More classic matches chosen by the NXT UK superstars!
The Superstar Picks bring some incredible instant classics! Relive Cesaro VS Sami Zayn at ArRIVAL, and Toni Storm VS Io Shirai at WWE Evolution in the Mae Young Classics Finals!
- Madison Square Garden, 12/28/84 – WWF World Junior Heavyweight Championship: “Black Tiger” Mark Rocco VS The Cobra; The Cobra wins and becomes the new WWF World Junior Heavyweight Champion.
- WWE Evolution, 2018 Mae Young Classic Finals – Toni Storm VS Io Shirai; Storm wins the 2018 MYC.
- NXT ArRIVAL: Cesaro VS Sami Zayn; wins.
PLAY BY PLAY
Andy Shepherd welcomes us back!
BIG news as of Saturday for NXT UK! It’s coming back September 17, in the BT Sports Center in London! But still, we dig into the archives, and William Regal has found a gem featuring a true British wrestling legend!
“Hello, I’m NXT General Manager, William Regal.” Regal is here happily to honor a great friend, foe and colleague who passed away. Mark “Rollerball” Rocco was an innovator, and created much of the Cruiserweight style we see today. He was also a great man and an all around ambassador for the industry. But Rocco only ever had one WWE match, and was very active in Japan as Tiger Mask’s #1 rival. He had one match for the Junior Heavyweight Championship in America, and WWE dug deep to find this one. Here’s to the late, great Mark Rocco.
WWF World Junior Heavyweight Championship: “Black Tiger” Mark Rocco VS The Cobra!
The belt is raised and the final checks are made. The bell rings and Cobra gets some spring in his step as he circles with Tiger Rocco. They tie up, Cobra puts Rocco on the ropes, but Rocco pushes back to get a hammerlock, only for Cobra to switch it right onto Rocco. Cobra wrenches to a double wristlock, then wrings Rocco out, only for Rocco to roll through. The two go again, Rocco kicks low, snapmares fast and drops a knee! Rocco repeats the snapmare, drops an elbow then wraps on a chinlock. Cobra slips right out to get that wristlock, wrench again, then arm-drag Rocco down to an armlock! Cobra cranks on the shoulder, Rocco fights up but Cobra clubs him down. Rocco trips Cobra up, has a leg but Cobra immediately gets the arm for an armbar!
Rocco endures, gets his shoulders up and rolls to push Cobra. Rocco gets around to a chinlock, wraps an arm for a cobra clutch but Cobra gets up. Rocco whips him and LARIATS him! Then somersault senton! Cover, ONE, and Cobra throws forearms. Cobra puts Rocco on the ropes again, Rocco headlocks but Cobra powers out to back drop high and hard! Cobra sits Rocco up to wrap on a chinlock and grind him down. Rocco endures, fights up but Cobra knees and elbows him down. Cobra goes up top fast but Rocco intercepts the flying ax handles to throw Cobra. Cobra comes back with the LEG LARIAT! Cobra’s up top for a BIG knee drop! Cobra scoops for a gut wrench SLAM! Cover, TWO! Cobra keeps on Rocco with the ghost pin, TWO! Rocco tries a cravat but Cobra headscissors fast.
Cobra squeezes Rocco tight, Rocco pries free, and kips up! The two stand off and reset. Cobra kicks low, clubs Rocco then fireman’s carries. GUT BUSTER! Cobra turns Rocco over for a BOSTON CRAB! Rocco endures, refuses to quit and the fans rally. Cobra lets go to adjust his grip on the legs, to hook them up. Cobra gets the arms and pulls for the SURFBOARD! Rocco literally uses his head for a ropebreak! Cobra lets Rocco go to stomp him out! Cobra runs and kicks Rocco down again. Cobra wraps Rocco up in a facelock but Rocco fights up. Rocco manages a back drop suplex, gets a headlock cover, TWO! Rocco clubs and kicks Cobra then drops a leg! Cover, TWO! Cobra throws a body shot but Rocco knees Cobra back. And again! And elbows Cobra down! Rocco springboard knee drops!
Rocco wraps Cobra up in the chinlock. Cobra endures even as Rocco wraps tighter. Rocco lets up to elbow Cobra in the head, then drop a knee. Rocco brings Cobra up to CHOP, Cobra CHOPS back! Cobra fires off and knocks Rocco down, springboards but his splash misses! Rocco gets the legs in the double knee lock. Rocco pulls on the legs with that modified figure four hold but Cobra endures. Rocco shifts around to try for a chinbar but Cobra fights up, so Rocco elbows him down! Rocco stomps Cobra, brings him up and whips him to ropes for a big back drop! He follows with an elbow, cover, but Cobra knees back at TWO! Rocco keeps on Cobra with the headlock, tries the cover again, TWO!
Rocco wraps Cobra back up in another facelock but Cobra fights his way up. Cobra pushes and whips but Rocco kicks him down! Another somersault senton! Cover, TWO! Rocco scoop slams Cobra, and springboards, but now Cobra moves and the splash flops! Cobra drops a leg on the back of Rocco’s head! Cover, TWO! Rocco survives but Cobra keeps on him. Cobra drags Rocco up but Rocco body shots. Cobra headbutts, Rocco gets around to full nelson. Cobra fights and breaks free, then runs to kick Rocco down! Rocco gets up and Cobra dropkicks him out! The cameras move as Rocco gets up on the apron. Rocco punches Cobra away then climbs up, but Cobra is back to TOSS Rocco off the top!
Cobra drags Rocco up to a headscissor hold! Cobra squeezes tight, Rocco endures, fights and turns over, but Cobra lets go to headlock. Rocco powers out, Cobra runs him over! Rocco kips up and clotheslines Cobra down! Rocco drops another knee, covers, TWO! Rocco drags Cobra up again, for a twisting neckbreaker! Rocco drags Cobra up for another twisting neckbreaker! Cover, TWO! Rocco won’t stop, he scoops for a DRIVER! Then he goes to the top rope, for a TRUST FALL ELBOW! But Cobra moves and Rocco crashes down!! The fans fire up as Cobra drags Rocco up. Cobra whips Rocco for a BIG windmill kick! Cover, TWO!! Cobra brings Rocco back up, bumps him off buckles and whips him corner to corner. Rocco bumps off buckles into another back drop!
Cobra keeps moving to shotgun dropkick Rocco all the way out! Cobra builds speed to DIVE! Direct hit sends Rocco to the aisle! That’s all concrete out there! Cobra gets up and goes back to the ring but Rocco comes back from the corner. Rocco DECKS Cobra, climbs again and drops for a SPLASH! But he bounces off the cover, he has to get back up! Rocco drags Cobra to his feet, suplexes and floats, TWO!! Cobra lives and MSG is fired up more as Rocco scoops. ANOTHER DRIVER! Cover, TWO!! Cobra survives but Rocco isn’t going to stop. Rocco scoops for another try but Cobra turns it around for the TOMBSTONE! Cobra goes up top, SUPER SENTON!! Cover, Cobra wins!!
Winner: The Cobra, by pinfall (NEW WWF World Junior Heavyweight Champion)
No wonder this was a classic! “Black Tiger” may not have won, but he and The Cobra were truly innovators of an entire wrestling style that still lives to this day! Thank you, Mark Rocco, you will be missed.
Toni Storm presents her pick.
“This week, I have chosen a match that completely changed my career.” It was the first-ever All Women’s PPV, WWE Evolution, and it was the 2018 Mae Young Classic finals between her and Io Shirai. Toni has to say she had a great time in this match, and she dated the date on her wrist to always remember it. Two of the best and the future of WWE as well as Women’s Wrestling, as Michael Cole put it. Toni would eventually go from here to become an NXT UK Women’s Champion, so it’s all a great time, so enjoy it as much as she did being in it.
2018 Mae Young Classic Finals – Toni Storm VS Io Shirai!
This is conclusion to the second-annual, 32-woman tournament that honors the memory of THE legend of Women’s Wrestling. It has boiled down to the Genius of the Sky and the Lightning from Down Under, before either were in NXT! Both women seek this career-defining moment, but who will achieve a dream?
The bell rings and another momentous match begins. Toni and Shirai shake hands to show they respect each other. Fans duel as these two tie up. Toni gets a headlock, but Shirai works her way out. Shirai gets her own headlock, but Toni pries her way out. Toni wrenches the wrist but Shirai reverses back. Toni spins and reverses that to a headlock takeover. Shirai headscissors but Toni fights it. Shirai does it again and gets Toni’s head. Toni works her way up and around and slips out. Shirai and Toni shake hands again as they start over. They tie up, Toni gets the arm again. Shirai flips, handsprings and wrenches the wrist. Toni spins, reverses to a hammerlock, but Shirai gets the wrist back. Toni spins, bends, rolls and breaks to fire off strikes! She runs, but Shirai drops down. Toni changes direction to dropkick Shirai! Cover, TWO!
Toni toys with Shirai a little, then brings her back up. She gives Shirai a stiff European Uppercut, then a forearm. Toni whips but Shirai ducks and handsprings. Toni gets out of the way but still gets a dropkick! Shirai kips up and fires up, as do the fans. Shirai stomps Toni, then steps on her before dropping knees. Cover, TWO, but Shirai gets a Rings of Saturn! Toni endures while fans rally up. Toni feeds off the energy to get moving, but Shirai hooks her with a leg. Shirai pulls Toni back but Toni gets the leg off. Toni powers her way up but Shirai rolls her through to keep the hold! Toni reaches with her legs, for the ropebreak! Shirai lets Toni go at 4, and Toni gets to a corner.
Shirai runs in but into a boot. Toni stands up, and goes up over Shirai. They run again, Toni gets Shirai in a German Suplex! Toni runs in for the hip attack! Then she puts Shirai in a drop zone, and climbs up! Toni can fly, but Shirai gets to the ropes. Shirai scares Toni, then springs up for a dropkick! Toni tumbles down to the ground! Shirai gets moving, and triangle ASAI MOONSAULT! Direct hit but both women are down. Shirai drags herself to the ring but doesn’t get in quite yet. She enters at 6 but Toni is back at 7. They end up on the apron together, and start brawling. Fans duel as Toni double underhooks. Shirai resists but Toni holds on, too. Toni tries again, but so does Shirai. They separate, Toni headbutts Shiari! And hits a German Suplex on the apron!!
Shirai tumbles down while Toni tumbles in. The ring count begins again as both women slowly stir. Shirai gets up at 7, flounders at 8, but gets in at 9! Toni is shocked, but she covers now, TWO! Toni is growing frustrated, but she goes after Shirai again. She throws forearms, but Shirai counters and fires her own! Fans duel as Shirai gets an edge. Shirai fires off furious and endless forearms, then an uppercut! Shirai runs, but into a clobbering clothesline! Toni drags Shirai up, STORM ZERO! Cover, TWO!? Shirai survives Toni’s best move!! Toni cannot believe it but many of the fans can’t, either. Shirai gets back to the bottom rope for safety, but Toni goes after her.
Toni drags Shirai up, but Shirai hotshots Toni back! Shirai slips into the ring, runs, and hits a 619! Shout out to her hero, Rey Mysterio, before she springboards for the sunset flip! Cover, TWO!! That was close! Toni flounders to a corner and fans continue to duel. Shirai gets to an opposite corner, and runs in for the meteora! She puts Toni in a drop zone and gets on the top rope. Shirai leaps, moonsault meets knees! Toni double underhooks, Storm Zero AGAIN! TONI STORM WINS!!
Winner: Toni Storm, by pinfall (2018 MYC Winner)
The Storm blots out the sun and triumphs over the Genius of the Sky! She makes good on her second chance in the Mae Young Classic, and only increases her stock in the WWE. These two being friends, they hug it out as part of the celebration with HHH, Stephanie McMahon and Sarah Amato. Toni Storm was NXT UK Women’s Champion and has countless paths open to her, what path will we see her walk now that NXT UK is on its way back into action?
Next week, NXT UK has a very special retrospective in store!
With the news that this brand is getting back in the ring, that means the NXT UK Champion, Walter, and his #1 contender, Ilja Dragunov, will be preparing to have their long-awaited battle! Therefore, next week’s special will be “The Champion and His Challenger!” What will each man have to say about this highly anticipated match? Speaking of…
Ilja Dragunov presents his pick!
“What makes a man want to fight? I think it’s the same characteristics I expect of myself when I step into the ring. It’s raw physicality. Brutal intensity. And a performance that shows a true essence of what fighting spirit is all about!” It’s what Dragunov saw with Cesaro and Sami Zayn at NXT ArRIVAL.
Cesaro VS Sami Zayn!
What a throwback! Witness not just the early days of the Swiss Cyborg and the “Great Liberator,” but the early days of NXT as a brand! Who wins the match that made an impression on UNBESIEGBAR all those years ago?
The fans are already fired up as the bell rings. Sami and Cesaro stare down as the rally builds, and the two tie up. They go around, Cesaro shoves Sami right down! The ref has Cesaro stay back, and Cesaro grins as Sami gets up. The fans duel between “WE THE PEOPLE!” “SAMI ZAYN!” because back then, Cesaro was part of the Real Americans. Cesaro and Sami tie up, go around, Sami waistlocks but Cesaro standing switches to slam and SLAP Sami down! Sami gets up but keeps his cool as he and Cesaro go again. Fans build to a new rally, Cesaro headlocks and gets a takeover but Sami headscissors.
Cesaro pops out, roles reverse as Sami hits the headlock takeover, Cesaro headscissors and Sami pops out. Cesaro dropkicks Sami down! Cesaro stalks Sami to a corner, Cesaro grabs at the legs but Sami kicks him away. Cesaro shoots back in but Sami blocks with a facelock. Cesaro back drops, Sami lands on his feet and gets moving to huricanrana, only for Cesaro to block! Sami resists the swing, Cesaro pulls him up and Sami lands on his feet to arm-drag Cesaro out! Sami baseball slides Cesaro down then builds speed! Sami FLIES and takes Cesaro down at the ramp! The fans are thunderous for “NXT! NXT!” Sami gets up, brings Cesaro up and in, and fans cheer, “This is Awesome!”
Sami climbs up top, leaps at Cesaro, but his crossbody is caught for a BACKBREAKER! Cover, TWO! Sami bails out and Cesaro scowls. Cesaro smirks as the ring count climbs. Cesaro slips out the side as fans duel, and he whips Sami into barriers! Cesaro puts Sami back in, drags Sami up and throws him right back out of the ring! Cesaro follows, drags Sami back up, and bumps Sami off the steel steps. Cesaro kicks and punches Sami and bumps him off the apron. The ring count reaches 5 but Cesaro grinds Sami’s face into the railing! Cesaro puts Sami in at 7, drags him up again and throws him back out. Fans sing, “Ole~ ole ole ole~!” for Sami as he fires off forearms on Cesaro!
Cesaro eggs Sami on then whips him into railing face first! Cesaro drags Sami up, scoops him and dumps him hard on the apron! Cover, TWO! Cesaro drags Sami up to throw him out once again, then jumps down from the apron to stomp Sami! Cesaro gives Sami a snake eyes on the railing! And RAMS him into the apron! Cesaro pushes Sami back in at the count of 6, drags Sami to a corner, but Sami kicks back! Sami yanks Cesaro into the post! Then boots him away! Sami goes back out, runs and leaps through the corner for the DAREDEVIL- EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! Cesaro intercepts Sami’s move and the fans lose their minds! Cesaro grimaces as he drags Sami off the ropes and back to the corner. Cesaro SLAMS the leg into the post!
The ref reprimands, Cesaro gets back in and stomps away on Sami in a corner. The ref backs Cesaro off but Cesaro comes right back to drag Sami around. Cesaro digs his knee into Sami’s knee and pulls on the toehold. Sami endures, kicks with his free leg, and Cesaro lets go to run and DOUBLE STOMP! Cover, TWO! Sami crawls to the corner but Cesaro looms over him. Cesaro lets Sami come out just to stomp him down! Cesaro stalks Sami more, drags him up and throws big knees! Cesaro gets the leg for a DRAGON SCREW! Cesaro drops a knee down on the knee and cranks it again! Cesaro twists the ankle, too but Sami kicks with his free foot again. Cesaro brings Sami up to knee low, but runs into Sami’s calf kick!
Fans rally up again as Sami gets to another corner. Cesaro stomps the bad leg out again! Cesaro digs both feet into the knee! Cesaro and the fans join together in shouting, “WE! THE PEOPLE!” Cesaro has the leg again for another DRAGON SCREW! And then ANOTHER! Cesaro drags Sami up, Sami throws forearms back, and enziguris, only to miss! HALF CRAB! Cesaro sits deep on the leg and Sami is a long way from the ropes. Sami still fights, Cesaro tries to stand in the way, but Sami gets the ropebreak! Cesaro lets go, fans rally up, but Cesaro runs into Sami’s elbow! And boot! Sami dumps Cesaro out high and hard! Sami gets to the apron as Cesaro stands. Sami mule kicks then springboards for the ARABIAN PRESS! But Cesaro catches him! And SLAMS Sami on the ramp!!
Cesaro roars and the fans are thunderous again! Cesaro leaves Sami behind for the ring count to take care of him. The count reaches 5 as Sami rolls down the ramp. Sami hobbles at 8, falls but rises at 9, and is in at 9.9!! The fans continue to duel as Cesaro aims at Sami. Cesaro runs corner to corner, but into an EXPLODER!! Sami sends Cesaro into buckles, drags Cesaro to a cover, TWO!! Cesaro shakes his head, both to say he’s not done yet, and to shake the cobwebs out. Sami follows, drags Cesaro up but Cesaro fights off the lift. Cesaro runs, Sami reels him in, BLUE THUNDER BOMB!! Cover, TWO!! Cesaro gets to the corner and Sami refocuses. Sami grits his teeth as Cesaro stands, but Cesaro kicks the bad leg! But Sami COMPLETE SHOTS, to the KOJI KLUTCH!!
Cesaro endures, Sami squeezes tight, but Cesaro pries at the fingers! Cesaro is free, to a STRETCH MUFFLER! Sami endures, Cesaro twists and wrenches, but Sami crawls! Sami claws his way over, Cesaro cranks harder, but Sami gets the ROPEBREAK! Cesaro lets go, not sure what he has to do to end it. Fans hope for a “SWING! SWING!” as Sami stands up. Cesaro runs, blocks the boot, and trips Sami up! Sami twists to a body scissor victory roll, TWO!! Cesaro trips Sami up again, and the SWING starts up! Sami goes around at least 10 times before Cesaro throws him away! Sami stumbles up into a corner, Cesaro hits a HUGE EuroUpper! Cover, TWO as Sami ghost pins! TWO and Cesaro DOUBLE STOMPS Sami down! Cover, TWO!!
Sami survives and Cesaro can’t believe it, but again the fans say, “This is Awesome!” Cesaro talks Sami to a corner, but Sami gets to the apron. Cesaro climbs up, drags Sami up by an ear, and brings Sami to the corner. Sami hits back with haymakers! Sami BOOTS Cesaro and now Cesaro sits on the top rope. Sami climbs up, fans fire up as he elbows Cesaro down. Sami gets up for a SUPER STEIN- NO! Cesaro blocks, drags Sami back up with cross arm lift, for a- SUPER STEINER!! Sami still hits his move, then hits a HELLUVA KICK!! Cover, TWO!?! Cesaro survives and Sami is beside himself! Cesaro sits up in a daze but Sami stands first. Sami hobbles over, Cesaro HEADBUTTS him down! Cesaro wobbles but shakes his head again.
Cesaro looms over Sami as Sami sits up in a daze. Cesaro stands Sami up for a HARD EuroUpper! “Stay down!” The ref starts a standing count, Sami sits up at 3 and rises at 4, but Cesaro drags him up for another HARD EuroUpper! “Stay down!” Cesaro wants the standing count to end this, but Sami rises at 6! So Cesaro hits a THIRD EuroUpper! Fans rally for Sami as the standing count starts again. Sami refuses to stay down, so Cesaro brings him up for a FOURTH EuroUpper! But Sami stays up to haymaker! Cesaro throws them back and we have a fast and furious brawl out of nowhere!! Cesaro swings into a SNAP GERMAN SUPLEX! No one can believe Sami is still going as he runs, into CESARO’S boot!
Cesaro reels Sami in for the Neutralizer but Sami back drops out to a sitting cover!! TWO!! Sami runs into a lift, but makes the bomb a SUNSET BOMB! Cover, TWO!?! Cesaro survives that split second counter and the fans are on their feet! They’re giving a standing ovation for “NXT! NXT!” Sami rises first, Cesaro flounders, and fans rally up again. Sami drags Cesaro up, Cesaro pops him up for a EuroUpper! Cover, ONE?!!? Sami shifts into some other gear and it shocks Cesaro! Sami gets up on one good leg and Cesaro fires up, DISCUS EUROUPPER!! Then, GOTCH NEUTRALIZER!! Cover, Cesaro wins!!
Winner: Cesaro, by pinfall
The Swiss Superman and Sami just went to another level! Fans call this “Match of the Year!” and they might be right! This match might even be a defining moment in NXT history! And to everyone’s surprise, Cesaro comes back to show his respect to Sami with a hug! Will there ever be another match that matches this level of “raw physicality” as Dragunov says?
An incredible three matches for Superstar Picks! For one, what a great classic match by William Regal, I feel bad for not better knowing about Mark Rocco because he and “The Cobra” put on a match that is amazing even by today’s standards of Junior Heavyweight/Cruiserweight matches. It was hard to keep up, they were going with a speed you hardly see these days. Reliving the 2018 MYC finals was great, it showed both the skill levels of Toni and Shirai but also the promise WWE/NXT saw in them. It’s a shame WWE couldn’t find a way to make a 2019 MYC or Evolution happen, and for circumstances to at least complicate making one for this year. We can only hope they try again for 2021 on at least one of those.
And reliving ArRIVAL, Sami and Cesaro, what an incredible way to top it off. At the same time, it puts it in perspective as to what WWE main roster has, or rather hasn’t, done with Sami. I know there are all sorts of circumstances, but I hope Sami gets to come back to do something. And I mean it when that match felt unparalleled, and hard to match. I’m sure there have but they’re far and few between.
My Score: 8.6/10