Many WWE fans have always looked at NXT as being a lesser brand since the purpose of the division is for wrestlers to work their way to the main roster. However, something has happened at NXT and it looks like it is not only equaling the main roster in talent, but might be surpassing it when it comes to in-ring action. WWE.com listed their top 25 matches of 2016 and the WWE Match of the Year was an NXT match.
As a matter of fact, the top two were both NXT matches, meaning that the writers at the WWE’s own website considered two NXT matches better than everything from the main roster through the year. Actually, the entire top five were based more on NXT and the WWE Network.
The WWE named the two-out-of-three-falls match between The Revival vs. #DIY at NXT Takeover: Toronto as the WWE Match of the Year. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Dallas was the last match for Zayn before he joined the main roster and the debut match for Nakamura and it was the runner-up for the WWE Match of the Year.
The next two spots were for NXT alumni who have made the main roster. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks in the women’s championship from Monday Night Raw on July 25 finished in third place and the Battleground match between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was fourth.
What is really impressive is that the WWE named the Cruiserweight Classic match between Kota Ibushi and Cedric Alexander as the fifth best of the year, and Ibushi isn’t even a contract star for the WWE. When counting down to the WWE Match of the Year, it is impressive to see this match listed among the finalists.
ESPN reported this week that Triple H has big plans for the NXT brand. While many see it as a developmental promotion, Triple H wants it to be a third major brand for the WWE where wrestlers who compete there are as big of stars as those on Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live.
“I think over the years you’re gonna begin to see Raw is its own brand, SmackDown is its own brand, NXT — you’re gonna see people move around. It’s no longer gonna be just, this guy got called up, it’s gonna be maybe ‘this guy got moved over, she got moved here,’ and see that transference of talent.”
With the 205 Live show allowing the cruiserweight stars to develop their own characters and the hope that the upcoming U.K. Championship tournament will become another WWE Network-branded show, it seems the WWE wants to build their own territory system, similar to what the NWA used to have in the ’80s.
With names like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, #DIY, The Revival, Asuka, and more in NXT, they have the talent to really stand up with Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, and as this year’s choice for WWE Match of the Year shows, NXT can actually exceed their more popular counterparts. Triple H points out there is something for everyone and that is the goal.
“At the end of the day, it’s all content; it’s all product that our fans wanna see. The difference in those products is big, but there’s something there for everybody. I think that’s what’s exciting about it.”
When rounding out the top 10, the next matches include former TNA star AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena from No Mercy, Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins from Raw in November, Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks from WrestleMania, John Cena vs. AJ Styles from SummerSlam, and The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler from No Mercy.
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Only three of those matches feature long-time WWE stars and the rest are filled with past and present NXT talent, cruiserweights, and AJ Styles. It says a lot about the future of the WWE, and the fact that the WWE Match of the Year features two NXT tag teams that have never sniffed the main roster means the future is bright.
[Featured Image by WWE]