Arrival, the first live special for WWE’s developmental brand turned super popular critical darling NXT, aired on February 27, 2014. Three months later, they’d follow it up with NXT TakeOver. On Saturday night, NXT TakeOver XXV airs live on WWE Network, and what a long, strange trip it’s been.
In celebration of the event (and to avoid just copy-pasting in a bunch of stuff from the Best and Worst of NXT weekly TV column), we’ve decided to dig back into the archives and present the best GIF from all 25 NXT live specials. That’s 24 TakeOvers and Arrival, if you’re keeping score.
What do we consider the best GIF? Of course it’s completely subjective, but for this feature I tried to capture the single most memorable, talked-about, and historically important moment from each event. Bigger and better things may have happened, but I looked to build a cohesive narrative from Arrival to TakeOver: New York, touching on the feuds and division that were most popular at the time, and the *moments* that pop into your head when you hear that show’s name. If I missed anything or got anything horribly wrong — keeping in mind the entire thing can’t just be Gargano and Ciampa GIFs — drop down into our comments and let me know.
As for now, here are my personal picks for the most important and best GIF from every NXT TakeOver.
Date: February 27, 2014
Complete Show Card:
1. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
2. Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker
3. NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The Ascension vs. Too Cool
4. NXT Women’s Championship Match: Paige (c) vs. Emma
5. Tyler Breeze vs. Xavier Woods
6. Ladder Match for the NXT Championship: Bo Dallas (c) vs. Adrian Neville
Why This Moment? The first live special couldn’t have started out with a better or more important match for its time. The success of the Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn matches on NXT TV, particularly their 2-out-of-3 falls match, were the first NXT matches that got people “talking.” Their brilliance brought more eyes to the product, so opening the first “pay-per-view” with your two best wrestlers and hottest stars paying off a long respect angle with a great match and a hug was perfect. Zayn lost, but won Cesaro’s respect, and the different set of priorities for the NXT quadrant of the WWE Universe became apparent.
Honorable Mention: Both Paige and Emma actually starting the Women’s Revolution by having the first really good marquee women’s match in WWE in years and Neville (who’d go on to be one of my favorite NXT Champions ever) being crowned champion in the main event ladder match. The card doesn’t look as good as modern NXT shows on paper, but it was everything it needed to be in 2014.