NXT has long been at the forefront of WWE’s women’s revolution.
The roster has all been given ample opportunity to shine. Allowing such a talented group of performers to showcase their talent has led to many stars being made in NXT.
Paige and Emma were part of the first class of NXT’s female stars. The Four Horsewomen (Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley, and Becky Lynch) are four of the biggest stars in wrestling now, and they all got their start in NXT.
The next generation has mainly come from NXT as well. Asuka, Kairi Sane, Mandy Rose, and Carmella are already on the main roster. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, and Candice LeRae are still producing quality matches on the yellow brand. The NXT Women’s Division has been full of outstanding moments. Here are five of the biggest and best moments in NXT history, presented in chronological order.
5. Crowning The First NXT Women’s Champion – NXT; July 24th, 2013
As I mentioned before, Paige and Emma were the first two breakout stars from NXT. Their match in the finals of the first-ever NXT Women’s Title Tournament was the first standout NXT women’s match. After emerging as the finalists from a field including Summer Rae and Bayley, Emma and Paige battled for the right to be crowned champion.
Emma was still in her “awkward dancing” gimmick, a prime example of something getting over in NXT that couldn’t in WWE. It was “Anti-Diva” Paige who won a hard-fought match to win the championship. Paige pinned Emma after a Rampaige to put her down for the count. The match was not the technical masterpiece that NXT would put on in the future but was still very much a pivotal moment for the brand and women’s division. It did mark the beginning of a very popular reign for Paige and proved that women’s wrestling would be a focal point in NXT.
4. When Legacy’s Collide – NXT TakeOver; May 29th, 2014
After Paige’s successful reign, she was the first NXT woman to have a successful transition to the main roster. Her debut and immediate win of the Divas Championship from A.J. Lee was extremely memorable. In NXT, another tournament was held to crown the next NXT Women’s Champion. It was arguably better than the first time around.
The final was a battle of legacy competitors – Natalya of the Hart Family battled Charlotte Flair. Bret Hart was in the corner of his niece; Ric Flair came to support his daughter. Despite wrestling royalty being present, both women made sure the focus was on their wrestling and not their famous cornermen. Charlotte escaped a Sharpshooter attempt and hit Natural Selection to pick up the win. The first NXT Women’s Title win for Charlotte also cemented her as a main event talent, something that buoys the women’s division to this day.
3. The Division Makes A Statement – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn; August 22th, 2015
NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn was packed with talent. Jushin “Thunder” Liger had his first WWE match against Tyler Breeze. Finn Balor and Kevin Owens clashed in a ladder match.
Yet it was the match pitting “The Boss” Sasha Banks against Bayley that was the best, and still most talked about, match on the card. It was intense, dramatic, and still stands as one of the best women’s matches in WWE history. Bayley hit an insane super inverted frankensteiner from the top rope and put away Banks with a Bayley-to-Belly. After two failed attempts at the title, Bayley finally became NXT Women’s Champion. The match came after Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte had been called up to the main roster. After the excellent match, Lynch and Charlotte joined Banks and Bayley for a curtain call. The Four Horsewomen made the NXT Women’s division must-see. Their ascension to the main roster made the WWE women’s product much better and paved the way for a new generation of NXT women’s talent.
2. Main Eventing and Making Izzy Cry – NXT Takeover: Respect; October 7th, 2015
Before leaving for the main roster for good, Sasha Banks would get a rematch against Bayley. Based on their amazing match at TakeOver: Brooklyn, Bayley and Banks became the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view at TakeOver: Respect. They would do so in the first ever Women’s Iron Man match. The match broke the barrier of women in the main event, a practice that is now standard place. Without the success of this match, it’s unlikely Lynch, Charlotte & Ronda Rousey would have main evented Wrestlemania 35.
This match is also remembered for one of the best heel moves of all time. Sasha Banks snatched a bow away from Bayley-superfan Izzy, a little girl, and mocked her. It proved the ruthless heel that Sasha Banks was able to become, and made Bayley’s 3-2 win that much sweeter.
1. The Empress Reign Begins – NXT TakeOver: Dallas; April 1st, 2016
After the era of the Four Horsewomen, the next period of NXT women’s wrestling was the “Age of Asuka”. On the NXT TakeOver before Wrestlemania 32, Asuka got her shot at Bayley’s NXT Women’s Championship. Asuka would choke out Bayley, leading to a historically long title reign. The match was another masterful performance by plucky babyface Bayley, but it was the viciousness of Asuka that stood out.
Asuka went on to be NXT Female Competitor of the Year in 2016 and 2017. She held the NXT Women’s Championship hostage for the next 510 days. Classic matches with Mickie James, Ember Moon, and Nikki Cross defined her reign. Undefeated in NXT, Asuka was the rock of the brand for those years. Her win in Dallas was more than just a title change; it was an era change. NXT has helped define women’s wrestling in WWE in a way it never had before. It’s stars have gone on to mainstream success, main eventing Wrestlemania and changing the way women’s wrestling is viewed.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @EvanGomes_. Thanks for reading!