Aleister Black (Tommy End) vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) (La Sombra) for the NXT Championship – NXT Takeover: New Orleans, April 7th, 2018
When NXT first debuted on the WWE Network in 2014, it was a shot in the arm to the wrestling world. After years of seeming indifference, the WWE proved that it was not only paying attention to the bigger world of wrestling, but had assembled one of the finest small-show rosters in the industry. NXT soon gained a ton of momentum, moving many longtime fans to view it as the most interesting brand under the WWE banner. As time rolled on, NXT continued to push the so-called “Main Roster” forward and became an important and recognized part of the WWE’s developmental and narrative structure. These days, NXT aren’t as rebellious a group as they once were, but that doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have a unique identity. I’d even say it still has the best special events in World Wrestling Entertainment. If NXT has lost anything in the last four years, it is the surprise that the hottest indy talent were appearing in a WWE ring. Triple H and crew have made it clear that if you’re on the hardcore fan’s radar, you’re on theirs. That said, NXT continues to have one of the best rosters in the business and nothing exemplifies this better than the most recent NXT Title match.
Aleister Black, the former Tommy End, is on the cutting edge of in-ring performance. Though there are others performing with a more defensive, European Catch style, he’s one of the few to make to television in the United States. Everything from Black’s look to his moveset sticks out amongst his contemporaries and the Dutch superstar may be the physical embodiment of NXT in 2018.
Andrade “Cien” Almas’ acquisition of the NXT Title was first a bit of surprise, though it should not have been. As La Sombra, he won the CMLL Universal Championship, the IWGP Intercontinental title and can count himself as one of the founding members of Los Ingobernables.
Andrade had a bit of a slow start in NXT, with a face run that just wasn’t working. What always worked though were his matches, even with little fan support story-wise, Almas always had the crowd in the palm of his hand by match’s end. Almas embodies another important aspect of NXT’s ethos, that the best in the world is the best in the world, regardless of how many action figures they sell. Oh, he does have one by the way.
On an already excellent card, this match ran as the first of two Main Events. It was followed by Gargano/Ciampa and that was deserved; Those two crafted one of the finest rivalries in recent years and you haven’t checked it out, you should. However, once the show was over, I couldn’t get the title match out of my head. A perfectly paced, perfectly executed match up of the two men who truly are the best NXT has to offer. That’s no insult to the rest of the roster, but this match was everything is should be. Zelena Vega, once Thea Trinidad and Rosita, also proved to be one of the best managers in the industry today. Upon Almas’ call-up, I hope Vega comes along with him.
I think this past Wrestlemania was a good one, especially with Styles and Nakamura, but they didn’t have the match of the weekend. Four years later, NXT is still on the cutting edge.
NXT Takeover: New Orleans is available exclusively on the WWE Network, though current buzz is that the show will also be the first Takeover included on this year’s Wrestlemania Blu-Ray.