We were still in Brooklyn, New York for NXT UK here, an edition which promised several exciting matches and further hype on the probable WALTER-Pete Dunne rematch.
Ligero vs. Kassius Ohno
Note that he is no longer El Ligero, but simply Ligero, which proves that the name changes/shortenings aren’t limited to the main roster (meaning that you can’t always blame Vince McMahon). Joking aside, this was set up by an Ohno promo last week where he expressed his superiority over the British talent despite coming up short in recent bouts, and specifically name-dropped Ligero as a target. Ohno is not usually the strongest or largest man in the ring, but that was the case here. Kassius used these qualities early on, and when Ligero attempted to rebound with a senton to the floor, Ohno caught him and pushed him head-first into the steel stairs. From there, Ohno slowly wore down his opponent with simple strikes and stretching submissions. Ligero fought back with hard strikes of his own and a splash off the top rope. After a senton to the floor and a Sliced Bread at ringside, Ligero looked to finish Ohno off, only for Kassius to target the mask and twist his headgear around. The distraction allowed Ohno to nail Ligero with a hard forearm to the back of the head for the win.
In a pre-taped promo, Jordan Devlin discussed his non-title match next week against WALTER. He said that he was being used to protect WALTER-Dunne II, hence it being non-title. But he noted that he didn’t care what the fans thought, and vowed to win against WALTER to earn himself a UK Championship opportunity. We also had comments from The European Union team of Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel taped at Axxess, stating that people should earn their chances as opposed to being handed them.
Toni Storm then cut a basic babyface promo in the ring, emphasising the talent of the NXT UK women’s division, but reminding us that she will hold her NXT UK Women’s Championship for a long time. As she left, she was briefly confronted by Kay Lee Ray, who mouthed “You forgot about me!” As Storm left, Kay headed to the ring for her match which was up next.
Kay Lee Ray vs. Xia Li
You may remember Li from this year’s Royal Rumble match, or from the Mae Young Classic prior to that. China’s first female WWE competitor had a task on her hands here though, since Lee Ray is highly talented and very well-regarded (her brush with Toni was further evidence of what may be planned for her). After some back-and-forth technical exchanges, Ray paid the price for mocking Li’s height via a pretenced test of strength, but Kay did get in control after sending Xia shoulder-first into the ring post. She continued working on the arm from there, methodically weakening her opponent. Xia fought back with hard kicks (didn’t I write something similar about Ligero moments ago), but Kay wasn’t to be stopped, and hit Widow’s Peak for the victory. Toni vs. Kay seems to be on the cards, perhaps for the next (yet-to-be-announced) NXT UK TakeOver?
Another promo from Axxess saw Piper Niven suggest her plans to take down the “bully” that is Rhea Ripley. Meanwhile, The Grizzled Young Veterans were shown tossing Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan’s gear into the corridors, saying that they could change there. This was the result of frustration from Zack Gibson and James Drake, given the battle that Kenny and Amir had given them last week.
Moustache Mountain vs. Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster
Andrews was pretty over with the Brooklyn crowd here (to be fair, a fair few of the performers were, garnering stronger reactions than most of the talent last week due to the non-UK location). Tyler Bate and Trent Seven also received a big pop, due to their increased exposure on the main NXT programme. This had the potential to be a cracking tag team match, and so it proved. A handshake between Andrews and Bate set the tone for this double- (or quadruple-) babyface bout, which slowly built into a crescendo of big near-falls at the finish. In a match that had so many big moments, too many to list here, perhaps the highlight was Bate giving Andrews a Giant Swing while simultaneously having Webster caught in an Airplane Spin. Andrews catching Bate with a high knee that sent him right into a Webster reverse rana was another great spot. In the end, a Tyler knee into a Trent Burning Hammer was enough to put Flash away in an excellent match, the best on the British brand for a good while.
This was a strong episode of NXT UK. The opener was well-worked, the women’s match served its purpose, and the show-closing tag bout was awesome. Considering that this could have easily been a forgettable edition as we await news on the next truly major show for the NXT UK squad, this greatly exceeded expectations.