HomeTelevisionStaff Picks: The Best of Pro Wrestling 2017

Staff Picks: The Best of Pro Wrestling 2017

Our Best of 2017 series continues with a look at the best in pro wrestling for 2017. In this piece we gather an elite (thee elite thee thee elite) squad of Pop Break wrestling writers and fans to contribute what they thought were the best matches, moments, and wrestlers of 2017.

Match of the Year – WWE TL-Infectious Disease – AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor – October 22, 2017. (Michael Dworkis)

This was a match with NO storyline, NO drama, just a straight up match put together due to the rabid illnesses plaguing the roster. Styles and Balor went out and put on a show because they could, and we got just that, an awesome match.

Match of the Year: Chuck Taylor vs Zack Zabre Jr – Pro Wrestling Guerrilla – “Pushin Forward Back” July 7, 2017. (Kenny Pete)

This match was everything that I enjoy about professional wrestling. It’s a match that anyone can watch and get emotionally invested in as the story unfolds. Taking place in one of the last remaining historical venues for American independent wrestling, the American Legion Post #308 in Reseda California for a company called Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

The usual comedic antics from “The Kentucky Gentlemen” Chuck Taylor went by the wayside on this night as he challenged the once beloved and now despised “Euro-trash” ZSJ for the PWG Championship.

Zack dished out unusual levels of punishment inspired the the classic British “World of Sport” style and Chuckie T refused to give up. What started out as a classic hold-for-hold exchange of wrestling maneuvers, deteriorated into an impromptu Guerrilla Warfare match involving a dismantled bottom rope, a flagrant belt shot to the head, and multiple thumbtack spills with ZSJ begging to be disqualified and keeping his title in the process.

Senior official Rick Knox refused and wanted to see a decisive winner in the match. Chuck Taylor countered a Fujiwara armbar and power-bombed ZSJ onto the mat, quickly followed up with the Awful Waffle and got the 1-2-3.

The red hot crowd exploded in celebration to see a new champion crowned and after 9 years of being a PWG regular, Chuck Taylor did the deal.

AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal – Smackdown Live – November 7, 2017 (Anthony Toto)

Going off my last point, witnessing “The Phenomenal One” become the standout performer and one of the definitive main event faces of the WWE has been nothing short of a blast. No, I will not pretend that this match overshadowed Okada vs. Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11, which is truly the best pure in-ring match of the year. However, the level of joy and excitement that I felt when AJ Styles hoisted the WWE Title over his shoulders, this time as a face, brought me back to being a kid.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada II, Dominion 6.11 (Tommy Tracy)

Ho-Lee-Crap! Omega and Okada had a match of the year candidate earlier in the year and had the tall task of topping it come June. Not only did they top it but they quite possibly gave us a Match of the Decade candidate as well. So much thought and emotion went into this match. Near falls that made your heart skip a beat, a story that enthralled the audience and it all ended in an incredible 60-minute draw. Omega had something to prove, falling to Okada in January and he and Okada had the best match of their career. If you haven’t seen this, find it. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of wrestling sequels and deserves every star it received from Dave Meltzer (which was 6 ¼ * by the way).

The New Day vs. The Usos – Hell in a Cell. October 8, 2017. (DJ Chapman)

This was a no brainer for me. Being a huge fan of both The Usos and The New Day helps, but this match was electric. A tag hell in a cell match where some of the best tag team workers in the business get to go out was everything a wrestling fan could hope for. It also helped that this topped off weeks of an insane feud between the two tag teams, that final marquee match between them, before the Usos retained the titles, was an all-out brawl. And, to top it all off, it actually ended with respect between the two teams, which is also a nice touch.

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate – U.K. Championship – NXT Takeover: Chicago. May 20, 2017. (Bill Bodkin)

I’ve been a fan of the UK scene for a few years. I feel these two really exemplified the scene in this match. There was a brilliant blend of technical, chain wrestling, strong style striking, Lucha influenced high flying, and straight up violence. This match featured an absolutely awesome moment where Pete and Tyler just straight punching each other in the face. They legit look like they’re clocking each other and the crowd who started the show so apathetic towards the duo jumped to their feet and they lost their minds at these two young men going at it. I’ve watched this match at least 10 times and it never gets old.

WWE No Mercy 2017 – Toothless Agression (Michael Dworkis)

Cesaro overshoots a corner leap and knocks his front teeth into his mouth. Blood everywhere, and he would compete throughout the whole match.

Chris Jericho’s Double Dose of Awesome (Kenny Pete)

There were two moments of the year that stand out the most to me, but there was one person involved in both. Chris Jericho organized and executed two of the biggest spectacles in pro wrestling 2017.

The first was the “Festival of Friendship” on a Monday Night Raw from Las Vegas, where he turned a David Lee Roth music video into the Red Wedding as he was turned on his best friend Kevin Owens. Jericho and Owens were a bad-guy, best friend team that was so bad they became the coolest part of the show for the first half of the year. They teased a breakup for months, and when it finally went down on that fateful night in Las Vegas, it was immediate history.

The second moment came in November during a presentation of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s show called Power Struggle, after NJPW United States champion Kenny Omega demanded a challenger for Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome, saying in Japanese that there is no one left for him to beat in NJPW.’

In the classic Lights On / Lights Off routine, a countdown appeared on the big screen to reveal that Chris Jericho would challenge Kenny Omega at the largest show in company history. For good measure, Jericho did it again a month later, when he appeared in person in Fukuoka, Japan to the shock of everyone, to blast Omega with the US Title after a match and left him in a bloody heap, adding to the drama & intrigue to a modern day dream match that no one thought would ever happen.


The Hardy Boyz iconic return to Wrestlemania 33 (Anthony Toto)

For the record, I would also classify this moment as my favorite “Match of the Year” as well. Man, I have been a wrestling fanatic since 1996 and I don’t know if I have ever cheered as loudly, jumped in the air so high, and lost my mind at home like I did after The Hardy Boyz’ music hit at Wrestlemania 33. Especially since The Hardy Boyz had just come off one of the most EXHILARATING, WONDERFUL, and SPLENDID creative arcs of their career. Even though their return had been rumored, witnessing them officially complete their “Expedition of Gold” was nothing short of glorious.

Wrestlemania 33 had the longest ramp ever but dude, it was picture perfect to see the Orlando crowd showcase such an awe-inspiring level of joy, love, and appreciation for the greatest, and my personal favorite, tag-team of all-time. Real talk, this is probably even my favorite moment of 2017 in general. TLC stipulation + The Hardy Boyz comeback + Wrestlemania + Unreal crowd reaction = quite possibly the greatest Wrestlemania moment EVAH!

Sami Zayn Heel Turn (Tommy Tracy)

Speaking of the Hell in a Cell Match, we got an inZAYN (heh) heel turn from one of the biggest babyfaces in the WWE. When Shane O-Mac had Owens on a table, it looked as though he might hit his elbow (for the first time ever). At the last second, Zayn pulled Owens off the table and cemented his heel turn I’ve always wanted to see. What followed was Zayn’s best mic work of his career, his ridiculous ska dancing in Shane’s face and whatever the hell he does during entrances now. I love it and you can tell Sami does too.

The Undertaker’s Finale (DJ Chapman)

Okay, okay, I understand that this is probably too predictable and not at all inventive, but for me, I’ve watched the Undertaker wrestle my whole life, so this one was tough. To watch one of the greatest leave stuck with me. As a wrestling fan, I understand that we see “one of the greatest leave” all the time. But! There is something different about the Undertaker, the Undertaker transcended pop culture by being a wrestler is whole career. He didn’t need to become a Hollywood star like The Rock or John Cena. He wasn’t this crazy personality flying all over the place like Ric Flair. He was the Undertaker, and everyone knew who he was, wrestling fan or not. So to see him leave the squared circle for the (probably) final time, was my moment of the year. Thank you Taker!

The Mae Young Classic (Bill Bodkin)

Women’s wrestling has come a long long way from when I first started watching. Long gone are hair mares, and catfights, and the days of HLA and sexually exploitative gimmick matches are long gone.

In their stead are tremendous wrestling matches. We all saw how the main roster of WWE has benefitted from a strong Women’s (not Divas) Division. and this summer we were all treated to what happens when WWE taps some of the best women in the world, and their own developmental system for a massive tournament. The matches were excellent, new stars were created, and the fans discovered that there’s a lot more out there in the wrestling world they are yet to discover.

Johnny Gargano (Michael Dworkis)

Going with NXT this year. The guy puts on the performance of a lifetime in every match. From the storybook tale of DIY to his recent ventures in singles competition, Gargano wows the crowd with wrestling, perfect-for-television facial expressions, and the never-say-die attitude which is a sure fire win for earning a solid fanbase. My runner up was Pete Dunne, because I just love to watch him wreck people.

Kazuchika Okada (Kenny Pete)

The current reigning & defending IWGP champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling is having a banner year. In the calendar year 2017, he has had multiple flawless matches with varrying opponents while putting in performances in the rarefied air that only belongs to “Big Match John”. Lets put aside his trilogy with Kenny Omega this year, a series of matches that are the modern day professional wrestling equivalent of A Hope, Empire & Jedi at this point. Okada put in 40 minuets with Minoru Suzuki in February, had a five star match in what would be Katsuyori Shibata ‘s final match in April, elevated NJPW stalwarts Bad Luck Fale & EVIL to the best matches those performers have had to date, and defeated CODY ‘don’t call me Rhodes’ in the first stand alone NJPW show on US Soil in Long Beach California.

In between all of those stand alone, big deal singles matches, he shines in moments in tag team & six man matches as a part of the CHAOS stable and brings the same in his approach to his parts of those matches, adding anticipation for when his next big match will be. Most wrestlers go their whole careers without having 1 match as good as what Okada has done over a half-dozen times in 2017,


“The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles (Anthony Toto)

Back in the mid 2000s, I remember checking out TNA’s Impact to see Sting, my all-time favorite wrestler, return to the six-sided ring. Over the next few years, I also became a big fan of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, James Storm, and Christopher Daniels. Low and behold, three of these performers are now headlining main events for the WWE. Whether it was AJ Styles winning the TNA X-Division or World Heavyweight Championship, it was truly amazing to witness someone possess such a wonderful balance of athleticism, charisma, and pure in-ring psychology.

After AJ Styles made his face turn post-Wrestlemania, it just felt so right to see someone of his stature finally receive unanimous cheers from the WWE audience. He continues to defy the laws of gravity and produces captivating matches with literally every performer on the roster. I approach watching AJ Styles in the same vein as any NBA fan who is stoked to see Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant deliver a clinic: anything is possible whenever “The Phenomenal One” steps into the ring.

Kevin Owens (Tommy Tracy)

Simply put, KO has had the best year of any wrestler. The man began the year as Universal Champion. He gave us countless of incredible moments with Chris Jericho, including the epic Celebration of Friendship. He had an amazing match at WrestleMania with Jericho, awesome United States Championship matches with AJ Styles and a nerve shaking Hell in a Cell Match with Shane McMahon. Even without championships, Owens stayed at the top of the card, poisoning his opponents with his words and destroying them with Pop Up Powerbombs. He is the best heel in the business today (The Miz is a close second) and 2018 will, again, be his year.


‘The Empress of Tomorrow’ Asuka (DJ Chapman)

Asuka!!!!! Asuka has had an incredible 2017. From an incredible match with Ember Moon at NXT Takeover Orlando to coming to RAW and being a world-beater and powerful force in the Women’s Division, Asuka has been my favorite wrestler this year. I love that she left NXT as an undefeated champion, and is still undefeated after being a part of RAW for over two months. She has a force about her that is very refreshing for the Women’s Division, and it has kept me hooked so far. Because NO ONE is ready for ASSSSSSSUKAAAAAAA!!!!!

“The Super King of Bros” Matt Riddle (Bill Bodkin)

BRO. Seriously, bro, Matt Riddle was everywhere in 2017, and he wrestled everyone. From Nick Gage in Howell, NJ’s GCW to battling Shibata in the UK to nearly winning BOLA — Riddle was a globe trotting all-star. Every time he entered the ring whether if it was with Dave Severn, Nick Gage, or Keith Lee, Riddle brought his A+ game. His ability to blend MMA, Strong Style, and traditional American wrestling, combined with his mammoth charisma, and his unique persona, Riddle is a breathe of fresh on the scene. Oh, and he can wrestle anyone, and he looks damn good doing it.


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

Most Recent

Stay Connected