NXT UK Power Rankings: Bad Backs and Bar Brawlers

With Triple H taking control of WWE creative this week there’s been speculation by fans that NXT 2.0 could return to a more “Black and Gold” philosophy. And while time will tell if that happens if you just wanyed the gold half of that equation look no further than tonight’s NXT UK where both the Tag Team Championship and NXT UK Championship were at stake. The main event lived up to and surpassed the high hopes I had for it and the tag title match was strong too so let’s rank that and the rest of the happenings this week! 

Honorable Mention: Tyler Bate and Sarray. Short and sweet Tyler Bate backstage grabbed the camera and said “Trent. This is a message for you. You broke my heart man. I loved you like a brother. I’m coming for you.” He throws the camera down. Their inevitable clash has the potential to be the best match in UK history and their rivalry could be as good as Gargano v. Ciampa in the States id handled right. I can’t wait to watch it play out. Satomura and Sarray hold a press conference. Sarray says she is the sunrise and Meiko is the sunset. Meiko says she will stay strong until somebody can beat her. Meiko stares seriously during photo op but Sarray is smiling. Then seems surprised when she catches Meiko grilling her and does stare down. The contrast between Sarray seeming so sweet and innocent and then having a finisher that looks like it could decapitate a man more effectively than a literal guillotine always makes me laugh. I love it!

5 Oliver Carter. We see a nice table setting and a voice over from ther former tag champ tells us since they invited him into the family he thought he would come over for a nice family dinner. He ruins Die Famile’s table. He puts feet on table and knocks over candle holder. Then he leaves a note saying since they jumped him their beef is still on. And he will run through them all. Rohan is next. And he signs it “The Hottest Superstar Under the Sun” Die Famile discover the table and note and look incensed. This wasn’t a long segment but was a fun continuation of the singles build for Oliver Carter.

4. Sha Samuels. After yet another round of bad bets we saw the East End Bookie outside the UK Performance Center still being approached by gamblers cashing in their bets on Mark Coffey. Sha is broke so the first guy takes his shoes and Samuels throws his socks off too. Inside the PC he’s sleeping on some boxes when he’s approached again. He gives the guy his jacket but has another underneath it. On the stairs he does the same to yet another person looking to cash in but he has yet ANOTHER jacket under it. But he now also loses his hat. He’s interviewed outside and says he lost all his money, the cup and Noam’s upset with him. But he’s cut off by one final winner and he loses his third jacket and is now shirtless. He holds out his arms and falls on his knees screaming in agony. I once again implore WWE to make Baron Corbin broke again and get these 2 together! The comedy gold that could be dug up would shine like a sky full of stars!

3: Blair Davenport. Blair’s opponent Amale came in with every bit of anger she confronted Davenport with last week and Davenport used that to her advantage tonight. Amale came out super aggressive. She tred for a corner kick but Blair had it scouted and avoided it and kicked and bodyslammed “The French Hope” for her troubles.

On the floor Amale tried a pump kick but Blair moves and Amale catches the barricade with her leg. Blair pulls her back by the hair and rolls her in for 2. Nigel McGuinness name drops Manami Toyota when talking about title match between Japanese competitors Meiko Satomura and Sarray next week and how Davenport and Amale may both be looking to solidify their spot as next in line. That brought me back because I actually saw her wrestle live for Chikara in 2010. Blair hit a shoulder block for 2. Blair goes for a second rope double stomp to a bent Amale but she avoids it and Blair tweaks her bad ankle. An angry Amale bulldogs her for 2. Amale German suplexes Blair and nails a running corner face wash boot for 2. Davenport rolled up Amale during a Hope Breaker attempt for 2. She follows up with a flash knee and Falcon Arrow for the win. I kind of wish Amale’s aggression did more to directly cost her the loss here but this was solid regardless and I was slightly surprised Davenport won.  But I could get behind one final meeting between her and “The Final Boss” After all, sometimes you have to lose 2 lives to beat them. 

2. Brooks Jensen & Josh Briggs. Briggs and Jensen had their second defense of the NXT UK Tag Team Championship and first in the BT Sports Studio facing Wild Boar and Mark Andrews. This was the best I’ve seen Brooks & Jensen look but also the biggest as they both looked like they each had a foot on their opponents. I knew Briggs was a big guy but Jensen hasn’t project as large as he actually is until this match. The smaller duo tried to bring the giants down to size by tageting the legs early. Andrews hit a 619 and dragon screw leg whip to Jensen’s legs in ropes and Boar does it again inside the ring but Briggs tags in. Jensen needs to go to the Ilja Dragunov School for Selling because right after having his leg worked over he does two leap frogs and they hit a double shoulder block. Briggs and Jensen hit stereo slides to the outside and double punch Boar in ropes. Briggs and Jensen need more double team moves but I hope this one sticks around. Boar tagged in Andrews. but Briggs caught Andrews cross body attempt and eventually suplex tosses Andrews into Jensen for a very House of Black like powerslam. On commentary Nigel made an APA comparison for the tag champs and if Briggs and Jensen start playing poker backstage and make people knock on a stand alone door I will completely flip on this duo and they’ll be my favorite team in wrestling! Briggs tossed Andrews again but in a wild move he stundogs Jensen and goes under Briggs for the tag! Boar knocks Jensen off apron and after a flurry of offense hits a back senton on Briggs for 2. Boar tags Andrews when he’s knocked into the ropes, Andrews kicks Jensen on apron and Boar hits a German suplex with the help of an Andrews dropkick. Mark tags Boar who hits a frog splash for 2 as Andrews takes Briggs out. Boar goes for 1 corner spear to Jensen and hits it. He tries for 2 but gets his clock cleaned with a lariat from Jensen. They both tag their partners. Briggs takes Andrews off the apron and into ring with suplex but it’s again turned into stundog. Andrews dropkicks Jensen off apron but misses a 450 on Briggs. Briggs tags Jensen and they hit a high/low for the win. After the match Briggs and Jensen give their opponents a head nod as a sign of respect. This was a really fun match and allowed Briggs and Jensen to show how much fun they could be with a smaller team.

1. Ilja Dragunov. I said it on Twitter immediately after watching the match but there may not be a better pure bell to bell wrestler in the world right now than Dragunov. I’m not one of those people who yells about a lack of selling but the way Ilja does it makes it feel like he’s on the verge of death every match and tonight was no different. This was probably my favorite story in a match since Roman Reigns v. Jey Uso in Hell In A Cell. The story here was all the miles from all the tough defenses by Dragunov taking their toll and and his back literally unable to bear the weight of being a fighting champion. Early on Ilja attempted to lift Wolfgang but his back gave way. Wolfie catches Ilja rumning into corner with knee and awkwardly throws him into the opposite lateral corner. The best member of Gallus stretched Ilja’s neck and back with knee in back and STF like head wrench on the mat. Dragunov tried to bridge to dodge a lariat but his back gave out again allowing Wolfgang to nail his sideways falling back senton. Unbesiegbar was shoved back first into ropes and Wolfgang covers for 2. The Glaswegian looked hesitant to inflict more damage for a second but with the NXT UK Championship on the line and Dragunov’s Cena-esque “Never give up” style he was given no choice. Dragunov tried to lift Wolfgang but once again his back gave out and he fell on him for 2. Ilja hit a spinning chop to chest, thigh and back. He tried to lift him again to no avail. Ilja tries his rebound kick but Wolfie avoided it. Wolfgang tossed him into the ropes and forearms the bad back. He tried it again but Ilja nails his rebound kick. Ilja finally nailed the running knee to corner. He threw Wolfgang to the mat and his leg gives out now. Still, he recovered and hit a diving knee drop. Dragunov sweep rolls Wolfgang’s legs and elbows Wolfgang on the floor. He hits a back senton but Ilja’a back is in pain again. Dragunov hit a lariat to the front, back and front again but Wolfgang hit his own that flips Ilja for 2. Wolfie lifts him on his shoulders and drops him into knee to his spine for 2. Ilja fights off a suplex, rolls through and nails his falling knockout elbow for just 2. Dragunov clutches back on top but still does back senton and writhes in pain. Wolfgang catches a torpedo attempt into uppercut. He follows up with a Glaswegian plex (the seemingly new or just previously unsaid name for his twisting suplex) for 2. Wolfgang headbutts Ilja off top. He flips in over the top rope for his spear but Ilja gets pump knee and despite the bad back hits a deadlift suplex on Wolfgang. Dragunov finally hits the torpedo for 3 but struggles to even get to his feet to celebrate. If not for spoilers I’d have 100% bought into Ilja losing here. It felt like the end of the line and like the loss was going to come less because Wolfgang is better and more just becauae Ilja doesn’t know when to say when. In a weird way knowing part of what’s coming for Ilja (which I won’t say in case you’ve avoided spoilers with more success than me) made this match that much better.

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