The Best of the Best; NXT’s 5 Star Matches Ranked By John Brecko
Image credit: Via reddit
If you’ve read the first article I’ve done for Wildchat Sports, you’ve probably summarized that I’m an Eagles fan and a football fan.
Truth is, I am also a pro-wrestling fan. I have been ever since I was 11 years old.
Most wrestling fans remember the match that made them a fan. Out of all the matches that have made people fans, the match that made me a fan was probably the worst out of anyone (more on that in a future article…).
I am currently 25 years old and over the years, I’ve seen wrestling matches improve drastically in quality.
One wrestling show that has produced AMAZING wrestling over the past 6 years WWE’s NXT brand.
Before NXT, WWE had only produced five 5 star matches in its history.
From 2018-2020, NXT has produced eight 5 star matches by itself.
This list is one that will celebrate just some of the best matches in NXT’s history.
This is every NXT that’s been rated 5 stars or higher, ranked from worst to best
*Note: The fact that WWE itself has been around for nearly 70 years and has only 13 matches rated 5 stars or higher to speak of should show how great of an achievement it is to have a 5 star match. That means you should check all 8 of these matches out no matter where they rank.
#8: Walter vs Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK Championship Match)
If you like watching a match that is physical and makes you feel every chop, every elbow strike, every boot to a person’s head, this match is for you. Both Walter and Dragunov had welts on their chests, shoulders and backs by the time the match was over.
The commentators quoted a promo from Dragunov when they said “this match will redefine violence”. After you watch it, how realize how hard that is to argue.
How the match was put together itself was simple, but when you watch the brutality when heads snap back from elbow strikes and kicks, when spit flies after palm strikes, you see why the match is held in such high regard. Details like that matter and it makes a match feel as realistic as possible.
To bolster that point, a lot of matches have been hurt by the fact they have not had fans in attendance. The crowd cheering and booing adds to the match quality in so many cases, including the matches on this list.
The fact that you could hear every blow landed by and on both of these men is one of the rare occasions that it actually helped add to the match. Whether this was done intentionally or not, it should be pointed out and praised.
After 25 brutal minutes, Walter retained his NXT UK Championship after choking Dragunov out in a sleeper hold, but not before we saw a war of attrition play out between two competitors before our eyes.
#7: Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) vs. Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
Something that I think is amazing about these first two match is that they were given away on free TV (and free is something people can appreciate now more than ever in 2020, let’s be honest here).
Also, I love the fact that wrestling can be so ridiculous, that people can actually get behind a team that’s called Moustache Mountain and no one will question it.
Personally, I love a match that tells us a story throughout the entire length it takes place and has you on the edge of your seat. I also love a match that compliments the match before it. I love a match where one team goes in as the crowd favorite even though they’re playing the bad guys and leave as the bad guys they’re supposed to be. This match does all three of those things.
The tag team from NXT UK won the Tag Team titles in London to a match that got a standing ovation while it was happening. These two tag teams had to try and top that (once again, it was on free TV).
It starts off with Tyler Bate and Trent Seven in control, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong take control and keep Trent Seven from tagging in his partner in Tyler Bate.
When Trent Seven finally lands an offensive move, he tries to tag in Bate, but Bate gets knocked off the ring apron not once, but twice. However, Trent Seven continues to fight back and eventually manages to tag in Tyler, who we see amazing feats to strength and agility from.
Tyler Bate tries to fight off both members of the Undisputed Era. Why? Trent Seven’s ankle is gravely injured to a point where he can barely stand on it. Tyler Bate doesn’t want to put a man who is a father figure to him in danger.
Eventually, Tyler Bate is knocked into his team’s corner and Trent Seven tags himself in. He bravely fights back, but eventually is locked in submission holds by both O’Reilly and Strong who refuse to let Seven tag in again.
Tyler Bate doesn’t want to throw in the towel, but feels he has no choice and does so to keep his mentor from suffering permanent damage to his ankle. The commentators also do a great job of mentioning that Trent Seven could suffer permanent damage if his ankle keeps being torn apart. The Undisputed Era win the match and win back the Tag Team Championships.
Undisputed Era was booed for nearly tearing apart another man’s ankle and even though they began as the crowd favorites, this match was able to make the crowd lean into the story and forget who they thought they preferred. That’s because this matched showcased what storytelling can do.
#6: Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Johnny Gargano (NXT Championship)
If you’re a wrestling fan, you already know this. If you’re not, I’m just letting you know that this won’t be the last time that you see Johnny Gargano on this list.
He’s been dubbed as Johnny Wrestling as well as Johnny Takeover and if you watch one of his matches, you’ll see why.
Sidenote: You already know all of these matches were rated, 5 stars or better, but you’ll never forget the first one, because it set the bar. Guess what? It’s this match.
In this match, there’s great mat wrestling to start, there’s a ton of near falls when the action heats up, there’s interference from Andrade’s on screen manager, Zelina Vega.
This match even has a great backstory with Johnny Gargano’s record against Andrade being 0-2.
Andrade eventually escapes with his championship, but not before we saw the first 5 star match in WWE in nearly 7 years
There’s even a post match attack to add to the drama when Johnny Gargano’s former tag team partner, Tommaso Ciampa hits Johnny Gargano with a crutch behind his back (spoiler: you may see Tommaso Ciampa pop on this list as well).
#5: NXT North American Championship Ladder Match -Winner becomes the inaugural NXT North American Champion
This match featured a who’s who of stars in Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, EC3, Velveteen Dream, Ricochet and Adam Cole (Bay-Bay!).
What’s been a great about each match so far is that they have had something different to offer.
Walter and Dragunov had physicality, Moustache Mountain and Undisputed Era and great tag team psychology throughout the match and Gargano and Almas had a flawless 30 minute classic wrestling match.
This ladder match was a car crash. It featured a superkick party from Adam Cole, high flying spots from Ricochet as well as even the 350 pound Killian Dain, an elbow drop from the very top of a ladder on to Lars Sullivan by Velveteen Dream and was the debut of both Ricochet and EC3 in WWE as a whole (multiple people get put through ladders in this match as well, which is always entertaining).
In the end, Adam Cole won the match and became the inaugural NXT North American Champion in the match that kicked off Takeover: New Orleans (that show’s so good you’ll see another match from it on this list by the way…).
#4: Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole – 3 Stages of Hell Match (NXT Championship; Takeover XXV)
I don’t care if WWE is calling it 2 out of 3 falls because they’re PG. When one match features a traditional match, a street fight and a steel cage match, it’s a 3 stages of hell match.
This is the longest match on the entire list at 50 minutes, but it draws you in the entire time.
It’s also the first match on this list to achieve a 5+ star rating (it’s official rating is 5.25 stars).
The first fall comes at around 20 minutes. Johnny Gargano get himself disqualified (remember, the first fall is a traditional match so that can happen) to hurt Adam Cole going into the street fight portion of the match.
They go back and forth around the arena before Johnny Gargano pins Adam Cole in the second fall before the deciding fall begins, which features both great wrestling and brutal weapons sports.
The match ends with both men climbing to the top of the cage, fighting for a minute before they toss each other off and they land back in the ring and crash through a table. An exhausted Adam Cole rolls over and puts an arm across Johnny Gargano to win the fall, the match and retain the NXT Championship.
#3: Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa
This angle was so good that this match headlined a Takeover and wasn’t for any title.
It headlined Takeover: New Orleans, the pay-per-view that featured the ladder match you already saw on this list.
It’s also the only match on this list not to be for a championship (if that’s something you care about…).
This was the main event of a Takeover because the angle was so good.
Tommaso Ciampa didn’t have entrance music at this time in his career because when the crowd booed him, it was too loud for that.
They booed him because he betrayed his former tag team partner, Johnny Gargano in the summer of 2017, attacked him with a crutch after his match against Andrade “Cien” Almas and cost him another match against Almas that was title vs career.
At this point, Johnny Gargano has nothing left and all he can do is drag down Tommaso Ciampa with him, until he’s given this match. If he wins, he’s reinstated. If he loses, he can never set foot into a NXT ring ever again.
It’s brutal, as it should be. The weapons spots are genuinely hard to watch at points, as they should be and they play off the days they were a tag team along with their match in the cruiserweight classic where they sit side by side at the end of their fight as two brothers who are torn after everything they just went through.
Although, when they sit side by side this time, Ciampa tries to betray his former tag team partner again, but this time Gargano is ready. Ciapma tries to hit Gargano with his knee brace, but misses and is locked in a submission with his knee brace wrenching against his neck for extra pressure.
The drama in this match and the buildup going into this match makes it worthy (in my opinion) of being placed in between match that are rated higher than 5 stars, even if this match was 5 stars exactly.
Tommaso Ciampa has no choice but to tap out and Johnny Gargano was reinstated. However, that would only be the beginning of Johnny Gargano’s struggles…as you will soon find out.
#2: Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole – 2 out of 3 falls (NXT Championship; Takeover New York)
This match actually got the highest rating of all the matches on this list at 5.5 stars and deserves every star it got. It’s the greatest NXT match to take place on American soil.
Adam Cole went in as the fan favorite despite playing the bad guy on TV (you’ve seen this once already – see #7 on this list). However, that would change as the leader of the Undisputed Era would pick up the first fall and after going back and forth, Johnny Gargano shows his refusal to quit and picks up the second fall.
After Johnny Gargano continues to go back and forth with Adam Cole, Gargano locks Cole in his signature submission, the Gargano Escape and it looks like he’s finally come back to win the NXT Championship that’s eluded him in multiple matches against Andrade “Cien” Almas and Tommaso Ciampa.
However, the rest of Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong) would interfere in the match, knock out the referee and beat up Johnny Gargano. Johnny Gargano would continue to fight back after being beaten by Undisputed Era by taking out Adam Cole’s allies.
Once he was done with that, Adam Cole would hit Johnny Gargano with two superkicks and his finisher, the Last Shot.
The noise in New York had been deafening for almost 10 minutes and was at reached it’s peak and wouldn’t come down after.
Adam Cole went to hit his finisher again, but missed and tapped out to the Gargano escape. Johnny Gargano had finally become NXT Champion in a 40 minute match for the ages.
However, I believe there’s one match that tops it.
#1: Walter vs Tyler Bate (NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff)
We start this match with a 5 star Walter match and end with 5.25 star Walter Match.
I believe this match lives up to its hype and then some.
It’s a classic David vs Goliath encounter with the 170 pound Tyler Bate performing feats of strength that you don’t see from anyone else his size.
It’s not against just anyone. It’s against a 6’4” 300 pound monster in Walter. Someone he shouldn’t be able to perform these feats of strength against.
These feats of strength include: Bridging out of a pinfall attempt with Walter on top of him. Slamming Walter. A shoulder tackle that knocks Walter out of the ring. Multiple suplexes to Walter. His finisher, the Tyler Drive 97 to Walter. Getting up with Walter on his back while Walter has bate in a sleeper hold.
All these feats of strength are spaced out in a match that went over 40 minutes long. Pulling this off a few minutes in is one thing. Pulling it off after 40 minutes while being 170 pounds and you have just some of the greatest feats of strength we’ve seen in wrestling in my opinion.
Also, the match featured brutal spots, including a powerbomb into the apron and the post by Walter (the powerbomb into the post was actually messed up Tyler looked like he compressed his neck; it’s horrible to watch) and endless chops and elbow strikes that you can expect from a Walter match.
In the end, Walter would retain his championship, but not after the fight of his life against a man from Dudley who refused to quit no matter what he went through in this match. In my opinion, nothing tops it.
Like I said, NXT has produced amazing pay-per-views and content in general, especially over the past 6 years and has only gotten better with years. Check these matches out if you don’t believe me because top to bottom, they are spectacular and can make a wrestling fan out of anyone (they’re certainly better than the match that made me a fan xD).