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Wrestling

NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool: A Brilliant Start to 2020

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NXT UK has been carving a respectable name for itself as it’s own brand over the past few years. Established in 2016, the weekly show started broadcasting on the WWE Network in 2018. Over its existence, NXT UK has put on some great pay-per-views but TakeOver: Blackpool II might have been its best.

The first TakeOver: Blackpool went down in the Empress Ballroom, as did the 2020 edition. WWE also held their 2017 United Kingdom Championship Tournament there. It’s become closely associated with NXT UK over the years. The crowds there are unreal.

Fortunately, the audience on Sunday got an outstanding card.

Trent Seven vs Eddie Dennis

The opening match pitted Eddie Dennis against Trent Seven. The buildup had been intense, with Dennis targeting Trent after being on the shelf for a few months. Apparently, his goal was to prove Trent’s career only exists because he rides the coat tails of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate.

Eddie Dennis prepares Trent Seven for the Razor’s Edge at TakeOver: Blackpool II.

Naturally, that wasn’t the case.

Both Eddie Dennis and Trent Seven are incredibly talented performers, which they showed everyone watching. One incredible spot saw Dennis launching Trent over the top rope using the Razor’s Edge. He landed on a ringside staff member just trying to do his job.

The brilliance of the match was two seasoned craftsmen putting on an incredible show. It was the perfect way to start TakeOver: Blackpool II.

Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm vs Piper Niven

Despite Rhea Ripley heading to the US, the NXT UK Women’s Division continues to pick up steam. This Triple Threat match for Women’s Championship cemented them as some of the best in the business.

Kay Lee Ray wipes out the competition.

Kay Lee Ray, the current champion, defended her belt against Toni Storm, a former champion, and Piper Niven, a future champion. Animosity had been brewing between Niven and Storm for weeks over who deserved the shot, while Ray waited in the wings to pick up the pieces and the win. Which she did.

It was an incredibly intense match that showed the deep talent of all three competitors. Piper Niven threw caution to the wind on more than one occasion, taking impressive dives. Kay Lee Ray also looked amazing when she slapped the Gory Bomb on Niven.

Jordan Devlin vs Tyler Bate

A match up like this on the TakeOver: Blackpool II card guarantees a high octane bout that will be over the top. Jordan Devlin and Tyler Bate did not disappoint.

As the inaugural UK Champion, Bate has been in a position to put on some incredible matches over the past few years for NXT UK. Devlin has had more than a few stellar matches, himself. Their 22-minute match tore the roof off the Empress Ballroom.

Tyler Bate takes it to Jordan Devlin at TakeOver: Blackpool II.

Both Bate and Devlin pulled out their usual tricks as well as some new moves. No matter what they threw at each other, both men kept kicking out until Bate went off the top rope and finally got the three count.

On any other card, this match would have stolen the show. But NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II was stacked with amazing matches.

Fatal Four-Way Tag Team Ladder Match

Case in point.

There have been some incredible ladder matches to decide tag team championships over the years in WWE. Without question, the match at TakeOver: Blackpool II lived up to the pedigree. Mark Coffey and Wolfgang of Gallus defended their belts against Grizzled Young Veterans, Imperium’s Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel, and Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster.

Possibly the NXT UK match of the year.

This match was pure insanity. Gallus came out with the win but everyone involved put on a hell of a show. It reached a point where the audience in the Empress Ballroom didn’t know what to do. They just started chanting, “Please don’t die” over and over.

The most insane spot of the match may have happened by accident. Coffey and Wolfgang were each outside of the ring on their own tables with a very high ladder between them. It looked like the plan was for Andrews and Morgan to dive through each one respectively.

But one of the tables broke on its own, prematurely dumping Coffey on the ground. Calling an audible, Andrews and Morgan climbed the same side of the ladder, linked arms, and dove through Wolfgang together. The spot might not have been planned exactly that was but it was the biggest one of the night.

This NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II match was so good it might even be a contender for Match of the Year.

Joe Coffey vs Walter

Walter might be one of the most dominant wrestlers in all of WWE. Hopefully, a collision with Brock Lesnar is in the cards. Most fans would love to see Lesnar take a few of Walter’s brutal chops.

Walter flies off the top rope.

This run-in with Joe Coffey at TakeOver: Blackpool II had been building for a while. Most fans assume that Coffey’s coronation as champ will come someday. But would it be at the expense of Walter’s reign?

The short answer is no.

The Ring General retained his championship and continued his epic tenure at the top of NXT UK. But Joe Coffey did not go quietly. His performance was admirable, possibly taking Walter closer to his limit than anyone before him. They absolutely brutalized each other.

The brilliance of the match was that fans were fully drawn in. Walter’s victory was not inevitable. He had to earn it. Realistically, Coffey gave as good as he got all through the match. There were points you could genuinely believe that Coffey was going to walk away with the win, a sign of a well-booked bout.

Undisputed Era

While the Undisputed Era wasn’t on the card for NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II, they sure made their presence felt. After Walter’s win, the Era rushed the ring and laid a beating on Imperium.

Undisputed Era attacks Imperium at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II.

The attack was a buildup for the upcoming World’s Collide event that will pit NXT and NXT UK against each other. Unsurprisingly, Undisputed Era got what was possibly the biggest pop of the night. That makes sense for the biggest faction in all of WWE right now.

It was the perfect end to an outstanding pay-per-view.

Ian is a freelance writer based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who writes about pop culture. That includes movies, TV series, comic books, and wrestling. He has a day job at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, sleeps way too little, and buys way too many toys.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    January 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    That four-way tag team match was amazing. I’m pretty sure it will be on our list of best matches of 2020!

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: The First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

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First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

Royal Rumble 2000

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz

The 2000 edition of the Royal Rumble, which was held at the Madison Square Garden on January 23, is without a doubt one of the best WWE pay-per-views ever! It’s an absolute classic filled with memorable moments such as The Rock’s unforgettable Royal Rumble win and the street fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack. It also featured the first-ever Tag Team Championship Tables Match between two of the most significant tag teams a the time.

The WWF WWE has always had some truly amazing tag teams— from The British Bulldogs to The Rockers to The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express— but it was at the turn of the century that the tag team division really started heating up with competitors taking it to a whole new level in jaw-dropping hardcore matches, table matches, ladder matches and of course, TLC matches.

Leading this resurgence were The Hardy Boyz and the recent ECW defectors, The Dudley Boyz and at the 2000 Royal Rumble, the two teams would showcase their stuff in an unforgettable championship match that featured high-flying, no holds barred action.

The First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

It was the second match of the night and it was a match that would foreshadow the legendary TLC series between The Hardyz, The Dudleyz and fellow tag team competitors Edge and Christian. Taking the opportunity to impress a large pay-per-view audience, the two teams delivered a phenomenal showcase filled with several high-octane stunts and high-risk maneuvers.

In order to win the match, you had to put both members of the opposing team through a table. This meant that fans would be treated to seeing at least three tables smashed before the end of the match. However, these trailblazers wouldn’t settle for just three; by the time the bell rang, at least nine tables had been destroyed.

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz Royal Rumble 2000

The match only lasted about twelve minutes, but it was an astonishing tag team match no less, and one filled with plenty of highlights including a mid-rope Powerbomb that sent Matt Hardy through a table. At one point, the Hardy Boyz gained the advantage with a double superplex to Bubba Ray and after a devastating chair hit across Bubba’s forehead, Matt and Jeff Hardy simultaneously performed a diving leg drop and a diving splash, sending their opponent through the table.

The match eventually carried onto the entrance as the Dudley Boyz stacked two tables on top of two other tables under a balcony. In a moment that would define what the tag team division would like over the next several years, Jeff Hardy dove off the balcony and delivered a Swanton Bomb to seal the victory.

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz Royal Rumble Tag Team Championship Tables Match

There are many reasons why wrestling fans remember the Attitude Era as the peak period of the WWE. Not only did it have edgier, controversial storylines, often pushing of the boundaries of what could be shown on national television, but the Attitude Era also featured a plethora of incredible performers, and yes, that includes many legendary tag teams. In the eyes of many wrestling fans, the Attitude Era featured the best tag team matches — and you’d be hard-pressed to find any other era in the WWE that had as much talent in the division.

The match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz at the Royal Rumble not only put both teams on the map, but it set up one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the WWE. It was the first-ever Tag Team Tables match, and in my opinion, it is also one of the most underrated matches of the pay-per-view.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H and Cactus Jack Street Fight

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Royal Rumble 2000 Triple H Street and Cactus Jack Street Fight

Royal Rumble 2000

WWE Championship: Triple H vs. Cactus Jack

The thirteenth annual Royal Rumble gave us one of the best matches in WWE history.

The event took place on January 23, 2000, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was the start of a new decade and the WWE was gearing up to build their next great champ. And this was the match that gave one participant the push he needed to become a heavyweight legend over the next decade and arguably the greatest heel for the entire Attitude Era.

Of course, I’m referring to the Street Fight match between Triple H and Cactus Jack for the WWF WWE Championship.

It was the match the helped Triple H earn everyone’s respect; in fact, in retrospect, it’s clear the whole match was designed as one giant promo in order to give Triple H a believable physical prowess as an ongoing champion contender. And for WWE fans who weren’t familiar with Mick Foley’s earlier hardcore wrestling, the match pretty much certified the man was indeed, truly insane.

Yes, Mankind and Undertaker had already wrestled their legendary Hell in the Cell match two years prior at King of the Ring— and yes, we had already seen plenty of street fights in the WWE— but the WWE Championship match at the 2000 Royal Rumble was a brutal, violent, and extremely bloody affair. By WWE standards, it pushed the boundaries, delivering a level of violence that casual WWE fans weren’t accustomed to seeing.

It was also a match that told an excellent story and had a remarkable buildup leading into the event.

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H Street and Cactus Jack

By the summer of ’99, Triple H was finally getting the main event push he deserved thanks to the McMahon-Helmsley Faction, a partnership that benefited from that fact that at the time, Stephanie McMahon had almost full control over the WWE. Great power means great responsibility but for Stephanie McMahon, it meant scheduling unreasonable matches for the wrestlers who were deemed a major threat to her husband. The superstar most affected was none other than, Mick Foley.

Triple H and Mick Foley put on a series of exciting matches in the first year of the new millennium and with this rivalry, came some of the best writing in the history of the WWE. The compelling storyline featured legendary promos, unforgettable drama, and unusual matches designed to wear down Triple H’s main competition. One such match was the “Pink Slip on a Pole Match” between The Rock and Mankind, with the loser forced to leave the WWE. Mankind lost, and thus was fired unceremoniously, only to return two weeks later when the Rock and the rest of the WWE superstars threatened to walk out unless Mick Foley was reinstated. That night, Foley requested a Street Fight for the WWF WWE Championship at Royal Rumble— and on a January 13 episode of SmackDown!, Foley shocked the world when he returned to the ring in his Cactus Jack persona! It wasn’t Mankind set to fight Triple H at the Royal Rumble— instead, it would be the hardcore legend.

WWE Championship: Triple H vs. Cactus Jack

With Mick Foley entering his final year as a full-time professional wrestler, fans were expecting big things from the legend, and the 2000 Royal Rumble Championship match did not disappoint. There have been plenty of Street Fights in World Wrestling Entertainment history, but one would be hard-pressed to find one better than this classic. It was the fifth match of the night— in one of the best Royal Rumble pay-per-view events to date— and by far the most memorable match on the card.  

Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H Street and Cactus Jack Street Fight

Cactus Jack gained the early advantage after repeated punches but it didn’t take long before both men took to the outside the ring using everything in their reach including the ring bell, the stairs, a couple of trash cans and more. The match featured multiple chair shots to the head along with the destruction of both announce tables and at one point, the two men even took the fight into the crowd. But the real turn of the match came earlier when Cactus brought out a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire, and slammed it across the skull of Triple H, busting his forehead wide open. It was brutal. It was bloody, and for some fans, it was hard to watch.

Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H Street and Cactus Jack Street Fight

Reminiscent of prior a Royal Rumble, Triple H managed to handcuff Cactus Jack and continue to use the steel chair as a weapon, taking advantage of a man who could barely defend himself. Eventually, The Rock made a brief cameo, striking Triple H across the head with a chair, and allowing a police officer enough time to remove Jack’s handcuffs so he could continue to fight. Soon after, Cactus Jack was ready to seal the match but made the mistake of pouring hundreds of thumbtacks onto the ring. In a quick turn of events, Triple H fought back to take control of the match and hit his Pedigree finisher on his opponent, slamming the challenger face-first onto a large pile of thumbtacks and in the process and sealing the victory. The finish was gut-wrenching and graphic but well-scripted given the level of hatred and disdain the Superstars had for each other. Both men took a beating, but in the end, it was Triple H who escaped the victor.

Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H Street and Cactus Jack Street Fight

The brutality of the match is a reminder of the differences between the current WWE and the Attitude Era. Nowadays, the WWE doesn’t allow blood in their matches, never mind the use of barbwire and thumbtacks as weapons to use against your opponents. It was a match of its time; a match that stands the test of time— and one of the greatest matches in Royal Rumble history, fueled by the emotion of the competitors, and an epic storyline that would prove Triple H a legitimate headliner.

On a night filled with memorable moments such as the Tables Match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudely Boyz, not to mention The Rock’s unforgettable Royal Rumble win, Triple H and Mick Foley ended up stealing the show— but it was far from the latest chapter in their rivalry. With the stage set for another iconic battle, the Hardcore Legend and Triple H would step inside a Hell in the Cell for yet, another epic encounter.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

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Royal Rumble 2003

WWE Championship: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

WWE’s annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view is famous for its over-the-top main event, but there have also been many legendary single and tag team matches over the years that wound up overshadowing the titular 30-man brawl. One such match came during the Ruthless Aggression Era when two of the greatest wrestlers in the history of professional wrestling, squared off in what would be a technical showcase between two mat technicians. Of course, I’m referring to the 2003 Royal Rumble WWE Championship match between Kurt Angle and the Rabid Wolverine, Chris Benoit.

The match between Benoit and Angle isn’t just one of the greatest matches in WWE history— it is hands-down, the best match of 2003— a non-stop classic that doesn’t get the full recognition it deserves.

This match took place on January 19, at the Fleet Center in Boston. It was the sixteenth annual Royal Rumble and it unfolded during the pinnacle of the first WWE brand split. Monday Night Raw placed a heavy emphasis on soap opera drama while Smackdown focused more on technical wrestling. And if this wasn’t evident at the time, it became crystal clear during the 2003 Royal Rumble pay per view. In short, there was a huge difference in quality between the Angle/Benoit match which headlined the Smackdown brand and the primary match for Raw which saw Triple H and Scott Steiner fight for the World Heavyweight Championship. It was no contest. The Smackdown brand came out on top thanks to the sheer talent of Benoit and Angle; two world-class competitors in their prime and arguably at the time, two of the best wrestlers on the planet.

WWE Championship: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

For roughly twenty minutes the Canadian Wolverine and the U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist went to war in a non-stop physical encounter which simmered with an amazing series of transitions from the Ankle lock to the Crippler Crossface. Needless to say, both men pulled off every single one of their special movies, multiple times throughout the match. Benoit attempted a diving headbutt on Angle, only Angle avoided the move and attempted an Angle Slam on Benoit which Benoit countered. Later when Benoit applied the sharpshooter on Angle, Angle in dramatic fashion, slowly made his way to the edge of the ring and touched the ropes to break the submission. Their chemistry was off the charts and the action in the ring kept the audience at the edge of their seats, as did the incredibly convincing near-falls which were executed to perfection. At one point, both men laid on the mat unable to get to their feet which almost resulted in a double count-out. It as a back and forth battle that had spectators believing anyone could win at any given moment.

WWE had built Benoit up as a babyface, and despite being the underdog— with the crowd behind the Canadian wolverine, many believed he would finally hold the belt over his shoulders. By the time Benoit executed a diving headbutt, nobody in the arena was left sitting on their chairs. In the end, however, Benoit applied yet another Crippler Crossface on Angle, only to have Angle counter it into a modified ankle lock, forcing Benoit to submit to the hold. It was a clean finish that featured a rare submission from the famously resilient Benoit.

Angle vs. Benoit at the 2003 Royal Rumble

The match exceeded any expectations and in the end, both men received a standing ovation. And while Benoit didn’t win, he walked away as the man who stole the show. Thankfully, it wasn’t the end for him but only the beginning. Over the course of the next year, he would rise in the ranks of the WWE roster and in 2004, he would win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XX against Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a triple threat match.

As Kurt Angle said when asked about his career-defining match: If you want to learn and understand the art of pro wrestling, you need to watch the 2003 Royal Rumble World Championship match.

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Up next….. Royal Rumble in January 2019. 16 years ago I had the privilege of defending my WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. This is how the match was explained verbally to those who haven’t watched it. “Professional wrestling in its purest form is as beautiful as ballet, as elegant as a ballroom dance and as captivating as a theater. By purest form I mean technical wrestling, which in today’s world is almost non-existent. The fiery chain wrestling, involving great chemistry, in-ring psychology and dream like story telling is something that happens when all the stars align.” This match was one of my best performances of my career. If you haven’t seen it, give it a look. #itstrue #wwe #championship #royalrumble

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Angle vs. Benoit can be viewed as the single greatest non-Rumble match in the history of the pay per view. Watching it again after all these years proved to be just as thrilling— even if I already knew the outcome.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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