So NXT UK has come to its end. So, of course, I had to watch the last ever match on NXT UK TV. For the last time, the NXT UK Championship would be decided in the BT Sports Arena between best buddies turned enemies, Tyler Bates and Trent Severn. They competed in the final to crown the championship vacated by the injured Ilka Dragunov. Was it a fitting finale to a title only held by four people in its five year history, to a title made memorable by a host of stunning bouts? Well, yes!!!
Admittedly, the last time I watched NXT UK was the episode featuring a No Holds Barred match for the NXT UK Championship between Dragunov amd Jordan Devlin (click here for my review!). But I rarely watch any episodic wrestling show anyway. Dragunov never lost the title, but had to vacate it a few months ago thanks to an injury. And what better way to crown a new champion than a tournament?
Now, be you a fan of NXT Uk or plain NXT, you’ll have heard of Moustache Mountain, the great tag team of Tyler Bates and Trent Severn. This team had some cracking matches, most notably against The Undisputed Era and DIY. Bates and Severn were best buddies…until Severn turned on his beat friend with a low blow. I’m not sure of the timeline here, but I’m guessing the heel turn occurred before the tournament was announced…or at least before they knew they would face each other in the final. Pray correct me if I am wrong. So this bout not only had the championship on the line, but the clash of two former best friends turned bitter enemies. A tale as old as time…
So, would this bout honour the legacy of the NXT UK Championship, a Championship where at least 80% of defences were absolute classics? Bates vs Dunne, Dunne vs Walter, Bates vs Walter, Walter vs Ciampa, Walter vs Dragunov…all are necessary viewing if you are a wrestling fan.
I feared the answer would be ‘no’ after the first five minutes or so. You’d think Bates would want to batter his former best friend? The man who betrayed him? Apparently not. These two just…wrestled. Yes, it was a compelling start, and I love a but of faux-amatuer wrestling…but if this was a standars bout between the two when they were friends, it would be am appropriate start. I expected fisticuffs from the off.
But my initial reservations were soon dampened when the faux-amatuer wrestling came to an end and the sadistic side of Severn came in to play. He viciously targeted Bates’ knee, and Bates made it believable. Yes, he did manage all of his signature move with his bad knee, but he made it look like everything took an extra effort. Now, that’s how you sell an injury and keep the pace/intensity of the bout high. It was a textbook example how to sell an injury, one that doesn’t rely on comebacks that only serve to diminish the believability of the injury.
And Bates’ comebacks were perfectly timed, expertly showing Bates incredible strength, agility, and high-flying prowess. If there’s a wrestler who can do it all, it’s Tyler Bates. Severn, as one of the founders of British Strong Style, like to keep most of hos offence grounded. But it looks stiff as hell, in the grand tradition of Strong Style! These two aren’t afraid to exchange brutal looking strikes, and this bout was no exception. In the latter stage of the match, these two pounded welt after welt into each other. That is what I wanted at the start of the bout…but perhaps Bates had repressed his anger and hatred of his former best friend until he knew he needed it the most.
This was everything you wanted from NXT UK: a bout that married British Strong Style with WWE main event flavouring; two of the best homegrown British wrestlers finally going one on one (in NXT UK, anyway!); And a bout that kept increasing in intensity until you wrre breathless by the end. Yes, I may have been left deflated by the opening minites, as instead of coming to blows straigh away, the two rivals took it to the mat for some amatuer wrestling. But after that dalliance, these two poured their heart and soul to put a hellacious exclamation mark on the end of NXT UK. One more classic to add to the NXT UK Championship contests!!!
Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)
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