In a few more weeks, we shall be saying goodbye to 2017, and ringing in a brand new year, which means another year of WWE storylines, pay-per-views, hirings, firings, and more. And in looking back at 2017, a lot of us are taking stock of what's happened so far, and making their own best-of and worst-of lists. But instead of simply alternating the best with the worst WWE wrestlers of 2017, why not take a look at those wrestlers who improved the most, as well as those who, for lack of a better term, still suck in one way or another?
Having said that, not all of the wrestlers in the "Most Improved" section of this list are finished products – they may still have a long way to go before they can be considered among the best the WWE has to offer. Likewise, saying that a wrestler "still sucks" can be relative, and it could pertain to their wrestling skills, their ability to cut a promo, their gimmicks, or the entire package. In any case, all the wrestlers in this list are still with the WWE as of this writing, so if you're looking for Eva Marie in this list under the "Still Sucks" section, we're sorry to disappoint you – she's not included.
So without further ado, let's count 'em down, and take a look at 8 WWE wrestlers who improved the most in 2017, and 7 who still leave a lot to be desired.
15 Jinder Mahal (Most Improved)
Look, before you bring out your virtual pitchforks, you might want to hear me out. Yes, Jinder Mahal's run as WWE Champion was an experiment gone wrong. Yes, there were several more deserving names whom Randy Orton could have put over at Backlash. And yes, we understand your concern about Mahal's suddenly-improved physique. But if you compare Jinder circa 3MB and Jinder circa WWE Championship run, there is no question that he's worked hard to make his second WWE run much better than the first.
Mahal has gotten criticized for having a below-average workrate and for being boring on the mic. But if you come to think of it, he's not that bad in the ring, though definitely far from great, and his promos, save for those tasteless racist rants during his feud against Shinsuke Nakamura, show how far he's come since he was 3MB's "air sitar" player. Jinder may or may not be long for the main event, but let's give credit where it's due – the man has improved significantly since his last run.
14 Mandy Rose (Still Sucks)
The Emmalina gimmick may have been wasted on Emma, but if given to someone like Mandy Rose, she would have played it to a "t." That's because she's arguably the closest WWE has got to a "throwback Diva," or a wrestler who wouldn't have been out of place during the days of John Laurinaitis and the Diva Search. At this point in her career, that's not necessarily a good thing.
Despite only wrestling a few matches on NXT after her successful stint on Tough Enough, Rose was rushed to the main roster, joining fellow Tough Enough product Sonya Deville and the returning Paige as one-third of Absolution. Apparently, WWE (or Vince McMahon in particular?) has some big plans for her. While it can definitely be argued that she's still too raw for the big time, the good thing is that Rose appears to be willing to work her butt off to improve, which means we can easily see her on the other side of this list once December 2018 comes around.
13 Breezango (Most Improved)
When we count the tag team of Fandango and Tyler Breeze as part of our "most improved" list, we're not necessarily talking about their ring work. Instead, we're talking about their characters, which have become majorly over with SmackDown Live fans, and given their once-flagging WWE careers a new lease on life. While they ostensibly play two "Fashion Police" officers, their gimmick has seen them resonate well with pop culture-savvy members of the WWE Universe, what with their skits containing references to Twin Peaks, Pulp Fiction, Stranger Things, and other television series and movies.
While the switch from dancer/male model to fashion cops briefly gave their push a bit of a hope spot, Breezango sadly remain in the lower half of SmackDown Live's tag team power rankings in most cases. But they are, if anything else, very entertaining, and we're hoping they stick to referencing the expression "jump the shark" (as they did in one skit) instead of actually jumping the shark sooner than they should.
12 Apollo Crews (Still Sucks)
As we said in the introduction, saying a wrestler "still sucks" does not necessarily mean they're awful all over. Case in point – Apollo Crews, who has a great look, freakish athleticism, and legit in-ring ability, but terrible charisma and promo skills. We could also say it's hard getting over with a ring name that's one-half Apollo Creed and one-half Terry Crews, but that's nitpicking.
Despite his membership in Titus Worldwide, and the presence of Titus O'Neil as a mouthpiece who could make up for his weaknesses, Crews remains mired in Monday Night Raw's lower-card, still no better on the mic and still no more charismatic than he was in 2016, when he was rushed to the main roster after precious little time in NXT. It's obvious WWE has no clue what to do with Crews, and perhaps no true intent to help him work out his areas for improvement.
11 Aiden English (Most Improved)
For quite some time, it seemed as if Aiden English was destined to join his former Vaudevillains teammate Simon Gotch in the unemployment line. Instead, his rebooted opera singer gimmick (a throwback to his old NXT character) has slowly, but surely gotten over with main roster fans, many of whom can't wait to hear him warble "It's Rusev Day!" in that glorious (sorry, Bobby Roode) baritone of his. We hope not to jinx things, but it looks like we may be seeing more of English in the WWE after all.
From doing the job in singles or ad hoc tag teams to being one-half of a surprisingly entertaining act on SmackDown Live in a matter of weeks – that's sure to get someone consideration for most improved WWE wrestler of 2017. Now how about giving English and Rusev a run with the SmackDown Tag Team titles?
10 Lana (Still Sucks)
Really, the only time Lana truly works as a character is when she's managing her real-life husband, Rusev. Why not make a "Rusev Day" faction with the Bulgarian Brute, the Ravishing Russian, and the Drama King, Aiden English? Unfortunately, Vince McMahon still sees Lana as being way out of Rusev's league, and remains intent on having the couple work separately on SmackDown Live. And even if you consider Rusev's recent creative struggles, his alliance with English is a far bigger draw than Lana's attempt to manage her "Samoan Soldier," Tamina.
That said, Lana is a good, charismatic speaker (phony Russian accent aside) who's currently suffering from some bad booking. But one can argue that she belongs to the "Still Sucks" section mainly because her in-ring work is still a chore to watch. As bad as Lana was at last year's multi-woman tag match at WrestleMania, she didn't seem to have improved much when she unsuccessfully went for Naomi's SmackDown Women's Championship. WWE might as well admit that their Lana/Tamina experiment isn't working, and return to the status quo of Lana as Rusev's manager.
9 Neville (Most Improved)
It pains me to be typing all of this, due to his ongoing impasse with the WWE. With his heel turn and move to the Cruiserweight Division, Neville became one of WWE's most improved performers of 2017, retaining elements of his old high-flying style, while proving to be pretty damn effective with more ground-based maneuvers. His promo skills improved by leaps and bounds, and until his double-turn with Enzo Amore, he was a surprisingly effective heel who dominated his fellow 205-lbs-and-under competitors. And to think he was already a very skilled worker to begin with.
Unfortunately for those who were happy Neville stopped being the "Man That Creative Forgot," the man himself has not been too happy about his lot in the WWE. We can agree that he deserves to be more than a big fish in a little cruiserweight pond, so if he really is coming back, WWE better do right by him and at least make him a serious contender for mid-card gold, may it be the Intercontinental title on Raw or the U.S. title on SmackDown.
8 Big Cass (Still Sucks)
One might not be able to teach the fact, er...stretching-of-truth that Big Cass is seven feet tall, but as far as his chances of solo success are concerned, there's only one word to describe him, and we're going to spell it out for you – S-A-W-F-T. Although he's not the worst big man worker in WWE history by a huge stretch, his weaknesses were obvious when WWE broke up his tag team with Enzo Amore, then turned him heel. Without Enzo's mic work and charisma to back him up, Cass seems like just another generic big man, and if WWE is dead-set on pushing him (he has the size and look for it, after all), they might as well reunite him with Enzo, seeing as they're both heels these days.
Of course, that's not going to happen anytime soon, as Big Cass is currently out with a torn ACL, and not expected to return in time for WrestleMania. In the meantime, WWE could either consider the above suggestion, or think of another way to maximize Cass' strengths and hide his weaknesses.
7 Carmella (Most Improved)
Fortunately for Carmella, she doesn't need to worry about being on the same side of the coin as her real-life boyfriend. Since making her main roster debut following last year's brand draft, the Princess of Staten Island has made fabulous progress, pun not intended. Not only has her improvement continued in the ring, she has also downplayed certain elements of her gimmick, dropping her put-on accent for the most part, in specific. And you can't deny that there was some character development going on during her storyline relationship with the recently future-endeavored James Ellsworth.
Although being "Ms. Irrelevant" of the 2016 brand draft might have pegged her for lower-card duty in SmackDown Live's women's division, Carmella has easily gone beyond those modest expectations. And since she's the first-ever women's Money in the Bank contract holder, that means it might not be much longer before she wins her first SmackDown Women's title. That is, unless she pisses someone off backstage and ends up like the guy we're featuring next.
6 Baron Corbin (Still Sucks)
Ah, yes. It's the dude who lost his Money in the Bank cash-in attempt due to a John Cena distraction, and lost cleanly to Cena to blow off their quick and painless feud. Although Baron Corbin isn't exactly buried, now that he's WWE's United States Champion, it's not like he's been booked well as a mid-card title holder. At the rate things are going, he might be a placeholder for the far more promising Bobby Roode, and no one should be shocked if the Glorious one beats the Lone Wolf for the title at Clash of Champions.
If you come to think of it, there's still no good reason outside of size for WWE to push Corbin. Up to now, he remains wooden in his promo delivery, and average at best in the ring, his End of Days finisher notwithstanding. Worse, his attitude has become a problem this year, what with his taking his heel role a bit too seriously on social media, and rumors that his surly, aloof on-air persona is more than just a gimmick.
5 Alexa Bliss (Most Improved)
How could one win the SmackDown Women's Championship in 2016 and still be considered one of WWE's most improved in 2017? It's simple – Alexa Bliss is doing just that, still improving as she serves as WWE's equivalent to a second-round draft pick-turned All-Star in just a couple of seasons. She has arguably the best mix of in-ring and promo skills out of all the women on WWE's main roster (though Becky Lynch might have something to say about that), and is definitely a household name these days, even to casual fans. And, save for a week or so of Sasha Banks as a four-time Raw Women's Champion, Bliss has held the title for over 200 days across two separate reigns.
If you're doing the math with us, Alexa Bliss has been a champion on either Raw or SmackDown for close to a year combined, while being a part of the main roster for less than a year and a half. Sure, she might end up losing her title sooner or later once WWE deems Asuka ready for a Raw Women's Championship run, but that doesn't take away from how she refuses to stay stagnant and rest on her laurels.
4 The Ascension (Still Sucks)
The best thing I can say about The Ascension at this point is that they've shown a surprising knack for comedy segments, what with their apparent face turn and frequent involvement in Breezango's skits. At least that means we don't get to see them wrestle that often, because when they do, the wrestling usually isn't that good, and they almost always end up with Konnor or Viktor's shoulders down on the mat as they look up at the lights.
Still, it has to be said that you wouldn't have expected to see the Legion of Doom slumming it out with The J.O.B. Squad, or Demolition palling around with The Bushwackers. The Ascension have been booked to oblivion almost since they arrived on the main roster, though it's not like they've been skillful enough to deserve a better push. As both Konnor and Viktor are now in their late 30s, their upside is more limited than ever, and they may soon be written out of those hilarious Breezango skits...and getting their pink slips from the WWE.
3 Elias (Most Improved)
As a mid-card talent from NXT with a jokey gimmick of a guitar-playing drifter, Elias Samson arrived on Raw earlier this year with limited upside. This was, after all, a man who frequently got chants of "you can't sing!" from the crowds at Full Sail. But something seemed to click around the time WWE got rid of his last name. Even if almost all his songs start out with some variation of the intro of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," he's become more confident and comfortable with his gimmick. He's become an expert at engaging crowds with his insults delivered through song. And for the icing on the cake, most of his matches aren't half-bad either.
We probably won't ever be seeing Elias go beyond the mid-card in the WWE. But for making the most out of a seemingly go-nowhere gimmick, and for working his butt off since arriving on the main roster, his place in the "Most Improved" side of this list is well-deserved.
2 Dana Brooke (Still Sucks)
The writing is probably on the wall for Dana Brooke. Doing the job in a couple of seconds to Asuka. Many fans having no idea whether she's a face or a heel. Rumored future membership in Titus Worldwide, a lower-card faction that hasn't done much for either Apollo Crews or Akira Tozawa. Brooke may have made it to the main roster with a mix of good looks and brawn that Vince McMahon usually covets in his male Superstars, but with her promos still awkward and her workrate still subpar, she's mostly taking up space on Raw's women's roster.
WWE has tried everything to make Dana Brooke appear relevant – a "mean girl" gimmick alongside Emma, a stint as Charlotte Flair's faithful lackey, a face turn despite her being far more capable as a heel, and as mentioned, possible Titus Worldwide membership. But nothing appears to be working, and it should shock no one if she becomes one of WWE's first roster cuts of 2018. Take note – the likes of Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay can't remain in developmental forever.
1 Braun Strowman (Most Improved)
I have never been happier to be wrong about Braun Strowman as I apparently was late last year. He was no great shakes as The Wyatt Family's "black sheep," and his run of squashing jobbers from last year was typical of WWE – you've got a big, raw, and limited guy, so why not get him over by having him destroy the locals? But when Strowman was done decimating local enhancement talent, fans got to see the untapped potential he'd been hiding. The man could speak if his promos were kept short and sweet, and he did keep improving in the ring, as he had some surprisingly good matches against Big Show and Roman Reigns earlier this year. Add that to some similarly untapped charisma and a face turn that's gone quite well so far, and WWE had itself a breakout star, and quite possibly THE breakout star of 2017.
With WWE committed to pushing Strowman as the "Monster Among Men," it shouldn't be long before he gets some serious consideration for the Universal Championship once again. Of course, there's a good possibility Roman Reigns will win it first from Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34, but you should know what Braun kept saying to Roman during their feud – "I'M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!"