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31 Days of Wrestling (12/12/15): Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens (NXT TakeOver: Rival)

Welcome Henrinites! Today on 31 Days of Wrestling, we take a look at how WWE took one of the biggest rivalries from the indy scene and made it their own.

#12: Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship, TakeOver: Rival

Under different names, Zayn and Owens have had their differences. Their careers are intricately linked to each other as they have always been partners or rivals in the indy scene. When Owens arrived at NXT on the same night Zayn finally won the NXT Championship, one thought it was only a matter of time before their rivalry resumed. Nobody thought it would start that very night.

This match cemented Owens’ place as one of the most dominant heels in NXT history while Zayn’s resilience was once again put to the forefront. The challenger took control of the match early on, grounding the defending champion with holds and impact moves. Zayn fought back and gained momentum, only to be stopped by an Owens determined to destroy his former friend. Five powerbombs sealed the deal and the Prize-fighter got the win via referee stoppage, and with that, the NXT Championship.

This was an important match this year because this encapsulates what the Reality Era could be. WWE acknowledged that history exists outside the company and built a story around it. The creative team did great work summarizing both guys’ history in a manageable size that even casual fans could appreciate it. What came out was a ready-made blood feud between two of the brightest young stars in the company that will fuel title scenes in the foreseeable future.

A few months after this match, both men’s careers went different ways. Owens went on to have a dominant 5-month reign as NXT Champion and moved on to wreak havoc on the main roster. Zayn, on the other hand, found himself in the injury reserved list and only recently returned to active duty during NXT’s current UK tour. Another meeting between the two former friends is inevitable, and once it does happen, we’ll be once again treated to a great match.

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#10: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 9
#11 Brock Lesnar vs. john Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Title at  Royal Rumble

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