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The 10 best WWE NXT matches
WWE NXT went through a tremendous change in 2012. Gone were the Pro Polls, the Redemption Points and, thankfully, the keg-carrying contests. They were replaced with a roster bursting at the seams with hungry, young competitors from WWE’s developmental system, eager to prove to the world that they were ready for the spotlight.
Since then, the NXT roster has wowed the WWE Universe with matches so epic that main roster Superstars like Cesaro and Sheamus had to trek down to Full Sail University to see what the fuss was all about.
With the 300th episode of NXT approaching, there’s no better time to revist the most amazing bouts to take place between the yellow ropes with our countdown of the 10 best WWE NXT matches!
Big E vs. Seth Rollins - NXT Championship Match — Jan. 9, 2013
With Seth Rollins still holding the NXT Championship after the formation of The Shield, there was little that the NXT roster could do to stop The Hounds of Justice from running roughshod. Rollins had Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns waiting in the wings to help him retain his title when things looked bleak.
It seemed to be more of the same when Rollins defended his championship against Big E in January 2013 in a No Disqualification Match. With Rollins unable to match strength with the powerhouse, Ambrose and Reigns pummeled Big E on the outside, taking advantage of the lax rules.
The 3-on-1 assault continued until the fed-up NXT roster rushed to ringside and dragged Ambrose and Reigns away, finally making the title match a fair fight. Left alone with the massive Big E, there was little Rollins could do to stop him. Big E used his superior strength to muscle Rollins into the Big Ending and capture the NXT Championship. For the big man, it was a seminal moment in his career.
“[Being NXT Champion] means that you’re the next in line,” Big E told WWE.com “Even though I had debuted on the main roster at the time, it means that you’re going to get that opportunity pretty soon to make some impressions.” — BOBBY MELOK
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch - NXT Women's Championship Match — NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable
While most mark the Diva Revolution as starting in July 2015, the call for change may have started after Sasha and Becky squared off in a show-stealer at TakeOver: Unstoppable.
“We wanted to prove a point that women’s wrestling is where it’s at,” Banks told WWE.com. “I remember going into that wanting to have the best women’s match the company’s ever seen. That’s what I want every time I step in the ring.”
The two went all-out in an NXT Women’s Title Match that saw Sasha focus her vicious attack on Becky’s arm. Becky fought back valiantly, but was yanked off the top rope by her injured arm and put in the Bank Statement, with no choice but to tap out.
Although Banks retained the title, it was Becky’s gutsy performance that resonated with fans. As she got back to her feet, the fans chanted her name and sang her entrance music.
“It was unbelievable,” Lynch said. “I was lying there in tears, knowing that I gave it my absolute all. I couldn’t have given another drop. The best woman won. To still have the crowd’s support? I was honored that they were with me. It was a dream come true.”
William Regal vs. Cesaro — Dec. 25, 2013
During his time in NXT, Cesaro sought out the best competition he could find — even if they weren’t asking to be found. Cesaro knew he was going to be in for a unique bout on the Christmas Day edition of WWE NXT, after goading William Regal into a match.
“He’s the last true carny in the industry,” Cesaro told WWE.com. “He learned how to wrestle in the carnivals, so he has a few tricks up his sleeve that no one else has.”
As the two tied each other up in complex holds, the NXT Universe knew they were witnessing a true clinic in mat wrestling. The two grapplers soon targeted their offense, Regal focusing on Cesaro’s arms to negate his powerful European Uppercuts, while Cesaro ripped the brace from the Brit’s knee and worked over the weakened joint. After a well-placed dropkick, the devious Regal was out on the mat. Cesaro seemed to have misgivings about taking the Brit out, but once Regal began stirring, The King of Swing had no choice but to end the match swiftly with a devastating Neutralizer. — BOBBY MELOK
Adrian Neville vs. Bo Dallas (NXT Championship Ladder Match) — NXT ArRIVAL
The NXT Championship had eluded Adrian Neville on several occasions, but there was no denying The Man That Gravity Forgot at NXT ArRIVAL. Champion Bo Dallas had nowhere to run and no one to help him as he clashed with Neville in a Ladder Match for the title.
“I learned a lot about myself that night,” Neville told WWE.com.
Both men used the ladders to their advantage, but Neville clearly had the upper hand with his aerial abilities. A desperate Dallas tried to batter Neville into the ground with the cold steel ladders, but the resilient challenger battled back after every bruising hit, eventually slamming Bo onto a ladder and hitting his breathtaking Red Arrow. The gravity-defying move gave Neville enough time to scale the ladder and grab the NXT Championship, etching his name in history.
"It was one of the most unpredictable, toughest, but ultimately memorable matches of my life,” the NXT Champion said. — BOBBY MELOK
Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT Championship Match: NXT TakeOver — Fatal 4-Way
Four of NXT’s hungriest competitors duked it out over the promotion’s top prize in an unpredictable battle that quickly spilled out to the arena floor.
Tyson Kidd, desperate to kickstart his career, and Tyler Breeze teamed up to take out Neville and Zayn, but things fell apart when they each tried to win the match for themselves. Neville showed the NXT Universe just what a champion will do to keep his title, diving into the ring to grab Breeze’s arm, preventing Prince Pretty from tapping out in a submission from Kidd.
In the end, a fired up Sami Zayn wore down his three opponents and clobbered Kidd with a Helluva Kick, but before the referee could count to three, The Man That Gravity Forgot yanked him out of the ring. Neville then staggered a furious Zayn with a superkick and hit his breathtaking Red Arrow to retain his title, teaching Zayn a hard lesson about what it takes to stay champion.
Natalya vs. Charlotte (NXT Women's Championship Tournament Finals) — NXT Takeover
NXT Takeover was an endlessly emotional night for Charlotte, the daughter of Ric Flair who became the second-ever NXT Women’s Champion as her WWE Hall of Fame father watched from ringside.
“When legacies are on the line, the pressure will either break you or create a diamond,” Charlotte told WWE.com. “Winning the NXT Women's Championship against Natalya will probably be one of the greatest moments of my career.”
The match itself was a thing of beauty. For nearly 20 minutes, the relative newcomer traded excruciating submission holds with the Hart Dungeon graduate as the rivals’ legendary forebears, The Nature Boy and fellow WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart, cheered on their progeny. Flair’s daughter ultimately took control of this human chess match, wearing down the “Total Divas” star with the Harts’ iconic Sharpshooter submission hold before finishing her off with a twist on the Diamond Cutter she calls Bow Down to the Queen. By the end of this amazing encounter, we bowed to them both. — JAMES WORTMAN
Paige vs. Emma (NXT Women's Championship Match) — NXT ArRIVAL
NXT ArRIVAL was a landmark moment for the future Superstars and Divas of WWE. The live special on WWE Network gave the rookies a chance to show the world everything they were capable of. That was especially true for then-NXT Women’s Champion Paige and Emma.
Their championship showdown at ArRIVAL had all the pomp and circumstance of a pay-per-view main event. Even Stephanie McMahon, who was confident that Paige and Emma would prove that they could do everything their male counterparts did, took a ringside seat.
The two rivals threw everything they had at each other, bringing the NXT Universe to its feet with a hard-hitting match. Though the quirky Australian nearly scored the pin on several occasions, Paige’s smash-mouth style won out in the end, as the raven-haired champion debuted the devastating submission hold now known as the PTO to retain her title in a match that made the world take notice. — BOBBY MELOK
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro (2-out-of-3 Falls Match) — Aug. 21, 2013
“He’s just so annoying,” Cesaro said of Sami Zayn. “He’s like a mosquito.”
It was Zayn’s persistence that led to one of the most talked about matches of 2013 and led to the French-Canadian’s emergence as a top prospect. The rivalry started immediately upon Zayn’s debut in NXT and lasted throughout the summer, capped off by this epic 2-out-of-3 Falls Match.
Zayn came out swinging, diving onto Cesaro as he made his entrance, throwing him in the ring and nailing him with the Helluva Kick to take the first fall in lightning-quick fashion. Cesaro got his bearings back and slowed the bout down significantly, eventually forcing Zayn to tap out to an extra tight chinlock.
That set the stage for an classic third fall. Zayn unleashed an unbelievable arsenal of moves, but nothing was enough to defeat Cesaro. The King of Swing nearly knocked Zayn out of his boots with a European Uppercut and hit the Neutralizer to win the match. Despite the loss, Zayn knows how important that bout was to his career.
“It was the match that put me on the map with WWE,” Zayn said. — BOBBY MELOK
Neville vs. Sami Zayn - NXT Championship Match — NXT TakeOver: R Evolution
Desperate to do things on his terms — and prove that a nice guy can finish first — Sami Zayn laid it all on the line against NXT Champion Neville when they squared off at TakeOver: R Evolution. But Neville was just as desperate to hang onto the title, pulling the referee into the path of Zayn’s Helluva Kick, then grabbing the championship and bringing it into the ring.
Zayn stopped the champion from clobbering him with the heavy hardware, but then grabbed the title himself. Faced with the ultimate moral quandary, the underdog struggled with the decision to deck Neville as the crowd urged him not to give up on himself. Zayn’s inner turmoil nearly cost him, as Neville rolled him up while he struggled with the choice. The fan favorite kicked out, though, and hit his rival with the Helluva Kick to win the title fair and square.
Zayn’s emotional victory celebration was cut short, however, as his best friend, Kevin Owens, unexpectedly attacked the new champion, brutally powerbombing him on the edge of the ring apron.
Sasha Banks vs. Bayley - NXT Women's Championship Match — NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
On the biggest night in NXT history, with nearly 16,000 people crammed into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, nerves were running high for Sasha Banks and Bayley.
“It was our first time away from Full Sail, with a sold-out crowd,” Banks explained. “I didn’t know how [the crowd] was going to react.”
She found that out quickly as the infamously opionated Brooklyn fanbase lost their minds for every bomb Bayley and Sasha threw at each other.
“Hearing the crowd, I knew mid-match that we were doing something really special,” Bayley said.
The two gave them no reason to look away, as they put on an all-time classic bout. In the end, Bayley hit banks with a reverse hurricanrana off the ropes into a Bayley to Belly Suplex to capture the title as the crowd erupted in joy.
“Just to be in that ring, with everyone on their feet and cheering, it brought me back to when I was a little kid and people didn’t care about women’s wrestling,” Banks said. “They would call our matches the ‘bathroom break.’ But everyone stayed, stood up and chanted. Those were the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard in my life — for our match.”