Greetings and salutations, boys and girls, and welcome to the first Rajah main page installment of the most prestigious countdown list of the year, the Rajah Forums Countdown of WWE’s Best Matches of 2014!
Now, many of you have never visited the forums that are connected to this wonderful haven of news and features before, and so you might be unfamiliar with this countdown. The idea is that at the end of the year, dozens of Rajah forum members submitted lists of the WWE matches that they thought were the best. After an exhaustive process of averaging and general mathiness, a top 25 list was composed and over the course of the next few weeks, it will be revealed one match at a time.
If you agree or disagree with the matches on this list, or just wish to give your thoughts on them in a rad place full of skateboarding dinosaurs and charming secret agents, then hop on down to the Rajah Forums, make yourself an account and join the party.
Now let’s get on with the next installment of the countdown…
Adrian Neville(c) vs. Sami Zayn
NXT Takeover: R Evolution 12/11
With the crowd firmly behind him every step of the way, Sami Zayn embarked on a journey to become the NXT Champion. This point has been brought up multiple times during the countdown because nearly every NXT match on the list has been a chapter in Zayn’s rise to the top. Through many trials, challenges, and obstacles that were thrown at him, he has managed to topple them all, bringing him to his big moment, the final chance to take NXT Championship that rests comfortably on Adrian Neville’s waist.
“The Big X is in the air” again, as Alex Riley likes to say, and it really does feel like a big deal in wrestling whenever the NXT Championship is on the line, a title that is rapidly becoming one of the most presitigious world titles across the world. If you don’t agree, listen to the throngs of fans packed inside Full Sail University halting the start of the match with their rabid cheers of aproval for their hero. Adrian Neville is the unlikely, but fitting heel in this scenario, acting as the ultimate roadblock to Sami Zayn’s success. Having conquered every other challenge through much perseverance, the one thing that still slipped out of his grasp time after time was the NXT Championship. Now, having put his career on the line in a self-imposed ultimatum, he battles with Neville in his last opportuny at the gold. The rivalry between Sami and Adrian is notably deep, coming across like a new age Bret and Shawn, without the nasty backstage politics. Their skills are evenly matched, seen in the first few minutes where they trade basic holds in order to gain some momentum. But true to the narrative, Neville seems to keep the upper-hand early as the champion is who is nearly unmatched in pure in-ring ability. Unlike his bout with Cesaro, however, Zayn is not far behind as he quickly turns the tables with two big impact moves, a backbreaker and springboard moonsault to the outside. With the gauntlet thrown down, the bout is on trajectory towards immortality.
Rich Brennan makes an excellent point about Neville slowing the pace down to take the crowd out of the match, which works both in kayfabe to kill Zayn’s momentum and as a performer to keep the crowd energized for the later portion of the match; a display of Zayn and Neville’s ring psychology. Neville has never before looked like a stronger champion, as his many defenses have seasoned him into the most hardened of competitors. With how well-timed and substantiated the match is, it’s easy to forget that these guys are two of the greatest high-fliers on the scene today, but they are quick to remind you as they zoom across each other and flip in various ways to crush each other – never at the cost of conservation and genuine surprise. Above all else, though, Zayn and Neville have incredibly agility and unmistakeable chemistry that continues to impress time and time again, reaching a peak in what may be the most important match of their history together. There are excellent counters and back-and-forth action, with tangible build to all of the spots, like Neville’s German Suplex attempts or the astounding build to Neville’s sit-out powerbomb. It’s difficult to believe that any other pairing could pull off a handspring countered into an Electric Chair position, then flipped into a Blue Thunder Bomb.
The match is just as fierce as it is fast-paced. Neville seems to have Zayn under control, but as he begins walloping him with elbows, Zayn stands there like a zombie, taking each shot, before firing up and asking for more. He comes back strong after a string of sharp kicks from Neville and floors him with a stiff clothesline. At this point you are realizing that there is hardly a moment where your’e not glued to the screen by the simplest of movements and mannerisms. The false finishes are exceptional, and the seamless sequence of moves and blows that leads into every one jerks you back and forth in your seat under the duress of immersion. When Zayn checks on the knocked out ref, eats a superkick and a disgusting Reverse Frankensteiner, it’s completely believable that the match could be over.
Every time you think they are about to give you the result you’ve been dreaming of, they tear it away and fill you with immense fear that Zayn is going to be fucked again, until the final moment when Neville shows his ultimate desperation. After the second ref bump, he grabs the title belt in an attempt to knock out Zayn. Zayn quickly halts him, but he finds himself tempted by the heavy gold, considering the option of taking what’s his by giving Neville a taste of his own medicine. The crowd urge him not to turn to the dark side for what seems like forever, and despite the heavy temptation, Zayn says, “Fuck that”. Neville takes advantage of Zayn’s distraction for a roll-up, but Sami has none of it, quickly disposing of him with an Exploder Suplex into the corner. The moment when Zayn runs to the other side of the ring to set up for the final Helluva Kick speaks volumes of the journey Sami Zayn has been on. He stands there, a focused, yet nervous look on his face, knowing that this one kick was his absolute final shot to claim the gold as his own.
It’s here we can see the culmination of all the passion, drive, frustration and hard work pay off for the man that once made a name for himself as The Generic Luchador. Before Zayn’s boot even meets Adrian Neville’s face, we know that Sami Zayn has finally reached his destination. 3 counts of the ref’s hand later, the generic, but infectious Ska music swells within Full Sail University, while Sami Zayn, the NXT fan base, and hardcore wrestling fans all around openly weep, figuratively and literally, for one of the truly greatest moments in wrestling history. Perhaps it wasn’t Rock vs. Austin. It surely couldn’t recapture the magic of Hogan vs. Andre. But this was a genuinely special moment for one of the most talented up-and-comers today, while all-around being a ring classic that both Sami Zayn AND Adrian Neville should be proud of.
Highest Rank: #1 (mr sabu)