2017 was definitely an up and down year for WWE, but it provided us with many entertaining moments, and as the wrestling industry evolves and grows, the work rate of so many top performers in WWE gave us some great matches, and will likely be looked back on in a very positive manner. We saw a fairly good WrestleMania, a lot of incredible Braun Strowman moments, and several new performers making their marks, and if the WWE can book to their full potential in 2018, it could be one of the best years in recent memory. But as we always do in December, it’s time to look back on the year that was, so in this article we are going to look back on the 10 best, and 10 worst performers that the WWE gave us in 2017.
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20 Worst – Jinder Mahal
When we look back on 2017 in the future, the story of Jinder Mahal may be the most interesting thing that happened in 2017. No matter which way you look at it, the WWE failed all of us by pushing Mahal as its top champion. Sure, it was nice to see someone different competing for the title, especially when he won it off Orton, who has seemingly been in that picture for decades, but once that shock wore off, we all saw just how bland and average Mahal is, both as a character and a wrestler. Hopefully the WWE has now seen the light, and will build to Styles vs. Nakamura for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, because I think we’ve all seen enough Jinder Mahal in 2017 for one lifetime, especially now that he has lost the most interesting part of his act, The Singh Brothers.
19 Best – Aleister Black
NXT in 2017 has had a pretty good year, especially when considering the quality of their TakeOver specials, but they’ve yet to have that fantastic rivalry we’ve seen in years past. No one except for the mercurial Aleister Black has stood out, but boy, has he stood out. He’s had some great matches with Hideo Itami, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and of course The Velveteen Dream at WarGames, and it’s clear the WWE has even bigger things in store for him in NXT over the next 12 months. A lot of people were worried that the WWE would mess up the character that Tommy End had been building in Europe for years, and while they have to tone his character down, he’s done it to the best extent possible, and if his first full year with the company is any indication, the WWE might have a mega-star on their hands.
18 Worst – Rusev
When Rusev came to the main roster, he looked like a monster, but all someone has to do is look back on the WWE’s booking of foreign heels to know that it wouldn’t last. After he lost to John Cena at WrestleMania 31, his downfall began, and despite the talent and crowd support (online anyway), the WWE just doesn’t seem to be interested in pushing him. If you follow Rusev on social media, or see any of his activity, you know that the Bulgarian is absolutely hilarious, yet WWE continues to disrespect Rusev Day by not at least bringing him back into contention for the US Championship, and it needs to change ASAP. With the new pairing with Aiden English, even a tag team push would be good, but either way, the WWE need to start utilizing his talents.
17 Best – Alexa Bliss
Ever since the brand split in 2016, WWE have uncovered a genuine superstar in Alexa Bliss, and although she isn’t the best worker on RAW, she consistently has very solid matches, and is a good, believable villain. Into her first run as RAW Women’s Champion, there’s plenty of mileage left in her reign. With Paige, Nia Jax and Asuka all waiting in the wings, it’s very unlikely that we’ll see her on top for much longer, but on Monday Night RAW, 2017 was the year of Bliss. The positive thing is that Bliss is still just 26 years old, so she still has plenty of time to improve in the ring, and if she can get to the level of someone like Bayley or Sasha Banks, we may be looking at an all-time great.
16 Worst – Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox has been with the WWE for quite some time, and despite showing great athleticism and ability in the ring, she has never been too relevant in the women’s division, and 2017 was no different, as she struggled to have any quality matches in the several times WWE showcased her on RAW or a PPV. Despite this, they still opted to have her captain Team RAW, but despite her longevity and ‘veteran’ status. Yet no one believed she was worthy of the spot, because like many other women the WWE have had on their roster in 2017, people just don’t care. With Asuka, Paige and the rest of Absolution turning up in the past few weeks, it could spell the end of Fox’s time with the WWE, because she just isn’t anywhere near the level of any women on RAW.
15 Best – The Miz
It’s been said for years, but The Miz is one of the hardest workers in the entire WWE, and over the past few years, it’s been really paying off, because his all-around work is just becoming fantastic to watch, as he is easily the best heel in the company today. Six years ago when he main evented WrestleMania with John Cena, no one felt he was ready for the spot, but fast forward to WrestleMania 33, and his bout with Cena was one of the highlights of the show. Although he’ll never quite be equal with Cena, you can tell that he’s a top-tier superstar. He may have recently lost the Intercontinental Championship, but he is transforming that belt back to what it used to be, and if his great 2017 is any indication, he may be holding that title again very soon, and the WWE might look to even make him the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time in terms of cumulative days.
14 Worst – Lana
Lana is one of the most popular women in WWE, but that came as her best role, the manager of her real life husband Rusev. But because of Vince McMahon’s stereotypes, he loves to push a beautiful blonde, and that’s left Lana in a role she isn’t comfortable in. Despite her mini-push around the time of Money in the Bank, she just isn’t up to the level of everyone else on the brand. With Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan now running roughshod on SmackDown Live, plus Ms. Money in the Bank Carmella waiting in the wings, it seems WWE is set for women on that brand, so her lackluster time as a wrestler may be over. Rusev is doing things on his own, and neither are succeeding, so we may see both of them on the way out in the future, but for now, they both stand out as average performers, and that’s very unfortunate.
13 Best – Pete Dunne
2017 is the year that The Bruiserweight made his name known on a worldwide stage, and after a phenomenal showing in the inaugural UK Tournament, then following it up with a MOTY candidate against Tyler Bate and a show-stealer against Johnny Gargano, he certainly belongs on this list. Because WWE have failed to follow up on the fantastic UK Tournament back in January, he hasn’t got the exposure yet he deserves in WWE, but after a great RAW debut recently, the sky is the limit for Dunne. He will go into 2018 with the United Kingdom title in tow, and if he can be given more dates with the WWE, you should expect Dunne to be one of WWE’s shining stars in the next calendar year.
12 Worst – Bray Wyatt
After they booked The Undertaker like a legend for so many years, it’s surprising that the WWE are unable to book Bray Wyatt to be the superstar that he should be. After four years of it, the WWE fans are just fed up, and no longer see Bray Wyatt as a threat, and have almost lost interest in what is the most intriguing character the company has had for quite some time. Breaking up The Wyatt Family was a terrible idea, and after his poor WWE Championship run was ended by Randy Orton, no one cares anymore, and Wyatt has done nothing of note for the last nine months of 2017. Other people on this list have potential to improve in 2018, but with Bray, the booking and creative is the problem, not him, and they are losing more good will by the week with the WWE Universe. Don’t expect his situation to improve over the next 12 months.
11 Best – The Bar
Entering 2017, Cesaro and Sheamus were struggling to get on the same page, but after a heel turn on the returning Hardy Boyz, there’s been only one team hotter in the entire WWE, and the team now collectively as The Bar have struggled to have a bad match over the past 12 months. They are now three-time WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, and despite fans still wanting Cesaro to get his singles push, he is doing the best work of his career, and can only help his chances of that World Championship push. Heading into 2018, the future is very unclear for Sheamus and Cesaro, as they need to finish their rivalry with Ambrose and Rollins very soon, and there’s few tag teams left to work with, but when they look back on 2017, they will have to be proud of their work load.
10 Worst – Mike Kanellis
WWE has brought in many independent stars over the past few years, and despite their ups and downs, guys like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have all thrived, but the same can’t be said for Mike Bennett/Kanellis, who has become irrelevant just months after making his long-awaited WWE debut. It doesn’t help that the gimmick seemed dead on arrival in the WWE, but he is a talented wrestler, and many felt like that would get him over as a mid-card heel, but with Maria’s pregnancy occurring, he has no place on SmackDown Live. It looks like Maria won’t be back anytime soon, so without half of his act, don’t expect any improvement from Bennett anytime soon.
9 Best – Braun Strowman
When Braun Strowman debuted as the Black Sheep of the Wyatt Family, fans could see right through Vince McMahon’s thinking, as he was just another big guy that he wanted to get on TV, but through hard work and mostly smart booking, Strowman has become one of the biggest stars in WWE, and he’s still got a fair way to go. His in-ring work, in comparison to the smaller, workrate guys, still leaves a lot to be desired, but WWE have given him some massive moments, and their booking has been very smart. After a series of great bouts with Roman Reigns, you’d be hard pressed to find many more "over" performers in the company. With Roman Reigns schedule to win the Universal Championship at WrestleMania, it’s likely we see the Monster Among Men challenging for that top title at some point, which should have him higher up on this list this time next year.
8 Worst – Tamina
Tamina is a second generation star, being the daughter of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, but unlike the other second-generation female performer on SmackDown Live, Tamina just isn’t interesting and can barely wrestle, so the push it seemed like she may be receiving on return to SmackDown Live hopefully isn’t going to happen. With limited numbers on SmackDown, Tamina had to feature in several high profile, multi-woman matches, and up against the likes of Carmella, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Natalya, how average she is just stands out even more. With the arrival of the Riott Squad, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Tamina’s time with the WWE is limited, because she was definitely one of WWE’s worst in 2017.
7 Best – Charlotte Flair
It might be a bit too early to tell, but Charlotte may already be on her way to being the best female performer in wrestling history, as she simply has erery tool needed to be a huge star. In her third year on the main roster, she continued to improve on the amazing start she has had in WWE, even with the move to SmackDown Live. After her great rivalry with Sasha Banks throughout 2016, she didn’t have as many high quality bouts, but matches against Bayley, Alexa Bliss and Natalya have all reminded us just how good the Queen can be. With a potential Women’s Royal Rumble and a big match at WrestleMania no doubt awaiting the daughter of Ric Flair, 2018 could be the biggest of her career, and with six Championships already under her belt, she could start solidifying her place as one of the top women in WWE history.
6 Worst – Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is a typical WWE guy, and despite the fact that they are obviously high on him, he just isn’t as talented as a performer as they believe, and with so much more talent on the SmackDown Live roster, Corbin just shouldn’t be pushed the way he is, because he just isn’t that great. Corbin became Mr. Money in the Bank and US Champion in 2017, but he hasn’t had a single standout match, and with Bobby Roode, Sami Zayn, Rusev and others on the roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Corbin fade away if he can’t give us any great matches or stories in the near future. His character is severely limited to the typical "bully" gimmick, and if he can’t improve in the ring anytime soon, the fans will begin to lose more and more interest in him, if any remains at all.
5 Best – Roman Reigns
Whether you like him or you don’t, there’s no denying that Roman Reigns is worthy of his place in the main event, and after recently winning the Grand Slam on Monday Night RAW by winning his first Intercontinental Championship, he is certainly one of the hottest performers the WWE has to offer. He hasn’t had the Championship success this year in comparison to previous years, but he is still putting on great matches with everyone from Braun Strowman to being a part of a classic encounter against The New Day at Survivor Series. Continue to hate him all you want, because most of that hate is generally directed towards the booking of Reigns, rather than the man himself, but you can no longer deny that he is a great worker.
4 Worst – Sami Zayn
This is a very sad entry, coming from a huge Sami Zayn fan, but someone who came to WWE with all the potential and talent in the world just isn’t being used the way he should be, and if the creative team on the main roster can’t get fans to like Sami Zayn as a top baby face, then I don’t know what to believe in anymore. His heel turn has rejuvenated his career somewhat, but he is still struggling to stand out at the top of the SmackDown card, and if the WWE don’t invest a lot more interest in him in 2018, they may lose one of their most talented wrestlers. He has always been compared to Daniel Bryan, so maybe his story will be as long and intriguing as Bryan’s, but if the WWE are indeed looking to go that route, they need to start telling interesting stories and giving him big moments, and soon.
3 Best – The Usos
The Usos have always had the talent to be one of the greatest tag teams in WWE history, and their lack of character and association with Roman Reigns has always hurt them, but starting last year, the two turned heel and have gone on the hottest run of their entire, illustrious careers together. Their rivalry with The New Day may go down in history as one of the best not just of this generation, but of all time, and the quality of match whether it be against The New Day, The Bar or even The Hype Bros is just fantastic, and it’s made them into one of the hottest acts in the entire WWE. With a lack of tag teams on SmackDown Live, it may be difficult for the brothers to keep up this pace in 2018, but if this year has taught us anything, it’s that you should never doubt The Usos.
2 Worst – Jason Jordan
In the same vein as Apollo Crews, you just can’t help but feeling sorry for Jason Jordan. The former amateur standout came to the main roster as one-half of the incredibly popular American Alpha, but due to WWE’s bias towards Monday Night RAW, they elected to break the talented team up, just to push what is the dumbest storyline they’ve done in quite some time. As we know, Kurt Angle announced that Jason Jordan is his “son,” but no one bought into it, and the big baby facepush of Jordan has resulted in much fan backlash, to the point where no one really cares about him anymore. Sure, he’s talented, but he’s another high profile case of being pushed way too fast, way too soon, and it could derail his entire WWE career.
1 Best – AJ Styles
AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the WWE, and while there are two guys in Japan having incredible matches, no one has done it as consistently as Styles in the WWE, and after his recent battle with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, there’s no way that anyone in the world can deny the accolades and talent of The Phenomenal One. He has had fantastic matches with John Cena, Shane McMahon and of course Brock Lesnar, and has even carried the likes of Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal to good matches, and if that doesn’t prove to you that Styles has again been WWE’s MVP, nothing will. Styles has just hit 40 years old, and after performing at the highest level for 18 years, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and if the dream WrestleMania match against Shinsuke Nakamura happens, 2018 could be his best WWE year yet.
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