NXT UK: TakeOver – Cardiff; August 31, 2019 @ The Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales
“People are going to be talking about this match for years to come,” exclaimed Nigel McGuinness at the end of August 31’s NXT UK: TakeOver – Cardiff.
To say the least, he is not wrong.
Many fans are currently feeling the burn of their favourite independent wrestlers signing contracts that preclude them from the country’s nightclub and local hall venues, but this evening’s main event between NXT UK title-holder WALTER and Tyler Bate was today’s British wrestling style taken to its apogee, as the combatants fought for over 40 minutes in front of a crowd that was glued to their every move.
The bout started off with the WALTER template of him teasing the ferocity of his chops, before he took control with various wear-down holds. A beating was only around the corner, however, as “Der Ringgeneral” took the bout to the outside, destroying Bate with an apron powerbomb and another in which WALTER missed the target of the ring post, causing Bate to crash hard on the floor just beyond the edge of the ring. Bate did retaliate, though, throwing WALTER from the apron to the floor with a thudding exploder suplex and, shortly thereafter, doing likewise with a visually stunning vertical suplex in the ring.
The “This is wrestling!” chant that then boomed throughout the Motorpoint Arena was not due to any great technical prowess, but the oft-told story of the babyface making himself a match for the oversized bully, and a trifecta of exploders, an airplane spin, a burning hammer, and a Tyler Driver ‘97 for a glorious near-fall indulged the audience’s lust for the right result. After an unbelievable feat of strength in which Bate rose to his feet with WALTER on his back, the champion hit a sleeper suplex on the apron, and another in the ring, only to get a one-count on a powerbomb. That was all Bate had, however, as WALTER – who within the company is considered to have a poor attitude to hard work – concluded the epic contest with a lariat worthy of Stan Hansen’s reputation.
Had the storyline in which Kay Lee Ray teased Toni Storm about her father abandoning her in childhood been written into Raw or Smackdown, the reaction would have been as pleasant as the caress of a nettle facecloth. Here, it was saved by NXT UK being niche enough that few believed that Ray and Storm weren’t friends in real-life, and indeed, Storm dropped the NXT UK Women’s title to the Scot in a fine match on this night. Storm dominated the bout, getting a near-fall early on with a Storm Zero after she had appeared to be in floods of tears in the ring. Ray almost doomed herself to more than a loss when she came perilously close to landing on her head and neck on a cannonball splash from the top rope to the floor, but back in the ring, she hit a sinister Gory Bomb into the ropes, and then a more routine one onto the canvas to capture the pinfall and the championship.
WWE has found many ways to imply weapons-based violence in its PG era, but the Last Man Standing bout between Dave Mastiff and Joe Coffey had more real barbarity than any bout in recent WWE memory. The top turnbuckle was almost immediately broken when Mastiff whipped Coffey into the corner, and while that was a planned spot, Coffey’s subsequent fall when leaping to the second rope was not. The spill at least played into the previous incident, and the subsequent action caused a wince in a more appropriate way, as when they reached the outside, Coffey struck with a pool cue, and Mastiff laid into Coffey with two appallingly hard cricket bat shots to the back, before whipping him with a chain for good measure. After a clever tug-of-war spot, the Black Country grappler struck a cannonball through Coffey and a table, before Coffey fled to the crowd, only to also take some brutal chair shots. After they fought above the announcer’s table at the back of the arena, both men took a nasty fall from the pre-show set and through a table. When it seemed that they might just make it to their feet, Coffey kicked out at Mastiff’s knee, sending him down for the final, all-important moment.
Wales’ own Chris Roberts would have been refereeing 150 miles away in London for New Japan had he not recently signed for WWE, and he got to count the fall for his compatriots here as Mark Andrews and “Flash” Morgan Webster triumphed in an NXT UK Tag Team title match that would not have been out of place in Andrews’ ATTACK! promotion. Andrews and Webster were certainly the stars of the outing, spiking Wolfgang on his head with a knee-lift/reverse ‘rana combination, with Andrews also hitting an impressive shooting star press from the top to the floor on the remaining grapplers, even if the wait to receive him seemed longer than Liverpool’s Premier League duck. A Stundog Millionaire followed by a swanton bomb offered a fantastic near-fall, equalled by Andrews kicking out of a Helter Skelter twisting suplex and a 450o splash by James Drake. Wolfgang then took a Doomsday Device on the floor from the champions, but when Webster then struck a 450o on Drake, Gibson agonisingly pulled the referee from the ring. Finally, after a Ticket To Mayhem on Webster, Drake wiped out Gallus with a dive to allow Gibson the pinfall, but Andrews struck a shooting star press to his back for an explosively-received title change.
Cesaro was said to have made an open challenge to the NXT UK roster earlier in the day, taken up by Ilja Dragunov in an awkward pre-match promo segment. The opening moments were as ugly as the facial expressions Cesaro wears with his mouthpiece in, but picked up when he threw Dragunov over the top rope to the floor, with the Russian appearing to take much of the force on his tailbone. After an impressive 40-second giant swing from the Swiss, a spinning 6-1-Line lariat and a crotch-hold German suplex got Dragunov back on the offence he needed to look combative, although one could almost hear Kevin Dunn grumble as he struck a coast-to-coast dropkick away from the hard camera’s view. Cesaro – who notably wrestled for wXw, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and ROH in Europe prior to signing with WWE – struck an overhead press into a knee-lift, followed by a Torpedo Moskau-esque running forearm for a near-fall, after which the crowd bellowed, “Are you watching Vince McMahon?” (He’s not, because if he had been all these years, Cesaro would be a top-five attraction for him.) Dragunov hit a vicious Death Valley Driver into the corner, but the only follow-up was a “This is awesome!” chant and a wide-angle camera shot. After a top-rope senton for a near-fall, Cesaro retaliated with pop-up uppercut and a Neutraliser for the pinfall.
In the opening contest, Noam Dar pinned Travis Banks with a Nova Roller in a bout in which the crowd was split between the heel Scot and the plucky, babyface New Zealander. Banks – who wrestles a hard but remarkably awkward style – went after Dar’s knee early on, but Dar soon threw him into the ring steps and scored a near-fall with a clothesline to the back of the head. Making his own comeback on the outside, Banks made little contact on a Slice of Heaven kick after springboarding off the barricade, but when Dar sold it anyway, Banks took a near-fall with a double-stomp from the top rope. When a second Slice of Heaven was then countered by a sweep from Dar, “The Scottish Supernova” struck the Nova Roller to audible applause.
1. Noam Dar def. Travis Banks (Pinfall / 14:00 / *3/4)
2. Cesaro def. Ilja Dragunov (Pinfall / 12:30 / ***1/4)
3. Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster def. The Grizzled Young Veterans & Gallus (Pinfall / 20:20 / NXT UK Tag Team titles / ***1/2)
4. Joe Coffey def. Dave Mastiff (16:10 / Last Man Standing / ***1/2)
5. Kay Lee Ray def. Toni Storm (10:00 / NXT UK Women’s title / ***1/4)
6. WALTER def. Tyler Bate (Pinfall / 42:20 / NXT UK championship / ****)
(Credit for match times: Larry Csonka / 411Mania)