By Zack Zimmerman
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NXT on WWE Network
Taped January 27 in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
A video package built up Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe’s match… The opening video played…
The commentators welcomed viewers back to Full Sail after the stint at UCF before GM William Regal made his entrance. Once in the ring, Regal said that last week, Baron Corbin took unprofessional action when he attacked Austin Aries in his debut. He said that he could very well take disciplinary action, but he was asked not to by Austin Aries in return for one thing. Regal announced that Austin Aries will face Baron Corbin at Takeover Dallas.
Regal turned the focus to tonight and said that there have been a lot of unclear finishes in the no. 1 contender’s picture lately, and so Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe will wrestle in a best-of-three falls match to determine the true no. 1 contender… The commentators talked about all of the talent who are there “tonight” at NXT including Tommaso Ciampa and Asuka…
Samoa Joe made his entrance. a small contingent of fans chanted “Joe” but most just booed and gave him thumbs down. Michael Hayes, Sasha Banks, and Hideo Itami were shown in the front row before Sami Zayn made his entrance to a big ovation. Larry Zybyszko, Mauro Ranallo, and Tool’s Adam Jones were also shown sitting front row. [C] Back from break, both competitors were given full in-ring introductions. The crowd was almost unanimously behind Zayn.
1. Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe Best of Three Falls to determine the No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship. Joe sent a message with a hard leg kick out of the gate and looked for a head kick around the minute-mark, but Zayn managed to avoid. Joe got Zayn to the mat with an armlock but released the hold before long and the two squared off. Zayn mirrored taking Joe to the mat before another standoff. There was a somewhat surprising clean break from Joe around the three-minute mark, but moments later it was Zayn who was scrubbing Joe’s face with his forearm in the corner.
Joe grabbed a headlock and the two worked that for a while, creating some bursts of movement here and there, but ending up back in the same place. Zayn managed to outmaneuver Joe and take control with an armlock of his own which he worked into a La Magistral cradle attempt before going right back to the grounded armlock. Joe worked back to a vertical base and rocked Zayn with several forearms and chops. Zayn managed to spring off the bottom rope and send Joe to ringside with a tricky arm drag which wasn’t as smooth as normal. Zayn feigned a dive to the outside but did his Arabian press back into the ring landing on his feet. [C]
Back from break, Joe was suddenly wearing out Zayn in the ring with stiff kicks and a flashing elbow drop. Joe continued his assault with a big running face wash in the corner for a two-count. He landed several jabs which slumped Zayn and some restless members of the crowd began to boo out of boredom. Zayn showed some life when he tried to fire up with shots, but Joe caught a charging Zayn with an overhead belly-to-belly to halt the comeback attempt. Joe lifted his fists and fired away at Zayn with a series of strikes and elbows. A confident Joe began to toy with Zayn before Zayn caught Joe with a series of clotheslines and he began to fire up.
The crowd chanted for Sami as he slipped out of the Muscle Buster, but were silenced seconds later when he ate a hard twisting enzugiri. The referee checked on Zayn who audibly called off the referee and said he was okay. Joe squished Zayn with a running senton for another two-count. Joe teed off with a series of slaps, only to find himself being taken down by the Flatliner in Zayn’s attempt at the Koji Clutch. Joe fought out instantly and regained control with a snap powerslam for another two-count. [C]
Joe wore a reeling Zayn out with chops mid-ring and stopped a comeback attempt with a swift legsweep. Joe hit the ropes but Zayn managed to stop the top rope and sent Joe tumbling to ringside. Zayn took advantage and followed up with an Arabian press moonsault onto Joe. Back in the ring, Zayn hit a high crossbody for a two-count of his own. After a brief struggle, Zayn looked to reel Joe into the Blue Thunder Bomb, but Joe shifted his weight and came down on top of Zayn for a near-fall. Joe once again looked for the Muscle Buster going into the twenty-minute mark, and connected a short time later for the first pinfall. [C]
Samoa Joe won the first fall in about 20:30.
Joe immediately looked for another Muscle Buster but Zayn slipped out. Joe looked for a trademark series of strikes, but was unable to complete it when Zayn simply slumped back down against the ropes. Joe put Zayn in position for his finish once again, but Zayn created separation and came off with a missile dropkick. Joe sold it big like he was rocked and Zayn hit a headbutt. Joe backed down into the corner and wanted to be tended to for a small trickle of blood on his forehead, but Zayn wouldn’t let up as he fired away at Joe in the corner. Zayn took just a split second to catch his breath, but that was all Joe needed to land a flurry of shots and regain control.
Joe missed a knee drop and Zayn got a quick two-count with a crucifix pin, but Joe escaped and dumped Zayn to ringside willing to take the countout. Zayn was down until the six-count, at which point Joe cut him off and tossed him into the ringsteps. Once again, Joe waited for the countout in the ring, but Zayn managed to slip back in at eight. On a mission for the countout, Joe killed Zayn with a wicked STO at ringside, but Zayn somehow managed to slip back in just an instant before the ten-count.
Back in the ring, Zayn dipped into his reserve tank and fired up with shots and a suplex. Joe rolled out to ringside, but Zayn was right there to take him out with the big flip dive over the top rope. Back in the ring, Zayn once again looked for the Koji Clutch and managed to lock it in. Before long, Joe seemingly looked at the big picture and saved himself for the third fall by tapping out. [C]
Sami Zayn won the second fall in about 29:15.
As the bell rang for the third fall, both competitors were reeling like zombies in the ring. They traded shots mid-ring with Joe clearly getting the better of the exchange, but Zayn hit a big BT Bomb for near-fall. Zayn charged of the Helluva Kick, but Joe ducked out to ringside. Zayn went up top, but Joe cut him off looking for a superplex. Zayn managed to fight out however and planted Joe with a hard sunset flip bomb for another near-fall. Zayn stopped a potential countout when he opted to go out and hit his trademark torpedo tornado DDT. Zayn re-entered the ring and awaited the countout, but like himself earlier, Joe managed to slip in just before the ten-count.
Zayn charged again for the Helluva Kick, but Joe caught the boot and splatted Zayn with a powerbomb pin. Zayn kicked out right into the crab, into the crossface, into a stretch armbar. Joe teed off once again with strikes and kicks, the last of which sent Zayn crumbling to the mat. Suddenly this became a last man standing match as the referee began to count Zayn down in the ring. Zayn made it to his feet, but Joe landed more offense and once again waited for the ref’s count. Yet again, Zayn dragged himself up at nine, only to be met by a sick series of Kawada kicks from Joe.
Out of nowhere, Zayn pulled a Meisha Tate and took Joe’s back to lock in a Clutch of his own, but Joe scrambled and managed to reach the bottom rope to force the break. Back on their feet, Zayn hit the exploder suplex and drove Joe into the turnbuckles. After retreating to the opposite corner, Zayn charged with the Helluva kick. However, Samoa Joe avoided and Zayn hurt his leg on the top rope. Joe slipped behind and locked in the Coquina Clutch. Joe dragged Zayn to the mat and Zayn passed out to the hold with a great sell job.
Samoa Joe won the third fall and the match in about 38:00.
A series of replays aired. Referees tended to Zayn in the ring as the commentators put the match over and declared Samoa Joe rightful no. 1 contender. The show closed as Joe stood mid-ring with his arms raised; victorious.
Zim Says: Well what the hell. All of the reports coming out of this match were that not only was it a disappointment for these two guys, but a dreadful match in general. I found that hard to believe, and certainly didn’t see what all of that buzz was watching it here. It’s possible that through the magic of post-production, the match was transformed to be as good as it was, or it’s possible that the voices of a few dissatisfied fans are much louder in an echo chamber. Realistically it’s probably some combination of the two.
Anyways, I really enjoyed the match. I think they wanted this to have a MOTY feel and it wasn’t quite that for me, but it was definitely a quality match that told a compelling story and also helped to change the pace of the weekly NXT show by completely altering the show’s format. I’ve been really sour on the recent shows from UCF and other tapings post-Takeover London, but now that we’re getting back into Takeover season I expect things will rapidly ramp up. This was a nice way to kick off the start of Takeover season and I’m looking forward to following the trajectories of both of tonight’s competitors from here.
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Throw comments, questions, criticisms, or corrections @DotNetZim or DotNetZim@gmail.com; always happy to discuss.