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.
Nevertheless, this was a hell of a treat for the live crowd and they loved every minute of it. The entrances were chopped up a bit for some reason, but the match itself was thankfully shown in full without interruption (or commentary, either). Balor, Zayn and Joe had amazing in-ring chemistry together, so it was hardly surprising that this was as enjoyable as it was. It was very well wrestled and had the perfect mix of exciting action and entertaining comedy. Balor and Zayn especially played off each other nicely and I wish they would have been able to go one-on-one at least once in NXT before Zayn was called up.
I would love to see more matches from NXT live events added to the Hidden Gems section on WWE Network, simply because they seem to be a lot more fun than most non-televised main roster matches I've watched. Hell, in this match alone Balor and Zayn switched outfits and even mocked each other's mannerisms. I don't think I've ever heard such a pop for someone putting on a hat before. It was an absolute blast that made me appreciate the brilliance of Balor and Zayn that much more.
The second half was terrific, so you had to know the "This is awesome!" chants from the fans in attendance were only inevitable. The finish was excellently executed with Balor hitting his finisher from the top rope to Joe and Zayn while Joe had Zayn locked in the Coquina Clutch. Balor then pinned Zayn to retain his title, protecting Joe (who I don't believe had been beaten by this point in NXT) in defeat in the process. Better yet, Joe teased getting physical with Balor afterward but ultimately backed down to leave people looking forward to their championship clash the next night in London at TakeOver. Zayn and Balor endorsed each other to close out the show. This was a really cool hidden gem and a must-watch for any longtime NXT fans.
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