5: Finn Balor Vs AJ Styles – TLC
WWE TLC 2017 will most likely be remembered for the outbreak of all illness the day before the show, one which forced the WWE to make several changes to their planned card. While many fans were disappointed that they wouldn’t get to see the long-awaited Shield reunion, there was nobody who was worried about missing out on the much dreaded ‘Demon Finn Vs Sister Abigail’ bout.
Instead of that bout, AJ Styles was shipped in from SmackDown to replace Bray Wyatt, giving fans somewhat of a dream match between Styles and Balor, the two former leaders of The Bullet Club. Despite this match only being announced at the last-minute, the two men didn’t disappoint, putting on a spectacle that showed us all exactly why are they considered among the best in the world.
4: AJ Styles Vs Brock Lesnar – Survivor Series
AJ Styles has had a fine end to 2017 and at Survivor Series this year, we were granted to another dream-match scenario featuring the phenomenal one. Having beaten Jinder Mahal for the WWE title a week before the event, expectations went through the roof when fans realised that meant AJ would be going up against the Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar at the event.
While the result seemed fairly obvious from the get-go, AJ took Brock to his best match in the WWE quite some time, going 16 minutes with The Beast Incarnate and putting on a wrestling, and story-telling masterclass. AJ played the perfect Dave to Lesnar’s Goliath, while Paul Heyman sold the whole match, and AJ Styles afterwards, like an absolute pro. It’s a shame we will likely never get a rematch between the two because this match was something special.
3: The Authors of Pain Vs The Revival Vs DIY – NXT Takeover: Orlando
While the WWE main roster has excelled in tag team wrestling for the latter part of 2017, NXT still reigned supreme in that department for the better part of the year. The brand reminded us just how good tag team wrestling could be in 2016, with DIY and The Revival putting on some exceptional matches.
NXT managed to prolong this incredible streak earlier in the year when they took those two teams, and then added The Authors of Pain into the mix. While on paper, no-one was really certain whether this would work, the teams knocked it out of the park in April, putting on the best match in an action-packed WrestleMania weekend. This match was a high-octane thrill-ride, one that featured some exceptional storytelling (seeing longtime rivals DIY and The Revival team up against The Authors of Pain was a great moment) and some perfectly executed tag team spots. While, arguably, this didn’t quite reach the heights of the exceptional 2 out of 3 falls match between DIY and The Revival from 2016, it was still, easily, the finest piece of tag team wrestling in the WWE this year.
2: John Cena Vs AJ Styles – The Royal Rumble
Hey, AJ, fancy seeing you again. Okay, as you can tell from this list, AJ Styles has had an exceptional year. Styles has torn the house down with some of the best in the company this year but his match with John Cena at the Royal Rumble still counts among of the finest in his illustrious career.
Styles and Cena had met each other in the ring three times in 2016 and tore the house down on every occasion but the duo saved their best for this bout and their match at the Rumble almost like a direct response to Okada Vs Omega, which had taken place at WrestleKingdom a week prior.
While there may be some who complain that this was nothing more than a series of near falls, especially in the closing stages, that is doing Cena and Styles a huge injustice. The duo put on a masterclass in the ring and the ending just drove the excitement levels through the roof. The match was, sadly, the one that gives Cena his 16th title reign, one which turned out to be nothing more than a transitional one, but this bout will still go down as one of both men’s finest outings.
1: Tyler Bate Vs Pete Dunne – NXT Takeover: Chicago
Picture the scene: Manchester, England, AJ Styles and Finn Balor put on a match that tears the house down, the British crowd, blown away by the duo’s performances, erupt into chants of ‘USA, USA’ as the final bell rings. Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it would never happen. Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, however, managed to get an American crowd chanting ‘UK,UK’ during their barnstormer of a match at NXT Takeover: Chicago, which tells you all you need to know about the performance these two men gave us that night.
Dunne and Bate are no strangers to working with each other, but they managed to find one more gear to go up back in May, and no match in the WWE has since been able to top it. From their flawless in-ring work to their excellent story-telling, this match was a joy to watch, one which also earned chants of ‘fight forever’ for both of these young talents. Dunne and Bate are still both under 25 (Bate is not even 21!) and they have a very, very bright future ahead of themselves.
What was your favourite match of 2017? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe