It’s New Year’s Eve, which means it’s time for my last column of the year where I give you my choices for WWE’s ten best matches of 2017. In case you haven’t already checked it out, I posted my 2017 WWE Johnny Awards covering the best and worst of the year.
As you know from being a visitor of this website, I reviewed every WWE PPV, every Raw and Smackdown (except one in October when I was away) and every NXT Takeover except the Brooklyn event during SummerSlam weekend. When I review matches, I use a five-star scale to rate them. A friend of mine named John Harper kept track of all of my ratings on a spreadsheet for most of the year, so thanks to him for helping with it. Every match rating in this list is ****1/4 or better. Star ratings are helpful for me because they help me write a column like this. If I only wrote “that match was great” then it sure makes it tough to write out a list like this.
The matches on here are from PPV events, NXT Takeover events and even one from NXT’s weekly show. Nothing from Raw or Smackdown was good enough to make it.
Once again it’s WWE only. That’s what I write about. Maybe in 2018 I’ll expand my horizons to write about other things more, but I like to focus on what I know and that’s WWE. I’m only going with ten because it’s going to be a long post. My new thoughts will be in blue font.
10. NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka vs. Ember Moon @ NXT Takeover Brooklyn – 08/19/17
(This review is from Kurt Zamora, who reviewed NXT Takeover Brooklyn for us since he’s our NXT reviewer. I didn’t write a review of the match.)
I cannot wait to see how they’ve booked this match to go. Ember actually gets a better reaction than I expected. I thought it’d be all boos, but it was quite favorable. New ring gear and attire for her, she’s gone from red to emerald. Really cool attire for Asuka. Mauro announces that Ember’s family is in the crowd, so take that for what you will. During the big match introductions, there were the boos for Ember I expected. Asuka gets a majority cheer, but some boos sprinkled in. A mixed crowd to say the least, which is not what I expected. They’re ready for this though. The bell rings and Ember comes right at Asuka. She dropkicks her immediately and then some more kicks followed by a suplex. Asuka goes to the outside to regroup but Ember doesn’t let her. They trade kicks on the floor and then Ember climbs to the 2nd rope and takes out Asuka with a cannonball dive to the floor! That landed solid. Asuka tries to crawl away and then pulls Ember into the steel steps. Asuka with her kicks on the floor and then does a hammerlock suplex on the rampway. The story is it’s right on the arm/shoulder that kept Ember out of the match at Takeover: Chicago. Asuka with a nasty looking chicken wing submission on Ember. Ember tries to escape but can’t and Asuka now nails a hammerlock STO. Asuka surfboards the arms and stomps right on the spine of Ember. Dueling chants now. Asuka now has the Octopus Hold on. Ember manages to pick up Asuka while she has an armbar on and does an electric chair drop of sorts. Now it’s Ember with the quick kicks and then a step up enziguri. She goes for a pin but Asuka kicks out. Asuka grabs Ember in a German suplex and Ember lands right on the bottom turnbuckle. Ember avoids the Asuka Lock and she actually tries to turn it into an Asuka Lock on Asuka. Asuka avoids it herself and now mounts Ember and it looks like she has it locked on, but barely. Ember drops backwards and Asuka releases the hold, but only for a second. She locks it back on, but Ember rolls backwards and turns it into a pin. Asuka kicks out. That’s the Bret Hart special as I call it. Dueling chants again. Asuka hits the Rear View and goes for a pin but Ember kicks out. Another one in the corner but Ember lands a forearm to the back to stop it. Ember then lands a tornado suplex but Asuka kicks out again. Both women trading blows but Asuka lands a GTS style knee and then kicks Ember repeatedly. Ember catches Asuka with a Side Effect out of nowhere though, but still only a two count. Ember to the top rope but Asuka cuts her off. Ember tries to powerbomb Asuka out of the corner, but Asuka holds on. Ember kicks her into a tree of woe position and then curb stomps Asuka in the chest to drive her into the mat. Another two count. Ember right back to the top rope and she nails the The Eclipse! Is this it?! NO! Kickout by Asuka and the crowd cannot believe it! It said it needed to take more than one of those, so I’m happy to see that near fall. Ember is now determined to hit it again but Asuka grabs the ref! Ember jumps over the ref and cross body blocks Asuka! Asuka rolls through and she has the tights! The ref sees it and Asuka is in disbelief. Ember catches her square with a superkick and that looked to be it too but Asuka kicks out again! Asuka looks out cold, but she’s playing possum and grabs Ember in an armbar! Ember gets out with a pin attempt, but Asuka turns it into the Asuka Lock!! Can Ember escape? She’s fighting, but nope, there’s the tapout! The legend continues! Match went about 16 minutes and was absolutely outstanding. Ember got her breakout moment but this was the right decision. They made Asuka look close to losing, but she holds on. Perfect booking.
Winner: Still NXT Women’s Champion, Asuka
Post match, Ember knows how close she was and is emotional, but she gets a WELL deserved standing ovation from the crowd. That’s her moment and she deserves it. I hope she is the one that dethrones Asuka, but I’m glad it wasn’t tonight. It needs to take more to defeat Asuka.
(I thought it was a fantastic match that was WWE’s best women’s match of the year. Amazing chemistry between them that built off their NXT Takeover Orlando match from four months earlier. My rating was ****1/4 out of five if you really care about that sort of thing. Matches like this are why Asuka is the best women’s wrestler in WWE and Moon stepped up to hang toe to toe with her. The story of Asuka being undefeated definitely added to the drama of the match.)
9. Money in the Bank Ladder Match: AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura @ Money in the Bank – 06/18/17
The five guys brawled around ringside. There was a shot of Nakamura getting helped to the back. Zayn hit a somersault dive over the top onto Owens on the floor. Corbin and Ziggler did a double team attack on Styles with a ladder. Corbin punched Ziggler in the face to show he’s not working with anybody. Ziggler came back with a superkick on Corbin. Zayn tried to set up a ladder, Owens took it away and Zayn hit a clothesline on Owens on the floor. Styles dumped Zayn out of the ring. Ziggler prevented a forearm from Styles by knocking him off the top. Corbin hit Ziggler with the Deep Six slam on the floor. Zayn hit a springboard moonsault off the ropes onto Corbin on the floor. Owens used the ladder as a weapon to knock down Styles, Zayn, Corbin and Ziggler. Styles with a drop toe hold on Owens to trip him up while KO had the ladder. Owens gave Styles a back body drop over the top to the floor. Owens knocked Zayn down. Owens went up top to dive on guys on the floor, but Zayn slammed Owens off the top and sent him crashing onto the ladder that was in the ring. The ladder was broken, so Zayn brought in a bigger ladder in the ring. The crowd reacted to something on the floor, but it wasn’t shown. Ziggler went back into the ring to hit Zayn in the back with a forearm. Ziggler whipped Zayn onto a ladder that was against the turnbuckle. A ladder was set up in the ring, Ziggler knocked down Zayn with a dropkick and Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Ziggler.
Zayn tried to climb up a ladder, but Corbin knocked him down and sent Zayn face first into the ladder. Styles went into the ring to drop Corbin with a flying forearm to the face. Styles went up the ladder, Corbin went up to stop him and Ziggler climbed over Corbin to get up top. Ziggler punched Styles down. Corbin tried to climb up, but Ziggler dropped him with a Zig Zag. Zayn, Ziggler and Styles battled while on a big ladder in the ring. Zayn was close to the top, but instead he hit a sunset flip Powerbomb on Ziggler off the top of the ladder. That led to a “Holy Shit” chant. Owens battled Zayn on the apron, Zayn kick to the face and Zayn hit a one-armed Dragon Suplex onto Owens on the back of his head on the apron. Zayn climbed up the ladder and Styles made his presence known with a Phenomenal Forearm smash off the top on Zayn. Corbin pulled Styles out of the ring and tossed him over the announce table. Corbin bridged the ladder from the steel steps to one of the announce tables. Styles went for a leaping attack on Corbin, but Corbin caught him and gave him a Chokeslam onto the ladder bridge. Ouch. Corbin into the ring and Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Corbin. Zayn was all alone in the ring for a climb, but Ziggler tried to stop him. Zayn kicked Ziggler away. Owens got back in the ring and kicked Zayn in the groin. No DQ in a match like this. Owens went up for the briefcase, but Styles went back in to break it up. Owens battled Styles on the apron and teased a move onto the ladder bridge. Styles picked up Owens and sent him back first onto ladder bridge in a move that was similar to John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment. Ouch! That was nasty. The match was at 20 minutes.
Styles climbed up the ladder. Ziggler pulled the ladder away. Styles was all alone above the ring with his hands on the briefcase, but he couldn’t pull it down and Styles went crashing into the mat. Corbin pulled Ziggler out of the ring. Corbin tried to climb, but Nakamura’s music hit and he made his way down to the ring. Nakamura unleashed on Corbin with a series of kicks, a knee to the gut and a running knee that sent Corbin to the floor. Nakamura went to the middle turnbuckle and hit a knee strike on Ziggler. Nakamura hit the Kinshasa on Ziggler. Zayn went after Nakamura, but Nakamura kicked him, hit an exploder suplex and Kinshasa knee strike by Nakamura on Zayn. Nakamura left the ring to bring a ladder inside. Nakamura hit Owens with a Kinshasa knee strike. Nakamura set up a ladder in the ring. Styles was on the other side of the ladder. They had a long staredown as the crowd cheered “yes” for it. They pushed the ladder away. Nakamura and Styles exchanged strikes until Nakamura applied a sleeper like move. Nakamura hit a reverse exploder suplex. When Nakamura went for Kinshasa, Styles hit him with a leaping forearm to knock him down. Styles did a slow climb and Nakamura went up the other side of the ladder. The crowd did a “AJ Styles/Nakamura” chant to show support for both guys. They exchanged strikes on top of the ladder. Corbin was in the ring and he shoved the ladder to knock both guys down into the ropes. Corbin climbed up and Corbin grabbed the briefcase. Corbin unhooked the briefcase and won the match at 30 minutes.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Corbin celebrated with the briefcase and JBL said he was the future of WWE.
Analysis: ****1/4 That was a great match as I expected it to be. Zayn was the standout performer with a lot of cool moves on everybody and some big bumps too. Styles’ fall, while he was holding the briefcase, was from about 15 feet high and he looked fine taking the bump, but it was scary. Owens took some nasty falls. The face-off between Styles and Nakamura was the biggest highlight of the match. The fans saw it as a big deal and reacted to it huge. Hopefully, WWE is smart enough to save that match until WrestleMania next year and not before that. I’m not surprised by the outcome because Corbin was my pick for the last month and six months before that. It’s obvious that WWE wants to push him to the top and this is a way to do it with him as a heel. It was one of the longest Ladder matches I’ve seen in WWE and I think the longest MITB match although I would have to check on that. It would have been nice if Nakamura was there for the entire 30 minutes, but it was just 10 minutes with him making the comeback. I understand why they did that because WWE didn’t want to make Nakamura look weak at all. He didn’t sell that much. He lost and was protected as much as anyone in defeat. I think Cena vs. Styles and Dunne vs. Bate remain WWE’s top two matches this year. This might be the best MITB match ever although I’d have to re-watch it again to be sure.
(Styles reminded us how great he was during this match. He really stole the show although Owens, Zayn, and Nakamura had some really cool moments too. The highlight for me was Styles and Nakamura doing that staredown that the crowd loved. My original rating was 1/4 star higher, but I downgraded it a bit after watching it this week. Corbin winning this match was no surprise, but seeing him do the worst cash-in attempt in WWE history was surprising.)
8. WWE UK Championship: Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate @ NXT – 12/20/17
(This is another review by Kurt Zamora since he does our NXT reviews.)
For those that come here for the scoops, Bate has grown a full beard and gone away from just the mustache. We’ll see if that works in his favor tonight. In all seriousness though, I cannot wait to see what these guys do and after a commercial, as the big match introductions take place, we still have 25 minutes left! 25! Armbar from Dunne and right away goes to the fingers to bend them the wrong way. Now he goes to the wrist but that allows Bate to escape and reverse it. Dunne then turns it into a headscissors. Bate has a clever way to escape and just waves at Dunne as both men regroup. Dunne gets the advantage on a test of strength and turns it into a standing surfboard. Bate again cleverly escapes and dropkicks Dunne. Very methodical pace to start. Dunne goes back to his joint manipulation as Bate fights from underneath. Bate bridges out of Dunne’s hold but catches a kick to the ribs. Bate fakes a right hand and nails Dunne with a left. He goes for a pin but it’s not enough this early. Bate tries to get Dunne off the ropes and Dunne lands a massive forearm smash and then a hell of a chop. Bate with a knee lift and then comes off the second rope with a European uppercut. Both men go to the floor and Dunne lands another forearm smash. Dunne tries to stomp on Bate’s fingers on the steel steps but Bate reverses it and stomps on Dunne’s fingers. Dunne manages to come right back though and suplexes Bate off the steps onto the floor. Both men back in the ring and Dunne paintbrushes Bate before hooking on a headlock. Bate gets to the ropes and both men trade shots until Dunne hits another forearm smash. Dunne gets Bate’s arm in an awkward position and stomps on the triceps area. Bate sells it like Dunne just dislocated a finger. Dunne does it again and as the ref goes to check on Bate, Dunne can just shrug and say “oh well”. Funny moment while not trying to be funny.
Dunne stomps away at the face of Bate and Bate is bleeding from the ear. Bate tells Dunne to bring it and then catches him in an exploder suplex. Bate with a running European uppercut, lands a second one, and then tries to suplex Dunne. Dunne tries to turn into his suplex toss but Bate lands on his feet and turns it into a standing shooting star press. He then deadlifts Dunne with a back suplex. He goes for a pin but Dunne kicks out. Dunne with a punch and Bate with a rolling kick. Bate tries the Tyler Driver 97 but Dunne turns it into a triangle choke. Bate with a deadlift powerbomb but Dunne does not let go. Bate deadlifts him once more and carries Dunne into the ropes, where he slingshots Dunne’s face into the top rope. Great way to break that hold. It’s airplane spin time! 3 long cycles before Bate finally drops him and goes for a pin but Dunne still kicks out. Dunne with tremendous facials making it look like he may vomit. He’s on the apron and Bate gets up on the second rope and somehow brings Dunne over the top rope with an exploder suplex! Dunne kicks out! Dunne gets up and lays in numerous boots to the face. Bate recovers quickly and turns the tables. Dunne somehow grabs Bate in The Bitter End though but Bate kicks out! Dunne with a step up enziguri but Bate comes back with a massive lariat which in turn makes Dunne come back with a massive lariat of his own! Both men are slow to get to their feet and now are just throwing straight punches. Bate finally throws a knockout right hand but he can’t go for a pin as that’s his hurt hand from earlier. Dunne is able to get to the apron, where Bate ends up joining him. Left hand from Bate, forearm from Dunne, and then a rolling kick from Bate. Both men back in the ring and Bate goes to the top rope for a splash but Dunne catches him in midair with a forearm smash. Dunne with a suplex into a sitout powerbomb and Bate still kicks out! Both men on the floor and Dunne tries to get Bate back in but Bate comes back with another lariat on the floor. The ref is counting out Dunne and it doesn’t look like he’ll get in by 10, so Bate goes for broke and breaks the count with a dive over the top rope. He throws Dunne in quickly, nails the Tyler Driver 97, and Dunne still kicks out! Wow! Bate goes back to the top rope and barely lands a corkscrew senton splash. Dunne tried rolling out of the way but Bate landed a little of it. He goes for a pin but Dunne kicks out. Both men to the top rope now and Bate wants hit a German suplex off the top rope but Dunne lands on his feet! Bate lands hard, Dunne picks him up and immediately lands another Bitter End and finally we have a winner!
Winner: Still UK Champion, Pete Dunne
(Incredible performance by these two and it was only their second best match against eachother. My rating is ****1/2 for it. Love how they kept going for big moves and weren’t able to put the guy away until Dunne hit that final Bitter End. It felt like a Japanese heavyweight match. The most impressive thing is Dunne is 24 and Bate is only 20. It’s incredible that they are this good already. Looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for both in 2018 and in the next decade or two as well. Very bright futures for both.)
7. Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion AJ Styles @ Survivor Series – 11/19/17
There was a “AJ Styles/Suplex City” chant to start the match. Lesnar drove Styles into the turnbuckle and tossed him across the ring. Lesnar tossed Styles across the ring again. Lesnar hit an overhead belly to belly suplex that sent Styles across the ring. Fans did the chant for both guys again. Lesnar picked up Styles around the waist and hit a release German Suplex. Lesnar tossed Styles over the top to the floor. That was a rough landing for Styles. Lesnar left the ring and he whipped Styles into the side of the announce table at ringside. Back in the ring, Lesnar hit another release German Suplex for Styles. Lesnar continued his offense with a running knee to the face. Lesnar told Styles to fight him. Styles tried to attack, but Lesnar avoided it and Lesnar punched him hard in the chest. Styles finally got going with some punches and chops, but Lesnar stopped him with a knee to the gut. Lesnar wanted a F5, Styles avoided it, Lesnar missed a knee attack in the corner, Styles kicked the knee and Styles hit a DDT. The fans chanted for Styles as Styles kicked the legs of Lesnar. Kick to the head by Styles. They did a spot where Styles tried a moonsault, Lesnar caught him and sent him into the corner. Styles went for a Tornado DDT, but Lesnar shoved him off. That may have been a slip, but it looked good. Both guys were down and Styles hit a Pele Kick to the back of the head that Lesnar sold well. Styles went to the apron, jumped off and Lesnar hit a German Suplex with Styles landing over on his stomach. Lesnar tried a punch, but Styles managed to dump over the top to the floor. Styles did a slingshot dive over the top into a forearm smash on Lesnar on the floor. Styles continued the attack on the floor by running, jumping off the ring steps and hitting a forearm to the face.
They went back into the ring, Lesnar hit a punch and Styles came back with an enziguri kick. Styles hit a moonsault off the middle ropes. Styles went to the apron and hit a Springboard 450 Splash for a two count. The announcers noted that it was the first cover attempt of the match 12 minutes into it. Styles teased the Styles Clash, Lesnar teased the F5 and Styles countered into the Calf Crusher submission. The crowd was going wild for this. Styles pulled on the leg of Lesnar while Lesnar was screaming in pain. Lesnar fought out of it by ramming Styles’ head into the mat several times. Nice spot. The crowd was really into this. Both guys got back to their feet, Styles hit a kick to the head and Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm for a two count. Awesome nearfall. The crowd was getting louder. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm again, Lesnar caught him on his shoulders, Lesnar was selling his left knee injury by limping and Lesnar hit the F5. Lesnar covered to win after 16 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: ****1/2 Excellent match. Lived up to the hype as a fight between the best of the best. That’s the best singles Lesnar match since SummerSlam 2013 with CM Punk. Styles is such an amazing performer. He brings out the best in anybody and always puts on the best matches any time he’s in a big match on a PPV. They had a lot of cool moments throughout the match with the crowd getting louder the entire show. There were so many parts of the match that I loved. Lesnar was dominant for the first seven minutes or so. When Styles finally got control, it was when Lesnar hurt the knee and Styles worked on it relentlessly. When Styles did the Calf Crusher, the fans went wild for it because it looked like it might end it. Lesnar fought out of that. Lesnar also had some great kickouts. It would have been nice if Styles kicked out of the F5 at the end, but I don’t mind that it ended the match with one F5 because it puts it over as a deadly move. Lesnar selling that knee on the F5 is also awesome to see because it shows how the story of the match affected the finish with Lesnar looking like he was in pain. Fantastic match. Styles kills it on another PPV and Lesnar reminds us of how great he can be.
(This was the best Lesnar singles match since SummerSlam 2013 against CM Punk, so it was great to see him selling for a smaller guy the way he did for Styles. I loved the way Lesnar sold the left knee injury throughout and even did it when he hit the F5. Styles was incredible as usual. I don’t know what else to say about the guy. He’s the best. Can we get a rematch? I’d like to see it.)
6. WarGames: Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain vs. Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish vs. Roderick Strong, Akam & Rezar (w/Paul Ellering) @ NXT Takeover WarGames – 11/18/17
It started with Strong and Young working together against Cole early on. With Strong and Young battling on the top rope, Cole knocked them down stomped away on them on the ground. Cole tossed Strong out of the far ring into the near ring. Cole hit the fireman’s carry into the neckbreaker on Young to keep him down. Cole went into the other ring to work over Strong. Cole hit a snap suplex on Strong followed by a neckbreaker and a neckbreaker on Young as well. Running clothesline by Strong took down Cole. More chops by Strong followed by running knee lifts on both guys. The 5:00 clock expired as The Undisputed Era duo of O’Reilly and Fish were next to enter.
Analysis: That no surprise because WarGames matches usually have the heels getting the advantage by having more men in the ring.
O’Reilly and Fish ran down to the ring. They kicked Strong and Young to beat them down. All three Undisputed Era guys hit running elbows on Young that sent Young into the cage. There was a 3:00 clock that was counting down. Cole shoved Young’s face up against the cage. Fish hit a Wheelbarrow Suplex on Strong. O’Reilly slapped on a leg bar submission on Strong. The Undisputed Era guys worked over Strong in the far ring and stomped on Young in the near ring. The 3:00 clock expired with Akam and Rezar as the next men to enter the match.
When Akam and Rezar ran down to the ring, the Undisputed Era tried to keep them out, but that didn’t work. Cole was sent into the cage by one of the AOP. Young was launched into the cage. Rezar drove somebody into the cage. Akam threw Cole over the top rope in one ring and into the other ring. Back body drop by AOP sent Young into the other ring. AOP launched their partner Strong onto the four guys in the other ring. Akam and Rezar drove members of the Undisputed Era into other guys that were up against the turnbuckle. That was vicious. Rezar nailed Cole with a forearm to the back. The clock ran out leading to Wolfe and Dain running down to the ring.
The match officially began with everybody involved in the match. Wolfe had a nightstick in his hand and he destroyed everybody in the match. Dain brought some steel chairs, trash cans and a kendo stick. Young and Wolfe destroyed everybody with the weapons. Dain was about to enter the ring, but the crowd chanted “We Want Tables” and Dain brought out two tables. That drew a huge ovation. Dain took a while to get in the ring after he brought in all the weapons. Dain locked the door and swallowed the key or at least that’s what we are supposed to think.
All nine guys were in the two rings. Dain hit a running splash on the Authors of Pain in the corner. Running dropkick by Dain leading to a senton splash at the same time. Dain went to the top rope and hit a cross body block on nearly everybody in the match. Cool moment as the fans chanted “holy shit” for it. Fish saved Cole from an attack from Dain, but that didn’t work out as Dain hit a Michinoku Driver on Cole onto Fish, but O’Reilly was there to break up the pin. Dain sent O’Reilly into the cage. They did a spot where Dain and Rezar each did a fallaway slam/Samoan Drop combo in the separate rings although they only showed Dain’s part. Dain got into a slugfest with Rezar. They each nailed eachother with kicks and Dain hit a running body attack. Akam kicked Dain and hit a Powerslam for a two count as O’Reilly broke up the pin with a chain. O’Reilly hit a Tornado DDT. Cole with an enziguri kick on Young. Double superkick into a brainbuster by O’Reilly on Strong. Running clothesline by Dain on Cole. Double kick to the chest by O’Reilly and Fish on Dain. Wolfe took out Fish and O’Reilly knocked down Wolfe with a kick. O’Reilly had an armbar on Wolfe with the chain, but Young broke it up with an elbow drop. Fish hit a moonsault onto Young to break up that pin. All nine guys were down.
The Authors of Pain did the super collider double Powerbomb spot where they collided the guys with Dain and that got a two count with Young breaking up a pin attempt. Dain was bleeding from the nose it looked like. Young hit a Death Valley Driver on Akam on top of Rezar for a two count, but it was broken up by Strong and Cole. Strong launched Cole in the air into a backbreaker. Strong hit a backbreaker on Young and a backbreaker for Wolfe too. Running knee strike by Strong on Dain. Strong hit the Olympic Slam on Dain for a two count as Cole gave Strong a superkick. They set up a spot between the two rings where Adam Cole was standing between the two rings. Both Authors of Pain did three man slams in each ring, so it was like a double Tower of Doom spot. It looked a bit silly and contrived, but I thought it was cool. Authors of Pain crotched Cole on the top rope. Authors of Pain set up both tables side by side in the far ring. Wolfe attacked the Authors of Pain, which saved Cole. That led to Cole climbing to the top of the cage. Wolfe hit a German Suplex on one of the AOP guys that sent them through two tables. Young hit a leaping neckbreaker on one of the AOP guys off the top rope. Wolfe had a lot of blood on his head from the table spot. Cole was crawling across the top of the cage to try to avoid getting attacked. Dain went up top and hit a Coast to Coast dropkick into a garbage can that nailed O’Reilly in the face. The match is over 25 minutes by this point.
Adam Cole was on top of the cage. He stood on top of the corner of the cage. He said “Adam Cole Bay-Bay” and the crowd chanted it with him. Strong climbed the cage to go after Cole. Fans chanted “please don’t die” at them. Strong hit a superplex OFF THE TOP OF THE CAGE on Cole onto the other guys in the match because they were all standing there together to break their fall. That led to a nearfall and a kickout while the crowd chanted “this is awesome” for the effort. Damn right. Dain and Akam got into a slugfest as they battled on the metal partition between the ring and Rezar hit a clothesline on Dain. O’Reilly and Fish did the Total Elimination leg sweep/high kick double team move. Wolfe picked up O’Reilly leading to a neckbreaker from Young. Strong hit a suplex on Wolfe sending him stomach first. Strong whipped Cole into the cage and Young sent Strong into the cage. Cole nailed Young with a kendo stick to the head. Young held a chair up and Cole hit a running knee strike on the chair onto Young. Cole covered Young for the win after 37 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Undisputed Era – Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish
Analysis: ****1/2 I thought it was a fantastic, memorable match that was a nice tribute to what WarGames used to be. It wasn’t the same as WarGames we grew up with, but I don’t mind the way they were able to do the match with more of a modern influence. Using the weapons in the ring was cool. No roof on the cage did look a bit weird, but they made up for it with the superplex spot. A great match featuring nine guys that busted their ass to put on a show while utilizing weapons in an intelligent way to help tell the story. Killian Dain was really impressive throughout the match with a lot of cool moments that allowed him to show off his athleticism as a big dude that can really go in the ring. Wolfe got his head busted open in the table spot and he still worked another ten minutes even though he was probably in a lot of pain. I figured the Undisputed Era would win since Cole is clearly going to be a featured singles star while Fish and O’Reilly are probably going to win the Tag Team Title soon as well. They are going to be major stars in NXT for a while, so putting them over in this match made a lot of sense. If I could change one thing about the match I would have had guys going for submission moves more or perhaps did it so you can only win by submission. That way it would really put over the physicality of the match and how hard it was to get the win.
(I watched it again the next morning and liked it even more the next day, but I’ll keep the rating where it is. I really liked they had a cameraman positioned in between the two rings to film from kind of an “inside” perspective. It led to some great shots of the action that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m glad that WWE brought back WarGames finally. I hope it happens with main roster talent in 2018 although if it remains a NXT thing only that’s cool too.)
5. Hell in a Cell Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles: The New Day’s Big E & Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) @ Hell in a Cell – 10/18/17
No tags here. Tornado tag rules where the first fall wins. Everybody grabbed weapons from under the ring to start the match. Woods hit a sweet forearm smash on Jey. Big E picked up Woods for a chain punch to the face of Jey. Big E missed a diving attack on Jey leading to Big E hitting the steel. Ouch. Jimmy nailed a sweet dive over the top onto Woods outside the ring. Big E hit Jimmy with a Spear off the apron into the cell. That was crazy! Fans chanted “this is awesome” already. Woods used trombones as weapons with a shot to the gut of Jey. It broke because it was probably something that was easily breakable. Big E found a cowbell under the ring. Woods hit Jey in the ribs and back with the cowbell. Big E grabbed a cymbal from under the ring. Jimmy threw a chair at Woods to save his brother. Jey hit a superkick on Big E and got a two count. The Usos each had kendo sticks as they destroyed Big E with kendo stick shots to the back followed by an attack with a unicorn kendo stick and a regular kendo stick at the same time. The crowd chanted for tables. Woods was pinned up against the cage leading to one of the Usos hitting a running butt splash against the cage. Ouch. That looked nasty. Big E got some offense going with a belly to belly suplex, but Jimmy hit him with a knee to the head. Big E sent Jimmy into the steel post and Jimmy came back with a superkick while they were on the apron. Big E hit a one-armed uranage slam off the apron onto the knees of Woods that included a knee brace on Woods’ left knee. What a crazy spot that is so innovative as well.
Big E and Woods hit the Midnight Hour double team move on Jimmy for a two count as Jey made the save. Big E clothesline sent Jay to the floor. Woods grabbed a half dozen kendo sticks from under the ring leading to Woods beating on Jey with the unicorn kendo stick. Woods and E trapped Jey in the corner of the cage by putting four kendo sticks across his body to trap him against the cage. Innovative spot. The crowd cheered. Woods stood on the steel post while Big E set up Jimmy on the steps, but Jey escaped from the kendo stick trap to save his brother. Jey hit a superkick on Woods. Jimmy got going again only to run into a punch from Big E. Jimmy hit an enziguri kick to Big E, Jey put E on his shoulders and Jimmy hit a shoulder tackle that sent Big E back first into the cell. Ouch. That looked nasty! Both Usos went to the top rope, Jey hit a Superfly Splash, Jimmy hit a Superfly Splash and Big E kicked out at two. Great nearfall. The Usos were shocked that wasn’t it. The Usos brought out a handcuff and cuffed Big E to the bottom rope. Jey also used handcuffs to cuff Woods’ hands together. Fans chanted for tables again. Woods was set up by the ring post with his ribs exposed, so the Usos destroyed Woods with several kendo stick shots to the ribs. Big E ended up breaking free from the handcuffs as he sent Jimmy over the top with a back body drop. Big E with a belly to belly on Jey. Big E drove Jimmy back first into the cell, he did it again and this time sent Jimmy into Jey against the cell. Big E hit the Big Ending in the middle of the ring. Jey got in the ring, Big E tried to submit him, but Jimmy saved his brother with a superkick that didn’t look great. Double superkick by the Usos. The Usos hit a double splash off the top at the same time as Woods made the save using his shoulder because his hands were still cuffed. That drew a great pop as a tremendous nearfall.
The Usos destroyed Woods with kendo stick shots to the upper body. Woods was still cuffed with both hands. Woods hit a headbutt to break free and then used his hands to knock down Jey. However, the Usos came back to beat down Woods again. The Usos placed a steel chair over Woods’ body and The Usos went up top to hit the double top rope splash leading to the pinfall win at 21:57.
Winners and New Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Usos
Analysis: ****1/2 Awesome match. One of the best WWE matches this year and I think it’s the best match between these two teams, which says a lot because of how many great matches they have had. This was one of the most violent matches you’re going to see in today’s WWE. There were some fun spots in there with New Day attacking using musical instruments, but then the match went another gear and it turned into a vicious battle. They deserve a lot of credit for being so creative with some of the moves they did. I haven’t seen some of the moves they did in this match, which makes it stand out as one of the best Hell in a Cell matches ever. I was impressed by all four guys, but I really liked Big E’s streak of aggressiveness towards the end of the match. Kudos to Jimmy, Jey, Big E and Woods for their incredible effort. These are the two best teams in WWE, this feud is one of the best in WWE this year and I absolutely loved that match. I’ve watched it twice now and enjoyed it even more on the second watch.
(They were really innovative in this match by doing stuff we haven’t seen before in a HIAC match, which is impressive because this match has a 20-year history in WWE. The chemistry between the teams is incredible. When The Usos won, it was an emphatic victory. Can’t say they lucked out or it was a fluke. That’s another part of it that I loved. The Usos and New Day also reminded us you can have a violent match in the PG setting without going crazy with the violence. They were smart about it.)
4. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin vs. The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose @ Elimination Chamber – 02/12/17
Cena and Styles had a staredown to start it off. Cena with a shoulderblock. Styles kicked him in the leg. Styles avoided a corner attack. Styles picked up Cena on his shoulders and hit a spinning slam for a two count. Cena powered Styles by launching him into the air and sending him to the mat. Cena hit a sunset flip Powerbomb (aka the Code Red) for a two count. The fans chanted for both guys. Styles with the Ushigoroshi (sunset flip into the knee to the back) for a two count. Cena with shoulder tackles followed by the spinning back suplex. The clock counted down as we hit the five minute mark. The #3 man is Dean Ambrose.
Ambrose was aggressive as he went after Cena. A big difference with this new structure is there’s no longer a steel grating outside the ring. It’s more of a mat. Ambrose gave Styles a suplex into a slam onto the mat outside the ring. Ambrose went on top of the pod and nailed a flying elbow smash to knock down Cena out of the ring. Styles wanted a German Suplex on Ambrose. Cena snuck up behind them and it was a double German Suplex, which drew a big “ooohhh” reaction from the crowd. The fans started a “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” chant. Styles nailed a kick to the head of Cena and Ambrose with a clothesline on Styles. The clock counted down for the next man. It’s Bray Wyatt at #4 in the match.
Wyatt cleaned house as soon as he got in the ring. Running cross body block on Ambrose. Styles went for an attack, but Wyatt sent him into the chain. Styles avoided an attack leading to Wyatt hitting the turnbuckle. Styles hit a leg drop to the back of Wyatt. Styles and Cena climbed the side of the chamber for some reason. They exchanged punches on there. Cena crashed onto the padding below. Styles went onto a pod Ambrose met him on the top of the pod. Ambrose sent Styles head into the side of the structure. Ambrose tried to jump on Wyatt, but Wyatt nailed an uppercut punch on Ambrose. They did a unique Tower of Doom spot with Ambrose doing a powerbomb on Wyatt out of the corner and Wyatt tossed Styles over his head with an overhead suplex like move. What a move! That was unique. Corbin is #5 in the match.
Corbin sent Ambrose face first into the cage. Corbin hit the Deep Six slam on Ambrose in the ring. Corbin sent Wyatt face first into a pod (it didn’t break) and a boot to the face by Corbin. Corbin with a STO on Wyatt on the padding outside the ring. Corbin hit End of Days on Styles. Cena went back into the ring and he went for a STF on Corbin. Corbin powered out of it and hit End of Days on Cena. Ambrose with a missile dropkick on Corbin followed by a clothesline. Ambrose whipped Corbin into the chain several times. Corbin came back by sending Ambrose into the chain as well. Corbin avoided Dirty Deeds, Ambrose went for a move off the ropes, but Corbin shoved him off and sent him into the chain link. Corbin was the only man standing as Miz was #6 to enter.
Miz stayed in the pod. Ambrose snuck up behind Corbin and did the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! to eliminate him. Really? Yes, really.
Baron Corbin eliminated by Dean Ambrose
After the elimination, Corbin hit Miz in the back of the head with a forearm. Corbin whipped Ambrose into one of the pod, which broke. That is always an impressive looking and sounding bump. Corbin put Ambrose’s head up against the chain link chamber and hit a forearm to the back of the head. Corbin hit Ambrose with End of Days in the middle of the ring. Miz took advantage of that to pin Ambrose and eliminate him.
Dean Ambrose eliminated by The Miz
Analysis: That was likely done to set up Ambrose vs. Corbin for the IC Title.
The Miz did his Daniel Bryan mocking spot as he nailed kicks to the chest of Wyatt and Cena at the same time. Running dropkick by Miz on both guys. Miz nailed Bryan with kicks. Miz hit a corner dropkick on Wyatt, corner dropkick on Cena and Miz dumped Wyatt out of the ring. Miz with a corner dropkick on Styles as well. Miz with the corner clothesline on Cena. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Wyatt on the mat outside the ring. Miz jumped off the top and went for a cross body block on Cena, but Cena caught him and hit the Attitude Adjustment on Miz to eliminate him.
The Miz eliminated by John Cena
That left three men: Cena, Wyatt and Styles. Wyatt and Styles worked together against Cena briefly. Wyatt nailed Styles with an uppercut punch. Cena avoided a senton by Wyatt. Cena with shoulder tackles for Styles and a spinning slam for Wyatt. Cena hit Five Knuckle Shuffle on both guys. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Wyatt. Styles back to his feet with a Styles Clash on Cena for a two count. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, Cena avoided it and hit the Attitude Adjustment for a two count. Cena was stunned that Styles kicked out at two. Cena climbed up one of the pods and jumped off with a cross body block that knocked down Wyatt and Styles. Cena went for an AA on Wyatt, but Wyatt slipped out and hit Sister Abigail to pin Cena. Crowd cheering and chanting “yes” for that.
John Cena eliminated by Bray Wyatt
Analysis: That means there will be a new WWE Champion.
The match is at 30 minutes. Wyatt faced off with Styles. Wyatt was in control early. Styles came back with a forearm strike for a two count. Wyatt teased Sister Abigail, but Styles got a rollup for two. Styles nailed his striking offense and Wyatt decked him with a clothesline. Styles with a Pele Kick followed by a running knee attack. Styles nailed a springboard 450 Splash for a two count. Styles was grabbing his ribs for most of the match. I hope it’s just selling and nothing serious. Styles went for a springboard attack leading to a Phenomenal Forearm. Wyatt avoided it and hit Sister Abigail for the pinfall and the win. The match went 35 minutes.
AJ Styles eliminated by Bray Wyatt
Winner by pinfall and NEW WWE Champion: Bray Wyatt
Wyatt was handed the WWE Title. He had a big smile on his face. The crowd was mostly cheering even though he’s a heel.
Analysis: ****1/2 That was an outstanding match that was given a lot of time to tell the story of Wyatt outlasting everybody to win his first WWE Title. I loved the story with Cena and Styles having to outlast everybody, but they couldn’t do it. I also thought it was brilliant to have Wyatt pin Cena and Styles. It put him over in a huge way because he beat the two former WWE Champions. It gives Wyatt credibility immediately. Some finishers were kicked out of by Cena and Styles, but I didn’t mind it based on their amazing match at the Royal Rumble. They did a good job of utilizing Miz, Corbin and Ambrose in the match as well because it set up Corbin and Ambrose for a feud. Miz wasn’t in there for long, but at least he got a pinfall on Ambrose. As for Wyatt, I’m genuinely happy for him after having so many stop and start pushes in his career. He deserves to be in the spot he’s in. The win wasn’t a surprise by any means. I’m just glad that it finally happened.
(I love Elimination Chamber matches and this is one of the best ones ever. It did not disappoint. I loved the story of the match with WWE Champion Cena starting the match along with former champion Styles and they made it all the way to the end with Styles. The only thing I didn’t like about it is that it was known in mid-January that Randy Orton would win the Royal Rumble and Wyatt would win this match to set up their WrestleMania match, which was a stinker. If the result of this match wasn’t known beforehand it would have been an even bigger reaction when Wyatt won. The other thing I remember is they put padding outside the ring instead of the steel that was there for the 15 years prior. Some fans complained about it, but it was for the safety of the talent, so I don’t mind that.)
3. Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns @ SummerSlam – 08/20/17
There are no disqualifications and no countouts in a Fatal 4-Way match. First fall wins.
Lesnar hit a belly to belly suplex on Joe while Strowman and Reigns fought on the floor. Reigns shoved Strowman into the ring post. Reigns went into the ring for the Brock showdown and Lesnar hit a German Suplex on Reigns. German Suplex by Lesnar on Joe as well. Strowman went into the ring for the confrontation as the crowd went wild, but the other two guys broke it up. Strowman and Lesnar cleared the ring for another faceoff leading to Cole busting out his “electric” line to describe it. Strowman hit a clothesline on Lesnar that sent Lesnar over the top to the floor. Reigns clothesline on Strowman couldn’t knock him out of the ring. Strowman charged at Reigns, who moved and Strowman hit the ring post. Joe with a Coquina Clutch on Lesnar on the floor. Reigns hit a Spear on Lesnar that broke the barricade by ringside. Joe hit a slam on Reigns on the announce table. Strowman knocked down by the announce table. Strowman cleaned the announce table off and hit a Running Powerslam on Lesnar through the table. Fans chanted for “Strowman” and Joe hit a running suicide dive with a forearm shot to Roman’s face. Strowman tossed a leather chair and Roman and Joe. Lesnar was getting back to his feet. Strowman cleared off another announce table and Strowman drove Lesnar through that table with a Running Powerslam. Strowman went over to the third announce table and dumped it onto Lesnar. Referees and doctors checking on Brock. Heyman was freaking out. Lesnar was taken away on a stretcher. The fans chanted “na na na hey hey goodbye” as Lesnar was taken away through the crowd.
Strowman picked up the steel steps and destroyed Joe and Reigns with the steps. Reigns got back in the ring to destroy Strowman with the steps. Joe back in the ring with a rollup for two. Joe with a running senton for a two count. Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop for two. Reigns went for the Superman Punch, Joe avoided it and put on the Coquina Clutch. Strowman back into the ring and he hit a double Chokeslam leading to a two count on Reigns. Strowman was bleeding around his ear. All three guys were down. Lesnar walked down the aisle and got back in the ring with punches on Strowman. Lesnar went for a German Suplex on Strowman, but he couldn’t do it. Lesnar slapped on the Kimura Lock armbar and Reigns broke that up with a Superman Punch. Reigns with a Superman punch for Joe. Reigns hit a Spear on Lesnar that didn’t look that great and Lesnar got his shoulder up at two. Reigns set up for another Spear, so Joe attacked wit ha Coquina Clutch. Strowman back in with a dropkick on Reigns and Joe. Strowman with a Powerslam on Joe for a two count as Lesnar pulled the ref out of the ring. Reigns with a Superman Punch on Lesnar on the floor. Back in the ring, Reigns with a Superman Punch on Strowman for two. Boot to the face by Strowman on Reigns and a running Powerslam by Strowman for a two count as Lesnar broke it up. Lesnar wanted a F5 on Strowman, but he couldn’t do it. Strowman went for a Powerslam and Reigns hit a Spear on Strowman to send Strowman out of the ring. Lesnar picked up Reigns, Joe back in and Joe sent Reigns out of the ring. Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch on Lesnar, but Lesnar fought out of it with a F5 and Reigns broke it up. Reigns hit three Superman Punches on Lesnar to stagger the champion and then knock him down. Reigns set up for the Spear, but Lesnar caught him and hit the F5 on Reigns. Lesnar covered for the win after 21 minutes of action. The crowd cheered the result because they liked Brock and hated Reigns.
Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: ****1/2 That was a great match. One of the more memorable WWE matches of the year and one of the best matches of the year. It all depends on what you like. I think when you have a match like this with four power wrestlers and they can make those big moves look more impressive than usual that’s something to use to your advantage. Braun Strowman really stood out with his displays of power and the way he destroyed Lesnar with the Powerslams through the table as well as dumping the third table on him. It’s just cool to see stuff like that because Lesnar isn’t booked to be vulnerable very often, so when somebody does it like Strowman did then it comes off more impressive. I am not shocked by the Lesnar win because that was my prediction and based on what happened here, Lesnar vs. Strowman at No Mercy next month makes a lot of sense. What surprised me the most was that Reigns got pinned clean by Lesnar. I figured it would be Joe that got pinned, so seeing Reigns lose like that was a big surprise. I thought he was going to kick out, but he didn’t and that was it. Strowman looked like a huge winner even in defeat. He was booked so well.
(It was another great multi-man match by WWE this year. There were a lot of them in this list because WWE does a fantastic job of putting those matches together. The big story here was Strowman really winning over the crowd with what he did to Lesnar. It’s a strategy that WWE has done before in Lesnar multi-man matches like Royal Rumble 2015, so it’s not a new concept. The part that did surprise me was Reigns got pinned. That wasn’t something they really mentioned much after, but I thought it was interesting considering the 2018 plan is Lesnar vs. Reigns at WrestleMania. The result of this match was never in doubt. It was the work in the ring that won me over.)
2. WWE UK Championship: Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate @ NXT Takeover Chicago – 05/20/17
(I didn’t write a full play by play review of this, but I did write about it the next day.)
The crowd seemed interested in them from the moment the bell rang with fans chanting “Bruiserweight” for Dunne. They did some technical wrestling early on to show what they can do. Bate did a good job of getting out of an armbar and hit a dropkick. Dunne hit a release suplex on the ring apron, which was a great spot. After a series of great nearfalls, there were “NXT” chants from the crowd in support of these guys. I thought JR made a good comparison in saying Bate was similar to a Bob Backlund in that he’s a smaller guy that was really strong. Bate hit a standing Shooting Star Press into a delayed back suplex for a two count. Triangle choke submission applied by Dunne. Bate powered out of it with a one-armed Powerbomb like move. Bate got a huge crowd reaction followed by a really fast airplane spin. Who would have guessed that? It was pretty unique leading into Bate getting a two count. Dunne came back with a great suplex into a Powerbomb for a two count. That drew a standing ovation from the crowd. The crowd was going wild as they exchanged kick strikes and Bate hit a forearm to the face after bouncing off the ropes. It led to a “UK” and “fight forever” chant from the crowd. When Bate went for his pumphandle attack, Bate countered it into a DDT leading to a “holy shit” chant. Dunne went to the floor and Bate hit a moonsault off the middle rope onto Dunne on the floor. Back in the ring, Bate hit a corkscrew 450 splash for a two count. Most people thought that was it as Dunne rolled to the floor again. The momentum turned when Bate went for a dive over the top rope onto Dunne outside the ring, but Dunne avoided it and Bate went crashing to the floor. Dunne rolled Bate back into the ring with Dunne hitting the Bitter End (pumphandle slam into a flatliner) for the pinfall win with the crowd going crazy for it. It went about 16 minutes.
Winner by pinfall and new WWE UK Champion: Pete Dunne
Analysis: ****3/4 Wow. That was an incredible match with a hot crowd that got louder as the match went on. They had a great mix of high impact moves, believable nearfall spots and they sold everything well also. I was so impressed by the corkscrew 450 by Bate. It’s the kind of move that you aren’t going to see very often and you would think it would be a finishing move, but Dunne kicked out of it. Dunne was my pick to win because I think he’s got more of a persona and could be a dominant heel champion. Awesome showing by both guys. I’m so impressed by Bate’s ability to do high flying moves as well as power moves with ease. He makes it all so easy. Dunne has developed more as a character as I already said and he’s outstanding in-ring as well. They definitely won over some new fans that may not have seen them in a WWE ring before. It’s a definite WWE Match of the Year contender. I think that’s Cena/Styles from the Royal Rumble. This wasn’t as good as that match, but it’s still amazing especially for guys that are just 23 and 20 years old. One of the best WWE matches this year, no doubt about it. It’s a hell of a match that I won’t soon forget.
(Original rating was 1/4* less and I bumped it in after re-watching it a week ago. What’s impressive about this match is they were put out there in front of this Chicago crowd and told to do their thing for nearly 20 minutes. By the end of it, they won the crowd over in a major way because of how exciting the action was. I find it insane that WWE didn’t put them in another Takeover match later in the year considering how good this match was. More Dunne vs. Bate in 2018, please.)
1. WWE Championship: John Cena vs. AJ Styles @ Royal Rumble – 01/29/17
Cena started off with punches. Styles slowed him down with a back elbow. Kicks by Styles to the back. The crowd was chanting for both guys as they started off at a slow pace. Styles missed a knee drop attack with Cena coming back with a back body drop. Styles came back with an enziguri kick to the back of the head. Cena was loud in calling spots as he did a couple of shoulder tackles and Styles took him down with a hurricanrana. Styles with a corner clothesline followed by a leaping forearm attack. Cena with a spinning suplex that he always does. Cena teased the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Styles got back up, hit a German Suplex and a slam into a wheelbarrow facebuster (thanks Ranallo) for a two count. Styles nailed some strikes to the head, but Cena came back with a devastating running clothesline. Cena hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop only for Styles to fight out of the AA attempt. Cena wanted a superplex, but Styles slipped out, put him on his back, did a brief Torture Rack into a spinning slam for a two count. Styles set up a springboard attack, Cena avoided it and hit the Attitude Adjustment for two. There’s the first finisher that was kicked out of at around the ten-minute mark.
Cena nailed Styles with another stiff clothesline for a two count. Styles connected with a Pele Kick that hit Cena in the shoulder. Styles with a springboard attack into a Phenomenal Forearm for a two count. Hard kick by Styles to the ribs with Cena coughing to sell it, which is good by him. What an actor. Cena avoided an attack, put Styles on his shoulders in the electric chair position and dropped Styles face first into a facebuster like slam. They exchanged blows with Styles strikes earning a “yay” while most of Cena’s strikes got a “boo” reaction. Styles avoided the AA and applied the Calf Crusher submission. Cena powered out of it easily while transitioning into a STF submission. When Styles nearly got to the ropes, Cena pulled him back and applied the STF again. Styles fought back with a pinfall attempt. Styles applied the STF for himself. They each tried moves, there were counters and Cena turned it into a Figure Four Leglock. Styles fought it and applied a Cross Armbreaker on Cena’s left arm. Cena powered out into a slam. Both guys sold that incredible sequence by laying down on the mat to let the crowd cheer them. It’s important to have a moment to sell those moves. Cena jumped off the top rope with his leg drop attempt, Styles avoided it and hit the Styles Clash for a two count. Awesome nearfall. Match is at twenty minutes.
Styles went for a springboard 450. It didn’t connect because Cena got his knees up. Cena with a perfect flipping sunset flip into a powerbomb (Code Red) for a two count. What a move. That looked awesome. Styles picked Cena up and gave him the Ushigoroshi for a two-count dropping Cena’s neck/back onto his knee, which was good for a two count. Cena sent Styles face first into the turnbuckle. Cena picked him up and slammed him down with a move that looked a like a Big Ending. JBL said he’s enjoying the hell out of this match – I am too! Cena set up Styles on the top rope, Cena jumped off the middle rope, hit the Attitude Adjustment for a Super AA (or Avalanche Attitude Adjustment) and Styles kicked out at two. Wow! What a match. Shocked look on Cena’s face as the crowd went wild. Styles countered Cena and hit a Styles Clash again. Styles didn’t cover. He went for a springboard attack, but Cena caught him. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment, then he rolled through, hit another Attitude Adjustment and covered Styles for the pinfall win after 25 minutes.
Winner by pinfall and New WWE Champion: John Cena
There was a big ovation for Cena’s win. The crowd booed him at times, but they respect his work. That makes Cena a 16-time WWE (World) Champion, which ties him with Ric Flair’s recognized record.
Analysis: ***** Wow that was incredible! Five stars out of five, which is as high as my scale goes. I don’t know what to say other than that was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. I think they topped their SummerSlam and delivered a match that should be considered one of the best matches of either man’s career. That’s saying a lot considering how much they both have accomplished in their careers. Styles was amazing using his athleticism all match long as he hit Cena with everything, Cena kept coming back and nearly got the win several times. Eventually, Cena did the get the win with the back to back AA after he hit him with two AA’s before that. I loved everything about the match. It didn’t go 30+ minutes like I thought, but nothing wrong with 25 minutes. That’s fine with me because we got an all-time great match here. I will watch it again, but I don’t see my rating changing. It was a special match with a lot of hype that they lived up to. Congrats to Cena and Styles. Thank you for delivering a classic match. I picked Styles to win. Oops. Got that wrong. I don’t mind at all.
(When I posted my awards last week I had some people question the choice and that’s fine. One person’s match of the year is another person’s good match. What I loved about this match is the drama building up to the finish because you didn’t know who was going to win. I predicted a Styles victory because I figured Cena holding the title for two weeks was dumb – remember the Wyatt win two weeks after this – and I still feel that way, but for whatever reason WWE wanted him to win #16 here. I think having believable nearfalls adds to the drama. If guys are just doing moves and they don’t go for falls then it’s not that exciting. That’s something Styles is great at because he’s got multiple finishing moves he has won with while Cena also knows how to build up to those moments. It helps the match and it doesn’t hurt it. I like how Cena had to go to the next level to try to beat Styles to win the match. It made it that much more special when Cena got the final pinfall. What’s also cool about this match is they were given a lot of time and barely left the ring. It was contained inside the ring. Cena and Styles are two guys that were 39 years old at the time that wrestled a lot in the last year that had their best match together. It was a classic match and my only five-star match in WWE this year.)
Here are ten matches that nearly made it in the top ten, so they would be 11 to 20.
|Authors of Pain vs DIY vs The Revival (NXT Takeover Orlando)|
|Bray Wyatt vs Finn Balor vs Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe vs Seth Rollins (Extreme Rules)|
|Big E and Xavier Woods vs The Usos (SummerSlam Kickoff)|
|Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles (TLC)|
|Authors of Pain vs DIY (NXT Takeover Chicago – Ladder Match)|
|Bobby Roode vs Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Takeover San Antonio)|
|Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream (NXT Takeover WarGames)|
|Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns (Royal Rumble)|
|Asuka vs Nikki Cross – Last Woman Standing (NXT)|
|Roman Reigns vs John Cena (No Mercy)|
It was a very good year for in-ring action in WWE and really the entire the wrestling business. There are so many great matches all around the world. I think we are spoiled as fans and we don’t realize it most of the time. There’s so much talent in WWE right now. The storylines could be a lot better, which is the company’s biggest weakness, but WWE is also fantastic at giving the talent a platform to have great matches. Look at the difference between my top two matches. One of them had two guys that are now 40 years old and the other was two guys in their early 20s. Completely different points in their careers, yet both matches stood out this year. It’s pretty cool, I think.
Four matches on this list featured AJ Styles. I’d say he had a phenomenal year. Pun intended.
Feel free to comment below. If you’re wondering why a match came up short then all I can say is it’s my personal choice. We can’t all agree on what’s the best. I’m just here to offer you my take. These are my picks and I hope you enjoyed reading along.
Happy New Year. Or whatever kind of new year you want. The choice is yours. See ya in 2018.