Like every year, there were a ton of interesting stories in regards to professional wrestling in 2017. Here are the 15 biggest stories of the year:
NJPW made headway into the United States market in 2017. Earlier this year, NJPW launched an English YouTube channel.
NJPW will continue to grow in the US with Superstars like Chris Jericho joining the promotion to battle Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th.
On July 1st and 2nd, NJPW held it’s G1 Special in Long Beach, CA. It was announced in November that NJPW will be returning to Long Beach for Strong Style Evolved on March 25, 2018.
NJPW’s President Takaaki Kidani stated that NJPW will have an office and dojo in Los Angeles soon and hope to start touring the US. NJPW made several strides in 2017 to gain popularity in the United States and will look to become even more popular in 2018.
It started with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins on RAW. Rollins attempted to get Dean Ambrose to trust him again for weeks, but Ambrose couldn’t let go of the past. It was hard to blame him, it was Rollins who ended The Shield when he attacked Reigns and Ambrose with a chair from behind three years prior. Rollins then aligned himself with The Authority and went on to become WWE Champion.
On the August 14th edition of RAW, Ambrose and Rollins were finally able to put their differences aside and bump fists in the ring. The crowd erupted as the duo was together once again.
However, there was still one member missing. Roman Reigns didn’t officially reunited with the group until the October 9th edition of RAW. The Shield rushed The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro and Curtis Axel during a Miz TV segment. The Shield beatdown everyone in sight and posed in the ring. Rollins and Ambrose would go on to become the RAW Tag Team Champions and Roman Reigns captured his first Intercontinental Championship.
The reunion was short-lived, as Dean Ambrose suffered an injury and will be on the sideline for 9 months. While it didn’t last long, The Shield reunion got one of the biggest pops from the WWE Universe all year. I’m sure we will see Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose together again in the years to come.
Owens joined SmackDown during WWE’s Superstar Shake-Up. The former Universal Champion didn’t seem to think SmackDown was the land of opportunity that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan claimed it was. Owens crossed the line on the September 5th episode of SmackDown and started insulting the McMahon family. Shane McMahon finally lost it and attacked Owens.
The following week, Owens threatened to sue WWE and this led to Vince McMahon confronting Owens in the ring. Vince stated that Owens will face Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell. Owens accepted the match but then did the unthinkable and attacked the 72-year-old WWE Chairman.
SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon went on to face Kevin Owens at WWE Hell in a Cell on October 8, 2017. Owens emerged victorious thanks to interference from Sami Zayn. Sami pulled Owens off of the announce table as Shane McMahon was trying to hit an Elbow Drop from off the top of the structure. Shane crashed through the table and Zayn rolled Owens on top of him for the pinfall victory.
Shane still hasn’t gotten over this and has spent the last few months of 2017 trying to get Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn out of WWE. Zayn and Owens have overcome every obstacle that Shane has put in their way so far. At WWE Clash of Champions 2017, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were special referees for a match between Owens & Zayn versus Nakamura & Orton. If Owens and Zayn lost, they would have been fired from all of WWE. Shane refused to count to three when Sami Zayn had the match won, which led to Daniel Bryan delivering a fast count to ensure Owens and Zayn got the victory.
Owens’ attack on Vince McMahon and the events at Hell in a Cell have caused Shane McMahon to become obsessed with making Zayn and Owens’ life a living hell. Unfortunately for Shane, his actions continue to backfire and he now has issues with SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan. The storyline is still evolving, as Shane inadvertently cost WWE Champion AJ Styles a match against Owens on this past week’s episode of SmackDown. The rivalry between Owens and McMahon is poised to continue in 2018.
John Cena made his RAW return with one goal in mind, face off against Roman Reigns. Cena and Reigns spent a few weeks hurling insults at each other during promos on RAW. Cena didn’t think Reigns was anything special and set out to prove it at WWE No Mercy 2017.
Roman Reigns faced John Cena in the Staples Center in Los Angeles on September 24th. It was billed as a dream match and Reigns prevailed in the end. After the PPV went off the air, Cena was a guest on RAW Talk with Jerry “The King” Lawler and Renee Young. Cena praised Reigns and claimed that WWE’s future was in good hands with Roman at the top. Cena added that he felt like a burden had been lifted off of his shoulders after his loss to Reigns.
Since his loss to Reigns, Cena has appeared less and less on WWE television. He is pursuing opportunities outside of WWE, but returned to WWE once again on this past week’s episode of RAW. Reigns has remained the top guy in WWE and will most likely be in the Universal Championship picture heading into WrestleMania 34 next year.
Matt and Jeff Hardy made their long-awaited return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. It was originally scheduled to be a Triple Threat Ladder match between Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro for the RAW Tag Team Championships. WrestleMania 33 hosts New Day then came down to the entrance ramp and announced that the match had become a Fatal 4-Way. Matt and Jeff then came down to the ring and wound up becoming the new RAW Tag Team Champions.
Jeff Hardy went down with an injury and Matt Hardy spent some time losing on RAW every week. Matt finally snapped and became “Woken”. Fans have been waiting to see Matt Hardy bring his Broken Universe to WWE and it finally happened. Everyone was unsure if Hardy would ever be able to bring the “Broken” character to WWE due to a bitter dispute with Impact Wrestling.
Matt is now in a feud with Bray Wyatt that is being referred to as the Great War. Hardy has promised to delete Bray Wyatt and the two have had a series of video promos together over the past few weeks. On this past week’s episode of RAW, Hardy attacked Wyatt from behind and then psychotically laughed.
Three time ROH World Champion and longest reigning PWG Champion Adam Cole made his WWE debut in 2017. Cole was one of the most popular independent wrestling stars out there and was rumored to be coming to NXT for months. Cole finally made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Brookyln III, when he Superkicked newly crowned NXT Champion Drew McIntyre. Cole was joined by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly in the ring as he posed with the NXT Championship.
Cole, Fish and O’Reilly would then form the Undisputed Era in NXT. The trio has claimed that they were going to take over NXT and they have started to back it up. Undisputed Era won the WarGames match and now Fish & O’Reilly are NXT Tag Team Champions. Cole is now becoming a star in NXT and will look to do the same when he eventually joins WWE’s main roster.
Before signing with NXT, Cole spoke to ESPN’s Michael Wonsover and said the following about his future:
“I would want to [start in NXT] because, first of all, I’m a fan of NXT. I think the brand is cool. I think the TakeOver shows are awesome. I think the fans are great. I love the roster of guys. I think it’s something that’s going to be looked at as a very special time in pro wrestling, so I want to be a part of it. Secondly, of course in a perfect world if I went to NXT, I wouldn’t want to be there forever; but I like the idea of going there and performing there and getting accustomed to the WWE audience and them getting accustomed to me and then eventually making the move to Raw or SmackDown. I think it’d be a lot of fun, and I think I would really enjoy working in front of that audience.”
In a little over four months, Cole has already connected with the NXT audience. He is now in a feud with another rising star in Aleister Black. Cole has already made an impact in WWE in 2017, but his future in WWE is even brighter.
Goldberg made his return to WWE on October 17th, 2016. He accepted a challenge to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016. The WCW legend went on to absolutely dominate Lesnar at the PPV, connecting with two Spears and finishing him off with a massive Jackhammer.
The rivalry spilled into 2017 when Brock Lesnar and Goldberg met again in the Royal Rumble match. Goldberg once again got the best of Lesnar and eliminated him. Goldberg was then eliminated by The Undertaker, but that didn’t stop him from being in one of the marquee matches of WrestleMania 33.
On March 5th, Goldberg got a shot at the Universal Championship when he faced Kevin Owens at WWE Fastlane 2017. Owens had recently betrayed Chris Jericho during the Festival of Friendship. Owens brutally attacked Jericho and beat him senseless. Jericho returned just as the Universal Championship match started and Kevin Owens became distracted. Goldberg quickly connected with a Spear and became the Universal Champion.
At WrestleMania 33, Goldberg defended his Universal Championship against Brock Lesnar. The result was different this time, as Brock Lesnar withstood Goldberg’s early attack and defeated him with an F-5. Still, Goldberg showed that he could still go in the ring after being away from WWE for 12 years. More importantly, Goldberg got to perform in front of his son on the biggest stage wrestling has to offer.
Roode, Joe and Nakamura all made a name for themselves outside of the WWE before arriving in NXT. In 2017, all three joined WWE’s main roster and made an impact. Samoa Joe joined RAW and originally debuted as Triple H’s henchman on the January 30th episode of RAW. He attacked Seth Rollins, which led to Rollins missing time due to a knee injury.
It didn’t take long before Samoa Joe established himself as one of the most talented performers on RAW’s roster. He is a force on Monday nights and is making Roman Reigns’ life a living hell right now. Joe’s biggest match so far on the main roster was his Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WWE Great Balls of Fire. Joe came up short but was able to prove he belongs in the main event scene in WWE.
Bobby Roode arrived on SmackDown during the August 22nd episode. Roode got a great reaction from the crowd and easily defeated Aiden English. Roode’s time on the main roster has been up and down so far. He was terrific in NXT as heel and many feel that Roode would connect more with the audience on the main roster as that character. Having said that, Roode recently advanced past the first round of the United States Championship tournament and has been featured on SmackDown’s midcard on a weekly basis.
Shinsuke Nakamura debuted on SmackDown on April 4th. His run on the main roster has been a roller coaster so far. WWE seemingly was unsure of what to do with Nakamura when he first arrived. They implemented random explosion sounds during his entrance and constantly referred to him as “the artist known as Shinsuke Nakamura”.
Shinsuke picked up a massive victory against John Cena to earn a shot at the WWE Championship. Nakamura failed to defeat Jinder Mahal twice and was unable to capture the title.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s talent is undeniable and hopefully gets to showcase it even more in 2018. Nakamura was incredibly popular in NJPW but decided that he wanted to better his career in WWE. After a great stint in NXT, Nakamura’s main roster run has been hot and cold so far. The best moment so far was the stare down Nakamura had with AJ Styles at WWE Money In The Bank 2017. WWE hinted that there might be great things to come for Nakamura and hopefully that comes to fruition in 2018.
Asuka went undefeated on NXT and also broke Goldberg’s record after accumulating 174 wins without a loss. At NXT TakeOver: Brookyln III, Asuka defended her NXT Women’s Championship against Ember Moon. Asuka was once again victorious, but suffered a collarbone injury during the match. Asuka relinquished her NXT Women’s Championship and then joined the RAW roster after healing from her injury. She made her debut at WWE TLC 2017 and defeated former WWE Superstar Emma. Asuka remains undefeated and will surely be a huge part of the RAW women’s division moving forward.
Jinder Mahal is your new WWE ChampionThe former 3MB member won a Six-Pack Challenge on the April 18th edition of WWE SmackDown to become the #1 contender for the WWE Championship. Mahal went on to defeat Randy Orton at WWE Backlash 2017 to become the new WWE Champion. Two nights later, Mahal held a Punjabi celebration on SmackDown.
Jinder Mahal relied on help from the Singh Brothers throughout his reign to hold onto the titles. Samir and Sunil Singh were constantly causing chaos during his matches to ensure that the Modern Day Maharaja would remain WWE Champion. At WWE Battleground 2017, Randy Orton faced Jinder Mahal in a Punjabi Prison match. Orton successfully disposed of the Singh Brothers during the match, but a giant made his WWE return to help out Mahal.
Mahal continued to escape with the WWE Championship over the next several months. Baron Corbin attempted to cash in his MITB contract but became distracted by John Cena. Mahal capitalized and rolled Corbin up to remain WWE Champion. Mahal then defeated Shinsuke Nakamura at WWE SummerSlam 2017 and WWE Hell in a Cell 2017. AJ Styles finally dethroned Mahal at during the November 7th episode of SmackDown. Mahal had a shot to recapture the title at Clash of Champions earlier this month but once again came up short.
Mahal advanced in the United States Championship tournament on this past week’s episode of SmackDown. Time will tell if Mahal finds himself back in the WWE Championship picture, but his unbelievable rise to the top of WWE was certainly one of the biggest stories of 2017.
Kurt Angle was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania 33 weekend. On the RAW after WrestleMania, Vince McMahon announced that Kurt Angle was the new RAW GM.
Kurt Angle made it known that he wanted to have another match in WWE, but it came out of nowhere. Several WWE Superstars became ill and one of them was Roman Reigns. Roman was scheduled to team with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins versus The Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Cesaro and Sheamus. Reigns was unable to compete and Kurt Angle replaced him at the last moment. Angle dressed in full Shield attire for the match.
Angle went on to wrestle again at WWE Survivor Series 2017 for Team RAW. Triple H Pedigreed Angle during the match even though they were on the same team. Triple H also Pedigreed Angle’s son storyline son, Jason Jordan, on an episode of RAW leading up to the Survivor Series PPV. It has been rumored for some time that Triple H will face Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 34 next year. We will see if that winds up being the case when WrestleMania season rolls around. As for 2017, Angle was a part of some major storylines in WWE, returned to the ring and took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Paige underwent neck surgery in October of 2016. In a year full of incidents and scandals, many were concerned that Paige would never find her way back to WWE. Fortunately she did and Paige returned to WWE RAW on November 20th. Paige returned alongside NXT call-ups Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. The trio is now known as Absolution and has caused chaos throughout RAW’s women’s division in recent weeks.
WWE announced that there will be the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match on January 28, 2018. Absolution will certainly be a big part of that and it would be tremendous story if Paige emerged victorious after all she had been through in 2017. Paige also had an injury scare at a WWE live event recently but it fortunately wasn’t serious. Absolution has become a force on RAW and Paige is poised to become a champion once again in 2018.
Roman Reigns eliminated The Undertaker during last year’s Royal Rumble match and that pissed The Undertaker off. Roman Reigns was determined to prove that WWE was his yard now and at WrestleMania 33, Reigns did just that. Reigns defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 and The Undertaker left his hat, gloves and jacket in the ring after the match. The Undertaker raised his fist in the air on the entrance ramp and disappeared into a cloud of smoke.
The following night on RAW was one of the most fascinating promos you will ever see. Roman Reigns took several minutes to utter five words as the crowd refused to let him speak. Finally, Reigns stated “this is my yard now” and walked away.
Time will tell if The Undertaker is officially retired or not. WrestleMania season is just around the corner and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if The Undertaker shows up again. Reigns handed The Undertaker only his second WrestleMania loss of his historic career and has continued to be at the top of WWE ever since.
Photo Credit: WWE.comRic Flair spent 10 days in a medically induced coma after complications from emergency bowel surgery and was given just a 20% percent chance to live. His fiancee, Wendy Barlow, slept at the hospital every night as Flair made his miraculous recovery.
Ric Flair posted the following video in September while wearing a “i ain’t dead yet mother f***ers” t-shirt:
Charlotte Flair captured the SmackDown Women’s Championship after defeating Natalya on the November 14th edition of WWE SmackDown. After the match, Charlotte was surprised by her father on the entrance ramp. Ric and Charlotte shared a hug and celebrated her championship victory.
AJ Styles made his WWE debut at last year’s Royal Rumble. It was rumored for a long time and it finally happened. The Phenomenal One arrived in WWE.
The WWE Universe voted AJ Styles the breakout star of 2016 and deservingly so. His 2017 may have been even better than last year and AJ continued to prove why he is one of, if not the best wrestler on the planet.
AJ Styles started off 2017 with an instant classic with John Cena at the Royal Rumble PPV. He then went on to have one of the matches of the night at WrestleMania 33 with Shane McMahon. Styles had a series of great matches with Kevin Owens as they feuded over the United States Championship.
At WWE No Mercy 2017, Styles wrestled Finn Balor. It was originally supposed to be Balor versus Wyatt, but Bray was ill and Styles served as a last minute replacement. The crowd was on the edge of their seat for the entire match and Balor picked up the victory. AJ Styles went on to have another excellent match at Survivor Series 2017 when he lost to Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. AJ is now once again WWE Champion after defeating Jinder Mahal on the November 7th edition of SmackDown. Styles once again defeated Mahal at Clash of Champions to retain his title.
AJ Styles introduced himself to the WWE Universe in 2016. In 2017, AJ Styles has become one of the faces of WWE. His work in the ring is impeccable and fans know they are in for something special whenever he is on the card. It took far too long for Styles to make it to WWE. In the short period of time he has been there, Styles has become one of the biggest stars in WWE.
Bobby Heenan passed away on September 17th. He was one of wrestling’s most iconic performers and personalities.
Heenan joined WWF in 1984 and instantly became one of the more entertaining personalities in the comany. His work on Primetime Wrestling with Gorilla Monsoon was excellent.
During his career, Heenan managed Superstars including Andre The Giant, Nick Bockwinkel, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, Harley Race, Jesse Ventura the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) and more.
Heenan joined WCW in 1994 and can be heard on commentary during WCW’s most memorable moments. In 2004, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Bobby Heenan is the reason that countless people are wrestling fans. He was always entertaining and is regarded as the best manager of all-time.