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NXT Earns First Five-Star Match

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The NXT Championship match between Johnny Gargano and Andrade “Cien” Almas at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia received praise from fans, wrestlers and critics alike, including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer.

The third match in the Gargano-Almas trilogy received a five-star rating from Meltzer. According to the Pro Fight Database, the four matches on the card received no less than two-and-a half stars.

Gargano acknowledged the news on his Twitter page.

This match was the second wrestling bout in 2018 to receive a five-star rating. The first match of the year to earn this honor was the IWGP United States title bout between Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12.

This is the sixth five-star match under the WWE banner. The last time Meltzer awarded the honor to a WWE match was C.M. Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011. More importantly, this marked the first time either Gargano and Almas received five stars in their illustrious careers.

While the star rating was invited by Jim Cornette and his childhood friend Norm Dooley in 1979, it has since been utilized by Meltzer. There isn’t a set criteria for what makes a five-star match, other than Meltzer’s opinion. Many see factors such as workrate, difficulty and variety of moves, build-up, conclusion and/or the reaction of the crowd as what contributes to a five-star quality wrestling match.

Most of the rating can be attributed to Gargano and Almas and the incredible story they told in the ring with their sequences and drama. The booking of the match should earn a slice of the five-star rating as well.

Professional wrestling is subjective and all fans see a match differently. There may be a person who has a list of matches – like myself – where people look at some of the names and say “you’re out of your mind, you liked that match?” There are people who look at Meltzer’s ratings and brush them off because they are subjective and in their eyes they show a particular bias toward a certain promotion or performer. Others also toss Meltzer’s views out the window because he has never been involved in the wrestling business other than writing about it.

However, there many fans who respect Meltzer’s take on the wrestling industry and see him as the ultimate resource when it comes to the sport. Likewise there are many wrestlers who seek his validation and opinions, and are honored just to receive praise from him in the Observer.

https://youtu.be/qXlHKcQ_tlU

Whether a fan believes in Meltzer’s star rating system or they don’t, this accolades shows that one of the industry’s most respected figures outside of the ring has recognized the good work coming out of NXT. For those who are loyal fans of the NXT brand, it is nice to have the brand seen on the same level as New Japan Pro Wrestling  in terms of match quality – even if it is considered by many as just a developmental territory.

The Gargano-Almas five-star rating isn’t the first honor awarded to NXT by the Observer Newsletter. NXT was voted the best weekly television show from 2013-2015 in the WON awards. In 2015, Triple H and Ryan Ward received the “Best Booker” award for their work with NXT.

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Tyler Bate Believes He is Strongest Man in WWE

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NXT’s Mustache Mountain, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven have been tearing it up in NXT and both sat down recently for an interview with The Mirror. Bate wasn’t holding back, claiming that he believes that he is the WWE’s strongest man.

“I like to think I’m the strongest man in WWE. It’s why I call myself the Big Strong Boi” Bate proclaimed.

Bate also chimed in on the NXT UK Women’s Championship and how it creates an amazing opportunity for the women’s division.

“It’s a great opportunity for all of the women in the company to show the world what they’re made of and show everybody how good they are. I’m looking forward to everybody else getting to watch them perform and I’m sure they will do a great job.”

After their performance at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 when the lost to The Undisputed Era in a NXT Tag Team Championship bout, Pat McAfee compared the duo to the British Bulldogs tag team composed of Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid.

“Yeah, well he was very complimentary” Seven said. “It does make you think about just what kind of impact we can have as regards being UK and British wrestlers, having the chance to travel abroad and overseas, being able to wrestle on that stage, it’s a burden I’m more than happy to have.”

“Yeah it’s a lot of pressure to be compared to teams like the Bulldogs and I think Mustache Mountain can really live up to that pressure” Bate said.

“I agree” Seven added.”I think it’s that kind of pressure that really pushes people on to the next level. Our goal is to continue climbing the ladder of WWE and eventually get on the main roster but for now, let’s just keep building the brand of NXT UK.”

 

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Jessamyn Duke Makes NXT Live Event Debut

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A professional wrestling prophecy was fulfilled during the NXT live event in Largo, Florida as Jessamyn Duke made her NXT event debut alongside her Four Horsewomen comrades Shayna Baszler and Marina Shafir.

The trio defeated the team of current NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane and 2018 Mae Young Classic competitors Io Shirai and Deonna Purrazzo.

It was a good showing Duke’s debut and is the beginning of what could be an impressive run for her. It is also the first step toward the three Horsewomen reuniting with Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey on the main roster.

It has been almost five years since the four first appeared together on “The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate” where Rousey coached Bazler and Duke, and Shafir was an assistant coach. Their time on the show together grew into a friendship that would lead into a mutual love of pro wrestling and life changing experiences. The four started calling themselves the Four Horsewomen as an homage to the famous stable – and even started flashing the four fingers sign like their namesake.

This drew mixed reactions from people, mostly critics would call them out saying “They aren’t the real Horsemen.” 

Each member of the Four Horsewomen found a different path to professional wrestling with Baszler competing on the indies and in Japan, and in the 2017 Mae Young Classic where she lost to Sane in the finals. Rousey signed with WWE in 2018 after months of speculation, making her on-screen debut in the Royal Rumble and competing at Wrestlemania 34.

Duke and Shafir signed with WWE back in May and were signed to NXT. Some speculate they will be called up to the main roster with Baszler to reunite with Rousey and kickoff the Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen feud. While fans are chomping at the bit to see this storyline come to life, they shouldn’t be disappointed if Duke and Shafir stay on NXT for some time.

Both Duke and Shafir are relatively rookies when it comes to professional wrestling. While their lack of experience does not mean they don’t belong in a WWE ring, their time in NXT will help them develop their in-ring abilities, promo skills and persona to prepare them for a main roster run. Being in NXT allows Duke and Shafir an opportunity to learn from some of the best trainers, as well as practice and refine their abilities – all while working in a production system similar to WWE’s main roster.

If they jumped straight to the main roster, they are going to have to grow their skills really fast without that coaching, and in front of a WWE crowd that will eat a performer alive if they feel that person isn’t ready for a main roster run.

An issue with Duke and Shafir being called up to the main roster with little experience, is there’s a chance they could be lost in the shuffle after several months on Raw or Smackdown. They will gain experience and have good matches with the Four Horsewomen storyline, which could last for several months. Where do they go after the angle is done? Do they stay in Rousey’s shadow, or does WWE creative go with the classic break up angle. 

WWE has talent on both Raw and Smackdown women’s divisions, but the company’s creative department does not have a great track record when it comes to creating  qualitystorylines for wrestlers outside of the competitors in the championship picture.

The Horsewomen will have to face those challenges when they are eventually called up to main, but their time in NXT will have better prepared to adapt to that environment.

If there is a time on the main roster where creative separates the Horsewomen on seperate brands, Duke – who had established herself on NXT – can welcome that challenge and make the most of the opportunity.

Another benefit of training in NXT is Duke and Shafir will have a chance to wrestle some of the best competition from the world. Athletes like Shirai, Sane and Purrazzo are regarded as some of the best in their field, and Duke and Shafir could gain good experience from being in the ring with them.

With WWE establishing the NXT UK brand, Duke and Shafir have some new potential opponents across the pond like Toni Storm, Jinny and Isla Dawn.

NXT is not a dead end for any wrestler, let alone inexperienced talent like Duke and Shafir. It is a place where they can gain a wealth of knowledge and experience that will benefit their professional wrestling journey.

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NXT UK Women’s Title Lineage Begins

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NXT UK fans did not have to wait for a championship coronation to receive a glimpse of the NXT UK Women’s Championship belt.

During the NXT UK tapings at the Insomnia Festival in Birmingham, England, Triple H unveiled the NXT UK Women’s title.

The inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion will be crowned this weekend during a two-day tournament featuring the following competitors: Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, Rhea Ripley, Jinny, Isla Dawn, Killer Kelly, Millie McKenzie, Nina Samuels, and Xia Brookside. The finals of the tournament is scheduled for Aug. 26.

Fans will not have to wait too long to see the NXT UK Women’s titleholder to defend their belt. The NXT UK Women’s is scheduled to be defended at WWE Evolution pay per view on Oct. 28.

via Wikipedia

The NXT UK Women’s title design appears to have elements of current championships shown on WWE programming. It has a white leather strap like the Raw and Smackdown women’s titles, as well as the WWE Intercontinental Championship. The belt’s center and side plates have the same design and detail as the WWE United Kingdom Championship, currently held by Pete Dunne.

While the men’s UK title has the WWE logo in the middle of the center plate, this new belt has NXT etched in the middle of the plate. 

Fan reception of the new championship has been positive so far, with some folks even saying the design of the women’s and men’s UK titles are better than the belts on the WWE main roster.

When it comes to championships, WWE likes to use different design concepts, especially when it comes to championships with continents or countries in their name. The center plate design of both the men’s and women’s UK belts is based on the United Kingdom’s royal coat of arms.

via Wikipedia

The NXT North American Championship’s design has a center plate with a globe showing only the North American continent.

The Greatest Royal Rumble title belt, which Braun Strowman won at the event with the same name, received a title belt for winning a 50-man Royal Rumble. For the belt’s center plate, designers used an Arabic pattern with the WWE logo in the middle. The title’s side plates were modeled after the the official logo of Saudi General Sports Authority, which is identical to the country’s emblem. The belt’s green leather strap was modeled after the color of the Saudi Arabian national flag.

WWE unveiling the NXT UK Women’s title shows the company is taking the first step to establish the UK women’s division. If the company allows the titleholder to defend the belt in other promotions – like they have with the men’s UK title – then fans will likely see the championship at European independent events. 

Any of the women competing in the tournament would make a  great inaugural champion for the title. A seasoned veteran like Storm, who has been all over the world, would bring legitimacy to the title right off the bat. Meanwhile an up-and-comer like Brookside could raise her stock by winning and holding on to that title.  

Critics could say the title doesn’t really mean anything outside of a WWE ring because NXT is considered a developmental brand. Yet the wrestling world at large knows that being a part of WWE whether it’s through the main roster or NXT is still a big accomplishment.

Part of what separates a good champion from a great one, is a great titleholder will elevate that title and make it as important to them as a world champion would with their title. If WWE and the wrestlers invest their time and energy into growing the NXT UK Women’s division, this new championship could have a the same prestige as any of the women’s titles on WWE’s main roster. 

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