NXT has been the talk of the town lately and rightfully so.
There have been so many wonderful matches and moments over the years. From the very first TakeOver to where NXT is now, a lot has happened.
With so many eyes on the NXT brand, I thought now would be a good time to take a look back at some pivotal moments. Now, these moments will be focused more on the current NXT product and roster. As much as I wanted to go way back into the history of NXT, circa Seth Rollins as the first NXT Champion, the current landscape of NXT is good enough to deserve its own list.
NXT always brings out the best matches, promos, and wrestlers, so here are our top 10 moments from the black and gold brand. Everything on this list has shaped the course NXT has taken or created a moment that shocked the NXT Universe to its core.
10. Undisputed Era Unleashed
Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish are three of the best wrestlers around. Their list of accomplishments is hugely impressive and in 2017 many wrestling fans were waiting to see where they would end up. Bobby and Kyle both made their NXT debuts in losing efforts to Aleister Black, but while they may have lost, their presence in NXT was long-awaited and in a way was a breath of fresh air.
With Kyle and Bobby seemingly in NXT, that left Adam Cole’s future up in the air. Fast forward to TakeOver: Brooklyn 3, reDRagon made their appearance as a team to attack SAnitY and Authors of Pain. It was a shocking moment, but it put the entire tag team division on notice. Of course, one appearance just wasn’t enough for reDRagon, later in the night, they helped Cole, marking his official NXT debut, attack Drew McIntyre. Undisputed Era, which they wouldn’t be called for another month, had arrived and they made sure their presence was felt.
Of course if we look a little more into Undisputed Era’s history, they wouldn’t stay a trio for long adding Roderick Strong to the fold. But the debut of Undisputed Era marked a new time for NXT. Things were changing and Undisputed Era made sure to put themselves at the forefront of it all.
9. Last Woman Standing
Somehow Full Sail University has seen some of the most amazing matches and this one is no different. The phrase “first time ever,” is thrown around a lot in WWE, but Asuka and Nikki Cross were the first women in NXT to compete in a Last Woman Standing match.
I was lucky enough to be in the crowd for this match and it did not disappoint. Asuka’s undefeated record versus Nikki’s perfectly crazy persona. These two women pulled out all the stops, and all the weapons. There were trash cans, ladders, the use of the steel steps and more. Full Sail was a disaster zone, honestly. At points I did find myself thinking that was the night Asuka was going to lose, but we all know how that turned out. This match brought a whole new level to the women’s division; Asuka and Nikki had accomplished something special that night.
This match got all the superstars talking, had fans on the edge of their seats, and got a Mamma Mia from Mauro Ranallo. I have to say I miss the NXT versions of both Asuka and Nikki Cross; there was just something tremendously unique about them that seems to be lost now. If you’re like me and miss Nikki’s insanity or need to be reminded of Asuka’s path to greatness, go back and watch this match.
8. NXT UK Is Born
I am putting the NXT UK announcement on my list because I think it was a truly important moment at the time. NXT UK may not be exactly where some of us thought it would be currently, but it is still important to acknowledge it. A year ago NXT UK getting a weekly show had fans riding on a high of sorts. I think it is important for this list to show the good, but also show the growth of the brand too.
The announcement came during the second United Kingdom tournament back in 2018. It was something everyone had worked so hard towards and it was a well deserved announcement. Guys like Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, and Jordan Devlin got to be seen by the US audience more because of the UK tournament and a weekly show announcement has helped grow that audience little by little.
The UK show at the time, and even now, was a bit worrisome. Questions came up like; where would these guys and gals be able to wrestle outside of NXT, would the scene hurt from the “loss” of them and even, who will watch this show. Here we are a year after the announcement and of course there are still concerns, but they seem to be turning the corner and making more storylines that put eyes on the product. It has been a bumpy road, but NXT UK is finally getting there.
7. Tag Team Wrestling Reborn
This was tag team wrestling at its very finest. While The Revival were a rather established tag team, Johnny and Ciampa were fairly new. When these teams were thrown together in a match, or for any reason, you just knew you were in for a treat.
DIY may have been a new team, but they worked together like a well-oiled machine. They got this title match because The Revival interfered in their Dusty Classic tag team match, causing them to be eliminated from that year’s tournament. Fast forward a few weeks to Toronto, and The Revival walked in very confident. The Revival had earned that confidence, though, as they had been the benchmark of tag team wrestling for awhile, but DIY had so much fan support.
The match was fairly even for the most part, but Dash and Dawson scored the first pinfall. DIY made their comeback and won the titles with a memorable ending. Ciampa and Gargano had The Revival in their respective submissions as much as they tried to hold on, they couldn’t and it was finally DIY’s moment at the top of the tag team division. DIY’s victory was a moment for all the fans, and as a team DIY represented what the NXT universe was all about.
6. Johnny Champion
Johnny Gargano has had one amazing run in NXT. A tag team champion, a North American champion, but the big one had always alluded him. Johnny had made it his ultimate mission to become the NXT champion. At the time, his former tag team partner turned bitter rival, Tommaso Ciampa was the champion and Johnny felt like it was all his fault. NXT was a different place with Ciampa as the helm and no matter what Johnny tried to do he could not defeat the greatest sports entertainer.
Johnny went up against Ciampa in one of the best series of matches in NXT history, but unfortunately we never got to see their big payoff match due to Ciampa’s neck injury. With Ciampa out of the picture, for the time being at least, the title lay vacant. Would this be Johnny’s moment?
The biggest stage of them all is of course WrestleMania, which would make TakeOver that weekend NXT’s equivalent. April 5, 2019 Johnny Gargano finally got his moment against Adam Cole. It wasn’t the match fans were expecting to get, but to see Johnny get his “Shawn Michaels moment” was so worth it. With this win, Johnny became the first Grand Slam champion in NXT history.
5. War Games Returns
WWE has a variety of destructive matches from Hell in a Cell to a classic street fight, but nothing comes quite as close as War Games. A hellacious match involving two rings, a steel cage, and teams ready to destroy one another. It is a match wrestling fans hadn’t seen in over twenty years. 2017 was the right time to reintroduce this concept, as it brought old school fans to the NXT product and gave current fans something new to appreciate.
Bringing back War Games for the first time occurred in 2017 for NXT TakeOver: Houston. The teams of Undisputed Era, SAnitY, against a rather odd pairing of Roderick Strong and Authors of Pain. However, while strange, I think these were the three perfect teams to have in the first War Games of the new era in WWE.
If any other brand was given the gift of War Games I don’t think it would have been as good. NXT was, and still is, the perfect brand to do justice to the legacy that comes with War Games. Of course, they had to have done something right if this coming November will be the third War Games.
4. Kevin Owens betrays Sami Zayn
I know I said I would focus this list on more current NXT moments, but this was pretty big. Heel turns are a huge part of the wrestling world, but at the time NXT hadn’t had a huge turn that really rocked the crowd.
Owens and Zayn have a long, torrid history spanning over multiple wrestling companies. You can never quite guess how things will go in a new company, history can be completely ignored. In 2015, Sami Zayn finally became NXT Champion by defeating Neville. This also happened to be Kevin Owens first NXT show, and while everyone thought he may have been there to celebrate with Sami, it turned the opposite way rather quickly. Sami was a beloved character in NXT, so this ultimate betrayal from his “best friend” was a hard pill for audiences to swallow.
I think this heel turn set a precedent for other ones to come in NXT. Owens versus Zayn became a huge part of NXT history. You can see the effects of their feud in Ciampa and Gargano. Owens and Zayn gave NXT fans many amazing moments and that has lasted on the main roster.
3. Sasha vs. Bayley
One of the feuds that has helped shape the women’s evolution. Sasha Banks and Bayley have not always been best friends, but most of us know their start. Just like life, Bayley and Sasha’s friendship hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows.
Sasha, as she does now, told everyone she was the best and could take it to the bank. She wasn’t wrong, she ran the NXT women’s division for most of her time there, but as with all things, her time on top couldn’t last forever. Bayley came in, defeating the other two horsewomen, to be the new number one contender. When Bayley pulled out a victory to become the new women’s champion, it laid the foundation of change in the women’s division.
This feud made wrestling history, 30 minute iron woman match comes to mind. At the beginning of their NXT feud, Sasha was the top woman of NXT. Sasha and Bayley’s feud is still a measuring stick in my opinion for the women’s division of today. They broke down a lot of barriers and showed that women can do it just as well as the men, if not better.
2. The UK Takes Over
I mean a list without this match just wouldn’t be complete. I was one of the lucky ones to be sitting in the audience for this one. The crowd did not seem as familiar with Bate and Dunne, but by the time the match ended they were on their feet.
This match showed the world what UK wrestling, what British Strong Style, is all about. A hard hitting match between two of the best in the world today. Tyler and Pete both got to show off their strengths. In a match that could have gone either way, the Bruiserweight pulled off the victory with a Bitter End.
1. The Greatest Sports Entertainer meets Goldy
There is no-one more deserving to top this list than Tommaso Ciampa. His NXT title reign was one of the most important and entertaining reigns in a long time. He had returned from a devastating knee injury and called his shot, all he needed was one match and he would become champion. That is a pretty bold statement to make, but if there is one thing Ciampa can do, it is stand by his word. Ciampa got his one match with Aleister Black in June 2018 and pulled off what he said he would.
Tommaso winning the NXT title, or rather Goldy, marked a fun, surprising reign. He had so many quality matches and delivered some amazing promos. His time with Goldy breathed new life into the title and every time Ciampa defended it, he proved that he was the greatest entertainer. Ciampa and Goldy had an excellent run together; who knows what would have happened if Ciampa didn’t sustain that devastating neck injury. Even still, Ciampa’s character growth during his title reign was amazing to watch and I look forward to the day he comes back to reclaim Goldy.
NXT has had many outstanding moments throughout its history and this is just a brief look at what has made the black and yellow brand so special. Of course, there are many moments not listed here that have shaped many of the men and women on the main roster. Feel free to share some of your favourite NXT moments with me, let’s compare!
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @paigeyb88. Thanks for reading!