NXT Review – Joe and Zayn Battle over No. 1 Contendership

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3/9/16 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters

Samoa Joe def. Sami Zayn (2-1) in a two-out-of-three falls match to determine the No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship

Neither man could gain an advantage early, with Zayn working over Joe’s left arm whenever he could. Joe finally got the upper hand with an elbow drop, following up with a running facewash. Joe continued on offense with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, but Zayn finally answered with a series of three clotheslines.

Joe planted Zayn with an enziguiri, but Zayn managed to kick out. Joe hit an atomic drop, a big boot and a running senton, earning another two-count. Zayn tried for a Koji Clutch, but Joe quickly reversed it into a scoopslam.

Zayn managed to dump Joe over the top rope, following up with a split-legged moonsault. Back in the ring, Sami climbed up top and hit a diving crossbody to earn his first near-fall. Zayn tried to get Joe up for a blue thunderbomb, but Joe reversed into a crossbody.

Joe hit a lifting side slam and a Musclebuster to finally earn the first fall, approximately 22 minutes into the match. Joe 1, Zayn 0.

Zayn started the second fall by avoiding another Musclebuster and landing a missile dropkick, busting open a cut between Joe’s eyes. Joe responded with a snap suplex and took Zayn outside, ramming him into the ring steps. Joe hit an STO on the floor, as he repeatedly tried to win the second fall via countout.

Zayn finally got Joe up for a suplex, and Joe rolled out of the ring, where Zayn met him with a plancha. Zayn tossed Joe back into the ring and locked him into a Koji Clutch, forcing Joe to tap out. Joe 1, Zayn 1.

Zayn opened the third fall with a blue thunderbomb, but Joe kicked out at two. Both men went up top, and Joe hit a sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope, earning another near-fall. Outside the ring, Zayn hit his signature leaping between-the-ropes tornado DDT.

Back inside, Zayn tried for a Helluva Kick, but Joe reversed into a powerbomb. Joe rolled Zayn over into a Boston Crab, then transitioned into a crossface. Zayn tried to reach the ropes to break the hold, but Joe transitioned into an armbar to keep him from reaching.

Finally, Zayn got his foot on the bottom rope, and Joe broke the hold. Joe landed an enziguiri, but Sami popped up and trapped Joe in his own finisher, the Coquina Clutch. Joe reached the ropes, but Zayn immediately followed up with an exploder suplex into the turnbuckle.

Zayn came up empty on a Helluva Kick, and Joe locked in a Coquina Clutch. Zayn passed out in the hold, giving Joe the third-fall victory via referee stoppage. Joe 2, Zayn 1.

Scott’s Thoughts: By my unofficial count, this match was approximately 43:30 in length. How often do you get to see that, especially on a one-hour TV show?! This was absolutely one of the top matches in NXT history. Every moment was built perfectly — it’s difficult to pace a nearly 45-minute match, but these guys nailed it.

I also loved how the announce crew kept referring to the other matches scheduled for tonight’s card, giving the kayfabe impression that Zayn and Joe was lasting much longer than expected. It’s a bold move for a promotion to dedicate an entire week’s worth of programming to one match, but it could not have possibly worked out better. Fabulous episode.

Other notes:

  • William Regal announced that he would take no disciplinary measures against Baron Corbin, because Austin Aries had asked him not to. He said that Aries and Corbin would settle their differences in the ring at Takeover: Dallas.