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31 Days of Wrestling (12/12/18): King In The North (America)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

The NXT North American Championship couldn’t have debuted at a better time. In a stacked roster full of heavy hitters and main event stars, a second singles title had to be introduced for these talented individuals to covet and this was it. A champion was set to be crowned at NXT Takeover: New Orleans.



Of course, this match would not be contested under any normal circumstances, no sir. The first-ever NXT North American title match would be held under a most befitting stipulation, a ladder match. A ladder match which involved six highly talented and sought after competitors—two of whom would be making their debut match on this show. 

To be honest, the storyline itself had almost little to no backstory. With all six men just wanting to get their hands on this newly-introduced beautiful brown belt, that was all this match needed to get everybody hooked—as everybody knows, these superstars were the new generation of NXT. These superstars just needed to showcase their skills to impress everybody in what was NXT’s contribution to Wrestlemania weekend. 


So with that in mind, let’s look at how each competitor fit in this extraordinary match. 

First, Lars Sullivan: if you had to be scared of one person in this match, then it was Lars. Lars may have had a limited skill set in terms of technical experience, but his menacing look more than made up for anything he lacked. He brought to the table the flat-out destruction that he was meant to bring to the match. His most memorable spot in the match would be a face-off between fellow hoss Killian Dain. 

Speaking of Killian Dain, If you thought Eric Young was the lone star of SAnitY, then you were damn wrong. Sure, Young had the most experience and star power, but Dain was a superstar who was waiting for his chance to shine in the spotlight. Of course, shine he did as he would decimate each of his opponents in convincing fashion. For such a big man, he could move like the wind. While he did lose the match, he more than made up for it by showing that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Now, on to EC3. This was EC3’s first match in NXT (excluding his stint as Derrick Bateman.) To debut in such a high profile match meant a lot and it truly allowed EC3 to reintroduce and reinsert himself in the WWE universe as a massive star deserving of a future main roster push. He would use his charismatic demeanor in a spot where he mocked eventual winner Adam Cole’s catchphrase by mouthing of “E-C-3 Baybay.” EC3 had arrived in NXT and the crowd ate it up. Say what you will about the guy, but he is definitely main roster-worthy.

As for the Velveteen Dream, this match was just icing on the cake. If you didn’t think Dream was a star before this match, then consider him the real deal after watching. The Dream sacrificed his body a lot in this match (which wasn’t necessarily a good thing), but it proved to the NXT Universe that he was willing to do what it takes to get his gold. This would prove to be his undoing, however, it would gain him the adoration of the fans in turn.

With much hype surrounding his eventual debut, Ricochet finally made his first appearance in the company via this match. Seriously, if someone was made specifically for this match, then it was “The One and Only” Ricochet. A match which could have very well made his name in NXT as the whole match was a highlight reel of his talents. If I was a betting man, I would’ve bet on him to win the first ever NXT North American Champion. But, alas, it was not meant to be. That honor would go to the final competitor in the match, Adam Cole. 

Adam Cole (Bay-Bay!) had debuted in NXT less than a year before this event and right off the bat he would, from the group’s own words, shock the system. While most people expected the Undisputed Era to interfere and help Cole win this match, they were shockingly absent (Fish was injured, O’Reilly had a match later on). This was actually a good decision as to not oversaturate the match and just let everybody get their spots in. The dastardly Cole played his smarmy heel persona well, with him eventually stealing the victory from an unsuspecting Ricochet by pushing the ladder and grabbing the title. Adam Cole became our first ever NXT North American Champion and he was deserving of this honor.

With such a mix of competitors in such a high-profile match, even with the short build-up, this match will forever be remembered by everybody. This was a match that served as a “Thank You” to all of the NXT Universe. A true showcase of the stars and the future of NXT, the whole NXT landscape essentially changed just from this match alone, as all six competitors would go on and continue to be pillars of the brand, with some even making the move to the main roster.


***
31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

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