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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: The Mid Year WWE Match Of The Year Round Up (Part 1: January to April)
By Maverick
Jul 8, 2017 - 5:02:10 PM

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The Mid Year WWE Match Of The Year Round Up
(Part 1: January to April)

Greetings everybody! We are now, somehow or other, well into July, so I thought it was about time to have a discussion about some of the best matches to take place in WWE this year to date. I chose not to rank them, as I am well and truly over the wrestling world’s obsession with ranking things (ironically, given that my last column was a rankings list...maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back), but instead simply take a chronological trip through the bouts I enjoyed the most. Today we look at the period between the UK Championship Tournament and Wrestlemania XXXIII. Be sure to join the discussion in the comments: what were your favourite matches from the early part of the year? And as always, I hope you enjoy the piece!

Pete Dunne defeated Mark Andrews by pinfall in 10:33 in the WWE United Kingdom Championship Semi Finals, January 15th, 2017

The WWE Universe at large got its first taste of what Pete Dunne could do at the tournament to crown the inaugural UK Champion at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. His intensity, character chops and “British Strongstyle” ring game were evident on the opening night, but he really stepped it up on night two against the high flying Mark Andrews. In a classic underdog tale, Andrews defied expectations by using his agility to find counters to the Bruiserweight’s signature offense. The result was magic, with the crispness of the spots and spacing of the breathtaking near falls only enhancing the tale being told on the canvas. Add in the cracking pace it was wrestled at, and you have a sleeper hit of the year. And of course, Dunne was not finished there…

Bobby Roode defeated Shinsuke Nakamura by pinfall in 27:05 to win the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover San Antonio, January 28th 2017

From the opening piano roll of Glorious Domination, this had all the big fight feel you could wish an important main event to have. Particularly interesting was the fact that Bobby Roode was to prove just as adept at mind games as the unconventional Nakamura in the kayfabe, a fact that drove the narrative brilliantly. The early chain wrestling ended up favouring Roode, causing Nakamura to lash out in frustration with wild strikes that did not land. The tone was set. Everything the Roode character did in the match was designed to put his opponent off his game, from the theft of Good Vibrations to playing possum as Nakamura went in for the Kinshasa, and as hard hitting as The King of Strong Style was, Roode always had a cunning way to cut his momentum off. As with all great matches, the near falls came towards the end, and were constructed very intelligently. It all culminated, of course, with the injury spot which really pushed the match over the top into genius territory, with some genuinely rare psychology. A glorious piece of work.

Kevin Owens defeated Roman Reigns by pinfall in a No DQ match in 22:55 to retain the WWE Universal Championship at Royal Rumble 2017, January 29th 2017

After the disappointing encounter at Roadblock in December 2016, Owens and Reigns proved they could have the kind of bruising encounter the combination promised at the Rumble, with the added frisson of Chris Jericho being locked in a shark cage above the ring. In the kind of Attitude Era slug fest all too rare nowadays, the two men pummelled each other with chairs, tables, posts, any weapon which could be found, including brass knucks thrown from above by Jericho, who hammed it up beautifully inside the cage. They saved the biggest and best spots until the end, with the Owens chair pyramid bump, followed by a trip through the announce table moments later, and Reigns getting absolutely destroyed by Braun Strowman immediately after that. This one seems to have been forgotten about, by I'm telling you, it's well worth a rewatch.

The Authors of Pain defeated D.I.Y and The Revival in a triple threat elimination match in 23:50 to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships at NXT Takeover: Orlando, April 1st 2017

The golden age of NXT tag wrestling reached a glorious peak with this wonderfully chaotic three way which took all the ingredients that made the TLC era teams’ encounters great, put them in a blender and add a huge slug of spicy sauce to the mixture. In a match which managed to fit a year’s worth of rivalry and storytelling into a twenty minute time span, all six men performed out of their boots. From the opening brawl outside the ring, to the cagey action inside the ring where both Revival and DIY sought to put the other team in AOP’s way, we already had a thrillingly coherent structure, but the match found another gear when Revival and DIY put their differences aside to form a kind of tag megazord to take down the hulking Eastern Europeans. The sight of Rezar going through the table after all four opponents had to combine to powerbomb him made you marvel at the depth of the psychology on offer, while moments later Dawson and Gargano combined their submission holds on Akam. Just brilliant, and even better was to come as the two men combined to hit D.I.Y’s knee/superkick finisher with Dawson in place of Ciampa, followed immediately after by Ciampa and Dash hitting the Shatter Machine! Five minutes which sum uo EVERYTHING pro wrestling is to me. Did the elimination of D.I.Y suck the life out of the second fall that followed? To a degree, though chiefly only because of an annoyingly petulant crowd. As cool as it might have been to see D.I.Y and Revival finish their business in one final fall, it was clear that AOP were being positioned as the monsters to hold those belts through the next year or so, and they needed to come out of the match looking strong against the four men who had taken the division to new heights. My only complaint about this masterpiece of a match is that it wasn’t a fourway also including American Alpha! Can you imagine how good that would have been?!

Seth Rollins defeated Triple H in 25:30 at Wrestlemania XXXIII, April 2nd 2017

I think it was the presentation that really set the tone here. Before the match even began, you knew for certain it was going to be a classic. A feud which felt almost like a father-son war was beautifully constructed around Rollins’ (probably) legitimate aggravation of his surgically repaired knee in the three weeks before the big dance, adding yet another layer of meaning to a match up which already felt like the biggest story of the evening. Then came those entrances; Triple H being escorted by a motorcycle convoy, riding an enormous custom Harley was absolutely epic, but was someone bettered by Rollins appearing as an avenging Olympian holding a mighty torch of change; yes, this match was cast in symbolic terms wrestling fans have used since the very beginning. This was a torch passing moment. The match was a little more cerebral than perhaps I was expecting, even for a Triple H match, but fortunately, unlike Reigns the year before, Rollins excels in that setting, and so a psychological classic unfurled in front of our eyes, enhanced as ever by Stephanie McMahon’s lurid portrayal of the ultimate Queen Bitch at ringside. Her cathartic trip through a table led to a conclusive finish, marking the end of Rollins’ use of the Pedigree, and the end of Triple H’s reign of terror as the end of level boss for aspiring babyfaces. At least, for now…

This is Maverick, requesting flyby!