SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
My name is Chad Koenig. I’m a 30-plus year wrestling fan from Albany, NY. I am a contributor to PWTorch and review NXT UK TV shows. I wanted to offer a series of “Top 5” lists to introduce people to NXT UK if they haven’t watched it before and give fans of the brand my list matches from NXT UK that I feel are amongst the finest of the brand. Every list will be different. The theme for this, my first list, will be my five favorite matches from NXT UK. I hope you enjoy them!
WWE UK Championship Match
NXT UK, Oct. 17, 2018 (Inaugural episode)
For my inaugural list, it’s only appropriate that we start with a match from the inaugural episode of NXT UK. And rightly so because this episode has some classic matches, and this one was no exception. Tyler Bate defeated Pete Dunne on January 15, 2017 to become the first NXT UK Champion, after they both competed in a tournament for the title. Dunn then took the title from Bate four months later at NXT Takeover: Chicago, and started his impressive run of champion for a whopping 685 days. In this match, Noam Dar challenged Dunne for that gold.
As an old-school fan, matches like this, that have a definitive face and heel, are seemingly rare. Dar is a tremendous heel. One of the few that people just DON’T cheer for. This match had a big feel to it with the title being on the line, and the crowd being on fire. It is a great introduction to what British wrestling is. It’s much more hard-hitting and heavier on brawling than it’s American counterpart. Areas of the ring are used differently, especially the apron, which really is the hardest part of the ring. Dunne’s signature finger manipulation was put on display. He legitimately makes you cringe. The back and forth nature of this match was exciting and told a fantastic story in the ring. and the fans were into the outcome. An absolute clinic.
NXT UK Championship Match
NXT, Dec. 20, 2017
Nearly a year after their battle for the title that Bate won, the two battled again here on an episode of (American) NXT. These two competitors, along with Trent Sveen, were an influential, young wrestling stable called ‘British Strong Style, dating back to the previous year, so there’s no shortage of history here. Those three athletes, I say, are amongst the best wrestlers in the world, and this 30+ minute match shows you why.
The one downside of this match has nothing to do with the match as it does with the fact that it was in front of an American crowd. Even though the crowd was into it, especially at the end, they might not be quite used to the style and long-format of the match, but thats how a great story is told. My favorite moment came at the 1:05:25 moment where the two throw fists that mimic ‘Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots’ that would seem hokey if done by anyone else. It was an impressive battle.
GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. MOUSTACHE MOUNTAIN (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)
NXT UK Tag Team Championship Match
NXT UK, Jul. 3, 2019
Like the previous match Dunne/ Bate match, this was a rematch between these two teams who battled for the inaugural NXT UK Tag Team championship. Grizzled Young Veterans took home the prize that night, and a rematch was not only inevitable, but highly anticipated.
During this match, both teams gave everything that they had, and the British crowd loved it. It was a fine depiction of what hard-hitting tag team wrestling can be, with great storylines weaved in.
Another reason why I chose this match was the ending. The interruption with Imperium was an early attack for the faction which went on to dominate the brand throughout the rest of 2019, and still do this date. It set up a lot of feuds including the next match, which is arguably the best match in the young history of NXT UK.
NXT UK Championship Match
NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff, Aug. 31, 2019
This match came not too long after Walter defeated Pete Dunne and his impressive reign as champion. After that, the members of British Strong Style went on to a classic feud with Imperium. Throughout the feud, Imperium took out British Strong Style definitively. When Walter was in the ring talking to management to look for a competitor at NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff, it was a surprise to see Tyler Bate well enough to challenge the mammoth Walter. and as I said before, went on to have one of the best matches of 2019- across all wrestling platforms.
Why do I think everybody should watch this match? Because it has every quality of a great match. It was a 45-minute clinic that told a great story of redemption and revenge on a heel by a beloved face. The big man/ little man dynamic worked and these two had great chemistry. They told a great story in the ring that had emotional investment from the crowd due to the storylines that were built up over months. Someone could watch this match without knowing anything about the story, and can tell who is good and bad, and can easily get invested that way. Again, a rarity these days in American wrestling.
NXT UK, Jan. 2, 2020
Although this match may not be on everyone’s lists of top NXT matches, I am choosing this one because it has a couple of different wrestlers apart from the originals of NXT UK, primarily Ilja Dragunov who I am particularly high on. This rivalry went back a couple of months when Imperium were battling the faction of Gallus. Dragunov was caught in between and the two and decided to side with Gallus, sparking anger from Imperium, as well as a series of matches with Dragunov facing members of Imperium. This match stood out to me as the small, recently beloved Dragunov, went toe to toe with Alexander Wolfe and showed absolutely no fear. His confidence showed through and his strength proved to be impressive for a small fighter. He made you believe he could fit in a ring with anyone.
That being said, the match itself was incredible- and quite brutal. This match used weapons intelligently. It started with a simple kendo stick and moved on to using some chairs and a table. It didn’t seem excessive, nor were weapons for the sake of using them. And Dragunov took the strikes hard, as seen by the welts on his body. This is a brutal match that makes you cringe, but tells a great story.