Soon, we shall be ending 2017 with a lot to look forward to in the WWE for the coming year. The first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, WrestleMania (even with the likely Reigns vs. Lesnar main event), new hires, returning talent, and tons of new storylines and angles, face turns/heel turns, you name it. This year has had a lot of those, and a lot that truly captivated the imagination of wrestling fans – The Shield reuniting, the Mae Young Classic, John Cena taking Roman Reigns to school in a classic promo duel. Alas, not every memory or moment in 2017 was a pleasant or watchable one.
While there may be many a list of this year’s worst moments in the WWE on this site and others, we’re presenting ours with a twist, as this list doesn’t exclusively focus on the storylines and angles that took place on TV. You’ll notice we’ve presented some real-life WWE moments that put the company (or its talents) in a bad light, so with that having been said, we might as well proceed, and bring you 15 times this year when you (or a fellow wrestling fan of yours) might have been ashamed to say you still support WWE and its product.
15. Jason, I Am Your Father
Early this summer, new Monday Night Raw GM Kurt Angle started getting calls and text messages pertaining to a deep, dark secret from his past. Most fans assumed that it was an affair he had with a powerful woman in the world of wrestling, maybe even his old boss, Dixie Carter. Instead, it turned out to be a son he had sired when he was a college wrestling standout, and that storyline son was none other than…
It wasn’t long before fans began taking a dump on this reveal, and hating on Jordan for being chosen to play Angle’s long-lost son. Compared to former American Alpha teammate Chad Gable, Jordan is rawer and less charismatic, but given his muscular build and good height and Vince McMahon’s preference for wrestlers who have those two attributes, it was he who got this prime role, and not his severely undersized, yet still talented ex-tag partner.
Fortunately, Jordan appears to be capitalizing on his unexpected hatedom, recent tag title win alongside Seth Rollins notwithstanding; there’s no character in the WWE these days that screams “entitled, whiney snowflake” like Jordan’s current gimmick does.
14. Finn Balor Isn’t “Over”
Oh, how far the mighty have fallen. Last year, Finn Balor made his main roster debut with a bang, and one month after he was one of Raw‘s first picks in the brand draft, he became WWE’s inaugural Universal Champion. Fast forward to the present and he’s fresh off a stretch where he jobbed cleanly to a 50-year-old Kane and was an afterthought in the men’s 5-on-5 match at Survivor Series. Now he’s in a stretch where he’s squashing the lowest of the low men on Raw‘s totem pole. How come, pray tell? Because apparently, Vince McMahon doesn’t think the Demon King is “over” enough.
Thanks to Vince once again doubting the ability of a smaller guy and/or former “indie darling” to get over with the fans, WWE appears to have scratched plans to have Balor face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. Who knows – this could be the start of another Daniel Bryan-esque run as an ultimate underdog, but for now, Finn deserves much better than a regular diet of Miztourage and Curt Hawkins squashes.
13. Tom Phillips Gets Busted/Paige’s Private Videos (Tie)
Announcer Tom Phillips was in a completely different kind of “Tom-spiracy” early this year, when a female fan, upset over learning that he was engaged, revealed screenshots of Phillips sending her some rather steamy (and very adult) correspondences via social media. Luckily, Phillips and his fiancee worked things out, as they got married in October, but it must have been a rough patch for him after all those “face-bleep” memes that followed the reveal of his short-lived affair.
Less than a month later, it was Paige’s turn to get roasted by meme makers, as her own photos and videos got leaked out, most notably a clip of her doing some rather adult things with Xavier Woods and former WWE Superstar Brad Maddox. But we’ll go easy on her for that, as apparent then-boyfriend Maddox was likely cool with that video. What many fans couldn’t take was the leaked photo where Paige seemed to be doing something very compromising with her NXT Women’s Championship belt.
12. Most Annoying Guy In The Room, How You Doin’?
Last year, there were few WWE Superstars who were as over as Enzo Amore. Fans young and old would memorize and recite every word of his spiel, and enthusiastically cheer him as he and Big Cass were hugely popular, despite their frequent inability to win the Raw Tag Team Championships. Then came the inevitable breakup, as Cass turned on Enzo and ended their long-running partnership.
That was soon followed by a number of negative reports about Enzo and his backstage heat – getting kicked off the tour bus, stiffing a stripper, cheating on Liv Morgan, flaunting his celebrity friendships and expensive tickets to Mayweather vs. McGregor on social media, not being too far removed in real life from his on-air gimmick. In short, Amore became a locker room pariah in 2017, but in the spirit of the old Eric Bischoff maxim “controversy creates cash,” WWE reacted by giving Enzo’s push a big-time lease on life, turning him heel, and making him, as of this writing, a two-time Cruiserweight Champion.
11. Rusev Squashed At SummerSlam
The Bulgarian Brute, Rusev has all the tools to be a quality WWE main eventer. It isn’t everyday when you see a burly 300-pounder with such quickness and athleticism and technical wrestling ability. And if you thought the language barrier is still a problem, you ought to listen to his promos from 2015 onward and marvel at his timing and unexpected sense of humor. Unfortunately, 2015 onward is also the timeframe when the brass rings fell out of Rusev’s reach, and he’s still far removed from the time he was a long-running United States Champion, unpinned and un-submitted before John Cena put an end to all that at WrestleMania 31.
The nadir of Rusev’s 2017 came at SummerSlam where, months after he unsuccessfully teased an attempt at winning the WWE Championship from Randy Orton (who held the title at the time), he ate an RKO out of nowhere and lost to the Viper in just nine seconds. NINE SECONDS. Thank goodness for Rusev Day, we guess, but the man should have more to look forward to than the occasional tag team win alongside Aiden English.
10. Aries (And Neville?): From WrestleMania Moment To Future Endeavors
At this year’s WrestleMania pre-show, it looked like things were finally going to be alright in the Cruiserweight Division, as reigning Cruiserweight Champion Neville and Austin Aries put on a gem of a match. But the match’s exclusion from the WrestleMania 33 DVD became a contentious issue for both men. So where are we right now, with the year almost over? As you should know, Aries is back on the indies, while Neville and the WWE remain stalemated following his walkout, with the former King of the Cruiserweights’ chances of returning seemingly diminishing with each passing report.
This situation is also symptomatic of what WWE has often done to stoke interest in its 205-lbs-and-under division – have some under-pushed and/or overqualified guys banner the division because the Cruiserweight Classic products aren’t cutting it. Obviously, Aries and Neville felt they deserved better, hence the former’s departure and the latter’s walkout. We can’t say we disagree with them.
9. Rich Swann’s Arrest
Although the Cruiserweight Classic, in hindsight, has not done a good job of creating recognizable new stars for the WWE, Rich Swann was arguably one of the few CWC competitors who truly stood out from the largely homogenized bunch. He had the skills and the charisma, and his was a feel-good story in real-life, as he went from doing drugs and running with a bad crowd as a teenager to finding redemption through wrestling. Then an arrest earlier this month changed everything for the onetime Cruiserweight Champion.
Swann was arrested because he allegedly got into a physical argument with his wife, indie wrestler Su Yung, over a seemingly trivial matter – Rich wasn’t happy with how his wife performed in the ring during her last show. Per WWE’s zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence, Swann was indefinitely suspended, and based on how things turned out for Adam Rose last year, it might not be long before he gets issued his pink slip.
8. The Emmalina Debacle
Technically, this should count as a 2016 moment as well, because that’s when the WWE Universe saw its first vignettes for Emmalina, a twist on Emma’s character that was supposed to have her play an old-school “Diva” not unlike those whom John Laurinaitis used to hire on a regular basis, lack of wrestling skills be damned. But those promo clips kept coming and coming, and by early 2017, fans were taking to Emmalina vignettes on YouTube like they used to take to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” – by thumbing the videos down en masse. In the end, it was all for nothing, as Emmalina finally arrived on the February 13, 2017 Monday Night Raw…to announce “the makeover from Emmalina to Emma.”
Apparently, WWE wasn’t too happy with how the Emmalina character turned out, which should be no surprise – Tenille Dashwood is too technically-skilled to be a reasonable facsimile of Sable, Sunny, Terri, or your average Diva Search product circa mid 2000s. And just when fans thought Emma was on her way to something, after two well-received losing efforts against Asuka, she was canned in October, alongside the underutilized (or not-at-all utilized) Darren Young and Summer Rae. Much ado about nothing indeed.
7. Jinder Gets Racist On Nakamura
Unlike many fans and reviewers, I have no beef with WWE for giving Jinder Mahal a surprise push after years of counting the lights. The experiment failed to drive fan interest in India, but his hard work was being rewarded, and his matches and promos, while often middling, were proof that this was no longer the joke wrestler of 3MB infamy. But that Punjabi Prison Match was horrid, and as underwhelming as his feud with Shinsuke Nakamura was, his promos during that rivalry were even worse. And more tasteless.
In a span of two episodes of SmackDown Live, Mahal, with The Singh Brothers nodding their heads and laughing hysterically, tore Nakamura down with some of the most racist promos WWE ever greenlit in the PG Era, as he made fun of Shinsuke’s facial expressions, accused the fans of calling him “Mr. Miyagi” behind his back, and mocked his accent. Fans reacted with chants of “That was racist!” and “That’s too far!”, and only served to keep making Mahal probably the most-disliked WWE Champion in recent history not named Roman Reigns. And it wasn’t simply because he was playing the heel.
6. Alexa Bliss Presents: Bayley, This Is Your Life!
Sometimes, it’s not worth rebooting something classic to keep things hip and up-to-date for modern-day audiences. Take the example of the “This is Your Life” skit. It was comic genius when Mick Foley and The Rock made it work during the Attitude Era, and when Foley and John Cena did something similar about six years ago, it still worked, thanks to the talented men behind the skit, and the hammy presence of John Cena Sr.
When Alexa Bliss presented the “Bayley, This is Your Life” skit earlier this year, it was cringe-inducing on all possible levels, and it wasn’t as much on Alexa (who’s very solid on the mic) as it was on WWE’s writing team, who made the young Bayley look like a total wrestling nerd with no life and a naive daddy’s girl. It was on the terrible actors, especially the ones who played Bayley’s best friend and high school boyfriend. Even WWE had to admit the angle was a flop, as they quickly pulled it from their YouTube due to all the negative fan backlash.
Thankfully, Little Miss Bliss’ rocket push was not at all affected by this debacle. But it’s unfortunate to note that this was one of the many incidents that made the WWE Universe tell the Hugger to bugger off.
5. The House Of Horrors Match
We’d include Bray Wyatt’s entire 2017 as one entry if we wanted to, but there are two moments in the Eater of Worlds’ deceptively bad (mainly because of his brief WWE Championship reign) 2017 that are best covered in separate entries. These include the much-hyped House of Horrors match that was to serve as a rematch for Wyatt’s unsuccessful title defense against Randy Orton at WrestleMania. For future reference, anyone who wants to look up the term “overbooked” in a wrestling dictionary may want to prepare to see a photo from the House of Horrors match at Payback.
From start to finish, the House of Horrors match was a hodgepodge of illogical spots, props that looked hokey instead of spooky, and complete and utter nonsense disguised as another attempt on WWE’s part to capture the feel of TNA’s Final Deletion match. Sure, Wyatt won the match when it inexplicably was taken to the WWE ring, but he looked weak in victory (as he often does, unfortunately), and he didn’t even get his title back, on account of Bray moving to Raw shortly before Payback via the Superstar Shakeup.
4. Bray Wyatt Is Sister Abigail
There were so many logical choices for the role. From Nikki Cross to Paige to Ruby Riott (back when “Riot” included just one “t”), even to recently-unretired former Divas Champion Kaitlyn – these women were all far more logical choices than the one WWE went with when they finally had someone play Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail. Was it one of those glamorous Bella Twins or anyone else from Total Divas? Nope. Was it Stephanie McMahon? No chance in hell, pal. Was it James Ellsworth (more on him later)? No, but it was also a man.
Defying all logic and common sense, WWE decided that there was no better Sister Abigail than the man who performs the move of the same name, Bray Wyatt. In what had to be the lowlight of an already-meh feud with Finn Balor, Wyatt was presented as Sister Abigail, with his thick beard still visible behind his veil, and his voice obviously sped up to sound more feminine. That’s why it was almost a blessing in disguise when Wyatt was sidelined with viral meningitis, ending the feud and all that Sister Abigail nonsense before he and Balor could have another one of those go-nowhere, 50-50-booked matches of theirs.
3. The First Ms. Money In The Bank Is Technically A Mr.
WWE’s doing what it could to give women the same opportunities their male counterparts have gotten for years. In 2016, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks main-evented Hell in a Cell, and had the first-ever female HIAC match ever. Earlier this month, Stephanie McMahon announced the first female Royal Rumble match, which will be taking place next month on the PPV of the same name. Between that, James Ellsworth became the first Ms. Money in the Bank after climbing up the ladder and grabbing the briefcase.
Of course, the Chinless One is male, and he wasn’t actually named Money in the Bank contract winner – Carmella was, when Ellsworth took advantage of the no-DQ loophole and gave the briefcase to his “girl that’s a friend.” And while Carmella won the match when it was given a do-over on SmackDown Live, it was plain tomfoolery for WWE to water down what should have been a historic moment by having a man retrieve the MITB briefcase for his female onscreen partner.
2. Number 30 At The Royal Rumble
The 2017 Royal Rumble match was largely free of surprises, as WWE decided to stop capitalizing on nostalgia and start capitalizing on its large roster to make the match all killer/no filler in nature. But there were still some questions to who could possibly make his entry at No. 30. The consensus was that it would either be Finn Balor returning from injury or Samoa Joe finally getting called up from NXT, but instead, the WWE Universe got a masterful troll job, as the company made the decision to put in its most polarizing star of the present, despite the fact he had competed earlier in the evening.
As expected, fans were this close to rioting the moment The Shield’s music played in the background – it was Roman Reigns hitting the ring as the final entrant in the 2017 Royal Rumble. Sure, it turned out that Balor needed a bit more time to recover, and that WWE had bigger and better plans for Joe. But this stunt was pulled with the knowledge that hardly anybody wanted Reigns out there at No. 30. I mean, couldn’t they have gotten another NXT guy instead, considering that Tye Dillinger’s surprise appearance at No. 10 should not have been a surprise to anyone who knows him as the “Perfect 10”?
1. The JBL Bullying Controversy
And now, we end with a real-life WWE moment, and one that truly rankled a lot of fans because it nearly led to the exit of a new, yet extremely talented and popular announcer. With John Bradshaw Layfield apparently upset at Mauro Ranallo winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter‘s Announcer of the Year award, the veteran heel announcer criticized Ranallo on social media, leading to an absence of several weeks, and Mauro’s well-documented case of bipolar disorder flaring up. By April, it was announced that Ranallo was leaving the WWE, and while he refused to publicly blame JBL, the fingers had been pointed weeks ago, and SmackDown Live fans were revolting in the form of “Fire Bradshaw!” chants at live shows.
Since then, Ranallo has returned to the WWE as part of NXT’s announce team, while JBL left the WWE to focus on his philanthropic activities. Yet it’s almost a guarantee that JBL will be back as soon as the heat dies down. Such is the way things go when you’ve still got the endorsement of Vinnie Mac, who has turned a blind eye to JBL’s bullying and hazing activities time and time again, on account of their friendship.
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