Rushonrock and Wrestling Royalty’s King of the Ring Andy Spoors headed to York for a glimpse into NXT UK’s exciting future.
Following another historic Takeover event in Blackpool, NXT UK’s Superstars began the next chapter in the brand’s fledgling history: the hallowed halls of York’s Barbican may be more at home hosting snooker than suplexes, but an expectant crowd flocked to the historic venue for two nights of television tapings.
NXT UK seems intent on booking quirkier towns and venues as opposed to the multi arena tours WWE Superstars attend. A possible attempt to create a different feel, a more authentic approach to a country and territory that is steeped in history? Bingo halls, community centres and universities alike have played host to independent shows up and down the country. NXT has found its home at Full Sail University and seems to thrive in the more intimate setting than half empty arenas in the States. It is understandable that WWE is playing it smart with where they head over here.
This is the second set of tapings in quick succession that Rushonrock has attended – both Hull and York placed either side of Blackpool’s Takeover event. Somewhat disappointingly, the crowds have not been sold out on both occasions. It’s the double-edged sword of selecting smaller towns and cities to perform to. The history and prestige is evident but the swathes of empty seats and quieter audience are surely by-products of missing rowdy territories such as Newcastle and Manchester.
The format of the tapings is arduous and not for the faint of heart. Friday’s tapings focused on the immediate fall out of Blackpool, as well as some build to the upcoming Worlds Collide event. On this evidence organisers will need to find something extra to keep the casual audience interested when March sees NXT UK visit Coventry. The wrestling hotbed of Birmingham, just a few miles down the road may swell ticket sales, but the momentum Takeover events generated needs to be evident throughout the product.
Back to York and an unveiling of an ever so slightly changed Championship kicked off proceedings: the WWE UK Championship transformed into the NXT UK Championship to fall in line with the other titles on the brand.
Without delving into full spoiler alert, qualifying matches for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match at Worlds Collide, an intriguing promo from Joe Coffey to Ilja Dragunov and a hellacious rematch between Trent Seven and Eddie Dennis were the obvious stand outs of the opening night.
The action is hard hitting, the promos natural and for three and a half hours of action each night, the value is outstanding.
WWE has managed to capture the essence of the British independent scene while retaining a well-oiled and slick production value. Mixing well established UK talent with relative unknowns and debutants, shows not just the will to establish a brand for today but also to keep an eye firmly fixed on the future.