Oh god help. I can’t turn off the Best of the Year content grind after a week and a half of Game of the Year content. This was my first year watching WWE again. I started around Wrestlemania and even attended a couple live events when they were here for the 4th of July weekend. So for today’s Wrestling Wednesday let’s talk about my 10 favorite WWE Wrestlers of 2017 (I think WWE’s branding is actually “Superstars” but I don’t care).
10. Sasha Banks
Cool Greg is gonna kill me. I love the Legit Boss and her reaction to making history in a recent oversees Women's match in Abu Dhabi was genuinely moving. But apart from that and an all-too-brief title run when she stepped in for an injured Bayley at SummerSlam, she didn’t get to do all that much this year. Alexa Bliss won her rematch and dropped the belt right back to her. She definitely had some great matches but I wish we’d seen her do more this year.
Rusev just seems like a really fun guy so it was sad that he was so underused until really late in the year. I got to see his return on the 4th of July show but he just got jobbed out to Cena in a Flag Match...because patriotism. Fortunately, #RusevDay has really taken off so I’m hopeful 2018 gives him a lot more love.
8. Charlotte Flair
Charlotte has had some wonderful matches on the Smackdown side of the world and I just kind of love that she pops up in Up Up Down Down stuff. Becky Lynch is probably my personal fave of the Smackdown women but she’s been given so little to do that I’m giving Flair, who actually got the push, and the emotional win in her hometown and follow-up hug from a still-recovering Ric Flair.
7. Finn Balor
So the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania was actually the first show I watched this year (after listening to the Kinda Funny Wrestlemania watchalong). And Finn Balor came back to a whole lot of fanfare. I thought he had some really great matches and I love his athleticism. I don’t know why the hell the WWE tried to make Demon Finn vs. Sister Abigail a thing but thankfully the mumps intervened to spare us from that and give us an incredible match between Balor and AJ Styles at TLC. But then they just suddenly gave up on him because Vince’s golden boy Brock is going annoying go the full year with the belt, barely ever showing up to give it any significance.
I’m hopeful that the recent reunion with his former Bullet Club members Gallows and Anderson give all three a much-needed and deserved push in 2018.
6. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss is phenomenal on the microphone and has worked wonders as a heel champ this year. That terrible “This is your life” segment with Bayley aside, Bliss has been one of my favorite performers to watch this year. I wish they had actually given us the battle between her and Nia Jax that they kept teasing. Maybe they’ll give her the Royal Rumble win and set it up for Wrestlemania (they probably won’t want to piss off the Asuka fans with a defeat though so I imagine it’s unlikely).
5. Braun Strowman
Dude lifted a freaking ambulance. And yeah, I’m sure there was some camera trickery at play there but they’ve booked him like a beast this year. Then of course he became another stupidly pointless victim to goddamn fucking Lesnar. Hey remember when they had the 50-year-old Goldberg squash Lesnar in a minute-and-a-half? Fuck Lesnar for ruining so many good things this year.
4. Samoa Joe
See above. Samoa Joe carried the entirety of the Joe vs. Lesnar feud leading up to Great Balls of Fire while Lesnar phoned everything in. Sadly he was taken out by injury for a latter part of the year but he has come back with a vengeance and continues to just be a flawless storm of rage on the mic. And technically his recent loss to Reigns happened in 2018 so it bears no weight on my 2017 ranking of the man.
Plus I got to meet him at the IGN E3 party and tell him how great that push was at the time so that was fun.
3. The Hardy Boyz
The Hardy Boyz were my favorite wrestlers growing up. I loved pretending like a was a third Hardy brother jumping off my loft bed and doing elbow drops onto my pillows. They - alongside the Dudleys and Edge and Christian - revolutionized the tag team division when I was growing up. So when I heard their music pop up on the Kinda Funny Wrestlemania watchalong I got super excited! And when I order the WWE Network to start watching the Pay-Per-Views, their match was the first one I went back to in order to see them win the Raw Tag Team Championships.
They had a great run with the belts and then started using their prestige to help put over some of the other talent. With Jeff out for surgery, Matt floundered a bit on the midcard but WWE was eventually able to secure the Broken Matt gimmick or just gave up and decided to run with Woken Matt instead anyway and he ended the year with a bit of nice absurdity. These guys definitely helped bring me back into the fold.
2. AJ Styles
AJ Styles put on some of my favorite singles matches of the year, starting even with that match again Shane at Wrestlemania. His summer feud with Kevin Owens was a ton of fun. I mentioned his incredible match (with virtually no prep time) against Balor above. And I was so glad that they finally took the WWE Championship off Jinder and put it on AJ. He too suffered the effects of a Lesnar-fication at Survivor Series because again: fuck you Lesnar and Vince.
At some point, I also went back and watched some of the big event matches during my long hiatus including the 2016 Royal Rumble, where AJ debuted to an incredible response, receiving chants long after his elimination. I haven’t watched any of his non-WWE stuff but given what I saw week-in and week-out this year, I get it. Phenomenal indeed.
1. The New Day
And my top spot goes to The New Day, notably Xavier Woods who was also super awesome both at Kinda Funny Live and also the aforementioned IGN E3 party. But apart from that, the New Day routinely put on some of my favorite matches at every Pay-Per-View they were involved in, with there long-running back and forth with the Usos being an incredible showcase for all involved. One of my favorite matches all year was their incredible SummerSlam match and the WWE had the audacity to relegate it to the pre-show because their programming decisions suck a lot of the time. But they didn’t let it stop them. They ran with it and impressed everyone. Then they followed it up with an incredible Hell in a Cell match.
The New Day were the complete package for me in 2017. Great in the ring. Great on the mic. And great in real life.
New Day Rocks!