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Any of the live specials; NXT ArRIVAL and the 3 Takeovers have delivered in full spades.
Go find the Sami Zayn-Cesaro 2 out of 3 falls match from 2013. Holy cow what a match.
How about Zayn/Cesaro at NXT ArRIVAL? Both matches were Match Of The Year quality easily.
Adrian Neville ending Bo Dallas' NXT title reign. After months of lucky wins led to the hated Dallas becoming the longest reigning NXT champion, his luck finally ran out at NXT ArRIVAL in a ladder match.
On the September 8 2014 edition of RAW, the fans were treated to an impromptu tag match of Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd against Sami Zayn and NXT champion Adrian Neville. These four guys proceeded to steal the freaking show, considering:
Most mainstream WWE fans aren't automatically aware of NXT's players.
This was the notorious "Jerry Springer and the Bella Twins" RAW, which essentially killed the crowd dead.
They were promoting the WWE Network-only PPV "NXT: Takeover II," so the stakes were obscenely high.
Finn Bálor's (AKA Fergal Devitt's) debut. Hideo Itami (KENTA) had already promised The Ascension that he would bring a friend after weeks of attempted one-on-two attacks that usually went against him. When Finn comes out, the crowd practically explodes... then Hideo and Finn proceed to SQUASH THE ASCENSION.
The crowd audio was actually dialed down so that the commentators could be heard over it, meaning that live it was even louder!
That YOU DONE MESSED UP NOW grin by Hideo before Finn's arrival!
Takeover 3: R-Evolution was quite possibly not only the most awesome wrestling event of 2014, but a potential watershed moment in the future history of WWE itself:
Before Takeover 3, Finn Bálor promised the Ascension that he'd bring something to their match that they'd never seen and boy, did he deliver. Balor's entrance began with dramatic lighting and pulsating beats, leading into his already-impressive hard metal music theme and the reveal on stage of the return of his Prince Devitt body paint tradition. This paint job resembled predatory teeth from his chin to the top of his chest, and accentuated his theatrical entrance to the point itdrew "holy shit" chants before he even started down the aisle and even had Konnor and Viktor noticeably reeling and contemplating their predicament at ringside. As the match itself went forward, Bálor had the entire crowd behind him and Itami, and they quickly began to overwhelm the Ascension with their speed, agility, and energy. Konnor and Viktor did take control of the action for a while, making sure to single out Itami because they knew they wanted nothing to do with Bálor, but once Hideo was able to get them off his back long enough to tag in Bálor, the flurry returned and pretty much never let up until Itami and Bálor decidedly finished the Ascension with simultaneously double foot stomps and pin covers. When you can thoroughly and convincingly freak out and overwhelm, first mentally, then physically, the very guys who've been doing exactly that to everyone else for the past year-plus, you are definitely the MAN in the yard.
The NXT Women's Championship match between former Beautiful Fierce FemalesSasha Banks and Charlotte at Takeover 3 was widely considered by fans to be one of the best women's matches for quite some time. Banks and Charlotte came in with loaded history and plenty of heat, and both proceeded to deliver in the ring, with Sasha's performance winning over many fans who had been skeptical of her abilities and Charlotte using her gymnastics background to display creativity in the ring that WWE Divas haven't been allowed to show in years. In the end, Charlotte would win this surefire candidate for any Women's Match of the Year poll with what could best be called a Super Natural Selection.
The finale to Sami Zayn's incredible series of matches with Adrian Neville throughout 2014 for Neville's NXT Championship, culminating in Sami finally beating Neville for the title. First, let's paint the picture: Zayn and Neville, close friends since the days of Generico and PAC, faced each other for the gold several times throughout the year, throwing all they had at each other every single time, showcasing the talent and passion that has gained them the respect of the independent wrestling world. Each time, Neville would take a shortcut or capitalize on a lowered guard in order to retain his title. Between frustrations and redemption match series and constant pestering from Neville about how he lacks the pragmatism to be champion, Sami reached a boiling point before Takeover 3, shoved Neville's respect into the backburner, and declared that if he couldn't beat Neville at the event he would quit NXT.
The Takeover 3 finale, despite being preceded with the crowd turning against Neville for his antics against the ultra-popular Zayn, was yet another display of why these two are among the very best in wrestling today, both hitting each other with amazing impact moves and scoring multiple near-falls—until Neville pulled the referee in the way of a corner attack. From there, Zayn had an opportunity to strike Neville with his title belt, and appeared super tempted to do it, but ultimately stuck to his morals and decided not to take the shot. Neville, having recovered, took advantage for a roll-up from behind, but Zayn was able to kick out, Exploder-suplex Adrian into the corner, then finally nail him with the Helluva Kick, pin him for the three-count, and obtain the NXT Championship. Finally vindicated, Zayn would celebrate his championship win heartily with the fans as well as pretty much every babyface in the NXT locker room, all overjoyed at Sami's accomplishment and the awesome match it took place in, with the most fitting theme music ever played for a celebration on NXT in the background. Neville, after convalescing in the corner for five minutes, was helped up by Pat Patterson, then had a staredown with Sami as the music stopped. Zayn stuck his hand out to an angry-looking Neville, who eventually kicked the leg away…only to insteadembrace Sami and raise his arm in respect.
The whole thing is a Moment Of Awesome not just for Zayn and Neville as wrestlers and performers, but for the NXT creative department's construction of their characters through this angle as overseen by Triple H and Dusty Rhodes. They managed to construct an epic, dramatic feud between a Combat Pragmatist and a consummate Face practically made of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, where the pure guy's quest to beat the pragmatic guy follows a condensed versionnote in terms of both time allotted and characters involved of a standard shonen series arc, with the two players involved being friends the entire time and remaining as such in the end without it taking away from either the seriousness or the believability of it all. A top-level wrestling storyline that's a) centered around the wrestling, b) fresh in its juxtaposition of friendship and rivalry between competitors, and c) legitimately heartwarming and awesome on every level? Talk about a combination not seen in a million years!
The above moment is cut short and replaced with another, different kind of awesome moment at the very end of the show, when NXT newcomer Kevin Owens, a longtime friend and rival of Sami's, returned to the ring after everyone else left, offering to help Zayn to the back…only to suddenly take him down with a harsh STO type move on the ramp, then viciously powerbomb him back-first into the edge of the ring apron. Within the kayfabe it's a despicable betrayal, especially given the stretcher spot, but this is particularly awesome for those who recall the days of Kevin Steen in Ring of Honor as the Antichrist of Professional Wrestling, as well as the heated feud which stemmed from Steen's violent betrayal of El Generico. We're getting Kill Steen Kill, Take 2. On NXT.
How popular was Takeover 3? Well, first off, after it aired, the wrestling section of Reddit actually sent Triple H a fruit basket as a thank you gift for it. Think that through, internet wrestling fans sent notorious Base BreakerTriple H a token of their thanks. This is extra notable in light of the fact that this was just weeks off of CM Punk's incredibly shocking tell-all session on his best friend Colt Cabana's podcast which took over the wrestling world and painted a VERY torrid spotlight on WWE and especially Triple H. This show singlehandedly won him back all the goodwill that he'd lost in the eyes of the fans and the younger talent and then some.
Furthermore, only days later the main roster held a pay-per-view called TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs…and Stairs which found itself widely panned as inferior to Takeover 3 in every way, with only Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler's opening ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship and Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose's main event TLC match even coming close to the acclaim of Takeover 3. Reports started coming in that main roster talent were becoming resentful of the fact that they weren't getting the booking that NXT guys were or the associated accolades, and that some of the wrestlers at TLC phoned in their matches in a form of "silent protest" in favor of Triple H, knowing they wouldn't be able to match the NXT special's quality. At the same time, NXT wrestlers have begun to feel like they've got the must-see product and should be getting paid on the level of the main roster.
Between Takeover 3 and TLC bringing the programming discrepancy between the two rosters to the forefront, Vince McMahon's remarks during his appearance on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's podcast in the week following Punk's exposé, and the well-documented monetary troubles of the WWE Network, we now have a groundswell in the company where a wide range of folks, from fans to superstars to company investors, are wanting to see Vince McMahon and executive producer Kevin Dunn ousted from power—preferably in favor of TRIPLE H.