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WWE Worlds Collide recap & reactions: NXT vs. NXT UK delivers (most of the time)

WWE Worlds Collide, in its previous iterations, were a different version of Fan Axxess shows. The last one included the return of the since departed Luke Harper.

The pre-Royal Rumble edition put on last night (Sat., Jan. 25, 2020) posed a different question: can they be an alternative to an NXT TakeOver? Commentary spoke of tonight’s Worlds Collide as a start of a new franchise, so let’s see if this will be enough to get us excited for next time — or if we’re already ready to move on.

One little piece of house-keeping to get out of the way up front, because it doesn’t fit anywhere below? Tom Phillips is very damn good at doing play-by-play. Maybe my favorite PBP person in WWE.

Worlds Collide pre-show

As the pre-show started, I had to deal with the depressing news that Sam Roberts would be talking on my TV. I would normally mute him on sight, but not tonight — the things I do to be a thorough reviewer. He’s joined by the ever-excellent Charly Caruso and the ... well, Andy Shepard is there too. The three talk at the start about “building a global brand,” but ... let’s be honest, this is a PPV and not an earnings call. Take that talk and throw it in the ocean.

As we recap the road to Worlds Collide, it still feels neat to watch when the NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool 2 crowd popped huge when their own guys Imperium were taken out by The Undisputed ERA. That’s both chalked up to how much we all love to hate Cole/KOR/Fish/Strong and how disliked little Imperium is. A bunch of Yanks could roll into Empress Ballroom and the home crowd would rather root for them than their own side.

Sam Roberts and Andy Shepherd try and embody the Imperium vs ERA feud, but that does nothing for nobody, and we cut to Tom Phillips and Nigel McGuinness, at the commentary desk for ...

Mia Yim vs. Kay Lee Ray (Pre-Show Match)

Crowd feels hot for this kickoff out of the gate. A few minutes in, a series of chops and a big kick from KLR seem to show that Yim will be fighting from the bottom on this one, except there’s no water in the pool for Ray’s top rope senton, as the HBIC rolls out of the way. The two trade some stiff offense, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least 2 DDT’s that look like the victim was planted on their head.

Hell, Ray’s own senton outside of the ring looked to hit at just the right angle so she lands flatback on the ground, which still looks absolutely dangerous to me. It’s the kind of crazy stuff that got her a lot of respect from me at WarGames. The two manage to get really good timing on both a Code Blue (Yim’s Code Red) and an Eat Defeat, moves that often require a lot of setup and don’t look natural for it. Yim’s Destroyer also looked damn good.

As for the rolling pinfalls, leading to Ray using the ropes? A decent way to leave fans wanting a more decisive ending down the line. These two mesh well together, and we need more.

Verdict: Damn good for a pre-show match.

I really pity the folks in Houston. You typically get to avoid hearing Sam Roberts in the arena, but they decided to put the pre-show team on the arena PA. While I like Shepherd’s form over Sam’s they’re both not great about talking about specifics. When Charly asked Andy about the keys to victory for the Rhea/Toni match, he just talked about precedent.

I often find myself wondering if it’s actually worth it to tune in for the pre-show, tonight’s edition reminded me just watch the damn matches (and interviews when they happen), ignore the commentary people.

Hype for Moustache Mountain vs DIY, and then Sam Roberts is just trying to get himself over by saying Texas doesn’t deserve the match. When Andy talks up the NXT UK fam, Sam keeps rolling his eyes, saying “oh you took a plane” about the NXT UK people. If anybody from TSA is reading, can Sam not be allowed on his plane back home to New York? We’d be better off without him.

Worlds Collide main show

Ah, a hype video with Winston Churchill audio laid over footage of the German competitors of Imperium, in this very militaristic clip to tease the main event. The pairing is ... how do you say, not great, if you know about Churchill and Germany?

Finn Bálor vs. Ilja Dragunov

We begin with a match that was both a potential show-stealer, and a risky decision. We’ve yet to get a true spotlight match for Dragunov since he tussled with Cesaro at TakeOver: Cardiff last year, and that had barely any build. This match has slightly more.

The two start with some serious grappling and holds, and the crowd begins firmly in Balor’s corner. A series of shots to the face get the crowd a bit raucous, and Finn lands a basement dropkick leaving the ring, knocking Ilja down. Some interesting cat and mouse games at the ring ropes bring the equally ripped lads, to show some strategy, and Dragunov finds mixed success with aerial attacks. Balor’s dropkick to a seated Dragunov is the first “ouch that looked harsh” spot of this match, continuing the “gird yourself” vibe we got in Yim vs KLR.

The crowd just doesn’t really “know” or feel fondness for Ilja, and knowing how much the guy is beloved on the indie scene, I wonder if NXT on USA could have given him more exposure with a storyline before this PPV-level match. If this match had happened on TakeOver: Blackpool II, I bet it would have gotten a much larger reaction. By the middle of the match Ilja’s working heel, which really doesn’t feel like it would have been the plan given Finn’s last months, having turned on Gargano.

It feels like they might have called an audible in the ring for the lack of reaction that Ilja got. From what I’m told, Ilja’s rise in wXw was very character-driven, and without that kinda storytelling he might not hit the heights he should with fans. That being said, Ilja’s bridging suplex-pin combination looked so good I bet Alicia Fox would give it an A+. Bálor looks like he broke his nose, but his Coup de Grace and 1916 both get a strong reaction and we move on.

Verdict: Good, not bad, I wanted more.

Cathy Kelley’s ringside, as are the Broserweights and the Grizzled Young Veterans. The winner of their upcoming match on Wednesday night NXT will get a title shot at TakeOver: Portland. Riddle both quotes The Dark Night and mocks GYV for not being happy. He then calls Dunne his “bro from another mo,” and says Pete’s smile-less face is his “happy face.” Dunne says “I’ll just be blunt,” which pops Riddle, before he says his tag partner is gonna “smoke” the GYV. I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised by how successful Punny Peter is on the mic.

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks vs. Angel Garza (c) in an NXT Cruiserweight Championship Fatal 4-Way Match

Hi new Cruiserweight Championship title!

The arena’s definitely in Garza’s corner, but I’m going in thinking we could really use some big wins for the NXT UK superstars, who enter the night without as much of the cachet that your NXT on USA superstars do.

After a slight bit of eyeing each other to see who moves first, the challengers refuse to let Garza strip his tearaways off, knocking his block off. In the first of many “what the bloody fuck?” moments, Devlin manages to uranage Banks onto Swerve and then nail a standing moonsault onto both of them.

Swerve soon takes control of the offense, though, with his silky smooth moves showing us why he should be a bigger deal. Garza hits a tope over Banks to knock Swerve down, and then Banks takes out Garza. And then Travis Banks unleashes more kicks than Chun Li in the ring, shining for the first of many times.

I really tried to keep track of who was doing what, but, after Devlin hits a magical slingshot over the top rope DDT — the kind of move that says “put me in the Royal Rumble” — another amazing sequence leaves all four men on the ground. And the rewind/etc on the network doesn’t work as well as I’d like so let’s move on. This match will benefit from rewatching, with as much action per minute as early Simpsons episodes had jokes. Maybe this should have been the first match of the night? Or did they want that main roster music pop?

Garza finally rips off his pants and then Nigel rips off two NXT wrestler catch phrases, saying “feast your eyes” and “bay bay!”

“Swerve” Scott is the first domino to fall in a wild sequence where he stomps onto rope onto Banks, who was one of two men held in the air by Garza, who hits a powerslam on Devlin.

Devlin, Garza, and Scott soar down to the ring from the top turnbuckle, with what looked to be an attempted double standing Spanish Fly by Devlin, or maybe just a suplex, and then Banks runs into hit the Slice of Heaven and Kiwi Crusher and gets 2.

Soon thereafter, Swerve does a sequence in the corner on Banks that broke my brain. Just find it, trust me.

Garza with a top-rope dropkick but Swerve with a reverse-rana. Devlin runs in, hits the Devlin Side! 1-2-3!


Verdict: Your first must-see match of the night. A fire promo from Devlin, to close out the segment. I left the match feeling a little like Marge Simpson, that I wanted all of them to win.

We bask in Keith Lee’s glory as he holds up his NXT North American title ringside, alongside Mia Yim.

Chelsea Green and the former Robbie E., now Robert Stone, walk to ringside.

DIY vs. Moustache Mountain

And here comes the face-vs-face match of the month, with the one-night-only reunited Gargano and Ciampa against Trent and Tyler. Excellent hype package video, and out come the big strong boi and the silver-haired don. This might be the match that has the highest expectations going in, let’s see how that works.

DIY also get a joint entrance, and I kinda like that new shirt of theirs. I’m now realizing that while DIY have had their issues, WWE and NXT never pulled the trigger on Trent and Tyler having issues over when the towel’s been thrown in...

Starting with Tyler and Johnny, and a collar and elbow tie-up. Gargano’s maintaining wrist/arm control over Tyler, at least until Bate escapes with some solid catch as catch can reversals. Plenty of more reversals are followed by a leg-scissors takedown that barely was anything, but Tyler does the flip to make it work. And then Nigel brings up the towel moments ...

The crowd cheering on friendly competition, and Trent and Ciampa are tagged in, as the DADDY’S HOME chants serenade the ring. Pose off between the two, and this is definitely starting like the BSS 3v3 matches that used to dominate the indies years ago. Bate’s in, Ciampa offers a test of strength, which the big strong boi is ready to meet him in. Monkeyflips, head-bridges and a wave from Tyler followed by a wave from Ciampa. Bate fails to trick Ciampa into the Bop and Bang gambit, big elbow from Ciampa, and before you know it Moustache Mountain is thrown all over the commentary tables.

DIY share in the glory of the clapping and patting themselves on the back gimmick on the apron. This match delivered both with fan service and action. Delightful.

Tyler tags in Trent, Johnny in as well, and Seven’s running on full steam, a neat little slam to Ciampa. Gargano takes control, nailing both of his opponents before his slingshot torpedo through the ropes, to Tyler. Ciampa holds the ropes open for a Gargano tope through the middle, followed by the Widow’s Bell. 1, 2 - nope.

DIY run through some of their standard tag team offense, but Bate and Ciampa are left in the ring and go wild on each other’s necks, and the sequence ends with the rebound lariat and Tyler Driver 94 for only a 2. Crowd with an NXT! NXT! NXT! chant.

Gargano can’t nail the lawn dart, Bate with an exploder suplex, and Johnny and Tyler have just an EXCELLENT sequence of reversals. DIY gets Moustache Mountain into their tandem submissions (a callback to how they won the tag titles against The Revival), but Trent and Tyler power out into simultaneous airplane spins and they let them go before we all get carsick.

Tyler inadventertently hits Trent, and the boy’s stuck in the middle of the ring. DIY go for the double kick, Trent protecc, double Bop and Bang. Birminghammer! 1-2-NO! Another double-team maneuver, Tyler off the top rope for a spinning corkscrew, Ciampa reverses, so Trent takes the hit, and Tyler breaks the count. The seemingly final sequence ends with Bate getting caught with double-superkicks in midair. DIY meet in the middle on Trent, 1-2-3, Johnny Wrestling and Tommy Sports Entertainment over.

Verdict: And that is what it’s like when worlds collide to make a great dream match that doesn’t hurt anyone. Woulda liked to see Trent and Tyler take it, alas.

Hi Mercedes Martinez, hi Dakota Kai, and Hey! Welcome Tegan Nox, f*** Dakota the f*** up! Think that’s the first pullapart brawl we’ve gotten from one of these “hi this is so-and-so sitting ringside” moments. After a hype package for the next match, we see Bianca Belair ringside.

Toni Storm vs Rhea Ripley (c) in an NXT Championship Match

Yes, it’s an NXT Championship match. I’m with it. More on that later.

Collar and elbow tie-up. Massive chest chop from Rhea leaves Toni stunned. Toni, when she’s not trying to push her hair back, is smiling and grimacing like a sociopath. Off a german suplex from Toni, Rhea sells a bad bump to the bottom turnbuckle.

Thankfully, Toni’s working continuing to work as the heel tonight, with Rhea selling neck trauma hard after getting planted with a DDT. The two throw forearms doing the Sami and Kevin fight forever segment.

God damn Rhea Ripley’s standing cloverleaf is a great move. Toni’s german suplex to Rhea continues the theme of insane neck trauma. Ripley stays alive with kicks and dropkicks, but a headbutt from Storm levels Rhea, and sends Toni to the top rope, where she gets none of a frogsplash onto Rhea. Riptide! 1-2-3. And that ends this rivalry — at least for now. Rhea moving onto her title defense to Belair in Portland.

Verdict: Good match, not the greatest, not bad. Short and OK.

Yes, commentary refers to that as an NXT Championship match — which just sounds right. Doesn’t need “women’s” as a qualifier. It’s a top title for the company. Now, have it defended around the world, so it can be an NXT World Championship. Commentary sends us to backstage footage of Bate stopping Bálor from murking Gargano. Seems like they’re going to go at it soon.

The Undisputed ERA vs. Imperium

Roddy looks a bit awkward without his gold, like the one kid on Christmas whose stocking had coal, while all of his siblings got candy in theirs.

As Imperium enters, a lazy “USA!” chant arises. I roll my eyes.

Early matchups give each member of the team a little to do, starting with Aichner and KOR, then Barthel and Roddy and then Wolfe and Fish — all of course building to WALTER and Cole, so we can see if the towering Austrian can cave in the Bay Bay’s chest again with another chop. The leaders in, and Cole gets the first slap, and plays evasion to dodge Big Van Walter’s massive mits.

Commentary lets us know Wolfe is taken out of the match, my guy ringside says it’s with a concussion (editor’s note: so does Triple H).

WALTER with a massive jump over Roddy before a big boot knocks Strong down.

LOTS OF KICKS from Kyle and Roddy. Cole tying up Barthel in holds. Crazy big German Suplex from Walter to Kyle. WALTER hits a suplex on both KOR and Strong — and the angle looked terrible for Roddy.

WALTER’s seated senton appears to be a legal means of attempted murder, and I do not envy Kyle O’Reilly for taking it.

Roderick Strong withstanding chops from WALTER is motivation for the next time you’re having trouble at the gym, but a clothesline from Der Ring General knocks Roddy down — before he pops up to eventually knock WALTER down with a shining wizard. The story of Roddy with something to prove is working well, as this crowd clearly enjoys the ERA despite their overall heel behavior.

Cole in, rocks with Barthel, but eventually fells him with an enziguri, followed by an ushigaroshi. 3-on-1 odds have WALTER feeling the wrath of the gnats that are Cole’s Undisputed army. Fish, KOR and Roddy disassemble a commentary table. And before WALTER can powerbomb Roddy through it, Kyle knocks him down, kicking away at the back of his right knee. This match, I’m now realizing, needs to be the moment where WALTER triumphs and gets some of his thunder back, after losing bad at Survivor Series ... then Roddy olympic slams WALTER straight through a commentary table.

Barthel with a flying elbow. Aichner with his massive feat of strength, catching Kyle mid-air and holding him for a delayed brainbuster. Cole manages to hit another superkick on an opponent flying at him, derailing an incoming Aichner. Roddy and Cole do their best to put Barthel down for three, but a kickout. Aichner and Barthel feeling the pain of the disadvantage, and Kyle’s knocked Barthel into a submission mid-ring, grapevining his legs. Aichner, though, somehow lands the most circque du fucking soleil moonsault, to nail Kyle and save Barthel.

WALTER UP in the corner. The crowd behind him. Barthel leaps for the tag. WALTER CHOPS Cole, then Kyle and then Fish down, but Cole superkicks, Nope! WALTER CHOPS COLE, powerbombs Roddy. WALTER powerbombs Roddy. Cole with the last shot knee. Imperium breaks it up, and this match is finally at that bubbling boiling level.

All seven men standing in lines, and they all attack. WALTER with a sleeper on Cole, Kyle with a sleeper on WALTER. Barthel flying shoulder at Cole. Roddy with a Fosbury Flop to the men outside. Eichner flies even higher. JOHN WOO DROPKICK FROM WALTER to Fish. Powerbomb from WALTER to Fish, 1-2-3, IMPERIUM WINS.

Verdict: It took a little bit to get great, as they had to deal with the complexity of losing Wolfe, but Imperium looked spicy good out there. A solid continuation of the ERA’s unraveling prophecy story.


I don’t think Worlds Collide has the same cache as TakeOver - or at least not yet. Stories would need longer builds, probably, but the solid 5-match card format works again for WWE’s NXT brands. This is probably the 1b to TakeOver’s 1a. Congrats to the team who put it together, this was a fun way to spend a Saturday night in.

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