By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
Haydn Gleed’s NXT UK review and members’ exclusive audio review will be available later today.
In January 2017, the UK independent scene shot into the conscious of the “WWE Universe” with the inaugural WWE UK Tournament from Blackpool, England. Ever since, rumors and plans have been talked about regarding a regular WWE UK brand show. Well, on the network this evening (or this afternoon in North America), the first show of the new NXT UK brand premieres. I am hopeful it will be more standard NXT than the one-off special from Norwich, England was in May 2017.
After the hot original tournament from early 2017, WWE filmed and showed the Norwich special several months later. Although there was some great wrestling and some interesting matchups, it brought the excitement for the overall product down. It featured a number of what I call ROH exhibition matches, that being matches with talented wrestlers but no background information about them and no storyline reason for them to be wrestling. I enjoyed the show because I knew about the competitors and I could come up with interesting reasons in my head based on their UK independent background as to why they would facing each other, but for the average viewer they were just matches between two guys or two gals that meant nothing to them.
What WWE did well in the tournament was give every competitor a backstory even if it was the standard sob story, but it meant that a number of the wrestlers were memorable. Quick, name me four guys from the original and 2018 tournament and then follow that up by telling me what the matches were on the one off Norwich based special? If the NXT UK brand show is simply a number of matches put together to show the athleticism and impressive matches it will draw an audience but it will be a niche audience, something I argued about with ROH for a number of years.
As the Progress’s, ICW’s, Rev Pro’s, PCW’s, etc. from the UK Independent scene have shown, these competitors can be put into stories against each other and for me it creates magic. Some of my favorite moments from wrestling over the last two years have involved Travis Banks chasing after Pete Dunne for his Progress Championship, or the intense feud that started to be developed between Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis.
Based on the 2018 version of the tournament, it looks like they are going somewhere with a Joe Coffey vs. Travis Banks storyline and I expect Zack Gibson to be chasing after Pete Dunne (hopefully with a better introduction for Gibson than we had in January but I digress). So I am hopeful.
The other main point that needs to be addressed immediately on the first couple of shows is the NXT UK women’s division with a title defense being advertised for the Evolution pay-per-view a week from Sunday. Looking at the women’s roster, there are a number of people they can build around in the likes of Toni Storm, Rhea Ripley, Jinny, and Xia Brookside. I haven’t read any of the spoilers from the tapings so I can judge the shows as they air instead of going into the shows with pre-determined opinions, but depending on the direction they go I think a heel Rhea Ripley or Jinny would be a great to start the new era because they can generate genuine hatred from the fans allowing the chasing babyface to really get over when/if they dethrone the heel champion.
Overall, I am going into these shows cautious but optimistic that given some NXT magic dust, we may get to see the best of the UK Independent talent on the biggest stage of all doing what they do best. At the same time, hopefully WWE can get non-UK fans emotionally invested into the characters and the drama that these talented worked can generate.
As always feel free to get in touch via either twitter @haydngleed or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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