JJ's Best Of The NXT Florida House Show Matches 2017By JJ Williams | @JJWilliamsWON | Dec 28, 2017 7:08 am
Images: JJ Williams
NXT's Florida schedule, known as "The Coconut Loop" to talent, recently wrapped up for 2017 and as we head toward another year of expansion for the brand, I took a look back at some of the highlights that stood out from the 36 non-televised live events that I attended.
These are the matches I consider The Best Of NXT Florida 2017.
Kassius Ohno vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas | January 6th | Largo, FL
This was a major surprise as Ohno had only appeared off-camera at the first NXT Full Sail TV tapings of the year earlier that week. Yet, there he was at a Largo house show wearing his Seattle SuperSonics "Chris Hero" gear and entering to his original FCW/NXT music, officially kicking off the return of Kassius Ohno to the Coconut Loop. This match, much like many other former indie talents' first matches in NXT, was absolutely incredible. He and Almas did lucha spots, threw hard hitting strikes, counters, and worked at a pace that normally isn't seen down here. Ohno set up the rolling elbow and set the future champion down for the count.
The Revival vs. Tye Dillinger and Roderick Strong | January 7th | Ocala, FL
This was The Revival, the best tag team NXT may have ever produced in a town that was molten hot for them every single time facing off against one of the most popular men in the promotion and the fresh excellent work of Strong to boot. This was as good as it gets. The crowd was at the top of their lungs yelling "You're a chicken" at Dash and Dawson to the point that they actually left the venue and had to be chased down by Tye and Roddy. This featured some of the loudest chants in NXT Florida house show history that made this something special. The Top Guys will forever be missed by the Ocala Hilton wedding tent faithful.
Asuka, Heavy Machinery and Tye Dillinger vs. SAnitY (Nikki Cross, Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, and Killian Dain) | February 4th | Largo, FL
The first time Cross and Asuka faced off was in this eight person tag team main event. It was absolutely wild stuff from all involved as Heavy Machinery were just starting to catch fire, SAnitY were still the villains at this time, but their work was so good that many appreciated them. Dillinger was one of the most popular performers down here for years at this time so all of this together in one match created a superstar-driven moment. Here was the memorable post-match celebration.
Aleister Black vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas | February 18th | Cocoa, FL
Very early in the "Aleister Black" era, we were still getting a grittier version of wrestling on live events. Almas was finally becoming a sassier persona at this time as well. In what we may see as a NXT Championship match someday, this one was great and you could tell they'd deliver even more when the time was right.
Johnny Gargano (w/ Tommaso Ciampa of DIY) vs. Dash Wilder (w/ Scott Dawson of The Revival) | March 16th | Ocala, FL
In a better time for DIY when they were rolling together and The Revival were on their way up to the main roster, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa were treated as kings in the Hilton's Ocala wedding tent. This venue has a history of being Anti Revival country with some of the loudest "You're a chicken" chants I've ever heard from 300 people as a callback to the previous match on this list and the year before. Gargano and Ciampa celebrated with a fan's sign that simply said "CHIKIN" because of course it did.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger vs. Riddick Moss and "The Straggler" aka "El Vagabondo" aka "Bob Dylan" aka "Definitely Not Elias" Elias Samson | March 25th | Tampa, FL
Nakamure finished up his Florida house show run with a bang. "The Straggler" was out to sing to us about drifting and whatnot before Dillinger showed up to challenge him, Moss then got involved which lead to the huge Nakamura reaction. During this one, Shinsuke thought he had Elias figured out by removing his lucha mask, only to reveal a second underneath. Shinsuke then put on the first mask and proceeded to do lucha armdrags and floatover counters to everything El Vagabondo did, which felt like a callback to FantasticaMania. Moss was able to snatch the mask off of Shinsuke which garnered the most negative reaction of the night. This was all-around nonsense from all involved and a great send-off for Nakamura.
Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) | August 25th | Tampa, FL
As we've all seen from their TakeOver match, these two have an excellent dynamic between them. While they had worked before around the country and plenty in Florida, this was the first time we saw Vega added to the Almas act vs. then-champion Drew McIntyre.
Buddy Murphy vs. Lio Rush | October 27th | Sanford, FL
Murphy has been the unsung superstar of the Florida crew for well over a year, thus his self proclaimed moniker "The Best Kept Secret". This wasn't a match I had ever envisioned when Rush joined the company, but it was as good a pace as anything we've ever seen down here.
Women's Halloween Royal Rumble | October 27th | Sanford, FL
By far, this was the funniest and most unexpected match of the entire year as the entire available female roster, along with two lovely men, took part in this spectacle the Friday before Halloween in a brand new venue for the promotion. Nikki Cross as No Way Jose, Rhea Ripley and Lacey Evans as The Street Profits, Wesley Blake as Liv Morgan's pet pig, Riddick Moss as Sexy Batgirl, and many more were honorable runners up to the final two of Darth Vader Shayna Baszler and Where's Waldo Ruby Riot(t). They had a toy lightsaber duel before Ruby had her hand targeted and was left hanging over the top rope before being released by Lord Baszler in a quality Star Wars tribute spot. Baszler also used The Force to chokeslam Moss.
This year saw countless additions to the already competitive roster. Graduations to the main roster can come at any time and you never know who may show up or change their entire style down here in Florida. 2017 showed us that even with the television crew touring worldwide, The Coconut Loop would still be here creating memories for fans and talent. Everyone's goal may be WrestleMania but the path to WWE goes through Largo and the Ocala Hilton wedding tent.
Here's a collection of all my photos from the last year as well.