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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool



Although TakeOver: Blackpool is the first-ever NXT UK PPV, it's still very much associated with the legacy of the NXT TakeOver PPVs that have gone before it, which somewhat explains its huge following and the pressure that it carried on its shoulders. Of course, much of that following could be attributed to the homegrown wrestlers the brand has and the pressure towards this being the brand's first PPV, a "make it or break it" moment of sorts. Yet, did anyone ever really believe NXT UK could "break it"? Of course not. NXT UK has been on a roll since its very first episode, and its very first PPV wasn't going to let anyone down. It inevitably didn't.

All five of TakeOver: Blackpool's featured matches have been brewing throughout NXT UK's first year. Gallus has been amassing a reputation of dominance within the brand, with its Iron King logically heading into a collision against the BruiserWeight Pete Dunne for the top prize of "their kingdom." Dunne's British Strong Style allies in Tyler Bate and Trent Seven were the first to declare their intentions to become the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions, although the Grizzled Young Veterans in Zack Gibson and James Drake weren't far behind. Rhea Ripley survived a tournament to become the first-ever NXT UK Women's Champion, the same tournament Toni Storm participated in and fell short of. Storm's victory in the 2018 Mae Young Classic, however, gave her the opportunity to challenge for any championship of her choosing, and she chose a second attempt at becoming the NXT UK Women's Champion.

Outside of title matches, the bad blood between Eddie Dennis and Dave Mastiff has grown steadily since Mastiff beat Dennis to prolong his winning streak and end Dennis's. I loved that match because it was two men who were on two different winning streaks colliding to prove who was better, who was more dominant, and I originally thought that that was going to be the end of it. Yet here we were, settling that rivalry through a brutal No DQ match. Meanwhile, the "patriotic" match between Travis Banks and Jordan Devlin was added during the last two episodes, basically the final week, just before the PPV. Devlin has been slowly and discreetly tuning up his Import Killer gimmick from the indies, with Banks seemingly his latest victim. 


Unfortunately for Banks, he wouldn't even make it to their actual match because during his arrival in the arena, Devlin attacked him. He would return the favor during Devlin's entrance moments before their match but would ultimately be ruled unable to compete, with a surprising face from Devlin's past replacing The Kiwi Buzzsaw. Of course, in truth, Banks was still injured. He's been injured with a dislocated shoulder since late July, so when his match was announced, I was pleasantly surprised. It's always great to hear news of recoveries, especially of talented athletes like Banks, so I guess my positivity blinded me to this plot twist. Damn you, New Day.

I popped when Finn Bálor came out to replace Banks—no offense to Travis, of course, I hope he makes an actual speedy recovery—but was a bit surprised when he went over Jordan Devlin. Devlin being Bálor's protege has been stated time and time again since his first appearance in the United Kingdom Championship Tournament. This could've been Devlin's moment to finally come out of his mentor's shadow, to prove himself capable of being his own self. Alas, Bálor got the win here instead, a win that the returning Prince Devitt deserved through his legacy with the European indie scene but that was in no way helpful for the NXT UK brand. Unless Bálor's sticking around, competing in both RAW and NXT UK? A guy can dream. 


With the debatable exception of the United Kingdom Championship, NXT UK's titles are still very young in terms of history, so while expecting new tag team champions was, well, expected, the women's title changing hands was not. Moustache Mountain were the first to declare their desire to become the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions, and because they were also former NXT Tag Team Champions, I thought this was a done deal. 

The Grizzled Young Veterans in Zack Gibson and James Drake, however, have been on a pretty impressive roll lately, but I couldn't help but attribute all that effort to Gibson. Drake needs to pop out more because as it stands, he's looking more like a henchman than an actual partner. Thankfully, when that bell rang, Drake exceeded all expectations. The result of the NXT UK Tag Team Championship match wasn't just shock for shock value either, as the in-ring action told an engaging story that made sense of how everything unfolded. Their match was definitely must-see.

Although to be fair, perhaps all title matches under NXT UK should be classified as must-see, considering there hasn't been a terrible title match from this brand so far. Rhea Ripley's title defense against Toni Storm was surprising in that, even though Toni was the clear favorite to come out on top, Rhea's title reign was just beginning. I mean, this was her first PPV title defense, though to be fair, this was NXT UK's first PPV. Still, I had my eyes and heart set for that Rhea Ripley versus Tegan Nox feud for the NXT UK Women's Championship, with Ripley's reign extending until then, that I pretty much became too confident that this match's result would be another heartbreak for the underdog in Toni. The physicality in this Australian civil war was awe-inspiring, though I was a bit iffy about both women kicking out of each other's finishers. That was, until I realized that this was most likely done to emphasize that it could've gone either way. Rhea's facial expression after she realized she just lost her title added a lot to Toni's celebrated victory. 

Speaking of celebrated victories, sort of, Joe Coffey's attempt to take the throne from under Pete Dunne was foiled when the champion persevered. Did anyone else grow concerned with Joe's changing skin tone during this match? These two guys really took each other to the limit, and this match was nothing short of barbaric. Every strike made me and my partner wince but we were too drawn in from the edge of our seats to look away. You'd think that Joe kicking out of two Bitter Ends would be overkill, but the Iron King is supposed to be built like a tank, so trying to take him out by force wouldn't be that easy. He's a massive, broad man, after all, and he looks like he could take a lot of punishment. Focusing on the more sensitive parts of his body, like, say his fingers, then was a genius idea. This made Joe look strong even in defeat. Up until NXT UK's newest recruit in WALTER booted him out of the ring, anyway. What a spotted dick.

FINAL DECREENXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool was a historic event in that it was the first-ever PPV of the NXT UK brand. It may not have been the first-ever PPV outside North America, as most of us already know, but it was definitely the first-ever PPV outside North America that didn't feature a single American competitor (I checked). From title changes to title retention, from surprise competitors to future stars, and between unpredictable carnage and captivating in-ring action, TakeOver: Blackpool had everything that made me remember why I became a professional wrestling fan in the first place. It's definitely an A from me.  

Match of the Night


I'm not going to lie: Picking one match over five brilliant matches to be the match of the night was a hard thing to do, and in the end, I still wasn't able to just pick one. British Strong Style lived up to the honor and privilege of putting the word "British" before their name, as Moustache Mountain and United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne delivered the two best matches of the night. Even in defeat, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven shone bright in their NXT UK Tag Team Championship match against the Grizzled Young Veterans, Zack Gibson and James Drake, who have now become the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions. Pete Dunne and Gallus's Joe Coffey had a brutal affair that was both painful and mesmerizing to watch, and the crowd chanting "are you watching, are you watching, are you watching, Vince McMahon?" was the perfect cherry on top. These two bouts were amazing, and I just cannot bring myself to choose between them.

The Few Hunky-Dories:

  • Eddie Dennis versus Dave Mastiff was probably the closest to a real hardcore match we'll see under the WWE banner for the rest of the year. Mastiff continues to impress by defying gravity. Dennis' strength should be admired, too, but now I'm not quite sure where this puts the latter. He's lost to Mastiff in a big way twice now, first his winning streak and now his first PPV appearance. I mean, of course Dave wasn't losing this, but Dennis just made it 0-2 big losses against the Bomber. Time to move on from each other, boys. Hopefully.
  • The Ring General has arrived in NXT UK, and while I thought his staredown with Pete Dunne was spine-tingling, I wasn't so sure about him booting Joe Coffey out of that ring like the Iron King didn't matter. I've got no doubt that WALTER's first take-down will be Joe Coffey, but I was just hoping that they wouldn't do Joe like that. It just a felt little weak for Joe to get kicked in the face by the new guy no matter how hyped he is.
  • Is Finn Bálor moving to NXT UK? Probably not, considering that rumored big push of his, though I hope he makes more appearances every now and then. With Finn breaking through, was this the first of many similar surprises from the main roster to NXT UK? Sheamus, Killian Dain, Nikki Cross, Cesaro... We've already seen 205 Live's Noam Dar compete here, but let's face it, 205 Live isn't exactly what people think when they read the term "main roster."
  • Kay Lee Ray and Jazzy Gabert were spotted ringside. Bloody hell, this brand's women's division is going to be hard to beat. I can't wait for the Alpha Female to destroy everyone in her path. 
Images from WWE
*****

Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. Jordan Devlin should've won that match.

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