Starting with the Kickoff Show, Corey Graves made the unfortunate announcement that due to his history of concussions, he has to retire but he will become a member of the NXT announce team starting tonight. Things got off to a big start when Kevin Owens made his debut at the top of the hour. He faced perennial NXT jobber to the stars, CJ Parker. Right at the bell, he attacks and shows off his athleticism with some front flips. Parker gets in more offense than I expected, even splitting his hand to the bone and making Owens bleed with a STIFF palm strike. Owens wins and impresses. The match was hard hitting, served its purpose and the crowd was absolutely JACKED. ***
Next, the NXT Tag Team Titles were on the line as the Lucha Dragons faced the Vaudevillains. This has been a pretty well built tag team match but the tag division is the one thing in NXT that is kind of a letdown. However, I enjoyed this match. It wasn't anything out of this world, but it was solid and both teams got a chance to show their stuff. Again, the crowd was pumped and behind the Vaudevillains. After an act of chivalry by Aiden English, to save Simon Gotch, things went inside and Kalisto managed to pull out a win over Gotch. Good stuff. **3/4
Time for a quick squash match as Tye Dillinger came to the ring. No, he's not the squasher, he's the squished. Yes, I made up the word squasher. Sue me. Baron Corbin would do that part in a match that lasted longer than any of his previous ones. The fans grew tired of counting, but it still only went 39 seconds. Bull Dempsey was in the crowd and had a staredown with Corbin. Should be fun when this happens. SQUASH.
The entire show was stolen before the next match even started. After the Ascension and Hideo Itami all came to the ring, Finn Balor had an entrance that outdid everything I saw at WrestleMania. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. He busted out the body paint and the Ascension were shaken to their core. The match that followed was damn good as well. Hideo teased doing the Go to Sleep and the crowd rose to their feet, but Konnor broke it up. Dual diving foot stomps were enough to get the win, but the story was Balor. The man has the "it" factor, big time. ***1/2
NXT has been THE place for quality women's wrestling this year. At ArRival, Paige and Emma had my favorite Divas match in years up to that point. At TakeOver, Charlotte and Natalya bested that. Bayley and Charlotte had a great match at Fatal Four Way. That was all bested tonight. Maybe it's because I was 100% invested in Sasha winning the title, but I got lost in the match and just popped with every near fall. The crowd was surprisingly behind Sasha too, and even though I hated the outcome as Charlotte retained, Sasha had her star making performance. Best women's match of the year. Go watch it. Now. ****
Time for the main event, which got 23 minutes and delivered. Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville had a great match a few weeks ago, but it only got 12 minutes. They told a phenomenal story that featured plenty of callbacks to their previous encounters. Sami was nearly too compassionate again and he came very close to using the NXT Title in desperation. Instead, he stuck to his guns and finally won the big one. A huge celebrate followed with Kevin Owens being the first guy to greet him. The faces held him up, Adrian Neville hugged him and all was right in the world. The copyright logo comes up as Owens and Zayn go to leave...until Owens slams him down! He then picks up Zayn and powerbombs him on the apron! OHMYGOD WE'RE GETTING OWENS/ZAYN! ****3/4
Seriously, that was the best wrestling show all year. I got lost in the final three matches. I wasn't an armchair booker and I wasn't a guy who writes reviews. I was a kid again, watching performers that I love and cheering along. No other show makes me feel like that. NXT does. NXT did that tonight more than ever. It was an incredible thing to watch and a breath of fresh air. I will re-watch this, over and over. 10/10.