Hello fellow wrestling fans. As a Brit, today I’ll be sharing my opinions on the newest addition to the WWE Network, the long-awaited NXT UK. As we know, the first UK Champion was crowned way back in January 2017 in a tournament which saw Tyler Bate crowned over his mentor The Bruiserweight Pete Dunne in a thrilling final. Since then, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate made names for themselves with some of the best WWE matches of recent times. Dunne claimed the title at NXT Takeover: Chicago and never looked back, and currently sits at almost 550 days as champion; more than any other title holder in WWE.
What is NXT UK and is it worth watching? Is the question I put to you today. With Johnny Saint as General Manager, he’s well suited to keep the talents in check. But how does NXT UK differ to other shows? It airs exclusively from the UK (London mainly) and almost all talents are British. The show will crown a new NXT UK Women’s Champion & Tag Team Champions in the near future; so for now Pete Dunne is the only title holder.
A few promising talents have come out of this project, which I’ll go into later. What I want to talk about is how the show is presented. I watched most episodes of ITV’s World Of Sport and the difference between it and NXT UK is massive. World Of Sport is a British production for British fans, while NXT UK is the WWE style featuring mostly British talent. When it comes to authority figures, Stu Bennett (AKA Wade “Bad News” Barrett) was center stage at the commentary table each week, unlike Johnny Saint who shows up rarely and is mostly absent (unless you include seeing the plaque on his office door). WOS catered heavily towards families (many kids watching), while NXT UK has many rowdy, possibly drunk adults attending. The fact that WOS was on free television while NXT UK is stuck behind the paywall that is the WWE Network, makes it clear they’re only targeting a niche market.
It’s not just that .. but the way it looks. WOS is bright blue, lots of lights, and the cameras pan to fans reacting to everything. NXT UK is not bright, it is not appealing, and it’s basically a NXT show in London. Makes sense as it’s called NXT UK .. but it really needed its own image. The only difference between NXT and NXT UK is the opening theme. They might as well had added a second NXT show, or extended it by an hour.
Who are the stars of NXT UK? Crazily I have to admit it’s the fans. Luckily, the UK fans are very vocal no matter what (unless it’s Snooker or Tennis), and without them the show would be nothing. They pop to everything. They sing. They take their shoes off when Zack Gibson’s in the ring. Basically .. the fans ARE the show. It’s only when guys like Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Zack Gibson, and Dave Mastiff (who they poached from WOS) are on-screen do we feel like the fans are not carrying it. But it’s hard to care for anyone else because WWE doesn’t do enough to make us. It’s early days though, and just like any TV show it needs time to get fans invested in the characters. WOS did a better job with less money though .. I got fully invested in Crater, Justin Sysum and others in a short time despite never seeing ’em before. They also had names like Davey Boy Smith Jr and Will Ospreay appearing regularly.
NXT UK has always felt like something they were forced to do to counter the threat of WOS. WWE rarely sparks the interest of the British public (last time I’d say was British Bulldog at Wembley; and the Attitude Era) and NXT UK feels cheap in that regard. There are wrestling fans here who will gladly attend a NXT UK show, but no one’s getting jealous they did. No one’s going to wish they had gone to it as well, because it doesn’t have enough stars. Outside of some good wrestling, there’s not enough going on. No storylines. Nothing controversial. It’s just match after match. The actual NXT does a better job of showcasing talent in a way you want to keep coming back for. It almost feels like NXT’s 205 Live .. except the fans are loud and don’t sit there staring into their phone screens.
Don’t get me wrong though! It has its moments. Pretty much anytime Zack Gibson gets on the mic it’s worth it. The London fans hate the Liverpudlian so much they sing/chant “Shoes Off! If You Hate Gibson!” .. and they actually take their shoes off and hold them high. He’s on a Tomasso Ciampa level of heat, which is amazing considering how little we’ve seen him. And I don’t think it’s because he’s a Scouser in London .. he’s just not a likeable guy in general. He’s a bit of an arse, and fans do right by getting on his back. They’re so loud he often needs to shout through his promos to get them across. In the video, Gibson completely destroys internet wrestling dweebs who brag about watching New Japan while wearing their Bullet Club shirts.
Outside of him though? Well, of course they always go crazy for Pete Dunne and Moustache Mountain. They’re also not big on The Coffey Brothers, who are definitely making names for themselves. So much so that Wolfgang joined them to form a stable. Dave Mastiff is being groomed as the Braun Strowman monster type. But who else? A rare Noam Dar appearance? Mark Andrews? Yawn. There’s others but you won’t know them unless you’re a die-hard British wrestling fan who’s seen them all working the independents.
In closing .. I have to say it’s not worth your time “yet”. If you do have time to kill .. then it’s not a bad show, but it’s not knocking your socks off. And it’s certainly more appealing to UK fans than any other. I wouldn’t be surprised if those outside the UK do a Sheamus .. “I’m not watching that shite!”. There needs to be a lot more coming out of NXT UK til it can be deemed worthy. Honestly, I cannot say it’s close to World Of Sport .. even though it’s off-air (for now) and was super cheesy at times. The big plus side is it gives future main roster guys like Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate the airtime they richly deserve. I applaud the NXT UK roster for doing everything they can with what they’ve got, and hopefully they can give the main NXT roster a run for its money in future. Thanks for reading! See you again.