NXT Worlds Collide 2020
January 25, 2020
Toyota Center
Houston, Texas

Watch: WWE Network

I’m going to be completely honest. When I signed up to do this review a couple of days ago, I thought I was going to be part of a larger group review. The fact that nobody else on the Voices of Wrestling wanted to get involved just goes to show that the buzz/general interest surrounding this show was virtually nonexistent. Sure, the card looked really good on paper, but why should we have cared?

Nobody on this side of the Atlantic cares about NXT UK. Nobody cares about the WWE’s fictional “brand supremacy” nonsense, especially since these two brands were gladly working together only two months ago in the buildup to Survivor Series. The fact that tickets for this show were reportedly not selling well just reinforces the fact that nobody was invested in this concept (I noticed right away that the entire upper deck was blacked out, so I’m very curious to find out what the attendance number was).

There’s also the fact that this concept is something that, as of last year, was just relegated to a warehouse or a convention center for Axxess, where most of the wrestlers put in half-hearted efforts in front of super small crowds that didn’t really care that much. I would know…..as I reviewed that stuff for Voices Of Wrestling last year. This concept doesn’t have a very positive history. WWE might’ve gained more attention for this show if they simply slapped on the word “TakeOver” and called it “TakeOver: Worlds Collide” since the TakeOver name actually has some positive value as a draw. Alas, I guess WWE wanted to try elevating this concept up to a bigger stage. It certainly seems like it bombed at the box office, and the interest going in was next to none.

I should also note quickly that I’ve been dealing with a bit of a head cold over the last few days. I alluded to it in the group review of NWA Hard Times, but it got a lot worse the next morning (of course it did, as that’s what always happens when you’re sick), so apologies in advance if my review isn’t up to the usual standard.

NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray def. Mia Yim

This was the only match featured on the kickoff show, which was only a half-hour (thank goodness). What was odd about it though was the fact that the set for the kickoff panel was literally right next to the entranceway. So when Kay Lee Ray and Mia Yim make their respective entrances, the camera just showed them walking by these lights stands and other equipment. It was very strange.

Anyway, this was a non-title affair that actually had a little bit of backstory to it, as it was Kay Lee Ray who cost Mia Yim a Ladder Match against Io Shirai back in November (that was in the buildup to TakeOver: WarGames). This was a very solid match that featured some good action throughout. They went back-and-forth for just under ten minutes, and the latter half of the bout was particularly strong. Kay Lee Ray hit a big dive to the outside, while Yim picked up a couple of close nearfalls (one of which was off a Canadian Destroyer). There wasn’t a lot to complain about when it came to the actual wrestling. The only downside was the finish, as Kay Lee Ray put her feet on the ropes during a rollup to secure the win. A very “meh” ended, but again, the bulk of the match was pretty enjoyable. ***1/2

Finn Balor def. Ilja Dragunov

The show proper kicked off with Finn Balor vs. Ilja Dragunov, which was a match that perfectly showed off that fact that nobody watches or cares about NXT UK. Finn Balor got a big pop when he made his entrance, while poor Ilja Dragunov barely got any reaction when he made his entrance. This continued throughout the match as well, as Balor (who was clearly meant to be the heel) got cheered throughout, even when he busted out heelish tactics. Meanwhile, Dragunov only got a small smattering of boos here and there. You have to feel bad for Ilja. He’s out there having a perfectly good match with Balor, but he’s getting next to nothing in terms of crowd reactions. While there were some slow points early on, the pace picked up in the closing few minutes. Dragunov hit a number of big moves on Balor, but an attempt at a top rope senton was blocked, and proved to be his undoing. A shotgun dropkick, a Coup de Grace, and a 1916 ended up putting Dragunov away. The wrestling from start to finish was very solid between these two, but the lack of reaction for Dragunov stood out more than anything they did in the ring. Again, it’s just further evidence that American fans don’t give a shit about NXT UK. ***1/2

Before the next match got underway, we got dueling promos at ringside between the Grizzled Young Veterans and the Broserweights. Zack Gibson got some promo time (which is always great) before Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne had their chance to respond. I haven’t watched any of their matches, but I enjoy this odd couple dynamic that Riddle and Dunne have going. Also, did anyone notice how Dunne was throwing out weed references in his promo? It was hard to miss lines like “Let me be blunt” and “we’re gonna smoke you”. Is this part of Dunne’s gimmick now? Anyway, the point is that these two teams will be facing off in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on NXT this Wednesday. The winners will be getting a shot at the NXT Tag Team Titles at NXT TakeOver: Portland in a few weeks.

NXT Cruiserweight Title – Fatal Four-Way Match – Jordan Devlin def. Angel Garza (c), Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, & Travis Banks

Earlier in the day, Triple H and William Regal presented Angel Garza with a brand new NXT Cruiserweight Title, with the NXT logo replacing the WWE logo. Can we just kill off 205 Live now? Seriously, what the point of that brand even existing? Ever since the Cruiserweight Title started getting featured more on NXT, 205 Live has become even more nonessential than NXT UK.

Much like the match that came before it, the difference in reactions between the NXT regulars and the NXT UK regulars was very obvious. Both Garza and Swerve got respectable reactions, while Devlin and Banks got next to nothing. It’s not a total surprise with Banks, but it’s a real shame to see someone like Devlin come out to crickets. This is a guy that many consider being one of the best wrestlers in the world today, and he’s getting next to no reaction on a show that nobody cares about, representing a brand that nobody cares about. Now the match itself was actually pretty great. It was just over twelve minutes, and there was nonstop action right from the opening bell. All four guys got chances to shine, though that didn’t necessarily mean the crowd reacted any better (at one point, Banks was delivering a series of kicks in the ring, and you could hear a pin drop). One notable moment during the bout saw Devlin, Banks, and Swerve clearly rip off Private Party’s Silly String move.

Towards the end of the match, Garza managed to hit Swerve with the Wing Clipper, but Devlin slid in and took out Garza with a headbutt. He then hit the Devlin Side on Swerve to score the victory. There were a few sloppy moments here and there, but as a whole, this was a great Fatal Four-Way Match. Exactly the type of stuff you would expect from the cruiserweights. Since there were six matches announced for this show, I figured the two brands would split the results 3-3. This was a match where I thought a NXT UK guy had a chance to win, and that’s exactly what happened. It should be interesting to see what this means for the Cruiserweight Title. Does Devlin start appearing on 205 Live now? Does he appear more on NXT US? Does this title get featured more on NXT UK? Whatever happens, it’s nice to see Devlin finally doing something of note in WWE. ****

DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) def. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)

On paper, this had the chance to be the match of the night. Even though it ultimately wasn’t a super spectacular bout that would immediately enter the match of the year discussion, it was still a fantastic match from start to finish. Easily the best thing on this entire show. I mean, just look at the teams involved. There was no way this wasn’t going to be anything less than great. What I found interesting right out of the gate was that the first few minutes felt a lot like a match you would see on a PWG show. We got a cool technical exchange between Gargano and Bate, followed by a bit of goofing around between Ciampa and Seven when they got tagged in. However, things got more serious when DIY tossed Moustache Mountain into the announce tables on the outside. From there, the pace really picked up, as we got some great back-and-forth action from both teams. Moustache Mountain came close to winning on a couple of very close nearfalls (one of which was off a Tyler Driver 97, while the other occurred following a Burning Hammer/Diving Knee combo), but in the end, DIY managed to score the victory after hitting their Running Knee/Superkick combo. While I don’t see this ending up on any match of the year ballots come December (we’ve gotten to the point where ****1/2, at least in my view, isn’t good enough anymore to be seriously considered in match of the year discussions, which just goes to show how much better wrestling worldwide has gotten over the last several years), this was still an excellent tag team contest. Again, it was next to impossible for this to not deliver, considering the two teams that were involved. If you missed this show, and you’re short on time, absolutely go out of your way to watch this match. My words can’t do it justice. ****1/2

Before the next match began, we some of the typical “look who’s at ringside” camera shots. In this case, one of the wrestlers at ringside was Dakota Kai. She gets attacked from behind by Tegan Nox, and the two brawl until security separates them. They’ll be facing off on NXT this coming Wednesday.

NXT Women’s Title – Rhea Ripley (c) def. Toni Storm

Out of all the matches on the card, this was the one that had the most natural build, if that makes sense. Rhea Ripley is the NXT Women’s Champion. Toni Storm has a 2-1 edge in her series with Ripley from NXT UK, so she demanded a title shot. Makes all the sense in the world.

This ended up being a very solid women’s contest, but it really wasn’t much more than that. The wrestling was perfectly fine throughout, and they told a decent story at points, as Storm worked over Ripley’s head and neck and connecting with a german suplex into one of the corners. There was nothing wrong with the execution, but given the two people involved, this could’ve been a lot better. It could be an issue with the match time, as they only got about ten minutes. I know the finish seemed to come out of nowhere, as Ripley pinned Storm with the Rip Tide after moving out of the way when Storm attempted a Frog Splash. They did have their work cut out for them, as they had to follow the excellent tag team match that came beforehand. Maybe it’s just a case of these two not having the best chemistry? It could be a combination of all of those things. The bottom line is that while this was a perfectly good wrestling match, it absolutely had the potential to be much better. ***1/4

As Rhea Ripley was celebrating, she got into a shouting match with Bianca Belair, who was at ringside during the match. Those two will be meeting for the NXT Women’s Title at the TakeOver: Portland show. Another big issue with this show as well is that there’s an actual TakeOver coming up in three weeks. That just helps make this show feel even more secondary.

Just before the main event started, we got footage from backstage, where Finn Balor was seen jumping Johnny Gargano during an interview following his tag team match. Of course, those two have a match coming up at NXT TakeOver: Portland in a few weeks.

Imperium (NXT UK Champion WALTER, Fabian Aichner, Marcel Barthel, & Alexander Wolfe) def. Undisputed Era (NXT Champion Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, & NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)

So the big story here was that, mere minutes into the match, Alexander Wolfe appeared to get legitimately knocked out following a kick from Bobby Fish. Right after the kick in question, Fish went for a cover on Wolfe, but he never made an attempt to kick out. The referee checked on Wolfe, and he was soon taken to the back. The camera did a tight zoom on Fish while Wolfe was being checked on, so we can safely say that this was a legitimate injury. Wolfe later confirmed on Twitter that he was ok, and even took the blame for what happened, saying that he accidentally tucked his chin when he shouldn’t have.

This meant that this turned into a four-on-three handicap match, and when the dust settled, these seven guys were able to put on a great main event, despite that freak accident with Wolfe. With Imperium at a disadvantage, they sort of became the default babyfaces here, as Undisputed Era basically isolated Aichner and Barthel at various points in an attempt to keep WALTER out of the match. There were points where WALTER got in, and absolutely kicked ass (I really enjoyed his exchange with Roderick Strong). However, those moments didn’t seem to last very long, as he would either tag out to his partners, or got completely taken out by the Undisputed Era. At one point, Strong gave WALTER an Angle Slam through an announcer’s table. On the surface, having Imperium in the babyface role wouldn’t seem to make much sense. Yes, they’re down a man, but Undisputed Era is easily the most over act on NXT. What made it work in this specific case was that these fans wanted to see WALTER kick ass. There were a couple of dead points during the points where Aichner and Barthel were in control (this did take the match down a notch, for me), but when they were getting beaten down, this crowd wanted WALTER to get back in there in the worst way. When he did get in there, he absolutely kicked ass (like I mentioned earlier), and he ultimately won the match for his team after hitting a powerbomb on Bobby Fish.

Despite some noticeable issues, this was a very strong main event. I don’t know if it needed to go thirty minutes, but the actual wrestling was so good that I can’t drag it down too much. Everyone involved worked their asses off, and they deserve a ton of credit for working around the fact that Wolfe got taken out early (I would imagine that screwed up some of the stuff they had planned to do originally). WALTER looked great in this bout when he was on the offensive, and the crowd loved it. Matches like this show that, yes, the people in WWE know how to book WALTER correctly. For whatever reason, they just actively chose not to book him well over the last few months. Just let WALTER be WALTER. Don’t try to fit him in the WWE playbook. ****

Final Thoughts

I don’t think anybody should be shocked that this turned out to be a great show. On paper, it was going to be impossible for this show to not deliver. DIY vs. Moustache Mountain was easily the match of the night, and you had two great matches in the form of the Cruiserweight Four-Way and the main event. If you missed this show, I would say those three bouts are absolutely worth your time. The other three matches were all good, to varying degrees, but I wouldn’t call them must-see.

The big question going forward is whether or not WWE continues to move forward with this Worlds Collide concept in the future. Does it become an annual tradition associated with Royal Rumble Weekend? Will the poor attendance (It certainly seems like the attendance was very disappointing) deter WWE from doing Worlds Collide shows in big basketball arenas in the future? Would more fans attend a show like this in the future after seeing how good it was? It’s hard to say right now, but again, the biggest issues are that it’s another instance of the lame WWE Brand Supremacy story, and there’s also the fact that this particular show involved a brand that absolutely nobody cares about. There were a few NXT UK wrestlers who were over, but pretty much all of them were already known to the fanbase through their exposure on NXT in the United States (Moustache Mountain, Pete Dunne, Toni Storm, and WALTER). All of the other UK guys on this show got next to no reaction. The only chance people like Jordan Devlin have of getting over with the WWE audience at large is moving over to the US branch of NXT. At that stage, what’s even the point of NXT UK’s existence? I could go on and on about the issues with NXT UK, but you’ve all heard those same points before. If WWE wants a show like to do better, then they need to get more American fans interested in watching NXT UK, and I just don’t see that happening. There’s a reason why many people call NXT UK a fake promotion.