Last time in the Best and Worst of NXT UK: Trent Seven helped out Flash Morgan Webster and Bomber Dave Mastiff against Gallus, but it wasn’t enough to secure a victory. 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 from March 26, 2020.
Best: Tag Team Storytelling
Okay yes, on one level this was Oliver Carter and Ashton Smith — the only two black guys on the roster — losing a match to the two whitest guys around, Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner. Importantly, however, this wasn’t a squash match. Carter and Smith are learning to work together as a cohesive tag team, and it took some effort for the often-dominant Aichner and Barthel to get the win.
Even though they lost here, Carter and Smith are starting to seem like a tag team that could matter. In fact, after this match there’s a backstage segment where they set up a match with Pretty Deadly. That’s one Carter and Smith ought to actually win, and hopefully more victories follow. Eventually they’ll make there way back around to Imperium, and after Barthel gets to be like “Vat? Ve already beat you!” they can have an even more competitive match than this one, where we won’t know who wins going in.
Best: Battle Royal Promos
Remember on those early Royal Rumble PPVs, when basically every guy on the roster got to cut a promo about how he was going to win the Royal Rumble? Even if it was some also-ran like Brutus Beefcake being like “I’m gonna CUT THROUGH the competition!” and you were like “yeah, that’s not happening,” it was still a fun opportunity to see the entire roster talk for a minute, just to remind you what a full collection of characters they had. And they would each relate whatever feud or story they had going on to the match, so it back part of like 15 different angles at once.
Anyway, NXT UK brings some of that energy to this episode, with a whole bunch of promos about next week’s 20-man Battle Royal. We get Flash Morgan Webster talking about winning the Battle Royal for his partner Mark Andrews, who’s still out of commission from last week’s backstage beating. Bomber Dave Mastiff talks about how he’ll win it because he’s the toughest guy around. Noam Dar takes a moment after his match to exclaim that he’ll win because the other 19 guys are all dafties. Gallus even discusses their Battle Royal plans over a card game in a scene that’s halfway between Reservoir Dogs and That ’70s Show. It’s all a lot of fun, is what I’m getting at.
Best: Don’t F With The Valkyrie
Nina Samuels went looking for this fight, and she gets what she deserves. As we saw last week, Nina called out Aoife Valkyrie specifically because Aoife’s the most hyped new female star, and Nina thinks she can get the attention she feels she deserves by beating the new girl. Which would be a fine plan if Nina was as good as she thinks she is, but she was never really going to beat the Valkyrie.
Of course, like a lot of things in wrestling, this story is a little bit muddled by the inevitable blurring of kayfabe and real life. Because the truth is, Nina Samuels is a veteran who probably could do more than she’s being given in NXT UK. And Aoife Valkyrie is full of potential, but she still has a lot to learn. At the end of the day, this is kind of what developmental wrestling (or maybe just wrestling) is all about: People with experience putting over the stars of tomorrow until they’re ready to become the stars of today.
And that’s fine. Nina Samuels is great at playing her “grown up theatre kid” character, and she’s probably more fun haunting the women’s undercard than she would be in the main event. And I like that they’re taking their time with Valkyrie. Keep away from Piper Niven and Kay Lee Ray until she’s really ready for a big push. It all makes sense in the long run, and this was a fun match along the way.
Worst: Everybody’s Talented
I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to see the appeal in A-Kid. I don’t have anything against him, but so far he’s just a guy who looks like eight other guys in this company (more on that in a minute), despite being from a different country than any of them. He can go in the ring, sure, but so can almost everybody on this show! WWE cherry-picked the indies in the UK and across half of Europe, so there’s no shortage of talent, despite the occasional rando in a horned mask or whatever.
Noam Dar is always great, of course, and he narrowly avoids looking like nine either guys just by growing his hair a little shaggier and shaving his face. And overall this match was good. I just don’t care about A-Kid yet, and I’m hoping that changes soon.
Best/Worst: The Kip Sabian Division
On the subject of similar-looking guys in NXT UK, the other night during Impact a friend of mine was saying (on chat of course, because we’re Social Distancing) that Kip Sabian is a little bit generic, and I said “It’s true, there’s at least five or six of him in NXT UK.” And here we are, the very next day in the main event, with an NXT Cruiserweight Championship match between the Champion, a slim dark-haired athletic guy in his early thirties, and the challenger, a slim dark-haired athletic guy in his early thirties.
I like Jordan Devlin, and I’d like to defend him against myself and say he’s not that generic, but honestly when you place him alongside the more cartoonish assholery of Noam Dar and the militaristic aggressiveness of Imperium, Devlin’s heel gimmick pretty much comes down to “full of himself and meaner than he needs to be” which isn’t exactly setting the brand on fire with originality.
Still, this is a solid match once again between two talented guys, and this is a brand where the best wrestlers are often in the main event, so you can’t really complain. Also, unless there are more episodes in the can than my research has found, next week is the last of what’s already been recorded, so it’s probably best to enjoy everything we can before we leap into the dark abyss that is the future of wrestling in the time of Coronavirus.
NXT UK Takeover: Dublin has already been postponed, which wasn’t addressed in this episode, so much as they just didn’t mention it. There was talk about what happens next week, but nothing about what comes after that. Watching NXT UK right now feels a bit like one of those Doctor Who episodes where the Doctor knows somebody’s about to be killed but he can’t tell them or stop it, for fear of messing up the timeline.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure NXT UK will be back before too awfully long. Maybe there will even be an episode in two weeks, but I have doubts. For now, let’s just look forward to next week, when twenty men meet in a Battle Royal, and Piper Niven teams up with Dani Luna to face Jinny and Kay Lee Ray. After that, well, we’ll see where we are.