To many NXT will always be a cooler, smaller offshoot of WWE, where independent stars get huge receptions, young talent can hone their craft, and WWE has the opportunity to cheery pick the best talent once they reach the point of readiness for the main roster. It's a great system, that allows talent to adapt to the WWE system and way of doing things while also giving fans who may be less enamoured with WWE booking of certain niche stars an outlet to enjoy a style of wrestling they are more attuned to, all still under the WWE umbrella. Never one to fail to capitalise on a specific audience segment, WWE have released NXT: From Secret to Sensation, which is basically a countdown of the top 25 NXT superstars since it's relaunch in 2012. Yes, I said relaunch, because WWE would prefer that you don't associate the early years of NXT with its inane challenges, weird mentoring system and flawed attempt at diversification of programming. It may have produced the likes of Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, Wade Barrett and many others, but WWE has done plenty to avoid linking it to the cool, hip product that NXT eventually morphed into.
The countdown itself is exactly as you might expect, focusing on the superstars who have gone on to bigger and better things on the main roster and their time in NXT. While some of the ordering is a bit of a headscratcher at times, the key moments are all here, and it serves as an excellent document of how far so many of these superstars have gone in the since time, but also how many failed to live up to their potential on the main roster. Current NXT stars be warned.
The match selection is where NXT From Secret to Sensation really shines. There are plenty of matches featuring all the usual suspects, but also lots of unexpected gems. Xavier Woods vs Big E, long before The New Day; Seth Rollins vs the now retired Corey Graves, Paige vs Sasha Banks, Bo Dallas taking on his real-life brother Bray Wyatt. The list goes on, but it is really intriguing see these superstars in such a small setting years before they would go on to be a huge part of the WWE roster. However, this set also includes some of the best matches in NXT history, including a blistering fatal Four Way featuring Neville, Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd; Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura, which is arguably still the best match either man has had under the WWE banner; Sasha Banks vs Charlotte, Bayley vs Alexa Bliss, Paige vs Sasha Banks and more. We even get some examples of main roster stars coming to NXT during some down periods in their career, with Dolph Ziggler vs a very early version of Rusev, and Cesaro vs Sami Zayn in a belting encounter.
Like most NXT regular viewers, I would have preferred a full documentary feature here chronically the rise of NXT, the behind the scenes and more, but the match selection is absolutely superb, and makes this set an absolute must own for any fan of NXT, whether you’ve been watching since the beginning, or even more so if you haven't. Essential viewing.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray exclusives are slightly disappointing in light of what is available on the main release. Big E vs Camacho is fine for what it is, but not spectacular; Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze is a fine match, but nowhere near the quality of some of their other matches; Bayley and Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks and Charlotte is a very entertaining encounter, and a significant one for the impact all four would have on the WWWE women's division. Bayley vs Asuka is excellent, but given it's from Takeover that shouldn’t be a surprise, and most will have seen it previously. The one really strong extra here is Finn Balor vs Shinsuke Nakamura in what was effectively Balor's farewell for NXT. A cracking match that could easily have featured on a PPV, but made for a phenomenal television match, and one of my favourite bouts in recent history form NXT/ A mixed bag, but some interesting matches featured.