The SmarK Rant for WWE Worlds Collide 2020 – NXT vs. NXT UK (01.25.20)
I have no memory of why I didn’t review this show, but I remember skipping it for a reason. Probably Royal Rumble and NXT burnout that weekend because I recall they were building up a MILLION things at the same time. Anyway, now the world has given me time to catch up on stuff and this thing is on the “Featured” list of the Network ALL THE DAMN TIME, so let’s finally give it a look. The idea is pretty simple, with a bunch of matches featuring NXT guys against NXT UK guys. The only stipulation is that the UK guys aren’t allowed to sexually harass anyone.
Live from Houston, TX, drawing a pretty low 3500.
Your hosts are Tom Phillips & Nigel McGuinness
Finn Balor v. Ilja Dragunov
Tom notes that people have been calling this match one that you could only recreate in the WWE video game before now. Yeah, but then both guys would be glitching through the ring and their faces would be turned inside out during their ring entrances. So not quite the same thing. Total silence for Dragunov’s entrance, which I feel like is going to be a big problem for the UK guys tonight. They take it to the mat to start and Finn works a headlock, but Dragunov reverses to his own and gets a crossbody for two. We get dueling poses and Finn slaps him around before tossing him to the floor and following with a baseball slide. Back in, Dragunov hits him with a chop and follows with a senton for two before stomping him down in the corner. Finn dives to the apron, but Dragunov knocks him off and they exchange head-fakes before Dragunov gets a dive and then sends Balor back in. Finn leaves again, so Dragunov tries another dive and misses this time. Man, the arena is DARK on the wide shots, this show must have been a major flop at the box office. Back in, Finn takes him down with a side headlock and then stomps him down in the corner for a big pop. Balor to the chinlock, but Ilja fights out with a suplex and then adds a running knee in the corner to make a comeback. He goes up with a kneedrop from the middle rope, and that gets two. Dragunov with a knee for two, but Finn takes him down for the double stomp. They slug it out with forearms and Dragunov gets a back elbow and catches the Pele Kick in a nice spot, but Finn takes him down with the inverted DDT and follows with a sling blade. Dragunov catches him with a deadlift german suplex for two and Balor lands on the floor, so Dragunov hits him with a dive and back in for a coast to coast dropkick that gets two. Dragunov goes up with a senton, but it misses? I think? Balor finishes him with off with the shotgun dropkick and Coup de Grace into the 1916 anyway at 13:51. This was a good opener, but it never really got going and the crowd didn’t know who Dragunov was. ***
Meanwhile, the Grizzled Young Veterans and Broserweights jaw at each other in advance of the Dusty Classic finals. Man, the Broserweights were a team that really got screwed over by Covid. Matt Riddle is hilarious as always here (“That’s Pete’s happy face.”)
NXT Cruiserweight title: Angel Garza v. Iasiah Swerve Scott v. Travis Banks v. Jordan Devlin
According to Shawn Michaels, Devlin is the one superstar to watch on the UK brand! Too bad it was the WWE’s legal team who were watching him. Very little reaction for any of the guys here, as you’d expect, aside from Garza. It was probably smart to rebrand the CW title as an NXT one before it died on 205 Live for good. Everyone slugs it out to start and Garza tries to get some decorum while he removes his pants, but the other three toss him. That seems unfair. Devlin hits Garza with a backbreaker for two and Scott rolls up Banks for two, and then rolls into a flatliner on Devlin in a neat spot. Devlin throws him out and follows with a dive, but Scott catches him and hits a death valley driver on the floor. And then Garza follows with a dive and so does Banks and everyone is out on the floor. Banks is up first and hits everyone with chops. Back in, Banks throws kicks on Scott and Garza, and then hits Devlin with a tope suicida to the floor. Back in, he continues with his shine and cannonballs all three guys in the corner and everyone is down again. Devlin comes back with a tornado DDT on Scott and a Spanish Fly on Garza, but Banks breaks up the pin with a senton and everyone is out again. This finally allows Garza to remove his damn pants, and maybe they should have moved him over to NXT UK because he would have fit right in over there. And everyone piles up in the corner for a different take on a Tower of Doom spot that ends up with Scott on top for two. Garza slugs it out with Swerve, but Devlin breaks it up with a front kick, and Banks takes him out with a Destroyer, and everyone is out yet again. Everyone fights to the top and hits their big moves for two. Scott pulls Banks out of the corner with a sitout powerbomb for two, but Garza hits Scott with a missile dropkick and Wing Clipper for two. Devlin saves the pin, however, and hits Scott with a side suplex for the win and the title at 12:10. Boy I bet they wish they could take THAT one back. Plus they didn’t need to beat Garza at this point anyway. Match was an interesting bunch of MOVEZ but it just felt like one of those deals where guys were doing an exhibition rather than trying to win the match. And it didn’t need to be a four-way, since Garza was the only guy people knew anyway. ***1/4
Moustache Mountain v. DIY
Yes, it’s the long-awaited and all too brief reunion of DIY. This one should finally have some heat since everyone is well known to the US fans. Tom notes that while Moustache Mountain are the founding fathers of NXT UK, DIY are the flagbearers of NXT, as they try to cram as much meaningless nonsense language into one sentence as possible. But who are the firebreathers and who are the water-carriers? Gargano takes Bate down with a wristlock to start and works the arm, but Bate flips out of it while the crowd does some dueling chants. Johnny takes him down again with a facelock but Bate powers up and makes the ropes. They trade big move reversals and fight to a stalemate with some comedy before Bate offers a sportmanslike handshake. Over to Ciampa and Seven, and Trent disrespects the beard before demonstrating the proper way to groom your moustache. They trade near-falls on the mat and it’s back to Bate for a posedown. Nigel echoes my thoughts, wishing that they’d just get on with it already. We’re 7:00 into the match with basically nothing happening. Bate and Ciampa do the test of strength and we get a double bridge spot, but Ciampa slugs Seven off the apron and then puts Bate on the floor with a running knee before following with a superkick on Seven. That’s more like it! DIY sends them both flying over the tables and stops to celebrate on the apron to a big pop. Back in, DIY goes to work on Bate and Gargano dropkicks the back of the neck for two. Back elbow and he goes to the chinlock. Bate fights out of that but can’t make the tag, so he flips out of the move and brings Seven in. DDT on Gargano and he hits both DIY with corner clotheslines and powerbombs Ciampa for two. Lariat gets two. Ciampa blocks another lariat with a high knee and it’s over to Gargano and Bate, and Johnny runs wild with a double DDT on Moustache Mountain that puts Seven on the floor. He beats on Bate with chops in the corner and the slingshot spear gets two. Seven trips him up, but Ciampa takes out Seven and Gargano hits Bate with a tope suicida on the other side. And we get stereo DDTs from DIY with Gargano getting two on Bate off that. Bate fights off Ciampa, however, and goes up for a forearm, but Ciampa catches him with a knee on the way down and they reverse finisher attempts. Bate with the Tyler Driver for two, but Gargano saves and pushes them over, as Bate gets two off that and everyone is out. Gargano slugs it out with Bate, but Tyler rolls him up for two and hurks him over with an exploder. Bate misses a shooting star, but tries an airplane spin and Gargano reverses into the Gargano Escape while Ciampa does his armbar on Seven. And then Mountain both powers out of those and we get stereo airplane spins before Bate gets two on Gargano. Bate accidentally takes out Seven with a lariat and that leaves him in position for the double superkick, but Seven dives on top of him to protect his partner. This leads to Moustache Mountain hitting the Bop and Bang, into a Burning Hammer on Ciampa for two. Double Burning Hammer and Bate goes up with a 450, but Ciampa pulls Seven on top to take the move and that gets two for Ciampa. They all face off with a slugfest in the middle and DIY beats on them with kicks to take out Bate, leaving Seven alone for the double superkick, and that’s all she wrote at 22:54. And then they broke up again at Takeover. This was on the verge of being great, but it took way too long to get to the point and there was too much of the cutesy reversals and double reversals leading to nothing. ***3/4
Meanwhile, we get a random shot of Dakota Kai watching at ringside, at which point Tegan Nox charges in and attacks her in a surprise angle.
NXT (Women’s) title: Rhea Ripley v. Toni Storm
This was during the 2 weeks or so where they dropped the “Women’s” designation from the title before bringing it right back. The booking was really weird here, as it was already known that Rhea was facing Charlotte at Wrestlemania, as well as facing Bianca Belair at Takeover, so Toni really came off as a complete lame duck here. I still have no idea why Storm wasn’t brought to the main roster immediately and why she’s not there now. I mean I know why she’s not there NOW, but you know what I mean. They slug it out to start and exchange kicks, which just angers Rhea, but Storm knocks her to the floor and then back in for some kicks and a suplex for two. Storm with an STF, but Ripley makes the ropes, so Storm gets a DDT for two. We get a chinlock off that as the crowd does some half-hearted dueling chants, and they slug it out until Ripley gets some clotheslines and a low dropkick to the back of the head. She boots Storm into the corner to set up the standing cloverleaf, but Storm makes the ropes. Toni escapes the Riptide and hits a german suplex for two. Ripley comes back with a dropkick as the announcers go way over the top in their call, not really reading the room here, and Storm misses a frog splash before the Riptide finishes out of nowhere at 10:10 to retain. This was…not good. No heat, nothing going on. **
At this point I’m really wondering who this show was even supposed to be marketed towards. Were people really buying into yet another Storm v. Ripley match as a major brand supremacy battle? It’s not Coke v. Pepsi, it’s Diet Coke v. Coke Zero. No wonder this show seemed so inessential in the buildup and was forgotten right after.
Meanwhile, Johnny Gargano is doing an interview backstage when Finn Balor attacks to set up their match at Takeover.
The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong) v. Imperium (WALTER, Marcel Barthel, Alexander Wolfe & Fabian Aichner)
Aichner throws O’Reilly around to start, but Kyle takes him down with an armbar and turns it into a leglock before Aichner makes the ropes. They slug it out with forearms in the corner and Aichner powerslams him and it’s over to Barthel. They trade strikes and Strong comes in with a backbreaker on Barthel for two, but Wolfe hits him with a forearm for two. But then Fish comes in and hits Wolfe with a kick to the head that knocks him silly, and the ref actually stops the count at two and Wolfe gets helped to the back as the match stops. That’s kind of bullshit, because if he’s out, then he should lose the match. I know why they wouldn’t go with that logic, but it looks really dumb to stop the pinfall because a guy can’t continue and then just keep the match going without him. Anyway, over to WALTER, who picks things up by beating on Strong with a big boot. Imperium triple-teams Strong in the corner. Cole slugs away on Barthel and the Era throws kicks in the corner, to set up a neckbreaker from Cole for two. Backstabber gets two. Barthel fights back with a legsweep and it’s hot tag WALTER, who is like the ultimate hot tag guy.
He slugs it out with O’Reilly and gives him a german suplex, but Kyle reverses a powerbomb into a guillotine. So WALTER stacks up O’Reilly and Strong and hits them both with a german suplex at the same time, and Barthel comes in with a DDT on O’Reilly for two. Barthel with a back elbow for two. Aichner with a butterfly suplex for two as Nigel notes that Aichner was trained by the legendary Steven Wright. So does he go around backstage making jokes about elevator training? WALTER comes in with an Earthquake splash on O’Reilly for two and then just ENDS him with a chop for two. O’Reilly’s sell of that was epic. Aichner comes in again and cuts off a tag attempt, and they double-team O’Reilly with stereo kicks in the corner and it’s back to WALTER as the crowd yells in terror every time he comes in. Strong gets a tag and runs wild, but WALTER just chops him, so Strong fights back with his own until WALTER just levels him with a lariat. I’m sad we’re probably never getting WALTER v. Lesnar. Back to Aichner, so Strong takes him down with a Stronghold attempt and Aichner makes the ropes. Fish comes in again and Imperium hits a Hart Attack on him and Barthel follows with an Air Raid Crash for two. Fish escapes from the finisher and suplexes Aichner into Barthel, and Adam Cole comes in to clean house. Enzuigiri and ushigoroshi get two. He should just challenge his opponents to spell both of those moves and then punch them. The Era all teams up on WALTER and puts the boots to him, then send him to the floor. But then WALTER fights them off and threatens to powerbomb them all. He clears the tables and goes after Kyle O’Reilly, but Strong saves and suplexes WALTER through the table. WHY WOULD YOU ANGER THIS MAN?
Back in the ring, Cole misses a charge on Barthel and gets suplexed as a result, and Barthel follows with a forearm off the middle rope. O’Reilly saves, but Aichner hits him with a brainbuster, and then Cole superkicks everything that moves and hits Aichner with the neckbreaker for two. Back to Strong and they double-team Barthel with a Cole running knee that gets two. Aichner comes back to save, but he gets swarmed by the Era and tossed while O’Reilly goes up with a flying knee on Barthel to set up a leglock. Aichner saves with a springboard moonsault, but WALTER returns from the dead and gets the hot tag. And he’s MAD. He absorbs all the superkicks from Cole and chops him down, then powerbombs Strong and goes up with the frog splash. Cole saves with a Last Shot and that gets two. Everyone is out and regroups, which leads to the 4-on-3 showdown and slugfest. O’Reilly tries a sleeper on WALTER but COME ON. You might as well try that on Godzilla. So they do the high-low on him instead and the Era hits Barthel with dives on the floor, and Aichner adds one onto everyone. But this leaves Fish along with WALTER and he’s wasting no more time and finishes with the powerbomb at 29:48. This one definitely lived up to the hype and I’m always a sucker for the big trainwreck at the end, but I love WALTER so I’m probably biased. ****1/2
Overall I’d say the main event is worth watching, but the rest is just a bunch of stuff to fill time, which is apropos for The Content Era. But there’s nothing I’d call bad and it’s only 2.5 hours, so there’s much worse ways to spend your time. Mild thumbs up.