10 Best NXT Matches Of 2017

Another outstanding year for WWE's "developmental" brand...

NXT, as we all know, is brilliant when it comes to match quality. The weekly show largely concentrates on storyline development and shorter, more simple bouts, but whenever a TakeOver special rolls around, fans know that they're in for a treat.

This year's NXT roster seems, at first glance, to have been weaker than past line-ups - especially given the 2016 departures of Balor, Nakamura, Joe, Bayley, Zayn, and other main roster call-ups. Some TakeOver cards were greeted with more apathy than usual, appearing to be underwhelming compared to awesome shows of the past.

However, NXT stepped up and delivered the sort of stellar calendar year we perhaps doubted it could. From indie-style epics to smartly-booked tag team wars, we were often left in awe of the ability of those in WWE's "developmental" brand.

Competitors such as Aleister Black, Asuka, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Roode, and DIY filled the shoes of their predecessors with ease, ensuring that NXT didn't suffer the dip many were predicting. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised.

Here are the 10 best NXT matches of 2017, a list far stronger than many of us would have assumed at the start of the year. Can it continue to excel in 2018? The smart money would say yes if the past 12 months have been anything to go by...

10. Bobby Roode Vs. Hideo Itami - NXT TakeOver: Chicago


Hideo Itami has had an incredibly unfortunate few years in NXT. The immensely-respected Japanese star saw his stock drop in surprising fashion, injury cruelly cutting off his momentum whenever he appeared to be turning a corner.

Thankfully, he gained a chance at redemption at TakeOver: Chicago, finally securing an NXT Championship match with Bobby Roode.

The story of the bout centred around Itami's multiple attempts to hit his signature Go-To-Sleep finisher, only for his weakened leg (and the immense pressure upon him) to constantly get in the way. Roode eventually won with a pair of Glorious DDTs, but the former NOAH talisman finally had an NXT classic to his name.

9. Asuka Vs. Nikki Cross - NXT, June 28


The only match on this list from NXT's weekly show, Asuka vs. Nikki Cross was a brilliant blend of storytelling and brutality from two of the best women in the world.

Fought under Last Woman Standing rules, this bout ran the typical risks of the stipulation - namely pacing. Often, such matches can suffer from a dip in intensity as competitors sell for long periods of time, but Asuka and Cross avoided this with a clever structure (and plenty of off-kilter charisma to keep the crowd invested).

The high spots were effective, too - especially the finish. The pair brawled up a ladder and through the nearby announce table, only for the NXT Women's Champion to make it to her feet at the count of nine. She celebrated while a defeated Cross lay among the wreckage, an unsettling smile plastered across her face. Wonderful.

8. WarGames - NXT TakeOver: WarGames


Many would argue that this match deserves to be higher on the list, and while I totally understand that point of view, I found the action to be just a little scattered.

However, there's no denying that this modernised version of WarGames lived up to the hype, instantly becoming one of the best matches in the history of the stipulation. All nine men lay everything on the line in a bloody, chaotic brawl, with Killian Dain particularly impressing. Alexander Wolfe showed the effects of the bout most clearly, suffering a nasty gash to the head.

The ultimate star of the show, though, was Adam Cole, weaselling his way out of danger on several occasions before brutalising Eric Young with a kendo stick and a match-ending shining wizard.

7. The Authors Of Pain Vs. DIY - NXT TakeOver: Chicago


Without a doubt, this was NXT's most terrifying match of the year - not just in a kayfabe sense. Sure, the immense Authors of Pain were an intimidating prospect for the beloved babyface duo of Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa, but the action of the bout itself provided many moments of legitimate concern.

DIY's insane stereo ladder dives spring immediately to mind, but the heels put their bodies in great danger too. The human body probably doesn't take too kindly to being German Suplexed from halfway up a ladder, crashing through another ladder in the corner of the ring.

Despite all the crazy spots, this match's greatest strength was its storytelling. DIY failed to recapture the Tag Team Championship in heartbreaking fashion - and this was all compounded by perhaps the best heel turn of 2017. As the defeated challengers soaked in the adulation of the crowd, Ciampa coldly attacked his partner, hurling him into the set, blasting him with a running knee, and smashing him through the announce table.

6. Shinsuke Nakamura Vs. Bobby Roode - NXT TakeOver: San Antonio


The first TakeOver main event of 2017 was also its most divisive, and I'd completely understand were folk to leave this match off their own personal lists.

Nakamura vs. Roode was certainly exhausting, clocking in at almost half an hour, but a compelling story was weaved into the drawn-out action. Many assumed Shinsuke would be walking away the victor, as we struggled to figure out how NXT could have their strongly-booked champion lose.

The answer came in the form of Roode's old-school sensibilities. He mercilessly targeted Nakamura's leg throughout, resulting in an immaculately-sold injury. This left Shinsuke unable to capitalise after nailing the Kinshasa, and unable to escape from two consecutive Glorious DDTs. Very clever indeed.

5. Asuka Vs. Ember Moon - NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III


WWE's Women's Revolution may have been officially announced by Stephanie McMahon on the main roster, but we all know that its true genesis lay in NXT. Sasha Banks and Bayley's unbelievable feud broke new ground and forever associated the brand with excellent women's wrestling.

This young tradition was continued in 2017 by Asuka and Ember Moon, the former already established as one of the best on the planet. By the end of their title match at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, nobody could doubt that Ember Moon also belongs in the same category.

Unfortunately for the challenger, although she walked away from the bout with everybody's respect, she left the NXT Women's Championship in the hands of Asuka. The Empress of Tomorrow unthinkably kicked out of Ember's eye-popping Eclipse finisher, before sinking in a deep Asuka Lock to win by submission.

4. Aleister Black Vs. Velveteen Dream - NXT TakeOver: WarGames


This one came out of absolutely nowhere.

In the weeks leading up to TakeOver: WarGames, Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream entertained fans with their wildly contrasting personalities. The Dutchman, stoic as ever, refused to acknowledge his flamboyant foe by name, and we all laughed.

We knew they were good (especially indie darling Black), but were we expecting a match of such incredible quality? I'd honestly have to say no.

Over the course of 15 minutes, the two men wrestled an incredible contest, perfectly combining athleticism and psychology to tell a wonderful story. Velveteen Dream confounded the hard-hitting Black, as many predicted - but the Dutch Destroyer unnerved him right back!

Although the eventual result wasn't a surprise, the journey to get there certainly was. It was all capped nicely when Black finally spoke his opponent's name, resulting in a huge pop that affirmed the match's brilliance.

The most amazing part of it all? Velveteen Dream is only 22-years-old.

3. Drew McIntyre Vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas - NXT TakeOver: WarGames


Drew McIntyre and Andrade Almas are quite similar, in a way. Both initially entered WWE to a lot of fanfare, and both struggled against the overwhelming expectation.

A decade ago, Drew was billed as Vince McMahon's hand-picked 'Chosen One', a poisoned chalice from the start. At the start of his NXT run, Almas suffered as a result of his stellar Lucha Libre reputation as 'La Sombra'.

Fittingly, the pair helped one another show their true quality in a brilliant TakeOver: WarGames title match. False finishes are a risky device to rely upon in pro wrestling, but McIntyre and Almas utilised them brilliantly - the best coming when Andrade's manager, the devious Zelina Vega, pulled his foot onto the bottom rope at the very last second.

McIntyre was unfortunately injured right at the end of the bout, which will certainly taint its legacy going forward. Despite this, it deserves to be remembered as a thrilling encounter with a real 'big fight' atmosphere.

2. The Authors Of Pain Vs. DIY Vs. The Revival - NXT TakeOver: Orlando


If there's one thing NXT realises far better than the main roster, it's that wrestling fans don't need to be patronised. Raw and SmackDown storylines are hammered into our brains with monotonous regularity, with the vast majority of swerves and shocks predicted en masse ahead of time.

NXT lets most of its key storyline development take place in the ring, in New Japan fashion, and the fans react exactly as their supposed to. Never has this been more evident than in the tag team division.

After DIY and The Revival put on a serious Match of the Year contender in 2016, we were left wondering where they'd go from here. The answer was a strange one - as the babyfaces lost their newly-won titles to the Authors of Pain in San Antonio - but it all paid off in a big way at TakeOver: Orlando.

The three-team elimination contest was arguably the best match put on by any promotion across WrestleMania weekend and was a wonderful example of nuanced storytelling. The Revival and DIY wordlessly put their differences aside to team up against the larger champions, but it wasn't enough, as Akam and Rezar demolished their foes to retain the Tag Team Championships.

1. Tyler Bate Vs. Pete Dunne - NXT TakeOver: Chicago


It's fair to say that fans of the UK independent scene knew that this match was going to be a good one, but I'm not sure if anybody could have predicted how good.

Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne are very familiar with one another despite their young age, having trained together and wrestled countless times for various British promotions. When WWE booked the pair as the final two competitors of the UK Championship Tournament, they told a wonderful, simple story of a small babyface overcoming a sadistic heel.

The rematch at NXT TakeOver: Chicago wasn't quite so simple.

Dunne and Bate utterly tore into one another, cutting loose in a breathless 15-minutes of jaw-dropping action. It wouldn't have looked out of place on one of their work rate-heavy UK stomping grounds. Crucially, however, the match was also anchored by incredibly sound psychology - particularly from the ruthless Dunne, whom WWE seem to have earmarked for future stardom.

Ultimately, Bate's babyface fire was his undoing, as a terrifying dive was evaded by the challenger, leaving Tyler to crash and burn on the floor. Seizing the moment, Dunne rolled the champ straight back into the ring, drilled him with the Bitter End, and capped off the best NXT match of 2017.

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Jack King

Written by Jack King

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