NXT UK has thrown up a handful of unforgettable moments in its debut year.
From the first TV tapings in Cambridge to two TakeOver specials, WWE’s UK brand’s first year has certainly had some incredible highlights that are worth pointing out.
5. A Flying Kiwi
In a rivalry that sparked at the tail end of 2018, Jordan Devlin and Travis Banks’ issues were set to be settled at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool. Following Devlin’s attack before the show that led to Banks retaliating before the bell had rung, the TakeOver match never happened as a result. Whilst this might have been disappointing at the time, what followed was a riveting story told over the course of a few months. Banks and Devlin had a rematch at the TV taping the day after TakeOver: Blackpool that ended in a double count-out due to their constant brawling – it was clear that they both hated each other.
Because of the indecisive finish, Devlin and Banks faced off one more time, this time in a Falls Count Anywhere match in Coventry. This encounter was more violent than ever, with chairs and tables being used left, right and centre. It was in this match that Travis Banks dove off an elevated seating block creating an iconic image and an unforgettable moment to cap off his rivalry with Jordan Devlin.
4. Imperium Grows
If 2018 was defined by British Strong Style, then 2019 was Imperium’s year as WWE’s take on RingKampf infiltrated NXT UK. A rather warm Friday night just outside Glasgow was the site of Pete Dunne’s rematch against WALTER after losing the WWE UK Title to the Ring General at NXT TakeOver: New York. The finish of that match came after Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner interfered, forming Imperium – the stable that would take over NXT UK.
With a newly established force in NXT UK, British Strong Style faced Imperium in a 6-man tag team match the day after where once again, Imperium had an ace up their sleeve as they were assisted by Alexander Wolfe. Wolfe also has a history as part of RingKampf which made his alliance make sense despite being part of SAnitY on NXT and SmackDown Live. The images of a hooded Alexander Wolfe slowly walking down the aisle before powerbombing Tyler Bate were great, and the live crowd’s reaction when Wolfe revealed himself was a highlight of NXT UK’s debut year.
3. A Changing of the Guard
Pete Dunne’s 685-day reign as WWE UK Champion was quite simply a display of dominance. After consistently defending the title in the main event of NXT TV against the likes of Johnny Gargano, Ricochet and The Undisputed Era, the Bruiserweight seemed unstoppable. That is until he defeated Joe Coffey in the main event of the first-ever NXT UK TakeOver in Blackpool. Just as we all thought the show was about to fade to black, Dvořák’s 9th Symphony started playing and out walked WALTER to confront Pete Dunne.
Though WALTER’s signing had been reported by reliable sources a few months prior, this confrontation came as a huge shock to those in attendance, and understandably so. WALTER had been the world champion of so many promotions at that point, such as PWG, OTT and of course PROGRESS. After such an unstoppable reign, Dunne finally had a real challenge on his hands and the stand-off between him and WALTER encapsulates NXT UK’s biggest story of 2019.
2. Surprise for Devlin
As wrestling fans, we often talk about our ‘dream matches’. At NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool, Travis Banks, and Jordan Devlin’s altercation gave us exactly that. As Devlin stood proudly in the ring looking down at an injured Banks, out came NXT UK general manager Johnny Saint with his assistant Sid Scala to reveal that they had a plan for this exact situation. As the lights went down, the crowd erupted. Finally, after being compared for so long; Jordan Devlin would finally face off against Finn Balor.
Sure, Devlin came up on the losing end as Balor was two weeks away from a match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, but Devlin and Balor being stood toe-to-toe in opposite-coloured ring gear was a sight to behold.
1. Victory on Home Turf
The latest addition to this list is from NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff as the team of Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster (South Wales Subculture) defeated the Grizzled Young Veterans and Gallus to become the new NXT UK Tag Team Champions on their home turf in Cardiff. As a Welshman myself, this might come with a little bit of bias attached; but this was an incredible feel-good moment. Not only was the match itself exceptional, but the celebration after the match was beautiful.
Seeing tears run down the face of Andrews made it hard for some of us in attendance to keep our composure. Sure, South Wales Subculture’s reign was short, but the culmination of such a storied chase to the titles was the most memorable moment in the first year of NXT UK.