There is no doubt that the WWE is the number one professional wrestling company in the world. Whether it be revenue, ticket sales, television numbers or merchandise purchases, the company is far and away the most profitable organization on the planet.
However, just because it generates millions of dollars, doesn’t mean fans aren’t sick of it. Poor booking, bland wrestlers and a stale product have had wrestling fans looking for different options to get their fill.
Fortunately for WWE COO Triple H, those fans didn’t have to stray too far away from the WWE product.
Originally starting out as a developmental territory, NXT quickly transformed into arguably one of the best programs out there. While it was first used to generate talent for the WWE, it now has various top wrestlers from around the world – and many have admitted that they’d rather stay in NXT than get called up to the main roster.
Sure, NXT has been gaining moment ever since the calendar turned to 2015. Due to exposure on the WWE Network, touring outside of Florida, bringing in notable names and having a great on screen product, NXT is now considered their own brand as opposed to developmental.
However, this was highlighted when Triple H decided to incorporate live specials on the WWE Network, known as the TakeOver series. Serving as a pay per view of sorts, the TakeOver specials that have taken place have truly embodied what NXT is all about – and it is obvious by what goes on in the ring during these shows.
Check out this countdown of the top 15 matches in NXT TakeOver history.
15. Finn Balor and Hideo Itami vs. The Ascension – R Evolution
In the grand scheme of NXT, the tag team match between Finn Balor, Hideo Itami and The Ascension at R Evolution didn’t mean anything. However, what it did was introduce the WWE audience to two talents who would carry the torch of NXT for 2015.
While Itami made his debut in September of 2014, he was constantly mocked and attacked by developmental’s top duo. At R Evolution, Itami brought out his mystery parter – Balor – and the two biggest signees showed everyone why they were so highly touted.
Whether it was their array of kicks, outside dives or showmanship, both Balor and Itami made it known that they were the future of NXT in their defeat of The Ascension.
14. Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews – London
Similar to that of Balor and Itami against The Ascension, the matchup of Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews at London didn’t blow any viewers away. However, the match did accomplish one very important thing: it made Corbin finally look like a main event heel.
When Corbin first joined NXT, many didn’t enjoy his character. While he certainly had an intimidating size and look, his in-ring ability left a lot to be desired. However, over the course of 2015, Corbin went from a possible afterthought to emerging star, which culminated at this event.
The hard hitting, trash talking style of Corbin was on full display and his surprising victory over Crews was a pleasant surprise.
13. Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze – Number One Contender’s Match – Unstoppable
The original plan for Unstoppable was to have a triple threat match to determine the number one contender for the NXT Championship. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury that Hideo Itami sustained removed him from the match, leaving it a one on one encounter between Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze. While last minute plans could hurt a match, the two great talents did a great job in shifting gears.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Balor and Breeze put on a fantastic match to open the special. Whether it was The Demon’s strong style or Prince Pretty’s kick heavy offense, the two meshed together extremely well. A back and forth near fall ending put this contest in the fantastic category, and the outcome made it obvious that Balor was the future of NXT.
12. Charlotte vs. Natalya – NXT Women’s Championship Match – TakeOver
What many consider the first step of making the women’s division credible was when Charlotte took on Natalya in the first ever TakeOver event.
In what was the finals for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship, the two athletes put on a match that was considered one of the best on WWE programming in 2014. Although Natalya didn’t get a chance on the main roster after this match, she looked like one of the best women’s wrestlers on the roster in defeat. As for Charlotte, her victory cemented her as not only the face of the NXT Women’s division, but also as the future of the WWE Divas division.
Not to mention, both Ric Flair (Charlotte’s father) and Bret Hart (Natalya’s uncle) accompanied the women at ringside. The added layer only gave the match more importance, and that was reflected throughout the corse of the bout.
11. Finn Balor and Samoa Joe vs. Dash and Dawson – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final – Respect
With the unfortunate passing of Dusty Rhodes, the NXT crew realized he had to be honored for everything he did for the promotion. Because of this, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic came to fruition. With everyone on the roster looking to wrestle for Rhodes, many odd ball teams were formed – including Finn Balor and Samoa Joe. With the semi-finals and finals taking place at Respect, the unlikely duo took on Dash and Dawson in the semi-final.
The four men bid adieu to throwback tag team wrestling; both Dash and Dawson methodically worked over Balor’s leg for the majority of the match, but Balor and Joe emerged victorious. While the match displayed growing tension between Balor and Joe, it also put The Mechanics on the map, as they left the tournament and became arguably the best team in NXT.
10. Baron Corbin and Rhyno vs. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final – Respect
The other semi-final match from the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic at Respect also finds its way onto this list. Following a very similar pattern from the one prior, the odd team of Baron Corbin and Rhyno took on the up-and-coming, uber athletic tag team of Chad Gable and Jason Jordon.
Both the match and what transpired in the weeks after made this a no brainer to add. Both Corbin and Rhyno worked over both Gable and Jordon hard. After a valiant comeback by the two youngsters, Corbin and Rhyno won, setting up a big time showdown for the final. However, just like Dash and Dawson came out looking like stars, so did Gable and Jordon. Already one of the most popular acts in NXT, the two men came out of this contest looking like two of the best wrestlers on the roster.
9. Asuka vs. Emma – London
With Asuka being the latest decorated independent star to sign onto NXT, fans were hoping to see what the hype was about. While she was impressive in her debut at Respect, she put her name into the hat for number one contenders for the NXT Women’s Championship at London.
This match wasn’t all about Asuka. Her opponent, Emma, was one of the best female talents on the NXT roster before being called up to the main roster. Unfortunately, a failed run on the big stage left her looking for answers back in developmental.
The two women had arguably the best match of the night. Asuka’s infectious charisma and stiff offense was a pleasant sight to see, while Emma’s all around talent was on full display. The continued attempts at a screwy finish with Asuka overcoming the odds told a great story, and both women walked away looking stellar.
8. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch – NXT Women’s Championship Match – Rival
At this time during the NXT product, it was blatantly obvious that there were no better female wrestlers than Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley. Whether it was a testament to coach Sara Del Ray, the women themselves or a combination of the two, this contest in no way, shape or form came off as what the WWE would consider a Diva’s match.
Instead, these four talented individuals put on a clinic as to what wrestling is all about. Suicide dives, submission holds, top rope slams and great storytelling were all on display with the Four Horsewomen in the ring. While this match helped put both Lynch and Bayley over, it cemented Banks as the best woman on the roster as she walked away with the belt.
7. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens – Ladder Match, NXT Championship – Brooklyn
This match was greatly overshadowed and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. However, the ladder match for the NXT Championship that Finn Balor and Kevin Owens put on at Brooklyn was one of the best main events in recent memory.
This was Balor’s first TakeOver match defending his championship, and he showcased why he is the champ. Owens also made the NXT Championship feel more important, as he was fighting for the prize despite being on the main roster.
Typical ladder matches on today’s WWE product get overshadowed by the use of chairs and tables in the contest. However, both Balor and Owens solely used to the ladder to perfection. The hard hitting match was capped off by a tremendous Coup de Grace from the top of the ladder onto Owens, cementing the victory.
6. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn – NXT Championship Match – Rival
After being signed along with Finn Balor and Hideo Itami, Kevin Owens made his debut at R Evolution. After a showcase contest against C.J. Parker, Owens quickly turned on both his best friend and the audience, as he attacked new NXT Champion Sami Zayn after the main event.
Because of their storied past on the independent circuit, the NXT Championship match between Owens and Zayn was highly anticipated. This match was hard to predict; while typical NXT Champions usually have lengthy title reigns, Kevin Owens was clearly on the path for greatness. The booking decision ended up being straight forward, which helped Owens look like a complete monster. While the initial action was even, Owens ended up simply destroying Zayn, which led to the referee stopping the match and awarding Owens the championship, just two months after his debut.
5. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley – 30 Minute Iron Man Match, NXT Women’s Championship – Respect
The women’s division in NXT features some of the best in-ring talent in the company and it doesn’t get any better than Sasha Banks and Bayley. After their amazing match at Brooklyn, the rematch wasn’t only set for Respect, but so was something unprecedented. Not only did Banks and Bayley main event the special, but they competed in a 30 minute Iron Man match.
Sometimes Iron Man matches are tough to book, but Banks and Bayley excelled at selling each other’s moves, making near falls seem real, planning out their big spots greatly and showing intensity that guys on the roster fail to show at times.
4. Adrian Neville vs. Tyson Kidd – NXT Championship Match – TakeOver
The first main event of the first TakeOver special is probably the most underrated match when thinking of NXT. Many complain about the lack of build surrounding this special, and it did hurt the show a bit. However, the lack of hype was made up for in the main event, which saw Adrian Neville defend his NXT Championship against Tyson Kidd.
The stories behind both men couldn’t have been any more different. Neville was on top of the NXT world; not only was he developmental’s champion, but he was arguably their best in ring talent. On the other hand, there was Tyson Kidd. After failing time and time again on the main roster, he decided to go to NXT to try and reinvent himself before making his way back up to the WWE.
The two men put on a high quality, athletic and technical in ring contest that saw both men walk away in a better position. Not only did Neville have a lengthy reign atop the card, but before long, Kidd was back on the WWE roster as a part of the fan favorite tag team with Cesaro.
3. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe – NXT Championship Match – London
Many may think I’m jumping the gun by putting the latest TakeOver main event so high on this list – but all you have to do is watch the match, and I’m sure you’d agree. At London, Finn Balor defended his NXT Championship to the newest heel on the roster, Samoa Joe, in front of a raucous crowd overseas.
At this point, everyone knew what Balor brought to the table. However, this was much bigger for Joe. After having an extensive career all over the world, Joe made his way to NXT at the Unstoppable event. While he was impressive, his babyface character was running its course.
Once he moved to the dark side, he catapulted to the top of the card, and the showdown between Balor and Joe was imminent. Their main event back in December looked like a match out of Japan, as hard strikes were featured prominently. On top of that, a combination of dives, submissions and near falls made this contest one that everyone needs to see.
2. Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville – NXT Championship Match – R Evolution
There is nothing better than a simple storyline in professional wrestling. A simple storyline took place in the feud between Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, making it easier for fans to get invested. Zayn was climbing to the top of the NXT ranks, and Neville was getting jealous. Zayn’s time was coming, and Neville was doing everything in his power to stop him.
The match that ensued at the end of R Evolution was a true classic. The emotion was apparent, as loud chants and screams filled Full Sail University. The high octane offense of both men had people standing over the course of the match, and near falls had fans going crazy after every pin fall attempt. When Zayn came away with the NXT Championship, fans were crying as the locker room came out, confetti fell, and the celebration of NXT began.
1. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley – NXT Women’s Championship – Brooklyn
This story had it all, starting with the opening promo. Showcasing the Four Horsewomen, the package told the story about how Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch all received the spotlight on the main roster, while Bayley never received the call up. Sasha constantly berated Bayley for being not good enough, while Bayley fought almost every woman on the NXT roster to earn her championship match.
The in-ring action was simply magical. First, both women received their WrestleMania-esque entrances. Once the bell rang, there was nothing these women didn’t do. Banks constantly working over Bayley’s recently healed broken hand, Bayley constantly hitting big moves, Banks’s sunset flip over the top rope and the Bayley-to-belly suplex to end it were only some highlights. The emotion was scene both in the crowd and in the ring, as the fans and competitors were crying once Bayley finally received her title. Capping it off was Charlotte and Lynch coming out to the ring which led to the four women hugging. The storytelling, action and emotion were on full display, leaving this as not only the top TakeOver match, but arguably the best match in professional wrestling in 2015.
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