Best of British – WWE NXT UK – August 27th, 2020

Saw this pop up on the front page of the Network and was interested in one of the matches listed, so thought I’d check the whole show out. I have zero familiarity with the current product, so thought I’d give it a look, might have a different perspective on it.

Host Andy Shepherd introduces the programme and outlines the premise of the show – Superstars (TM) picking their favourite matches.

Black Tiger vs. The Cobra

William Regal introduces this one and pays tribute to Mark Rocco, the man under the Black Tiger mask. This is his only WWF match, from MSG at the end of December, 1984. Gorilla Monsoon going solo on commentary with Mean Gene going backstage to top up his drink or for a piss or both. The Cobra is noticeably taller than Black Tiger, who was of course a nemesis for Tiger Mask. Tiger goes for the leg early, while Cobra tries to wear the arm down. Very quickly Tiger hits the clothesline with a flip from Cobra that would be in the Coliseum Video intro. Cobra goes to the second for a move and gets caught awkwardly by Rocco (sorry, I just can’t get used to typing Tiger for him), but kicks out of it. A couple of revolutionary moves like a gutwrench into a side backbreaker and a gutbuster to set up the Boston Crab and the surfboard, but Rocco gets to the ropes. Rocco takes Cobra over with a fireman’s carry and hits a legdrop for two as a single person shouts “Boring!”. Don’t think the rest of the crowd were with you on that one, buddy. Constant movement, no holds being held too long. Cobra fucks up a Vader Bomb off the middle of the ropes, and Rocco works the legs. Rocco is sold with his knees, stomps and elbows. Rocco misses his own Vader Bomb and gets legdropped. Dropkick knocks Rocco out of the ring, but he goes up on the way back in and slammed off in another Coliseum Video clip as Gene comes back with his refill.

Gene reckons the winner will have close to a million dollars to buy a new house and fill up the garage with cars in his usual hyperbolic fashion. Rocco gets a pair of swinging neckbreakers and a scoop piledriver, but misses a Ted Dibiase back elbow off the top. Cobra comes back with a spinning heel kick, dropkick and tope to a big reaction. Both end up in the aisle off that one. Cobra back in first, but Rocco gets a splash off the top on the way back in. Floatover suplex gets two. Another scoop piledriver for two. He goes for a tombstone proper, which gets reversed, and Cobra hits a senton off the top for the win and the WWF Junior Heavyweight championship. This match has kind of a legendary status given how different it was, but doesn’t really pass the test of time so well and is just a very good match rather than a classic. Rocco was pretty solid, but Cobra was a bit scrappy in places.

Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai

Toni Storm picks this one, which seems a bit self-indulgent. To add to that, she’s got the date of the match tattooed on her forearm. This is from the Evolution event, which I believe was promoted by the inventor of women’s wrestling, Stephanie McMahon, and is the final of the Mae Young Classic, because Moolah was on the shit list. Michael Cole and Renee Young and Beth Phoenix on commentary, which is bound to annoy me because they start off talking in soundbites, although the rep with Cole is that if it’s not the main show he’s better. Testing out period with handshakes and clean breaks. Some crappy slaps from Storm, followed by a seated dropkick. Looks like the friendly period is over. Shirai comes back with a dropkick. Handstand kneedrop, followed by a Rings of Saturn-like move. Storm rolls through trying to get out and get some pin attempts while screaming like a cat. Beth talks about the possible damage to the pec region – say tits, Beth. Nice German suplex from Toni, but a lot of hamming it up with facial expressions after. She goes to the top but just stands still and lets Io dropkick her in a bit you could poke holes through with, followed by a nice moonsault to the outside.

Climbing back up to the apron, Storm goes for the Storm Zero (Tiger Driver), but no joy, so switches to a German suplex. Renee reminds us this is the Hardest Part of the Ring. I do get the idea behind that, but so little room for error with it that I just can’t get behind it. Nice block of some forearms from Storm by Io with her own forearms, as Storm carries on with the gurning. Shirai goes for her palm strike but gets flipped over with a nice clothesline. Storm Zero gets two as Storm does the “I can’t believe it!” face, which Renee can’t let just be seen and has to comment on it. Io comes back with a 619 and a nice springboard sunset flip that should’ve been three. Double knees in the corner followed by a moonsault that hits knees, and the Storm Zero gives Toni Storm the win. Better match than the prior one, to be honest, but I could do without the histrionics from Storm. This was a great match, no need for Renee and Beth to be talking it up before it was, though. I think Io is the better wrestler of the two, just very solid. I liked some of the near fall sequences in it, would’ve worked at any point. Big Steph, the son-in-law and Sara Del Rey come in to award Storm with flowers and the trophy that looks like it would kill you if you tripped and fell on it.

Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

Picked by Ilja Dragunov, who looks like if you shrunk Dolph Lundgren as he looks NOW in the wash, plus apparently is legitimately Russian but sounds like a RADA actor playing a Russian in a Die Hard movie. From NXT Arrival in 2014. Not sure who the other two commentators are quite yet, but William Regal waffles on like he’s standing on top of the aforementioned washing machine. The things Cesaro had around his legs look like garter belts, but he does look awesome physically otherwise. Zayn escapes a giant swing early and gets a flip to the outside. Flying crossbody block gets reversed to a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker that 95% hits. He mauls Zayn on the outside as the crowd, who I assume are regulars at this arena, just work through their array of chants regardless of what’s going on. I’d probably be hitting a rest hold at this point to let them get it out of their systems.

Cesaro tries to post Zayn’s leg but gets pulled into it himself, barely selling it. Zayn goes to dive through the ropes but gets hit with a European uppercut as Regal manages to talk with four different accents in the same sentence. Cesaro eventually does go to work on the leg, including with a double stomp. The crowd start overrating the match with the “This is awesome!” chant, but the punishment to the leg is as good as or better than Flair’s work if sustained. Dragon screw leg whips, which you know Zayn is going to try an enzuigiri from, which he does and misses, leading to a single leg Boston. Zayn escapes, knocks Cesaro out of the ring, goes for a moonsault, but gets caught and tilt-a-whirl slammed onto the ramp.

Back in, Zayn actually gets an exploder into the corner. Cesaro tries to run away from him to get another move, but the camera angle makes it look like Zayn pulls him back by the dick and gets a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Flatliner into a Koji Clutch. Cesaro reverses to the Stretch Muffler. Zayn gets the ropes. I’ve worked out by this point that one commentator is Tom Phillips, from being called ‘Tom’, but the other sounds like Taz-lite. Cesaro gets the giant swing eventually. European uppercut, but his pinfall attempt is reversed into a crucifix for two. Cesaro has this look about him where whether it’s two minutes or twenty minutes in he looks about the same level of exhaustion. I know he’s pretty much a machine, but so was Ric Flair, and his hair would be matted with sweat. Zayn gets Frankensteiner off the top and a Helluva Kick for two. Cesaro then keeps on knocking down Zayn with European uppercuts and telling him to stay down for the count, which he doesn’t. Eventually he hits a German suplex, and eludes the Neutraliser for multiple two-counts. Elevated European uppercut only gets one, so Cesaro hits one more and the Neutraliser for the win. The announcers then talk about how this was the OPENING MATCH of the event, which to me highlights the problem I have – they worked incredibly hard, but I didn’t think it was half as good as the last match, because there was so much thrown out there that obviously didn’t amount to anything because the guy hitting the move was the second person up most times. It’s not an effort thing, it’s a style thing.

Conclusion: For the most part, if you turned the sound down and didn’t listen to the crowd or the commentators then the matches are fine, but they are supposed to be an important part of it and a lot of the time they undermine the stuff going on. It’s just too forced. But, I did really enjoy that women’s match despite the hammy acting on Toni Storm’s part.