Sami Zayn is the true embodiment of the American dream. The son of two Syrian’s who moved to Canada in the 1970s, he was born in Canada and made his name in wrestling in Canada and the United States under the persona of El Generico. He achieved success all over the country and was one of the top prospects in the country, gaining huge admiration due to his lifelong feud with long-time friend Kevin Steen (Now known as Kevin Owens in WWE).
He signed for WWE in 2013 as part of the companies NXT program. He was immediately made a big part of the brand, being the face of the division and the top babyface in the whole promotion. He put on incredible matches, but it was his character work and realness that drew the fans to him. He was the ultimate babyface in NXT and fans cried with joy when he finally became NXT Champion in 2014.
Here are the best NXT matches of Sami Zayn’s career so far, put in chronological order from earliest to latest.
Sami Zayn’s Best NXT Matches
Sami Zayn vs Cesaro – NXT (August 21st, 2013
A hidden gem from the early days of NXT comes in the form of one of Sami Zayn’s best matches so far. Early on in his run in WWE, he removed the mask of El Generico to become Sami Zayn in NXT, an up-and-coming babyface who the fans couldn’t help but get behind.
The match was a two-out-of-three falls match and featured one of the fastest falls I’ve ever seen in this match type. The Canadian came out of the blocks to hit a Top Con Hilo onto Cesaro on the outside of the ring, before the match had even begun He got his opponent back into the ring and as soon as the bell rang, he hit his patented Helluva Kick to pin him to make the score 1-0.
What followed was an absolute clinic in wrestling. In a time where the WWE Network was but a twinkle in Vince McMahon’s eye and NXT was an underground wrestling organisation that most people weren’t even able to watch, this bout was one of Sami Zayn’s best and put him on the map. It also showed main roster fans just how good Cesaro was and why he shouldn’t have been stuck in a tag team with Jack Swagger for as long as he was.
You can watch the entire match below on Youtube
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro – NXT Arrival (February 27, 2014)
The final NXT encounter between Sami Zayn and Cesaeo in NXT was the first match in NXT Takeover history. This even took place before the “Takeover” branding was in effect, with the match being the opening bout on the NXT Arrival Card in 2014. It was also the first pay per view to be broadcast live on the WWE Network, so it has that history going for it.
The match was the rubber match between the two and somehow managed to exceed the other two bouts. Zayn had become obsessed with having one more bout with the Swiss Superman and was finally granted his wish by Triple H for NXT Arrival. Opening the show, they put on an amazing performance that saw Cesaro take the win but make Zayn look like a star, en route to his incredible NXT Championship victory later that year.
Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn – NXT TakeOver: R Evolution (December 11, 2014)
Voted the greatest Sami Zayn match ever by the users of Cagematch.net, Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution saw the Canadian star finally achieve his dream of becoming NXT Champion in a match that had everything on the line.
Taking on then-champion Adrian Neville (now AEW’s PAC) in a title-vs-career match, he managed to supress his wild emotions to pin the Englishman after a Helluva kick and become champion for the first (and so far only) time in his career. The story of the match saw him fight off the urge to cheat to win, as Neville had done to him multiple times previously and prove you can be a champion by doing things the right way.
After the match saw Kevin Owens, who debuted earlier on in the show, turn on his friend and powerbomb him onto the apron. This begun a feud that would last for years in the company and produce some of the best matches in WWE over the past few years.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn – NXT TakeOver: Dallas (April 1, 2016)
One of the greatest matches the black and gold brand has ever seen, and Sami Zayn’s last NXT match was his incredible bout against the incoming Japanese Legend Shinsuke Nakamura. Zayn had recently returned to the ring after nearly a year out of the ring, after tearing his shoulder before a match with John Cena on Monday Night Raw. When he came back, he demanded a challenger befitting of his stardom, and NXT General Manager obliged by booking him against the King of Strong Style at NXT Takeover Dallas.
The two had never touched before this match, but as soon as they did the crowd went bananas. Every punch, kick and hold and cheered like crazy and each man put on a performance of a lifetime in front of one of NXT’s biggest crowds ever. Both men had counters for each other’s counters and hit all their signature moves, much to the delight of the crowd.
The match was the match of the night, and probably the entire Wrestlemania weekend. Zayn lost the bout to Nakamura’s Kinshasa and went on the compete in a seven-way ladder match the next night at Wrestlemania 32. He was unsuccessful in that match too but his performance against Shinsuke Nakamura put him back on the map as one of the best wrestlers in the world.
Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakmura is Sami Zayn’s best NXT match of his incredible run, even if some people don’t rate it as highly as his bout with Adrian Neville.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.