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A journey through NXT's big weekend at the Arnold Classic

Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn

Images c/o @WWENXT & @JJWilliamsWON

In case you missed it, WWE's NXT Experience was part of this past weekend's Arnold Classic at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH, for the second straight year. A good portion of the NXT crew and coaching staff along with WWE Champion, COO, and NXT head Triple H himself were there to promote the brand over the two days which featured in-ring action, Q&A sessions, and even a portion of a tryout camp. 

Day one's highlight was HHH sharing a big surprise with us: Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.

They spoke about fitness, inspiration, and made plenty of jokes. During the Q&A session, there were a few fans who tried to ask storyline questions about WrestleMania, and Roman Reigns, which lead to the champ being as confident as only he can be, smiling and holding the WWE Championship up. The ringside area filled up during this session which truly felt like a big deal.

The crowd itself was nothing like you get at your usual wrestling show as it was calmer than the rest of the Expo as most people (casual observers and families alike) were just enjoying watching the action. As one would expect, the biggest hits were Women's champion Bayley, NXT Champion Finn Balor, and fan favorite Sami Zayn. Their autograph lines went hundreds deep, and their matches were fan interactive with many fun house show-esque spots to get everyone into the fun of wrestling. 

Day 1 Results (matches happened throughout the day):

  • Apollo Crews beat Dylan Miley
  • Billie Kay beat Amanda 
  • Johnny Gargano beat Riddick Moss
  • NXT Women's Champion Bayley beat Emma in a title match
  • American Alpha beat The Vaudevillains
  • NXT Champion Finn Balor beat Baron Corbin in a title match
  • Tye Dillinger beat Tino Sabbatelli
  • Eva Marie beat Peyton Royce
  • NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival beat King Constantine and Thomas Kingdon 
  • Asuka beat Alexa Bliss
  • Kishan Raftar beat Dan Matha
  • Nia Jax beat Billie Kay
  • Apollo Crews beat Riddick Moss
  • Tye Dillinger beat Johnny Gargano
  • American Alpha beat NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival via DQ
  • Peyton Royce beat Alexa Bliss
  • Sami Zayn beat Samoa Joe

Day two (Sunday) had a much calmer vibe in the hall as the autograph lines were shorter, the matches had a little more time, and we spent a good portion of the afternoon with the coaches watching the tryout athletes. From what we could gather, a few were previously trained wrestlers, one big man was a power lifter, and there was a few other athletes from around the world.

 

The process was fascinating to watch up close. I tried to pay more attention to William Regal during most of it as Jason Albert was running the drills. Regal had even said the day before that he watches footwork as anyone who watched Breaking Ground knows for certain.

Our special in ring Q&A guest for Sunday was Mark Henry who spoke to Dasha Fuentes about his career, powerlifting, and his future. He spoke about NXT being developmental and said he was, in fact, WWE's first developmental wrestler as he was signed before knowing how to wrestle in a time when the company hadn't brought in guys like that before. 

When asked about who he would have liked to face from history, he told a story about how Andre The Giant once picked him up off the floor at a live event and his dream match would have been against him. As for the future, Apollo Crews is who he said he would like to break in. When asked about WrestleMania and potentially being in the Andre Memorial Battle Royal, Mark said he wouldn't want to be in it if he wasn't going to win. It was a very good session as Mark Henry is one of those quality men who can be a WWE spokesman for as long as he wants. 

Day 2 Results (again, matches went all day):

  • Apollo Crews beat Tino Sabbatelli
  • Chad Gable beat Riddick Moss
  • Aiden English w/ Simon Gotch & Dan Matha went to a no contest and was re-started as a tag match when Dylan Miley joined the mix
  • Dylan Miley and Dan Matha beat The Vaudevillains
  • Tye Dillinger beat Kishan Raftar
  • NXT Women's Champion Bayley beat Nia Jax w/ Eva Marie
  • Jason Jordan beat Johnny Gargano
  • Apollo Crews beat Riddick Moss
  • Billie Kay beat Alexa Bliss
  • Chad Gable w/ Jason Jordan beat Scott Dawson w/ Dash Wilder
  • Asuka and Peyton Royce beat Emma and Amanda
  • NXT Champion Finn Balor and Sami Zayn beat Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin

Overall, this was a fun weekend and was something that any NXT fan who has only seen the stars on TV should try to attend next year. It's an affordable chance to see wrestling and have a chance to get up close with your favorites. They even implied that the event will be even bigger next year as this HHH and Schwarzenegger partnership has been beneficial to both sides.