For a while it now, it’s felt like there’s more excitement and hype surrounding an upcoming NXT Takeover event than there is for WWE Pay Per Views. Even during the lead up to WrestleMania there were more fans talking about how Takeover: Dallas was going to be a better show than the Showcase of the Immortals. A big reason for that is because no matter what event it is or who is on the card, you’re guaranteed to see something new from someone. During a main WWE PPV you can sometimes guess move for move, spot for spot what’s going to happen throughout the night. In fact there are few things on this planet more predictable these days than your standard “B” level WWE Event, whereas in NXT things are the complete opposite.
Even when the predictable does happen in NXT, like when Nakamura beat Sami Zayn, it’s just an instance of NXT using their surprise early. If you avoided spoilers you had no idea weeks before the event who Zayn would be facing and Nakamura would’ve been somewhere down near the bottom of any list you could come up with. It’s those shocking moments that make fans want to come back for more, it’s those type of moments that have slowly but surely been pushing NXT closer and closer to the top.
While the main roster events will always have more prestige and better pay than NXT Takeover events, NXT is where you have to be if you really want to stand out. Would Sami Zayn be where he is without his five star matches against Cesaro and his Road to Redemption story? Could Charlotte have won the WWE Women’s Title so quickly after debuting if she didn’t prove herself time and time again in the title scene at NXT? Would fans be chanting “We Want Sasha!” during every women’s match if she didn’t spend time putting on classics down in Florida? The WWE needs NXT because it not only creates Superstars, it creates insane moments that leave fans talking for weeks after the event and makes everyone remember their name.
26. Alexa Bliss Turns Heel
If ever there was someone that fans thought would never turn heel (outside of John Cena of course) it was the glitter throwing twinkle princess of NXT, Alexa Bliss. Everything from her look to her gimmick screamed baby face in a way that no other character did, but clearly she wanted more than that had to offer. With Blake and Murphy on the ropes in their title defense against the ever popular Enzo and Cass, Alexa Bliss made her presence known to help the champs hang onto their gold for yet another day.
25. Balor Sends Neville Through Barricade
A tournament to determine a new number one contender for the NXT Title came down to two breathtaking Superstars, Finn Balor and Neville. With two guys that are capable of doing anything and everything inside the squared circle, you knew there was something coming that would leave everyone speechless, but that moment actually came outside of the ring. Balor was desperate to gain the upper hand when the action spilled to the outside. Neville was stunned near the barricade when The Demon struck, sending his British counterpart flying with a hellacious running drop kick.
24. Balor Dives Off Entrance Stage onto Breeze
Finn Balor made quite the name for himself around the world as Prince Devitt, but since arriving in NXT, he’s done everything possible to make sure everyone’s going to remember the name Finn Balor as well. From the moment he arrived in Florida, Finn has been accepted by the NXT Universe and has shown that he respects them back by pulling off some of the most incredible stunts in NXT history. While his most well known stunt is coming up a little bit later, let’s not forget this vastly underrated maneuver he pulled off in a match up against Tyler Breeze at Takeover: Unstoppable. With both men scrapping and clawing all over the building, Balor managed to get ahead in the situation by taking a leap of faith of sorts onto his admittedly gorgeous opponent.
23. Breeze Makes NYC Fashion Entrance
Of course, when you’re trying to make a list of the most insane moments in Takeover history, Tyler Breeze has to make his way onto it somehow and his antics before his match against Jushin Liger at Takeover: Brooklyn are his golden ticket in this case. While his entrance has always been a bit over the top, Breeze took things to a whole other level now that he had the proper audience. Tyler took his usual runway gimmick to the extreme when various models started pouring onto the entrance ramp wearing the most ridiculous New York City themed outfits you could possibly imagine before the man himself came out to take selfies with all of them. And he wrestled a match against a bonafide legend too.
22. American Alpha Captures Titles
These days, there are no Superstars left in NXT who have as genuine a connection to the crowd as American Alpha. Not only are Chad Gable and Jason Jordan elite in ring talents but both of them, especially Gable, give off such a likable charm that it’s almost impossible to not root for the team. It didn’t take long for the crowd and management to take notice of these two, as their rise to the top was much quicker than most and for good reason. Week by week their cheers were getting louder and louder, crowds were getting more behind the amateur duo, and the guys in charge were becoming more ready, willing, and gable to give them a push. When their moment in the sun finally came at Takeover: Dallas, defeating The Revival for the tag titles, they got one of the biggest pops of the night, capping off an insane run to the top of the division.
21. Asuka Conquers Bayley
Ever since her debut, it’s hard to argue that anyone in NXT, or the WWE as a whole, has been booked to be as dominant as Asuka has been over the NXT Women’s Division. After coming in and laying waste to the duo of Emma and Dana Brooke, it was time for Asuka to set her sights at the top, going after Bayley and her championship. Asuka’s aura is enough to send some opponents running in the opposite direction, but we all know Bayley isn’t the type to take her ball and go home. The defending champ was ready to go down swinging in this contest and that’s exactly what she did as Asuka’s insane dominance of NXT continued.
20. Kevin Owens Debuts
For years, there wasn’t a hotter wrestler on the independent scene than “Mr. Wrestling” himself, Kevin Steen. Whether you watched him work in the ring or just followed his “Weekend Escapade” series on YouTube (which is highly worth a watch if you can find it) you couldn’t help but fall in love with the portly Canadian. His seemingly out of shape body helped him connect with the fans, but that same body was what many figured to be what kept him from stepping foot into a WWE ring for the roughly 15 years that Kevin was practicing his craft. Many thought the day would never come for the former Mr. Steen, but luckily for all of us, Kevin got the call and he’s been blessing us with his presence ever since.
19. Zayn Dives Into Uppercut
It seems rather fitting that a move that would become synonymous with Sami Zayn would first be seen by the WWE Universe during the first match on the first ever NXT TakeOver special during a fantastic match against Cesaro. Zayn was out to prove that he belonged with the big dogs in the WWE and was more than willing to pull whatever trick he thought necessary out of his seemingly endless bag of tricks. In an attempt to catch The Swiss Superman off guard, Sami got a running start on the outside before diving through the turnbuckles towards his opponent, only to get rocked straight in the mouth with a devastating European uppercut.
18. Sasha Banks Wins Women’s Title
For a seemingly infinite amount of time, Charlotte was the top dog of the Women’s Division in NXT, touting her genetic superiority and unrivaled athletic ability while the fans were begging for anyone to be able to knock her off her high horse (sound familiar?). From Natayla, to Bayley, to Becky Lynch it seemed like there was no one that was going to be able to knock Charlotte from the top of the mountain, even though there was one particular lady that everyone was hoping would do it, The Boss. After Sasha Banks failed to win the title in a one on one contest, the whole situation came to a head in a Fatal Four Way bout for the championship with Charlotte defending against Banks, Bayley, and Lynch. In a moment many fans were dying to see, Banks finally made The Queen tap out in the middle of the ring and became the new boss in charge of the NXT Women’s Division.
17. Banks Breaks Videoboard with Bayley
Sasha Banks and Bayley were in a tough spot going into their re-match from Brooklyn, as how could they possibly live up to what many called the Match of the Year? In an attempt to not only live up to, but surpass their first encounter, the two met in an Iron Woman Match with a thirty minute time limit to truly determine the best female wrestler in NXT. After Bayley took the first fall, Banks decided it was time to do whatever was necessary to get back into the contest. The pair battled briefly on the outside, working their way up the ramp where Sasha saw a chance to take over the match. Where most people saw a giant video board counting down the time remaining in their contest, Banks saw a weapon and hurled Bayley into it with enough force to “knock out” the video feed.
16. Zayn Gets Powerbombed on Apron
Following their encounter that left Sami Zayn laying in a helpless heap in the middle of the ring, everyone was looking forward to seeing a new fire in Sami against Owens during their match at Takeover: ReEvolution. Right from the opening bell, he wasn’t looking to disappoint, Zayn came out firing on all cylinders, rocking Kevin Owens with a vicious flurry leaving the defending champion reeling. Sami took Owens all over the building to inflict damage on his heated rival, but with an opponent like KO, it only takes one second for everything to change. Kevin took his opportunity and delivered a devastating powerbomb onto the ring apron that proved to be the beginning of the end for the Underdog from the Underground.
15. Coup De Gras From Top Of Ladder
Following the Beast in the East special, Kevin Owens was no longer sitting atop the NXT Mountain as he was knocked off by Finn Balor at the special event. Even though Owens was pulling double duty on the main roster and NXT at this point, he wasn’t about to just give up on the spot that he felt like was truly his for life. The bad blood between these two kept growing more intense week after week, so it was decided the only way to really finish off the feud between these two would be with a ladder match to close out the Brooklyn show. In what would prove to be KO’s final match in NXT, Balor made sure to send him off in style, nailing a huge Coup De Gras from the top of the ladder to seal his victory.
14. Too Cool Challenges The Ascension
There’s nothing quite like a rush of nostalgia, even at as an exciting of a show as NXT generally puts on. The Ascension were smack dab in the middle of their dominating run atop of the tag division down in Florida and were fresh out of challengers for the first Network Special, so they decided an open challenge would be the best way to spend their evening. Much to everyone’s surprise, the challenge was answered not by a couple youngsters in the back waiting for their opportunity to strike, but by multiple time tag team champions Too Cool!
13. Musclebuster From the Second Rope
Nobody can withstand the musclebuster from the top of the cage. What a title defense by Samoa Joe. What a match! pic.twitter.com/0MQ0ncdyCQ
— DJRandyStaySharp (@DJRandyBeCoolin) June 9, 2016
Finn Balor and Samoa Joe recently wrapped up one of the most intense feuds in NXT history, which led to many insane moments throughout their various matches at Takeover Specials. No moment summed up their rivalry better than what Joe pulled out in the first cage match in NXT history though. The two combatants threw everything they had at each other, letting their hatred seep through the screen so all the fans at home could feel just how much it meant to each of them. It all came to a head as Balor thought he had Joe down for the count, attempting to head over the top of the cage and become the first ever two time NXT Champion, only for Samoa Joe to come to his senses and grab Finn at the last second. Joe managed to not only keep Balor from escaping, but pulled him straight down into a crippling musclebuster from the second rope that put an exclamation point on the whole feud.
12. KENTA Debuts
The first major coup the WWE pulled in Japan was somehow convincing world famous star KENTA to come across the ocean and join their ranks. In what was truly a ‘you have to see it to belive it’ moment, William Regal came out to the ring to make an announcement in the middle of the NXT Special, something that fans usually look down on as a way to kill time when the company has nothing better to do, in order to formally introduce NXT’s newest signee. KENTA was quick to make an impression as well as he announced his new ring name, Hideo Itami of course, followed by calmly and collectively taking care of former tag team champions The Ascension on his own.
11. Jushin Liger In A WWE Ring
Jushin Liger is to the WWE Universe as dragons are to Game of Thrones, a mythical legend believed by the few left that have seen them but mainly disregarded by the masses as being off in a faraway land and never a threat to the current state of being. Just like George R.R. Martin’s, the WWE Universe was rocked by the arrival of the legendary creature, thinking it was something that we would never see in our lifetimes. Yet on that fateful night in Brooklyn, Jushin “Thunder” Liger didn’t just finally stepped foot into a WWE ring but he proved that whatever mythos he carried with him was well deserved. Despite his age, Liger was moving with Breeze step for step showing that this thing of the past is more than capable of catching up to the future.
10. Lucha Dragons Knock Off The Ascension
For what seemed like years, The Ascension were the top dogs in the NXT Tag Division, not just beating opponents that were put in the ring with them but thoroughly decimating them, it seemed like no team in the locker room ever had a chance. With a reputation like that, it’s no wonder that few people gave The Lucha Dragons even the slightest chance of walking away with gold, especially considering the size difference between the massive members of The Ascension and the diminutive Lucha Dragons. Unfortunately for the defending champions however, size isn’t everything as the speed and heart of Sin Cara and Kalisto proved to just barely be enough to shockingly stop the dominant reign of The Ascension.
9. Neville Hits Red Arrow Onto Ladder
The main event of the first NXT Special had to be something spectacular, and what better way to guarantee that than taking everyone’s favorite inspiration Bo Dallas, against the other worldly high flyer Adrian Neville in a ladder match for the NXT Title? Both stars showed their determination to be the ones who steal the show, but it’s the move that put the defending champ away for good that left everyone talking the next day. With Neville backed up against in the corner, Dallas saw the chance to keep his gold in tact but the quickness of the British Superstar came into play as he was able to dodge Bo’s attack leaving him prone on top of a ladder. One breath taking Red Arrow later and Neville had finally secured the title from Dallas.
8. Bayley Hits Avalanche Reverse Frankensteiner
There’s not much more that can be said for the match up that Bayley and Sasha Banks managed to put together on their fateful night in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an insane moment or two sprinkled throughout the contest. While Bayley taking a bit of a header off of the tope rope was certainly an insane and terrifying moment, the one that takes the cake has got to be her top rope reverse Frankensteiner she hit on Sasha Banks. It’s a move that even the most experienced high fliers must get nervous over trying to pull off but Bayley did it, showing her heart and dedication to everyone watching and proving how much winning that title meant to her.
7. Samoa Joe Debuts
It seemed as if there was no one backstage that was willing to get in the way of Kevin Owens as he continued his beat down on Sami Zayn, long after he proved whatever twisted point he was trying to make. Owens kept coming and coming for Zayn no matter how many officials or authority figures were trying to get in his way, that is until an unfamiliar song started playing over the loud speaker. While there were rumors leading up to the event, it was still something that had to be seen to be believed, as one of the most prominent members of the enemy roster for nearly a decade had finally arrived at NXT. Coming out to put an end to Owens’ assault was none other than The Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe.
6. Balor’s First Demon Entrance
The wrestling world was abuzz when it was announced that the man formerly known as Prince Devitt would be making his way to NXT, but some were worried about what would happen to him fearing that the WWE would neuter his body paint and over the top entrances but those fears were quickly squashed. After debuting alongside Hideo Itami to help take out The Ascension, the time finally came for him to make his in ring debut during an NXT Special. Fans expecting to see Finn Balor may have been slightly disappointed because as soon as his music hit, it was clear that he wasn’t the one coming through the curtain, it was The Demon instead.
5. Kevin Owens Knocks Out Sami Zayn For The Title
Best friends turned bitter enemies was the story heading into this title bout which generally leads to a drag down, knock out brawl with both guys laying it all on the line to try and exact revenge against their former brother. Kevin Owens, however, had something entirely different in mind when he started his punishment on the former El Generico. Zayn fought valiantly, as you would expect from the defending NXT Champion, but the power and aggression of his fierce challenger was just too much to handle. Powerbomb followed powerbomb followed powerbomb and on and on it went until shockingly the ref and medical staff had to step in on Zayn’s behalf and put an end to the bout.
4. Sami Zayn Finally Wins Gold
The journey to the top for Sami Zayn was about as far from a smooth ride as you could possibly imagine. Sami suffered marquee loss after loss in his struggle to show everyone that he was more than just a lovable good guy with a never say die attitude, he wanted to prove that he was there to win. In what was dubbed “The Road to Redemption” for Zayn, he re-visited most of his past opponents that he could seemingly never get the best of but managed to turn things around this time. Zayn picked up big win after big win getting more and more of the crowd on his side with everyone count of 1, 2, 3. When the time finally came for Sami to ascend to the top of the mountain, the ovation he received from the NXT faithful showed just how much his journey meant to every single one of them. Unfortunately the moment in the sun wouldn’t last long…
3. Kevin Owens Attacks Sami Zayn
After Sami Zayn’s long road to the top, it didn’t take very long for it to all come crashing back down to Earth. For weeks, the NXT announcers were playing up the friendship between Zayn and Kevin Owens, so it was no surprise that Owens was the first man in the ring to give his friend a bear hug. It all seemed so perfect at the time, as the two life long friends were celebrating their decade plus journey to make it in the big leagues with one not just surviving but thriving. That’s when the real Kevin Owens came out to play though. When the two were finally getting out of the ring to head to the back, Kevin turned and in the blink of an eye left Sami out cold.
2. Bayley’s Title Celebration
There’s nothing better in wrestling than seeing the emotion pour out of someone who had worked their entire life up to that point to achieve one specific goal finally get to where they wanted to be and be able to sit back and drink it all in for just a minute. The best example we can think of, and not just in Takeover history but right up there with Shawn Michaels in WWE History, was when after months and months of coming up short Bayley finally was able to capture the NXT Women’s Championship. As soon as the ref counted threem you could see the emotion in her face and it wasn’t long after that, when her fellow Four Horsewoman came out to congratulate her, where you could see how much her journey meant to everyone else as well.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura In a WWE Ring
For years, the biggest complaint lobbied against Vince McMahon and the WWE as a whole has been their unwillingness to change. Whether it’s been keeping Cena at the top for over a decade or, in the more general term, continuing to sign and push big muscle heads who can barely even walk let alone wrestle. Finally NXT, under Triple H’s control mind you, has started to buck that trend and has been bringing in the best in the world no matter their physique. They’ve brought in Sami Zayn, Hideo Itami, Adrian Neville, Finn Balor, and Kevin Owens, despite none of them having the ideal physical attributes that WWE usually demands but they all pale in comparison to the most recent signee. Shinsuke Nakamura may not be built like your traditional superstar but make no mistake, he’s the definition of a main eventer. He can draw in crowds with his other worldly charisma and keep them engaged with his phenomenal in ring work. The moment that Nakamura finally entered a WWE ring, to a deafening reaction I may add, could go down in history as the day that forever changed the landscape of WWE.
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