With the first night at the Royal Albert Hall in the books it was time for the NXT roster to take over the iconic venue. The first night had certainly set the standard with a number of the Tournament entrants giving stand out performances, some of whom would be back for more on the NXT show to give us some sort of insight to what the new NXT UK brand would be like.
There was a noticeable difference in the crowd size for the second night after the first event had the unfortunate job of going up against England’s first World Cup game. Spirits were high once again as the seats filled up quicker and the dark match was under way. Ligero, formerly known on the British scene as El Ligero received a huge ovation as he came out to face off against the Welsh grappler Wild Boar. The match did exactly what it was designed to do and that’s help build momentum for the main show. Ligero’s move set and style were just what the audience needed.
The main show kicked off with what was arguably the highlight of both nights as Moustache Mountain took on Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong of the Undisputed Era. This match involved two thirds of those involved in the heavily hyped match from the night before so it had a risk of feeling a little over done to the audience but all four guys did an amazing job to create something different here. It was British duo Tyler Bate and Trent Seven that picked up the win and to my absolute pleasure unexpectedly became the new NXT Tag Team Champions. A hard fought match that would not look out of place as an NXT TakeOver main event, it had everything from high spots and false finishes to excellent tag team work and a dodgy referee decision that lead to a hilarious “V.A.R” chant from the London crowd who are deep in World Cup mode at the moment. The crowd exploded when Moustache Mountain got the three count and the celebrations continued for a good five minutes as the boys celebrated all over the arena and in the crowd. It’s going to be interesting to see if the British Strong Style trio will mainly stick around the Orlando based NXT now that Seven and Bate are Tag Team Champions of that brand or if they’ll go back and forth between there and the new NXT UK brand.
Lisbon’s Killer Kelly walked to the ring with a purpose next as she awaited her opponent. The Portuguese wrestler had received a great reaction the night before but this one felt even bigger as it seems like she had won over those who hadn’t seen her before these two events as well, but once again it was Kelly taking the loss as Charlie Morgan came out on top on this night. It was good to see two women’s division matches on the night and this one certainly deserved it’s spot even without the backing of a Championship on the line. As with all major NXT shows, we saw a familiar face in the crowd and this time it was none other than Captain Charisma himself, Christian. The inevitable chants of “One more match” reigned over the Royal Albert Hall as Christian looked out for his “Peeps“.
We were then given a surprising number one contendership match for the WWE UK Championship, which although was a nice bonus match-wise, it felt a little counter productive at the same time due to the fact we hadn’t even seen current number one contender Zack Gibson have his title match. I get that the prestige of winning the tournament is part of the prize but surely winning the shot at the champion after four matches is a big part of it too, which meant having Travis Banks and Flash Morgan Webster getting another shot so soon kind of took away some of that reward factor from the Tournament. I understand that the winner here is who will surely go on to be involved in the top storyline of the first NXT UK tapings but I feel like this match could have been placed on that card instead to help separate the two and let the first storyline breathe more.
Although Webster and Banks were given second shots a bit too quickly for my liking, I did enjoy seeing them out there again and so did the crowd. They were joined by the high flying and exciting Mark Andrews whose absence was definitely felt the night before. Andrews has a great bond with the audience and fans got very excited when his music hit. At this stage it was assumed that the match ahead was going to be a Triple Threat until NXT UK General Manager Johnny Saint came out and announced that it would be a “Four Man Fatal Match“, Yep …you read that right. The crowd obviously noticed this and gave him a little bit of a hard time for it which felt a little awkward and the edit job for the post production team seemed pretty straight forward until a mid-match chant of “Four Man Fatal” picked up. Saint, although fantastic in the ring has never been up there with some of the biggest talkers in the game and it’s going to take some time to iron out the creases when it comes to his new role especially with all the WWE jargon and verbiage that isn’t native to a British Wrestler whose career kicked off over here way before wrestlers even became “Superstars“. Overall I am happy with the appointment of Johnny Saint, a true legend who will bring a legitimacy to the brand for British fans and hopefully in turn open up Worldwide viewers to his own work.
As for the match change, it was none other than the returning Scotsman Noam Dar that took up the fourth spot in the match. The crowd went wild when Dar’s music hit and chants of “Welcome back” surrounded the 205 Live star’s entrance. The match itself was really fun with all four wrestlers looking like they may come out on top. Mark Andrews felt like he was most likely to pick up the win after being a star for the WWE UK brand since it’s inception, but missing a Shooting Star Press didn’t help the Welshman. In the end it was Noam Dar who picked up the win and it is assumed that he will go on to work a main event program in the new NXT UK series and just like the British Strong Style trio it will be interesting to see if he carries on being a feature on the North American shows after being heavily used on 205 Live and a fair amount of main roster experience also. Joe and Mark Coffey came out and destroyed the three losers, Noam Dar got away and taunted a save but decided to walk away unscathed instead.
Speaking of North America, it was the NXT North American Championship that was next on the line as Adam Cole faced off against Scotland’s Wolfgang. Once again the appearance of Cole caused an infectious joy at the Royal Albert Hall as fans could not wait to cheer him on which really did not help Wolfgang as they also struggled to connect with the agile big guy. It’s a strange case for Wolfgang at the moment as I don’t feel like he’s connected well or really shone that much in any of his WWE UK performances which has come as a shock to me after seeing the buzz he had built up for himself on the British scene. Perhaps it’s the style of match he has been working, but I really do hope that something clicks for the Scotsman soon. It was an obvious victory for the Undisputed Era man which made the match feel a bit pointless TV wise and probably didn’t help Wolfgang’s cause.
Next up was the moment I think most people were waiting for and that was the entrance of the one and only Velveteen Dream. The fans were on fire for the upcoming star whose impressed continuously since his new persona debuted a few months back and it really showed here. I feel that British crowds are always a good measuring stick for upcoming talent and whether or not they are actually getting over as audiences tend to be filled with “smart fans” who really appreciate the nuances in performance. Once The Dream had come out it was time for his Tag Team partner for the night to get the limelight and he really ran with it. The perfectly smug and cocky entrance of EC3 was justified as crowds yelled the lyrics to his “Top one percent” theme song, something that the NXT star himself couldn’t help but joining in on. The hype continued to grow as next out was the exciting Ricochet and his partner NXT Champion Aleister Black. I was slightly disappointed to not see Black’s cool ‘rising vampire’ entrance but I guess that’s the limitations of this uniquely laid out venue in effect here.
The match itself was full of hard hitting and fast action including a great sequence where Ricochet knocked Velveteen Dream off of the apron with a spring board kick and Aleister followed it up with his fake dive/backflip into the ring into a seated position which the crowd went wild for. Unfortunately it all got a bit too much for The Dream as he seemed to be feeling an ankle injury and decided to abandon his teammate in the middle of the match. EC3 then looked on in distress as the crowd’s anticipation boiled with a poised Aleister Black in waiting behind the abandoned wrestler who then slowly turned round with a comedic shrug of the shoulders after noticing the audiences screams to do so which was followed up by a sharp kick to the face and a cover to pick up the win for Black and Ricochet. The match was a strong contender for match of the night and really left fans with something memorable.
After night one saw a stoppage during the Fatal-4-Way due to an injury it was winner of the replacement Triple Threat match Toni Storm that earned herself a title shot against NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. It was another match where it felt pretty obvious who would be leaving with the Championship as I couldn’t see WWE putting a stop to this incredible run that Baszler is on or taking Toni Storm to the US just yet as it feels she would probably be in the running for the top spot in the NXT UK Women’s Division instead. With that in mind it was a little hard to get involved emotionally on this one until a few near falls from Storm put that little bit of doubt in peoples minds, because you never know with WWE. A decent match all in all and it was great to see Baszler keeping up her dominance, a truly great talent that WWE have on their hands and a snapshot into the future for the main roster with Baszler and the NXT UK brand when it comes to Australian Toni Storm’s connection with the UK crowd. The match ended after a great back and forth of Storm resisting the Kirifuda Clutch including a rope break that got a great ovation until it eventually got too much for her and she lost via count out. Baszler continued the assault afterwards though, she walked up the ramp celebrating but decided to run back down and continue to attack her downed opponent which only helped gain more heat for herself and sympathy for Storm, a perfect ending.
A great night of wrestling was coming to an end and it was time for the main event. Pete Dunne was defending his WWE United Kingdom Championship against Tournament winner Zack Gibson. The crowd were sure to let Gibson know that he wasn’t their guy …just in case he didn’t know that from the three times already the night before. Champion Dunne predictably got quite the ovation as he confidently strolled to the ring and the stare down commenced. Another match that brought up a few questions as far as what a win for either wrestler could mean, Dunne has been integrated into the US brand more and more lately and would definitely fit in well with the North American NXT brand as a mainstay but it really feels like him sticking around for NXT UK would give it that credibility with an already made and believable main event caliber superstar being the face of the new brand, having been built up immensely since last January’s original Tournament.
The match itself was a good main event and saw a lot of back and forth as the crowd continued to hype up the performers with amazingly unique chants. The highlight chant of the night started with your usual “Stand up, if you hate Gibson“, followed by “Sit down, if you hate Gibson” and then hilariously followed up with “Shoes off, if you hate Gibson” in which most of the audience actually held one of their shoes high in the air during the chant, something I really hope comes off well when the show comes out on the WWE Network. Although every move from “Liverpool’s Number One” got a boo, he also garnered one of the biggest cheers of the night as the crowd watched on after Gibson kicked out of a Bitter End to the shock of those in attendance realising they had more of this great match to come. Eventually though, it was Pete Dunne who came out on top still as he hit a second Bitter End to be exactly that for Zack Gibson. It could be argued that Dunne doesn’t need the belt anymore and it could be time to build a new main event star for him to battle, but that could be where Noam Dar comes in.
The show ended with Triple H and Johnny Saint bringing out the NXT UK roster and a speech from the C.O.O that got the audience pumped explaining that the UK fans deserved this new brand and that it was theirs which was followed by a parade around the ring. A great night of wrestling action at the Royal Albert Hall, many years overdue for the combination of the venue and the world’s biggest wrestling company. It would be great to see the venue used again for an NXT UK TakeOver once the new brand really picks up steam and gets to that kind of level. Night two had the better matches and moments for the=e most part, but a lot of that is owed to some of the stellar work put in on night one.
Don’t forget to check out my review of Day One of the WWE United Kingdom Tournament.
Check out the video below discussing the future of the title, possibility of a regular WWE Network show, the chosen five & the forgotten original tournament entries, Triple H showing up in ICW and getting Finn Balor when you ordered Mick Foley.
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Listen to the Talk and Beans WWE United Kingdom Championship 2017 Review Podcast here.