Bell to bell, was this the best year of pro wrestling?
Possibly so, judging by star ratings and social media buzz, as well as the thunderous reactions of crowds throughout the United States and around the world. The depth of the talent pool industry-wide is deeper than it’s ever been, leading to excellent matches and tremendous stories in nearly every promotion.
While everyone stepped it up another notch this year, these were the ten greatest matches of 2017.
10. Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns, SummerSlam
Sorry, TNA – this was a real monster’s ball. Lesnar took everyone to suplex city, before Strowman slammed him through all three announce tables. Obviously, that’s not enough to derail the Beast Incarnate, as he returned to the ring to wreak havoc. As always in Reigns matches, there was massive fear that he’d win after a dozen Superman punches and a baker’s dozen spears. One spear too many led Lesnar to hit an F-5 for the victory.
9. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose, No Mercy
Despite all the modern-day, sports-entertainment malarkey, old-school wrasslin’ still works. Look no further than this incredible tag team match, as Shesaro follows the basic formula of cutting off the ring, isolating a body part and preventing Ambrose from making the tag. The match is such a great story of the challengers dominating the champions until one mistake costs them everything. Unfortunately for Cesaro, he’ll remember this match for losing his front teeth after being slung into the turnbuckle post, gushing blood out of his mouth.
8. AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar, Survivor Series
In the closest pairing we’ll get to Daniel Bryan vs. Brock, and thankfully sparing us from Jinder vs. Brock, the Raw and Smackdown champions squared off in a dream match that lived up to the hype. Per usual, the Beast tossed his opponent around the ring for several minutes, giving orgasmic visions of when he steamrolled Cena at SummerSlam 2014. Of course, Styles is no Cena, and valiantly fought back, targeting the big man’s knee. In my favorite spot of the year, Lesnar fought out of the Calf Crusher by Hulk Smashing Styles’ head into the mat. A second Phenomenal Forearm was caught for an F-5, but Styles should take pride in wounding the Conqueror.
7. The New Day vs. Usos, SummerSlam
Absurdly, this show-stealer was relegated to the pre-show. The first half of the match featured the Usos isolating Xavier Woods, and the second half was bonzo gonzo as both tandems used innovative double-team maneuvers. Near fall after near fall brought the Brooklyn crowd to near climax, eventually exploding as Jimmy and Jey unleashed a superkick party followed by a double spash to win the Tag Team Titles.
6. AJ Styles vs. John Cena, Royal Rumble
The electric atmosphere of the Alamodome played a major factor in this match, as John Cena challenging for his 16th world title felt like a monumental deal. However, AJ Styles had Cena’s number in all of their previous encounters, so if anyone could stop Super Cena, it was the Phenomenal One. Cena displayed unprecedented ruthless aggression, emptying his arsenal and even busting out some new moves. Styles reciprocated, locking in the Calf Crusher and hitting two Styles Clashes. Unfortunately, Cena’s no-sell of the second one diminished the authenticity of the bout, and of course, the result still feels like a bad dream.
5. The Hardys vs. The Young Bucks, Supercard of Honor XI
During WrestleMania weekend, the Hardy Boyz turned back the clock to 2000 as the brothers competed in back-to-back ladder matches, shocking the WWE Universe at WrestleMania after stealing ROH’s Supercard of Honor. They didn’t do it alone, though, as the Bucks of Youth kept up with the legendary duo, diving off ladders and crashing through tables. It was gasp after gasp as these four men risked their lives to entertain the masses and battle over the ROH Tag Team Titles.
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, WrestleMania 33
After the clusterfuck of WrestleMania XX, I never thought I’d enjoy another Lesnar-Goldberg match, but this has become my favorite. You had to be there live to truly appreciate this war. Because it had been established that Goldberg could beat Lesnar any second, I was on my feet for the whole match, my heart stopping after every spear. Thankfully, Lesnar took Da Man to suplex city, and conquered him for the Universal Championship.
3. Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
In a highly anticipated rematch from NXT TakeOver: Orlando, Ember Moon sought revenge for Asuka cheating in their previous bout and then later injuring her shoulder. Moon pounced at the bell, pouring it on the NXT Women’s Champion until Asuka tossed her into the steps and suplexed her on the entrance ramp. The Empress of Tomorrow continued the assault, ruthlessly targeting Moon’s shoulder as the crowd rallied behind the challenger. In a play off their last battle, Asuka tried pushing the ref as Moon was perched on the top rope, but she managed to hit a crossbody followed up with a superkick. Somehow, Asuka kicked out, and lured Moon into an armbar and Asuka Lock for the victory. It just felt like a real fight, an element sorely missing in today’s wrestling landscape.
2. Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunn, NXT TakeOver: Chicago
If there was ever a match where both participants instantly became stars, this was it. With Nigel McGuinness and good, ol’ J.R. calling the action, the United Kingdom kids tore Chi-Town to the ground. Combining catch-as-catch-can, technical wrestling, high flying and strong style, Bate and Dunn put on a clinic that should be streamed on a daily loop at the Performance Center. The Bruiserweight struggled to fend off Bate’s jaw-dropping strength, eventually capitalizing on a high-risk dive and hitting the Bitter End to claim the U.K. Championship.
1. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada, Wrestle Kingdom 11
It’s the most talked-about match of the year. For many fans, it was their first time watching New Japan, and for NJPW diehards, it was the greatest thing ever. Hell, Dave Meltzer broke his own star system for it! For 45 minutes, Omega and Okada took the wrestling world on an epic roller coaster, culminating in a 15-minute back-and-forth sequence leaving everybody on the edge of their seats. After four rainmakers and a jumping tombstone, Okada finally defeated Omega to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.