LONDON – We heard it was coming for a while now, but we never thought WWE would actually pull it off. The company’s international takeover continues with the announcement of the launch of the NXT UK division.
Made in the middle of this year’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament, NXT UK is – as the name pretty much sums it up – the regional offshoot of the NXT brand in the United Kingdom. Independent wrestlers will now be working loosely under a United Kingdom division, somewhere halfway between exclusive to the WWE and free to work in affiliate promotions, if we’re going by how some of the wrestlers in the cruiserweight division and the first batch of UK talents are being booked now.
The bigger implication for this move is that NXT UK – which I’m going to assume is a hub for more than just the UK, despite its name, including most of continental Europe – means there are other regions bound to get the same treatment. The fact that Adam Cole is but the NXT North American Champion, not an Intercontinental Champion, and Pete Dunne is the United Kingdom Champion, implies that they’re planning to set up shop all around the world, as much as they can.
Off the top of my head, we’re likely going to get NXT Asia, which covers Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia; NXT Middle East, which has its own young but burgeoning scene; NXT Central and South America, which is the greater sphere beyond Mexico and Puerto Rico. The world of pro wrestling is being remodeled back into the old territory days, but with a new WWE twist – at least they’re finally justifying the first W in their name.
Back to the UK division. It’s been a grueling UK Championship tournament this year, certainly much better than the original offering, but despite the better offerings among the pool WWE’s made it very clear who they want to rely on to build NXT UK. This year’s tournament winner – the dynamic and rough-hewn Zack Gibson from Liverpool – brought his best against champion Pete Dunne, but came up short.
Granted, you could say that Gibson had the disadvantage of having to come into this match wrestling 3 more matches than Dunne did the day before. But all this successful defense tells me are two things: 1) fans shouldn’t expect the tournament winner to automatically be the favorite to win, and 2) Triple H picked Dunne and Tyler Bate, both from British Strong Style, to headline the first tournament for a reason.
Dunne and Bate make up a solid young core of talent for the people in charge to build a UK division around – and when you add in guys who have shown up at the Royal Albert Hall over the past week, such as tournament winner Gibson, runner-up (and favorite) Travis Banks, the returning Noam Dar, other names like British Strong Style stablemate Trent Seven, Wolfgang Young, Flash Morgan Webster, the Coffey Brothers, NXT Women’s Championship contender Toni Storm, you’ve got something special worth watching out for.
Of course, that’s the UK, and they’ve got a rich tradition of professional wrestling. I personally can’t wait until the WWE does the same for regions like ours and inject the kind of talent and guidance young scenes need in order to blossom. Protective and territorial fans may call Triple H’s recent business decisions shrewd and a bit greedy (with the way these developments tend to swallow up relatively smaller operations) but beneath it all it’s just a different way to do business.
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