Since we’re near the tail end of the year, it’s time to look back on all the good that 2017 gave us.
Wrestling fans got a whole heap on great in-ring action this year. The usual suspects (AJ Styles, John Cena, Seth Rollins, damn near everyone in NXT etc.) gave their all within the squared circle. Then there’s the women’s athletes who also went on to bring out the best in each other. From January all the way up until December, I made sure to keep track of the best bouts that got a repeated viewing from yours truly. Since there were so many amazing matches from the WWE roster this year, this packed list will be split up into three parts.
The list of bouts you’re about to revisit below all took place within the time span of January – May.
Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins – Raw (Jan. 23)
One of the earliest examples of in-ring excellence from the WWE this year took place on Raw. Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins got embroiled in a fine matchup that had huge implications – if Sami was victorious, he’d take Rollins’ spot in this year’s Royal Rumble. With stakes that high, it should come as no surprise that both men fought like their lives depended on it. Both men have faced each other in the ring countless times, but this meeting tops them all. The moves put on display here had me and the crowd on our feet at all times. Sami played his lovable underdog role well here, while Rollins tapped into his killer instinct in order to get the win. The near falls were exciting, Rollins’ Pedigree to Sami on the ring apron was jaw dropping and the shocking ending didn’t put a damper on everything that took place before it.
Roderick Strong vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas – NXT TakeOver: San Antonio
It’s easy to see why Andrade “Cien” Almas was given more of a chance to shine this year. He wasn’t catching fire with the fans like most international NXT call up’s. But the man formerly known as La Sombra could always be relied upon to deliver a breathtaking in-ring performance. When he was set up to test Roderick Strong earlier this year, greatness ensued. Strong and Almas put on the type of match that could main event any indie promotion in the country. Almas busted out all the extra maneuvers hiding within his repertoire, while Strong relied on his slick strikes and abundance of backbreakers. Thank God this match got more time than it would have gotten if it was placed within a main roster PPV spot. Strong came out on top here, but both men ended up being winners. Their in-ring prowess made them even more appreciated in the fans’ eyes and eventually pushed Almas to the top spot in NXT.
#DIY vs. The Authors of Pain – NXT TakeOver: San Antonio
You can tell that I really enjoy the NXT product. Whenever I catch a TakeOver special on the Network, it’s a safe bet to say that there’ll always be an amazing match on it. Along with the aforementioned San Antonio TakeOver match on this list, props have to be given to this hot tag team match between #DIY and The Authors of Pain. #DIY were much smaller than their massive rivals, but that didn’t stop them from landing sick knee strikes, Superkicks and even Release German Suplexes on both men. The Authors responded to their unrivaled agility with big power moves. But every time it seemed as if Gargano and Ciampa were out of their league, both men rallied together and made the crowd believe that they could defeat the Goliath to their David. The Authors of Pain eventually clobbered #DIY enough to cause them to relinquish their NXT Tag Team titles. As far as traditional tag team matches go, this one was a prime example of how great they can be.
AJ Styles vs. John Cena – Royal Rumble
Taken from Match Review: After all is said and done, history will look back fondly on the much heated rivalry between John Cena and AJ Styles. During this WWE Championship match, SD Live got represented in the best way possible. We knew things were going to get even more intense as soon as Cena stiffed AJ with a clothesline. Once the ball got rolling, both Superstars laid into each other with nasty strikes and every move included in their wide arsenal. They had us and the live crowd in the palm of their hands as they exchanged a cavalcade of counters. AJ locked John in his own STF, but John responded in kind with more stiff clotheslines and several AA’s. AJ held on long enough to land two Styles Clashes, lock in his Calf Crusher and even pull off a Phenomenal Elbow. What AJ was unable to land was his Springboard 450 Splash, which began to signal the beginning of the end. John tok advantage of AJ’s more weakened stated and captured the championship after two impressive AA’s. We’re sad to see AJ’s reign as “The Face That Runs The Place” end, but at least it concluded after another amazing match against WWE’s resident mega star.
Fatal 5-Way #1 Contenders Match – 205 Live (Feb. 7)
205 Live’s weekly showcase of Raw’s Cruiserweight Division doesn’t compare to the quality tournament we witnessed in 2016. The storylines are mundane and the matches tend to follow the same stale format. But there’s always that rare occasion when a gem of a match takes place on this Tuesday night Network special. TJ Perkins, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, Jack Gallagher, and Noam Dar were all on hand to battle it out for the right to take on Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship. All five men showed us glimpses of their Cruiserweight Classic performances in this manic Fatal 5-Way bout. The crowd actually came unglued for once during a Cruiserweight Division matchup on the main roster. This phenomenal showcase featured thrilling action, the continuation of a feud (Dar vs. Alexander), and a winner that emerged as a fresh challenger.