Friday, 26 October 2018

Tournament Preview // Fight Club: PRO Infinity 2018

On the 26th October, Fight Club: PRO present the 8th annual Infinity Trophy tournament at The Hanger in Wolverhampton, with one of the strongest line-ups in a long time. The list of winners reads like a who's who of Fight Club: PRO with Trent Seven (2010 & 2013), MK McKinnan (2011), Clint Margera (2012), Chris Brookes (2014), Pete Dunne (2015), Travis Banks (2016) and Omari (2017) all having walked out victorious, but who could be looking to join that list in 2018? Our sources say this year's tournament will follow the new format set down by last year's show, with four singles matches as semi-finals, before an elimination four-way final. There's a huge potential for storytelling in such a final, especially with the recent FCP vs. Schadenfreude storyline that has taken over the promotion over the last few month, as well as a number of super interesting semi-final possibilities. Lets take a look at the field, their recent record in FCP and tournament history, before evaluating their chances of winning and possible opponents and stories that could be told along the way. 

All photos courtesy of The Ringside Perspective

Tyler Bate 

On paper, Tyler Bate has to be the bookies favourite heading into Infinity on Friday. Obviously, matches aren't won paper, but it's hard to look past the run of form the Big Strong Boi has been on, as well as his obvious tournament credentials. Bate hasn't lost in FCP one on one since February 2016 and whilst a lot of his focus has been on tag team action with Moustache Mountain and British Strong Style, the run of eight straight victories has included putting away the likes of Will Ospreay, Daisuke Sekimoto and Jeff Cobb, as well as Travis Banks on two occasions. Bate also has the most wins in all match-types in FCP this year, totalling 11 out of 15. The 21 year old has also built up quite the tournament pedigree, famously winning WWE's United Kingdom Championship Tournament in 2017, topping FCP's other tournament the Dream Tag Team Invitational with Trent Seven earlier in the year and CHIKARA's King of Trios in 2017 with Seven and Pete Dunne. Further back, Bate picked up victories in Great Bear Promotions URSA Major One Night Tournament and Junior Heavyweight Cup in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as well as Shropshire Wrestling Alliance's British Lions Cup (also 2014). This will be Bate's fifth appearance in Infinity, but the first under the current format, having previously come out on the losing side of the 2014 final against Chris Brookes.

Bate's style is perfect for tournaments with his ability to fight from underneath, sell sublimely and gather crowd support creating a compelling atmosphere that is amplified in a tournament setting. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited about the possibility of Bate having to face Trent Seven in the semis, with that match having previously only happened in WWE. 

"Speedball" Mike Bailey 

In terms of Fight Club: PRO, Mike Bailey is the least experienced guy in the tournament, but his international credentials should put him amongst the favourites. Speedball made his FCP debut in June at International Tekkers: Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, winning a wonderful four-way fatal match over David Starr, El Phantasmo and last year's Infinity winner Omari. Most of Bailey's time recently has been spent in Japan with Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) and Germany with Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), where in terms of tournaments it's been a year of near misses. A strong performance in D-Ou Grand Prix was followed up by reaching the final of both Road to 16 Carat and AMBITION 9 in wXw only to lose to Marius Al-Ani and Timothy Thatcher respectfully. The Canadian's last tournament victory came in 2016 at Quebec's North Shore Pro Wrestling in their Standing 8 tournament,with Bailey also being victories in DDT's DNA Grand Prix in 2016, Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW)'s Best of the Best in 2015 and Capital City Championship Combat's (C4) Snowbrawl in 2014.

Speedball is arguably the guy with the most varied style in the whole tournament, able to fly with the best, strike hard and mix it up technically, after his superb showing at Tekkers I'm looking forward to seeing him get in there with some more of FCP's best.

Trent Seven 

The only former FCP Champion in the tournament, as well as being a two-time Infinity winner and four time finalist, Trent Seven has the most impressive record of anyone in Fight Club: Pro, having also won this year's Dream Tag Team Invitational, but hasn't had a singles match in the promotion since losing to Travis Banks at DTTI Hangover in May 2017. To that end Seven is winless in his last four singles matches in FCP, going down to Banks again in the final of Infinity 2016, Mikey Whiplash at Breaking into Heaven and Pete Dunne at Pulp Fixxion Part 2, leaving Seven without a one on one victory in over two years (a win over Mark Haskins at Project Mayhem V in September 2016 was the last success for the Super Don). Tournament wise, Seven's only success outside of FCP came in CHIKARA's King of Trios with Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, whilst he reached the final of Adriatic Special Combat Academy (ASCA)'s Super 8 tournament and Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW)'s Melbourne City Invitational Tournament, both last year. 

Beyond than the tournament, I'm super stoked to see a Seven singles match in FCP after such a long time, because for me Seven's style was such a big part of what made me a Fight Club: PRO fan in 2014 and I'm looking forward to him chopping the shit out of someone, nailing 46 piledrivers and doing some ridiculous no selling. Will his issues with Schadenfreude members Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis play a part? We'll find out Friday.

Jordan Devlin 

Jordan Devlin has been on a marvellous run in FCP in 2018, with victories over MK McKinnan, Angelico, Naoki Tanizaki, Trey Miguel, Scotty Davis and El Phantasmo. In fact, Devlin's only loss this year came at the hands of the current PWG World Champion & ROH World Television Champion Jeff Cobb in July. The 28 year old Irishman reached last year's final, besting fellow 2018 competitor Kyle Fletcher in the semi-finals, only to be eliminated 2nd by another 2018 entrant, Mark Davis. Despite a strong showing, Devlin comes into the competition without a single tournament victory to his name, with his only other final appearance coming back in 2011 at Fight Factory Pro Wrestling (FFPW) in their European Cruiserweight Title Qualification tournament, where he came out on the losing side against B. Cool. 

Devlin has recently been involved in a feud with Millie McKenzie and Pete Dunne (with Jinny on his side), so there's a lot of potential in doing a Devlin vs. McKenzie singles match in the semi-finals, but there's also the prospect of Jordan avenging last year's elimination at the hands of Mark Davis. With a whole extra year of experience and will the Killer Import be able to go any further this year?  

Millie McKenzie 

Millie McKenzie has become one of the most popular acts in FCP over the last 12 months, helped by her association with mentor Pete Dunne and the dynamic of their tag team The Bruisermates. She comes into Infinity on a run of form, having put away both Jinny and Bea Priestley lately, as well as winning the Pro Wrestling Revolver Tag Team titles with Pete Dunne at FCP in June. McKenzie ended up being eliminated in last year's semi-finals by eventual winner Omari and has managed a number of semi-final appearances in other companies tournaments, reaching the final four of the PROGRESS Wrestling's Women's Title #1 Contender's Tournament in 2017, Revolution Pro Wrestling's (RevPro) British Women's Title Tournament, Defiant Wrestling's Ringmaster Tournament and wXw's Femme Fatales Tournament this year. Could she go one further and make the final four of Infinity? 

Whether technically Millie is ready for the win here and the spot that comes with it, I'm not entirely sure. Her popularity is undeniable, with her in-ring performances being improved from working with world class wrestlers like Pete Dunne, but personally I think she needs a good 12 months more to develop as a singles competitor before reaching a regular main event spot. That being said, I think there's a number of interesting potential match-ups here, with the Jordan Devlin one being the most obvious because of their issues lately, whilst a clash with Mark Davis would he elements of what made Davis' match with Kay Lee Ray in last year's tournament one of the strongest bouts of the night. 

Mark Davis 

And so we reach our first of two Schadenfreude members in the tournament. Mark Davis is undefeated one on one in FCP, beating all four of the opponents that have been put in front of him over the last 18 months. Kyle Fletcher, Kay Lee Ray, Clint Margera and MK McKinnan have all fallen to the Aussie, whilst Davis also made the final two of last year's Infinity, eliminating Jordan Devlin in the final four way, before Omari was able to pull out the win. It's been a great year for tournaments for Davis, both with Aussie Open partner Kyle Fletcher and a singles performer, having won PROGRESS's Natural Progression Series V and Thunderbastard Tag Team Series, as well as reaching the final of the Dream Tag Team Invitational. Outside of 2018, Davis has often found himself in the final, but struggled to complete the deal, coming second in Pro Wrestling Alliance Queensland (PWAQ)'s Tag Team title tournament with Mason Childs (as the Sex Panthers), both PWAQ's Rise of the Warriors 5 & 6 in 2011 & 2012 and Newcastle Pro Wrestling's Kings of the Castle 2013 with Ryan Eagles, before coming second in both of FCP's last two tournaments. Will it be third time lucky for Dunkzilla? 

With a whole new attitude since joining Schadenfreude its difficult to see how Davis couldn't be considered a favourite for the tournament.

Kyle Fletcher 

Kyle Fletcher may have claimed to be Fight Club: PRO Champ for a little bit, but that title wasn't really his and he didn't even steal it himself, then got battered by the delightful Meiko Satomura upon her return. That being said, since joining Schadenfreude Fletcher has been able to pick some impressive victories, besting both former FCP Champion Travis Banks and last years Infinity winner Omari, when before joining the group the Aussie Arrow had lost every single one on one contest he'd been placed in. The 18 year old has limited tournament experience, especially as a singles performer, most recently finding himself out in the First Round of RevPro's British J Cup, Defiant's Ringmaster tournament and Riptide Wrestling's Brighton Title tournament. In a tag team, Fletcher has reached finals, including this year's DTTI, as well as Newy Pro's Kings of the Castle 2017 with SnapChad. 

Fletcher has a lot to prove coming into this one, after his antics with the belt and the presence of Schadenfruede could prove fruitful. If Davis and Fletcher both manage to make it to the final, it will be difficult to look past one of them taking the Trophy. 

El Phantasmo 

El Phantasmo has become a real slow-burn favourite in FCP for me and I think for many others as well. Initially confined to scrambles, it was difficult to get fully invested in the Canadian, even if his rope-walking spot is rad af. However, since breaking into singles matches, his worked has really began to shine. Unfortunately, those performances haven't translated into victories with ELP falling to Jordan Devlin, MK McKinnan and Tyler Bate in his last three, whilst also suffering a loss to the seldom seen Elijah back in 2017. That leaves ELP with just one singles victory heading into Infinity (against Adam Brookes in January), whilst also only being able to win one of the eight scramble matches he's taken part in. To say that Phantasmo is the tournament's outsider would be an understatement. However, he has shown tournament prowess elsewhere this year, having won RevPro's British J Cup in September and reached the final of Defiant's Ringmaster tourney in July. The 32 year old has also won Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW)'s Pacific Cup in 2009, as well as reached the final an impressive three further times in 2008, 2013 and 2017. 

Could El Phantasmo create a huge upset and take the Trophy at The Hangar?

There's a lot of questions that I can't wait to find out the answers to heading into Infinity! I'll see you here after the show for the full review! All the best xoxo 

Written by James Marston 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Live Review // ATTACK! Pro Wrestling GooseBUMPS VI // Drew Parker vs. Splits McPins

ATTACK!'s Halloween spectacular was back for the sixth time with the Trinity Centre in Bristol as the host of the grizzly graps. This year's edition was hit by taking place on the same day as a NXT UK taping and a big RevPro event, meaning a whole host of regulars, including ATTACK! Champion Wild Boar and 24/7 Champion Pete Dunne, as well as the likes of Chris Brookes, El Phantasmo, Aussie Open, Millie McKenzie, Travis Banks, Eddie Dennis, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate were all absent. It was definitely a blow and a test of the depth of the ATTACK! roster, but offered up opportunities to the likes of Drew Parker and Splits McPins who main-evented in Halloween Havoc 2018, as well as The Hunter Brothers colliding with Team WhiteWolf in a "Grudge" match. The show also featured action involving Martin Kirby, Mike Bird, Damian Dunne, Chuck Mambo and Spike Trivet...but was it any good? Lets take a look. 

FUN fact - This was the first GooseBUMPS missing appearances from Pete Dunne and Eddie Dennis (with at least one of the pair having main evented every incarnation of the event, including together on the original and third shows), meaning Mike Bird and Damian Dunne are the only two to have wrestled on all six shows.

The show kicked off with an appearance from ATTACK! General Manager and general scamp Kid Lykos, who announced that former tag partners turned bitter rivals LK Mezzinger and Splits McPins would be taking part in Pick Your Poison at the show, with both men able to choose their enemies opponent. Cheers Lykos. 

A solid opener saw 2 time ATTACK! Tag Team Champion LK Mezinger pick up a victory over former ATTACK! Champion Damian Dunne. The bout continued the narrative of a disheartened Dunne, still recovering from the breakup of the Anti-Fun Police at the hands of Nothing to Prove in August, keeping things short and sweet as we were provided with glimpses of the old Chief including a thunderous spear that garnered a big pop from the Trinity Centre and that felt like it could have been a turning point. Mezinger didn't look out of place with a more experienced performer, working well in the spoiler role, as he mocked Dunne and provided the early ammunition with a massive slap. I'd like to see the character fleshed out slightly and a few of the disparate elements (the outfit, the cane, the nickname of "Your favourite scumbag" etc.) bought together more to create a better defined persona, but that will surely come with more singles exposure over time. Dunne attempting his springboard lungblower finish (without trademark "No Funahhhhh") was a running theme throughout, so of course it would eventually be his downfall with Mezinger able to transition into a cradle belly to back piledriver. It was a shame that the following move, a senton bomb, missed by a mile taking the punch out of the finish that really didn't require the top rope move after the more impressive piledriver.

FUN Fact - This was LK Mezinger's first singles win in ATTACK!, having previously suffered losses to Big Grizzly and Tyler Bate.

Nothing to Prove continued to gain momentum as ELIJAH put away Niwa in what was a strong showing from both performers. This was probably the best singles work I've seen from either as they paced the bout well and plotted in a few brilliant spots. I've been waiting to be impressed by both men for some time and whilst both have shown potential in multi-mans and tag outings, this was the first singles match that I've been genuinely into from Elijah, whilst in the case of Niwa, it's difficult to buy into someone you mostly see in scramble matches. It wasn't a must-watch classic, but both men took the opportunity and produced a match that was full of action and physicality. The obvious highlight of the match was the massive springboard coast to coast dropkick that ELIJAH used to knock Niwa off the apron on the other side of the ring, because it came almost completely out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise. I'm hoping both men get more opportunities like this one around the country because it will only be a benefit to both the performers and the scene in general.

FUN fact - Niwa is still searching for his first ATTACK! singles win, after previously suffering losses to Travis Banks in July and Mike Bird in August.

Okay, the first two matches had been alright, solid stuff, but where the fudge was my Halloween goodness? It came in the form of a Grudge Match for the Tag titles, which the Hunter Brothers took literally as they appeared to have been transformed into the spirit from Halloween classic, The Grudge. Team WhiteWolf on the other hand reminded us that "No one expects the Spanish inquisition" as the Spaniards arrived as the Monty Python sketch to hilarious consequences. Seriously, I struggled to breath through portions of this match, with some utter silliness displayed by both teams as they played up the roles and had a number of ludicurous interactions in the opening portion of the match. The variant on the cliche bridging pin reversal spot was the highlight, before the Hunters were offered a beer and quickly snapped back into their usual selves. From then the match shifted into something much more recognisable as The Hunter Brothers continued to show why they're thought of as one of, if not the, best tag team in the UK with a number of sleek tag team sequences including a lovely superkick spot. Whilst there was some miscommunication that lead to a really awkward dive spot, Team WhiteWolf still had a strong showing, flying about the place with ease and pulling out a number of cracking tag moves, including a missile dropkick variant of Total Elimination (Totaller Elimination?), as well as a top-rope Spanish Inquisition Fly from A-Kid. They aren't the finished article yet, but more matches like this will help them get there. 

FUN Fact - The Hunter Brothers have been undefeated since the break up of the Anti-Fun Police at WinterSlam 3, with their run as a duo extending back to the second night of Press Start VI.

The second half began with more Nothing to Prove success as Chuck Mambo (as a creepy face-painted Love Making Demon) defeated Martin Kirby (as Uncle Fester off of The Addams Family). A little bit spookier than the previous Nothing to Prove singles match, but with similar structure, it's difficult for those match not to merge into one in my head, but this was probably the strongest of the three. Whilst it lacked the emotional element of the opener and the big spot from ELIJAH vs. Niwa, this was just a good solid wrestling match, with the two working nicely together in their first one on one bout. Whilst it feels like Mambo is still settling into his heel character, the role allows for him to explore his style in ways that the happy-go-lucky surfer gimmick doesn't, with Chuck able to display (perhaps oxymoronically) both his technical talents and fiery brawling side. Kirby is, of course, one of the most dependable and consistent performers in the country and worked well in his role, getting the crowd behind him with ease, despite having not performed for ATTACK! in Bristol since December 2016, thanks to some offence like his springboard dropkick and by not being a part of Nothing to Prove. A nasty bump of heads on an O'Connor roll into sleeper hold could have derailed the finish, with Mambo suffering a nasty wound under his eye, but they kept on with a couple of good near falls for each, before the dreaded sleeper hold sealed the win for Mambo. 

FUN Fact - Martin Kirby has never won a match at ATTACK! in Bristol.

HALLOWEEN MADNESS! If there's one thing this show will be remembered for it's that Spike Trivet dressed up as Theresa May and came out to Dancing Queen. As soon as I realised what was about to happen, a few seconds into the famous song, until the end of the match I was in absolute stitches, with Trivet owning every second of his Bristol ATTACK! debut. He was part of a four way scramble, that also featured Mike Bird (as Big Mummy), Shay Purser (as Kung-Fu Panda) and Nico Angelo (as Tarzan), that was stacked full of the silliness that ATTACK! is most loved for. There was the ridiculous Big Mummy character, a parody of World of Sport legend Big Daddy, full of lots of insider stuff to pop those who got it, the delightful Purser just trying to Kung Fu shit and Angelo with a more animalistic twist on his super flippy and athletic self, what more do you want from a batshit mad four way? Trivet pulled it all together with his various Spinnatory attempts, with the match peaking when Trivet offered £20 to Angelo to do a dive for him, quickly swapping for banana when he realsied Tarzan didn't understand the concept, before striking Angelo in the junglefruits. The finish saw Bird going nuts with piledrivers and Steiner Screwdrivers for all, before Purser completely no sold a top-rope over the shoulder Tombstone and won with a swift punch to the stomach. This had actually been set up earlier in the match with Purser unable to use the move because of Big Mummy's big belly (a hoodie inside Bird's singlet) but with the belly now gone Purser was clear to hit the move and pick up the win. Side note: Purser moving up the belt classes of pro wrestling is really cute gimmick that will hopefully become even more interesting and dramatic as things progress. 

FUN fact - Mike Bird ties Travis Banks for most ATTACK! four-way appearances in 2018, although neither man has managed to win one.

The best thing to come out of all the absences on the show was that Splits McPins and Drew Parker got a big opportunity to main event in a singles match and grabbed that opportunity with both hands. With a Halloween Havoc No Disqualification type gimmick, this was a rough and tumble clash with plenty of menace behind it, with the pair having issues since the start of the year (including McPins' tag partner LK Mezinger (fka Lloyd Katt) defecting to NTP). The match built well throughout, shifting through the gears well, moving from back and forth seated punches to big shots with plastic wet floor signs to stapling balls and apron bumps, there was pretty much no let-up or lull as McPins and Parker consistently upped the ante. Parker's experience in the Hardcore zone/sphere meaning he was able to come out on top of number of exchanges was a nice little story, that threaded the match together, making this feel more main event than throwaway plunder brawl. Some big highspots helped towards this aim as well, with a nasty death valley driver on the apron from McPins and Parker's avalanche falcon arrow through a table being the most memorable. The finish saw things develop further with a clever ref bump that involved Parker stapling McPins mask back to front and putting referee Huw in place for a superkick, before thumbtacks and LK Mezinger arrived on the scene. Mezinger accidentally clobbering Parker with his cane almost immediately was a nice way of playing with the audiences expectations, especially after three previous Nothing to Prove victories, whilst McPins ended up with a convincing victory after a Full Moon and a solo More Bowl for your Buck into the drawing pins. These lads stepped up and using a few tricks to get there, produced a good main event that didn't look out of place on regular ATTACK! event. 

Post-match - There seemed to be issues between Mezinger and Parker, I'm intrigued to see if that leads to anything on the last few shows of 2018.

FUN Fact - Splits McPins has only lost one singles match in ATTACK!, to Tyler Bate at Club One Hundred #2 in September 2016. 

This was a lovely fun show, with every match being somewhere in the solid to good range and nothing looking to outstay it's welcome. Whilst it would be wrong to say the absences weren't noticeable and that no match was without its issues, pretty much everyone that had to step up on these shows did and I think that's part of what made it such a lovely experience as a fan. Perhaps ironically this was most notable with the group that calls itself Nothing to Prove with all four members proving their ability and/or potential as singles guys across the card and whilst it's arguable that the group was seen too much on a six match card, the experience will be invaluable to all four as they continue to grow. ELIJAH out performed my previous estimations, whilst Drew Parker looked extremely comfortable in the main event. It's difficult to pick a match of the night, because I wouldn't class any one match as "must-watch", but there were certainly stretches of the Hunters vs. WhiteWolf, the four-way scramble and Parker vs. McPins main event that would make any of those three worthy winners. It's been questioned recently the effect that WWE running NXT UK events reguarly in the UK will have on the Indy scene, but If GooseBUMPS VI is anything to go by ATTACK! Pro Wrestling and British wrestling as a whole has enough talent coming through to keep things entertaining for quite some time and perhaps not having to rely on big names will allow new and fresh talent to come through.

You can check out the On Demand version of this show for yourself here -

Review by James Marston 

Photo credit - Ringside Perspective 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

TV Review // NXT UK #1 // Pete Dunne vs. Noam Dar

It feels like we've been waiting a long long time for NXT UK to finally begin. The rumours, the non-starts, the Takeover classics, Pete Dunne battering Enzo Amore on RAW, the three sets of tapings with no episodes had been almost two years since WWE UK first began to take shape. But on 17th October 2018, WWE finally aired the first episode of NXT UK on the WWE Network, with footage coming from the 28th July taping at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in Cambridge, England. 

The premiere episode brought us a United Kingdom Championship main event as Pete Dunne put the title on the line against 205 Live regular Noam Dar, whilst Moustache Mountain's Tyler Bate & Trent Seven, Toni Storm, Mark Andrews, Dave Mastiff and Joe Coffey all appeared. But was it any good? Lets take a look. 

A big ol' pompous opening that felt very Triple H, as it discussed building an empire and showed some of WWE's history with the UK. 

The first match of the show saw ICW's Joe Coffey get the better of PROGRESS' Mark Andrews in a battle of UK Championship Tournament semi finalists. The pair had a rock solid bout, that played to their strengths, with Coffey able to display his power and Andrews pulling out a lot of very pretty fast paced offence, with a healthy dollop of the underdog babyface fire that made him a top name on the BritWres scene. Mark Coffey's distractions at ringside worked well to develop the dynamic between the brothers, whilst also building to the spot of the match nicely when Andrews nailed a moonsault onto both men at the same time. Cambridge was super hot for Mandrews from the very beginning and I think that had a massive impact on my enjoyment of this one, as it bought a new dimension to the dynamic and meant that every fight back from the smaller man felt that little bit more important. I'm still unsure whether WWE realises how much of a diamond they have in Mark Andrews. On that note, Coffey would pick the win moments after the moonsault spot, nailing an overhead belly to belly suplex and the Aw'ra Best for the Bells lariat to earn the first ever victory on NXT UK. 

Stat - The only other match between the pair had the same result when they battled at Discovery Wrestling in Edinburgh, Scotland back in November 2015.

After the match, the Coffey Brothers began to lay into Andrews, with "Flash" Morgan Webster heading out for the save. A nice early bit of storyline and what could a fun feud between these two teams. All good so far. 

Moustache Mountain were seen wheeling their suitcases through Cambridge, looking like a pair of b i g s t r o n g b o i s. 

Eddie Dennis made his debut in a video package, discussing his history with Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews, with some classic pictures of all three flashing on screen, before Dennis revealed he had some stories to tell. This has a lot of potential and was one of the elements of this episode that made me most excited to see what was to come from the brand.

Former NXT Tag Team Champions Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) came out to say a few words. I don't really know what else I can say here, because nothing really happened, with the segment seemingly acting as a way to simply shoe-horn Bate & Seven onto the first episode without having them compete. I mean, there was nothing wrong with the pair interacting, they're both entertaining to watch and managed to hold the crowd with their banterous chat, but there also wasn't anything resembling substance. There was no feud to push or surprise interruption, this was just a thing that happened for a bit. Even the discussion of the NXT Tag Team titles ended up abruptly, because at this point there's not enough teams to have a division, which is an odd thing to have to point out on your first episode. The rest of the promo was a bit circle-jerky, discussing the achievement of NXT UK and how the fans had been a big part in it happening. I'm hoping NXT UK doesn't continue this habit of repeatedly patting it's own back, because it will get old fast. 

Dave Mastiff is in action next, so we get a little look at what Mastiff is all about, which is basically bodying lads. 

A recap of how Noam Dar earned his WWE United Kingdom title shot last June, with his four-way victory over Travis Banks, Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews.

Dave Mastiff picked up his first victory on WWE TV in a quick, one-sided match with the debuting Sid Scala (IPW:UK). Mastiff looked very impressive here, showing off not only his range of power moves, but also his innate charisma as he laughed at any offence that Scala managed to get in on him. The 16 year veteran owned the space, showing off his range of agility with a wicked closing sequence of moves that included a front dropkick, release german suplex and a 315 lb cannonball. Scala is someone who could offer a lot to NXT UK in the future and his bumping performance here should have put him in good stead to do just that.

Match stat - This was Dave Mastiff's first televised victory since defeating Grado to win the vacant World of Sport Wrestling Championship on New Year's Eve 2016.

Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya (strangely uncredited) interviewed Nina Samuels backstage as Samuels said she wanted to make a name for herself at the expense of Toni Storm. For me, the promo felt a little forced, with Samuels coming across as nervous throughout, whilst it also taught me very little about Samuels or her character, with a general "insert name" here feel. This could have been anyone. 

Considering Toni Storm's only previous WWE losses have come against NXT Women's Champions Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler, it was no surprise to see her pick up a clean victory over the debuting Nina Samuels (Pro Wrestling EVE) here. This match didn't click for me, with Samuels looking awkward when on both attack and defence, whilst she also struggled to stand out as anything other than a generic heel foil. Obviously the match was designed to showcase Storm, but considering the amount of offence Samuels got in, I felt like I learnt next to nothing about her from this performance, with the character coming across your basic wrestling villain. This wasn't helped by some sloppy offence, including a poor tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. That isn't to say that the match didn't have it's bright spots, because some lovely stiff forearms from Storm as part of her comeback and an early tease of the running double knee smash that would later help Storm on route to her victory. The finish felt a little familiar with a similar set-up to how Dave Mastiff went over Sid Scala a few minutes earlier, as Storm hit a German suplex into the corner to set up the knee smash, with the addition of a Storm Zero adding a little differentiation. 

Stat - These two had previously faced off at WrestleForce in Southampton in 2015, British Empire Wrestling in Tooting and Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Tufnell Park both in Greater London in 2017, with this match leaving Storm with a 3-1 record. 

Next week - Tyler Bate vs. Wolfgang in a 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament semi-final rematch.

The main event saw Pete Dunne successfully retain the United Kingdom Championship in a very good match with Noam Dar. A strong example of the meshing of a classic British technical outing and WWE style main event, this clash gave plenty of hope that NXT UK will be able to find its own distinct style, whilst still appealing to a wider audience. The match managed to be both all-action and storyline-based with the early part of the match showing this off perfectly as whilst numerous threads for later in the match were being woven we also got a great spot as Dunne's trademark backflip out of the corner was thwarted by a chop block, before Dunne also used his signature X-Plex and then a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Dar worked as the matches aggressor, targeting Dunne's knee in anticipation for the Champagne SuperKneeBar, but the crowd split about 70/30 in favour of Dunne, which created a cool football match type atmosphere on the screen. A series of delicious back and forth strikes, followed up by a superb submission exchange seemed to have the Cambridge Corn Exchange rocking and would be my pick for the best wrestling in the match, although the gorgeous Bitter End reversal into the CSKB by Dar was also a major contender. I'd have loved to see these two go another ten minutes, because their work was so crisp and precise and it felt like they'd only scraped the surface of their creativity together. The finish had been hinted at all match with Dunne attempting the finger snap on Dar multiple times and Dar repeatedly flashing his pinkies up with cocky swagger, so therefore it was only fitting that Dunne would eventually bend Dar's pinky back and stomp it right into the mat. The spot looked horrible but in the absolute best way and set up for the Bitter End to seal the victory.  For me, this was the best that Dar has looked in his time with WWE, given the opportunity to work a type of match that suits his style with an opponent capable of helping him to raise his game when needed. 

I was half expecting a big attack angle to close the show and lead into next week, but instead the commentary posed the question of who could possibly take the belt off Pete Dunne. This was a pretty cute way to end the first episode, especially because, as of now, it's rather difficult to pick someone from the pack as the person who could do it. Building the show around a dominant champion is an interesting move to kick off the brand with, but one that should provide plenty of scope for storytelling, as well as a number of top class matches. With the thought that it can surely only be a matter of time before Dunne finds himself on an even bigger stage, I can't wait to see who will the one chosen to step up from the pack and take over his role as the face of the brand.

Stat - Pete Dunne continues to be undefeated in singles action on WWE TV since losing the final of the 2017 United Kingdom Championship tournament. With the run now at 16 matches, Noam Dar joins a list that includes Roderick Strong, Ricochet and Adam Cole, Dunne's overall singles records stands at an impressive 19-1.

A strong debut episode for NXT UK, booked ended by a good opener and a very good main event. The middle of the episode could have been tighter, with the women's match and the Moustache Mountain appearance not really working for me. There's certainly lots of space for improvement, which will come as the wrestlers become more acclimatised to regularly working with WWE and WWE becomes more aware of the performers it has on it's books and what they are capable of both in the ring and within the various storylines and feuds that we'll hopefully see develop. It's clear that this isn't the finish product, just like the early episodes of NXT only showed glimpses of what that show would become and Iooking forward to seeing how the show finds it feet and who from the roster of talented performers steps forward and takes this considerable opportunity by the horns.

Written by James Marston