By Graham "GSM" Matthews
American Alpha def. The Revival to Win the NXT Tag Team Championship
Aside from a few awkward spots (that they recovered nicely from), this was a tremendous tag team match all around. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that it was the greatest NXT Tag Team Championship match to date as the crowd was heavily engaged in the action and it made for an enjoyable opener. I loved how the old school Revival tandem resorted to dirty tactics multiple times throughout the bout and their suspenseful nearfalls had me on the edge of my seat (all right, out of my seat) the entire time. Even when American Alpha hit their finisher, there was the small chance the illegal partner could have come in and broke up the pinfall, but the crowd popped huge when they scored the win. A very well-deserved victory and I can't wait to see the heights they'll bring the division to going forward.
Austin Aries def. Baron Corbin
This was perfectly slotted coming off the hot tag team match and I was surprised Corbin had his fair share of supporters in the building. That goes to show how far he's come in the last year alone. Corbin was on offense for the majority of the match, but I liked how this felt more like a fight than an actual fight, really relaying the animosity they have for each other. They were given just the right amount of time and I wouldn't have booked the finish any differently with Aries winning via a roll-up, thus protecting Corbin in defeat and keeping the program alive.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Sami Zayn
What can I write here that will do this match justice? It can essentially be summed up in two words: holy shit! Even the entrances, my god, were absolutely incredible. I had goosebumps before the bout even started. I watched a few of Nakamura's matches prior to his NXT arrival and knew just how tremendously talented he was, but this match blew me away and any others who weren't all that familiar with his work. And let's not overlook Zayn here, either, who looked the best he had since returning to the ring late last year and truly lived up to the "Heart and Soul of NXT" moniker bestowed upon him. No, "King of Strong Style" isn't just a nickname for Nakamura as we learned in this match. This was easily one of the most hard-hitting affairs I have ever seen and the constant reversals in addition to the sensational story told were a thing of beauty. A hell of a debut for Nakamura and a hell of way to go out for Zayn (who I feel bad for now that he has a Ladder match to compete in on Sunday). Needless to say, Nakamura has an insanely bright future in NXT if they continue to let him be himself.
Asuka def. Bayley to Win the NXT Women's Championship
Officials were wise with the match lineup because I would have rather had the crowd come down after that contest during this match as opposed to the main event. It didn't quite come as close to being as exceptional as Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in Brooklyn as I thought it would, but it was still a great match with an excellent effort from both women. It's hard in these situations for the fans to choose one woman over the other with both of them being babyfaces, though it seemed like Bayley had the bigger fan following. The fans were going to be letdown by the title change regardless of the finish because of how popular Bayley is, but I thought it was just fine. NXT may go to that "babyface passing out to keep them looking strong" well too often, but I makes me excited for the inevitable rematch. Could Bayley be main roster bound sooner rather than later?
NXT Champion Finn Balor def. Samoa Joe
I've seen varying opinions as to which match was better between this one and their initial encounter in London, but I personally enjoyed this matchup more because it felt super personal with the two refusing to give in to the other. Joe getting busted within the first minute of the match definitely added to that crazy dynamic, but I wish the match wasn't stopped as frequently for the medics to clean up Joe. He was going to bleed heavily regardless, so let him bleed, dammit! I was very much convinced Joe was winning here, so I was surprised when Balor ended up retaining. Nothing against that, however, as I'm sure there's a plan in place for both men (I'd love to see Joe debut on the main roster at or after WrestleMania). I found it interesting Balor defeated Joe more decisively in London than he did here. Is there another rematch looming or did they really just want to keep Joe looking like a monster in defeat?
Was this the perfect show? No, but it damn near came close. There was something to love about every match on the card and each of them either met my expectations or exceeded them. The various debuts and title changes made it a newsworthy evening and there's plenty to look forward to since I'm assuming most of these feuds are only just beginning. Plus, Bobby Roode spotted at ringside! Hell yeah! The crowd was electric all night and made for an amazing atmosphere. I don't think there can be much of a debate: this was the strongest special NXT has produced to date, and as we have learned in the past, they'll only continue to raise the bar in the future. Good luck on Sunday, WrestleMania.
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