NXT has had an absolutely barnstorming year, and while good matches have taken place all over the world in 2018, it’s safe to say that a decent chunk happened in WWE’s ‘developmental’ brand.
You’ll see NXT described as such all over the internet – sarcastic quotation marks included – and that’s because it’s quite a hard phrase to write with complete seriousness. Yes, we know that NXT is the place where Superstars fine-tune their personas and learn to work according to WWE’s main roster style – but it’s also the place where a collection of the planet’s best wrestlers are put in matches with one another. As this list will demonstrate, that’s a pretty potent formula.
Aided by sensible booking and a passionate fanbase, NXT’s roster has continued to shine in 2018, maybe even turning in their best year ever. It would be an oversight to plough on with our top ten, without first recognising a handful of honourable mentions – all of which could have easily been given a slot in the ranking itself.
The year’s first TakeOver event saw an entertainingly brutal Extreme Rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole – one which fittingly took place in ECW’s spiritual home of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the next big event in New Orleans, Black again shone, this time in an NXT Championship match against Andrade Cien Almas. It had the bad fortune of going before a bona fide Match of the Year candidate, but still deserves praise in its own right.
NXT TakeOver: Chicago was the site of perhaps the year’s biggest sleeper hit – a barn-burning opener between the Undisputed Era and the hugely underrated team of Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. Chicago was also another step in the rapid rise of Velveteen Dream, whose match with Ricochet told a great in-ring story of one-upmanship.
On the second night of NXT’s UK Championship event in London, Moustache Mountain defeated O’Reilly and Strong in front of an absolutely raucous home crowd – the first match of a wonderful trilogy between the teams.
One of the biggest feel-good moments of the year came at TakeOver: Brooklyn 4, where Kairi Sane again had Shayna Baszler’s number – not in a tournament final this time, but a title match for the NXT Women’s Championship. Later on, in the main event, Gargano and Ciampa waged war in a Last Man Standing match – their third marquee bout of 2018, and another key development in their ongoing story.
Now, without any further ado, let’s take a look at the top ten.
10. WarGames – NXT TakeOver: WarGames II
The titular match of this year’s TakeOver: WarGames divided opinion. Not in terms of whether it was good or not, but how good. Some preferred last year’s WarGames match, feeling that this one dragged on slightly too long, and that the three team set-up led to better action.
Personally, I much preferred this year’s, and didn’t particularly feel as though it lasted too long. The clear emphasis on tactics and strategy was a joy to behold, as were little quirks such as Pete Dunn being locked in the holding cage, and the babyface team’s uneasy alliance.
There was also, of course, the big talking point of the bout – Ricochet’s jaw-dropping double moonsault from the top of the structure, wiping out a pile of friends and foes in the process.
As long as you’ve got a little patience, this bout should fly by.