The Full Series:
It’s time now for the penultimate edition of the list as we kick off my picks for the top 10 matches in NXT Takeover history.
10. The War Raiders, Pete Dunne, and Ricochet vs. the Undisputed Era (Takeover: WarGames II)
We have finally reached the top 10 and the ranking of these matches is becoming a lot more difficult, and it’s only going to get harder as we continue on towards the top of the list. After the success of the previous year, it was clear that WarGames was going to be a yearly thing for NXT and sure enough it would come back though this time they would revert back to the standard 4-on-4 dynamic that previous WarGames had. By the end of 2018, the Undisputed Era had established themselves as the dominant faction in NXT though they did have plenty of enemies, and four of them in the Raiders, Dunne, and Ricochet would ally together to face them in the double cage. The match would play out like a typical WarGames match where the UE had the advantage going into the match, and in a cool touch after Fish was released from his cage he would padlock Dunne in his cage and help the UE keep the advantage briefly. However, Dunne would finally be released from the cage and he would bring plenty of plunder into the double cage in the form of various weapons, and from there it was on as both teams beat the crap out of each other for the 47 minutes that they would given. We would see plenty of big spots throughout the whole match which peaked with the monster superplex involving 7 of the men, and then Ricochet upped the ante with an amazing double moonsault off the top of the cage onto everyone else. Both teams would unleash a flurry of finishers as they tried to be the last ones standing, and in the end Cole would fall victim to a Bitter End from Dunne and a Shooting Star Press from Ricochet which would lead to the win for Ricochet, Dunne, and the Raiders. I had debated between this match and Gargano/Ciampa from Chicago for the #10 spot, but in the end I went with this match as I thought that it was a phenomenal match and deserved to have a spot in the top 10.
9. Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne (Takeover: Chicago)
At the beginning of January 2017, a tournament was held to determine the inaugural champion for a new title belt dubbed the WWE United Kingdom Championship, and at the end of the day Tyler Bate pulled off a major upset over Pete Dunne to become the first champion. Bate would continue to defend the title against various opponents until Dunne became the Number One Contender, and it was announced they would face off at Chicago for the title. Now their previous match back in January was a really good match even after both men had competed twice previously and that was their third match, but now they had a brand new stage to showcase their skills to the crowd. What we ended up getting was a 15 minute match that was just unbelievable and both men put on a great effort as they were given a chance to show what they could do. There was a great dynamic in that you had Dunne who had slightly more experience than Bate, but Bate had the momentum going for him coming out of the tournament. Both men would pull out all the stops in this match and unleashed some big moves, and in the end Dunne would get some revenge for losing the tournament by getting the win and becoming the new champion. Little did anyone know that this would end up leading to one of the longest title reigns in WWE history as Dunne would go on to hold the title for 685 days. Bate would go on to form a team with Trent Seven known as Mustache Mountain, and they would have success by having a brief run as NXT Tag Team champions. This was a great launching pad for what would ultimately be the new NXT UK division, and as such it is deserving of a spot in the top 10 of all time matches.
8. Ricochet vs. Adam Cole vs. EC3 vs. Lars Sullivan vs. the Velveteen Dream vs. Killian Dain (Takeover: New Orleans)
Since NXT’s inception in 2012, there was always a constant of just three titles with the NXT Title, Women’s Title, and the Tag Team Title, and I had always wondered why another title wasn’t created given how deep the roster had gotten. On the surface, it would seem that a fourth title wouldn’t be necessary given the constant turnover on the roster, but as 2018 dawned it was pretty clear that a new title was needed to be introduced. As such, the North American Championship was unveiled and it was announced that 6 men would compete in a ladder match to crown a new champion. The 6 men involved in the match were a wide variety of talent from a high flyer in Ricochet to bruising power guys in Sullivan and Dain, and all 6 men looked to be worthy enough to be the inaugural champion. Given that this was going to be the opening match of the show, you knew that all 6 men were going to go all out and put on a classic ladder match which included Cole who was supposed to wrestle again later that night. Sure enough, all 6 men delivered an instant classic of a ladder match as they beat the crap out of each other with a variety of ladders and each man got a showcase to shine in the match. It was good seeing Dain and Sullivan use their power to dominate the other 4 competitors, and Dream and Cole also got plenty of shine with Dream hitting a big elbow off a ladder onto Sullivan in a great spot. Obviously, the star of the match was Ricochet as he got to show off his skills to the crowd and pulled out some big spots, but in the end he would get shoved off the ladder by Cole who would climb the ladder and become the inaugural North American Champion. This was a tremendous match and one of the greatest ladder matches in history, and as such it was more than deserving to be included in the top 10 of this list.
7. The Revival vs. #DIY (Takeover: Toronto)
As we come to the end of 2016, the tag division was on fire by this point in NXT as the feud between the Revival and #DIY was about to reach its breaking point. The two teams had a tremendous match back in Brooklyn with the Revival escaping with the win, and now #DIY will get one more chance at the titles and this time it will be a 2-out-of-3 falls match. Going in, the Revival were still the heavy favorites that they had defeated American Alpha in a 2-out-of-3 falls match earlier in the year and they also had the momentum riding from their win in Brooklyn. You could tell that the crowd was red hot for this match and they were hoping that #DIY would come away with the win and become the champions. We would end up getting a classic tag match as both teams went all out for the 22 minutes that they got, and they were wise to have the Revival get the first fall to give them confidence and put #DIY in the hole. The Revival would do everything they can do to win two straight and leave with the titles again, but instead #DIY manage to overcome them and win the second fall to even things up. Now, the desperation between both teams was beginning to show through as both teams emptied everything in their arsenal to get the third and final fall. Despite the best efforts of the Revival, #DIY would end up catching them in double submissions and they both would tap out which gave #DIY the third fall and the titles. It was a great feel good moment for #DIY to finally see them become champions and conquer the Revival, and things seemed to be looking up for them as they headed into 2017 though as we would see, things for #DIY ended up being very different. Ultimately, this was a fantastic match and ends up being the highest ranked tag match on the list where the tag division was heavily showcased which showed that NXT’s tag division was far superior to the main roster’s tag division.
6. Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano (Takeover: Philadelphia)
As 2018 started, one man that was at a crossroads in his career was Johnny Gargano as he had been betrayed by his best friend Tommaso Ciampa, and he spent the rest of the year struggling to find his footing as a singles star. On the flip side, Andrade Almas was on the rise as he had won the NXT Championship at WarGames from Drew McIntyre and was on arguably the biggest roll of his career. As we head into Philadelphia, Gargano was looking to finally reach the brass ring and become the top guy in NXT while Almas was looking to cement his title reign with a strong defense here. Gargano was the clear favorite of the crowd who were looking to see him get the win, and with the show being in Philadelphia they were going for a Rocky Balboa like vibe with Gargano. Obviously, these two still had really good chemistry from their previous matches in 2017 and they were able to build on those matches, and Almas had the extra factor of having Zelina Vega in his corner as she would get involved when she could to help her man. Gargano would refuse to lose and Almas was clearly frustrated which led Vega to get even more involved, but then Gargano’s wife Candice LeRae would go after Vega and thus make the playing field even once again. Both men continued to give everything they got and Gargano came close on several occasions to getting the win, but in the end Almas was able to overcome Gargano and retain the title. While the ending was a bit deflating for the fans who wanted to see Gargano win, it was a strong win for Almas as he had only won the title two months prior and was deserving of a decent run as champion. But as memorable and amazing as the match was, the aftermath was just as memorable as Ciampa made his return after being on the shelf with an injury and he would nail Gargano in the back with a crutch which would help renew the feud between the two that would dominate most of the year. This was an amazing match and a career-making match for both men, and as a result it is more than deserving to earn its spot in the top 10 though it doesn’t quite make the top 5 as those 5 matches were just slightly better.
That concludes part five and tomorrow we close out the list with the sixth and final part which will include the top 5 and the greatest match in NXT Takeover history.