5 Things NXT UK Got Right (And 5 They Got Wrong)

NXT UK Roster

NXT UK is dead.

Arguably, it’s been dead for far longer than it officially has been. Outside of one or two colossal fights, WWE’s venture into the United Kingdom has been anything but noteworthy since they returned from the pandemic in front of an eerily empty BT Sports Studio. A stunning venue for a sports broadcast, yes, but not for an actual wrestling show. Taking a page out of NXT 2.0’s playbook and hosting events at the UK Performance Center would surely have been a better option.

Alas, the brand is now officially defunct, dying a painful death vs. NXT 2.0 at Worlds Collide. Tyler Bate was felled by Bron Breakker, Blair Davenport and Meiko Satomura were bested by Mandy Rose, and Gallus was ousted second from the four-team Elimination Match. Only Pretty Deadly left as champions – the Unified NXT Tag Team Champions, to be precise – but they’re NXT-contracted performers now.

Considering this was the last time the brand was to be promoted by WWE, you’d imagine they would want to make it at least seem prestigious. Things weren’t always this bad – in fact, they were actually pretty alright. Sometimes…

Got Right: Every Championship Felt Prestigious


This, until Worlds Collide, was NXT UK’s shining light.

With WWE operating an abundance of championships across all of its brands, it can be difficult to care about all of them, particularly if WWE themselves don’t. This wasn’t the case with NXT UK; real, genuine thought went into the booking of these championships. At least that’s how it came across.

Operating the traditional amount of championships – one main men’s title, one secondary men’s title, one tag team title, and one women’s title – the championships were allowed to breathe without one overshadowing the other. Given this, it would have been acceptable, especially in WWE, for the title reigns to be short in length – but they rarely were. Only six title reigns across the brand’s four-year history went under 100 days.

The shortest of those was Mark Coffey’s reign as holder of the Heritage Cup, lasting a recognised 42 days but officially, it lasted just 14 days. In contrast, a good chunk of NXT UK title reigns actually went over a year, let alone 100 days. WALTER, Kay Lee Ray, and Pete Dunne all went 365+ days as champions. This is almost never seen on WWE’s main roster but in NXT UK, it was the only acceptable direction.

Got Wrong: It Was Always An Afterthought

The Creed Brothers Brutus Creed Julius Creed Pretty Deadly Kit Wilson Elton Prince Gallus Mark Coffey Wolfgang brawl at NXT Worlds Collide 2022

Even at Worlds Collide, where the brand was in a position to be celebrated before joining the likes of Sunday Night Heat and Velocity as inactive WWE programmes, WWE didn’t seem to care about NXT UK. If they did, at least one NXT UK-contracted star would’ve won. They didn’t. WWE has refused to ever care about the brand.

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque claims that WWE had big plans for the brand prior to the pandemic – but why weren’t these supposed plans executed once NXT UK returned from its months-long hiatus in September 2020? If the plans were as big as he claims, surely NXT UK’s continuation would have taken precedence over NXT Europe? Or were these “plans” to continue operating from the partially-full BT Sports Studio, sign one or two key British stars, and keep doing its own thing?

WWE was left with little choice but to close NXT UK. When the talent themselves can realise this, you know they’ve done the right job. WWE Intercontinental Champion Gunther, who worked as WALTER in NXT UK, told Inside The Ropes’ own Kenny McIntosh ahead of Worlds Collide how he believed NXT UK had fulfilled its purpose:

“Yeah, I think it’s [NXT Europe] great. I think it’s definitely a progression to NXT UK. I think NXT UK had kind of fulfilled its purpose. But if you want to reach out to the whole continent, I’m not sure how interesting it is to have it exclusively branded as NXT UK. So I think it’s definitely a step forward and we just have to see how it plays out.”

Got Right: Everyone Had An Opportunity

A-Kid Thumb

NXT UK could have gone down the obvious route and built the entire brand around the same five names for its entire duration. Thankfully, they refrained from doing so, instead utilising its entire roster to create a well-rounded brand.

Take for instance the Heritage Cup. Brand stalwarts such as Trent Seven, Dave Mastiff, and Joseph Conners were featured in the original tournament bracket but instead, A-Kid won the championship. Future champions included Noam Dar and Mark Coffey, two names who were built up through the NXT UK system to mean something, having already been major players on the British independent circuit.

That NXT UK didn’t rely on the Trent Seven’s and Tyler Bate’s of the roster – Bate did actually hold the championship, though elevated the likes of A-Kid throughout his reign – was crucial, particularly as they were already heavily prominent in the NXT UK and NXT UK Tag Team Championships scenes.

The concept of opportunity wasn’t exclusive to the Heritage Cup. A number of performers were given their chance in NXT UK in high-profile situations. Wild Boar, Primate, and Tyson T-Bone were aligned with former PROGRESS World Champion Eddie Dennis, Isla Dawn challenged for the NXT UK Women’s Championship vs. Meiko Satomura, and Ashton Smith and Oliver Carter surprisingly held the NXT UK Tag Team Championships towards the brand’s conclusion.

Got Wrong: The Pandemic Era

Amir Jordan executes a Swanton Bomb on Wolfgang on WWE NXT UK 2020

In fairness, it was difficult to get the empty arena, pandemic era “right”. Achieving that just meant coming out the other side. WWE made use of the cinematic match to great acclaim, as did AEW, while IMPACT Wrestling produced some of its greatest content. NXT UK, however, did little of note.

As mentioned, they spent a number of months on hiatus, owing to the different COVID-19 restrictions in the United Kingdom at the time compared to North America. Airing its final episode on 2 April 2020 and returning on 17 September, 168 days went by without any new content – old matches took the form of NXT UK’s weekly output instead.

Presumably, they were unable to locate a venue to use for filming during this period, prior to the BT Sports Studio becoming available. But there are other ways to assemble enough content to keep the brand alive. Promos from the roster’s houses could have continued storylines. A bigger deal could have been made about the 17 September return episode. A non-title tag team match and a meaningless women’s clash did little to nothing to attract buzz; only Ilja Dragunov vs. Noam Dar was worth tuning in for.

For the most part, this continued right up until the brand’s final episode on 1 September. A few good matches and that’s it for four years – it’s hardly a good look.

Got Right: Building WWE Superstars

Rhea Ripley

Considering WWE’s lack of care towards building stars of the future, this may be considered the biggest win of them all. A number of current WWE Superstars got their start in the company by way of NXT UK.

The likes of Pete Dunne, Rhea Ripley, and Toni Storm, although already established, began their respective WWE careers by working through NXT UK. Each of them held championship gold – Ripley even going as far as to be the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion – and when their reigns ended, their time on the brand did as well not long after; this was WWE’s way of saying they’d outgrown NXT UK.

Look where the majority of them are now. Pete Dunne, as Butch, is a prominent name on the SmackDown roster alongside Sheamus and Ridge Holland, while Rhea Ripley is in a similar position on Monday Night Raw next to Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and Dominik Mysterio.

The list is almost endless, encompassing a who’s who of top WWE and NXT talent, from Doudrop and Alba Fyre to Axiom, and Imperium’s Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci. Bar Doudrop, they all held NXT UK championships – WWE trusted them to represent the brand and now values them, to a degree, on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT 2.0.

Got Wrong: Never Became A Fully Fledged WWE Brand

Subculture Mark Andrews Flash Morgan Webster execute stereo Tope Con Hilos on The Viking Raiders Erik Ivar on WWE Raw 2019

This ties into the previous point. NXT UK was almost its own entity, rather than a WWE brand.

NXT UK was rarely acknowledged on WWE programming. There was no reason, given it’s literally a WWE-affiliated brand; instead, it was as if the sports entertainment giant constantly forgot they operated a United Kingdom subsidiary. Case in point was Monday Night Raw’s 11 November 2019 broadcast, as Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster – who were NXT UK Tag Team Champions up until a few weeks ago at the time – were treated as enhancement talent vs. The Viking Raiders.

They had it lucky. They were booked against Erik and Ivar using the names they used to become famous. The same cannot be said for Pete Dunne, Viper, and several others, who were stripped not only of their well-known ring names, but their entire wrestling livelihoods. Pete Dunne and Butch are physically the same person – but within WWE, they’re two different characters. That’s changing slightly now with Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque in charge of the creative direction, but it’s too late for some.

Got Right: The Concept Of A TakeOver

The Grizzled Young Veterans James Drake Zack Gibson celebrate as NXT UK Tag Team Champions at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool

It’s near impossible to get a TakeOver wrong. For a while, it seemed like the easiest format to book; just give fans the biggest matches possible. Sometimes, they didn’t really make sense – Lars Sullivan has a five-star match because of it – but the diehard NXT audience lapped it all up. NXT UK viewers did the same.

Marquee matches, mammoth title changes, and unforgettable moments encompassed an NXT UK TakeOver. The inaugural card, held in Blackpool in January 2019, was perhaps the greatest example of nailing all three aspects on the head. Between the first WWE appearance of WALTER, the sensational Moustache Mountain vs. Grizzled Young Veterans bout, and Toni Storm finally dethroning Rhea Ripley as NXT UK Women’s Champion, the TakeOver concept was knocked out of the park.

This followed them through to August 2019’s Cardiff card and the second event in Blackpool the following January. TakeOver: Blackpool II was, unknowingly at the time, the last event of its kind for the brand. This is perhaps why it’s one of the most memorable WWE events in recent memory – all five of the broadcasted matches still stand up today, in particular Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin.

NXT UK TakeOver: Dublin in 2021 no doubt would have been a sensational event as well. Its postponement and eventual cancellation was the first indication that NXT UK was on its way out.

Got Wrong: The UK Performance Center

WWE UK Performance Center

Opened in January 2019 on the eve of the inaugural Blackpool TakeOver, the UK Performance Center was designed to be an exact equivalent of the Orlando-based facility. It appeared at the time that the PC, branded as one of the first to open outside of North America, was destined for great things. But it, unfortunately, achieved nothing, especially not in comparison to its predecessor.

Describing the opening of the center on a Good Morning Britain newscast, Trent Seven noted it was “pretty exciting” for WWE to make such an investment in its United Kingdom division (H/T to Last Word on Pro Wrestling):

“We’re going to be able to go from here straight to our secret location…our new NXT UK Performance Center. The fact that we’ve had this investment in us, and obviously the other wrestlers, and the British wrestling base is pretty exciting.”

If, and only if, it was to be a replica of the US Performance Center, then it was a failure. What new stars were created? According to records, only seven performers were hailed as NXT UK ‘trainees’, for lack of a better term, in comparison to the hundred+ WWE Superstars formed from the US Center. Even then, they weren’t trained up through WWE; you can’t describe acclaimed German grappler The Alpha Female as a WWE-trained star.

Alongside her were Candy Floss, Levi Muir, Charlie Dempsey, Nathan Frazer, Eliza Alexander, and Stevie Turner. None of them were born WWE Superstars. They rose through the British independent wrestling scene, were signed by WWE, and learned the WWE style. When you see the likes of Bianca Belair, The Street Profits, and Alexa Bliss beginning their wrestling careers after learning their craft entirely through the US PC, it’s difficult to compare the two centers.

Got Right: Presentation Of Ilja Dragunov And WALTER

Walter Ilja Dragunov

A rare victory for WWE was their continued successful display of wXw legends Ilja Dragunov and WALTER in NXT UK.

From the moment of their respective debuts, both ‘Unbesiegbar’ and ‘The Ring General’ were treated as megastars in NXT UK. This meant remaining unpinned and unsubmitted for prolonged periods of time, being constantly positioned as the final bosses of the brand, and, when they fought each other, in-ring spectacles. Their October 2020 war over the NXT UK Championship could have easily headlined a TakeOver – it likely would’ve done so at the cancelled Dublin TakeOver.

Triple H, who now serves as WWE’s Chief Content Officer, jumped at the opportunity to praise the match, branding it as one of the “most physical fights” he’s witnessed.

That WWE has since carried WALTER’s momentum from NXT UK over to both NXT 2.0 and the main roster shows how committed they are to establishing him as a main event WWE Superstar, particularly with Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque heading up the creative process. Unless something goes drastically wrong, there’s no reason to say he won’t be either WWE or Universal Champion within the next five years.

This same fate should hopefully follow Ilja Dragunov when he returns from injury. Presuming he’s not a part of NXT Europe when it launches in 2023, the penultimate NXT UK Champion is destined for a lengthy push on North American shores.

Got Wrong: It Did Actually Damage British Wrestling

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament 2017 announcement

It’s true, unfortunately.

NXT UK set out to help British wrestling – or at least that’s what audiences were led to believe. The image of the original United Kingdom Championship Tournament competitors standing across the stage was one intended to display the very best of the scene. Both tournaments were acclaimed successes, but NXT UK itself wasn’t announced until June 2018, following the conclusion of the second tournament.

Its roster was under strict contracts for the whole year-and-a-half period, though, preventing them from accepting bookings up and down the country, and instead restricting them only to WWE-approved appearances. This worked in certain cases as it drew significant star power and sold tickets by having WWE logos on event posters but, at the same time, it left a gaping hold in the market that still today is struggling to be filled.

British wrestling is doing fine. It was doing excellent before. NXT UK wasn’t its sole destroyer, of course, but it certainly had a helping hand. With the majority of its roster now once again free agents, they’re emerging back on the scene they helped build – and taking spots away on shows from those who kept it going in their absence.

Saying the scene is damaged doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The entire WWE NXT UK back catalogue can be watched via Peacock in the United States and the WWE Network elsewhere.