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.
As expected, Ohno spent a majority of the match on offense and Rollins had to fight from underneath. I originally questioned why this was included in the rest of the Rollins Hidden Gems available on WWE Network, but as they picked up the pace, I understood what made this so great. The commentators gave it a big fight feel, Rollins was super popular at this point and was firing on all cylinders, and Ohno was a damn machine. Everything clicked really well, and not knowing the outcome also added to my enjoyment of the outing.
As a result, I genuinely bought into the suspenseful nearfalls down the stretch where Ohno came within seconds of becoming champion. He hit his finisher at least once, only for Rollins to valiantly kick out. This was the type of performance that Rollins was (and still is) known for: nothing less than pure excellence. It was clear why officials thought so highly of him and had positioned as FCW's top talent. Ohno impressed me with his strong showing as well, but it's just a shame he was never able to break through to that next level.
Rollins went on to hold the gold for another month before dropping it to Rick Victor (yes, of The Ascension). Logically, he was crowned the first-ever NXT Champion later that summer, and everything else is history.
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