In this edition of The Wrestling Estate roundtable, the staff look back on 2017 with cringes, goosebumps and smiles.
What was the best show/event of the year?
Calvin Gibbon: WWE No Mercy in September gets my vote. I lucked into some floor seats through a buddy. The Staples Center was red hot all night long and we were ready for a crazy Lesnar vs. Braun match. Unfortunately, it did not happen that way. But The Bar vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins was incredible.
Anthony Mahalis: 2017 was a mediocre year for WWE. As I was looking back on these PPVs, I couldn’t even pick one that I thought was great. I went with SummerSlam because I thought it had the most quality matches. The highlights were The Bar vs Ambrose and Rollins and the fatal four way between Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Reigns and Strowman – both really entertaining matches. I would have liked to go with the Royal Rumble, but the fact that Randy Orton won the actual Rumble was a disgrace.
John Corrigan: House of Hardcore 25 in April. While under WWE contract, Broken Matt and Brother Nero ended their rivalry with Tommy Dreamer and Bully Ray in a fun brawl. Then Sami Callihan and Pentagon Jr. tore the 2300 Arena down in a hellacious main event.
Evan Cross: WWE United Kingdom Championship Special. Much like the Cruiserweight Classic Finale in 2016, this was relatively short and had no bad matches. Tyler Bate was a worthy champion and Pete Dunne, perhaps the most underused talent in wrestling, shined. Not to mention the crowd was one of the best in recent memory.
Troy Taroff: This is going to sound cheesy, but I have to go with WrestleMania. From the Hardys’ return to the Rollins/HHH feud finally coming to a conclusion to John Cena manning up and proposing to Nikki Bella, and of course, Roman Reigns cementing his spot in WWE by defeating The Undertaker, this year’s WrestleMania had tons of great moments.
What was the biggest disappointment of the year?
Gibbon: Let me tell you about a man named Goldberg. WWE brought back Bill for a glorified thank you run and it was atrocious. Goldberg wrestled less than 10 minutes of actual cumulative in-ring time, yet he was rewarded with a world title program against Brock Lesnar. It was over-hyped and it wasted the potential of other matches and competitors.
Mahalis: I could probably pick like ten things here, but I think two things stand out the most. First, the fact that Jinder Mahal was champion for so long. Second, the way that WWE is, so far, botching the Shield reunion.
Corrigan: Wasting Kurt Angle’s return to action by subbing him in for Roman Reigns at a shitty B-show…and only giving it 48 hours’ notice.
Cross: I’m still not over Roman Reigns being the 30th entrant in the Royal Rumble. What a boner killer.
Taroff: The Strowman/Lesnar match at No Mercy let me down so much. What should have been Strowman’s coming-out party quickly turned into a Lesnar-esque match we’ve seen many times before.
What was the greatest match?
Gibbon: Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? It’s the first of its kind. Their trio of matches was a hybrid of the old-school style and the new ROH/New Japan balls-to-the-wall style. It just works brilliantly! They are breathtaking matches full of ‘holy shit’ moments, and I became a New Japan viewer after seeing these two fight.
Mahalis: Best match of the year is one of the more recent ones: War Games from NXT Takeover. It was fantastic. You rarely get to see that kind of carnage in WWE anymore, but The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong, Sanity, and The Undisputed Era delivered and then some.
Corrigan: The Beast Incarnate beating, brutalizing and conquering Goldberg for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33. It’s the best match I’ve ever seen live.
Cross: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11. To a certain extent, it has fallen from the zeitgeist because it happened so long ago. But nothing since has topped it.
Taroff: Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bate at NXT Takeover: Chicago was so entertaining, I couldn’t look away. Every single move was executed perfectly and they had the crowd into it the entire 15 minutes. Hopefully these two face each other many times down the road.
What was the greatest moment?
Gibbon: Cody Rhodes winning the ROH World Heavyweight Championship from Christopher Daniels in an epic encounter. This year has been the year of the IPPV. New Japan and ROH are making a larger dent into the American marketplace as WWE treads water as the number-one company in the world. But I digress, as a lifelong fan of Cody Rhodes, I followed his indie progress as much as possible, and I just have to say congratulations to Cody for a great 2017. Check out his work if you haven’t already.
Mahalis: I have to give best moment to Kurt Angle’s return to a WWE ring. It brought back such nostalgia to see him hand out an Angle Slam and throw on some ankle locks.
Corrigan: Chris Jericho showing up in New Japan to pierce the virgin flesh of Kenny Omega, knock out some young boys and attack his friend Don Callis. Now that’s a crowd I’d kill to be a part of.
Cross: The Hardy Boyz returning at WrestleMania. Yes, it was somewhat expected, and I will admit to being a complete sucker for surprise returns, but it was pulled off to perfection.
Taroff: The Festival of Friendship. From Jericho’s outfit, the amazing painting, FRIENDSHIP THE MAGICIAN, I loved every moment of this segment. I predicted Owens turning on Jericho at the end, but the way it was done was so perfect. Props to WWE.
Who was the best wrestler of 2017?
Gibbon: It has to be AJ Styles, right? I know that Kenny Omega or Kazuchika Okada is supposed to be the expected answer. But I say well, wait a minute, hold on…how many great matches did either of those two have against subpar opponents? AJ Styles wrestled Shane McMahon, Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin this year and somehow carried each of them to the a higher plateau.
Mahalis: AJ Styles has been the best wrestler of 2017. No one in WWE puts on consistently great matches like him. He can make anyone look good. This also could have gone to Balor if WWE hadn’t wasted him for the last few months.
Corrigan: AJ Styles has had a phenomenal year – stealing the Royal Rumble with John Cena, carrying Shane O’Mac to a watchable match, trading the U.S. Title with Kevin Owens, tearing down TLC with Finn Balor, destroying JinderMania and almost slaying the Beast.
Cross: I want to say Cody Rhodes, but I’ll pencil him in for 2018 given that his indie supershow hasn’t happened yet. It’s gotta be AJ Styles. It’s the boring, obvious answer, but it’s the right one.
Taroff: Looking outside of WWE, best wrestler of 2017 has to be Kenny Omega. With three all-time amazing matches vs. Kazuchika Okada and becoming the first ever IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion, Omega cemented his spot as the top wrestler in the world in 2017. Keep your eyes peeled with what he’s going to do in 2018, as Omega will only try and top himself.