NXT UK stars catch Vince McMahon’s eye at TakeOver Cardiff

The stars of WWE's UK brand NXT UK were eager to hog the spotlight during a busy Saturday night in the world of pro wrestling.

And if the reaction from the sold-out MotorPoint Arena was anything to go by, NXT UK TakeOver : Cardiff in Wales did not disappoint.

Pre-show, Rhea Ripley bested Piper Niven, and Kassius Ohno defeated Sid Scala, before the event went live on WWE Network.

The first match pit the Scottish Supernova, Noam Dar, against the Kiwi Buzz Saw Travis Banks. Earlier in the day, the cocksure Dar had told Mirror Sport that Cardiff should be renamed "Dardiff".

In a solid opener, he backed up his words by almost taking Banks head off with one shin kick and following up with the Nova Roller to score the winning pinfall.

After some injury setbacks, it appears Noam's career is well and truly back on the ascent.

Next up, Ilja Dragunov made an impromptu appearance and swiftly took WWE Raw superstar Cesaro – who had flown across from America – up on his open challenge.

Cesaro entered the ring to a hugely positive crowd reaction and he and the young challenger traded some seriously stiff chops and forearms, before the Swiss Superman hurled his opponent out of the ring.

The crowd counted to 40 seconds as Dragunov suffered the dizzying effects of a Cesaro Swing. He tried to keep himself in the game and showed a lot of heart, delivering a Coast to Coast, and hanging on against all odds, but in the final stages, the veteran was on fire, and put his younger opponent away with the Neutralizer.

"Are you watching, Vince McMahon?" asked the crowd and if WWE's chairman was tuning in, he'd have agreed it was an awesome match.

Cesaro returned to the ring and in a touching moment shook the hand of the Russian, whispering words into his ear that no doubt provided the fallen warrior with encouragement and respect.

Third up, NXT UK Tag Team Champions Grizzled Young Veterans battled Mark Coffey and Wolfgang of Gallus, as well as Wales' own Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster under triple threat rules in a chaotic and highly entertaining intersection of wrestling styles.

As is now custom, the sold-out crowd removed their shoes in protest against the heel champions' Zack Gibson and James Drake. Also notable was that Wolfgang looked in possibly the best shape of his career. How he managed to kick out at the count of two after landing squarely on the back his head remains a mystery.

The high flying team of Andrews and Webster gave those in attendance more than a few jaw-dropping moments, and they approved in unison, again chanting to question whether WWE's CEO's was witnessing this moment.

Coffey and Wolfgang looked set to prove themselves as the dominant team, but it would not be their night. A Doomsday Device all the way to ringside by the Grizzled ones put Wolfgang out of commission, but it wouldn't be enough to leave Cardiff with their belts.

Andrews finally took the pin after a Shooting Star Press. NXT UK has very popular new tag team champions in Andrews and Webster – the first Welsh champs in WWE history.

The fourth contest was the hotly anticipated Last Man Standing match between Joe Coffey and Dave Mastiff. The thinking among many fans was that this was a battle to determine who might be next in line for a shot at Walter's WWE UK Championship. That did seem like strong logic, as the eventual winner looked more than credible enough to get another shot at the gold.

In a bruising and hugely physical clash that started before the bell could even ring, the ring itself took some punishment when Coffey hit the turnbuckle so hard it sprang clean off the post, taking the top rope with it. This allowed Mastiff to use the ring as his weapon, but it was Coffey who introduced the first table. Oh, and a cricket bat also made an appearance.

Both men collided with opposing chairs at ringside, and a nasty back body drop saw Coffey land near the commentary booth with a thud. Sensing victory, Mastiff bulldozed Coffey on the table but it didn’t break.The warriors soon climbed to a higher platform and ended up sailing back to the floor and through the staging area. Coffey survived the count to become your last man standing.

Teagan Nox, who has been plagued by injuries ever since she moved stateside, was shown at ringside, indicating that the Welsh wizard would be part of TV tapings the following day.

She is another great addition to the brand's female roster, which was showcased when Cardiff got a bittersweet dose of "Toni Time". The inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion and Mae Young Classic 2018 winner, Toni Storm, narrowly lost out to her former BFF, Kay Lee Ray.

In one of the match highlights, Toni hit the Scot with a German suplex from the top rope, but in an absolute shocker of a result, Kay Lee Ray survived and bested the Australian with a Gory Bomb shortly after hanging her out to dry on the top rope. The crowd was stunned and fell silent at the end of Storm's title reign.

The main event saw the WWE UK Champion, Walter, square off against the inaugural title-holder, Tyler Bate, in a clash between the dominant new face of NXT UK and the man who launched the brand.

While the six-pack is still a work in progress for Walter, he has dropped a few pounds as of late and moved with real purpose. Still, the live crowd had no love for the man-mountain from Vienna, chanting "Walter is a w*****" and "F.U. Walter".

The Austrian came back from Bates' leaps and strikes on more than one occasion, overpowering him and breaking WWE's first UK champion down. But when the Midlander levelled Walter with a belly to back suplex off the ring apron to the floor, a glimmer of hope appeared for the challenger.

Bate fought valiantly, even drilling the gigantic champ with a standing suplex. "This is wrestling," shouted the crowd. The Big Strong Boi even hoisted up Walter and gave him an airplane spin, before lifting him up for the human torture rack. "Fight forever", begged the crowd, as they witnessed a match of the year contender.

If there had been a kitchen sink at ringside, Bate would have used it. He blasted Walter with everything he had in the closing moments, even engaging in some old school bare-knuckle boxing. Bate was dumped on his head twice, but kicked out of a power bomb at a count of one!

This would be his last rush of energy however, as Walter nailed him with a lariat to finally find the three count. Even in defeat, Bate looked every inch the hero as the show closed out with scenes of his British Strong Style buddies, Pete Dunne and Trent Severn, rushing to his aid, as the fans chanted in appreciation.

On hand at the MotorPoint Arena to take in all of this action was a very special guest and perhaps the most famous wrestler to come out of Wales, the legendary Adrian Street.

Known throughout a thrilling grappling career as 'Exotic' Adrian Street, the mat veteran, now in his eighties but still looking fighting fit and decked out in a typically flamboyant outfit, reminisced to Mirror Sport about how proud he is to be working with WWE and the new generation of British talent. Look out for our exclusive interview with the man himself next week.

For he and many others in attendance, NXT TakeOver: Cardiff was more than just the latest WWE offering. It was also a celebration of how far British Wrestling has come since its near extinction at the end of the 1980s. This wasn't the first NXT UK TakeOver, but it had an atmosphere unlike that event in Blackpool in January because of its familiarity.

British Wrestling isn't just back, it's now firmly established, and fans couldn't be happier.

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