2017 is almost over, and what a year it has been in WWE. It’s been filled with shocks, twists, surprises, returns and more emotion than an X Factor final. Some can argue that WWE has again relied on their legendary names to boost ratings such as marquee matches including The Undertaker, Goldberg, Chris Jericho, Triple H, John Cena and even
Kurt Angle. However, the roster is chock full of immense talent just waiting to be given the chance to shine brighter than Simon Cowell’s teeth.
Some of the pay-per-views this year have been hit and miss, such as SummerSlam and Survivor Series looking good on paper only to flop worse than Fernando Torres in a Chelsea shirt. On the flip side, the brand exclusive PPVs have been fairly entertaining, none more so than Great Balls of Fire.
Looking back at 2017, it’s been hard to choose the best moments and matches because there’s been a lot of them. But after much deliberation, I have narrowed it down to the top ten most memorable moments of 2017.
There’s shocking returns, stunning promos, five-star matches and so much more included. So, settle back and enjoy the top 10 WWE moments of 2017.
10. AJ Styles becomes a two-time WWE Champion. (8th November, SmackDown Live!)
AJ Styles has had one Phenomenal year (pardon the pun), filled with tremendous matches, and title wins, but the one that tops the lot for me is his WWE Championship win over Jinder “the most boring WWE Champion since records began” Mahal on a special edition of SmackDown Live! In Manchester, England. This also marked a historic moment in Merry Old England as it became the first time ever the WWE Championship had changed hands on UK soil. Not too shabby for a former TNA and WCW star to achieve. Prior to this highly-anticipated bout, Mahal had beaten the likes of Randy Orton, Baron Corbin, and Shinsuke Nakamura to keep the title and make sure SmackDown’s
ratings went down the toilet. There was hope when Styles stepped up, and he did not disappoint. The match was rather spectacular, with all the credit going to Styles for getting a good match out of Mahal, who, let’s face it, is less mobile than an 80-year-old woman with a hip replacement. Styles survived everything Mahal threw at him before defeating him with The Phenomenal Forearm to win his second WWE Championship, and save SmackDown in the process. The reaction from the sellout crowd said it all. It’s a special moment. Or rather a Phenomenal moment.
9. Kurt Angle Returns To WWE. (3rd April, Raw)
When it was announced that Kurt Angle would be the marquee name going into this year’s Hall of Fame class, it was just a matter of time before he showed up in a WWE ring. That time came the night after WrestleMania when he was announced as the new General Manager of Raw by Mr. McMahon. Since that night, Angle has done a fairly decent job as GM, even if he does still struggle to pronounce WWE, but the fans wanted more. They wanted to see their Olympic Hero wrestle again. Despite being in his mid-40s, and more injuries than Daniel Sturridge, the WWE Universe wanted to see him compete again. They got their wish at the TLC PPV when Angle replaced an ill Roman Reigns to team with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to take on The Miz, Kane, BraunStrowman and The Bar in a very entertaining 5-on-3 Handicap TLC match. It was a blast, and Angle looked great, even if we didn’t get to see him in his traditional singlet as he wore The Shield gear, but that time came at Survivor Series. Angle represented his brand in the traditional 5-on-5
elimination match, but an apparent hamstring injury…. hamstrung his performance on the night. Everything was in slow motion. However, it was still great to see him lock up with John Cena again, put the ankle lock on Shane McMahon, and take the Pedigree from Triple H. One more match? If Angle has anything to say about it, you can bet he’ll be lacing up his boots again quicker than Peter Crouch when he’s told he’s getting on. Oh, it’s true, it’s damn true!
8. Triple H Puts Over Seth Rollins In Grand Fashion At WrestleMania (2nd April, WrestleMania)
Triple H doesn’t always put over younger talent, (I.E. every Triple H match from the early-2000s), but since he’s become more powerful behind the scenes and the future of the company rests on his shoulders, he’s become more giving in the ring. Hmm, funny that. Jokes aside, Triple H is an awesome performer, and can make anyone a star on any given night. He will probably even make Jinder Mahal look like a star when he faces him in India. Now, that takes some talent. When it was announced that Triple H would be returning to take on Seth Rollins in one of the main events at WrestleMania, some fans feared the worst for The Architect. Those fears weren’t exactly quelled by the one-sided build, and Rollins re-injuring his knee. But everyone breathed a sigh of relief on The
Grandest Stage of Them All. Dodgy entrances aside, one of which made Rollins like, like Zelda from the hugely successful video game series, the match itself was excellent. It may have been a little long-winded, but that’s always the case with The Game at WrestleMania. Triple H also did the right thing and put Rollins over clean as a whistle on the night. Even Stephanie McMahon took a bump through a table. Sadly for Rollins, this was as good as 2017 got until he reformed The Shield.
7. Goldberg Becomes The New WWE Universal Champion. (5th March, Fastlane)
Who would’ve thought that we’d ever see Bill Goldberg in a WWE ring again when he left the company on awful terms in 2004, let alone be wearing championship gold around his waist? In some ways, this was the ultimate comeback story in WWE history. That is if you’re a fan of Goldberg and 90-second squash matches, of course. Amazingly, WWE not only decided to have Goldberg plow through the untouchable Brock Lesnar in 2016 but also had him dethrone Kevin Owens of the Universal Championship at Fastlane this past March. Both matches saw Goldberg receive zero punishment. Goldberg smashed his way to the top of WWE to defy all the odds, only to suffer the fate of Suplex City at WrestleMania. The night after, Goldberg thanked the fans for welcoming him back and hinted at a possible return somewhere down the line. He better gets a move on, he’s already passed his 50th yearly milestone. The fact that Goldberg was allowed to look
so dominant in his comeback to WWE was truly incredible especially when one considers how poor they booked him the first time around when he was in his prime. Who knows what might have been had WWE booked him as a destructive force back in 2003. Looking back at Goldberg’s return to WWE, and it’s hard to sum it up as anything other than a major success. Ratings went up when he was on TV, WWE Network buys were on the rise, and the live audiences were vicariously chanting his name. Will we ever see Goldberg in a WWE ring again? I’m sure we will, I just feel sorry for the guy who is next.
6. John Cena & Roman Reigns’ Worked Shoot Promo (31st August, Raw)
If anyone wonders why Vince McMahon is enamored with these two superstars, then just watch this worked shoot promo between the two and hear the response from the crowd to get your answer. When it was revealed that the two biggest names in the company would collide for the first time ever at No Mercy, many fans questioned the logic of not waiting for a more high-profile stage. But in wrestling, you have to strike when the iron is hot. And I feel the time was right for the pair to go one-on-one. Who truly was The Big Dog, and who was the scared little kitten? The promo went a long way to deciding that. Roman may have been thrown off his game early by some quick-witted barbs from Cena, but he soon found his footing and fought back with a series of cutting remarks of his own. The facial expressions of Kurt Angle in the background make this moment even more
memorable. He was truly stunned by what they were saying to one another. Roman’s comments about Cena being a “fake-ass part-timing b***h” were very close to the knife, as were Cena’s remarks about Roman being a “bootleg John Cena wannabe”. It was a passionate, raw promo which felt real – and one which instantly earned Reigns a lot more fans. It was easily his best promo to date. What’s more, Reigns went over Cena cleanly in their No Mercy match. The Big Dog has arrived, believe that!
5. Braun Strowman’s Destruction Of Brock Lesnar. (21st August, Raw)
If the stand-out moments on this list would have been merely about shocks and surprises, Braun Strowman would have probably been higher than fifth. The fact that Strowman had completely decimated Brock Lesnar to the point of having The Beast stretchered out of the arena at SummerSlam the night before was significant enough. When The Monster Among Men confronted Lesnar on Raw 24 hours later, the excitement level went through the roof. Brock Lesnar would avenge his savage beating and put Strowman to pastures new, right? It sadly seemed so obvious and so certain that WWE surprised us all by having Strowman dismantle Lesnar one more time, and make The Beast look nothing more than an injured helpless puppy. The sheer disbelief on the faces of those in attendance on Raw told the whole story. It was a moment in the career of Braun Strowman that he will never forget. Then WWE went and ruined it all by having Lesnar beat Strowman clean at No Mercy. Oh, well.
4. Sami Zayn Turns Heel And Sides With Kevin Owens. (8th October, Hell in a Cell)
Kevin Owens was lying prone on the announce desk as Shane McMahon scaled to the top of the 20-foot structure. There looked to be no hope for Owens as Shane took the giant leap. However, like a knight in shining armour, Sami Zayn appeared as if out of nowhere to pull his former best friend out of harm’s way, sending Shane crashing through the table in the process. The unthinkable had happened. Sami Zayn had turned heel. This was as unlikely a thing to happen as a Liverpool fan not mentioning their glorious history after a heavy defeat. Did most people suspect Sami Zayn would switch to the dark side and align himself with Kevin Owens? The dirt-sheets did let the cat out of the bag weeks in advance, unfortunately. But it still made a huge impact when Zayn actually pulled
the trigger on his turn. It was a stunning moment. The whiter than white babyface was now a villain. He’s been simply brilliant to watch ever since, hamming it up for the boos. Long may his friendship with Kevin Owens reign.
3. The Return Of Paige. (27th, November, Raw)
When you think of a star returning, you expect them to get some sort of generous response from the WWE Universe who have missed them, but I don’t think anyone was quite expecting the reaction Paige got when she made her WWE return a few weeks ago. It was a sustained cheer that will live long in the memory of this writer. It had been rumoured that Paige would return to WWE for quite some time, but for some reason, WWE kept pulling the plug. Finally, it happened and Paige stepped through the curtain and emerged live on Raw for the first time in over a year. The response she got was incredible. Paige looked truly overwhelmed with the welcome, but she was meant to be a heel orchestrating a hostile takeover of the Women’s Division, so she couldn’t play on it too much. Let’s hope for an amazing 2017 for the sensational British superstar.
2. John Cena Equals Ric Flair’s Record Of 16 World Title Wins In Classic With AJ Styles. (29th January, Royal Rumble)
It’s around this time when WWE fans can look back and reflect on the true highlights of the year. Sure, there are no Slammy Awards planned for the company to award those involved in the biggest and best bits of WWE in 2017, but in terms of a Match of the Year candidate, this has to be somewhere near the top. When SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan announced that John Cena would compete with AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, fans rightly expected another classic between the two. Cena and Styles didn’t fail to deliver. The match was every inch as good as everyone expected. The stunning near 30-minute epic was sensational and can stand up to any match from any wrestling company in the world. It was truly amazing. It was 30
minutes of in-ring perfection. And to top things off, John Cena defeated Styles to become a record-equalling 16-time World Champion. On second thought, that may have ruined it for a lot of people.
1. The Undertaker’s Farewell. (2nd April, WrestleMania)
So far, this list has been comprised of moments which, for the most part (unless you’re Jinder Mahal), have brought plenty of enjoyment to WWE fans. This is where things take a turn for the emotional, however. For months, speculation had rumbled online about whether The Undertaker’s match at WrestleMania with Roman Reigns would indeed be his last ride. And after losing to The Big Dog in the night’s show-closer, with the legendary Jim Ross on commentary, those rumours became an emotional reality, as Undertaker seemingly retired in front of an incredible crowd cheering his name. Tears ran down fans’ faces as Undertaker laid his coat, hat and gloves in the middle of the ring. I’m not afraid to admit I was a little teary-eyed too, mainly because I had bet on The Deadman to prevail over Reigns, but that’s another story. It was a rare moment that felt real. So much of WWE is artificial and scripted, but this was real emotion from arguably the greatest of all time. The “Thank you, ‘Taker” chants said it all.
The Awards Go To…
Superstar of the Year: AJ Styles.
Woman Superstar of the Year: Alexa Bliss.
Tag Team of the Year: The Usos.
Match of the Year: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, Royal Rumble.
Feud of the Year: Strowman vs. Reigns.
Most Loved Superstar of the Year: AJ Styles.
Most Hated Superstar of the Year: Jinder Mahal.
Comeback of the Year: Goldberg.
Most Improved Superstar of the Year: Braun Strowman.