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Sami Zayn/El Generico


Superstar Sleeze
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Zayn really opened my eyes to how good of a babyface he is when I watched the 2013 Two out of Three Falls match against Cesaro. El Generico always struck me as a lame gimmick and too cute for its own good on the surface. I saw a couple of his tag matches with Steen in person when I went to ROH but was never really blown away. However, in going back to watch NXT specials from last year, I think Zayn is best pure babyface in the world. Was he this good as Generico?

Cesaro vs Sami Zayn - NXT Arrival 2/14

 

NXT is where pro wrestling lives, baby! Where has this Cesaro been on the main roster? No, it is not completely booking's fault. I am taking that bully mentality and those violent heel tendencies. Cesaro is damn great wrestler, make no mistake about it, but he has the same problem that many midcard heels on the main roster have. They do NOT do anything heelish in the context of the match. This is why "This is awesome" is so prevalent because there can't be good without evil and no one is evil in the ring. On this night, Cesaro was a total, unmitigated, unadulterated prick. Zayn is the consummate babyface. He is the lovable underdog character that you believe can win, but know it is not going to be easy. You know he is going to leave it all in that ring and you will never be disappointed by Zayn win, lose or draw.

 

Watch the two out of three falls match first, before you watch this match. Ok, you watched it now, good. Unlike most modern WWE series of matches, this series actually builds layers on top of other matches. The only WWE series that comes close recently is Cena/Lesnar. The beginning of this match was probably my favorite beginning to any match of 2014. It was just so perfect. Zayn has proven from the previous matches that his best chance to elude Cesaro with his quickness, but now being familiar with Cesaro he is combining his natural elusiveness with actual scouting experience. Cesaro shows him up early with his power and gives him a playful slap to the back of the head that gets a rise out of everyone. Cesaro goes for the Giant Swing, but Zayn eludes it with a armdrag to the outside. Zayn goes flying out onto Cesaro and it is fastbreak offense that gets the crowd rocking. Cesaro nips in the bud by catching Zayn off the top and into a backbreaker. Cesaro is just in total bully prick mode throwing Zayn around on the outside and he looks to use the post, but Zayn yanks Cesaro into the post with his feet. Zayn looks to repeat his awesome dive through the turnbuckles, EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! HOLY SHIT! Cesaro had it scouted. Now, we get Cesaro going back to the post and wrapping around the post. Cesaro working the knee was incredible and some of his best work in the WWE. Zayn is killing it selling, but also mixing in hope spots. I loved the whiff on the enziguiri triggering the single leg crab. I love sequences like that. His next spot was for Zayn was his split legged moonsault caught by Cesaro and slams him into the ramp. Damn! That was actually credible countout finish tease and you really feel Zayn's grit and determination to return to the ring.

 

Zayn's first big score is the Exploder into the turnbuckles. I agreed that Zayn needed to get hit some offense at this point in the match, but I thought it was a bit too easy for Zayn and felt more like it was his turn than him earning it. Cesaro goes back to the knee to cut off Zayn’s string of offense and applying a leg wrench using his neck as a fulcrum. Then you move to another interesting aspect of the characters. Cesaro starts to get a little cocky and Zayn takes advantage with roll up out of the Giant Swing. I love how Zayn fights during the Swing; it really makes for an awesome visual and puts over Zayn’s character. During a sloppy Cesaro cover Zayn slides Cesaro over for a two count. Cesaro almost more pissed at himself for letting that happened, crushes Zayn’s head with a double spot that had me popping like crazy. Zayn has another burst of offense using a hurricanarana off the top to set up his Yakuza Kick (I could not understand what Zayn’s name for it is.). Zayn won the first fall of the last match with that move. 1-2-NO! OH shit, you just gave Cesaro your best shot and that has to take a lot of wind out of your sails. Cesaro starts to obliterate with European Uppercuts and Zayn is just rocked, but won’t stay down. Zayn has one last burst of burst and the fists start flying. He throws a wicked German. Can he pull it off? I love Zayn’s selling with him holding his mouth, fighting through the pain and showing great fire looking for that Yakuza Kick, but Cesaro demolishes him with a big boot. Cesaro throw him up and European Uppercut only get one, but Cesaro will not be deterred and hits a roaring European Uppercut and Neutralizer for the win!

 


Zayn and Cesaro just crushed it out there. If there is any NXT match as good as this, then hot damn I am going to be in for one helluva run. Cesaro showed some of his best character work here as an arrogant bully. Zayn’s story of craving that respect and proving himself by defeating the main event bully made for a great hook. He fought to the very end, but eventually succumbed to Cesaro. Then Cesaro comes back to the ring and gives him that respect in the form of a hug. This is a perfect representation of how to get someone over by losing. Everyone came out looking better from this masterpiece. ****1/2

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Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze – NXT Takeover No. 1 Contender’s Match

Let’s get this out of the way first, I love Tyler Breeze! This type of gimmick is right up my alley. Mmm Gorgeous is such a great catchphrase and he is actually pretty entertaining promo from the video package. I loved him calling a Sami loser because of the Cesaro loss. Also, I love how NXT eschewed long promos and opting the video packages. It gives more of a sports feel. Zayn has come up short against Cesaro, but it was a valiant effort. Now he has set his sights on the NXT Championship.

 

Coming out of this match is when I realized how great Zayn is as a babyface. The hook of the entire match is Zayn’s quest to win the No. 1 contendership. He just lost to Cesaro and the Triple Threat No. 1 Contender’s match, so you really want him to get the win over Breeze to launch him up against the winner of Neville/Kidd. Standing in his way was Breeze who did an admirable job. Breeze will face an uphill battle to be taken seriously with the gimmick unfortunately even though I do love the gimmick. I was pulling for him to either be a great cheating heel or ratchet up the violence, but it was just fine, a bit pedestrian. I really liked the transition from the shine to heat with Breeze shoving Zayn off the top turnbuckle to the floor. The match suffers from inconsequential moves and Zayn not having a great obstacle to overcome. Zayn carries the match through selling and fire. The finish was really great. Zayn goes for his Yakuza Kick, but Breeze ducks and puts his hand up to protect his face and by accident hits Zayn in the balls. Breeze takes advantage with the Beauty Shot (the Close Up would be better).

 

The finish makes the match and the Zayn character all the more interesting. Zayn looks to have it won and then bad luck takes it all away. Breeze is able to hang on and take advantage of an opportunity. Breeze needs to show more in the ring to complement his character. Good stuff, but not nothing great. A cool stop on Zayn’s road to the title and worth the watch to see Zayn. ***

 

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In my opinion, he was already the best babyface in the world for a couple of years while he was still El Generico. His selling and emoting was incredible to me. I'd obviously not call them "facials," but even with the mask you knew exactly what he was trying to convey. He just got even better when he lost the mask (and I was definitely a fan who bad hoped he would stay under the hood back at that time). His character work has really been solid, as well.

 

I'd second the recommedation of the Steenerico/Briscoes and Steen/Generico feuds. He also had a load of really good matches in PWG during the same time period up until he left the indies. Basically, I think he's wonderful. Not sure he will wind up a huge star on the main roster, but I think he will do a very good job when he does get the call.

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Generico's entire stretch during that 2011 BOLA is freaking phenomenal, to be entirely honest. It's as solid a modern underdog performance as you're gonna get ANYWHERE, in my opinion. The finale with Steen isn't anything extraordinary or groundbreaking from those two, but it tells a superb little story. Plus it's strengthened by their built-in backstory & rivalry behind it.

 

Oh, and the post-match stuff with the BOLA trophy & the kid is simply tremendous. If I were Mercury, Noble, or whomever - it's the single best "moment" I'd point out to WWE to emphasize Zayn's value & illustrate his stock as the potential next Rey Mysterio style babyface for the company.

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NXT Champion Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn vs Tyson Kidd vs Tyler Breeze - NXT Takeover 9/14

 

Overall, I tend to like NXT crowds they remind me of ECW crowds where they are smart and play along. I think the best representation of this was the double chant of "Nattie's Better!" "That's a fact!". That might be the most creative and appropriate chant ever. I love chants that exist to get under the heel's skin like Paula and are sorely missing in today's current product. The NXT crowd really nailed it with that one. While they did chant "CM Punk!" "999" and then "This Is Awesome" during the finish, they can't do any wrong in my eyes after the awesome double chant.

So talking about the crowd as the opening may seem pretty damning for the content of the match, but I thought this was a pretty good fatal 4-way. Everyone plays their character really well, the spots were fun and the finish was great and really sets up the next show. Before we get there, lets talk about the match. Early on the best spot is Zayn getting one up on Breeze and then taking a selfie, which is a fun early spot. Kidd/Breeze take out Neville and Zayn with double suplexes on the entrance ramp. I like Kidd's selling on those suplexes let's you know how much damage is really dished out. The best part of the match up until the finish was Kidd playing King of the Mountain on Neville. He was relentless keeping Neville out of the ring and I loved it. Breeze standing on Zayn's head is something we need to see more out of him. Kidd vacillated between being awesome and boring. The slap exchange with Zayn was great, but then he would lock on a chinlock. There is the right time for a chinlock and a wrong time. It really feels like he is squandering his isolation advantage (loved that term from either Byron or Tom). Finally, Neville breaks into the match and it does not get nearly the reaction it should have based on the King of the Mountain earlier. The announcers let us know that Neville and Zayn are friends. Neville steals Zayn's thunder doing top rope Asai Moonsault onto the two heels. We get the Zayn/Neville teaser that the crowd eats up. I really like Kidd shooting Zayn like a dart up onto Neville who was on the top rope and it is a nasty bump. I liked that spot a lot. Zayn is looking for a Yakuza Kick, but is intercepted by a Beauty Shot from Breeze. Breeze was slotted in the Rollins opportunist role and did a fine job, but nothing spectacular. He can't get the pin and that leads to Tower of Doom. Renee asks "What do you call that? Have you ever seen that before?" "Tower of Doom and Yes I have in every multi-man match featuring midcarders post-2002". Now Zayn cant get the pin. Zayn eats a foot from Neville and takes a Shooting Star Press. Breeze throws Neville out and looks for pin, but cant get it. He takes an eternity to follow it up. He squanders his opportunity and Kidd applies the Sharpshooter. Neville stops Breeze's hand from tapping and Zayn breaks it up. Zayn goes for his big tear. Neville takes a HUGE bump to the outside, Zayn dives through the post onto Breeze, YAKUZA KICK TO KIDD! HE IS GOING TO DO IT! 1-2-NEVILLE PULLS OUT THE REF! Gold is a powerful force. Zayn is in shock and Neville cant seem to believe he did it himself. Zayn eats a superkick and Neville hits the Red Arrow on Kidd to win.

 

Breeze was mostly a non-factor and had some decent moments as the opportunist. They showcased Kidd early as the main heel and he demonstrated some violent tendencies and loved King of the Mountain. Then he is sort of disappears and eats the pin. Neville and Zayn were the stars and did great in their roles. Zayn as the underdog babyface just does all the right things, he pops the crowd early with the Breeze selfie, then selling with Kidd and that absolute tear that just has everyone rocking. Neville was the frustrated champion. He was constantly undermined at first with the King of the Mountain, then Zayn being catapulted into him, Breeze stealing the Shooting Star Press. I would be frustrated too that I am the champion and I just can't get anything going. Here I am about to lose my damn title, but I never really got a chance to kick ass and I would just lash out and grab the ref. Great build up to that moment and him snapping. He really sells it like "I can't believe I just did that." I have been liking these NXT shows, but I think what has been missing is the hook for the next show and now i am just itching for Neville/Zayn. The match content was fun, but that finish really makes the match for me. ***1/2

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