Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Top 50 WWE/NXT Matches of 2014: #47. Kevin Owens vs. Adrian Neville (December 18, 2014)

A match that flew completely under the radar as it aired with about two weeks left in the year, but upon reflection is one of the very best matches performed in all of NXT in the past year. Kevin Owens had to get over as a heel here, and he and Neville's main goal in this match was to play up both his violent, dangerous capabilities, and to undo any sort of support the crowd would have for Owens. This wasn't an easy task as Kevin Steen was something of a legend on the independent circuit, but they accomplished everything they set out to achieve in this match, because the crowd would boo upon the referee's ten count at the close.

Owens has been a master manipulator ever since he powerbombed Sami Zayn into the apron at the close of his championship victory. He's a snake, but a very smart snake, and it's pleasurable to see those qualities come through in his ring work as well. Owens refuses to do much with Neville at the beginning of this match. His motto of "I'll fight anyone" works in direct contrast with his near constant retreats at the start. Neville hits a move or gets too close and Owens slides out, but his entire gameplan here was to get Neville to come towards him and become aggressive to the point where strategy goes out the window and fighting ensues. Owens gets exactly what he wants when Neville comes sliding out the ropes to attack, only to have his offense countered with a vicious forearm. Owens takes control after this with a series of chops, and blows to Neville's body that would effect his aerial offense. Owens maintains control until the final moments when Neville's fighting spirit lets him wiggle out of a carry, and land a few kicks. His speed helps him get the better of Owens once more, but right when Neville seems ready to close the match Owens slides out the ring again, and in a dazed state sends Neville into the side of the ring for a countout.

Aside from being a great match the ending is brilliantly booked. By having a countout ending you keep both men strong, and you legitimize Owens because he just went toe to toe with the former champion and nearly won. In a repeat of what he did to Zayn he hit a powerbomb on Neville at the close of the show as well, and now these men have history, and a reason to fight. Adrian Neville is in line for a possible title shot if he can defeat Finn Balor at the next NXT Special event, and if he and Owens win they have even more reason to go to battle with each other, because of this match.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Top 50 Best WWE/NXT Matches of 2014: #48. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (ALL)

One of the greatest things about NXT is how refreshing it is to see women treated with respect in terms of talent and booking. While many of these women go on to flounder under the thumbs of regressive man children Vince McMahon & Kevin Dunn on the main roster they can at least be proud to know that they are helping carve out a place for women in WWE through NXT, and hopefully one day this translates to the main roster so we do not see the complete hijacking of otherwise talented women (Emma, Paige).

The greatest feud in the women's division in NXT had no one true standout moment last year, but instead used their time wisely in a constantly evolving showcase of progression in counter based wrestling as seen through the perfect heel/face dynamics of Bayley and Sasha Banks. It was a series of matches that was based upon callbacks to previous matches, and since they've wrestled each other so many times there was plenty to build upon. It was always slight variations that brought something new to the table that kept this feud fresh. In April Bayley won with a Belly to Bayley suplex, One month later they wrestled again, but Sasha countered the Belly to Bayley with a backstabber crossface. When they picked their feud back up in August Bayley goes for the Belly to Bayley again, Sasha counters it again with the backstabber crossface, but Bayley, knowing this is coming, ends up countering that move with a roll up. It's little things like this that make watching the two very interesting.

As an aside I would just like to get on my soapbox for a moment and just talk about why these two (and Charlotte) are important. Women's wrestling is not given the respect it deserves in WWE, and to be truthful I'm not sure if it ever has. The closest it has ever come to being equal with the men was in the mid 90s when Bull Nakano, Alundra Blayze and Aja Kong were representing women's wrestling in the company. The attitude era saw the dissolution of this, and the arrival of Playboy matches shortly afterward. WWE has never recovered, but I respect that they are trying with NXT. The Women still aren't equal down in NXT, because if they were they'd be going after people like Athena as hard as they went after wrestlers like KENTA, but it brings me an infinite amount of joy knowing that there's at least one area of WWE programming that's giving women a spotlight. Women have always been as good as men at wrestling, but there's always been a stigma that they can't do it for whatever reason, and I think WWE is a big reason for that stereotype existing. I don't know if things are ever going to change on the main roster, but as a Woman I can at least take solace in knowing that Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and to a lesser extent Becky Lynch are ushering in what will hopefully become a new era for Women's wrestling in the biggest Wrestling company in the world.