Recently, I wrote about the women of NXT and their five best matches. Sasha Banks came up more than once. Charlotte, too. Today, we’re going to flip that coin over and write about the dudes. We’ll be covering matches featuring such talented men as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Tyler Breeze, Adrian Neville, Tyson Kidd, and others.
To start, let’s go with the match that grabbed me tight, and completely hooked me on this product.
It was a couple days after NXT Takeover – R Evolution, and everywhere I turned, somebody made it a point to tell me how good NXT was. All of my buddies swore by the product. I had to check it out.
I finally tossed on the event and watched. I remember that the first person who really caught my eye was Finn Balor. I texted my friend Carlos, and asked him, “Yo, who the hell is Finn Balor?”
“Prince Devitt. AKA the future World Heavyweight Champion.”
I didn’t question that at all. Balor has everything you want in a wrestler. I figured that was the best I was going to see. No way something could top the demon rising in Finn. Then the main event hit, and Neville and Zayn blew my damn mind.
They were so good on that night. Once Zayn hit his through the ropes, tornado DDT, I was set. I knew I was going to be watching NXT for the foreseeable future.
When that finished, I thought I’d check out some of the older stuff. The first match I settled on was a fatal 4-way between Tyler Breeze, Tyson Kidd, Sami Zayn, and Adrian Neville. In the women’s article, I wrote about how this match was one of two that completely changed my mind on the whole fatal 4-way concept.
It has never been my favorite, but those four men completely changed that. They were so good. The psychology was tight, and the flow of the whole thing was masterful. Nothing ever lags. It starts at 11, and stays up there the whole time.
Keep in mind, at the time I saw this, I was still new to the NXT game. I couldn’t believe how good the work rate was. I’m a guy who hasn’t stepped too far away from the WWE banner throughout my life. Even though this technically falls under that, I felt like I had discovered a whole new world.
Next up – Tyson Kidd vs. Adrian Neville at NXT Takeover. It’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Kidd and Neville have such complimentary styles, and their work flowed extremely well because of it.
These are my favorite type of matches. Sure, there’s something to be said about the underdog taking on a monster, or a number of different psychologies, but I’m a big fan of two equals stepping into the squared circle with the intention of one man proving himself to be better than the other.
NOTE: That is unfortunately the best video I could find of this match. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and find it.
Only two matches remain. This was a very tough choice, but eventually I made it. In this spot, I am going to place Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover – Rival. This match was all psychology. Kevin Owens came into the company with a built-in story for him, opposite his longtime buddy Sami Zayn.
For those who don’t know, Zayn and Owens did a longer version of this story on the Independent circuits. They teamed together for a while back when KO was Kevin Steen, and Sami was El Generico. They were sold as best friends, and then Steen betrayed him, setting off a bitter, and incredibly physical rivalry that included one of the best ladder matches that I have ever seen.
The physicality continued for their first NXT bout. They beat the hell out of each other, honestly. Zayn took power bomb after power bomb. The slack-jawed reactions of the in-house crowd were priceless. If you can get wrestling fans to react like that in this computerized day and age, then you are definitely doing something right.
NOTE: Again, unfortunately, that is the best video I could find for this match. If you’re interested, go and seek it out. In fact, seek out all of KO and Zayn’s work. It’s phenomenal stuff, guys. You will not be disappointed.
Finally – this was an even harder choice, so I’m not going to make it. That means we’ve got a tie for first place.
Up first: Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn at NXT Arrival.
Then, to finish this piece off, here is Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens from The Beast in The East special. The atmosphere was great (streamers were a solid touch, look how awesome they look in the featured image). On top of that, the in-ring work was unmatched for that event. The only ones who came close were Adrian Neville and Chris Jericho.
In a word: it was simply awesome.