After nine years of peaks and valleys, the Triple H-led Full Sail University era of NXT has come to an end.
The brand is moving into a new era reportedly being led by Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard. All signs point to the show having a very different direction than we are used to. With that in mind, why not look back at the best matches from the last decade of NXT?
Everyone knows Takeovers produce elite matches on a regular basis, but this list will focus on the weekly television show.
Some of these matches are legendary, some deserve more recognition, but all of them remind us of why we loved NXT.
These are the 15 best NXT TV matches of the Full Sail Era. And yes some of these are technically at the Performance Center but we couldn’t think of anything else to call this era so deal with it.
15. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (August 21, 2013)
We start this list with a match from the early days of NXT. This was before the time of Takeover events and before the time of widespread love for the brand in general.
NXT produced a number of big stars early in its life such as Seth Rollins and Big E, but Sami Zayn was someone who had to start at the bottom of the brand’s roster. One of his early rivals was Antonio Cesaro.
In August 2013, the two were engaged in a pretty epic rivalry when they put on this Best of Three Falls match. This was before indie superworkers dominated NXT and the main roster so this was a real treat.
Cesaro taps Zayn out with a chinlock in this match. A basic, run-of-the-mill chinlock. Incredible stuff.
14. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Finn Balor (July 13, 2016)
After Finn Balor lost the NXT Championship to Samoa Joe, he asked what was next for him. That question was answered by the newly debuted Shinsuke Nakamura.
Nakamura wanted to be champion but said he first had to beat the icon of NXT, Finn Balor.
In July 2016, Nakamura and Balor wrestled their lone NXT match. Nakamura still felt very special and a match with former New Japan Pro Wrestling star Balor was exactly what the fans wanted at the time.
Sure enough, the match was great with both men treating it with the gravitas it deserved. This was Balor’s first farewell match from the brand and the win launched Nakamura into title contention.
13. Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler (December 18, 2019)
Some matches are on this list because of the moments they helped create while others are on the list because of the impeccable quality of the in-ring work. This match had both.
Shayna Baszler had run NXT’s women’s division for the better part of two years by the end of 2019. She had run through nearly everyone in the division, holding the women’s title for 548 combined days. Enter Rhea Ripley.
It is hard to explain how popular Ripley was at the time but she had eclipsed everyone else on the brand when she finally defeated Baszler to become champion.
Both women had a hard-hitting ferocious style that meshed very well. This was the biggest match possible in NXT at the time and the two involved did everything possible to make the match live up to the hype.