Welcome to the second edition of my weekly round up of what WWE’s UK & Ireland contingent have been up to! It was a huge week of news with the Superstar Shake-Up, but where did that leave them?
The big news is of course the return of Drew McIntyre to the WWE main roster. He left the company in 2013, made a big name for himself on indies each side of the Atlantic, and got signed to NXT on Wrestlemania weekend last year. He quite quickly rose up the yellow brand to become NXT Champion before losing to Andrade “Cien” Almas in November, where he also injured his arm.
He’s been out of action ever since, and there was a lot of speculation over whether he would be called up or not when he was healthy to return. But on Monday, we got the answer, as he was revealed to have aligned with Dolph Ziggler.
It’s going to be an interesting pairing, because Dolph hasn’t been used that well over the last year, so this is something of a reboot for him too. They appear to be heels, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll compete as a tag team or if they’ll be individuals that work together. I think being a heel is a good fit for McIntyre, just because he looks so much more intimidating, so much badder than he did in his last run. I would be tipping him for success in any role to be honest, but straight off the bat there is a lot of potential for McIntyre to become a major player.
Sheamus was around quite a bit this week with his partner Cesaro, as they were on commentary for the Woken Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs The Revival match, had a backstage segment with Breezango and lost to them later that night, before being announced as moving to SmackDown on Tuesday.
The Bar is a team I really didn’t expect to move, in part because they had already announced them as wrestling for the Raw Tag Team Championships at next week’s Greatest Royal Rumble. It makes that match seem a bit pointless now, as I can’t imagine a SmackDown team would win a Raw title. With Backlash nine days later they could always move them back then, but it still seems strange.
It did make their loss to Breezango make a bit more sense though. At the time I thought it was maybe just a way to establish Breezango as a plucky team who were entertaining, but still a threat on Monday nights. Now it seems clear that it was Sheamus & Cesaro putting another team over on their way out, and fair play to them. Breezango could have really used a scalp like the former champions, and it gives The Bar an excuse to have a stronger mean streak on SmackDown, so it was a good move all round.
Killian Dain was announced as coming to SmackDown as part of Sanity, though it looks like Nikki Cross is being left in NXT. I could have gone either way on Cross, as with the recent departures of Ember Moon, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce Cross is now one of the longest tenured and most established names in the NXT women’s division. But she also could have played a role on the main roster, and is certainly ready for it.
For Dain, he has real breakout potential. He’s a big man that can move, so whether he’s used as the enforcer of Sanity or given more of a singles spotlight he will do well. He had the blow of match with Lars Sullivan on NXT too that was announced last week, where as expected he put Sullivan over. But just by being the only man to have stood toe to toe with Sullivan, Dain isn’t hurt in any way by the loss on his way out.
Everybody else were kind of in bit part roles this week. Finn Balor was part of the 10-man tag team match main event on Raw, sounding over as ever. Becky Lynch did attempt to make the save for Charlotte this week as she was being attacked by Carmella and The IIconics, but that was just a precursor to Asuka’s appearance.
The WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne was shown briefly on NXT with a quick promo outside the building, talking about coming back to get revenge on Roderick Strong after Dunne was double crossed at TakeOver: New Orleans. WWE have already announced British Strong Style (Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) vs The Undisputed Era for the United Kingdom Championship Tournament shows in London in June, so presumably this is going to build to that.
And I’ll leave with the off-screen return to action of Steffanie (FKA Nixon) Newell. The Girl With The Shiniest Wizard, from Wales, signed to NXT last year and was due to compete in the Mae Young Classic but tore her ACL. Last weekend she returned to action on a NXT house show, teaming up with Dakota Kai against Reina Gonzalez and Vanessa Borne. I managed to catch her on the UK indies just before she signed with WWE and got hurt, so I really hope big things are in store for her on the yellow brand!