Friday, 10 November 2017

DVD Review: NXT - From Secret To Sensation

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 408 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 13 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The second DVD release dedicated to NXT, From Secret To Sensation takes a different approach to the original Greatest Matches DVD. In this new compilation, we get a countdown of the top 25 NXT performers in history, along with more than a dozen matches from 2011 to 2017. I'm not sure whether the title is relevant, considering that we only get a basic run-down of the history of NXT (it would have been more appropriate if we were treated to a full-length documentary here), but otherwise fans should be excited at getting another home release on what is arguably WWE's most popular brand, at least amongst the die-hards.

Part of the reason for this is that the countdown feature is really enjoyable. It's a tried-and-tested formula, and we have actually just had a countdown on the 30 Years Of Survivor Series DVD. However, what differentiates this particular main feature is that we're shown the evolution of each performer during their time on NXT, which in many cases was pretty dramatic. For example, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks both showed up as plain performers with no distinguish features. They left NXT as The Lass Kicker and The Boss, two clearly-defined and unique characters with an appetite for stealing the show in the ring and with huge fan followings which have followed them to the main roster.

It's fascinating to see the likes of Bayley, Sami Zayn and Alexa Bliss during their earliest days in NXT. It's particularly notable to see Tyler Breeze begin his NXT career as the bland Mike Dalton, whose persona was nonexistent. Contrast that with Prince Pretty, whose selfie-obsessed character was a real highlight of NXT, and his current work alongside Fandango in the current Fashion Files segments on SmackDown. Add to that some cool comments from NXT performers past and present (even if we get some occasional kayfabe opinions), and plenty of archive footage, and you have a pretty compelling countdown programme, arguably the best of this nature that WWE has put out.

From there, we move onto the bonus matches. Up first is a real rarity, a clash between future New Day members Big E Langston and Xavier Woods from an NXT pilot show in December 2011, though it is on the short side. Next is Seth Rollins defending the NXT Championship against Corey Graves, though it came at a time when NXT tapings would be considered a separate world from main roster WWE, which includes a lack of storyline progression. For instance, Rollins had previously been a white-meat babyface champion, but without explanation on NXT TV, he was suddenly a heel as a member of The Shield.

Bo Dallas vs. Bray Wyatt is a decent showcase of both men, and it's now bizarre to see Bo in the babyface role. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn is the forgotten chapter of their NXT feud, coming after Sami's first night on NXT but before their Match Of The Year contenders in August 2013 and February 2014; that being said, it's still a really good encounter. Then, Alexander Rusev puts in a strong showing against Dolph Ziggler, which likely boosted his odds of making the main roster the following year, and Paige vs. Sasha Banks is fun too, though the big moment comes after the match when Sasha turns heel on Paige, paving the way for her to become The Boss.

Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze put on a fine battle in an early 2014 NXT clash, which fans are more than fired up for, and Bo's NXT exit against Big E (who had been on the main roster for ages by this point) is entertaining too. But the next match is the first truly great match on the compilation, as Neville, Zayn, Breeze and Tyson Kidd collide in a terrific Fatal Four Way clash from the first NXT TakeOver. A quick-fire win by Baron Corbin over then-jobber Elias is followed by a slow-burning epic between Kevin Owens and Finn Balor for the NXT crown, which predates their more famous battles in the summer of 2015.

Disc three opens with an outstanding NXT Women's Championship clash between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, the match that made me a real fan of NXT at the time. The subsequent Sasha-Charlotte battle is also very good, though it's a shame that Sasha vs. Bayley under Iron Man rules is nowhere to be found. What makes up for this is the inclusion of the superb Sami-Shinsuke Nakamura bout from TakeOver: Dallas, which may just be the best NXT match ever. Following this is the house show bout between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe, which features great action prior to a title switch that very few saw coming (certainly not the fans in attendance, who go crazy when Joe earns the gold crown).

Bayley makes her only in-ring appearance against Alexa Bliss, shortly before both ladies left for the main roster; they put in a great effort, and this may be better than any of their main roster collisions this year. Bobby Roode vs. Tye Dillinger at TakeOver: Toronto, in what is essentially a battle of the super-over entrances, and Asuka vs. Ember Moon from TakeOver: Brooklyn III (held less than three months ago) bring the DVD to a close. Asuka vs. Ember is particularly impressive, and at the time I was convinced that Moon would finally end Asuka's undefeated streak that night. Obviously, I was wrong.

I was disappointed that there are no tag team matches on this DVD, because NXT does doubles wrestling better than just about any other brand or promotion (or at least they did during the division's 2016 peak). The Revival alone had more than one classic match with both American Alpha and DIY, so it's unfortunate that none of these bouts made it in. It would have also been nice to see Finn Balor vs. Neville from TakeOver: Rival (an amazing contest), Zayn vs. Cesaro from the first ever TakeOver, and a couple of other vintage NXT contests which weren't on the original Greatest Matches collection. This leads me to believe that we will indeed get a full DVD documentary on NXT in around 12-18 months, likely featuring these matches and others, such as the upcoming War Games showdown in Houston.

Otherwise, though, this is a fantastic wrestling DVD. The countdown is a lot of fun, and almost every match has something to offer, with several contests being of a classic standard. I think it's a slight step down from Greatest Matches Vol. 1, but if you're new to NXT, or if you're a longtime fan of the brand wanting to relive some of its biggest moments to date, then you should really enjoy From Secret To Sensation.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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