Ireland gym in the mid 2000s. Jordan was a tiny 13 year old at the time, but loved wrestling more than all but a few fans you’ll ever meet and had the passion to really try to follow in the footsteps of his trainer. Whilst he’s absolutely proven himself as the man in OTT, he’s been plagued by the Balor association quite a bit of the time he’s wrestled in the UK. It felt like this was a good match to have happen as it allowed the UK fans to (hopefully) get the Balor comparisons out of their system and going forward Jordan can be appreciated for what he is – and that’s one of the very best wrestlers in the world.
Finn seemed more motivated than he has in a lot of his recent WWE outings, but the funny thing is that for Jordan this was low gear stuff. He’s been wrestling at such a high level that this was barely scratching the surface of his best stuff. At times it definitely feels like the student has surpassed the teacher. It was a nice little match and Devlin got to look good before putting over the bigger star clean in the middle. He went for his beautiful moonsault (shades of the Essa Rios style from the former Mr. Aguila II) but met the knees of Balor. A John Woo dropkick followed by the Coup de Grace and it was all she wrote.
Match Rating : 6.5/10
(3) Eddie Dennis vs. Dave Mastiff – No DQ match
This served as the plunder match on the show and it was fun for what it was. Both Dennis and Mastiff are considered big guys on the brand but for completely different reasons. Eddie is 6’5 but is lanky and wiry (think early Kendall Windham), whilst “The Bomber” is built like a bowling ball – as wide as he is tall, at over 300 lbs.
They are two experienced guys and they worked well together. Everything in the match was intense and crisp for the most part. They built around Dennis trying and failing multiple times to get Mastiff up for his crucifix bomb into the corner, and at one point he opted to just drop him down with an impressive Powerbomb. Mastiff was out to impress too, at one point pulling off a shocking double jump splitted legged moonsault!
A table became involved and annoyingly became all the fans cared about. Lots of jokey table chanting distracted from a damn fine finish with saw Mastiff bowl over Dennis with a rolling cannonball through the hard-wood.
Match Rating : 6.5/10
(4) Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Toni Storm for the NXT: UK Women’s Title
Rhea Ripley is such a lock to be a star it’s not even funny. She’s 22 years old and will be the lynchpin of both the NXT and WWE women’s rosters for the guts of the next 15 years. She has EVERYTHING they want. Imposing size, a great look, star aura & charisma, and a believable solid wrestling style. She’s also incredibly comfortable being a heel, and good natural heels is something they can never have enough of. She was once again outstanding here when presented with a big opportunity.
But all that said, tonight wasn’t about Rhea Ripley, it was about Toni Storm. The Mae Young Classic winner who was riding on a high just a few months ago has had to battle serious injuries and a really unfortunate invasion of her personal life that was made public in recent weeks. A big win here will hopefully allow her to put those issues in the rear view mirror and move forward into a big 2019 which sees her become not just the face of NXT:UK’s women’s division, but also a key player in NXT and maybe even the main roster at some point.
With Ripley the natural heel and Toni as natural a babyface as you’ll find, the dynamic between these two will always work. Ripley did a great job laying a beatdown on Storm and trash-talking the whole way through. Toni’s fight-back was well done and she rallied the crowd behind her before finishing off her fellow Aussie with two Storm Zero’s (the Tiger Driver version as opposed to her snap Piledriver).
Match Rating : 6.5/10
(5) Pete Dunne (c) vs. Joe Coffey – WWE United Kingdom Title match
As reigning champion for over 600 days, Pete has made himself the star attraction of NXT:UK. He’s taken on and defeated all comers from Danny Burch, to Roderick Strong to Jordan Devlin. This, his 19thtelevised defence, was one that he really had to win for the sake of the brand. Joe Coffey is very good wrestler, a pro’s pro if ever there was one, but he and his Gallus faction as just not exciting enough to carry this thing moving forward.
They picked the right result here as Dunne won after over 30 minutes of action which seemed to win over and lose back the crowd on multiple occasions. It definitely didn’t need to be as long as it was and came across as a “forced epic” at times. The first half of the match was at times excruciatingly boring with Coffey locking the champ in hold after hold that were not exactly doing anything to engage the crowd in a positive or negative manner. Seeing 48 year old Chris Jericho working hard every second he had Tetsuya Naito in a hold last week at the Dome, doing the most to get a ton out of something simple, makes it inexcusable for guys to be lethargic at any point in a big match like this.
To be fair to Coffey, he made up for it with some serious efforts in the second half of the bout. He took some crazy bumps including two from the top rope to the floor barely 90 seconds apart. Dunne offered up a bit of everything from high flying, to brawling to technical stuff and definitely put in a performance worthy of being the champion. He retained his belt through submission while attacking Coffey’s hand in the top triangle position.
The match had it’s ups and downs for sure but some exciting moments in the back end made the slog that was the early portion just about worth it.
Match Rating : 7/10
It was the post-match that will make all the headlines, however. They tried to fool you by leaving the little WWE Network bug up in the bottom right of the screem indicating the show being done, but as Pete celebrated suddenly it was time for Dvořák Symphony No. 9, 4th Movement. Yes indeed the music that signals the march of The Ring General filled the room in Blackpool and 2018’s Wrestler of the Year made his way to the ring to go face to face with Dunne.
Coffey tried to reinsert himself into the scene and he was met with a sudden and fearsome big boot from WALTER. It was a perfect introduction for the Austrian and gives NXT:UK a bigtime match moving forward.
FINAL THOUGHTS: With one great match and nothing even close to bad, this was a very enjoyable show and one worth making time for. The hot Blackpool crowd added a lot and everyone was motivated to put their best foot forward.