So this is it. All of these year-end lists, but this is the big one. You may be finding yourself asking “Hey, why is this the most important?” Well I’ll tell you. See, the “Match of the Year” list is awesome. We get to relive jaw-dropping moments and marvel at all of the great wrestling that has happened over the year. That being said, we can’t forget about the good ol’ saying “that wrestler is so good, they could put on a good match with a broom.” There were no brooms in the best matches of the year. This is mainly because they consisted of the following Superstars.
Before we go any further, as usual, let’s set out the criteria. Now, other than just me typing away to my little heart’s desire, I corresponded with my fellow posters/admins to get some perspective. We decided that the entirety of 2017 must be taken into account. That means how Superstars started and ended the year weighs very heavily on this list. This also means that injuries and lost time are taken into account. Someone who had a full year already has a leg up on someone who missed a lot of time due to injury. And then, when we get to the Top 10 and on, we started taking into account this intangible “excitement factor.” We don’t necessarily know what it is, but we know it’s a thing and some people have it. Also, NXT Superstars ARE included in this list. Now then, let’s dive in.
Finn Balor: This hurts me so much to do. Unfortunately, though, I could not in good conscience put Finn on this list due to missed time from the injury and really unfortunate booking. If this was a list of the best workers, then Finn would obviously be right at the top. But that’s not this list and other Superstars had better overall years. Again, this hurts me, Mr. Balor, a lot more than it hurts you. I’m sorry.
Brock Lesnar: This doesn’t hurt that much. Yeah, it’s true that he’s undefeated on the year (Royal Rumble not included). But the guy shows up every few PPV’s and suplexes everything. Don’t get me wrong, Brock hasn’t had a bad match all year. But just like with Finn, some people are much more deserving based off of work rate alone.
Ok, this is getting tedious. RAPID FIRE TIME!!!!!!!
Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, Enzo Amore, The New Day, Baron Corbin, Andrade “Cien” Almas, Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks, Sami Zayn, Rusev, Jason Jordan, Naomi, Carmella, Your Favorite Wrestler (I’m sure I’ll hear about it in the comments. Mine isn’t on the list either, so suck it), and the rest of the WWE Roster.
Let’s be real…it was a great wrestling year and it’s all thanks to everyone behind the curtain.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s REALLY dive in…
20. Ember Moon
Ya know what I just thought of? Asuka and Ember Moon used the same story in their matches as Omega vs. Okada. That is, “can Ember hit the Eclipse?” And wouldn’t ya know it? It worked just as well. Ember was chasing the NXT Women’s Championship all year. She had incredible matches with Asuka at Takeover: Orlando and Takeover: Brooklyn III. Although she lost both encounters with the Empress of Tomorrow, Ember Moon put on breathtaking performances all year and finally captured the NXT Women’s Championship at Takeover: War Games and is primed to be the leader of the NXT Women’s Division from now until she get’s called up to the main roster. The reasoning for her being #20 on the list? She missed some time due to an injury suffered with her first match with Asuka. Don’t get it twisted, though. Ember Moon is deserving of this recognition.
19. The Authors of Pain
This is already really difficult. We narrowed it down to 20 names…but I’m putting them in order as I write this. Terrible strategy, I know. But this is my blog and I’ll write it as I please so, to quote the immortal Billy Gunn, I’ve got two words for ya. *Capacity crowd yells “SUCK IT”* Now then, Rezar and Akam, aka the Authors of Pain, had an awesome year and solidified themselves as the top guys in the NXT Tag Team Division. The AoP started the year off red-hot, winning the NXT Tag Team Championships from #DIY at Takeover: San Antonio. They went on to retain the titles at Takeover: Orlando against #DIY and The Revival, and then once again in a ladder match against #DIY at Takeover: Chicago (thus spawning the most heart-wrenching Tag Team breakup of the year). They lost the titles in a shock loss to SAnitY at Takeover: Brooklyn III and then lost the War Games match in November. Most importantly, the AoP didn’t have a bad match all year and proved that they were no longer green and lumbering and are, in fact, very skilled performers. I’m looking forward to their work in 2018. Their reason for being so low? Part process of elimination and part lack of character work. I mean, yeah, they pull of the silent badass giant characters very well. But, sooner or later, they need to have a bit more character development.
18. Bobby Roode
Another entry, another hot start. Bobby Roode kicked off the year defeating Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Championship at Takeover: San Antonio. Roode would hold onto the title for most of the year, losing it to Drew McIntyre at Takeover: Brooklyn III. Along the way, Roode successfully defended his NXT Championship against Nakamura once more, Kassius Ohno, Hideo Itami, and Roderick Strong. After losing the NXT Championship to McIntyre, Roode would have his NXT farewell match, losing to Strong before being moved up to Smackdown Live! after SummerSlam. Transitioning seamlessly into a babyface role, Roode has continued to be one of the most over Superstars on the roster. I invite you to try to convince me that when he calls for the Glorious DDT, you don’t get up from your couch and yell “GLOOOOOORIOUS!” at the TV. I promise you, I won’t be convinced. Unfortunately for the Glorious One, he suffered from questionable booking since his call-up from NXT. However, he’s seemed to catch his stride and is a front runner to win the United States Championship Tournament. Now…time to play Glorious Domination on repeat as I finish this list.
17. Jinder Mahal
Ok…time to talk about the big, veiny, Punjabi elephant in the room. He had to be here, ok? You can’t be WWE Champion for literally…LITERALLY…half the year and not be on a “Top WWE Superstars of 2017” list. Mahal’s year was pretty quiet up until WrestleMania 33. Before that he had this weird tag team thing going on with Rusev that ended in a way that can be summed up in one word; “Meh.” On the WrestleMania pre-show, Mahal became the runner-up in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal after being eliminated last by Mojo Rawley (lol) with an assist from Rob Gronkowski (LOL!). He was shipped to Smackdown Live! in the Superstar Shakeup and was, for some reason or another, inserted into a #1 Contender’s six pack challenge. He won, pinning Sami Zayn after his first bit of help from the Singh Brothers. *Sidebar* The Singh Brothers deserve to be mentioned in this entry because they bumped their asses off time and again and were the only believable thing about the Modern Day Maharaja’s title reign. Anyway, Mahal beat Randy Orton at Backlash in May for the WWE Championship with some help from the Singh Brothers. And that would be the recipe for the remainder of his reign. The trio used their Punjabi Shenanigans to beat Randy Orton two more times and then Shinsuke Nakamura as well. Mahal DID beat a Money in the Bank cashing-in Baron Corbin all by himself, though (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA). We thought we would be subjected to Brock vs. Jinder at Survivor Series, but the Phenomenal AJ Styles saved us from that, defeating Jinder Mahal in November in the UK. I’ve made a lot of jokes, but Jinder was by no means the worst WWE Champion ever. Maybe the least deserving, but he certainly improved over the six months he was Champion. He looked like a Champion (similar to HHH in Evolution back in the day, with the suit and everything) and garnered real-life heat because he was resented as a performer. It all brewed into the perfect reaction when AJ finally beat him to end his reign. In reality…don’t kill me…he was actually a very effective heel Champion. Despite that, his lack of in-ring acumen keeps him out of the top 15.
16. Charlotte Flair
Ok, cards on the table here…I have a HUGE crush on Charlotte. I think it’s her teeth. She’s got really nice teeth and a great smile. It has NOTHING to do with the fact that she is the best female wrestler on the planet right now *wink wink.* Just in case you didn’t get my sarcasm (which is really hard to convey through text, give me a break), it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s the best female wrestler on the planet right now. She works equally well as a babyface and heel and always brings out the best in her opponents. She started the year off as RAW Women’s Champion and defeated Bayley to retain the title at the Royal Rumble. She would go on to lose the belt to Bayley on, for some weird reason, a plain episode of RAW in February. After a great fatal four-way elimination match at WrestleMania 33, Charlotte was sent to Smackdown Live! in the Superstar Shakeup. It’s this period which explains my wife’s, er, Charlotte’s place on this list. It was that weird time when Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella were the “Welcoming Committee.” It forced Charlotte to turn face, but it was a tumultuous time for the Smackdown Live! Women’s division as Naomi, despite being a great performer, didn’t make the title feel prestigious (sorry, Naomi. You’re awesome.). Things got worse after the Women’s Money in the Bank match when Charlotte’s father, Ric Flair (never heard of him), was hospitalized after a life-threatening emergency. *Fun fact* (it’s only fun because Ric is ok) Me and Ric Flair had emergency surgery the same day. I mean, his was more serious and mine was just an appendectomy, but hey, what a coincidence! Anyway, Charlotte returned in September after a two-month hiatus and began a hot streak which culminated in winning the Smackdown Live! Women’s Championship at Hell in a Cell, becoming only the second woman to ever do so. She closed the year out defeating Alexa Bliss in a Champion vs. Champion match at Survivor Series and retaining her championship against Natalya at Clash of Champions. Charlotte will continue to dominate the world of wrestling in 2018 and will finally (hopefully) give me a follow back on Twitter so we can begin our lives together. I will gladly be her James Ellsworth.
15. Tyler Bate
Tyler Tyler Bate! Tyler Bate! TYYYLER TYLER BATE! LA LALA LALA LALA! Love that chant from the UK Championship Tournament. Anyway, this entry kills me. Why? Because Tyler Bate is one of my guys. In my prior blogs I’ve expressed how impressed I was by this kid in the UK Championship Tournament and how he continues to impress me every time I see him perform. Does it help that we’re both 5’7, 175 lbs.? Maybe. But you can’t help but love the guy for his classic catch-as-catch-can style mixed with awesome high spot wrestling. Also, the Bop and Bang punch thing is one of the coolest things ever and fits his character perfectly. Bate began the year by winning the UK Championship Tournament to become the first-ever WWE UK Champion in the process, defeating Tucker, Jordan Devlin (aka Finn Balor, Jr.), Wolfgang, and Pete Dunne along the way. Bate was signed to NXT after the tournament and would make appearances on NXT TV every now and then because his contract let him keep doing Indy shows. He would defeat the likes of Oney Lorcan, Jack Gallagher, and Trent Seven all the while hanging onto his title. Did I mention he was doing this all at the age of 20? He won the title at 19…19!!! That’s amazing. He would lose the UK Championship to Pete Dunne in a legitimate Match of the Year Candidate at Takeover: Chicago and just recently lost his third encounter with Dunne this past week on NXT TV. The future is super bright for Bate and, as I’ve said before, I expect to see him and Pete Dunne in the main event of WrestleMania in 5 years’ time. His reason for being so low is the same as Brock Lesnar. He’s just not on WWE TV as much as we all would like to see him (same goes for another young Brit to be named later on this list…FORESHADOWING!). The reason he made the list over the Universal Champion, however, is that aforementioned “excitement factor.” Whenever Bate performs, especially against Pete Dunne, it’s MUST SEE TV. Also, he cucked Enzo Amore and now shows Liv Morgan what British Strong Style is all about. That sneaky Brit. Oh, and his mustache is great. If he doesn’t get the push he deserves, I would love to see him with Trent Seven as Mustache Mountain on the main roster.
14. Sheamus and Cesaro
I would like to take this time to say that my ranking of these 20 Superstars is really superfluous. I’m honestly just going with my gut here. There is nobody on this list that had a bad year and any of them could be #1 on any given day. I’d also like to reiterate how difficult this is. Almost as bad as trying to list your top 10 wrestlers of all time. Try doing that with complete confidence then get at me. Back to my second-best tag team of the year, Sheamus and Cesaro began the year as RAW Tag Team Champions and were very close to ending the year that way as well. They lost the Championships to the Good Brothers, Gallows and Anderson, at the Royal Rumble, and also were each eliminated from the Royal Rumble match. Rough start…They lost the 4-team ladder match for the belts at WrestleMania 33 to the returning Hardy Boyz, but were quickly inserted into a feud with the new champs, turning heel in the process and becoming DA BAAHR (at least that’s how Sheamus says it). They won back the titles at Extreme Rules in a great Tag Team Cage Match and retained the belts at Great Balls of Fire in a 30-minute Iron Man Match, which was also great. The Bar would go on to have nothing but great matches the rest of the year. This included their match with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam in which they lost the titles but put on the second-best match of the night. They won the titles back on RAW in the UK and just lost them again to Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan. They had a great year and were never out of the Championship picture. Some sad news, though. These two might not have a great 2018. This is because there might not be two of them. Word is, Sheamus has spinal stenosis…a horrible neck condition which caused Edge to retire. If this is true, Sheamus risks paralysis by continuing to perform. I sincerely hope this is not the case and Sheamus is well. However, if he has to retire, he can rest knowing this last year was a great one for him and his newfound friend, Cesaro. Also, one of their matches inspired, in my opinion, the merch of the year…Cesaro’s “Thwith Thyborg” shirt after he demolished his teeth. Another plus for The Bar.
This doesn’t get any easier. I can just feel the awful things you all are going to say about me in the comments for having Neville this low. But let me try to convince you. A newly heel Neville began the year defeating Rich Swann for the Cruiserweight Championship at the Royal Rumble. From then on, Neville would be the best thing on 205 Live, and one of the best things in all of WWE, with his new heel persona. He grew the greatest heel beard in history (all scraggly and unkempt) and anointed himself, and rightfully so, the King of the Cruiserweights. He defeated all comers from Jack Gallagher to Austin Aries. He had a quick hiccup in losing the title to Akira Tozawa (who is great, by the way) on a Smackdown over the summer, but quickly regained it during the SummerSlam pre-show. Then, Enzo happened. Enzo won the title via shenanigans at No Mercy. Nevilles performance the night after was brilliant as he legitimately looked like he hadn’t slept because he couldn’t believe he lost to such a lowly challenger. In October, Neville reportedly walked out of RAW after hearing about his booking going forward. Reports said he had been unhappy with his booking for a while, thinking he should have moved up to the heavyweight division after carrying 205 Live for so long. He hasn’t been on WWE TV since. And this explains his placement on this list. He missed 25% of the year despite being uninjured. I understand his reasons for being upset and I believe he should have been given a proper push after his performance as Cruiserweight Champion. Good news is that the dirt sheets say Neville is back on good terms with WWE and is set to return early in 2018. Surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble? I’d pop for that. Quick fun fact…Neville defeated Tommy End at the UK Championship Tournament. For those not in the know, you might know Tommy End better as Aleister Black. Therefore, Neville is the only person to defeat Aleister Black in a WWE Ring. #TheMoreYouKnow
12. Dean Ambrose
First things first, I want to wish Dean a quick and speedy recovery from his triceps injury. On the first Smackdown Live! of 2017, Ambrose beat the Miz to become the Intercontinental Champion for the second time in his career. He would hold onto the IC strap for 152 days until Extreme Rules where he lost to the Miz. In the process, Ambrose would compete in the Royal Rumble Match, the Elimination Chamber Match, and successfully defend the IC title at WrestleMania 33 against Baron Corbin. After losing the title to the Miz, he kept on feuding with Miz and the Miztourage. This prompted the, so far, failed Shield reunion. Despite it’s failure, the build up to it and the moment was awesome. It began with Seth Rollins coming to the aid of Ambrose during a beat down by Miz and the Miztourage. After a few weeks of cat-and-mouse, Seth and Dean finally put their fists together and reunited to one of the loudest pops of the year. They would go on to win the RAW Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam from Sheamus and Cesaro before bringing Roman Reigns into the fold to officially reunite the Shield. Unfortunately, a case of the mumps and Dean’s triceps injury has spoiled that so far. That being said, the Shield reunion is nowhere close to being the reason for Dean’s high placing on the list. The reason is that Dean is the Iron Man of WWE. I can’t remember the last time Dean didn’t wrestle on TV. He also does all of the house shows. He also bumps like a madman and does many things other guys just don’t do because they take a toll on the body. Dean has certainly earned the time off, it’s just a shame it comes due to injury. He is slated to be out 9 months and will be sorely missed. But when his music hits for his return, I’m sure the place, wherever it is, is going to EXPLODE.
11. Aleister Black
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I hate this! I hate that Aleister Black is not in the top 10. I love this guy! His gimmick, his entrance, his moveset, his finisher, his psychology…the guy is the total package. Not to mention, Vince McMahon himself is very high on Black. When was the last time it was public knowledge that Mr. McMahon was high on an NXT Superstar? Can’t remember? Yeah, me either. Like I said before, Black made his “debut” as Tommy End in an exhibition match against Neville during the UK Championship Tournament in a losing effort. He would make his NXT debut as Aleister Black at Takeover: Orlando, defeating Andrade “Cien” Almas. He is since undefeated in singles competition. Some notable wins came against Hideo Itami at Takeover: Chicago and against the Velveteen Dream at Takeover: War Games, both of which should be in the conversation for NXT Match of the Year and WWE Match of the Year. There really isn’t much more to say because it’s very difficult to explain in words the brilliance that is Aleister Black. You just have to watch him. His stoic demeanor and legitimate badassery is infectious. His reasoning for not cracking the Top 10? Not only has he not won gold yet in WWE, he hasn’t even had a Championsip match yet in WWE. I can envision Black being like the Undertaker…a Superstar who doesn’t need a belt to be important. Any match he is in is an attraction and all signs point to the same happening in 2018, except on the main roster.