This is actually an old Tumblr post, but since I recently wrote about the second NXT show in Nashville that I attended for Paste Magazine, I thought I would share something I wrote about the first.
Man, I wish I could have better captured in pictures just how magical tonight was. Just how amazingly responsive and loving Bayley was with the crowd. Finn’s cool new Prince Devitt-esque swagger and his pride in NXT that eventually lead to him leading the room in a group “SUCK IT!” Asuka just being the rainbow murder queen that she is.
Really though, the most magic of all was Sami Zayn’s match with Baron Corbin, which might have been match of the night.
Not to say the other matches weren’t great. They were all pretty great. Finn vs. Joe and Bayley vs. Emma were solidly fantastic, Asuka literally chased Alexa Bliss around the ring, Nia Jax and Billie Kay are improving leaps and bounds (Nia has even added a somewhat familiar looking elbow drop to her moves), Jason Jordan was getting so into the match against Dash and Dawson that he pulled his straps back up to pull them down again, and I’m partially certain Johnny Gargano might have knocked Murphy’s tooth out.
But that match…
From the moment Sami entered the ring, he just seemed in awe of just how over the crowd was for him. He just had this look on his face of like “Wow, all of this for me?!” He was clearly getting emotional during it, admist all the “OLÉ” chants and noticing the guy on the front row of the balcony wearing the mask of his good friend El Generico.
And god, just the back and forth between Sami and Corbin. While Corbin is no Kevin Owens, he’s a pretty damn good heel match for Sami. Sami cares and loves and is a beacon of hope and positivity, while Corbin only cares for himself and wants to break everything apart. And of course, he hates anyone he sees as a threat to what he believes is his own ascendency. Sami falls in those parameters.
So Corbin tries to stalk Sami like a wolf. He tries to make him stay down. He even delivers the End of Days. Everything that should trap Sami and remind him of just how worthless he is.
But Sami… Sami…
Sami counters Corbin’s stalking with his own, trapping him in his own game. Sami refuses to stay down, shaking his head no each time he gets back up. He kicks out of the End of Days at two and a half.
Of course, it isn’t that easy to put Corbin away. Sami delivers a Blue Thunder Bomb and Exploder Suplex, but Corbin bounces back. He even runs and flips onto him off the stage when it proves to be too cramped to do so with the ring set up. Corbin refuses to go quietly. However, when Corbin is running back and forth across the corners of the ring to slam Sami into the turnbuckle, Sami runs after him when he turns his back and hits him with a Helluva Kick, FINALLY putting him away.
The crowd explodes of course, and there’s emotional Sami again. Oh man, it’s too much for my heart to bear. But Sami, ever the sportsman, beckons Corbin back into the ring. The ref is wary of this, of course, but Sami takes off his elbow pad and visibly throws it off to the side, showing that he means no harm. Corbin comes back and Sami signals to the NXT crowd while he addresses Corbin, somewhat similar to the way Cena did for Kevin after their match at Money in the Bank. It’s like he was saying “Listen to them. You did good. You belong here.”
And he holds his hand out for him to shake. It seems like for a split second, Corbin just might…
But then he just rolls out of the ring. Typical.
Sami doesn’t take offense to it though. He just shows his gratitude to the crowd, emotions still visible in his face. He gets out of the ring and pulls himself back onto the stage. Before he stands up though, he props himself on his hands and knees and kisses the wood of the stage before him. I’m not sure if it’s a prayer, respect to the room, or paying reverence. Perhaps its all three.
I don’t know what the future holds for Sami. I can’t pretend to know if those emotions were just about him just being in awe of how the crowd received him or if this could be one of his last tours with NXT. I can project it all later when he gets his call up, but for that match and those moments, we were all just riding that wave of the here and now. We cheered because we love Sami and we missed him greatly those months he was gone, and Sami loved us and missed us too.