|A sight the English never thought they'd see|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
I’m sure those of you on the US side of the Atlantic will forgive us on the other side of the pond for feeling a little bit smug at the moment. After years of our best wrestling talent being relegated to supporting roles or forced into identikit “British villain” characters, it seems things are taking a turn for the better after the first live screening of NXT – ArRIVAL.
Paige retained her NXT Women's Championship against long-time opponent Emma. She is the first and only woman to hold the belt in NXT, and William Regal’s “enchanting raven-haired lady” is still only 21. She’s been signed to WWE for nearly two years, but even before that she’d been wrestling across the world as Britani Knight, often in a tag-team with her fantastic and yet terrifying mother, Sweet Saraya.
You might know about Saraya, and you’ve probably heard Regal talk about Paige’s illustrious wrestling heritage. The Knights are legendary on the British wrestling scene, with patriarch Ricky running his promotion WAW in the Norwich area and Saraya as the face of the female counterpart Bellatrix. Paige is, obviously, the most successful of the next generation, but a 2012 documentary showed her brother Zak’s efforts to make it through a WWE tryout as well.
Adrian Neville’s NXT Championship win, though, was perhaps a little more of a surprise. He’s relatively small, he’s got a very strong Geordie (Newcastle!) accent, and, as Tyler Breeze has pointed out, he’s not conventionally good-looking. It never occurred to us that WWE might actually put the NXT belt on him. That’s not to cast any kind of aspersion on his ability. Neville is a truly wondrously gifted professional wrestler - indie fans or aficionados of Japanese wrestling, of course, will know him better as PAC, ‘the man who gravity forgot’, who’s been a staple of the likes of Dragon Gate for years.
You might think seeing him do a shooting-star press on television is impressive; to see him perform live, in a relatively small venue, is simply mind-blowing. The first time I saw him was almost surreal in its brilliance – and then half an hour after his match finished, I spotted him sneaking out from the locker-room, resplendent in a Newcastle United shirt, freshly showered, damp hair combed, watching the rest of the card from afar. This everyman quality and his love of wrestling should stand him in excellent stead.
So as we bask in the reflected glory of Paige and Neville, I’m also secretly casting my eyes around at the local indie shows, and putting together a shortlist of the next Brits I expect to head over to the Performance Center soon. I shall keep you posted.