NXT has built a reputation for producing MOTY candidates on an almost weekly basis, but when the quality of your product is so high on such a consistent basis, sadly some great matches get lost in the shuffle, so let’s show some love to what I believe to be the most underappreciated of the bunch. I’ll be ranking these contests based on how good I believe them to be combined with the level of praise their received in relation to the quality. These are my Top 25 Underrated NXT Matches.
25. Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt – NXT 167
In the early, pre-network days of NXT, many established main roster stars were brought in to try and create buzz for the black and yellow brand. Along with CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane and others, Chris Jericho made his way down to Full Sail to do battle, and he gave one of the best efforts of them all.
In what would pass as a solid match on any WWE television show, Jericho took on Bray Wyatt in the early days of the character’s incarnation. The ten minute bout is physical, displays both men’s abilities nicely, and involves some fun spots with The Wyatt Family. It’s fascinating to go back and watch how much chemistry this group had with each other even at such an early stage. I wouldn’t class this as must see, yet it’s definitely worth a watch.
24. Rob Van Dam vs. Adrian Neville – NXT 228
NXT provided us with this dream match, pitting two innovative high-fliers of two different generations against each other. For Neville, it was a chance to lock-up with one of his idols. The two traded holds and flashy moves throughout, and were even rewarded with a “This is awesome!” chant from the Full Sail audience.
23. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs. Roderick Strong – NXT 417
By October 2017, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas had found his grove as a cocky heel, which was on full display in this NXT TV match. Two of the best wrestlers in NXT at the time went at it in a fun, physical ten minute bout that showed off Roddy’s wrestling ability, and Almas’ much improved character work.
22. Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze – TakeOver Respect
A solid match from two of WWE’s more underutilized talents. It’s a shame Apollo was brought up to the main roster far too soon, and it’s arguably an even bigger shame that it took them so long to do something with Tyler Breeze once he left NXT. Both men clearly have something to offer as evidenced by this match, and I hope they get more opportunities to display that.
21. Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger 2/3 Falls – NXT 202
Before he was made to reinvent himself, the man who would go on to be known as Adam Rose was a calculating, South African psychopath known as Leo Kruger. In his last match under this persona, Kruger displayed what kind of performer he was, whilst Sami Zayn showed how good of an underdog he really is, picking up two falls in a row in a really fun bout. Also, one of the delights of this match is William Regal ripping into Byron Saxton on commentary.
20. Roderick Strong vs Bobby Roode – NXT 400
In 2017, Roderick Strong was hungry for the NXT Championship, but the champion at the time, Bobby Roode, did not take him seriously. Well, Roddy proved how serious he was in this underrated championship match. In what is probably Bobby’s best match in WWE so far, these two told a great, emotion driven story full of limb targeting, good selling from Strong, and a botched finish that actually added to the drama.
19. Tyler Bate vs. Jack Gallagher – NXT 389
A fun little back-and-forth technical battle between two of the UK’s best. It was a good display of a young Tyler Bate’s talents, and a reminder for me of how much I wish this version of Jack Gallagher would make a comeback.
18. Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black – TakeOver Brooklyn 3
Two of the best strikers ever seen in NXT collided in Brooklyn. Filled to the brim with masterful counters and of course some brutal kicks, this is a physical match that sadly got overlooked from Itami’s unfortunate NXT career. Perhaps if this had taken place away from WWE, or if Itami’s run had gone smoother without being derailed by injury, maybe this match could have been remembered as one of Itami’s best.
17. Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Tyler Breeze – TakeOver Brooklyn
Whilst many still talk about this match for the novelty value of Jushin Thunder Liger actually having appearing in NXT, what seems to get lost most of the time is just how fun this fight actually was. It was more than just a one-off dream cameo appearance, it was a great showing from both men that is entertaining as hell to watch. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Liger with a selfie stick?
16. Finn Bálor vs. Adrian Neville – NXT TakeOver Rival
Although I can’t quite agree with WWE.Com’s statement that this match will “change your world”, Balor vs. Neville remains a damn good watch regardless. As one star left NXT, another was cemented. Starting off slow, Neville adopted more of a heel role, trying to ground Balor and outsmart him with reversals, before building to an exciting comeback by Finn. I doubt this is the best these two could do against each other given their respective talents, but come on, it’s Balor vs. Neville, of course it’s good.
15. Oney Lorcan vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas – NXT 370
On the only episode of NXT to be recorded in Japan, Oney Lorcan and Andrade Almas opened the show by beating the crap out of each other. It was the first time I remember really being impressed by both men as they went out there and displayed quickly what they are capable of, plus the unique atmosphere of the Japanese crowd certainly added a unique feeling to this match. Perhaps the fact this aired just three days after Christmas or that Nakamura won the NXT Championship later on in the show led this to being overlooked, but I seriously hope Lorcan makes it to SmackDown one day just so we can see these two lock-up again.
14. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze – TakeOver
At the first NXT TakeOver event, Tyler Breeze put on arguably his best singles match of his WWE career. Dominating for most of the match, Breeze put on a great, smooth performance as Sami played the sympathetic underdog which he is so masterful at doing. Sami certainly knows how to play up to his opponent’s strengths, and sell their work beautifully. Every time Zayn gained control, excitement built, only for Breeze to get the upper hand once again. Certainly one worth going back to watch.
13. Sanity vs. Undisputed Era – NXT 434
This six-man tag is just utter chaos. A tornado tag that doesn’t take a break from start to finish. A frantic brawl that sadly got overlooked back in 2018 due to how incredible of a year that was for pro wrestling. If you just want to see six guys execute high spots and beat the crap out of each other, watch this.
12. Kassius Ohno vs. William Regal – NXT 164
Before he became general manager of this brand, William Regal was both a commentator and occasional competitor in NXT. In the summer of 2013, Regal took on the cocky Kassius Ohno, somebody that is still a thorn in his side to this day. In one of his final matches, Regal attempted to prove he was just as brutal, capable and violent as he once was by picking apart Ohno’s arms and fingers, followed by Ohno responding with a barrage of heavy strikes. Admittedly, this style of brawl won’t be for everyone, but I’d recommend definitely giving it a try.
11. Emma vs. Asuka – TakeOver London
A surprisingly violent match which displayed how dangerous Asuka truly was early on in her WWE career, whilst also showing how vicious Emma could be if given the chance. Starting off slow, it builds with excitement throughout, leading to a great finish. Emma came off looking good in defeat, and Asuka looked like a complete killer, with a hot crowd to fuel them throughout.
10. Samoa Joe vs. Tommaso Ciampa – NXT 309
Want a quick burst of violence to enjoy? Watch this. It’s essentially one of the best squash matches you’re likely to see. Sure, Ciampa puts up a good fight, and definitely connects a few stiff shots to his foe, yet Joe makes himself look like an absolute killer in this one. Holding nothing bad, Joe just brutalizes Ciampa in a snappy yet exciting brawl. It’s a surprise Ciampa actually wanted to sign to NXT after being beaten up like this.
9. Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas – NXT TakeOver Brooklyn IV
Gargano and Almas had what many believe to be the greatest match in NXT history when they fought for the NXT Championship at TakeOver Philadelphia in 2018. This epic of a match was one of the best bouts that last year had to offer, yet what many of us forget is that six months beforehand, both men propelled their singles careers in NXT thanks to another great match against each other.
Although overshadowed by the superior bout they would later go on to have, this is still an exhibition of two of the most talented wrestlers in the world today. The match showed just why both men deserved to be involved in the NXT Championship scene, and why pairing Zelina Vega with Almas was one of the best decisions in NXT history.
8. American Alpha vs. Gargano and Ciampa – NXT 304
American Alpha were so damn fun together. During their NXT days, their chemistry both as personalities and as grapplers won over the hearts of fans everywhere. The whole “Ready, Willing and Gable” shtick of theirs was utterly charming, and when they stepped between the ropes, they captured your attention and kept it from bell to bell. While their matches against The Revival are often heralded, they did have another fantastic bout against a legendary NXT team, before they even had a name.
In the opening round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, two men that weren’t even signed to full-time NXT contracts at the time, and were simply just thrown together to make up the numbers, put on a really fun match against American Alpha. In this one contest, both teams showed their individual futures were bright, and it’s easy to see why they both ended up holding gold.
7. Drew McIntyre vs. Oney Lorcan – NXT 387
When Drew McIntyre came to NXT, we all expected him to be in a pretty standard squash match to mark his return to WWE, but Oney Lorcan wasn’t going to go down that easily. Simply put, Oney just goes full force in this one, making himself look like a wrestling machine and making Drew look like a purebred beast simultaneously. Within the space of just five minutes, these two pack in more excitement and high spots than a fifteen minute match could hope for. As far as quick TV matches go, this is without question one of the best I’ve ever witnessed.
6. Adrian Neville vs. Kevin Owens – NXT 265
In NXT, Kevin Owens was dangerous. He was a heartless destroyer that would lay waste to anyone who dared get in the way of his success. Whilst most remember his uncomfortable performance against Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship, his battles against Neville are often overlooked, particularly this one that took place just one week after Owens won the championship.
Neville looks incredible in this match. Not only does he show off that insane athleticism and aerial ability he’s renowned for, he exhibits more than once just how damn strong he really is. At one point, Neville actually deadlifts Owens off the ground, a man approximately 70 pounds heavier than him, and delivers a German Suplex to him. It really is a reminder of just how fantastic both men are in the ring (as if you would ever need it), that is capped off by one of the best Pop-Up Powerbomb’s you’re likely to ever see.
5. William Regal vs. Antonio Cesaro – NXT 201
William Regal’s final ever pro wrestling match was broadcast on Christmas Day 2013. Preceded by one of the greatest promos you’re ever likely to see, Regal tries to keep up with the athletic freak standing across the ring from him, but by his own admission, he simply cannot compare, calling him “ten times the wrestler he could ever be”. Regal even admits that he would need a miracle to beat him.
The closing moments of the match sees Cesaro battling in his own head whether to put the legend away or not, before reluctantly hitting a Neutralizer for the victory. Check out this retirement brawl for some of the finest storytelling NXT has ever produced.
4. Nikki Cross vs. Asuka: Last Woman Standing – NXT 399
In a week that saw women main event WWE’s main three television shows, the best of them all came from NXT – a Last Woman Standing Match for the NXT Women’s Championship that will never be forgotten. What made this match so outstanding was the dedication to both women’s personas: Nikki Cross literally never stopped being in character no matter what was happening within the ring, whilst Asuka was without doubt the hardest-hitting woman in WWE, and the most willing to take punishment.
Earlier in the night, the drama started as Nikki Cross jumped on-top of Asuka’s moving car. Then before the match started, Cross waited in the ring, repeatedly saying her opponent’s name, biting the ring ropes, and flailing her body around. Cross’ perfect character work really made us feel like anything could happen in this match, and that we were about to see something crazy and incredible – and that’s exactly what we got. Cross vs. Asuka may be the most violent WWE women’s match we’d ever seen at that point. These two future main roster stars threw everything at each other, including chair shots, moves onto the apron, and moves onto chairs, but they both still got up. The story of Asuka being so unbeatable throughout was told impeccably – she even managed to stand up after a hung-up spinning neckbreaker to the floor outside the ring. Ultimately, it was an insane superplex off a ladder onto an announce table that ended this unbelievable brawl, as Nikki lay still at the ten count, and the unbeatable Asuka barely stood tall.
Of all 25 matches on this list, this is pretty much tied for the best. It did get a lot of praise by most that watched it, just nowhere near as much as it should have in my opinion. Sadly, it seemed to get quickly swept under the rug, not appearing in many MOTY lists for 2017, and being ignored by WWE when Becky Lynch and Charlotte had the ‘first ever’ Last Woman Standing Match at Evolution. This is one of my favourite ever NXT bouts, and easily Asuka’s greatest match to date for me. It had so many memorable spots, and both competitors played their parts perfectly. If you’ve never seen this title brawl, you need to immediately.
3. Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate – NXT 426
At NXT TakeOver Chicago, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate stole the show with one of the greatest matches of 2017. They may have had a combined age of just 43 at time, but they had the Allstate Arena exploded in excitement throughout this memorable title bout, and fans watching at home were treated with the fantastic commentary of Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness. Dunne worked on Bate’s hand throughout, Bate delivered one hell of a flying clothesline, we saw an unbelievable Spiral Tap from the 20 year old, and Dunne X-Plexed Bate right onto the apron. It was a match filled with high spots and excitement that ended with the gorgeous Bitter End, and a new champion was crowned.
This match was so good in fact, that it completely overshadowed the absolute classic they had months later. If the crowd in Full Sail for this rematch were anywhere near as hot as the audience in Chicago, this would be remembered as almost or just as good as their TakeOver match. If you ever decide to go back and watch that incredible TakeOver Chicago brawl, make sure you check this one out also, it’s that good.
2. Oney Lorcan vs. Danny Burch – NXT 402
Lorcan vs. Burch is my style of wrestling summed up. Two physical brutes just beating the absolute crap out of each other. Neither man was being used much at the time, and it’s clear that both men were using this as an opportunity to make people notice them. They didn’t waste a single second, barraging each other with a torrent of uppercuts, elbows and an array of vicious strikes. Two seriously underrated brawlers that i could watch mutilate each other all day long. Thankfully, one hell of a tag team was spawned from this competitive contest, and remain one of my favourite duos in wrestling today.
Richie Steamboat vs. Kassius Ohno
Team Hell No vs. Michael McGillicutty and Johnny Curtis
CM Punk and Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro and Kassius Ohno
Seth Rollins vs. Corey Graves
The Vaudevillains (with Blue Pants) vs. Blake and Murphy
- Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro 2/3 Falls – NXT 183
The only reason why this match is underrated is that simply not enough people have seen it. Those that have cannot rate it highly enough.
Back in 2013, in the days before the WWE Network, one of the first NXT shows I ever watched featured Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro in a 2/3 Falls Match, and it was one of the best damn matches I had ever seen in my life. I was leaning forward in awe at what both of these men were doing in this absolute war at multiple points throughout, and it was essentially the match that made me never want to miss an episode of NXT.
At NXT Arrival in 2014, the first live special ever broadcast on the WWE Network, Zayn and Cesaro blew everyone away with the match of the night, yet I don’t think that bout can come close to what they did six months beforehand. If the network existed in time to broadcast this bout for everyone to see, this would easily be regarded as one of the best NXT TV matches of all time.
Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling