WWE NXT is home to some of the best pure wrestling on the planet and with Takeover Toronto approaching, let’s breakdown every title defense from worst to first. It has been a blockbuster year for the developmental brand, but it’s fair to say there hasn’t quite been a standout championship match like in previous years. However, that just means this list is incredibly even and finding a number one will be challenging – let’s get ranking.
- NXT320: Bayley versus Carmella
Coming in last place is one of only two championship defenses on NXT television this year. First of all, there was nothing wrong with this match. Bayley versus Carmella is a match that had to happen in NXT before they were called up and the two best friends put on a strong contest and probably Carmella’s best match to date. Unfortunately, 11 other title defenses outclassed it in 2016.
- NXT Takeover The End: Asuka versus Nia Jax
Nia Jax has proven that she is a fantastic in-ring storyteller and this was no exception. While the action was of a slower pace and not filled with the high intensity offense that NXT is known for, Asuka and Jax told a story of two women who believed they were the invincible one.
- NXT Takeover Dallas: Finn Balor versus Samoa Joe
This match was unfortunately marred by stoppages due to Samoa Joe bleeding profusely for most of the contest. Joe and Balor’s rivalry carried NXT for much of 2016, but despite being two of the best in the world, they never really clicked. The matches were good, but not on the level befitting the two men. They get points for an unexpected finish, as most presumed Joe would leave with the title.
- WWE Roadblock: The Revival vs Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
By contrast, this match was hurt by the fact that we knew The Revival weren’t dropping the NXT titles on what was essentially a live event. The match itself was as good as you’d expect from The Revival and was a great way to cap off the feud.
- NXT Takeover The End: Samoa Joe versus Finn Balor
The first ever NXT steel cage match had a few production issues, but aside from that was the best televised match these two put on. They use of the cage was intelligent and didn’t weigh down the match and the finish was a standout moment. The fact that we had to watch the entire match from outside the cage, meaning the steel grating was always covering the screen got annoying quickly.
- NXT Takeover Brooklyn: Asuka versus Bayley 2
The sequel wasn’t as good as the original, but this was another example of a great in-ring storyline. One issue with a lot of rematches is they don’t feel like natural successions of the first one, but this nailed that aspect. Bayley learned from her first encounter and went about the match differently. The finish made Asuka look unstoppable and was the perfect send-off for Bayley to the main roster.
- NXT Takeover Brooklyn: Samoa Joe versus Shinsuke Nakamura
This was as hard-hitting as it gets. The animosity felt real and Joe was at his methodical best here. While the title change may have been predictable, it was the perfect time for the belt to change hands. The only real blemish on this match was a lack of injury selling at times.
- NXT Takeover Dallas: American Alpha vs The Revival
Alpha and The Revival had a series of amazing matches and the first of them set a high bar. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable were the hottest team in wrestling at the time and seeing them win the titles was one of the feel-good moments of the year. This match featured some of the most creative tag team spots you’ll ever see.
- NXT343: The Revival vs American Alpha
The only other title defense on NXT television in 2016 was a two out of three falls match and the final chapter of this rivalry. This was peak Revival as they controlled the match at a slow pace for nearly 15 minutes. The final fall was a Shatter Machine on the ring apron and that’s about as cool as it gets.
- NXT Takeover Dallas: Bayley versus Asuka
Bayley and Asuka’s first match had a tough job following Nakamura and Sami Zayn, but they did a fantastic job. The story was simple and felt like the culmination of Bayley’s championship run to that point. The crowd being simultaneously happy for Asuka and devastated that Bayley lost her title was a strange vibe that made the match even more special.
- NXT Takeover The End: The Revival vs American Alpha
This was the best of their three matches from start to finish and probably has the best near-falls of any match in 2016. There’s not much more that can be said about these two teams, but the unexpected ending with The Revival regaining the titles made this even better.
- NXT Takeover Brooklyn: The Revival versus Johnny Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa
Yeah, 2016 basically belongs to The Revival. Gargano and Ciampa’s rise through NXT was a joy to watch and this could possibly be the match of the year to this point. There are little things Dawson and Wilder do that make them the most entertaining tag team in the world to watch, but coupled with a much faster paced tag team in Gargano and Ciampa, they put on the best NXT title defense of 2016. The match was made even better by Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks sitting in the front row, marking out for every move and near-fall.
Do you disagree with anything on the list? Send your thoughts to @NicNegrepontis on Twitter and follow @GloriousWP for the latest wrestling news and live coverage.