NXT and NXT UK will face off as Worlds Collide takes place tonight at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
The show will feature an eight-man match between NXT and NXT UK's top factions. It will be The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong) vs. Imperium (WALTER, Marcel Barthel, Fabian Aichner & Alexander Wolfe).
Undisputed Era ambushed Imperium at the end of NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool earlier this month, and Imperium responded on NXT's go-home show for Worlds Collide.
Rhea Ripley will put her title on the line against Toni Storm, who has wins over Ripley in two previous matches. Bianca Belair will challenge the winner at NXT TakeOver: Portland.
DIY will reunite against Moustache Mountain, Finn Balor takes on Ilja Dragunov, and Angel Garza defends the NXT Cruiserweight Championship in a fatal four-way match against Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, Jordan Devlin, and Travis Banks.
The half-hour pre-show starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time and will feature Mia Yim vs. Kay Lee Ray.
Worlds Collide pre-show
Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts and Andy Shepard, the NXT UK announcer, spoke in the aisle at the top of the pre-show. The crowd booed Roberts whenever he spoke. Next, we saw a video promo building tonight's eight-man tag team main event, Undisputed Era vs. Imperium.
Kay Lee Ray defeated Mia Yim
Tom Phillips and Nigel McGuiness were on commentary here. Though Ray happens to be the current NXT UK Women’s champion, this was not announced as a title match.
Yim caught Ray with a shotgun dropkick just after the bell. She later hit a nice albeit slow-motion hurracanrana on Ray moments later. A few fans started chanting for Yim, which then led to for a slightly louder chant for Ray.
Ray countered and used a tornado DDT off the turnbuckles. She walloped Yim with a hard chop that the crowd sounded impressed by. When Ray missed a swanton bomb from the top, both sold for a couple moments before Yim launched into her counter-attack sequence. She used a nice modified swinging DDT using the bottom rope as a springboard, then used some awful-looking jabs on Ray before landing a tope suicida on the floor. Ray responded with an impressive running springboard somersault senton to the floor, which elicited the first "this is awesome" chant of the night.
Ray used Eat Defeat, Yim's finish, for a two-count. Yim responded with a Liger Bomb, and later a Canadian Destroyer, both for two. When Yim went for an O'Connor Roll, Kay Lee Ray reversed the pin and pulled on Yim's jeans plus used the ropes for leverage to secure the win.
This was a fine opener. Kay Lee Ray seems underappreciated and looked solid here, plus the fans seem to enjoy her a lot. Mia Yim, too. While Yim's execution in the ring looked smooth tonight, she's the opposite of what we'd call "crisp," especially with her strikes. Aside from that, this was good.
Next up was a video package for tonight's match of Mustache Mountain vs. DIY, followed by some more rhetorical analysis from Caruso, Roberts and Shepard. Roberts compared NXT wrestlers facing off against NXT UK is like "the Marvel Universe coming together," even though it's more like if the West Coast Avengers battled X-Factor in the early-'90s.
Finn Balor defeated Ilja Dragunov
Dragunov came out to the Russian national anthem and I couldn’t help but keep my eyes peeled for the Bolsheviks to make their return.
Fans were wild for Balor at the top of this. They were deliberate and controlled early on and traded side-headlocks. Dragunov hit a short cross-body block, then taunted Balor. After missing a janky sunset flip, Balor wailed Dragunov with a slap in the face, then dropkicked him through the ropes while Dragunov was on the floor. Dragunov recovered quickly and used a standing armlock to wear Balor down, then jumped from the bottom rope and dove onto Balor on the floor. He went for a diving axhandle next but Balor moved out of the way and chopped him up. The announcers continued to put over Balor’s recent “aggressive side.” Balor unleashed a flurry of stomps atop Dragunov, which the crowd got loud for. Balor seemed mindful of when to bring the crowd up and down throughout this, always conscious of the pace alongside the more frenetic Dragunov.
Dragunov looked to rip Balor's head off with a short lariat moments later. The crowd became more and more enthusiastic in their booing of him. The veins in Dragunov's head looked like they were about to burst whenever he'd hulk up, like he was trying to induce a heart attack or something.
Balor came back with a stiff standing double-stomp, and then the two traded hard strikes until Dragunov caught and blocked Balor's Pele kick. He put Balor down for a close two-count with a pump-handle German suplex. He came close again after landing a Van Terminator sans chair, which looks like it connected because Balor had a bit of blood over the bridge of his nose.
When Dragunov went for a diving senton from the top rope, Balor put his knees up. This put Dragunov in place for a diving double-stomp from Balor, then 1916 for the win. Great, intense little match to start the main show off.
Jordan Devlin defeated Angel Garza (c) defeated Isaiah Scott, Jordan Devlin, and Travis Banks to win the NXT Cruiserweight championship
Garza was very popular with the crowd. There were a few "Swerve" chants for Scott, too. Garza tried taking off his pants off but got beaten down by the three other competitors. They did a sequence of four dives early on, not even five minutes into the match. Garza jumped over Banks with a tope con giro, then Banks ran off the apron and put Scott down with a double-stomp off the apron.
Banks went on a small tear back in the ring, took Swerve and Garza out, then dove back out to the floor through the bottom ropes to take out Devlin, and then right back into the ring to land a cannonball in the corner onto Swerve and Garza, and later suplexed Devlin into the pile of people in the corner. Devlin used a crazy modified swing DDT on Swerve for two and a big pop.
Garza finally ripped off his pants, just like his dad (gracias, Rob Viper), which the crowd loved. Garza then caught Devlin in a powerslam position, and Banks jumped atop Garza after this and Garza caught him, too, so Garza was holding up two guys. Swerve then flew off the top rope and nailed Banks, who was basically up on Garza's in a power bomb position, and nailed him with an insane diving double-stomp. I think it also means he was power bombed by Garza, who simultaneously slammed Devlin forward on the way down. Crowd erupted and chanted "This is awesome." That took much longer to transcribe than to for the wrestlers to do, I assure you.
Banks spiked Devlin with a brutal Canadian Destroyer, but only seconds later was back up to pull off a double top rope Spanish Fly to Garza and Swerve. I guess the Destroyer wasn't all that brutal after all. Banks took Swerve out with a Slice of Heaven flying gamengiri kick, then a Kiwi Crusher on Devlin for two. Swerve ripped Banks with a few chops, then an inverted Iconoclast in the corner that stunned the crowd. You could hear the authentic "ooohs."
There were more innovative, dangerous moves all four went through in the next few moments, but the finish came when Garza landed the Wing Clipper on Swerve, but before he went for the pin, Devlin grabbed Garza by the hair and bonked him out of commission with a headbutt, then used his Devlinside back suplex with bridge for the surprise win.
Insane, innovative and athletic. Some will hate it, most will love it. Everyone worked their asses off and then some. Isaiah Scott is looking more like he did last year before he signed with WWE and has been able to integrate himself into the system without having to compromise much of his in-ring work.
"Do ya believe me now?!" Devlin has been on a tear for a while now, and after this he cut a great promo standing atop the announcers table, where he asked the crowd if they believed his claim, the claim that he's the best pound-for-pound wrestler on the planet. He said he proved everyone wrong, and to never bet against an ace.
Production cut to Mia Yim and new NXT North American champion, Keith Lee, in the crowd. Chelsea Green, accompanied by Robert Stone (Robbe E from TNA), came to their seats next and the announce team talked about them a bit.
DIY (Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano) defeated Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven)
Tyler Bate and Johnny Gargano were in first and started this match off exactly as they should have after the insanity that was the cruiserweight four-way. It was all holds, counters, and escapes for the first couple minutes that'd often end in a stalemate. The two shook hands and then tagged their partners and the crowd started getting loud for Tomasso Ciampa, chanting "Daddy's home." He and Trent Seven had a short pose-down, which Seven quickly conceded. He and Ciampa, too, shook hands. Seems like Ciampa was the most popular among these four rather popular NXT wrestlers.
Bate tagged back in and he and Ciampa went back and forth in a Greco-Roman knuckle lock until Bate countered out of it. Ciampa and Gargano took the match to the floor later, Ciampa threw Bate into one of the announce tables, and then he and Gargano together posed on the apron. Big reaction for that.
Ciampa slowed things down for a while with Bate with a headlock. Bate finally tagged out to Seven, who went at it with Gargano and took him out, then put Ciampa down with a short lariat. Around here was when there began a dueling Moustache Mountain-DIY chant, with DIY sounding to get about 75% of said chant duel.
The match build finally hit a crux that laid everyone out, with Bate topping the sequence off with the Tyler Driver. He went for a standing shooting star press later but Gargano got his knees up, then put Bate in the Gargano Escape. Ciampa cut Seven off from breaking up the submission and threw a bridging armbar onto Seven, a mirror visual of how DIY won the NXT tag titles before, a touch of NJPW-style booking that they made sure to put over on commentary. Bate and Seven came out of the subs and each put Gargano and Ciampa into an airplane spin. DIY went for a double running knees but the Moustache boys blocked it and threw fake-out jabs to knock both Gargano and Ciampa silly. They then put Ciampa down with a burning hammer/diving knee combo, but only for two, much to the surprise of the audience. Bate landed a corckscrew moonsault, but Ciampa rolled through and happened to pin a prone Trent Seven. Bate broke the pin and the crowd again chanted "this is awesome." DIY made one final comeback and took Seven out with Meeting in the Middle, their knee-strike/superkick combo, for the emphatic win. Very good match. All four shook hands afterwards.
We saw Mercedes Martinez in the crowd next, then a sour-looking Dakota Kai. Before the announcers could begin to introduce her, Kai was ambushed by Tegan Nox, Kai's ex-best friend and tag partner. Security broke things up while the crowd chanted "let them fight!" It was a heated spot that did a great job of pushing their coming singles bout.
Rhea Ripley defeated Toni Storm to retain the NXT Women's championship
Technical brawling from the start in this one. Deliberate pace with hard strikes and short power moves early on. Storm suplexed Ripley into the bottom turnbuckle, which saw Ripley roll to the floor to recover from. Back in the ring, Storm used an STF where she figure-foured Ripley's legs, meaning it's not a step-over toehold w/ facelock but a figure-four leglock w/ facelock. An FFF, if you will.
Storm worked Ripley over for a bit longer until Ripley powered out with strikes and kicks. Storm reveresed the RIptide into a pinning attempt and got two. She landed a German suplex with a bridge for two.The crowd sounded tired midway through this and were pretty quiet. When Storm missed a frog splash, Ripley used the Riptide slam to win, sort of out of nowhere.
This wasn't good, though it wasn't bad, either. The crowd was hardly there. Ripley's in-ring work still isn't up to where it needs to be and it doesn't match the intensity of her charisma just yet. Storm looked good here but was booked like a jobber when, really, she should be at the top of one of WWE's female divison.
A clip of Johnny Gargano getting attacked by Finn Balor backstage was shown next. It was announced as just happening moments earlier. We saw Moustache Mountain come to Gargano's rescue as a brawl broke out.
Imperium (Walter, Fabian Aichner, Marcel Bartel & Alexander Wolfe) defeated Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly)
Fish and Strong gave Alexander Wolfe a double gourdbuster, then they hit him with a chop/low kick combo, but Wolfe didn't kick out. Referee Drake Younger noticed this quickly and threw up and made the X call with his arms, the non-kayfabe signal to others that something went wrong and someone is injured. Production zoomed in on Fish as officials took care of Wolfe, and you could clearly hear someone yell "He has a lump in his throat!" off-camera. It didn't seem like the audience knew what was happening but came off scary on television. Tom Philipps announced later on in the match that Wolfe was taken backstage, and that the main event would now be a three-on-four match. Not sure if that was communicated to the audience.
The injury early on set a strange tone, but everyone did their best to keep the match on track. There were tons of "Walter" chants, and midway through there was a dueling chant of "WAL-TER" vs" "UN-DIS-PU-TED." It's as though the fans view Imperium more as Walter and his friends than an established unit.
Walter entered the match and cracked O'Reilly with a shotgun chop, then used a double German suplex on both O'Reilly and Roderick Strong, surely a nod to his pal Daisuke Sekimoto, who popularized the spot over the past year or so. O'Reilly tried fighting his way out of Imperium's corner but was rewarded by Walter with another blast-chop, which I think may haven gotten the loudest single reaction to a move all night. Nigel NcGuiness was even taken aback.
O'Reilly finally tagged out to Strong who cleaned house. The exchange he and Walter had was outstanding and had me jonesing for a singles match between the two, immediately.
They moved the match to the floor, which by this time in the match was pretty much just Walter vs. UE. Strong used an Olympic Slam through the announce table and the crowd chanted a lot for that. They chanted "mama mia," though I'm not sure if they realized Mauro Ranallo was off tonight.
Bartel suplexed O'Reilly into the air and passed him to Aichner, he drilled O'Reilly with a brainbuster. What a killer spot. Aichner sprung off the top ropes later but Cole caught him with a superkick. Fans would periodically chant for Walter during deadspots, but they also seemed to love Undisputed Era, which makes the wrestlers' jobs that more challenging, I imagine.
O'Reilly landed a diving kneedrop onto Bartel's knee, then put him in a straight anklelock in an attempt at a submission. Aichner broke things up with a double springboard moonsault that was as ugly as it was athletic.
Walter got back up from the Olympic Slam through the table and got a loud response from the crowd. He landed a big splash from the top rope, but Cole broke up the pin with a Last Shot to the back of Walter's head. The two teams then had a stand-off, jawkjacked a bit, then broke into a group version of the Frye-Takayama punching spot. People love that still.
This led to another sequence of dives to the floor, wrapping no-handed double jump plancha. Fish missed a pretty moonsault inside the ring, so Walter took the opportunity to put Fish away with a power bomb w/ stacking bridge, just like how Kawada pinned Misawa on 5/1/98. The crowd was satisified with the finish, it sounded like.
This was good for a cursory card. The actual wrestling part of the show ranged from good to great, with DIY vs. Moustache Mountain as the runaway show-stealer. The main event could have been, and at times in the match was as hot as that match, but it was derailed early by Alexander Wolfe's sudden injury. Keep checking the front page for update's on Wolfe's status, and here's to a speedy recovery from whatever happened tonight.
On the creative end, it didn't do much more than an episode of NXT in terms of pushing angles forward. Dragunov vs. Balor was excellent, with Balor continuing his string of great matches in current NXT, but the crowd seemed to not have a clue who the hell Dragunov was. His charisma, while intense and impressive, didn't seem to click with the audience tonight, so at times it felt disproportionate to the match's positioning, both on the card and in the NXT landscape.
The four-way was nonstop action, almost all of it innovative, fresh-feeling, but lacked clear storytelling. It was a well thought-out spot fest, and the crowd ate it up. The finish was clever, and Devlin's post-match promo was easily the promo of the night. I should also mention that Isaiah "Swerve" Scott had a stellar showing in this and needs that perpetual motion from his opponents to get into the groove.
The NXT Women's title match wasn't bad but disappointing. Storm was good and looked to carry much of the match, pretty much working Ripley over the majority of it, and then, out of nowhere, Ripley wins. It keeps the champion strong, but it also extinguished a lot of fire Storm may have had going for her.
Look out for some possible followup at tomorrow's Royal Rumble, which we'll also be covering here at f4wonline.com.