NXT Power Rankings: A Eulogy and Rebirth for NXT UK

Religion is such an important thing to a lot of people. Whether it’s a church, synagogue, mosque or any other building, many people have some higher power that has been a steadying force in their lives. Something that eases the everyday stress of life and provides some solace and reassurance that in the end it’s all going to be okay. I was raised Roman Catholic but I’m not the least bit religious in the traditional sense of the word. I’ll celebrate the holidays with meals or parties with my family but I haven’t been to church for anything but a major event since I was a kid. Instead I’ve found solace in the squared circle. For the last 25 years I’ve attended the church of choreographed combat and listened to the gospel of grappling. During every dark point in my life professional wrestling has been there in some way, shape or form. My grandmother died in early January of 2001. One of my last memories with her was getting the toy of the SmackDown oval entrance. During my senior year of H.S. in 2005 I found my grandfather essentially dead after falling in our basement and after he was rushed to the hospital with my parents I spent the next couple of days pouring myself into SmackDown vs. Raw 2006 to get my mind off the horror I’d just witnessed. In the summer of 2012 my now ex-mother-in-law suffered a debilitating stroke and as I sat with my then girlfriend night after night in the hospital wondering if she’d pull through my escape came from knowing Raw 1,000 and the move to 3 hours was just a week or 2 away. A few months later as Hurricane Sandy hit New York and displaced me for months I sat with my family in my now ex-in-laws house and we ordered TLC together. As my then father-in-law was dying of cancer in early 2019 and I accompanied him to his chemo treatments and eventually sat with him as he ended his life we’d talk about his memories of old wrestling and I’d think about how I had tickets to WrestleMania 35. 

I say all that to say pro wrestling hasn’t just been a casual hobby or interest of mine but, aside from family, it’s been the biggest part of my life. And so much of the comfort I take from wrestling isn’t just the watching of the shows but the discussion around it and the community that provides. Being able to speculate about what could or should happen, fantasy booking shows and being surprised by moments or sometimes a lack of them, has become what keeps me hooked on a product that for most of the last decade hasn’t been great. This week WWE ripped that away from me. A rock was thrown through the stained glass windows of my sanctuary but what made it worse was that the rock was thrown by the priest. That rock was the spoiler of Tyler Bate winning the NXT UK Championship. Now I’ve said before that it was accidentally spoiled for me but I’ll take the blame for that to a degree. Spoilers have always existed for pre-taped wrestling events if you look hard enough for them but traditionally you have to look for them. Not only do I not look for them I actively try my best to avoid them. But still, on Twitter various NXT UK and WWE related accounts spoiled the outcome around a month ago when they posted a video of the entire UK roster coming out to honor a super fan and Tyler Bate was holding the Championship belt. Despite the multitude of ways that could have been avoided (Bate just comes out without the belt, they wait until the tournament airs to post the clip, the fan holds the belt or Bate just doesn’t come out with the group and she gets a separate photo op with Bate or even he and Seven privately that doesn’t get posted by anyone official until after the tournament, etc.) I still understood that I chose to be on Twitter and despite muting certain words or phrases or unfollowing certain accounts spoilers could slip through the cracks. And I forgave it because the intent wasn’t to spoil the tournament but share a sweet moment and it’s entirely possible that spoiling the tournament just slipped everyone’s mind. If I had just watched the televised product as intended and stayed off social media it could have remained fresh to me. 

But on NXT 2.0 this week the stone was thrown when the show closed with Tyler Bate coming out holding the NXT UK Championship and commentary flat out called him the NXT UK Champion. Had they just waited until the tournament aired to do this spot I’d have loved it and been so excited. Doing it before the first round has even completed on TV though felt like such a gut punch. It was a slap in the face to the small segment of the WWE fan base who actually invests their time in going out of their way to follow the 4th biggest show in the company. We were told our time doesn’t matter and they can just tell us what happens because nobody watches anyway. Not only did it spit in our face but the face of the UK roster who has yet to appear on stateside TV and who I’m sure put in a lot of effort and energy into these tournament matches. Why should any of us bother to watch this show when we know the ultimate result to the biggest story? It’s belittling and insulting. I hated it. 

However, after spending a chunk of my Wednesday night and then Thursday morningwriting and rewriting everything that preceded this sentence, as well as a speculation heavy diatribe that I’ve since deleted, I was greeted with the news that much like Ring of Honor at the end of 2021 NXT UK as we know it will be taking a hiatus after the now officially announced Worlds Collide show on September 4th. Fox News stated the brand will “go on hiatus for a few months” and launch in 2023 as the rebranded “NXT Europe” With how detailed my notes have been I can’t exactly say I’m sad to get a few months off from covering the brand (though I’ll be sticking around for Rampage so try not to cry too hard) but as of now, if the show remains a 1 hour offering on Peacock or a channel Sling TV carries I fully plan on coming back when the relaunch happens with my typically copious notes. Until then though what we do have is time and opportunity for speculation. And I love nothing more than to speculate. From the sounds of the report everything with NXT Europe seems very fluid. No locked in roster. No locked in call ups or call overs. No locked in format or venue. Though as I type this the news of release after release from NXT UK is hitting and that’d incredibly disheartening. But I’m hoping most, if not all of these people can come back with the launch of NXT Europe. If not, the UK and maybe even American indy scene is about to get injected with a shot of adrenaline and a lot of new talent. With so much uncertainty I can and will use the next few months to make some suggestions and predictions for the future of the brand and while WWE may have thrown a rock through the window of my church with the spoiler and kicked the door down with the news of all these releases they at least put a generous offering in the collection plate by offering me the opportunity for the discussion that will come from NXT Europe. 

So as we sit these last few weeks with NXT UK in pro wrestling hospice I’ll still be doing the rankings, just much shorter, less detailed rankings. So here goes one of the last ever sets of NXT UK Power Rankings; 

Honorable Mention: Everyone else in NXT UK who is without a job today. As I type this it seems like Sha Samuels, Nina Samuels, Mark Andrews, “Flash” Morgan Webster, Ashton Smith, Dave Mastiff, Jack Starz, Wild Boar and Rohan Raja have all been let go and I’m sure I’ll be seeing more soon. It’s a dark day for NXT UK but I’m hoping all those people find new wrestling homes whether it’s in NXT Europe or elsewhere because they’ve all earned that much.

5. Joe Coffey. He beat Mark Andrews with an “All the best for the bells” discus lariat to advance to round 2 of the spoiled tournament. We know he and Gallus have a spot on NXT 2.0 at least for the time being.

4. Amale. She took down Nina Samuels with a Hope Breaker. And the French hope remains in tact because as of this writing it seems like Amale has been kept around.

3. Oliver Carter. Trent Seven confronted Carter in the back and pointed out his braced up leg and told him to forfeit their match to save his leg any more damage. Carter said last time he was in the ring with Seven and Bate he made them ex champs. Seven said that was the best thing that happened to him because now everyone can see the real Trent Seven. It appears as though both these guys’ jobs are safe but sadly Carter’s partner Ashton Smith is gone. I’m crossing my fingers for a Smith and Carter reunion in NXT Europe but if it doesn’t happen Smith closing his NXT UK career winning the tag titles was still a nice moment.

2. Chase U. They defeated Eddie Dennis and Saxon Huxley after Dennis tagged himself in, Saxon yelled at him “Stupid teacher!” and Chase U hit a really cool looking Gory Special hold into a rolling flatliner. After the match Huxley planted Dennis with a sit-out choke bomb and celebrated with Chase U and shook Andre Chase’s hand as commentary speculated on him getting a scholarship. Sadly from his tweets it seems like that isn’t the case though. Another missed opportunity. Maybe he can come back on NXT Europe as a Damien Sandow like genius who became learned and refined through spending a full semester (or 2) at Chase U.

1. Tyler Bate. He used his rebound clothesline and a Tyler Driver 97 to take down Kenny Williams in the first round of the tournament he wins. “The Scum of the Earth” tweeted “Least the last match was my best match” which hit me right in the “feels” I hope he takes the next few months to go to therapy and get over his issues with “The Masked Bozo” and come back like the cockroach he is on NXT Europe. As for Bate, well, we know where he’s headed.

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