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Monday, January 11, 2021

NXT UK Worth Watching: Devlin! Aichner! Barthel! Banks! Modfather! Mandrews!

Fabian Aichner/Marcel Barthel vs. Flash Morgan Webster/Mark Andrews NXT UK 1/12 (Aired 1/16) (Ep. #25)

ER: NXT UK is really good at putting on 80/20 matches that feel the right amount of competitive even though you know one side doesn't have an actual chance of winning. This is a 10 minute match that feels more like 5, and that is a very good thing. Aichner and Barthel are great at bumping around for the much smaller Webster and Andrews, and they do so without looking like complete goofs, with their biggest bumps coming from surprise ranas or missed attacks. Barthel flies wildly over the top to the floor because of Webster misdirection, Aichner goes for a pop up powerbomb on Andrews and gets caught with a rana, Webster hits a similar rana (and I love Webster's rana) on Barthel, all bumps from the bigger guys make sense. And in between those bumps they lay total waste to the flyers. Aichner is a real asshole who will just blindside either one of them with an elbow strike while they're on the apron, and they pull off cool double teams that focus more on the move impact than on the cleverness that bogs down so many tag team double teams. 

The heels isolate Webster and it leads to a fun Andrews hot tag (with an assisted 450 splash), and I felt like our babyface team got the exact right amount of offense. And I think the punishment by the heels as a response to that hot tag was excellent, and really my only issue with the match was with Andrews kicking out of what looked - to me - like a match finishing brainbuster and going back on offense almost right after that kickout. It was a gorgeous spot, Barthel tossing Andrews off the top, with Aichner catching him vertically and dropping him with a brainbuster. It's not the kind of move someone should be running around immediately after taking, but alas. Aichner makes damn sure Andrews sells on the floor to take him out of the save, picking him up for a spinebuster and just running him as hard as possible into the guardrail. Their actual finish is as good as that brainbuster, with Barthel lifting Webster up for a powerbomb and Aichner hitting a flying back elbow off the top to put that powerbomb into motion. This was one of those performances that immediately made Barthel and Aichner look like either the best or 2nd best team on the brand. 

Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks NXT UK 1/13 (Aired 1/23/19) (Ep. #26)

ER: There was plenty of this that I wasn't a fan of (the opening strike exchange, any time Banks did his fighting spirit faces before fighting back, sometimes improbably), but there were too many sicko stiff shots and big moments for me to deny how much I dug this. Devlin isn't perfect, but he knows how to craft different match types depending on his opponent, and that kind of thing makes you really stand out in modern wrestling. Really this is the match that should have happened on TakeOver, and was much better than Devlin/Balor. I'm sure the return of Balor to the UK got more eyeballs than a Travis Banks match, and you need something eye popping on your first big special, so I get it. Still, build your brand a little bit and put on this match. To their credit, they worked it like it was a big TakeOver match, and that won me over in spite of some of the excess. I was ready to write it off after the first couple minutes, bad strike exchanges and uninteresting crowd brawl, but I snapped to attention when Banks hit a big Thesz press off the barricade they pretty much had me after that. Devlin hit this sick hammer fist shot to the side of Banks' head and I liked how Devlin missed a stomp on the ring steps that slowed him down just enough to eat a high kick to the eye. Devlin always leans into kicks and he took so nice thumpers to the chest from Banks. 

Devlin's sudden Spanish Fly off the apron to the floor was really surprising, as we didn't get the prolonged choreographed fight on the apron, and that made it feel like Devlin made a snap decision to do something crazy and attempt to injure them both. Devlin is a guy who can fit a ton of highspots into a match while always making them feel like part of the match, never like a guy trying to get his shit in, always to the service of the match. When he caught Banks with an in ring Spanish Fly I thought it would have made for an awesome flash finish, so while I didn't love when Banks used his fighting spirit to get up and immediately lariat Devlin, I at least appreciated how much Devlin ate that lariat. His big flipping bump actually felt borne out of the lariat, and often those big flipping bumps feel removed from the move that caused them. Devlin eats knees on a moonsault better than maybe anyone, always making it look like he's hitting that moonsault and doesn't actually know he's about to land face first on knees, and that kind of in ring honesty lifts a match like this so much. I liked how they handled the double count out finish, as the tumble to the floor looked good and it actually helped both stay strong (instead of an appeal to parity), and while I'm not sure where they go with the feud after this match, I really liked what both brought.


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Blogger Andy said...

I really like what I've seen from Aichner/Barthel in NXT:UK. They have a match with two randoms in March of last year, Smith and Carter, that I really liked.

7:37 AM  
Blogger EricR said...

Yeah I anticipate both of them will be ranked highly in any future NXT UK 50. The only reason they weren't higher in the first one was because they didn't show up until the end of the ranking period. I especially like Barthel.

3:18 PM  

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