Sami Zayn vs Cesaro
Not having this match main event the show was a mistake. Having it open the show was an even worse mistake. I understand the idea of wanting to have an entertaining match to start the night, but Zayn vs Cesaro was the match everyone was talking about coming in and coming out of this show. It is a rematch of one of the best matches of 2013 and has a lot better build up than Neville vs Bo Dallas. Opening the show with this match leaves nowhere to go but down from there.
With that miniature rant out of the way, the match was incredible. Cesaro is the MVP of the WWE over the past month or so. In the last two weeks alone he has wrestled in the Elimination Chamber, had a long match with Cena on Raw, defeated Orton on Smackdown in a long match, a long match with Bryan and carried Big E to a decent 15 minute match all leading up to this match with Zayn. He has reached near Daniel Bryan levels of workhorse.
The other half of this match of the year candidate, Sami Zayn, seems like a superstar waiting in the wings. He is the cream of a currently underwhelming NXT crop, and the only question is how long will he remain in NXT? I wouldn’t be surprised either way if WWE wants to call him up soon or if they see the value in leaving him on NXT to be the face of the brand for an extended period of time. Either way, Zayn is sure to keep entertaining.
The NXT Arena is on fire as the match gets under way, with dueling chants of “We the people” and “Sami Zayn”. Cesaro gets a rear-waist takedown and follows it up with a slap to the back of Zayn’s head. After an intense back and forth of counters and chain wrestling Zayn eventually breaks free of a Big Swing attempt and sends Cesaro out of the ring, and follows it up with a running somersault dive over the top rope, igniting the crowd once again.
As the first “This is awesome” chant breaks out only a few minutes into the match, Zayn tries a crossbody from the top rope, but Cesaro counters by catching him and turning it into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Cesaro can toss guys like Big E or Cena around with ease, but with Zayn it almost looks like a Dad wrestling with his son he can so easily handle him with his strength.
Cesaro beats Zayn from pillar to post, tossing him in and back out of the ring several times. Zayn plays the perfect sympathetic face to sell a beating, and the crowd supports him with the first “Ole” chants of the night. Zayn tries to fight back, but his punches cease to faze Cesaro, who tosses him into the guardrail and then back into the ring.
Zayn tries a suicide dive through the side of the ropes (similar to a spot in the first match last year) but this time Cesaro counters with a nasty looking European uppercut, sending Zayn once again to the floor. The crowd chants “holy shit”. Cesaro rolls Zayn into the ring and wraps Zayn’s surgically repaired knee around the ring post and slams it violently. Cesaro continues to attack and work over the ailing leg until Zayn counters with a back heel kick to momentarily shift momentum, but it takes as much out of his injured knee as it does Cesaro, who quickly regains control.
That is the story of the match, any attempt Zayn makes to get things going Cesaro is a step ahead. With Cesaro on the outside once again, Zayn tries an asai moonsault, but is once again caught in midair and driven into the metal ramp. Zayn, favoring his leg, is nearly counted out but is able to slide back into the ring at 9,
As Zayn struggles to pull himself up in the corner, Cesaro rushes in but is countered and suplexed into the corner by Zayn. Zayn then hits his spinout powerbomb known as the thunderbomb and gets a near-fall. The crowd, which started off cheering for both men, is now squarely 100% backing Sami Zayn. Zayn applies the Koji clutch, but Cesaro powers out and counters by hanging Zayn’s knee over his neck and stretching the knee out. Zayn eventually reaches the rope as Regal wonders if Zayn is being foolish in continuing on in the match.
Cesaro has a big swing attempt countered into a roll up pin that results in another near fall for Zayn. The Big Swing usually seems harmless, but it makes sense that in this match it would really bother Zayn’s injured knee. He rebuffs several Cesaro attempts at the swing throughout the match, but Cesaro finally locks it in and gives Zayn 10 spins. As Zayn pulls himself up in the corner, Cesaro nails him with a running European uppercut that sounded like a gun going off.
Zayn is able to counter Cesaro’s pin into a backslide and Cesaro answers with a leaping double-stomp to Zayn’s head. After another close 2 count, the crowd gives its 2nd “This is awesome” chant of the match. Cesaro begins to look a little bewildered in typical “what do I have to do to put this guy away” fashion after everything he has dished out to Zayn.
In the best exchange of the match, Cesaro would counter a top rope hurricarana attempt by Zayn, catching him and putting him in position for a possible powerbomb. Zayn re-countered, however, and sent Cesaro packing with a big hurricarana, and then followed it up with a huge running big boot to Cesaro in the corner. It was the closest nearfall yet, and the crowd was ready to explode for the Zayn victory.
Cesaro begins dishing out vicious European uppercuts, and the “we the people” chants come back, soon followed again by “Ole” chants. Cesaro points at Zayn and warns him to stay down. When he gets up, Cesaro drills him with another European uppercut and the process is repeated. The ref holds Cesaro back as he begins counting and Regal says it is beginning to get uncomfortable watching Cesaro beat on Zayn.
Zayn again rises to his feet, and Cesaro again delivers a European uppercut, only instead of falling to the ground, Zayn strikes Cesaro back and the crowd explodes. The two men begin brawling, exchanging wild punches until Zayn ducks a Cesaro punch and tosses him with a nice German suplex. As Cesaro lifts himself up, Zayn again is looking for a big boot but Cesaro counters with one of his own, laying Zayn out.
Cesaro picks Zayn up and puts him into position for the neutralizer, but Zayn flips out of it and counters with a roll up that gets a 2 count. After another close count on a roll through and pin up, the announcers wonder what it will take to beat either of these men, and the crowd explodes for their latest reaction yet, showing great appreciation for the match these two are putting on.
As both men get to their feet, Cesaro launches Zayn for the Very European Uppercut, and goes for a pin, but is shocked when Zayn kicks out at 1 and begins hulking up. Cesaro knocks Zayn out of his boots with a spinning discus European uppercut followed by the neutralizer and a 3 count.
Not only will the match prove to be impossible for anything on this show to top, it might be hard for any match in 2014 to top that as match of the year. Watching a match like that can feel exhausting as a fan, so I still find it strange that it opened the show. Hats off to both competitors, they could not have performed any better.
After the match we get a cool moment, as Cesaro helps Zayn up and hugs him, expressing that he finally does respect Zayn, which is what Zayn had been striding for. It is also a likely another sign that Cesaro will be a full blown face on the main roster soon.
Cesaro exits and Sami is left in the ring and the crowd shows how much they love him with Sami and Ole chants. Even in losing this match, Sami looks better than he ever has and shows once again that nobody plays the underdog role better.