Samoa Joe vs Sami Zayn
Number One Contender’s Match
Taped 01/22/2016, aired 02/17/2016
CFE Arena, Orlando, Florida, United States
(reviewed 01/06/2017) To get some closure on their number one contender’s three-way match with Baron Corbin a few weeks earlier, these two face off again. Knowing that this match doesn’t have a conclusive finish either sort of hurts it, as does the feeling I get that these two are holding back a bit, unable to either use the sorts of spots and concepts from the three-way while also feeling the need to save material for their next bout. To top it all off, 2016 has been a very weird year in Zayn’s career, so this match has a lot working against it. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here, as these are two talented professional wrestlers playing it safe in front of an appreciative crowd. Joe’s finer points here shine, with great facials and body language that are the highlights of his work these days. Zayn does well to get steamrolled by him, but with Joe being not that much bigger and being rather slow, it creates a situation in which Zayn should theoretically be making more comebacks than he does. When these two pick up the pace, though, the match quality increases exponentially, highlighted by a stellar powerslam from Joe. In general, Joe is real fired up here, giving one of his better performances I’ve seen in his time in NXT. Eventually, after enduring a bunch of punishment, Zayn avoids the Muscle Buster and hits the Helluva Kick before collapsing onto Joe, with both men’s shoulders on the mat, and the referee counts them both down for three. On commentary, Corey Graves does very well to note that Joe’s hand was draped over Zayn’s arm as a way to argue that Joe was the one doing the pinning. All in all, sort of a middle of the road match for these two, with occasional flashes of brilliance from Joe, but not enough spark to make this feel great on its own.