WWE Network says this match happened on December 15, 2015, which would mean that this took place a day before NXT TakeOver: London and that this was also obviously a part of NXT's tour of the United Kingdom. The main event of TakeOver saw "The Demon" Finn Balor defend his NXT Championship against Samoa Joe, so this served as a nice preview of that with Sami Zayn involved as well to make it a Triple Threat. Zayn wasn't in action at TakeOver, though he did make his official return to NXT TV earlier that evening by beating Tye Dillinger at the pre-TakeOver taping.
In fact, I'd argue this was a bigger bout than what we got at TakeOver, at least on paper. Balor and Joe ended up having a great match that night, though I don't think there was any reason for them to have another two more TakeOver matches. They could have very well made the rematch in Dallas over WrestleMania weekend a Triple Threat with these three, but then again, we would have never gotten that Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura instant classic or that brutal battle between Balor and Joe in that case. I guess this Triple Threat was simply never destined to happen on TV.
It's worth noting that since my last Hidden Gems review back in May, the WWE Network has undergone a significant makeover, so the section isn't as easy to find as it was before. I'm not sure if any of the old installments of Hidden Gems are even still up there, but I did want to watch this one in particular from April 13, 2008 simply because it was only one day later that I watched my first full-length episode of Raw, and I have missed a show since. That edition of Raw emanated from England, which is where this house show match between then-WWE Champion Randy Orton and Triple H took place as well.
Of course, Orton and HHH were no strangers to one another by this point in time. They had been feuding on and off for years and had contested many matches together. Not all of them were great (in fact, most of their matchups were painfully mediocre), but they did have a rich history and thus it was easy for fans to get behind their feuds. When this outing occurred, The Legend Killer was fresh off successfully defending his title against Triple H and John Cena in a Triple Threat at WrestleMania 24. They were set to clash once again in a Fatal 4-Way for the gold two weeks later at Backlash, but they spent the weeks in between working singles matches at the live events.
I previously reviewed Seth Rollins' match against (Antonio) Cesaro, which I believe was supposed to be a dark match for an NXT/Florida Championship Wrestling taping. Well, it was only a few months later that Rollins mixed it up with Cesaro's old Kings of Wrestling tag team partner, Kassius Ohno. Although Cesaro was fast-tracked to WWE's main roster around the same time as this FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship match (April 29, 2012), Ohno stuck around in developmental for a littler longer, and in fact, FCW/NXT is where he remained until getting released in 2013. Hell, even now, he remains in NXT/NXT UK and will likely never be brought up to the grand stage.
That said, Ohno is a tremendous talent and can work with pretty much anyone. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of his in-ring style when I started watching in NXT, but his early work has since grown on me. He and Rollins wrestle very differently, yet they meshed exceptionally well here, and I loved their dynamic with Rollins being the fighting babyface champion coming into this contest and Ohno being the aggressive heel challenger who was willing to do anything to take the title. Even without knowing much about the buildup to the bout, I was hooked as a fan the moment the bell rang.
Dean Ambrose's recent departure from WWE has led to a lot of fans recalling his best bouts and feuds while with the company, and I don't think there can be any debate that his greatest rival was Seth Rollins. They were closely linked throughout their respective main roster runs, having started out in The Shield together and later feuding over the WWE World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships. Hell, they even teamed for a time and became Raw Tag Team Champions together.
What some may not know, however, is that their history dates all the way back to their days in Florida Championship Wrestling. There, they collided on many occasions, but perhaps their most memorable match against each other took place on September 18, 2011 where the FCW 15 Championship was on the line. For those unfamiliar, the title was contested in 15-minute Iron Man matches, which is actually a pretty cool concept, and Rollins was definitely the perfect person to be in possession of it at the time. Interestingly enough, instead of a traditional title belt, the championship was represented by a medal. Maybe they couldn't afford a title belt and had to settle for that?
Seth Rollins' run in NXT is well documented, as it was there that he became the inaugural NXT Champion and was eventually called up to the grand stage of WWE with the rest of The Shield. But before the relaunch of the black-and-gold brand in mid-2012, FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) was his stomping grounds, and he was being booked like a top talent even then. If anyone was being earmarked for the main roster, it was him, as he was wowed audiences in every match he had.
However, it was also around that time that (Antonio) Cesaro signed with WWE and started out in FCW. He quickly ran roughshod on the roster and set his sights on Rollins soon after his arrival. Prior to his FCW debut, Cesaro was mostly known for his tag team work alongside Kassius Ohno (f.k.a. Chris Hero) in The Kings of Wrestling, and even though they were brought into the company together, officials were interested in booking them as singles stars. To their credit, both men did extremely well for themselves on their own, and this match between Cesaro and Rollins made that evident.
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