Ranking the Best Shows of 2019: Part Three
Trying to decide the best television series of 2019 is no easy task since there’s way too much to choose from. It’s hard sometimes to know where to draw the line and how many shows we want to include. For example, should we consider game shows or talk shows or the 6:00 evening news? Why is it that only prestige dramas and sitcoms usually make the cut? What’s even harder is trying to rank these shows in order of our favourite to least favourite. How, for example, do you compare a comedy/drama about an anthropomorphized, talking horse with an in-depth documentary series about the Central Park Five? As I said, it isn’t an easy task and when deciding what to add to the list this year, we considered every sort of television programming you can imagine, from Jeopardy to AEW Wrestling to the NBA Finals and everything in between. With that in mind, we’ve narrowed down our personal favourites. Here is the third and final part of our list of the best TV shows of 2019.
10: The Expanse (Amazon Prime)
It’s a whole new world for The Expanse in its fourth season, in more ways than one: as inners and belters alike head to unknown worlds, television’s best science fiction series finds itself in a new, unexpected home at Amazon Prime.
Thankfully, the shift to streaming hasn’t had a lasting effect on one of the more philosophically curious, sociopolitically prescient series of television’s current era; The Expanse remains one of television’s greatest, most meaningfully crafted series in that sense, as Holden and the crew of the Rocinante continue to follow the trail of the proto-molecule through the galaxy, and into whatever shitstorm inevitably awaits them. Anchored by a strong collection of character arcs – from Bobbie’s shared identity crisis with her home planet to the arrival of Murtry, a scientist-turned-aggressor ingraining himself on the strange planet of Ilus – The Expanse is dramatic television firing on all cylinders, an ambitious, emotional journey through the stars led by some of the best ensemble work on television. (Randy Dankievitch)
9: Barry (HBO)
Barry‘s first season felt like a well-contained story; like many shows in the current era of television, it felt like less might be more for Bill Hader and Alex Berg’s black comedy about a lonely hitman trying to convince himself to live a clean life. Boy, did they prove me wrong: Barry‘s second season quietly transformed itself into one of the best, most devastating character studies on television, catapulting itself into the highest echelon of television with episodes like “rony/lilly” and “berkman > block” (both directed by Hader, who firmly establishes himself as one of the best directors working in the medium).
After an uneven premiere, it appeared Barry was going bigger in its second season: while it certainly has that feel in an external sense (at least, in the show’s wandering first few hours), Barry‘s second and third acts doubles down on its central theme of honesty, and just how it easy it is for people to lie to themselves. The fallout of this self-deception plays out in a number of powerful ways, from Barry’s attempts to extricate himself from Fuches and his bullshit, to Sally’s beautifully layered arc of trying to capture her truth as an artist (the show’s most marked improvement of the season). With it, Barry found a way to refine its mix of violent comedy, industry satire, and deep character study into something much sharper, and wildly more satisfying. (Randy Dankievitch)
8: Superstore (NBC)
Perhaps the last great remaining workplace comedy on network television, Superstore‘s fourth season slowly shifts itself away from the melodramatics of its predecessor… and in the process, establishes itself as one of the more heartfelt and progressive shows on TV. More importantly, it does so without pretension, even though just about every major narrative arc of the season hinges on relevant social movements (like immigration, unionization, corporate capitalism), Superstore never lets these moments overwhelm its eclectic, lovable cast of characters, one of the most hilarious (and diverse) on television.
There are too many satisfying arcs to list here (though Amy’s ascension to store manager is a personal favorite) – but it’s the final four episodes of the season, culminating in “Employee Appreciation Day,” that firmly cement Superstore‘s legacy as one of the decade’s great ensemble comedies (and in a roundabout way, everything Aaron Sorkin wishes The Newsroom could’ve been). It’s striking to see a show (a network comedy, no less) take such strong stances on unions, immigration, and corporate discrimination – to do so while also remaining a deeply rewarding comedy about a cast of blue-collar misfits is something truly special. (Randy Dankievitch)
7: Euphoria (HBO)
HBO’s button-pushing new drama Euphoria zeroes in on the lives of several high school students living in California and how they navigate a world filled with violence, profanity, drug use, overt bullying, and sexual abuse. The show has been billed as a parent’s nightmare, no thanks to the explicit sex scenes, nonconsensual-sex tapes and child pornography but beneath the show’s explicit exterior is a compassionate examination of adolescent longing. Told from the perspective of a 17-year-old drug addict named Rue, who is desperately trying to self-medicate her severe depression with whatever drugs she can get her hands on, Euphoria is both an exploitive and a surprisingly tender look at the overwhelming anxieties faced by teens today including neglect, anxiety, and loneliness. Some scenes contain powerful messaging while others seem designed simply to shock, but more often than not, Euphoria will have viewers thinking long and hard about the current modern challenges facing youth today.
Euphoria channels the spirit of movies like Kids and Gummo, and like those films, it’s best to view the series as a mood piece rather than a guide to Gen Z behaviors. If the series can slow down and stop trying so hard to shock adult viewers, it could become a worthy addition to the HBO pantheon. There’s a lot of potential here, but like the characters it follows, Euphoria is sometimes lost and trying to find its voice. That said, despite its shortcomings, it is still one of the better shows of 2019. (Ricky D)
6: Chernobyl (HBO)
It’s been a quiet year for horror series during the first half of 2019 – until Chernobyl arrived in the spring, with the terrifying reminder that nobody is safe from the unseen terror of radiation, the toxic, silent killer at the heart of HBO’s harrowing, moving (and most terrifyingly, historical) account of the Soviet nuclear disaster. Centered around the doctors, scientists, and politicians ensnared by the government to “fix” the un-fixable, Chernobyl is a moving account of the mistakes, guesses, and half-truths that, over time, transformed bad calculus into an international disaster with an immeasurable human cost.
Perhaps the most cogent terror of Chernobyl is not the big explosions and uncertainty of early episodes: it is the creeping realization of how close we are to this happening a (third) time, and how unprepared the bureaucracies of the civilized world are prepared to handle it. Chernobyl is a powerful reflection on human persistence, and what a dangerous double-edged sword it is for the world, and particularly its most powerful men, to wield.
Led by a trio of powerful performances from Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, and Emily Watson, Chernobyl is an intoxicating mix of terrifying images and anxiety-inducing foreshadowing, a damning account of the lives lost at the expense of playing politics (or in the case of a young military recruit, a damning loss of innocence). Even without the horrifying images of seeing what happened to the unsuspecting first responders to the disaster (and the creeping realization of its main players of their own fates), Chernobyl‘s depiction of a government’s ineptitude to deal with the fallout of its own ambition makes it the most frightening show of 2019. (Randy Dankievitch)
5: Game of Thrones (HBO)
Like Black Mirror, Game of Thrones’ latest (and final) season has been incredibly divisive. With many fans lamenting the pacing issues and plot revelations behind the endgame of George R.R. Martin’s dark fantasy series, Game of Thrones may not have another Emmy in the bag, but it does leave a lasting legacy nonetheless.
The settling of some of the show’s most long-simmering and important plotlines may not have pleased all viewers, but the fact that Game of Thrones managed to tell the entire story of a seven book fantasy saga on television at all is wildly impressive.
Even with the polarizing reactions to season 8, Game of Thrones still offered the bombastic story-telling, intricate characterization, top-notch production values, and fantastic performances for which it has come to be known. These factors alone make it stand out among the best television of 2019, even if it couldn’t live up to the sky-high expectations of some of its fans. (Mike Worby)
4: Fleabag (BBC One, BBC Two)
Nearly three years after its genius debut, Fleabag finally returned for a second go-round in April – and somehow lived up to its gigantic expectations, delivering a second series even more darkly poignant and emotionally devastating than the first. Through the conduit of the meme-ified Hot Priest, Fleabag‘s second offering picks up the first season’s observations about human connection and gives it a properly epic feel, turning the audience into Fleabag’s only friend, and God of her world.
It’s stunning how effortless it all feels: from Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ little glances towards the camera to the layers of nuance in each of the season’s scripts, Fleabag is a work of art all to itself, lacking in the prestige pretention so many other notable series of the era get tied up in. It is undoubtedly one of this decade’s most important, reflective series on the human condition – but it never ever feels that weight, especially as it tells its tragic, comical love story of Fleabag and the aforementioned Hot Priest (who at one point, looks right through Fleabag and towards the audience, as shocking a moment as anything on television in 2019).
There are few shows as rewarding or as rewatchable as Fleabag, in all its twitchy, horny, awkward glory. It is a story of loss and discovery, of failure and retribution – and most importantly, of life’s continuous disappointments and occasional joys. Fleabag reminds us just how hard it is to latch onto the latter; but in the few moments we can, the peace and clarity we’re offered can energize an entire lifetime of beautiful misery. (Randy Dankievitch)
3: Mindhunter (Netflix)
With fans having waited with great anticipation for two years, David Fincher’s revolutionary Netflix series returned this year for its sophomore season, giving fans an even deeper dive into the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit.
Ultimately, the second season of Mindhunter did not disappoint— it’s hands down one of the best shows of 2019, a meticulous, well written and darkly evocative re-creation of a time and a place that captures the complexity and inherent difficulties of old-fashioned detective work. The attention to detail applied here must be applauded. Mindhunter captures every feeling and nuance of an entire era and through its brilliant commentary, it will make you want to dig through Wikipedia posts while binging several true crime podcasts just to learn more about its subjects. It’s a story about the incomprehensible nature of evil and reminds us that in the end, no matter how hard we try, we won’t learn every detail and understand every motive. (Ricky D)
2: Succession (HBO)
The first season of Succession didn’t get the attention it deserved when it premiered in 2018 but fast forward one year, and HBO’s darkly funny drama about the Roy family (the dysfunctional owners of a global media and hospitality empire who are fighting for control of the company) became one of the most talked-about shows of 2019.
It’s easy to see why it took so long for viewers to warm up to Succession given that the characters in Succession are despicable creatures and will do everything in their power to get their share of the family media empire. This is a show about rich people— there’s no way around it— but Succession does not glamourize their wealth nor does it makes no apologies for it. The truth is, the characters in Succession are some of the worst people you’ll see on television with each episode steadily and surely raising its characters up to new levels of horrors. The Roys are destructive people and they and their organization cause other people to suffer and sometimes self-destruct in front of them, but they are so far removed from reality that they cannot see the harm it inflicts on others. Or maybe, they just don’t care. Whatever the case, Succession finds pleasure in awful people trying—and failing in doing awful things to one another. After each episode, it becomes clear that despite having wonderfully written characters, there’s nobody to root for. What makes the second season of Succession an improvement, however, is how it examines what happens when that power and privilege are stripped away.
The word “Shakespearean” is often mistakenly used to describe high-prestige dramas but in the case of Succession, it feels like the best descriptor for the series. Succession isn’t what you’d call a very cinematic series. Its strength lies in its theatrical quality, sharp writing and exceptional performances that bring a new level of sympathy for some of television’s least likable characters. In fact, several episodes don’t do much other than place the central characters in a confining space and allow the selfish one-percenters to try and outdo each other’s depravity. It is an act of torture, and yet, you can’t help but watch the drama unfold. And the reason we enjoy watching them plot, bicker, argue and backstab each other is that despite its deplorable characters, Succession is extremely funny.
The season finale itself, is one of the best hours of television this year, as we watch nearly all the members of the Roy family and their business colleagues attempt to decide who among them should be sacrificed in order to save the rest. Without giving away any spoilers, the final shocking twist nearly broke the internet and left viewers clamoring for more (Ricky D)
1: Watchmen (HBO)
In an age of adaptations, sequels, reboots, prequels, trilogies, and shared universes, Damon Lindelof’s stylish, driven Watchmen series stands out – in fact, it may be the single most affecting dystopian fiction of 2019. It is undeniably the most fascinating; set 37 years after the events of the seminal graphic novel, Lindelof (along with a writing staff that includes Carly Wray, Cord Jefferson, and Nick Cuse) creates an allegorically rich world of masked police, Rorschach-quoting white supremacists, and a couple essential familiar faces.
Watchmen may be the biggest surprise of the year; not in its quality, because the creative talent on both sides of the camera (the cast boasts Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, and Lou Gossett Jr. among its regulars) is quite obvious. What makes Watchmen so unexpected is its fearlessness; in both continuing the legacy of a particularly pernicious, critical piece of American literature, and as a timely series about race in America.
It succeeds wildly at both: led by King’s performance as Sister Night (along with a stunning Jovan Adepo as young Will Reeves), Watchmen is the expected tour-de-force of dramatic prowess, a show capable of beautifully crafted character moments and genuine moments of awe and surprise. But more important is its bracing honesty, a dystopian sci-fi series that is willing to be strange, funny, and strikingly critical all in a single breath. Though we all expected Lindelof’s take on Watchmen to be a gorgeously crafted, wonderous fun house of weirdness, the unexpected sociopolitical weight of his ruminations on the nature of gods and men firmly establishes Watchmen as one of 2019’s great series. Also, the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score fuckin’ slaps. (Randy Dankievitch)
Royal Rumble 2020: The Good, The Bad, and The Tolerable
Saying the Royal Rumble is the hottest of the big four pay-per-views in WWE is not a hot take. Sure, it the first stage of setting the card for WrestleMania. Fans love the actual Royal Rumble match because truly anything can happen in it.
Some of the biggest returns and debuts have happened in that match. Winning it has made wrestlers into superstars. Anyone could win the Royal Rumble and go on to headline WrestleMania. Usually, the person you expect to win does. Sometimes, it’s the person you least expect.
The 2020 edition of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view was the third one to feature two Royal Rumble matches; one for the women and one for the men. Both matches were solid with the right amount of surprises.
Royal Rumble Pre-Show
The two-hour Royal Rumble Pre-Show is filled with video packages and analysis that are somewhat tedious to watch. If it was half an hour, that would be okay. But two hours is a lot to sit through. Fortunately, they usually manage to sneak a couple of matches in.
The returning Sheamus took on Shorty G in an attempt to prove that the SmackDown locker room is weak and lazy. Picking on a guy half your size is always a great way to show people how tough you are. It was a surprisingly competitive and engaging match, with both men getting some good spots in.
Ultimately, Sheamus won but Shorty G still looked good.
The second match was Humberto Carrillo taking on Andrade for the United States Championship. Both men are incredible talents who play very well off each other in the ring. Andrade won but Carrillo is a future champion.
Falls Count Anywhere Match
The feud between King Corbin and Roman Reigns feels like it’s been going on for far too long. It jumped the shark when Corbin and friends broke out the dog food. Hopefully, their match at the Royal Rumble is the wrap-up and the Big Dog can move onto something else.
Reigns and Corbin took a trip around the arena, making use of the Astro’s home field. Naturally, Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler showed up to interfere. The Usos had their cousin’s back, though.
It came down to Roman beating the King down and pinning him for the victory. The match definitely was solid but nothing special. The audience isn’t super into Corbin so the energy in the arena seemed a little low.
The biggest spot of the match came from one of the Usos, and not the actual competitors.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
For the third year in a row, the Women’s Royal Rumble match did not disappoint.
NXT was well represented this year. Bianca Belair came in at number two and was a one-woman wrecking crew for a significant portion of the match. She ended up eliminating eight people, as did Shaya Baszler. Combined, they took out 16 of the 30 competitors.
Among the surprise entrants were “Mighty” Molly Holly, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, and Santina Marella. For those who were confused by that one, Santina Marella is the alter ego of former superstar Santino Marella. She eliminated herself, a funny moment that was lost on a lot of the audience.
That being said, it was a shame that one of the many great current competitors in the division didn’t get Santina’s spot.
It’s worth mentioning how good Molly Holly looked in the ring. She was underrated when she was an active member of the roster so it’s always nice to see her get some respect. There has to be a place for her in the modern era of wrestling.
One of the headlines was the return of Naomi, who has been away for some time. She looked like she didn’t have an ounce of ring rust on her. It remains to be seen if this was a one-night deal or if she’s back for good.
Ultimately, Charlotte Flair won and will go on to headline WrestleMania against one of the women’s champions, probably Becky. Charlotte is a great wrestler, but she was the safest bet for the WWE in the match. It would have been nice to see someone unexpected, but deserving get the shot.
Bayley vs Lacey Evans
The heat on this Royal Rumble bout has been building for weeks. Bayley’s heel turn has made her more relevant than ever. It’s also nice that she has been given a respectably long reign as the SmackDown Women’s Champion. On the other hand, Lacey Evans sudden face turn was a bit surprising, but she wears it well.
A year ago, Bayley would have been the face and Lacey would have been the heel in this match.
Overall, this was a solid women’s title match. Lacey looked good for the most part as did Bayley. The end came at a rather surprising moment with Bayley grabbing a handful of Lacey’s tights for the pinfall to retain the belt.
Daniel Bryan vs “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Daniel Bryan’s return to the Yes Movement, plus his new, clean look, has put him back in the title picture. Unfortunately, that title picture features the current Universal Champion, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt.
After already losing to Wyatt and being repeatedly attacked by him, Bryan felt the smart move was to attach himself to “The Fiend” with a leather strap. Nope.
“The Fiend” made his traditional creepy entrance and proceeded to destroy Bryan. Eventually, Bryan came around and took it to “The Fiend.” The match was as brutal as expected with Wyatt coming out on top and Bryan left the Royal Rumble with some ugly wounds.
But the big story of the match is that it did not happen under only red lights, which was really nice. You could actually see what was happening. With any luck, this is how “The Fiend” will wrestle from now on. That red light thing made it difficult to enjoy his matches.
Becky Lynch vs Asuka
The rivalry between Becky Lynch and Asuka has taken a backseat to other storylines, but it has always been there. Lynch asked for the match so she could settle the score between them and finally move on.
This match was as good as you’d expect from two such accomplished and talented in-ring performers in the company. It was highly competitive with a lot of incredible spots for both competitors. When Lynch and Asuka get in a ring together, they make pure magic.
In the end, Lynch retained her championship, but it was a hard-fought victory. This was arguably the best singles match Asuka has wrestled in the past year. Even though she didn’t win, she looked like the Asuka of old, and on the verge of total domination again.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Fans were justifiably concerned when Paul Heyman announced that Brock Lesnar would enter at number one in the Royal Rumble this year. WWE has a bad habit of putting him over in spite of themselves. What does WrestleMania look like if the WWE Champion wins the Royal Rumble?
As luck would have it, no one has to know the answer thanks to Ricochet and Drew McIntyre.
Lesnar tore through the first 13 superstars who came out after him. Number 15 was Ricochet, who was dominated. McIntyre was the next competitor out. Ricochet hit Lesnar with the low blow, then McIntyre hit him with the Claymore Kick straight out of the ring.
Lesnar’s elimination was one of the biggest pops of the night. Drew stared holes through Lesnar until he left the arena. It was a clear indication of who he is going to challenge.
NXT was not as well represented in the Men’s match as it was the Women’s. Only Keith Lee and Matt Riddle made it into the Royal Rumble. Riddle was quickly eliminated, and apparently got into it backstage with Lesnar, but Lee continued his string of great showings.
Lesnar might have eliminated Lee but Lee stepped to him. Brock even looked a little impressed and that doesn’t happen often.
Men’s Royal Rumble Surprises
The Men’s match only had two surprise entrants, but they were great ones. MVP made his return after a long absence. He was quickly eliminated by Lesnar, but still looked great. The second surprise entrant caught everyone off guard when Edge’s music hit.
One of the best in the business was retired by injuries in 2011 and has not wrestled since. He looked amazing, entering at 21, eliminating three people, and making it to the final three. The pop he got when his music started rivaled the one The Hardy Boyz got at WrestleMania 33.
Unfortunately, an odd moment happened with AJ Styles. At one point, the ringside medical staff seemed to be attending to him near the ring apron. He was quickly eliminated by Edge and helped to the back. Hopefully, he is okay.
Excluding the return of MVP, the most valuable player of the evening was Beth Phoenix. She left the announcer’s desk behind to compete in the Royal Rumble again and went on one hell of a run. Beth entered at 21 and hung around until she was taken out by Baszler.
But at some point during the match, Phoenix got a bad laceration on the back of her head. Her hair was soaked in her own blood, yet she continued the match. The injury actually seemed to make her more aggressive. This was the best she has wrestled in years.
Apparently, the angrier Beth Phoenix gets, the stronger she gets.
Royal Rumble Snubs
There were a lot of current superstars who weren’t included from any roster. The only NXT UK star that appeared was Toni Storm, a surprise since Worlds Collide was the night before. Noticeable by her absence was Sasha Banks, whose presence has been minimal over the last few weeks.
Many people were also hoping for returns from the likes of Nia Jax and Ruby Riott. They also did not appear. People were also looking for CM Punk but that is still a long shot at best. It would have been cool if his music hit, though.
It’s also hard to imagine that John Morrison returned to WWE only to get sacrificed to Brock Lesnar in the Royal Rumble. His time in the ring was only a few seconds, a disappointment since he usually puts on a heck of a show.
Fans also might have been surprised to see that Braun Strowman didn’t face Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship. That match was thought to be a lock but it didn’t even appear on the Pre-Show. Strowman cannot catch a break in his hunt for a singles title.
Star Trek: Picard: “Remembrance” Introduces a Different Picard
The question ‘which Star Trek captain is your favorite?’ is perhaps one of the easier questions to answer when discussing Star Trek. For all the charm of Captain Kirk and the intimidation that Captain Sisko imposes, none have been quite so complete has Captain Jean-Luc Picard; a role made much easier when the character is portrayed by one of the greatest living actors, Sir Patrick Stewart. So when Star Trek: Picard was announced, expectations were always going to be high, and when the first episode, “Remembrance” aired, expectations were delivered.
In Star Trek: Next Generation, there are some sublime performances by Sir Patrick Stewart that leave Captain Picard as one of the most emotionally distressing characters in the franchise as a whole. From his breakdown in Season 4, Episode 2, when he visits his brother after being detached from the Borg, to Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11, where Picard is interrogated by the Cardassians, resulting in his torture, there have been moments that have changed Picard resulting in the man we see in Star Trek: Picard.
Indeed, “Remembrance” was entirely emotional from start to finish. This isn’t a Star Trek of the past but a drama for the future. From the ongoing suspense to the incredible orchestra to help define each moment, this is a different Star Trek to other modern adaptions such as Star Trek: Discovery, with a cliff hanger so intense that I’m not sure whether it’s the Romulans or the Borg to be worrying about.
“Remembrance” starts with Picard dreaming about playing poker with Data, only for the planet Mars to ignite in a series of flames and Picard waking up in the panic. Later on, it is shown that synthetic lifeforms attacked Mars previously, which led to a ban on artificial lifeforms in the Federation. This hindered the rescue efforts to save refugees after the Romulan star went supernova, resulting in Picard resigning from Starfleet.
It’s a lot of detail in a relatively short period of time, and Sir Patrick Stewart does a wonderful job of ensuring the mood remains mellow. In fact, it’s a testament to the writers themselves, who have managed to show the viewers the background story in remarkable detail without it feeling too heavy or forced. This sets up perfectly for Picard to meet Dahj, a synthetic lifeform whose life is in danger.
Isa Briones does a fantastic job of portraying the emotional distress that Dahj is in, particularly when her boyfriend is murdered right in front of her eyes. Her strengths are shown in great detail, with numerous small fight scenes with Vulcan assassins, right until her premature death. The problem is sometimes these fight scenes seem like they’ve been taken out of a Marvel film. While it’s great Star Trek continues to adapt to a modern audience, not every feature on TV needs to emulate Marvel; the less of Marvel we have the better.
On that note, it will be interesting to see which direction the series decides to take. Is it going to be more of Picard leading the way in space, or will the series divulge into a Marvel-esque series of action-packed fight scenes? The box has been opened and there are a lot of toys to choose from, let’s hope the writers chose wisely! Or if not, at least we already know Picard can guide the starship, no matter what peril might await us.
Worlds Collide: NXT vs NXT UK— Another Truly Great PPV
Worlds Collide as a brand has been subtly growing within WWE over the past year. The first edition happened on Royal Rumble weekend in 2019. It featured a 15 man tournament with stars from NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live. The next round happened in New York over the 2019 WrestleMania weekend with matches pitting stars from all WWE shows against each other.
What happened on Saturday was the first Worlds Collide branded pay-per-view event. If you missed it, you missed out. It was amazing.
Build up started at NXT UK TakeOver: BlackPool II, when the Undisputed Era appeared and attacked Imperium as the show went off the air. Since then, matches have been booked that pitted some of the best talents both brands have against each other.
Kay Lee Ray vs Mia Yim
This match went down on the Worlds Collide pre-show but it was at main event quality.
NXT UK Women’s Champion faced off in a singles match against Yim, an incredible start to the rookie pay-per-view. Kay Lee Ray has proven herself to be an excellent heel champ while Yim is over with the fans.
While Yim lost, she looked great doing it. Ray cemented herself as a main event player in this match, as she always does. Yim is ready for the main event so it’s time to put her in the mix.
Finn Bálor vs Ilja Dragunov
For a lot of fans in the arena, Worlds Collide was their first introduction to Ilja Dragunov and they weren’t sure how to feel about him. Unless you watch NXT UK a lot, you’re not going to know him. The crowd didn’t really respond when he came out.
They sure knew Finn Bálor, though.
Despite the fact that Bálor has gone full heel, fans have not given up cheering for him. They were firmly behind Bálor for the bulk of the match. But as it went on, they got a better look at Dragunov and starter showing him some love.
It was a solid opening match, but not a super memorable one. Dragunov was an odd choice to face Bálor given the depth of talent on NXT UK. Watching him face Joe Coffey would have been better. The crowd really only came alive when Bálor headed for the top rope and finished Dragunov off.
Fatal 4-Way For The NXT Cruiserweight Championship
Bringing the Cruiserweight Division closer to the overall NXT brand is a great decision. Showcasing this title match on Worlds Collide was an even better one. Jordan Devlin, Travis Banks, and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott were all chasing Angel Garza for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
This was an absolutely incredible match featuring talent from all over the world. While everyone looked great, Travis Banks, in particular, showed why he belongs in the main event picture. That’s regardless of the brand he’s performing on.
Similarly, Swerve continues to build his personal brand. A championship run is inevitably in his future as every match he has is better than the last.
Ultimately, Jordan Devlin picked up the surprise, but well deserved, win and became the new champion. It was a surprise simply because Garza won the belt less than two months ago. Plus, no one expected the belt to go to the UK on Worlds Collide.
Still, Devlin will make a great champion. It will be interesting to see how that belt moving across an ocean will play out in the long term.
#DIY vs Moustache Mountain
There was no championship on the line. There was no bad blood between them. This was just two truly great tag teams going at it in a match that stole the show on Worlds Collide.
Moustache Mountain’s Trent Seven and Tyler Bate are mainstays of the NXT UK. On NXT, the reunited members of #DIY, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, are core to the brand. Having these two teams face off was an incredibly meaningful moment.
The match was lighthearted at times, filled with moments that were genuinely funny. Once the match got rolling, each of the four superstars got to show why they are as respected as they are in the industry. They are truly four of the best in the business, in any company.
#DIY won but that almost didn’t matter. To borrow an apt cliche, those who watched were the true winners. After the match, the two teams shared an honest moment of sportsmanship, something fans rarely get to see in a wrestling ring.
Rhea Ripley vs Toni Storm
Worlds Collide was the first challenge for the new NXT Champion, Rhea Ripley. She was the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion but lost the title to Toni Storm. Ripley never had a rematch before moving to NXT.
During her NXT UK tenure, Ripley only lost two singles matches, one of which cost her a championship. Unsurprisingly, she wanted to redeem that by successfully defending her new championship from Storm, which she did.
The match was well executed but not particularly engaging. Storm got the title shot by asking for it, and without having to earn it through competition. There wasn’t really enough build-up to it to hook the audience in fully.
Fortunately, both wrestlers are great enough at what they do to sell anything in the ring.
Undisputed Era vs Imperium
NXT and NXT UK both have dominant four-man factions who have devastated the competition. It only makes sense to have them face off on Worlds Collide.
While the Walter-led Imperium is always looking to rule the ring, Undisputed Era was hungrier for the win. Keith Lee broke the UE prophecy when he took Roderick Strong’s North American Championship in an epic match the Wednesday before the pay-per-view.
But early in the match, Imperium found themselves a man down when Alexander Wolfe was legit knocked out. He took a rough shot from Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong. The ref stopped the match and the doctors took him to the back. Wolfe never returned to the match.
This left Imperium with a four to three disadvantage, which made their win even more impressive. Everyone looked great, but Walter stole the match as always. He brutalized everyone he was in the ring with and fans were firmly behind him. WWE would be well advised to make good use of him going forward. The man is a star!
After the pay-per-view was over, Triple H confirmed Wolfe’s injury but not the severity of it. Wolfe tweeted that he was fine, thanking the ref and medical staff for taking care of him. Hopefully, it’s nothing that will keep him down for long.
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