Well, it’s that time of the year. Time to take down the tree, enjoy all of the gifts you’ve received and get yourself ready for the new year ahead. As we approach 2018, it’s time to consider WWE’s 2017. What went well? What didn’t go as expected? We’ll talk about it all. It’s time for our end-of-the-year awards.
The Professor’s WWE Honor Roll for 2017
Superstar of the Year (Men) – This is a tough category. There were a lot of outstanding performances in 2017. For the purposes of our awards, no part-timers were considered.
The Contenders: AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, The Miz.
Styles and Reigns were both given a lot of consideration here. Both men have resided at the top of the card all year, and have been “the guy” on WWE’s flagship shows. Miz had possibly the best year of his career, and possibly even made Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel relevant again. Owens stayed near the top of the card on both shows, despite not holding a major championship for the majority of the year.
The Winner Is: Owens. Styles was a close second, but was booked better than Owens. KO made any storyline he was given compelling enough to keep him in the spotlight.
Superstar of the Year (Women) – This one is also tough, but for different reasons. Does a year of great performances outweigh a shorter, more dominant run at the top of the card?
The Contenders: Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Sasha Banks.
Bliss spent the most time as a champ this year, and made gigantic strides to become one of the top stars, man or woman, on Raw. Surprisingly, Flair didn’t hold a belt for a good part of the year, but was still outstanding nearly every week. Banks was as good as ever, and found herself in some big moments, including wrestling in the first-ever women’s championship match in the Middle East with Bliss. Asuka came up to the main roster to unprecedented hype, and has lived up to those lofty expectations.
The Winner Is: Bliss. Little Miss Bliss was a breakout star, and lit up the screen every time she showed up. Second place goes to Asuka. It would have been nearly impossible for her to live up to the anticipation for her main-roster debut. She has been dominant, and looked every bit the lethal weapon she was in NXT. It’s just a touch too soon to give her the top award.
Tag Team of the Year – It was a pretty good year for duos in WWE. Tag team matches have frequently been featured in prominent spots on both weekly shows and even on a few PPVs.
The Contenders: The Shield, The Bar, New Day, The Usos.
The Shield makes the list simply because of the sheer joy they inspired in the WWE Universe by reuniting. (Here’s hoping WWE can find some way to keep them relevant while Dean Ambrose can’t compete in the ring.) The Bar has consistently made the Raw tag division watchable, even when there wasn’t much competition. New Day and the Usos have had a tag team feud as good as any in WWE since the 1980s.
The Winner Is: The Usos. As well as The Bar has performed, the Usos reinvented themselves as heels and put on great match after great match. Then, they sort of became babyfaces without changing the act very much, and have been even more popular. The Usos also helped teams like The Fashion Police and Aiden English and Rusev to become valid contenders in a crowded SmackDown tag scene.
Breakout Superstar of the Year (Men) – This one wasn’t as hard as most of the previous categories. There was a clear winner, and relatively few contenders.
The Contenders: Braun Strowman, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode.
More than any other category, this one shows that booking is everything. Roode and Nakamura both have the potential to be the top star on any WWE brand. Unfortunately, neither was booked to be that star.
The Winner Is: Strowman. The Monster Among Men possesses startling speed and agility for a man that size. He is more than just a huge man. He’s ripped, quick and mean. While 2018 may hold better things for Nakamura and Roode, 2017 belonged to Braun.
Breakout Superstar of the Year (Women) – There was a lot to think about here. Some women who have been good for a long time rose to the top, and some newcomers had a huge impact right away.
The Contenders: Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Absolution, The Riott Squad, Asuka.
Bliss was a revelation for the entire year, but didn’t really “break out” as much as continue to shine. The two factions have been impactful, but they’re too similar and haven’t been around long enough. Jax is changing the game for women in WWE. Asuka has simply been everything she was advertised to be.
The Winner Is: Asuka. There is little doubt that The Empress of Tomorrow will be the standard bearer for WWE women in 2018. Expect it to start at the Royal Rumble and go on for most of the year.
Match of the Year – Before I get to the matches, I want to give WWE credit for elevating women’s wrestling to heights never seen before. This year, women main-evented several episodes of Raw, SmackDown and NXT (sometimes in the same week), we had the first-ever women’s MiTB Ladder match, and there was the aforementioned championship bout in the Middle East. WWE is treating women wrestlers as stars equal to the men. In recognition of that achievement, I’m including both men’s and women’s matches in this category.
The Contenders: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (Royal Rumble), Asuka vs. Ember Moon (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III), New Day vs. Usos (Hell in a Cell), Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne (NXT Takeover: Chicago), AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar (Survivor Series).
This was one of the toughest categories. There were a ton of excellent matches in 2017. There were a lot of matches that were tough to leave off of the list, but these five matches were all transcendant in one way or another.
The Winner Is: Bate vs. Dunne. Styles should get credit for goading Lesnar into his best match in several years. He also went blow-for-blow with “Big Match” John Cena. Asuka and Ember tore up the ring in Chicago and New Day and the Usos had two or three matches that could have easily made this list. The reason that Dunne and Bate take the trophy here is that they were relative unknowns to American fans. They introduced British Strong Style to the US audience, and continue to have stellar outings to this day. Also, both men are in their early 20s, and should be huge stars on either Raw or SmackDown sooner than later.
Next week, we’ll consider some New Year’s resolutions for WWE. Until then…..