NXT UK TAKEOVER – CARDIFF [Review]: Living Legends.

Noam Dar v Travis Banks – Just the fact that Dar is over on this brand just shows you that 205 Live should’ve been deaded years ago. Even with the funny “Alicia Fawwwwxxx” gimmick, no one gave a shit, and looked at the Scottish Supernova as a mere job-guy. Not now. He’s a hell of a heel, and although he’s lost a little steam since switching his smile to a smerk (the NXT UK faithful really liked Noam as a babyface), he had a solid opening match here with the Kiwi Buzzsaw — a guy whose style is just fit for opening matches. It was an overall energetic, at times slightly sloppy fun one, with a Slice of Heaven x Noam Nova finish. Good match and Banks isn’t hurt by the loss. – 3/5

Cesaro v Ilja Dragunov – Well, this was a nice surprise. We knew Cesaro recently talked about an open challenge for this TakeOver, but the great Ilya Dragunov? Talk about a dream match-up, style-wise! You couldn’t have begun Cesaro’s descent into the UK brand any better. Both guys went chest to chest in a mini-war you’d crave for; while it never went into third gear (or sixth, like the once in a lifetime main event), for a second match on the card it was better than anything from that King of the Ring tournmane thing and definitely one of Cesaro’s best matches in quite some time. He also gave Ilya the rub post-match, in a nice display of sportsmanship that swerved a would-be heel angle. I loved this. – 3.75/5

NXT UK Tag Team Championship: Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster v Grizzled Young Veterans & Gallus – Talk about surprise match of the day. You knew it’d be fairly good, but 20-minutes, 4-star level good? Damn, this one had so many awesome, highly thought-out double team spots and everyone got their time to shine. Even Wolfgang got alley-tossed by his partner Mark Coffey on top of everybody! And that wasn’t even like the 4th or 5th best spot. One of the most memorable spots was a Flash high knee/Andrews reverse Rana combo. It was so electric. This was also by far Mark Andrews best performance on the UK brand; while he’s a super talent and has had his moments, Mark finally came off like a superstar out there. GYV are such a great heel team, as they’ve been great with PROGRESS and other promotions for years. Here, they executed a suicide doomday device spot to perfection and later hit a huge Ticket To Mayhem for a crazy near fall. While the finish looked as if it was about to fluke-fuck a great match, Andrews nailed the champs with his second great shooting star press (the first one hit everyone on the floor much earlier on) and rolled Flash over for the win. This was ultra! – 4-4.25/5

Last Man Standing: Joe Coffey v Mastiff – Fun hardcore match between a couple o’ hosses. This went all over the arena and didn’t hold back, since the ropes broke out of a turnbuckle (shoot or not, it was cool). Some holy shit stuff throughout, with these mammoth guys dippin’, divin’ and Finlayin’ through tables, hitting each other with crickets, bats, chairs and what not. I nice alternative to all the strong style and high flying action we’ve seen tonight. Not the best match, but I enjoyed this. – 3.25/5

NXT UK Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray v Toni Storm – Good match that never really felt like a championship one. Toni hit Storm Zero way too early, and the kick out from Kay Lee got zero reaction from the crowd. Weird. The match got better following that, with Ray executing a few superkicks and her finisher early too. Ray also nailed Storm with a wacky but effective flying knee/kick that led to a suicide dive and a pair of more Gory bombs. 1-2-3, no one popped. People groaned. Yeah.. way too soon. This would’ve been a fine match on TV, but for this TakeOver, it just couldn’t hold up. – 3/5

NXT UK Championship: WALTER v Tyler Bate – A 42-minute match. Between former PWG World Champion WALTER and EVOLVE/PROGRESS Wrestling superstar Tyler Bate. On a WWE brand. Are we living this dream or what? Did I tell you this went forty-two minutes? And it felt like 20? Or even 10? This was absolutely incredible. In short, WALTER and Bate gave me all sort of Misawa/Kobashi feels. I recently went back and watched a pair of those two All Japan classic confrontations and this was even better. I’m not going to run through all the HOLY FUCK THEY DID THAT big spots, because there were a million. Just know that these two Euro stallions just rained all over All Elite’s parade. Unless the final three matches at All Out hit 5-stars, this classic — one of the all-time greatest matches in WWE history, already — will be the talk of the town. I’m real curious and excited to see if anyone wrestling tonight in Chicago was watching. They should have. Or maybe not. Seeing this level of greatness before their match could be detrimental! Just know that Bate brough it like a major league babyface, the Cardiff crowd was the best WWE audience since TakeOver: Brooklyn, and there were a hundred little subplots and callbacks from WALTER’s matches with Bate’s British Strong Style brothers-in-arms, Seven and Dunne.

 

Watching WALTER here made me wonder how this guy isn’t the #1 villain on WWE TV. Minus Imperium, he doesn’t even need a gimmick; just let him GO. And go here he did. WALTER has an infinite stamina gauge. He just keeps coming and coming and coming. He’d constantly destroy Bate’s back to set up the choke. The psychology here matched the superior physicality and incredibly worked spots. As for Bate, sure he’s small but the “Big Strong Boy” he one of the absolute fuckin’ strongest guys on the roster. In some moments here, he slammed the 300-plus pound behemoth around like a punitive sized superhero. He even destroyed WALTER with a Code Red reversal, dead lift german and Burning Hammer! Wilder, Bate hit a series of Xploder’s, including one from the top rope and one off the apron to the floor. So nasty. I can go on and on and on, but you should probably watch a match I give this score to, huh? – 5.5/5

Overall = 3.75/5 Bibles

Thanks to a terrific tag title match, Cesaro getting a chance to shine and an ungodly instant classic main event, this was easily the best NXT UK event since the inaugural tournament. This morning’s New Japan’s Royal Quest and AEW’s All Out — right now! — are going to have a tough time stepping up to this.

-Travis Moody

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