WWE NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool 2020
The NXT UK crew held the first major WWE show of 2020, the second annual TakeOver card in Blackpool and the third UK TakeOver overall. Not unlike their US counterparts, this is a roster that goes all-out to deliver on the TakeOver stage, and while their occasional specials are a shade below those in the States, they are still well worth watching and packed with amazing action. This high bar was again met and arguably surpassed with this latest special, with every match delivering and with a memorable ending to boot.
Trent Seven vs. Eddie Dennis
Kicking off the main show, we had Moustache Mountain’s Trent Seven squaring off against Eddie Dennis. Trent was hugely over in the Winter Gardens, whilst his Welsh opponent, despite having some supporters, was mostly jeered throughout the contest. This was a strong opener, with the sheer volume and speed of attacks being something to behold, and though Dennis’ performance was impressive, this served as a reminder of just how talented Trent is, because he gave off the accurate vibe that he was in total control from the standpoint of somebody composing and executing a main stage-level match. Towards the end, Dennis removed the turnbuckle pad, which elicited boos and hilarious “VAR!” chants. The referee refused to allow Dennis to powerbomb Trent into the exposed turnbuckles, so instead he shockingly hit Seven with a Razor’s Edge over the top rope onto a ringside official in a jaw-dropping moment. Back in the ring, a Next Stop Driver gave Dennis the upset victory in a very good opening clash. I also have to mention that Trent’s dive into Eddie at ringside near the beginning saw them rebound into the barrier and nudge over a crowd steward hard enough that he left holding the back of his neck. Some great selling there, boys and girls.
WWE NXT UK Women’s Championship Match
Kay Lee Ray (C) vs. Toni Storm vs. Piper Niven
Next up, the females on the NXT UK brand had their opportunity to shine, and shine they did in what was a tremendous battle. Ray as the defending champion played the heel role to perfection, at one point bringing a steel chair into the ring and driving it into the throat of her two grounded opponents at separate times. This led to Storm holding the chair and channelling Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII by hinting but ultimately deciding against nailing fellow babyface Piper with said object. Hence why the sneaky Ray was able to make the most of her situations and withstand some of the biggest moves in the match (such as a Canadian Destroyer by Niven, which got a huge reaction) until the time came for her to seize her moment; that came when Toni hit Piper with a Frog Splash, as she shoved Storm out of the ring and pinned Niven to retain.
Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin
If Johnny Gargano is Mr. TakeOver, then in my opinion, Tyler Bate is Mr. UK TakeOver. At just 22 years of age, he has already racked up several classic matches (including at this very venue), and he added to his collection here with an absolute barn-stormer of a bout against Jordan Devlin. For more than 20 minutes, these two put together a sensational battle that saw both men trade the advantage, with their moves ranging from the awe-inspiring (a top rope Spanish Fly straight into a Devil Inside finisher by Devlin) to the more moderately insane (an Airplane Spin by Bate which featured literally dozens of rotations). Just as compelling were the exchanges of strikes, which at one point led to a full-on boxing match as each man traded loads of fast punches to the mass approval of a Blackpool crowd that wished for them to fight forever. In the end, Tyler busted out Jodie Fleisch’s old 720 DDT and a Tyler Driver which somehow only got two, but with Bate responding immediately with a Spiral Tap to finally win. That Triple H, William Regal and Johnny Saint felt compelled to leave the backstage area and watch from a balcony above was a sign of their admiration, and it was well-deserved: this was an early Match Of The Year contender, as Tyler once again delivered on a big stage. Not forgetting Devlin, who matched Bate every step of the way, and though fans slate him for being a knock-off Finn Bálor, he’s proving that he may be every bit as good as his fellow countryman.
WWE NXT UK Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
Gallus (C) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Imperium vs. Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews
Then, we had something completely different in the form of a four-team Ladder match. This was an ideal crowd to hold such a bout in front of because they reacted to just about everything, and that includes a hell of a lot of high spots. Ladders were used a great deal of course, but chairs, tables and a Singapore cane also came into play in what was a low-key TLC bout. As for the biggest moments, well I could reel off tons, too many to mention here, but I have to give a shout-out to Fabian Aichner hitting a huge moonsault onto Mandrews, James Drake hitting a 450 Splash off a ladder bridge also onto Mandrews (poor guy), and a joint Webster/Andrews senton off a huge ladder onto Wolfgang through a table. But the Gallus member recovered by spearing Aichner through a ladder in the corner, and with everybody now down at this stage, both he and Mark Coffey climbed to retain their titles in an awesome stunt war.
WWE United Kingdom Championship Match
WALTER (C) vs. Joe Coffey
The style of match once again shifted for our main event, which was all about pure physicality involving two surprisingly agile brick you-know-what houses punishing each other with blistering strikes and impactful offence. WALTER was as over as anybody on the show, and his knife-edge chops are a hell of a thing to witness live. For Coffey, much of this bout was just about survival, and staying in the clash for long enough that he would be able to deliver some hard chops and major offensive attacks of his own in an attempt to seize the UK crown that has never actually changed hands on British soil. A ref bump led to more “VAR!” chants and interference from Alexander Wolfe and Ilja Dragunov respectively on behalf of their gangmates, but it ultimately came down to the main two combatants as we headed to the finish line. With a second referee in place, Coffey was caught out by WALTER with two powerbombs, leading into a match-winning Crossface variation. This felt more like a fight than a match, and was a great example of how wrestling can still be thoroughly believable even in the kayfabe era.
But that wasn’t the end of the fun. Imperium celebrated with WALTER with the show seemingly going off the air, only for The Undisputed Era to rush in from the crowd and destroy the faction to a wild reaction. It was a crazed scene as The UE and Imperium went at it hell-for-leather. Adam Cole’s troupes came out on top, with Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly holding WALTER in place to take a Last Shot from Cole. The UE walked away, impressed at their own handiwork ahead of an eight-man tag against Imperium at Worlds Collide (hence their cameo here), and they posed as the show came to its actual climax. This made up for the lack of any matches involving main roster talent, and to some attendees, it was the highlight of what had already been an incredible event.
So, WWE NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool 2020 was an outstanding show. From start to finish, there was a high standard that every performer on the card was thoroughly capable of meeting and going beyond, with Bate vs. Devlin being the stand-out match by a fraction, simply due to the quality on show elsewhere. With three amazing battles and two very good contests, coupled with a mix of styles, a ton of high spots combined with sufficient selling (the latter being key) and a surprise ending, this was a fantastic production that should be watched by all wrestling fans. For those who haven’t seen NXT UK before, this would be an ideal introduction, as it was arguably the brand’s best offering yet.