Previously on WWE Worlds Collide: NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live (which was still a brand at the time, and not a sad, purple graveyard) battled for Brand Supremacy™ in a tournament that gave Velveteen Dream a title shot and WWE an idea for what they could do to replace NXT TakeOver on Royal Rumble weekend.
If you haven’t watched Worlds Collide yet, you can do that here. Remember that With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. BUY THE SHIRT.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Worlds Collide, originally aired on January 25, 2020.
Best: Finn Bálor Vs. Russian Finn Bálor
Worlds Collide opens (after a dramatic, 1998-style Winston Churchill video package) with an undersized theater kid in a leather jacket and underpants who wears costumes to make it look like he’s got supernatural powers taking on a different, undersized theater kid in a leather jacket and underpants who wears costumes to make it look like he’s got supernatural powers. Honestly, what could these two random WWE Superstars possibly have in common?
The major difference here is WWE street cred, and a Houston, TX, audience who you’d think would at least be passingly familiar with NXT UK don’t have a goddamn clue who Ilja Dragunov is, despite him being the babyface, and know and recognize and love Finn Bálor, despite him being the heel. I guess eastern Texas hasn’t gotten the memo about communism no longer being the big propaganda threat to our country. The Million Dollar Man is a way bigger villain than Nikolai Volkoff, guys.
They play the match smart, with Bálor attempting to ground Dragunov and remain in control, and Dragunov repeatedly surprising him with his unorthodox offense. It really does play like Bálor wrestling himself from five years ago. The turning point comes when Finn’s trying to do a dropkick — how could Dragunov have possibly known that Finn Bálor would try a dropkick? — and gets jump-kicked in the goddamn nose. This allows Dragunov a big flurry of offense, including a body attack from the top rope to the floor and a coast-to-roughly-the-other-coast dropkick (that gets the credit for busting Finn open), but then Finn is like aw hell no, counters a top rope senton with knees, and dropkicks the man’s whole career. A Coup de Grace and 1916 later, and Finn(er) is your winner.
I really liked this match a lot. On most shows, it would’ve been the show stealer. It would’ve been the Buddy Murphy vs. Aleister Black. On Worlds Collide, it ends up being the third best match of the night. Maybe fourth. That’s how good this show is. There’s “no TakeOver on Royal Rumble weekend” now, sure, but actually yes there is, and this is it. A rose by any other name.
RIP Neville’s Belt
Before the show, Triple H and William Regal present Angel Garza with the new NXT Cruiserweight Championship. It’s shaped a lot like the old one, only now the strap is black, and there’s an NXT logo in the center instead of the double W (E). I appreciate that they left in some purple accents to pay homage to the original. It’s a much better looking belt, obviously, but I’m also kind of sad at the slow, painful passing of 205 Live. You never had a chance, 205. You were born to parents who didn’t love you.
Best: Heir Jordan
From our Worlds Collide predictions:
I think it’d be cool to see Jordan Devlin take this match. The guy’s on a roll as both a character and an in-ring performer, and following up that match with Bate with a surprise championship win could be fun. Especially since it would (1) establish synergy between the shows and note the fact that secondary championships will occasionally bounce around the brands, depending on what they need, and (2) give Worlds Collide a moment of real consequence, with a championship switching brands. The sensible part of my predictive brain says this is just a televised house show and nothing’s really going to “happen,” per se, but this match is the one that could subvert expectations.
Usually my predictions are embarrassing and wrong — shout-out to Sunday night’s Royal Rumble — but I managed to get this one right, and hey, all those things were true! It did give the show a reason to exist beyond a glorified exhibition, switching the Cruiserweight Championship over to the UK brand for a while to give them a secondary championship. They really need that, especially with big daddy WALTER on top, and NXT Domestic’s already got the North American Championship in that role.
Also, it should be bonkers.
It was, kind of!
Jordan Devlin rules right now (and in general) and Angel Garza’s a bonafide star, ready to go at whatever level you need him to, straight out of the box. Isaiah Scott is usually an A+ performer but hasn’t seemed to totally find his footing in a WWE ring yet, and I’m not a fan of Travis Banks at all. I felt like he was the weak link of the match by far, mostly due to those little Austin Aries-style stutter-steps he does before he moves in any direction. Watch him, he does a Barney Rubble run with quick steps before he actually starts moving. That makes things look more awkward and rehearsed than they should, at least to me. As with Aries, it doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem for most folks.
Anyway, all you need to know is that Jordan Devlin made good on the promise of the Tyler Bate classic at NXT TakeOver Blackpool II and can return to the brand with something major to brag about. He took a man’s belt like two hours after it was gifted to him, on the man’s first defense.
I want Angel Garza to stick around on NXT for a while, but I’d also be okay with this title change getting an NXT Championship off of him so he can show up in the Royal Rumble, hit a bunch of moves in a row, and then whip off those breakaway pants for the benefit of a confused but ultimately grateful WWE Universe.
Best: Do The Moustache Maintenance Yourself
Quick note, as someone raised in the United States public school system, it’s really hard to type “moustache.” I can’t see it and not think it says “mouse tash.”
In 2020’s biggest shocker, a match with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa reuniting as Do It Two Guys to tag team wrestle Tyler Bate and Trent Seven for 23 minutes was extremely very good. Total shocker there. It’s a real testament to how great these guys are that the match was an instant classic when it had zero build, with the only segment even attempting to build it happening on a weekly NXT pre-show, and no real drama. Ciampa and Gargano don’t have an issue with Moustache Mountain or NXT UK, really. Their eyes don’t glaze over and cause them to attack each other for old times’ sake, either. It’s just tag team wrestling for the sake of tag team wrestling, and it’s good as fuck.
It starts off with playful competition. Gargano and Bate mess around and realize they’re catch-as-catch-can soulmates. Ciampa gets protective of his lean-ass physique and engages in POSEDOWN COMPETITIONS. Trent Seven is Trent Seven. And then all of a sudden DIY says nuts to this, kicking their asses and throwing them over tables and shit. It’s an immediate escalation that Moustache Mountain has to rise to meet, which of course they do, and the final 15 minutes or so are just glorious. Note: It’s still not the best match on the show. SOMEHOW.
It’s still weird as hell seeing those two being friends, though. Part of me wants Ciampa and Gargano to have one big, last, great TakeOver match, and for the video package hyping it to be set to ‘No Children’ by the Mountain Goats. They once did a video package set to a Placebo cover of a Kate Bush song and it RULED. The Mountain Goats in metal-obsessed NXT isn’t a bridge too far.
I can’t recommend this enough. The post-match handshake and hugs didn’t even feel out of place like thy do sometimes, because they weren’t really wrestling for anything. “Brand supremacy,” I guess. Moustache Mountain always looks so damned disheartened when they lose. Bate’s like, cradled in Seven’s bosom apologizing to him while Seven gently strokes his hair. They’re adorable. It’s not their fault they ended up in an exhibition tag against two legitimately insane, emotionally corrupted wrestling monsters who are in a real high-point in their efforts to fake civility.
Best: Crowded House
Later in the show, we get exclusive® backstage footage of John Wrestling celebrating his victory and getting jumped by his upcoming NXT TakeOver: Portland opponent Finn Bálor. Moustache Mountain make the save, because they’re bros. Interestingly, they could make it back there for the save, along with William Regal and Swerve Scott and others, but Tommaso Ciampa’s nowhere to be found. I guess now that the one night only DIY reunion is over, Ciampa can go back to being Ciampa.
The highlight is Tyler Bate lifting up Finn by the waist like a child and carrying him out of the fight by himself. I want THOSE TWO to wrestle, immediately. Finn Bálor vs. Braun Strowman in Jack Gallagher’s body. Make it so.
Honestly, one of my favorite bits from the entire night is Cathy Kelley interviewing the Grizzled Young Vets and the Broserweights about their upcoming Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals match, which is oddly happening on weekly TV instead of Worlds Collide despite the tournament and finals being built around the idea of “NXT vs. NXT UK.”
The big news is that the winner of the tournament gets a shot at the Tag Team Championship at TakeOver: Portland. That might telegraph the winner a little too hard, unless you think Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne aren’t going to wrestle Undisputed Era on an NXT Domestic TakeOver special, but the rest of the interview makes it all good. Zack Gibson, on behalf of his tag team partner Seth Green, cuts a promo about how they’re going to win because they’re an actual tag team that does actual tag team things. Matt Riddle’s response, as he’s wearing Skullcandy headphones for some reason despite being in the front row of a wrestling show, is, surprisingly, “bro.” Pete Dunne makes weed jokes, because they’re friends. Am I the only one who wants Dunne and Riddle to be best friends forever?
There’s also an appearance from recent signee Mercedes Martinez, cameos from Keith Lee and Bianca Belair, and, perhaps most importantly, Tegan Nox jumping Dakota Kai and tackling her through the security barrier. I’m on team Kai — Team Kick? Is that still a thing? You can be evil and still like kicking — but I like that the rivalry’s evolved from Kai unleashing (rightful) attacks on Nox to Nox actually getting her shit together and fighting back.
I’m also a big fan of NXT remembering that the audience for their shows is a “character,” and using cameos and appearances from stars in the crowd to further stories, progress rivalries, and further develop wrestler personalities. Every second of your show is an opportunity! Vic Joseph was probably back in the production truck watching the monitors and yelling NO WASTED MOTION at the producers.
Best, But Not Comparatively: Toni Storm Vs. Rhea Ripley
The NXT UK Women’s Championship rematch for the NXT Women’s Championship (stay with me here) between Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm continued the trend of good wrestling on the show, but was somehow unarguably the in-ring low point of the night. Most of that has to do with Ripley’s new role as an underdog babyface, I think, as she’s … well, not that. Not even close. The only reason she felt like an underdog before is because Shayna Baszler was such an unbeatable, monster, heel champion with a posse of cronies constantly running interference. Ripley shined going up against that. Here, they’ve got Toni Storm as a de facto heel, controlling a bigger, stronger Ripley for most of the match. It’s just not the same thing.
Keep in mind that “the worst part of Worlds Collide” is probably twice as good as the best moment of most pay-per-views. It’s a good, hard fought match with a decisive finish that plays off the histories of the characters and gives Ripley a key title defense against the woman who ended her previous run. No shade there. But the dynamic of a mostly dominant Toni Storm, combined with the fact that there was really no way Ripley was going to drop the championship in her first defense after that match of the year candidate with Baszler (and the match going on between DIY vs. Moustache Mountain and the Imperium vs. Undisputed Era main event), kept it from reaching the next level.
That said, Rhea vs. Belair at TakeOver Portland is gonna rip, pun intended, if only for Bianca threateningly pointing at people with her braid.
Holy Shit: Imperium Vs. Undisputed Era
Or, “WALTER becomes the biggest babyface in wrestling.”
When the match starts, it’s a heel group from one promotion versus a heel group from another. That’s the entire story and dynamic. They’ve jumped each other a couple of times, but nobody’s really the “good guy.” Undisputed Era is a pack of jock dickheads in service of keeping Adam Cole at the top of the card. Imperium is a tracksuit wrestling cult in service of keeping WALTER at the top of the card.
A few minutes in, something unexpected happens.
Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish go for a combination chop to the back of the neck and kick to the chest on Alexander Wolfe. They’ve done it a thousand times. The chop is a little delayed though as Roderick’s trying to time it with the kick, and Wolfe starts tensing up waiting for it. So by the time the chop finally comes, Wolfe’s presenting his neck and his chin is tucked, bracing for impact. Unfortunately, that tucked chin is in the middle of his chest, which is where Fish is kicking. Fish knocks him out, legit, and the referee has to awkwardly stop a three-count because Wolfe’s not kicking out, and we’re like a minute into the match.
Wolfe gets taken to the back — he’s fine, thankfully — and the dynamic changes. Suddenly Imperium is at a 3-on-4 disadvantage, and Undisputed Era’s kicking the crap out of them. This turns a crowd, who’d previously booed a guy for being Russian, into the world’s biggest EUROPEAN MAT RELIGION supporters. Imperium are suddenly babyfaces, fighting against the odds. WALTER is the key player. Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner are doing their best, but WALTER is the game-changer, so they have to balance keeping him in the ring with allowing UE to gang up on him and take him out. So now we’ve got a real fight on our hands, unexpectedly built around Undisputed Era being four of the best in-ring heels in the world and WALTER being a unique, dynamic, one-of-a-kind performer you might boo, but think is cool as hell and want to cheer for.
This is the best match of its kind in WWE since the Wyatt Family versus The Shield back at the 2014 Elimination Chamber. They went into it with little to no story, doing one of those Survivor Series MY BRAND IS BETTER THAN YOUR BRAND AND LET’S WRESTLE FOR NOTHING ABOUT IT things, and ended up with a compelling, exciting story that gave everyone a role and made EVERYONE look awesome. It’s not as technically “good” as DIY vs. Moustache Mountain, but it’s brutal, emotional, unpredictable, and everything a WWE main event should be.
WALTER is just from another world in this match. It shine a light on how dumb it was for WWE to treat him the way they did at Survivor Series, and even dumber for them to have him lose two matches in a row in under 10 minutes the one time he was on Raw. WALTER in his element is … he’s fucking WALTER, I’m not sure how else to phrase it. If you can’t get behind a giant Austrian murder baby who wants to chop opponents into ground beef to preserve the integrity of the sacred PRO WRESTLING MAT, you might need to reevaluate. Highlights include this double German suplex, as well as any time a UE member started showing ass against him and got shut down. Here’s Roddy getting put down for trying to do those bouncy elbow strikes, and Kyle O’Reilly selling a chop like he got hit by a car. WALTER made Kyle O’Reilly have Grand Theft Auto ragdoll physics. Those two had INSANE chemistry, and now I really want a WALTER vs. KOR match.
WALTER’s able to put Bobby Fish down as well, dodging a top rope attack and countering with a GIGANTIC running dropkick and a powerbomb with ~body leverage~ to overcome those odds and win the match. Adam Cole gets a little as well, but not enough to make you think you’ve seen those two do what they could do together. Aichner and Barthel also deserve some love here for completely changing up the match and wrestling like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, taking the majority of the heat in the ring so WALTER could recover on the apron. Them going two against four while WALTER was on the floor trying to get up from being put through a table was a brilliant, emotional give-and-take.
I didn’t think anything could top DIY vs. Moustache Mountain, and then they knocked it on its ass two matches later. Highest possible recommendation for a match that felt violent, logical, continually surprising, and cathartic.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Baron Von Raschke
Roderick Strong…..More like Roderick STRONG…wait.
WALTER is about to chop Adam Cole so hard he’ll become Adam Diamond.
nice try Dragunov but Balor’s abs are the hardest part of the ring.
Balor should call that one the 1917 instead cause he just killed a Russian.
The Real Birdman
You think it’s Tyler Driver 97 because it’s the year Bate was born, but it’s actually the number required to hit to pin Gargano
Is it really a feud since Adam Cole never hung up a picture of himself at WALTER’s dad’s bratwurst shop?
Dave M J
-1 for Bianca not being soaked in Sam Roberts’s blood after murdering him.
Hey, Tom Phillips is pretty good when he doesn’t have Vince screaming in his ear.
Just finished the cruiserweight match and I have a legitimate question – can they ALL be the champion?
And Ciampa puts Gargano through a light board, because why stop the callbacks now.
I’d love to make a list of my top ten matches of the last half decade, but I’d get sick of the monotony of writing “Gargano” and “Ciampa” somewhere around number 7
That’s it for the Best and Worst of Worlds Collide. What a show.
Make sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what YOU thought of the show — we bet you liked it — and give the column a share on social media to (1) get more eyes on it, and (2) remind folks that we actually get to write about great pro wrestling sometimes, too.
For more wrestling that’ll at the very least be fun to watch and interesting to talk about, make sure you’re here on Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday (for the fallout) for our complete Royal Rumble coverage. We’ll be doing a live thread, breakouts, results, Best and Worst, the works. Maybe Matt Riddle will show up in the front row again and jump the barrier to enter the Rumble at #2 and eliminate Brock Lesnar? Fingers crossed.