Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling. This week, we look back at 2017 in our year end awards and the best and worst from the past twelve months. We'll get thing started with a look at the best WWE wrestler of 2017.
Best Wrestler (WWE)
Was there ever really any doubt? AJ Styles has consistently been the top in-ring performer in WWE throughout 2017. Despite getting lost somewhat in the midcard shuffle after losing the WWE Title in January, he put in an excellent showing at Elimination Chamber, pulled a good match out of Shane McMahon, had some excellent outings with Kevin Owens, and even got a decent couple of matches out of Jinder Mahal. Styles also showed he could hang with the top guys in WWE while going up against Brock Lesnar and John Cena, albeit in losing efforts. He has closed the year with the blue brand on his back, and the WWE title around his waist, and rightly so as AJ Styles is at the peak of his powers as one of the genuine top guys in the industry right now.
Honourable mentions go to Pete Dunne, who has had a stellar year as WWE UK champion, including some excellent bouts with Tyler Bate and Johnny Gargano on NXT, and a memorable semi-debut on Raw in the UK. Asuka also deserves a mention for stellar encounters on NXT, as well as an impressive run on the main roster thus far.
Best Wrestler (Non-WWE)
Outside of WWE, it is hard to look beyond Kazuchika Okada as one of the top performers of 2017. His matches with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Dominion, and in the G-1 Climax speak for themselves, showing why he is revered as the very best in NJPW and the longest reigning IWGP Champion in history. However, beyond those lauded bouts he has shone in title defences against EVIL, Minoru Suzuki, Katsuyori Shibata, and Cody Rhodes and even Bad Luck Fale, as well as having cracking six man matches throughout the year alongside his fellow Chaos members. Okada really is the very vest outside of WWE, and while Kenny Omega is right there with him, Okada just pips him to the top spot for me.
Match of the Year (WWE)
In terms of WWE, there have been plenty of huge matches this year to choose from, featuring some of the top performers in the company. Honourable mentions are certainly owed to the fatal-four-way at Summerslam featuring Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns, as well as the NXT bout between Alestair Black and Velveteen Dream from Takeover in November, and the series of three matches throughout the year featuring Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne (both in the WWE UK Tournament finals, as well as on NXT). However, for me nothing quite beat the WWE Title match between John Cena and AJ Styles from the Royal Rumble. Styles showed his incredible athleticism, Cena demonstrated his ability to still go at the very top level, and the match told a great story. Both men left everything out in the ring, putting on a stone cold classic with more false finishes and big moves than you can shake a stick at.
Match of the Year (Non-WWE)
When it comes to matches outside of WWE, there is an obvious choice. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer gave Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada an unprecedented six star rating, and it's not hard to see why. However, for me, their match at Dominion which went to a 60 minute time limit draw was even better and showcased why both men are so revered in NJPW. This was one of the best professional wrestling matches I have ever seen, and deserves all the plaudits it received. That said, the first bout at WK 11 was also excellent and the margin between the two is paper-thin. Omega also deserves some accolade for his bout with Tetsuya Naito at the G-1 Finals, which in any other year would be a shoe in for the match of the year, but alas this has been no ordinary year in NJPW.
Breakout Star of 2017
2017 was a banner year for plenty of up and coming talent both in WWE and elsewhere. Alexa Bliss was certainly someone I would consider, given her rise to the top of the WWE Women's division, first on Smackdown, and then on Raw later in the year. Cody Rhodes, despite any years in WWE had a huge year on the independent scene, becoming ROH Champion and fully reinventing himself as a big money player and a member of Bullet Club. However, one superstar has stood head and shoulder above everyone else in terms of momentum this year in the form of on Braun Strowman. Despite having a loss on his record to Roman Reigns in February at the Fastlane PPV, Strowman has been presented as an unstoppable monster throughout 2017, having cracking encounters with Reigns, Samoa Joe, Brock Lesnar, and many others. The crowd have taken to Strowman forcing WWE to turn him face, and he has slowly become one of the top guys over the course of 2017.
Promotion of the year
While WWE are the most well-known and popular wrestling brand in existence, NJPW have taken huge strides towards catching up with WWE over the course of 2017, and their in-ring product is arguably the best in the world. With the Okada-Omega rivalry grabbing the headlines, NJPW has had numerous phenomenal encounters in the tag division with Guerrillas of Destiny, Killer Elite Squad, and War Machine; high flying encounters in the junior heavyweight tag division and singles division with The Young Bucks, Roppongi Vice, Ricochet, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Hiromu Takahashi, and KUSHIDA; as well as the huge faction warfare of Bullet Club, Chaos, Taguchi Japan, and Los Ingonerables de Japon. NJPW is a hotbed of wrestling talent, and with Chris Jericho returning for Wrestle Kingdom 12, as well as the rise of Tetsuya Naito, NJPW looks to be even better in 2018.
Worst match of 2017
Without question, the worst match I saw in 2017 was the House of Horrors match between Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton at WWE Payback. While the match was clearly designed to be something akin to one of Rob Zombie's films (perhaps House of 1000 Corpses) it looked cheap, low rent and without suspense from the outset. We had all the usual Bray Wyatt nonsense, but this was a step too far. The booking also made Wyatt seem like a complete idiot, having a non-title match when he would have been owed a tile re-match, and his only getting the win as a way to forward the programme between Orton and Jinder Mahal. The sequences in the house were badly lit, poorly thought out and were pure wrestlecrap, in what was honestly one of the worst bouts of 2017.
Biggest disappointment of 2017
2017 will be remembered for many things, but most chiefly the rise of Jinder Mahal. While WWE was attempting to expand into India, it was rumoured they needed an Indian star to push in that market, and Mahal who had recently returned with a new, more muscular look recently seemed to fit the bill. However, his push as WWE champion was a huge failure, leading to a Punjabi Prison Match, the wasting of Shinsuke Nakamura on the main roster, and some of the most flagrantly racist material on WWE television in decades. Thankfully the Jinder experiment seems to now be over, but his push essentially overshadowed everything else on Smackdown this year, and dragged everyone else down with him. Mahal is a very average worker, with a good look and a mediocre promo style, and he should not have been anywhere near the WWE Title picture, let alone winning it and holding it for most of the year. An honourable mention should go to the Shinsuke Nakamura's run on the main roster, as WWE took one of the most enigmatic talents from NXT and turned him into just another guy. A huge shame.
Most abysmal performer of 2017
There is only one person on the WWE roster who could win this award for the year 2017, Bray Wyatt. Despite a strong start to the year, teaming with Randy Orton and then winning the WWE title, everything went off a cliff for Wyatt. The weird projections during his title match at Wrestlemania, the aforementioned House of Horrors match, his never-ending series with Finn Balor, the infamous Sister Abigail possession, 2017 has been a bad year for Wyatt. His in-ring hasn't really improved, and his character has gone beyond parody. Wyatt needs some real character development in 2018 if he is to be rehabilitated and reach his potential on the main roster.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Raw and Smackdown, a look at Wrestle Kingdom 12 as well as touching on any major stories that might break in the next week. In the meantime, keep it locked here at Screenjabber for all the best movie, Blu-ray, DVD and video game reviews, as well as all the latest news, podcasts and more. Until next time, so long folks.