Skip to main content

#MustWatchMonday: One of the Best NXT Matches You'll Ever See

Before all the TakeOvers, before the Finn Balors, Hideo Itamis, Kevin Owenses, Apollo Crewses, and Samoa Joes dropped their bags off at Full Sail University, before Triple H made it his life's goal to turn NXT into something WWE fans can be proud of, there was early NXT.

Sure, NXT had been a reality show since 2010, the season that officially launched some of today's stars—whether they're still in the company or plying their trade elsewhere—but it become Florida Championship Wrestling's evolution in 2012, replacing the developmental territory's TV show.

You can say that this incarnation of NXT were its "Wild West" days; this was before Hunter started bringing in indy stars en masse, so the homegrown talents of FCW and, eventually, the Performance Center were still ruling the card. The indy stars were hyped talent, but they weren't automatically given big spots. NXT's biggest names at that point were Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kassius Ohno, Antonio Cesaro, and Adrian Neville.

By the middle of 2013, when the wrestler known as Sami Zayn entered NXT, Cesaro had been part of the main roster for a while now, the Shield had already formed, and Kassius Ohno was on the path out of the company. And because the homegrown developmental talent were still atop the roost, while Zayn would get shots at Bo Dallas's NXT Championship, he wouldn't be winning it for a while.

In his pursuit of the championship, he would get tangled in a feud with a visiting Cesaro that culminated in one of the best Two Out of Three Falls matches in the modern era:

NXT (and FCW before it) had a reputation of being host to great, underrated matches when indy talents were involved, but 2013 might have been the year it started to kick into full throttle. "[It was] practically the match that made NXT what it is today," remarks Jocs Boncodin, Smark Henry's resident NXT reviewer.

And the audacity—Cesaro and Zayn in a Two Out of Three Falls Match on a show that was supposed to be a farm league? The idea was largely unheard of at the time, and it was the freedom from Vince McMahon's nitpicky control that allowed Dusty Rhodes (and, even now, Triple H and whoever currently books NXT) to put on matches like these. (Spoiler: Cesaro won a fall with a simple headlock, and you never would have seen that on RAW.)

If you've never seen this before, just go watch it. You must watch it. If nothing else, the match was proof of something everyone knows: (good) hungry wrestlers will put on great shows. Cesaro and Zayn would add another sequel to their rivalry at the very first NXT special, NXT: Arrival. It was another great match, but nothing would ever be as bold as this meeting.

Photo from WWE

Trending This Week

#FinisherFriday (4/3/20): What Makes A Good Neckbreaker?

How WWE Wrestling Rings Are Made

The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania 36

#ThemeSongTuesday: #AndNEEEEEEEW

Reviewing the Elite (4/1/20): New Belt, New Tournament, New Enemies