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.

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