If you even barely like wrestling, you need to see this match immediately 5 years ago

If you even barely like wrestling, you need to see this match immediately

This deserves all the praise it's getting and then some.

It's Royal Rumble weekend and grapple fans are getting ready to stay up all night and crawl into work in the morning, knowing that they can't tell their boss the reason why they're so bleary-eyed.


The Rumble is an annual tradition, but all involved may as well stay home, as they have no chance of topping what is sure to go down as the match of the year.

If you're unfamiliar with NXT, it's basically WWE's version of a B-team; a developmental division that brings together rookies and some of the best talent raided from the independent scene.

Headed up by Triple H, NXT has evolved into a cult sensation, rivalling just about anything the main roster has to offer, simply by pushing the very best around and giving them time and permission to do their thing.

It sounds simple, but if you're a die-hard fan, you'll know that for every AJ Styles and Kevin Owens main roster success story, there's a Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura or Bayley to point to.


WWE is more concerned with the 'sports entertainment' aspect of wrestling, to the point that the word 'wrestling' is outlawed on the likes of Raw and Smackdown.

It's ridiculous, but hey, wrestling is ridiculous.

It can also be quite brilliant, though. Sure, there are literally hundreds of examples of how bad and downright embarrassing it can be, but when they get it right, it's a kind of theatre that nobody can match.


Clip via WWE

Saturday night's NXT Takeover super-show in Philadelphia contained one such shining example, as cocky heel champion Andrade "Cien" Almas took on Johnny Gargano with the title on the line.

The Backstory

Johnny Gargano, AKA "Johnny Wrestling", was one-half of popular tag team DIY alongside best friend Tomasso Ciampa, until Ciampa did what all best friends in wrestling ultimately do; turn heel on your buddy and beat the hell out of them.


Gargano then went on a losing streak, as friends doubted him and rivals mocked him. He eventually overcame the odds (in the good way, not the John Cena way) and became the number one contender for the coveted NXT Championship.

Clip via WWE

Andrade "Cien" Almas arrived in NXT at the start of 2016 off the back of a ton of hype.

Formerly the luchador La Sombra, he was unmasked and repackaged as a Rocky Maivia-style permanently-smiling good guy, clad in dodgy hat and braces combo.


He coasted and floundered until a heel turn reinvigorated the character, also benefitting from acquiring a manager in the form of the crafty Zelina Vega.

Now presented as an arrogant dickhead happy to win by any means necessary, Almas has been a revelation as a villain, and thus the perfect foil for Gargano's Rocky-style redemption story.

The Match

Okay, whether you subscribe to the WWE Network or whether you use more nefarious means to watch wrestling online that we at JOE absolutely do not endorse; you need to stop what you're doing and track down this match. Immediately.

The pair had crossed paths before, in an excellent bout in October:

Clip via WWE

But Saturday night's main event was next-level stuff as Gargano, arguably the greatest babyface in all of pro-wrestling right now, came up against an incredible counterpart, all in front of his family in the front row.

It had everything; drama, electricity, a piping hot crowd, numerous moments where you thought it was over, a perfect finish - though one that will be hotly-debated among the hardcore fans - a vicious twist, and truly exceptional professional wrestling throughout.

Hell, it was so great that even Mauro Ranallo's dreadful commentary couldn't ruin it.

Seek it out right now. Nothing at the Royal Rumble, or for the rest of 2018, is going to beat this.