Submitted by Stephen Lyon | Blackpool, England
The latest stop on NXT's UK tour was in Blackpool, England tonight, for a sold out show at the 2,000 capacity Empress Ballroom, a beautiful building set up wonderfully with WWE's usual production and lighting. It was a fantastic show, with several very good matches, an incredible atmosphere throughout and quite clearly, the performers were having an absolute ball in front of such a hot crowd.
It felt like a special show, rather than just another stop on the tour. Part of that was due to the ornate ballroom they were running (rather than a regular arena like other stops on the tour), and part of it was due to the obvious factor of it being William Regal's (and Robby Brookside's too) return to the place they largely first made their names in wrestling some 30+ years ago. Both spoke about this in separate promos later on.
NXT Tag Champions Dash & Dawson def. Enzo Amore & Big Cass to retain
Enzo & Cass were predictably over huge, with everyone singing along to their opening catchphrases. They had a really good 20 minute match with the champs going over. Amore sold most of the way and they built to Cass getting the hot tag.
Asuka def. Alexa Bliss
Another really fun match. Both very over. Asuka made Bliss submit in 10 minutes.
Bull Dempsey def. Tye Dillinger
This was tons and tons more entertaining than you could possibly imagine and was one of my favourite matches of the night. Mostly comedy but really funny comedy, with the heel (Dillinger) being infuriated by the crowd's antics. Firstly, fans were chanting 'Bull is gorgeous'. They liked doing the 'Ten, Ten' thing with their hands like Dillinger, but when Dillinger went for a test of strength with one hand, fans were chanting 'Five, Five'. Then when he pointed angrily with one finger, fans were chanting 'One, One'. Each time, Dillinger flipped his lid. You probably had to be there, but the crowd had an absolute ball with this match. Dempsey won with a sit down splash off the top rope.
- Jordan & Gable def. Blake & Murphy
This was the match of the night. The crowd reaction for Gable & Jordan was OFF THE CHARTS. I've being going to wrestling for 25 years, have been to 5 Wrestlemanias and lots of post-WM Raws, as well as tons of wild UK indy crowds, but the duelling chants for Jordan and Gable at the start of this match was nuts, up there with the very best reactions I've witnessed in person. They literally didn't lock up for the first 5 minutes because the crowd were singing, jumping up and down, going crazy. Blake & Murphy were great too, sold being pissed off, stormed off, came back, and the chants would start again. I noticed Canyon Ceman come out at the side of the entrance area during this craziness and he was visibly getting a kick out of it, taping the reactions on his phone. And then the match was excellent. Gable was phenomenal; how this guy (and Jordan for that matter) are not already on the main roster is travesty.
After intermission, William Regal came out to a heroes' welcome in his adopted home town. He came out to his normal theme, then after a few bars, it stopped. Instead they then played old-style Blackpool ballroom organ music, which he may have entered the ring to 30+ years ago. Regal engaged in some comedic banter with some overly rowdy ringside fans, and mentioned how, even though he originally wrestled many times in Blackpool in the early 1980s, this was his first time in this ballroom. He mentioned his former mentor Bobby Barron, and paid tribute to all the fans in attendance. This was all great.
- Nia Jaxx def. Carmella
Quick match. Jax was over as a heel. Crowd liked Carmella and were chanting 'How ya' doing?' at her.
- Samoa Joe def. Apollo Crews
Another very good match. Both worked really hard. They were a few 'Uhaa Nation' chants for Crews at the start of the match, as Crews wrestled numerous times in this region for Preston City Wrestling over the past few years prior to his WWE signing and was very popular. The fans then got into singing the Apollo Crews name. I thought it was really interesting seeing how Crews has adapted his wrestling style to WWE style, slowing down but making things mean more. Joe won with the muscle buster. Crowd cheered Joe too and didn't really boo him at all.
- NXT Women's Champion Bayley def. Emma (w/Dana Brooke) to retain
Crowd heavily cheered Bayley as expected. Another good match. Emma had a spot where she picked up Bayley's belt and tried to run to the back with it, and the crowd sung 'Same old Emma, always stealing!' Ouch. Dana was thrown out by the referee for interfering prior to the finish.
- NXT Champion Finn Balor def. Baron Corbin & Sami Zayn to retain
Zayn was heavily cheered,more than Balor. Corbin was hated, but wasn't resented like I thought he might be. There were some comedic spots where Zayn and Balor put on each other's jackets and imitated each other. There was a frequent spot in the show where the crowd were chanting '<Wrestler X> give us a wave', mainly directed at babyfaces. They sung 'Corbin - give us a wave' to mock him. Rather than ignore it like a heel, he sarcastically waved, which led to 'Thank you Corbin' chants. Finish saw Balor do a double foot stomp off the top on to Corbin for the win. Besides the comedy spots, all three worked very hard, much harder than a usual WWE main roster house show main event.
Afterwards, Balor and Zayn remained in the ring. Zayn took the mic and said it was great to be back, and paid tribute to Regal for bringing him into WWE and making him want to be a wrestler. He then praised Robby Brookside and asked him to come out. Brookside came out to a huge ovation, with a 'God Save The Queen' Sex Pistols-type theme music used. Brookside gave a similar speech to Regal earlier, putting over their former mentor Bobby Baron and also paid tribute to the crowd, to end the show.
Notes & Observations:
- All in all, a fantastic show. With the hot crowd and unique setting, I'm kind of surprised they didn't hold the Takeover event here. I get why they picked London, but Blackpool would have looked great on tv. Maybe in the future.
- Crowd booed any mentions of the WWE TLC ppv (an advert played on the big screen), and during several matches, chanted 'Better than Raw'.
- The NXT crew was very visible around the town during the day, as most were clad in black NXT-branded tracksuits. A lot of the NXT crew including Matt Bloom had an afternoon meal at the Harry Ramsden's Fish & Chips restaurant.
- There were very few kids in the audience, the show drawing mostly young adults.
- There was an interesting rumour going around (unconfirmed, but take this for what its' worth) that the WWE Raw & Smackdown tv tapings next November will be held in Glasgow, Scotland for the first time, at the Hydro Arena. This, if true, would be a fascinating move, as they would likely be taking place 2 weeks before ICW runs the Hydro Arena for the biggest show in their history. I guess another business rival has been identified.