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Posted in: My Two Centsss
My Two Centsss - 2017 EOY Mega-Column: The Seven Best WWE Matches, Wrestlers + Tag Teams of the Year PLUS Seven Bold 2018 Predictions
By Super Chrisss
Dec 30, 2017 - 6:25:54 PM

Tom Jenner rocks!

The one bad thing about the Christmas/New Years holidays is that it's always a 'down period' in the entertainment world, and for obvious reasons. With the exception of the WWE roster this year and certain sports teams, just like the rest of us, celebrities, athletes and entertainers are spending time off with their loved ones. As a result, if you're sitting at home, bored, you might want to check websites like LOP every now and then to nurture your wrestling fix. Unfortunately, because it's the holidays and nothing is going on, you're unlikely to find a plethora of news and rumours to sink your teeth into.

The good news is, the columnists and podcasters here at LOP have you covered! From veteran writers like Mr. Tito and The Doc to newbies on the block such as Imp and Rich Latta, there are plenty of good folks putting aside hours of their free time to provide you with some sort of entertainment during the holiday break. If you haven't already, check out their respective columns and tune into LOP Radio to support a commercial-free form of entertainment you won't find anywhere else on the worldwide web. And behalf of all of us here at LOP, THANK YOU for the support.

Today, I show my thanks by giving you a mega column. Here's what's on deck:

-Revisiting the best WWE matches of 2016
-Ranking the best WWE matches of 2017
-Listing the most impressive WWE and NXT tag teams of the year
-Counting down the top male and female WWE performers of 2017 AND
-Last but not least, making predictions for 2018.

Fun, fun, fun! With all our cards in order, grab a coffee, settle into your comfiest chair and let us begin with my picks for the best WWE main roster matches of 2016...

7.Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship (Royal Rumble)
6. Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander (Cruiserweight Classic Quarter-Finals)
5. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (Battleground)
4. The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro for the Intercontinental Championship (Extreme Rules)
3. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Career vs. Intercontinental Championship Match (No Mercy)
2. John Cena vs. AJ Styles (SummerSlam)
1. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose in a TLC Match for the WWE Championship (TLC)

Unlike 2017, 2016 had a long list of candidates all worthy of being in the MOTY discussion (I think my initial list went as long as fifteen matches). That being said, there was still plenty of compelling in-ring action this past year, both down in NXT and the main roster. And it all kicks off with two guys who made two appearances on last year's list...

7. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship (Extreme Rules)

Despite the quality year both men had in 2016 and the momentum they brought over to Raw in the Superstar Shake-Up, expectations for this match were pretty low. After all, this feud felt like it was being dragged on for no reason other than Creative having nothing else for either guy. Furthermore, how silly was it to add a stipulation where Ambrose would lose his championship if he broke the rules or used a weapon - at the EXTREME RULES Pay-Per-View!

Nevertheless, they were the curtain-jerker that night and stole the show (although some people preferred the Fatal-Five-Way main-event, I for one did not). Both Miz and Ambrose worked a very smart match that played to both their characters and the story's strength. The crowd was hot for this one which only enhanced the viewing pleasure for yours truly at home. I thought Miz and Ambrose had a very underappreciated rivalry both on Raw and SmackDown, so the least I could do was rightfully include their best match on the best matches of the year compilation.

6. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens in a No Disqualification Match for the Universal Championship (Royal Rumble)

If Ambrose vs. Miz had low expectations going into Extreme Rules, then words cannot describe the level of apathy many fans felt as we had to witness yet another match between Owens and Reigns at this year's Royal Rumble. Keep in mind that their title match came after MONTHS of Reigns wrestling some combination of Owens, Chris Jericho or both of them on seemingly every episode of Raw since Reigns' feud with Rusev ended after Hell in a Cell 2016. As a result, not only was everyone sick to death of the Owens/Reigns rivalry, but with Jericho suspended above the ring in a shark cage and WrestleMania 33 looming, it seemed like a guarantee that Reigns would leave San Antonio as the new Universal Champion. Reigns vs. Owens was by far the least anticipated bout on this year's Rumble card.

Instead, they ended up having a really good match. If you were a fan of The Attitude Era, I don't know how you couldn't have enjoyed Reigns vs. Owens, as it blended that era's style of overbooking (the pre-match double team on Reigns, dangerous spots involving weapons, Jericho sill interfering and a Braun Strowman run-in) with the modern era's level of in-ring quality. Despite all that, I think a lot of people overlook this match because they were more concerned with the prospect of Reigns winning than they were with getting a good match (watch the crowd reactions at the end, if you don't believe me). If you go back and rewatch it, having the peace of mind that Owens triumphs in the end, the quality may really surprise you.

5. The Bar vs. AmbRollins for the Raw Tag Team Championship (SummerSlam)

It's been said countless times by many, but 2017 really did see a revitalization of tag team wrestling on the main roster. Things looked bleak at the start of the year, when almost no one was looking forward to Raw's entire tag team division (Cesaro & Sheamus, Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson) vying for the titles in a Ladder Match at WrestleMania. Meanwhile, over on SmackDown, The Wyatt Family disbanded, Rhyno & Heath Slater went back to being a joke team and American Alpha continued to be underutilized. Fortunately, the second half of the year put the first three-four months to shame, with The Hardyz returning to the company, The Revival getting called up to Raw, and The New Day finding new footing on SmackDown. Oh, and there were also two great tag team feuds going on: New Day vs. The Usos on SmackDown and The Bar vs. 2/3rds of The Shield on Monday nights.

In fact, it was the amazing story told by the latter that landed The Bar vs. AmbRollins from SummerSlam on this year's countdown. While some people prefer the rematch from No Mercy, I can't get past the mundane, paint-by-numbers build-up leading up to it, especially after the incredible redemption story arc that peaked at SummerSlam weeks earlier. Someone else said it best when he said SummerSlam 2017 will be remembered as a three-match show, with this being one of those matches. From the fantastic wrestling to the numerous near-falls and the doubt in everyone's mind of whether Ambrose could really trust Rollins, especially in its final moments. Wrestling purists may be more fond of their second clash at No Mercy, but for storyline and emotional reasons, I simply can't agree with them.

4. WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Universal Champion Brock Lesnar (Survivor Series)

In many ways, 2017 was a year of redemption for Brock Lesnar. Not just in kayfabe and The Beast struggling to get his win back from his nemesis Goldberg; Lesnar also had to prove to critics that he was deserving of his multi-million dollar contract, especially after the disastrous 2016 he had between the ropes. Despite his questionable victories over Samoa Joe at Great Balls of Fire and Braun Strowman at No Mercy, Lesnar succeeded in doing just that. Barring his wasted Royal Rumble appearance, Lesnar had a year that certainly put 2016 to shame. Sure, said bouts with Joe and Strowman could have went longer and ended differently, but I'll still take those matches over Lesnar vs. Orton, Lesnar vs. Ambrose and Lesnar vs. Goldberg from the year before.

However, it was the uncertainty featured in Lesnar matches that made his dream match with AJ Styles at Survivor Series last month even more fascinating. Best case scenario: we get summer 2013 Brock who sells like crazy for CM Punk and delivers a Match of the Year performance. Worst case scenario: Lesnar goes into business for himself and wrestles a short, disappointing match similar to his bouts with Joe, Braun and Ambrose. Thankfully, our fears were for naught, as summer 2013 Brock showed up at Survivor Series and - excluding the spot where he almost dropped AJ on his head - brought his A game. Even though Lesnar winning wasn't truly in doubt, Styles fooled us thinking he might shock the world more than once that night. Such a nerve-wrecking, exciting match. And to think - there were (are?) people upset because they wanted to see Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal as initially advertised. SMH!

3. The Usos vs. The New Day for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship (Battleground, SummerSlam, Hell in a Cell - doesn't matter!)

Those of you who have been following my columns over the years know that I usually HATE grouping a series of matches from the same combination of wrestlers into one award (just look at my thoughts on The Bar vs. AmbRollins or my NXT countdown as examples). The thing is, it was simply impossible for me to pick only ONE New Day vs. Usos match-up from all their bouts this calendar year: they were all so different and incredible. Even their initial match - at Money in the Bank - was very good until the count-out ending occured. It honestly wouldn't be fair for me to pick one of their highly entertaining battles and exclude the others, so instead, I leave this to you, dear reader - what was your favourite Usos vs. New Day match? And what gives it the edge over the others?

2. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship (SummerSlam)

I like to consider SummerSlam '17 the "reverse WrestleMania 33": unlike 'Mania, which peaked after the Brock vs. Goldberg match in the third hour, SummerSlam did not get rolling until the previously mentioned Raw tag team championship match over halfway through the Pay-Per-View (since many people missed Usos vs. New Day due to it being tragically bumped to the pre-show). I know a lot of people think WWE should have split this match into two - Reigns vs. Joe and Strowman vs. Lesnar - but in hindsight, they made the right decision booking a Fatal-4-Way instead, since the match turned out as good as it did.

If Reigns vs. Owens was a throwback to The Attitude Era, then the same could be said about this car-crash of a match. The action was hard-hitting and relentless; it was also a very good showcase for Strowman, who was being set up to challenge Lesnar one-on-one in the weeks to follow. My one complaint is that Joe was a ghost for the majority of the bell time, which was disappointing considering how strongly he'd been built up in July. Nevertheless, it was still a very good match that had you guessing the outcome (Reigns vs. Lesnar at WM34 rumours be damned) from start to finish, and another good performance from The Beast who sold the attack from Strowman beautifully and convincingly. When Lesnar sells, there's probably no one on the roster who is more believable than he is.

1. John Cena vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship (Royal Rumble)

For the second consecutive year, AJ Styles runs away with the best match of the year; Cena, meanwhile, earns his second number one match of the year since 2015. Unlike Cena, Styles would go on to have a much better 2017 than his opponent in San Antonio that night. Although Styles' 2017 pales in comparison to his 2016, it never hurts to begin and end the year as WWE Champion, does it?

Anyway, getting back to the final match in their trilogy - which began at last year's Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View - expectations were very high for their title match, as their SummerSlam 2016 match had blown away most fans. Topping it would be no easy feat - yet they succeeded. I know some people (Hi, Mav!) aren't fans of the epic match variety (Reigns vs. Cena at No Mercy is a shining example of that genre failing miserably), but it's hard not to watch Cena vs. Styles on repeat and be entertained every time. Although several matches from the following month's Elimination Chamber event are worthy of praise, I consider Styles vs. Cena as SmackDown's last great match before Shane McMahon and The Superstar Shake-Up came along and screwed everything up.

In any case, Styles vs. Cena lived up to hype and then some. An often overlooked observation is they wrestled for over twenty minutes yet they never took the action out to ringside, which is an impressive feat all by itself (apparently it was to counter Reigns & Owens constantly leaving the ring an hour earlier). Furthermore, even if it wasn't high quality, the match was destined to go down in history since Cena won his sixteenth world title that night. There;s no better way to say it - Cena vs. Styles was simply phenomenal.

Honourable mentions:

-Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 33)
-Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles (TLC)
-Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship (WrestleMania 33)

Now, after all that praise for tag team wrestling in 2017, why not take a moment to appreciate the seven best tag teams of the year?

7. The Hardy Boyz

(Returned to one of the biggest pops of all-time at WrestleMania 33 and won the Raw tag team titles their first night back; went onto have some great matches with The Bar.)

6. #DIY

(Defended their NXT tag team titles in an underrated match against the Authors of Pain at TakeOver: San Antonio; had two MOTY candidates at the following two TakeOvers before Ciampa turned on Gargano.)

5. The Authors of Pain

(Won the NXT tag team titles at TakeOver: San Antonio; had great matches against the likes of #DIY, Revival and Sanity; competed in the historic War Games match.)

4. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose

(Were engaged in arguably the most compelling WWE storyline of the year; won the Raw tag team championship their first night as a team; had amazing matches with The Bar.)

3. The New Day

(Hosted WrestleMania 33; were immediately inserted into the SmackDown tag team title picture once Kofi Kingston was healthy; had several MOTY candidates against The Usos; won the SmackDown tag team titles on multiple occasions.)

2. The Bar

(Teamed together for all of 2017; had numerous MOTY candidates; main-evented TLC; won the Raw tag team titles numerous times.)

1. The Usos

(One of WWE's longest tenured tag teams; competed in numerous MOTY candidates; won the SmackDown tag team titles more than once; defeated The Bar in brand supremacy at Survivor Series.)

Honourable mentions:

The Revival
The Undisputed Era

Now, those were the seven best duos in WWE this past calendar year; but what about the individual landscape? Here are my picks for the seven best male and female superstars of 2017:

7. Neville

(Would have been higher had he not quit the company a few months back; won the Cruiserweight title twice in 2017 and rightfully became "King of the Cruiserweights; had amazing matches with the likes of Rich Swann, Jack Gallagher and Austin Aries.)

6. Dean Ambrose

(Had a very underrated feud - and pair of matches - with Baron Corbin; had great matches with The Miz on both Raw and SmackDown; became a Grand Slam Champion by teaming with Seth Rollins to win the Raw tag team titles at SummerSlam; reunited The Shield.)

5. Roman Reigns

(Helped put over many new stars in 2017 such as Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman; retired The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33; had great matches with Joe, Strowman and The Miz; defeated John Cena cleanly at No Mercy; won the Intercontinental Championship.)

4. Alexa Bliss

(Began the year as SmackDown Women's Champion, ended the year as Raw Women's Champion; became the first woman to win both brand's titles; had great matches with the likes of Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Mickie James; was the most consistent female character and performer on either brand.)

3. The Miz

(Regained the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules after a great match and feud with Ambrose; made Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas relevant again as part of The Miztourage; became Raw's de facto number one heel due to Brock Lesnar's part-time status; was one of the most engaging talkers all year long.)

2. Braun Strowman

(Began 2017 as a midcard monster heel with little fanfare, ends 2017 as a main-event babyface who is very over with the crowd; dominated both Roman Reigns and half of the Royal Rumble participants in one night; had great matches with the likes of Reigns, The Big Show and Sami Zayn; main-evented several Pay-Per-Views.)

1. AJ Styles

(Began and ended 2017 as WWE Champion; had a plethora of great matches against the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar; carried Shane McMahon to an amazing performance at WrestleMania; carried Jinder Mahal to two decent title matches; saved everyone from the disastrous Mahal experiment.)

Honourable mentions:

Brock Lesnar
Kevin Owens
Seth Rollins/Samoa Joe (tie)

So, just like last year, the fifteen-plus year veteran receives the award for best wrestler of the year and it would be hard to argue against AJ reigning supreme once again. Oh, and before anyone asks me why Jinder Mahal didn't make the cut...please. So what if he went from jobber to being a six-month WWE Champion? That was the main reason the Jinder experiment failed! I refuse to award anyone who had almost nothing but terrible matches all year and came close to killing the SmackDown brand's ratings and live attendance, not to mention alienating instead of growing the Indian market. What a disaster...

Speaking of Mahal, it's time for me to give seven BOLD predictions for 2018. Here we go...

1. Jinder Mahal returns to being a jobber by SummerSlam 2018

The good news is, Mahal appears to FINALLY be out of the main-event picture on SmackDown, as he is now entered in the United States Championship tournament. Whether he leaves the Royal Rumble as U.S. Champion or not is a moot point: I believe he will be sent to Raw when WWE inevitably does another lame SuperStar Shake-Up following WrestleMania 34. The thing is, Jinder will be eaten alive on Raw. The three-hour format means longer wrestling matches - something Mahal is incapable of pulling off. Unlike on SmackDown, where he was protected by a two-hour format and people struggling to get TV time, Raw can't have Mahal be featured as a top guy yet simultaneously giving him a minimal amount of exposure. Once Mahal fails at performing at that level, he will be dropped down the card, where be belongs. The hindering is coming for you, Jinder!

2. NXT becomes a third weekly show on the USA Network

The USA Network is run by greedy executives; they're the ones who ordered WWE to run live editions of Raw and SmackDown on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve. Reportedly, there was also a pitch to make SmackDown a three-hour show as well. With NXT recently airing on USA a few weeks back - and drawing a respectable number - why wouldn't USA offer WWE an additional one-hour slot of programming to air NXT on a weekly basis? Furthermore, if you're WWE, why would you refuse? Not only do you want to avoid pissing off the carriers of your programming, but you've been looking to make NXT more profitable, especially with live events not drawing the same size of crowds as they were from 2015-2016. I can see both parties being more than happy to go along with this decision.

Besides, the TakeOvers would still remain WWE Network exclusives, so why not? Even if the ratings don't impress USA, it's not like NXT wouldn't have a place to call home if USA pulls the plug after a few weeks (or months). If anything, I'd be shocked if this prediction didn't come true in 2018.

3. Brock Lesnar signs a WWE contract extension

Anyone who is sick of either WWE's obsession with part-timers and/or Brock Lesnar is likely counting down the days until The Beast's contract expires, which is supposed to happen right after WrestleMania 34. The thing is, if you're Brock Lesnar (and if you are, lucky you) and Vince McMahon offers you a one-three year contract extension which pays you the same amount of money for the same amount of dates you've been working since your 2012 return - why the hell would you say no?

Brock is still in fantastic shape; has a workload that any WWE superstar - past or present - would kill for; he also has been fortunate to avoid sustaining any career or life-threatening injuries (minus that intestinal disease thing he got while fighting for UFC). Speaking of UFC - why should he give up his WWE lifestyle for another UFC run? Why run away from working in a scripted environment where your opponent pretends to hit you with a closed fist only to step into the ring with younger guys who will try to hurt you? It just doesn't make sense. Brock Lesnar would be a fool to walk away from the WWE and join the UFC; he should only retire when he decides it's time to retire from sports and physical combat altogether.

4. Roman Reigns finally turns heel

Even though he's not Cena 2.0, the company thinks he is. Since that's the case, and Reigns still has plenty more years left in him, why not avoid making the same mistake they made with Cena and turn Reigns heel when the crowd hates him the most? Reigns has a long way to go before he earns the respect of the vocal male audience like Cena currently has. One surefire way to get there is to embrace the reactions he gets every night and just turn heel already. Since he's likely to remain on Raw for all of 2018, who does face Roman have left to feud with? Not Samoa Joe. Not The Miz. Not Bray Wyatt. Reigns has even feuded with SmackDown's top guys in AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Randy Orton so that's no help either. No one wants to see Reigns vs. Mahal or Reigns vs. Corbin, that's for damn sure! Turning The Big Dog heel is the only decision that makes sense, really.

5. The WWE Network increases its monthly subscription rate

$9.99 is an amazing deal for all the content WWE Network provides us fans with. A bit too good of a deal, if you ask me. Even if we only got monthly Pay-Per-Views for that price, it may arguably still be worth it. However, Netflix has recently increased its monthly subscription rate and I can sadly see the Network following suit. Despite all the incredible content the network has to offer, and all the countries it's available in, the subscription count doesn't seem to fluctuate. Would scarcely raising the price by a dollar or two result in a mass exodus of Network cancellations? I sincerely doubt it. I'm not advocating for the price hike, but I do see WWE going down that route, maybe around September or so?

6. A tag team championship match main-events a Pay-Per-View

If 2016 was all about the women's revolution, then 2017 saw tag team wrestling on the main roster go from being an after-thought to being a top attraction. The women have already main-evented a Pay-Per-View so now it's time for tag team wrestling to follow in their footsteps. Sure, it's already happened at a TakeOver event, but this is WWE proper we're talking about. Also, The Shield main-eventing doesn't count either (since it's already happened). In 2018, I think we will see the final match of a Pay-Per-View be contested for either the Raw or the SmackDown tag team titles. As long as the quality is there, I don't see why not...

7. Several former champions willingly leave WWE and go work elsewhere

In 2017, Cody Rhodes was a prime example of a former WWE Superstar taking his talents and finding success in smaller, non-WWE companies. In many ways, he can be seen as a trail-blazer. He has shown the world that you don't need to be employed by WWE to be making good money as a professional wrestler. Another example is Chris Jericho signing with NJPW (who ever thought that would happen?). With Neville's future still up in the air, it seems like the grass may very well be greener on the other side after all.

That's why I'm predicting more than one superstar (excluding Lesnar, if he does leave) will willingly refuse to re-sign with WWE and try their luck on the independants. Although impossible to predict who exactly, I'm going with Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and Bray Wyatt all leaving the WWE at some point next year.

Am I way off the ball with this one? I guess we'll find out 365 days from now :)


That does it for today! Thank you very much for reading - I will talk to you again in 2018.

YOUR Two Centsss: What was your favourite match of 2017?

- Email: captain_charisma16@hotmail.com

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Currently playing: Super Mario Odyssey, Overwatch, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Pokemon Shuffle.

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