While Raw and Smackdown superstars are prepping for the first official stop on the road to Wrestlemania, NXT has its own show to get ready for this weekend. Worlds Collide will pit NXT vs. NXT UK superstars against each other in what should be another outstanding pay-per-view.
First up we saw one of the semi-final matches of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, as Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly of the Undisputed Era took on the Grizzled Young Veterans of NXT UK.
Before the match even began, Adam Cole came to the announcer’s table and told them he knows Imperium is here and they are ready for them. These tag teams (not surprisingly) had an excellent match, with UE using the numbers game to their advantage a few times.
However, right from the start, with Imperium looming, the outcome of this match seemed quite predictable to me. Just as it looked like Fish and O’Reilly had this match won, the four members of Imperium showed up on the NXT balcony, which provided a timely distraction. Fish was then sent into the barricade while the Veterans hit ‘Ticket To Mayhem’ for the win.
At first, I was a bit surprised, but in this end, this finish makes sense and furthers the main event feud between the Era and Imperium.
Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai:
Here we had another crossover match between two of the top women on their respective brands. While I have seen these women each put on stellar matches in the past, this match never seemed to get to that “next level.” It was a fine match, but I kept wondering how they would come up with a finish because a loss would kill Storm’s momentum, while NXT has done an excellent job building up Shirai in singles competition since her heel turn.
Right after Toni dropped Io to the outside and looked to attack, Bianca Belair ran in to cause the distraction and the DQ. We then saw two feuds crossover here as Storm faces Rhea Ripley this weekend for the NXT Women’s Title, but Belair earned the right to fight for the title at NXT Portland next month. In the end, Rhea ends up coming out and she and Bianca mix it up before Io lands a moonsault off the top rope. Storm then is the last woman standing and holds to NXT Women’s title up high. Which means she’s losing on Saturday. To quote Paul Heyman, “That’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler!”
Finn Balor squash:
Ilja Dragunov gets a promo package beforehand Finn’s match, saying he’ll prove he is invincible at World’s Collide and defeat Finn Balor. Joaquin Wilde was the innocent victim here, as Balor made quick work of him in this match. In mere minutes Balor landed his Coup de Grace from the top turnbuckle before hoisting Wilde up for the 1916 DDT and proclaiming “if you come at Finn, you better not miss!”
Balor’s heel turn was a breath of fresh air for his character and while his match this weekend will be solid, it is his upcoming bout with Jonny Gargano I am really forward to next month.
Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart:
After last week’s fairly shocking return to Full Sail, Baszler was here to take on the women who eliminated her from the battle royal. Blackheart made her debut for the Black & Gold brand just last month and has been featured prominently ever since.
Right from the start, Blackheart had a ton of energy, but the Submission Magician was all about slowing the match down and turning it more into a fight. With rumors swirling about Baszler’s future, this could be the last time she appears on NXT television.
I had not seen Blackheart before last week, but already get the vibe she is going to be made a star in the company. She went toe-to-toe with Baszler in an overall solid match, and despite tapping out Shotzi has proven herself against NXT’s top women’s star. I was a fan of this segment overall.
Broserweights vs. Imperium:
Personally, I enjoyed this tag match more than the first one of the night. Despite being a non-traditional tag team, Pete Dunne and Riddle work well together. With the crowd behind them, Imperium was the perfect heel team to face them.
This was a true back and forth battle that saw a fair amount of near falls, especially toward the end. Despite the best efforts of the European faction, Riddle and Dunne hit their combination Bro to Sleep/enziguri to win the match and advance to the finals.
On the ramp post-match, the two finalists took to the mic and exchanged a few words. Dunne pointed out when he was in NXT UK the Grizzled Young Veterans could never get a win over him. Riddle acts (well, maybe) like he is high, and this gets a big cheer from the crowd. Could this be the second straight year we see a freshly paired duo win this tournament, as Ricochet & Aleister Black were victorious last year.
North American Title on the Line:
Two weeks ago Keith Lee won a triple threat match to earn the right at Roderick Strong’s North American Title. Last week the UE tried to take out Lee when they smashed his ankle in a steel chair. But Lee was ready to roll, despite being less than 100 percent and having to be the four-to-one odds with Cole, O’Reilly, and Fish out there as well.
Just like clockwork, Lee had to overcome the odds as the UE were doing all they could to keep their stranglehold on all the gold in NXT. Roderick Strong is an incredible wrestler, who I think sometimes gets a tad overlooked because he is with the likes of Adam Cole as well as Fish and O’Reilly.
Strong did an excellent job of taking advantage of Lee’s ankle injury throughout the match, and you could tell Lee was having trouble as the fight went on. I kept waiting for Imperium to once again strike and ruin the night even for the Undisputed Era, but they did not, and it made the eventual outcome that much better.
Lee overcame an ankle lock late by Roddy and then wiped all the other Era members out and it looks like Strong will hold on. But, Lee kicks out and then debuts a new finisher for the win!
While the Era is all in shock around the ring, Imperium finally shows up with Walter eventually hitting one of the loudest, and most impactful chops I have ever heard. A statement made, and it looks like the Undisputed Era may be slowly crumbling before our eyes.
Overall I thought this was an incredible episode of NXT. There was not a match that was bad to me, and while there were small issues with some of the matches/feuds, I will not let that overshadow the episode overall.
With Keith Lee’s momentum stronger than ever, could we see him again this Sunday at the Royal Rumble? They are making the Limitless one look like a million bucks and I am all for another top star being born.
My rating: 4.75 out 5