As yet another year draws to a close, I, among many others across the globe, look back on 2017 with mixed emotions. I suspect many of us feel the same. Then again, this piece isn’t about personal stories but about grown adults in tights, who fight one another over 200 times a year – and it’s brilliant. I want to share with you some of my most memorable moments from this previous year in the wacky world of professional wrestling, and I hope you share some of yours too.
Jinder Mahal – This isn’t about how his title run was received in 2017, but more about what it said about WWE. For too long, the WWE Universe and fans everywhere have bemoaned that WWE never takes risks. They play safe with their talent and find it hard to entrust less established or unpopular (in their eyes, at least) talent with significant titles or main events. This year WWE gave us the unexpected and made Jinder Mahal the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Did it work out well? No, but that doesn’t matter too much in my eyes. They took a risk, did something different that went against the grain. Perhaps the next time they do it, it’ll work out better.
The Slow Retirement of John Cena – This isn’t a pop at Cena, but it’s clear to see he’s winding down in his professional wrestling career, and good luck to him. His colorful promos and ‘free agent’ status may throw some curve balls, but we all know he’s in his final years as a WWE talent. It must be hard for Cena, as it’s well known he has a deep love for WWE and everything he’s tirelessly worked for, but at the same time he’s known and worked with guys who stayed on for too long and didn’t leave when they had the chance, only now feeling the effects of a long, tough and damaging career that takes a hell of a toll on the body. I don’t hate John Cena, I have tremendous respect for the man, but I hope his WWE end is near, purely for his sake. He looks like a million dollars and I hope he leaves on his terms. He has his place in wrestling history, I just hope he can walk away to reap his many rewards and enjoy the lifestyle he’s worked so hard for.
The Continued Evolution of the Women’s Division – 2017 saw the first (and second) Money In The Bank Women’s Ladder match, and although the involvement of one James Ellsworth put a blemish on what should’ve been a spectacle for the women, it did prove that whatever revolution WWE are doing for the women, it’s still a high priority and they’re serious about it. Could they be doing better? Of course, but aside from some minor gripes (Emma getting offence against Asuka on her debut, the criminal under-use of Becky Lynch etc.) WWE are doing ok. There’s a Women’s Royal Rumble on the horizon and we have some new faces to freshen up the division – something badly needed to stop feuds becoming stale with such limited numbers on the rosters. My only wish here in 2018 is that the women become the stars and they’re the ones in the spotlight – not Stephanie McMahon who appears to steamroller any significant event and get her face on TV. I’ll bet she is the one who faces Ronda Rousey if/when she gets a PPV match.
The Mid-Card, Non-Title Holders Growing as Performers – I feel this has only escalated in recent months, but the guys/girls out of any sort of title picture aren’t sitting idly by, doing nothing. They’re investing in their characters, evolving their own story-lines and branching off into new directions to keep their personas interesting, fresh and likable. Rusev is a prime example. From the typical, over-used, traditional bad guy foreigner, he’s embraced another side to him, especially as we’re seeing him on Total Divas in a different light. This change in him has attracted Aiden English and the pair are working well together. I worried for English, especially after the departure of Simon Gotch. I thought English was in danger of slipping into obscurity, but I’m very happy he’s found a niche with Rusev. Over on Raw, Elias has grown every week to become something more that some fans, including myself, are looking forward to seeing every week. I still want to walk with Elias.
The Consistency of Characters – It’s nice to see WWE stick with many of their characters and not have heel or face turns every few months. They’ve stuck with some tag teams and kept their story-lines to have a good consistency in what they’re doing. The Usos have been tremendous since their heel turn and they haven’t deviated from it one bit. Their look, style, and promos are very fitting and continue to be a staple of Smackdown Live even though they appear to be faces again. Similar too, the New Day continue to push on, although their time must be up soon. It’s been a great run, but Big E is surely going solo soon. Over on Raw, The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) have become one of the bright spots in 2017 for the red brand. Their success has been down to talent and hard work, but they deserve credit for carrying the tag division when it’s been so cruelly hit by the loss of one half of the Revival and the Hardy Boys respectively. Hopefully, with a bigger group of tag teams at their disposal, WWE can look into investing in that division more, and not break up teams too early, like they did with American Alpha.
So what do you think? Are my choices some of the best aspects of WWE in 2017? There are many more I could’ve chosen, but what would you have picked? Are you looking forward to what they’re going to do next year, or are we all going to witness Roman Reigns win the title at Mania regardless?
On a personal note, I’d like to thank John Canton for allowing me to celebrate a year of writing for this tremendous site in August. It’s great to do this and I love it. I want to thank everyone who commented, tweeted or followed me online and for their kind words about my ramblings. I hope you all enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year and I look forward to writing for you again in 2018. All the best, everyone. Mike S.