2017 is winding down, so I’m going to attempt once again to do some year in review stuff. Maybe I’ll actually finish it this time. There was a lot of good stuff in the wrestling world this year, both in and out of WWE, and I didn’t get to see all of it so you’re gonna have to forgive me if and when I overlook some of your favorite stuff. I watched pretty much every important WWE show, everything New Japan showed on AXS TV, a few episodes of ROH, and a few indie matches on YouTube. I also went to a WWE house show and WWE Extreme Rules in June. That’s my wheelhouse; in 2018 I’m going to try to check out some more indie stuff on YouTube, hit a local indie show or two, and watch the New Japan stuff a little more attentively. But anyway, back to 2017. Here we go:
Top 5 Male Wrestlers of 2017
5. Tetsuya Naito
4. The Miz
3. Roman Reigns
2. Kenny Omega
1. AJ Styles
No Okada? Yes, he held the IWGP Title all year and he had the epic matches with Omega, but Naito is more fun to watch for me and since he was in shorter matches it was easier to take in more of his stuff. Miz was one of the main reasons to watch RAW all year long, holding down the mic work that isn’t Reigns strong suit. Reigns was one of the two company workhorses, having quality match after quality match on TV, PPV, and on the road tour, while doing more to get Braun Strowman over than anyone on the roster. You can’t have watched Omega’s work and have him lower than third, even on personal preference. Styles wins it for because he did the same type of schedule as Roman while getting the best one on one matches of their respective years from John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Jinder Mahal. And then you throw in having a great match with Finn Balor at TLC after literally flying around the world and having no time to prep for it. Styles beats out Omega because of the sheer volume of great work he put in year round.
Honorable Mentions: Okada, Lesnar, Strowman, The Usos, Johnny Gargano
Okada is self explanatory. If h’s not in your top 5 he has to be top 10. Lesnar had a bounce back year after a 2016 when he was mostly in mail it in mode. He found a good niche with his short but high intensity matches with Goldberg and Samoa Joe, and did his part in the four way main event at Summerslam and against Styles at Survivor Series. I wasn’t as high on Strowman as a lot of you guys. His best matches all needed Roman to sell for him, and his limitations got exposed when he went one on one with Lesnar. That was the only big match for Lesnar where we got mail it in Brock this year and Strowman couldn’t keep up his end. Despite being a tag team the Usos deserve a spot here because they were that damn good all year. And Gargano was pound for pound the best worker in NXT all year round.
Top 5 Women’s Wrestlers
This was a little harder to come up with. I didn’t take in much women’s wrestling outside of WWE and NXT so my perspective is pretty limited here. Thank God for the Mae Young Classic, where we got to see some ladies who don’t work for WWE full time in a WWE ring. Thanks to that event we got to see Toni Storm, Mia Yim, Piper Niven, and several others who have done some stints in NXT like Santana Garrett and Tessa Blanchard. So here’s my crack at a top 5:
5. Sasha Banks
4. Alexa Bliss
2. Tessa Blanchard
Yeah, this order is kinda weird. Sasha was the workhorse of RAW this year despite only managing a brief title reign this summer. She was out there week after week putting in good matches against everyone and did her part on PPVs. Alexa has been a controversial figure. She’s been playing a great character, but she’s a good wrestler in an era of great ones so she looks so so by comparison. But it’s totally unfair to put her in the same boat as the models who pretended to wrestle of years past. She’s more than looks, but I doubt she’s ever going to be number one here. Asuka didn’t lose, had a few great matches with Ember Moon and moved up to the main roster this year. Blanchard was the best non-WWE wrestler I saw this year. She’s killing it on the indie circuit and will be huge should she ever come back to WWE full time. I put Charlotte number one because she’s been putting in the work all year like Roman and Styles and reclaimed her place as a champion late this year.
Honorable Mentions: Moon, Storm, Nia Jax, Carmella, Nikki Cross
Moon and Cross were really good challengers for Asuka this year; Cross’ no holds barred match with Asuka is one of the underrated matches of the year. Storm really showed out during the Mae Young Classic and has been crushing it on the indie scene as well. Jax and Carmella both looked much improved in the ring to me. Winning the Money in the Bank and having James Ellsworth by her side to get heat resulted in a lot more attention for Carmella this year, and she proved to be a lot better in the ring than I gave her credit for. I hope Jax gets the monster run this year with a title stint to boot.
Big Stories of the Year
5.Jericho challenges Omega in New Japan
4.The End for the Undertaker
2.Omega vs Okada
1.The Jinder Mahal Experiment
I’m still in wait and see mode on Jericho’s trip to New Japan to challenge Kenny Omega. It’s a huge surprise and looks like it will be a great match, but I want to see what comes after. If it ends up being a one off and Jericho shows up on RAW or Smackdown a few months later to resume business as usual then this will lose value in hindsight. But if it leads to a legit New Japan run for Jericho and matches against more of the top guys there then it will be the story of 2018. The same logic applies to the Undertaker. If the rumors come true and he comes back then the storybook Old West kind of ending we got at ‘Mania 33 will be all for naught. If he stays retired then it truly was the way to end things for the Deadman. You may hate that it was Roman who put him down or that the match wasn’t very good because of Taker’s physical condition, but you can’t deny it’s significance. Braun Strowman becoming the new monster was a yearlong endeavor that owed a lot to Reigns, Big Show, Kane, and a lot of over the top this-is-why-we-watch-wrestling set pieces. Okada and Omega had a series of matches reminiscent of the old Steamboat-Flair days that will be remembered for a long, long time. And that brings me to Jinder. Some people loved it, some people hated it, some hated the very idea of it, but we all had an opinion one way or the other. It was the most outrageous choice for a major champion in a long time, and it sparked a reaction in all of us. So to me that makes it the biggest story of the year to me. My recap of the show where he won the title is still my most clicked on wrestling related post here, so that pretty much settles it for me.
Honorable Mentions: Women’s Money in the Bank match, Kurt Angle returns to a WWE ring, New Japan invades America
OK that’s it for the serious stuff for this year. For my next trick, I will try to recap the not so serious stuff that was on my radar this year.