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Kevin’s NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff Review

September 1, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
South Wales Subculture NXT UK Takeover Cardiff
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Kevin’s NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff Review  

NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff
August 31st, 2019 | Motorpoint Cardiff Arena in Cardiff, Wales

It’s time for NXT UK’s second TakeOver. The first proved to be a good show but the landscape of the brand has changed significantly in the past eight months. It’s the only one of the three 8/31 shows I can watch the day it airs. I’m not paying $50 for All Out or $25 to watch New Japan live.

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Noam Dar vs. Travis Banks
This was a match that kind of signaled one of the issues with NXT UK. These guys are very good wrestlers, but they haven’t given us much of a reason to care. So that’s exactly what this match did. Technically, it was very good with some quality exchanges and an even playing field. You got the sense that they were well matched throughout. It just felt kind of hollow. The crowd was pretty hot for it, so what do I know I guess? Noam Dar focused on Banks’ neck and the babyface made the comeback. However, he relied a little too heavily on his signature offense. Dar had them scouted and Banks’ determination to keep going for them ended up costing him. Dar did survive the Coup de Grace like Finn Balor doesn’t exist in this universe. He then won with the Nova Roller Kick at the 13:57 mark. A good match that will ultimately be forgotten about almost instantly. [***¼]

Cesaro vs. Ilja Dragunov
This past week, Cesaro announced on WWE.com that he would be coming to TakeOver: Cardiff. There was a lot of talk about a Kings of Wrestling reunion. Instead, Ilja Dragunov accepted his open challenge. And I couldn’t have been happier. It got off to a slightly awkward start as if they were uncomfortable with each other. They quickly righted the ship and once Cesaro did a swing that lasted until the count of 40 (!), it never slowed down. From there, it was exactly the kind of hard hitting match I want from them. Cesaro’s military press GTS was insane. Dragunov showed how tough he was against an established main roster star by more than holding his own against him. He went for Torpedo Moscow but Cesaro launched him in the air and hit a massive uppercut before finishing with the Neutralizer in 12:26. Exactly what I was hoping for. I love a good hard hitting sprint. Cesaro should just stay in NXT UK. He’s not really going to go anywhere on Raw and this style suits him better. [****]

NXT UK Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Veterans [c] vs. Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews vs. Gallus
Flash and Andrews are from Wales, making them the hometown favorites. They brought the energy and aerial offense. The champions were outstanding heels who did all of the little things properly to add to the match. Gallus was, um, there. Most of this match was structured well. The Welsh boys would get the crowd invigorated with something before Grizzled Young Vets would find a way to change the pace or Gallus would come in with some of their power. It allowed the match to have emotional peaks and valleys and helped to create an insane atmosphere. Each close call for Andrews or Webster was met with such a great response from the crowd. The standoff between the good guys and the champs at the end was great. Gibson pulling the referee out when it looked like the titles were gone was perfect and the Ticket to Mayhem looked fantastic. But when Gibson covered, Andrews hit the SSP on him and Webster covered to win the titles in 20:17. The feel good moment of the show. That was a damn good multi-team match. A lot of moving parts that worked. A few spots came off awkwardly early and I really didn’t see what Gallus added to things. Other than that, this was a ton of fun and you have to love that finish. I’m ready for the new champs against GYV in a straight tag title match. [***¾]

Last Man Standing Match: Dave Mastiff vs. Joe Coffey
If you want a taste of how this match went down, about a minute in and the ring was broken. Mastiff whipped Coffey into the corner and the top rope just busted. That was followed by the use of a cricket bat, pool cues, tables, and chains among other things. They battled outside and into the crowd doing things like wailing on each other with weapons and just pounding on each other with fists. I liked some of the tough guy moments like Mastiff handing Coffey a chair and having them run into one another with them. Their fight took them over to the Kickoff Show set. They teased a suplex before both men fell through a table. As they were getting up, Coffey kicked away a case Mastiff used to pull him himself up, so he fell at the count of ten. That gave us a lackluster finish in 16:02. This should have been closer to 10 minutes. Some of what they did was met with diminishing returns and that finish was lame. [***]

NXT UK Women’s Championship: Toni Storm [c] vs. Kay Lee Ray
Kay Lee Ray has played a ton of mind games with Toni in the build to this. She’s angered the champion and made her lose focus. However, Toni kept her cool in the early stages and didn’t fall for the stalling tactics. That changed a bit when she only got a near fall with Storm Zero. You could see that Toni was growing frustrated. The challenger was having similar problems when she couldn’t keep Storm down. Toni’s issues caused her to try an avalanche Storm Zero that didn’t work. From there, Ray hit a Gory Bomb into the ropes and then a normal one to win the title in 9:59. That was fine, but came across as a big disappointment. It didn’t have the heat I wanted and was pretty flat. Hopefully, they have a rematch because I’ve seen them have better matches before. [**¾]

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER [c] vs. Tyler Bate
If you didn’t watch the Prime Target WWE Network special on this you absolutely should. It was stellar and helped tell the story of how WALTER believes his style is best for wrestling and not what British Strong Style does. Their PROGRESS Title match last year was great (****¼). They built the match around their contrasting styles. WALTER kept things to his pace and when Bate would get something going, it was by moving to the higher impact stuff he thrives on. WALTER quickly ended his fire with a powerbomb on the apron. That set the stage for WALTER to dominate by wearing down Bate. Each time Bate attempted to lift him, his back would give out and he continually failed. I liked that because we know Bate can lift him, so working the back gives a logical reason for it to be a struggle this go around. Bate barely hit an Exploder off the apron in a big spot and then started throwing reckless leg drops inside. You could tell they were done out of desperation. I loved how WALTER would stop him with a simple chop or something like that. His submissions looked absolutely brutal. They made every move count. A simple suplex following a struggle was met with a huge pop because it was built expertly. Bate sold the back after and during everything he did. Bate paying homage to Pete Dunne with a finger snap was cool. I loved Bate hitting the big left hand, only to fall and have WALTER land on top of him, further damaging the back. So simple, yet so effective. Bate finally did the impressive airplane spin and Burning Hammer, but it took so much out of him that he couldn’t cover in time. The near falls for Bate down the stretch were some of the best I’ve ever seen, especially on the Tyler Driver ’97 after bridging up. His late kickouts were phenomenal, including kicking out of a powerbomb at one. He tried firing up but you could tell he was spent. He gave it a go but ran into a lariat that ended this in 42:12. THAT is how you do a 40 minute match. Make every moment count. The tiniest details mattered, it never felt like it slowed, and the atmosphere was unbelievable. There weren’t shenanigans and the performance by both men was among the best I’ve ever seen. If I had a gripe, maybe Bate did a bit too much with the bad back, but even that played into the finish as his desire to do stuff like that helped dig his own grave. Wow. [*****]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Even though the weekly NXT UK show isn’t must see, they follow the NXT formula of bringing it when it comes to the big shows. Dar/Banks, Coffey/Mastiff, Storm/Ray were all fine to good matches that could’ve been better. Still good though. The Tag Team Title match ruled and Cesaro/Dragunov was great. But that main event was the best match of the year. They put on a clinic and showed how you make a 35+ minute main event work.