NXT Takeovers are the one event on the wrestling calendar you don’t have to worry about because they always deliver and just keep getting bigger and better. After the success of NXT Arrival on the WWE Network, we were greeted by the first NXT Takeover and it would be the beginning of two years of fantastic events that would take NXT from the WWE’s developmental system in Florida to the hottest wrestling product on the planet all around the world.
The End was the most recent Takeover and it feels like an appropriate place to collate them all and rank them from least-good to best.
10th: NXT Takeover
The very first Takeover also happens to feature on the bottom of this list. The event set the standard for what we would come to expect, but the early days of NXT featured a mid-card that was still finding its feet and a main-event scene that doesn’t quite stack up with the later cards.
The Card: The event started with Adam Rose getting a win over Camacho in a match no one probably remembers and then goes into a tag team match featuring The Ascension and Kalisto. Two of NXT’s favourite sons then squared off as Tyler Breeze defeated Sami Zayn in a number one contenders match. In the main-event Neville defeated Tyson Kidd in a fantastic match that lacked the star-power and storyline of other NXT main-events however.
Match of the Night: The clear match of the night featured a member of the Kidd family, but not the one in the main-event as Natalya and Charlotte fought for the vacated NXT Women’s Championship. In a match that out-shines everything they’ve done on the main roster together, (because booking) they delivered the first of many NXT Women’s Championship show stealing matches.
9th: NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way
Fatal 4-Way is the next event after Takeover and it drastically improved the underwhelming main-event of the previous show, but it still lacked the star-power and presence that makes NXT as great as it soon would become. The other issue is none of the matches outside of the main-event were really given much time to work with which diminished what they could deliver. However, as all NXT events are, it was a fun show from start to finish with many highlights.
The Card: The Lucha Dragons ended The Ascension’s yearlong title reign to kick off the show in what was a shock at the time, but given the current position of both teams, isn’t as big of a deal in hindsight. Baron Corbin made his debut, Enzo Amore and Sylvester Lefort had a fun hair versus hair match, Bull Dempsey squashed Mojo Rawley and Bayley would get her first of many NXT Takeover appearances, going down to Charlotte.
Match of the Night: The main-event was far-and-away the best match of the night with fantastic in-ring psychology in the fatal 4-way, helped on by a crowd almost entirely behind Sami Zayn. The finish that involved Neville screwing Sami to retain was brilliant and highlighted NXT’s fantastic booking skills.
8th: NXT Takeover: Unstoppable
Unstoppable was aptly named as it was perfectly timed with NXT’s swarming rise in popularity in early 2015. Unfortunately, the event was marred by injury featuring Hideo Itami being taken off the card with a shoulder injury that he still hasn’t returned from, Bayley wrestling with a broken hand, and Sami Zayn competing in the main-event despite also having a serious shoulder injury. The card was highly anticipated from top to bottom and for the most part, the show delivered.
The Card: Finn Balor defeated Tyler Breeze in a match that had to be completely reworked due to Itami’s injury and thus wasn’t everything it could have been, Bayley and Charlotte won a tag match, Corbin beat Rhyno in the snooze-fest of the night, Blake and Murphy defeated Enzo and Cass in a highly important match as it gave us Alexa Bliss’ heel turn and Kevin Owens defeated the injured Sami Zayn in the main-event that was obviously hindered when you compare it to their recent pay-per-view bout.
Match of the Night: Becky Lynch announced herself as a genuine top talent in the women’s division, breaking out against Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship. The match was 15 minutes of fantastic psychology and brilliant wrestling as Sasha began what would be one of the best women’s title reigns of all-time. The standing ovation post-match is the best way to sum up their performance.
Match of the Night: The whole night revolved around one match and it delivered in spades. Bayley and Sasha had 30 minutes to work with and while it wasn’t the crisp, wrestling contest of Brooklyn, it was 30 minutes of amazing storytelling containing everything from vicious submissions to making little girls cry. It culminated everything Sasha and Bayley had built perfectly.
7th: NXT Takeover: R Evolution
R Evolution had an overall weak card, but gets seventh place for two reasons. Firstly, the debut of Kevin Owens speaks for itself considering where he currently is in the WWE and secondly, the main-event, which was the best WWE singles match of 2014, better than any in 2015 and probably still number one in 2016. Otherwise, it was a pretty average show by NXT standards.
The Card: The Lucha Dragons retained over Blake and Murphy in a very messy match, Corbin squashed Tye Dillinger, Balor and Itami defeated The Ascension and Charlotte retained over Sasha Banks in a very good match.
Match of the Night: Nothing compared to the NXT Championship match between Neville and Sami Zayn. This was the culmination of a storyline spanning most of 2014 for these two friends. The match spanned 23 minutes and was simply a masterpiece that ended in the crowning of Zayn as NXT Champion. It also launched the Kevin Owens character we’ve all come to know and love.
6th: NXT Takeover: Respect
Respect felt very much like a filler event between Brooklyn and London, but it had two very important editions that elevated it to sixth on this list. Firstly, with the passing of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, a tag team classic was announced with the finals taking place at this event. Secondly, for the first time in WWE history, a women’s match main-evented the show with Sasha Banks and Bayley waging war in a 30 minute iron match.
The Card: The Dusty Classic kicked off the show with Balor and Joe defeating The Revival in a hard-hitting match that was immediately trumped by Baron Corbin and Rhyno facing American Alpha, who had their break out match, turning them into the hottest thing on the NXT roster. Asuka then made her debut, beating Dana Brooke into a pulp, Apollo Crews and Tyler Breeze had a fun match that lacked a storyline and Balor and Joe would then secure the Dusty Classic over Corbin and Rhyno.
5th: NXT Takeover: The End
The most recent Takeover cracks into the top five off the back of three highly anticipated title matches. The show itself didn’t have the build-up that made other NXT shows, even ones lower on this list, but the card itself made it a fantastic show. The show featured the first ever cage match in NXT history as well.
The Card: Tye Dillinger kicked off the show, losing to Andrade Almas despite the crowd being entirely behind Tye, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Austin Aries, Asuka retained her title against Nia Jax in a great spectacle and Samoa Joe retained against Finn Balor inside of a steel cage. It was only a five match card which is smaller than the usual NXT card.
Match of the Night: The show stealer was the NXT Tag Team Championship Match between American Alpha and The Revival. This match eclipsed others on the card due to a few sequences that were pure gold and an unexpected ending. NXT can sometimes be too predictable, but this was a fantastically unpredictable swerve.
4th: NXT Takeover: Rival
Rival was the first event of 2015 and got the year off to a flying start with a fantastic card and equally good performances. What made Rival special was the fact that it was a changing of the guard in NXT. This was the event that gave us Sasha Banks and Kevin Owens as champions and probably the two best champions in NXT history, as far as title runs go.
The Card: Hideo Itami beat Tyler Breeze in a good match, Blake and Murphy retained the tag team titles over The Lucha Dragons, Sasha Banks won a fatal 4-way for the women’s title in a match that, at the time, was probably the best match in the history of the WWE women’s division and Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn by referee stoppage in one of the most memorable matches in NXT history.
Match of the Night: What could possibly top the best women’s match of all time and Owens’ ascension to the top of NXT? Adrian Neville and Finn Balor, that’s what. These two fought in the finals of a number one contender’s tournament and their match features one of the most entertaining final few minutes of a match you’ll ever see. It would be Neville’s final high profile match in NXT and it was simply one for the ages.
3rd: NXT Takeover: London
NXT’s first venture overseas gave us one of the most anticipated Takeover’s in history and it lived up to the hype. The London crowd was fantastic all night and unlike a few NXT crowds, it didn’t step all over the product and added to the atmosphere of what was a fantastic night. It also featured a small card of five matches, but each one was given over 10 minutes and a chance to blossom.
The Card: Asuka defeated Emma in a very strong match. The Revival retained over Enzo and Cass, Corbin defeated Apollo Crews, Bayley and Nia Jax told a fantastic in-ring story and Sami Zayn made his return, albeit airing the next week on NXT.
Match of the Night: It was a very even card with all three title matches as well as Asuka and Emma all delivering matches of similar quality, but Samoa Joe and Finn Balor’s first encounter was the best of them. Joe and Finn’s first encounter was incredibly hyped and felt like a main-event big enough for the first international NXT event.
2nd: NXT Takeover: Brooklyn
The top two on this list are incredibly even and both are the pinnacle of what NXT has accomplished and that starts with Brooklyn, and NXT’s first special outside of Florida. The atmosphere was electric and seeing over 15,000 NXT fans in attendance was a sight to behold considering the venues are usually much smaller. It was the night before SummerSlam and an event so successful, we’re getting it again this year.
The Card: Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Tyler Breeze in an exhibition match, The Vaudevillains defeated Blake and Murphy for the tag team titles, Apollo Crews made his debut, Samoa Joe crushed Baron Corbin and the main-event was an epic ladder match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens.
Match of the Night: Forget match of the night, the best WWE match of 2015 took place at Takeover Brooklyn between NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and Bayley. In a match with two crowd favourites, featuring an underdog who everyone wanted to see crowned and a champion nobody wanted to see leave, they wrestled a masterpiece that was not topped in 2015.
1st: NXT Takeover: Dallas
This was the WrestleMania of NXT shows. A stacked card from top to bottom that was just as if not more exciting than the big event three days later and featuring the debuts of Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura, Dallas was simply an amazing show. If you haven’t seen the WWE Breaking Ground one hour special in the lead up to this event, do yourself a favor, because it is amazing.
The Card: American Alpha won the tag team championships from The Revival in a match of the year candidate, Austin Aries stole a win over Baron Corbin, Asuka defeated Bayley in another match of the year candidate and Finn Balor retained over Samoa Joe in a match that didn’t quite reach the levels of London.
Match of the Night: You all know what the match is, nothing even needs to be written. Sami Zayn’s final match in NXT and Shinsuke Nakamura’s first. It was a moment in time that will be remembered for years as both men tore the house down for 20 minutes in front of a white hot crowd. Sami Zayn deserves a lot of credit for building NXT into what it is today and it’s only fitting he holds the best match on the best Takeover of them all… so far.