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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Five Things I'm Thankful For This Year in WWE
By The Doc
Nov 23, 2017 - 11:03:28 AM

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Let's be thankful today. What are your 5 favorite WWE/NXT happenings to occur in 2017?

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the United States and happy normal Thursday to everyone else from everywhere else! It's a pretty low key holiday for Doc and Family so, having been enthused about wrestling more recently, I thought I'd try to take my positive energy from the past two weeks leading up to and through Survivor Series weekend and channel it into reshaping my mindset toward 2017, a year in which I've had more gripes than perhaps any previous as an adult fan. Here are five things from this year in WWE that I'm thankful for:

#1 – The Rumble's Memorably Great Pre-Battle Royal Card

The January Classic's signature gimmick has struggled this decade to recreate the success that it built through the 2000s, when winner after winner was lauded as deserving, stimulating a momentum for WrestleMania Season that I frankly miss. The saving grace for a show that has produced so few winners of note (at least not for generally considered “good” reasons)? Memorable non-Rumble matches. From the underrated Ziggler vs. Edge (partly what created the 2010-2012 hope of The Show-Off becoming a Top 5 star) to the even more underrated Rock vs. Punk WWE Title Match (shenanigans aside, that was tremendous storytelling) to Bryan vs. Wyatt to Rollins vs. Lesnar vs. Cena to Ambrose vs. Owens, we have not lacked candidates for either the very rewatchable January Rumble-prep roster or the Top 10-15 matches in Rumble lore list. This year featured a Match of the Year frontrunner in Cena vs. Styles III and what is destined to go down as one of the best matches in this era that too few talk about in Owens vs. Reigns, plus a heck of a Cruiserweight Title bout in Rich Swann vs. Neville (who else misses the heck out of Neville?); if we're going to continue to get a steady stream of lousy Rumble winners, then please at least use the 2017 undercard as a template for how to keep the January Classic feeling special.

#2 – WrestleMania 33, From Top to Bottom, Being More Like 28, 30, and 31 than 27, 29, and 32

The build to WrestleMania 33 was the best since 2012 in my opinion and, by and large, the payoffs delivered in spades. Jericho vs. Owens was the best long-term mid-card angle to peak at Mania in a decade or more; and they may not have knocked it out of the park to the tune of Jericho-Christian-Trish or Hart vs. Piper or Rollins vs. Orton, but they had a show-enhancing match (though apparently Vince McMahon didn't like it) / Styles did deserve to headline, but he made the most of working with Shane McMahon and executed a strong angle in March leading to a borderline classic Mania encounter that rewatches really well / Seth Rollins overcame another knee injury at an inopportune time, creating genuine sympathy and a hot angle (with the ever antagonizing Triple H) out of something that had previously been regarded as nothing more than a creative blunder, and then proceeded to put on a masterful performance opposite his WWE mentor that, I swear to you, one day you'll agree was the finest of Mania 33 (it's just that good, less a popcorn flick equivalent and more a deeply emotional drama) / Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar may have been controversial, but there should be no questioning that their angle over-shot modest expectations, both in terms of how genuine Goldberg was throughout his comeback, how much attention it generated in the mainstream, and just how damn good that 5-minute match was on the grandest stage.

When the top matches are built that well and pay-off that well, it's hard not to appreciate it, but the Raw women's division also acquitted itself of lackluster hype in a well-booked 4-way title match, The Hardy Boys made an awesome surprise return and turned a cluster Ladder Match that eight people were excited about into one of the best parts of the show, loved by 75-some-odd-thousand live attendees and 1.9 million Network subscribers watching at home, and – at least to this point – Undertaker bid us farewell and put himself out of his own misery, God bless the legend. There was a lot to like about Mania 33.

#3 – The Tag Team Renaissance on the Main Roster

Perhaps the most surprising thing to have happened this year has been how well the Usos, New Day, Hardys, Bar, and Shield have managed to follow-up last year's NXT tag team peak with the best year of tag team wrestling on the main roster in a very long time. And not only did we see the best body of tag team work since the Smackdown Six (Top 5 candidates for me for Tag Team Match of the Year are all four-star efforts – Usos vs. New Day at Battleground, Summerslam, and Hell in a Cell, Bar vs. Ambrose/Rollins at Summerslam, and Shield vs. New Day at Survivor Series), but we also saw strong character work that helped invest the audience further in the stories being told on the 20'x20' canvas. Ambrose and Rollins reuniting was probably my favorite storyline of the year, and one I suspect we'll look back on as a more valuable part of their careers than it may seem at this moment in the time. The Usos vs. The New Day rivalry was arguably one of the best of the year and certainly warrants a look in the upcoming Feud of 2017 category. Also, props to Sheamus and Cesaro for maximizing the potential of their pairing.

#4 – Having the Summerslam Weekend Experience

This one is a personal pick. It had been such a long time since I had experienced a WWE show besides WrestleMania and when The Eternal Optimist said, “Let's go to Summerslam,” I jumped at the opportunity to experience a pair of basketball arena shows and be a part of a more intimate crowd. The Doc Curse continued – my pay-per-view track record this decade is WrestleMania 27, Over the Limit 2012 (Cena vs. Johnny Ace), WrestleMania 29, WrestleMania 32, and now Summerslam '17 – but I got to see NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III in person and that was the best wrestling show I had attended since WrestleMania 24. Every match on that card pushed for the four-star level and, though I tend to most appreciate seeing matches live that are all-time great (HHH vs. Taker, Punk vs. Taker this decade), I will never forget seeing a card that featured a non-stop stream of very good to lower level great matches; plus, it felt good to go to a show that the fans in attendance actually liked. I think I'll also reflect back fondly on seeing Braun Strowman (already the best big man to debut this century if you ask me) hit his initial crescendo, Nakamura's and Balor's entrances, and the aforementioned Rollins/Ambrose match against The Bar.

#5 - Survivor Series Affirming Its Return to Legitimate Member of the Big Four

The November Classic brand has not been this strong since the early-to-mid 2000s. In this day and age, the simple exertion of real creative effort is something to be applauded when it comes to Survivor Series. Rewind the clock to the turn of the decade and McMahon was ready to scrap the concept; he and the team got bored every November for the majority of the time between 2006 and 2013 and the second longest running PPV was on life support. I was very happy to see the Series earn a buzz for a second straight year that made it feel like a cut above the rest of the hefty pay-per-view line-up; it may not have started that way in late October to early November, but WWE got it together, booked Styles vs. Lesnar and New Day vs. Shield and basically gave last weekend the feel of the NBA's All-Star festivities in February. Now, Survivor Series is on a two year streak of stacked cards and best-of-the-year-caliber shows, and it seems poised to continue that trend for the foreseeable future.

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