Date: March 25, 2021
Location: BT Studios, London, England
Commentators: Andy Shepherd, Nigel McGuinness
We’re back to England and things are continuing their slow and steady process around here. I’m not sure what that is building towards as there is no Takeover in sight, leaving us with a bunch of featured television matches again. This time around that would be Ilja Dragunov in a rematch against Sam Gradwell. Let’s get to it.
We open with Supernova Sessions with Noam Dar talking about how he is facing Tyler Bate in two weeks for a shot at the Heritage Cup. For now though the guest is Trent Seven, who came just short in his shot at the Cruiserweight Title. Dar wants to know Seven’s secret to the weight loss, with Seven saying he never worked so hard in his career.
Dar cuts him off and says he has been around WWE for five years and has performed on every brand in the company. He’s the original gangster of the relaunch of the cruiserweight division but Seven gets up and calls himself one of the Founding Fathers of NXT UK. Cue Sha Samuels, who is going to be in Dar’s corner against Bate. Seven volunteers to be there to even things up. I’ve heard worse ideas.
Sid Scala tells Jinny that she and Piper Niven are banned from ringside tonight when Joseph Conners faces Jack Starz. She storms off, albeit fashionably.
We hype up NXT Prelude, which looks like a decent card.
Video on Walter vs. Rampage Brown, who are having a title match at Prelude.
Joseph Conners vs. Jack Starz
Conners grabs a cravate to start and Starz is out just as fast. The same is true of a wristlock but Conners tries it again and takes him down by the wrist. Back up and they hit the pinfall reversal sequence until Starz uppercuts and dropkicks him to the floor. That means a big dive from Starz, followed by a crossbody for two back inside.
Conners hits a double stomp out of the corner though and a backbreaker sets up some near falls. A clothesline gives Conners two more but Starz is back with a suplex for a breather. Starz hits a running uppercut to the back and a backdrop makes it worse. A rollup gives Starz two but Conners grabs a DDT and a neckbreaker to finish Starz at 7:53.
Rating: C+. This is the kind of match that I would have expected to be absolutely nothing but it wound up being a pretty fun one, which works well in a story that has no business being overly interesting. Neither of them have anything going on so putting them into a story is a nice idea. It’s certainly better than having them sit in catering for five months.
Pretty Deadly are rather excited about their first Tag Team Title defense next week, to the point where they speak in unison.
Piper Niven gives Jack Starz a pep talk after his loss.
The Hunt vs. Danny Jones/Josh Morrell
It’s the new Hunt (though still with Eddie Dennis) with T-Bone taking Wild Boar’s place. T-Bone unloads on Morrell in the corner and Primate comes in for his own shots. It’s off to Jones, who gets his arm worked on by both monsters. Jones does manage a Backstabber on Primate though and the hot tag brings in Morrell to start cleaning house. That earns him a hard shot to the face and it’s back to T-Bone for a backbreaker. Everything breaks down and Jones hits a step up enziguri, only to get kneed in the face. Primate adds the top rope headbutt for the pin at 6:29.
Rating: D+. I’m not sure what they were going for here but this didn’t make me think much of the new Hunt. This felt like it was almost about bringing both of them up, which should not be the idea in a match like this one. The Hunt needed to look dominant and while their stuff looked good, it doesn’t matter all that much when two jobbers are surviving and even hanging in there for a bit. Just let it be about the Hunt and squash these guys.
Amir Jordan and Kenny Williams are training at the Performance Center and everything seems cool. For now.
Aleah James vs. Isla Dawn
James takes her down by the arm to start and hits a dropkick to send Dawn into the corner. Dawn comes out with a kick to the face and then hammers away, only to get small packaged for two. A Saito suplex sets up a weird standing double underhook stretch to keep James in trouble. That’s broken up and James hits a dropkick, followed by a crossbody for two. Dawn suplexes the heck out of her though and a bridging half nelson suplex finishes James at 4:17.
Rating: C. Not too bad here and I’ve always liked Dawn, so it’s nice to see her getting a push for the first time in a good while. They have hyped her up as the white witch over and over again so having her actually do witchcraft stuff makes sense for a change. It’s not like there is anyone else to go after Kay Lee Ray (save for Xia Brookside) anyway.
Xia Brookside makes Nina Samuels clean the bathroom.
Kay Lee Ray comes up to Isla Dawn in the back, so Dawn makes the lights flicker. That’s enough for Ray, who walks off.
Sam Gradwell vs. Ilja Dragunov
No DQ. Gradwell throws his jacket at Dragunov to start and hammers away but Dragunov is right back up with a forearm to the face. A kick to the face sends Gradwell outside and there’s a dropkick through the ropes. Dragunov picks up a chair but throws it down and takes things back inside instead. The Constantine Special drops Gradwell but Dragunov has to stop himself from going too nuts. Gradwell goes outside where Dragunov gets a big running start, only to have Gradwell blast him with the bell (it looked like in the head at first but Dragunov is holding his arm so well done on the head fake).
Some cord whips to the back keep Dragunov in trouble and a shot to the mouth makes it worse. Back in and a butterfly suplex onto a chair gets two on Dragunov. Gradwell pulls off some turnbuckle pads and, after powering out of a guillotine attempt, crotches Dragunov on top. Dragunov shoves him off but gets rammed into the buckle. Gradwell knocks him off the top and they head outside, with Dragunov hitting a heck of a clothesline (which hurts his damaged arm).
The steps are picked up so Gradwell begs off, only to get German suplexed on the floor. Dragunov chops away at the back of the neck so Gradwell begs off again, saying he is a dad too. This time he suckers Dragunov in for something like an AA onto the steps. That makes Dragunov scream in agony but it’s only good for two back inside. More chairs are piled up but Dragunov fights out of another AA.
Dragunov sends him into the exposed buckle to knock him silly and it’s time to go back up. The top rope backsplash only hits chairs though and Gradwell chops him in the back…..which sends Dragunov over the edge (Gradwell knows he’s done too and the facial is perfect). Dragunov hammers away and kicks him in the face, followed by a bunch of chairs to the back. A bunch of forearms to the face are enough for the referee to stop it at 14:48.
Rating: B. The storytelling was what mattered the most here, though they beat the heck out of each other for a good while. Commentary did a great job of pointing out the chops sending Dragunov back to the match with Walter, which sent him over the edge. Throw in his background of dealing with bullies and trying to find an outlet for everything and Dragunov going insane at such a thing makes a lot of sense. That’s the kind of depth you don’t get very often in something WWE related and I want to see where it goes. Gradwell deserved attention as well, as he has gone from nothing to looking great, so more of him too.
Overall Rating: B-. The main event carried this one but it’s another good example of the promotion being able to build a show up without most of their top stars around. That’s a really good sign, because they are showing the ability to build people up rather than just going with the same people over and over. WWE could use a lesson from them, but that has never stopped them before. Good main event to a pretty nice show with some impressive character development.
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