The Full Series:
Here on the cusp of Takeover XXV, let us now find out what I have chosen as the top 5 matches in NXT Takeover history.
5. Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn (Takeover: R-Evolution)
During the early days of NXT, it was pretty clear that the darling of that brand was Sami Zayn as he was one of the most popular on the roster though he had a stigma about him that he couldn’t win the big one. He had come so close on many occasions to becoming the NXT Champion, but would also end up on the losing end and the fans were clamoring to finally see him win the title. Following what happened at Fatal 4-Way, Zayn worked his way back up and earned a title shot against Neville, but Neville managed to get the win after feigning an injury and surprising Zayn. As a result of this, Zayn had reached his breaking point and demanded one more shot at Neville, even going as far to put his career on the line if he couldn’t win the title. The stage had been set and the crowd was at a fever pitch to see if Zayn could finally become champion or if he would be leaving NXT, and they still showed a lot of respect to Neville who has had a great reign as champion to this point. The match was a 23-minute masterpiece as both men went all out and put on an incredible match, and they brought the best out of each other and had tremendous chemistry with each other. The crowd was on the edge of their seats for the whole match and got faked out so many times, and there were several times you thought Neville would retain and Zayn would be gone. A key point in the match is the title being brought into the ring and Zayn debating whether to use it or not, but he hesitates too long and Neville almost takes advantage though Zayn is able to kick out. In the end, Zayn finally takes Neville out with a Helluva Kick which gets him the three and he becomes the new champion, and the pop he gets when he wins is one of the biggest in NXT history to that point. The ending is great as well as the locker room empties out and celebrates Zayn’s win as Neville embraces him out of respect, but the celebrating is short lived when Zayn’s best friend Kevin Owens turns on him and injures him in a shocker. This was a complete package and arguably the first epic match in NXT history, and because of that it is more than deserving to be in the top 5 of the greatest matches in Takeover history.
4. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Takeover: Dallas)
The beginning of 2016 was a pretty exciting time for the WWE as A.J. Styles had made his long awaited debut back at the Royal Rumble, and now as we head into the first Takeover of the year it was announced that Shinsuke Nakamura was going to be signing with NXT. This was a huge signing for the company and even more exciting for fans is that Nakamura’s opponent for Dallas would be the heart and soul of NXT, Sami Zayn. Zayn had come back from an injury in January and was preparing for his transition to the main roster, and he was even set to compete at Wrestlemania in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. But before that, he comes to Dallas for his final appearance in an NXT ring against the newest star of the brand as he was looking to defend his turf. Nakamura already had a star presence about him as he made his way to the ring and Zayn gets the big pop from the crowd as he usually gets, and the buzz from the crowd was at an all-time high as the two men stared each other down. What followed was 20 minutes of some of the greatest in-ring action that had been seen to that point, and both men got to showcase their skills to the crowd and put on an amazing match. This was a great way to show those who were not familiar with Nakamura what he was capable of while also giving Zayn another amazing match under his belt, and there were plenty of hot stretches especially towards the ending. Both men went all out and unloaded everything they had to get the win, and in the end Nakamura delivered a pair of nasty Kinshasas which was finally enough to put Zayn down and he would win his debut match. After the match, Nakamura shows respect to Zayn and allows him to have his moment as the fans give Zayn a standing ovation and a great sendoff. This was just an incredible match and you would’ve thought that Nakamura was going to be a huge star following this, and the match was so epic that it more than deserves its spot at this point on the list.
3. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa (Takeover: New Orleans)
Back at Takeover: Chicago, the world saw the end of #DIY when Ciampa attacked Gargano after their match and left him laid out, but then Ciampa would hit the sidelines to deal with an injury to his leg. Gargano would look to get back on track and came close to winning the NXT Title in Philadelphia, but he was attacked by the returning Ciampa with a crutch. Gargano would get one more shot as Andrade Almas and the NXT Title as he put his career on the line as well, but thanks to Ciampa he would end up losing the match and his career was seemingly over. Ciampa would brag about Gargano’s career being over and constantly needled the crowd because of it, but Gargano refused to go away quietly as he attacked Ciampa whenever he could. As a result, an Unsanctioned match between the two was set for New Orleans with the added stipulation that Gargano would be re-instated if he won and he would leave for good if he lost. It was a big show of faith to give them the main event spot after what had been a red hot show to this point, and the crowd was ready as they sound like they want to lynch Ciampa and they pop huge for Gargano. As expected, the match is a tremendous brawl as both men just beat the crap out of each other for 37 minutes, and Ciampa does everything he can to finish Gargano off and Gargano is able to survive the constant onslaught. The crowd was on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the match and were totally behind Gargano, and were completely antsy whenever they thought Ciampa would win. Eventually, Gargano is able to rip the knee brace off of Ciampa and looks to use the crutch on him, but Ciampa begs off and makes like he is repentant for his actions. Gargano is unable to use the crutch and sits down next to him in a scene reminiscent of the end of their match in the Cruiserweight Classic, and Ciampa tries to take advantage with the brace only for Gargano to avoid it by hooking a submission and he uses the brace for leverage which leads Ciampa to tap out and Gargano regains his job. This was just an amazing effort by both men who you knew would have great chemistry and they would put on a fantastic match, and even though Gargano got the win and his job back you knew that this issue was not going to end here and they were destined to continue feuding. With everything surrounding this match, there is no doubt that this ranks up as one of the greatest matches in Takeover history and deserves its spot here in the top 3.
2. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (Takeover: Brooklyn)
In 2015, a revolution was beginning to form for the women of WWE who were tired of being overlooked and not taken seriously, and the fans seemed to agree as they were wanting to see the women be treated more fairly. Unbeknownst to most fans, the revolution was forming its foundations in NXT thanks to a group called the Four Horsewomen consisting of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley. These four women were constantly putting on really good matches throughout the last two years and many considered them among the best workers in the company. To most, it looked like Bayley was also considered the fourth member of the group behind the other three, and this was only furthered when Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky were brought up to the main roster while Bayley was left behind in NXT. This would lead to a match between Bayley and then-NXT Women’s Champion Banks which would take place at the first Takeover to take place outside of Full Sail. The build was really good as Bayley looked to prove that she could stand toe-to-toe with the woman known as the Boss, and Sasha would continuously taunt Bayley that she wasn’t on her level. It was clear that this was one of the most highly anticipated matches on the show and both women were looking to steal the show, and Bayley got a huge pop from the crowd as she was the beloved underdog and Sasha had a great entrance befitting her. Now prior to this match, the match between Banks and Becky Lynch back at Unstoppable was well received and considered the best women’s match in a long time. But on this night in Brooklyn, Bayley and Banks went out to steal the show and they did just that as they put on arguably one of the greatest matches in not just NXT history, but WWE history. The action was tremendous as Banks did what she could to keep Bayley down and Bayley continued to battle back while refusing to quit, and they did everything they could to get the win and become champion. In the end, Bayley unleashed a reverse hurricanrana off the top rope on Banks in what could’ve been a real scary moment, and one Bayley-to-belly later Bayley had finally realized her dream and became Women’s Champion. As if the match itself wasn’t enough, what happened afterwards was just as memorable as Charlotte and Lynch came out to celebrate and the Four Horsewomen gave their final sendoff to the NXT crowd while also passing the torch of the division to Bayley. There is no question that this match still holds up today as one of the greatest in NXT history and many would probably have it as the greatest, and I nearly put it at #1 though there was only one match that just surpassed it. But that shouldn’t be an indictment on the match as it is still an epic match and deserves to be listed as my second greatest match in NXT Takeover history.
And now ladies and gentleman, here is my choice for the Number One Match in NXT Takeover history:
- Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole (Takeover: New York)
It was supposed to be the ending of arguably one of the greatest feuds in NXT history, and it was supposed to see the new heart and soul of NXT finally take his place as the top dog of NXT. The feud between Gargano and Ciampa had taken a unique turn to the point that they had briefly reunited #DIY, and they even had begun competing on the main roster along with Aleister Black and Ricochet. After losing a tag match, Ciampa tried to pull a repeat of Chicago only for Gargano to anticipate it and he would leave Ciampa laid out instead, and it seemed like the two were destined for one more match at New York for the title. Unfortunately, Ciampa would end up being sidelinded with a neck injury and was forced to vacate the NXT Title, and it was announced that Gargano would face a different opponent in a 2-out-of-3 falls match. That opponent would end up being Cole who won a Fatal 5-Way to earn that spot, and the build turned from Gargano looking to end his issues with Ciampa to Gargano finally grabbing the brass ring while Cole claimed it was his destiny to become NXT Champion and bring that title to the Undisputed Era. Going into the match, it was pretty clear that Cole was considered the favorite and all signs pointed to him walking out of New York as champion with Gargano once again coming up just short on the big stage. The match would start out with a good slow build as Cole would end up winning the first fall and getting the edge early, but Gargano would not be deterred as he would manage to earn the second fall and the match would now come down to the third and deciding fall. The match then turned into a frenetic match as Cole did everything he could to keep Gargano down only for Gargano to keep battling back much to Cole’s frustration. Cole would even have the Undisputed Era get involved and it looked like he would steal the win, but Gargano would again stay alive and took out the UE before surviving another close pin attempt by Cole. Cole would taunt Gargano by saying that this was his moment, but Gargano would catch him in the Gargano Escape which would lead to Cole tapping out and Gargano would become the new NXT Champion. The match was an absolute masterpiece as both men went all out for the 38 minutes that they got and they put on a fantastic match. This was a great showcase for both guys as Cole looked really strong even in defeat, but it was clear that this was a star making match for Gargano as he overcomes all the odds and becomes the first Triple Crown champion in NXT history. The crowd dynamic was really interesting as they were split between both men and at times seemed to side with Cole, but they would side with Gargano down the home stretch and popped huge for him when he won. What happened after the match was memorable too as Gargano celebrated with his wife Candice LeRae, and then in a great moment Ciampa came out in a neck brace and embraced his friend which in essence turned him face and ended the epic feud between them. This was the perfect match all around between the action, the crowd, the story, and the ending, and there is no question that this is easily the greatest match in NXT Takeover history to this point.
There you have it, there are my top 25 matches in NXT Takeover history. As I mentioned, I will have the master list posted on the message board where you can leave your feedback regarding the list and also give your opinion on the greatest match in Takeover history. Thanks for reading and enjoy Takeover XXV as the next chapters in Takeover history are prepared to be written.