The Good, the Great and the Awesome from NXT Arrival
There are defining nights for every professional wrestler lucky enough to step foot inside the squared circle.
For some of the brightest young stars of WWE's developmental brand NXT, that defining night came on Thursday as the sports-entertainment company presented ArRival, the first live event to be broadcast on the revolutionary WWE Network.
In the night's main event, NXT champion Bo Dallas defended his title against "The Man That Gravity Forgot," Adrian Neville, in a ladder match. With the stipulation benefiting the aerodynamic Neville, would Dallas be able to utilize his great ring awareness to retain his title or would the Brit be able put an end to the obnoxious champion's 280-day title reign?
Speaking of impressive title reigns, NXT Women's champion Paige would put her 252-day reign on the line against recent main roster addition Emma. Would the Norwich, England, native be able to fend off the challenge of the leader of the Emmalution or would Santino Marella's new squeeze capture the first championship of her WWE career?
2013 saw the debut of Sami Zayn in NXT and the former El Generico wasted very little time making a name for himself, scoring victories over main roster stars such as Curt Hawkins and Cesaro. The victory over the latter led to a very competitive rivalry between the two, which culminated with a 2-out-of-3 Falls match, won by Cesaro.
The bout won reaped rave reviews, but the loss haunted Zayn. He has spent recent weeks challenging the Swiss Superstar to a rematch. Despite reluctance to accept the young Canadian's challenge, Cesaro finally did, setting up a must-see bout for Thursday night's event.
Would Zayn exorcise the biggest disappointment of his young WWE career or would Cesaro continue to build momentum as he prepares for WrestleMania XXX?
All of these questions were answered Thursday night as WWE presented NXT: ArRival from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla.
Mojo, The Ascension and Rusev Shine
In action elsewhere on the card, blossoming young stars Mojo Rawley, Alexander Rusev and NXT Tag Team champions The Ascension were put in position to prove themselves in front of a brand new audience.
Rawley wasted little time in dispatching '60s reject CJ Parker while The Ascension defeated the returning Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay of Too Cool.
Before the match between Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze could get started, Rusev and social ambassador Lana made their way to the ring. Rusev destroyed both Breeze and Woods before Lana cut to a promo about her client.
The two matches were nothing special in terms of quality and the Rusev beatdown was no different than one fans may see on Raw and SmackDown. With that said, all three segments achieved their goals of exposing the young stars to audiences and announcing them as the future of the industry.
The Stars Are Out
WWE went out of its way to push the importance of the event itself. One of the ways they did so was to flash to some of the sport's biggest stars and most respected legends sitting in the audience.
The sight of John Cena applauding the efforts of Adrian Neville and Bo Dallas, as well as Neville's eventual title victory, legitimized the momentous occasion.
Add to Cena the likes of Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Pat Patterson, not to mention Kickoff Show panelists Bret Hart, Diesel and Paul Heyman, and the company did an exemplary job of making the event feel like the pay-per-view quality show it turned out to be.
Paige vs. Emma
The NXT Women's Championship match was an excellent example of what the Divas roster could be in World Wrestling Entertainment if it focused more on the ladies and letting them have actual wrestling matches rather than focusing on reality-show antics.
Champion Paige and challenger Emma delivered a very hard-hitting, physical contest that lived up to the considerable hype given to it on the pre-show and throughout the ArRival broadcast.
Paige bled from the mouth. New main roster Diva Emma controlled the majority of the match and appeared to be well on her way to becoming only the second women's champion in NXT history, but Paige roared back. She overcame tremendous pain in her ribs and back to catch Emma with the Paige Turner, then applied the very rare Scorpion Cross Lock for the submission win.
As Sami Zayn and Cesaro did following their tremendous opening contest, Paige and Emma embraced to the approval of the vocal NXT fans.
It was a shining moment for the women of NXT and a sign that the future of women's wrestling may be in better hands than anyone imagined.
Adrian Neville vs. Bo Dallas
The night's main event was the culmination of a rivalry that has played out on NXT television for months as NXT champion Bo Dallas defended his title in a ladder match against the so-called "Man That Gravity Forgot," Adrian Neville.
The bout was solidly wrestled with a few very hard bumps on and involving the ladder. Both Superstars really put over how physically draining a match of this type is, using really great facial expressions to communicate their pain and exhaustion.
Neville took some hard hits as Dallas worked him over for most of the match.
To the surprise of this writer, there were some very audible "Let's Go Bo" chants. Anyone familiar with NXT over the last year knows that is a shocking occurrence given the hate with which fans typically greet the third-generation star.
The finish came after Neville laid Dallas out on a ladder, climbed the ropes and came off with the Red Arrow. A minute later, he climbed the ladder, secured the title and celebrated his championship victory.
It was a great way to close out the show and a memorable match for both men involved.
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro
While the other pre-announced matches delivered in spades, there was only one match on the NXT ArRival show worthy of awesome status.
That match? The night's opening contest between WWE Superstar Cesaro and NXT breakout star Sami Zayn.
The fourth match in their series of bouts may very well have been their best.
The Superstars built upon spots from previous matches, showed great in-ring psychology, told a story and delivered a satisfying ending to the delight of the fans inside Full Sail University who greeted the action with chants of "This is awesome" and "Match of the Year."
The final uppercut from Cesaro was a thing of violent beauty and while it could have finished off the match, The Neutralizer was a fine way to bring the bout to an end.
A show of respect from Cesaro to Zayn, followed by the crowd's chants of "Ole" as the latter made it to his feet following the disappointing loss, did more for the former El Generico than a win over a main roster star would have.
Cesaro scored a huge victory to cap off what has been a tremendous three weeks for the Swiss-born Superstar in terms of in-ring production while Zayn made himself a star in the course of one night.
It's a legitimate contender for Match of the Year honors, at least this early in the year.
From the look of the arena to the great graphics to the extraordinary video packages that introduced the top NXT stars to a huge audience, WWE did everything in its power to make NXT ArRival a show that fans could not only be satisfied with, but also one that would make them want to tune into NXT each and every week from here on out.