For the past few years, WWE has been putting together some interesting lineups for the wrestling events that take place during their big Axxess conventions (which usually occur in conjunction with shows like WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, and SummerSlam). However, aside from stuff that was specifically taped for NXT TV, none of those matches ever made tape. That’s honestly a little absurd since WWE has the power to tape those matches for extra network content.

Well, WWE finally decided to do that in 2019, as they put together a tournament that took place during Royal Rumble Axxess in Phoenix. The tournament (which was taped as a network special to be aired the following week) would feature wrestlers from NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live, with the winner getting a chance to challenge for any championship across those three brands. It certainly seemed like an exciting idea on paper, but these special Axxess events aren’t exactly known for living up to the potential of the cards.

Would this tournament buck that trend?

Before diving into the first round, I should note that the way WWE organized this tournament, from a viewing standpoint, was very confusing. The opening battle royal was shown on the WWE Network, but if you want to see seven of the eight first-round matches, you need to switch over to YouTube to see the video that contained those matches. Then you have to switch back to the WWE Network to catch the final first round bout (Zack Gibson vs. Humberto Carrillo). To make matters even worse, the quarter-finals are on the aforementioned YouTube video, while the semi-finals and finals are on the WWE Network. It’s all very confusing, and I have no idea why any company would try to make it more difficult to watch your product. Anyway, let’s get into the first round.

WWE Worlds Collide
February 2nd, 2019
Phoenix Convention Center
Phoenix, Arizona

15 Man Battle RoyalWinner: Jordan Devlin

When this was originally announced as a fifteen person tournament, I wasn’t really sure how they would handle it, given that it’s an odd number of participants. However, once the actual format was explained, it made a lot more sense. Seven wrestlers advance out of the first round matchups, while the winner of this battle royal would get a bye into the quarter-finals. Sounds simple enough. As for the other participants in this battle royal, there was more at stake than just a first-round bye, as the order of eliminations would determine the seeding. The match itself was relatively entertaining, as far as WWE battle royals go. There were a couple of solid storytelling bits in this one, that either helped to build up their match in the tournament (Humberto Carrillo and Zack Gibson), or served as the continuation of a feud on their respective brand (Jordan Devlin and Travis Banks). We got some of the usual battle royal big man spots from both Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic, but despite their size advantage, neither was able to claim victory in this one. Ultimately, Jordan Devlin would go on to secure the first round bye after eliminating The Velveteen Dream. It was nice to see Devlin get the nod here. Nothing much else to say, beyond that. For a battle royal, it was totally serviceable. ***

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Drew Gulak def. Mark Andrews

The opening match of the tournament proper featuring a clash of styles right out of the gate, as we got a high-flyer (Andrews) taking on a technician (Gulak). If you’re someone who really doesn’t enjoy Drew Gulak’s style of wrestling, then you’re probably not going to enjoy the first half of this one. It felt like something straight out of EVOLVE circa 2015-2016, as Gulak tried to ground Andrews with grappling and mat work. This first part of the bout wasn’t terrible by any means, but it just had no energy whatsoever. The fact that Andrews tried to match Gulak with some grappling of his own didn’t exactly help that much. Fortunately, the pace picked up a little bit in the second half, once Andrews was able to utilize some of his high-flying offense. There was still some grappling, but things felt a bit more energetic in the final minutes. Ultimately, Gulak was able to catch Andrews in a sunset flip to secure the win. A perfectly fine match between these two. ***

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Keith Lee def. Travis Banks

Travis Banks was coming into this match at less than 100%, after Jordan Devlin went after his knee during the battle royal (continuing their ongoing storyline from NXT UK). To make matters worse for Banks, his opponent in the first round was Keith Lee. While Banks did his best, given the circumstances, the outcome was inevitable, as Lee got the victory after he managed to hit the Supernova (the move formerly known as Ground Zero). This bout only went about five minutes, and even though Banks did get some offense in, this was mainly a Keith Lee showcase. It wasn’t awful by any means, but it was certainly the worst match of the first round. **1/4

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Adam Cole def. Shane Thorne

Shane Thorne recently entered the singles ranks after his regular tag team partner Nick Miller left WWE at the end of 2018. He had a fine outing here against Adam Cole, but ultimately came up short after Cole connected with the Last Shot. This was a solid match that was similar to Drew Gulak/Mark Andrews in that it started slow, but picked up in the second half. After the initial opening exchange, Thorne really targeted Cole’s shoulder, and actually controlled a decent chunk of the bout. Cole eventually managed to mount a comeback (he was very much in the role of the babyface), and we got some fun exchanges between the two before the aforementioned finish. Cole getting the win here wasn’t much of a shock, and he was certainly one of the most popular guys on this show. As for Shane Thorne, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him going forward. Will he find success as a singles wrestler, or will he get released before the end of 2019? At this point, I would hope it’s the latter (as good as he is, I can’t see him going anywhere in WWE), but time will tell. ***

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Dominik Dijakovic def. TJP

It seems like WWE is still struggling with how to pronounce Dominik Dijakovic’s name. The ring announcer and Tom Phillips (who was part of the commentary team along with Byron Saxton) both used different pronunciations during the battle royal, but they seemed to be on the same page here. The fact that the company that tries to make the names of wrestlers shorter and easier actually made a guy’s name more complicated just blows my mind. What’s wrong with Donovan Dijak?! It’s a pretty easy name to say. Plus, if he ever gets called up to the main roster, Vince McMahon would probably shorten his name to “Dijak” anyway (that’s actually a decent option as well!). This just doesn’t make any sense. Anyway, we had another styles clash in this match, with a technician taking on a taller (and much more powerful) wrestler. This was another relatively good match in the first round (I’m sure you can sense a pattern developing here). TJP used his speed and technical skills to take the fight to Dijakovic at various points. He specifically targeted Dijakovic’s left arm, and managed to weaken him. However, TJP’s best efforts weren’t enough to get the job done, as Dijakovic scored the win after hitting Feast Your Eyes. Unlike some of the previous bouts in the first round, this one managed to hold my attention from start to finish. The final few minutes featured some notable spots, including Dijakovic hitting TJP with a chokebomb with only one arm. Another result that was fairly predictable, but the match was still entertaining as a whole. ***1/4

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Tyler Bate def. Cedric Alexander

I’m going to cut to the chase. This was easily the best match of the first round, and considering who was involved, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Cedric Alexander and Tyler Bate worked very well together, and we saw plenty of cool exchanges throughout the match. There was some good technical wrestling in the opening minutes, and at one point, these two shook hands while they were both in neck bridges! That was one of the most memorable moments of the entire first round. The pace really picked up down the stretch, and the crowd seemed to be pretty invested (it got the biggest reactions out of any match up to this point). Alexander came close to winning after a couple of very close nearfalls (one off a Michinoku Driver, another off a standing Spanish Fly), but in the end, Bate emerged victorious after connecting with the Tyler Driver 97. You know these two could kill it on a much bigger stage, but for a tournament taking place in the middle of Royal Rumble Axxess in a huge convention center, it was really good. I would definitely recommend checking this out, if you get the change. ***1/2

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
The Velveteen Dream def. Tony Nese

These two made it to the final three of the battle royal, along with Jordan Devlin. This wasn’t nearly as good as Cedric Alexander/Tyler Bate, but it was certainly in the upper half of first round matches in this tournament. It was very similar to Dominik Dojakovic/TJP, in that they managed to keep my attention throughout the entire bout. The various exchanges throughout were all fairly solid, and there was never a dull moment to speak. Nese tried to hit a superplex late, but Velveteen Dream tossed him off the top rope, and then immediately hit the Purple Rainmaker for the win. This match clocked in at just under ten minutes, but it was fun while it lasted. ***1/4

Worlds Collide Tournament – First Round
Humberto Carrillo def. Zack Gibson

This was the only first-round matchup that wasn’t available on the YouTube stream. In order to watch it, you had to switch back to the WWE Network. It was rather annoying (as I already mentioned), but fortunately, the bout ended up being pretty enjoyable for the seven minutes or so that it lasted. Carrillo was attacked by Gibson during his entrance, and while Gibson did get his fair share of offense in, this felt more like a showcase for Carrillo, who got to hit some of his high-flying offense. This was actually my first time seeing Humberto Carrillo (I haven’t caught up on 205 Live recently), and I came away from this match wanting to see more of him. Gibson nearly locked in the Shankly Gates at one point, but Carrillo escaped, an ultimately won after hitting a headstand moonsault (the version that Silas Young does is far superior). Again, this didn’t go that long, but these two made the most of the time they were given. ***

Final Thoughts

The first round of the Worlds Collide Tournament went pretty much how I expected it to go, in terms of match quality. Since this took place at Axxess, you knew there weren’t going to be a lot of stellar matches. There weren’t any bad matches to speak up (I only had one bout under the *** mark, and it was well under it), but the majority of the bouts all ranged from *** to ***1/4. Only one first-round contest is really worth checking out, and that was Cedric Alexander vs. Tyler Bate. Beyond that, you have a collection of matches that were all relatively good, but not that memorable. Hopefully, we get some better offerings in the later rounds.