The 10 best matches of 2017 (so far)
In the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi: “Whoa. We’re halfway there.” Six months of 2017 are in the books, and with them, two new WWE divisions, a week of Women’s main events, and untold amounts of property damage at the hands of Braun Strowman. As we embark on the second half of this fine year, WWE.com takes a look back at the 10 best matches 2017 has offered thus far.
Neville vs. Rich Swann — WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match (Raw, March 6)
We’ll be seeing a little more of the Cruisers later, but this title defense — Neville’s second in two days after a championship bout against Gentleman Jack Gallagher that was amazing in its own right — was among the most thrilling contests the purple brand put on this year. The King of the Cruiserweights would probably scoff at us plebs talking up his match like this, but hey, we call ‘em like we see ‘em. Well done, Your Grace.
Signature Moment: Neville goes to toss Swann into the LED boards on the side of the ring, but doesn’t quite achieve the impact he hopes for. So, he does it again, lawn-darting his challenger into the apron.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Tamina — Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match (SmackDown LIVE, June 27)
Or, The One Without James Ellsworth. The outcome of the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Match left everyone — including SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan — so incensed that The “Yes!” Man called a mulligan and had the five ladies do it again.
As always, Team Blue’s ladies division delivered, shattering tables, glass ceilings and even Ellsworth himself after he attempted to interfere as he did in the first-ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Carmella climbed the rungs and claimed the contract without her henchman’s help, which is just fine — the only thing more F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. than making history is making it twice.
Signature Moment: When Ellsworth attempts to once again steal the contract for Carmella, Becky Lynch strikes with a vengeance, sending him toppling off the ladder to a painful groin-first landing on the ropes.
Gentleman Jack Gallagher vs. TJP vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Noam Dar vs. Mustafa Ali — WWE Cruiserweight Championship No. 1 Contender’s Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match (205 Live, Feb. 7)
Week to week, you’re bound to see a very different 205 Live as the show builds up its roster, its personalities and its rivalries. But one thing remains constant: If you throw a bunch of supremely talented Cruiserweights in the ring and let ‘em loose, you’ll get something like this, the best match of this show’s very young life and an unmistakable sign to the WWE Universe that the Cruiserweight Classic wasn’t the be-all, end-all of the purple-ropes experiment.
Signature Moment: Tie. First, a standing Spanish Fly from Cedric Alexander that must be seen to be believed; second, the nose-to-nose faceoff between final two competitors Gentleman Jack Gallagher and TJP. It takes four of Jack’s bone-rattling headbutts to get the job done, but he does it nonetheless.
Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns (Raw, May 29)
It had been a minute since two of the Shield boys went one-on-one when Roman Reigns locked back up with Seth Rollins in the final preliminary match among Extreme Rules’ Fatal 5-Way Match competitors. As it turns out, putting on classics is like riding a bike for The Kingslayer and The Big Dog, who thrilled the Raw crowd for a tight 20 minutes in a match the WWE Universe had no idea they missed so much until the second it ended and they realized they wanted more.
Signature Moment: Reigns takes the dreaded buckle bomb and bounces off the post to deliver a Superman Punch before finally collapsing in a heap.
Big Show vs. Braun Strowman (Raw, Feb. 20)
The ring was famously reinforced for this main-event battle among giants, but the drama was all internal here as Big Show, in one of the most profound performances oft his two-decade career, fought as hard as he could to hang with the ascendant Braun Strowman. Being in the best shape of his life still wasn’t enough to save Show, who lost in a heartbreaker that the pair followed up the only way possible in the rematch: They broke the ring.
Signature Moment: Down to one knee, Show uses the last of his strength to grab Strowman by the throat, but The Gift of Destruction shakes his head, peels away the giant’s exhausted paw and puts him away.
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles (WrestleMania)
Show of hands: Who had AJ Styles and Shane-O-Mac stealing The Show of Shows right out of the freakin’ gate at this year’s WrestleMania? If you won your office pool, enjoy your justly-earned spoils; the rest of us will thrill to this out-of-nowhere slugfest that gave The Phenomenal One his long-awaited maiden victory at WrestleMania and showed that The Prodigal Son’s gifts extend far beyond his willingness to risk life and limb — though, of course, he does that here too.
Signature Moment: A springboard 450 lands The Phenomenal One in the clutches of a triangle hold. AJ struggles to his feet and, with Shane still clinging, delivers a gnarly, one-armed Styles Clash to free himself.
Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz — Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match (Raw, May 1)
The Miz and the Intercontinental Title are fast becoming synonymous, largely because he tends to survive all-out car crashes like this to put himself back in the title’s orbit. Despite being targeted by Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins — both going a million miles an hour for a crack at Dean Ambrose — The Awesome One rides a pair of interferences from Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt to get the win. Ill-gotten? Absolutely. But it speaks to the quality of the match that no one seemed to mind.
Signature Moment: Bálor revs to life on the apron, delivering a swinging boot to The Miz’s face with such ferocity that the Irishman leaves his own feet before sprinting around the ring and blasting Rollins into the wall with a running dropkick.
AJ Styles vs. John Cena — WWE Championship Match (Royal Rumble)
Or, The One Where John Cena Wins His 16th World Title. Tying what was believed to be an untouchable record would give the match merit on its own, but these two might have turned in the best performance of their six-month rivalry. The championship bout was an astounding cap to a title reign many thought might never happen and a solid reminder that Cena can still hang with the best of them, even and especially as a grizzled veteran.
Signature Moment: In a touching bit of serendipity, Cena is presented his 16th World Championship by longtime referee Charles Robinson, whose connection with Ric Flair earned him the nickname “Lil’ Naitch.”
The Authors of Pain vs. #DIY vs. The Revival — Triple Threat NXT Tag Team Championship Elimination Match (NXT TakeOver: Orlando)
Well, look who’s back. The two tag teams from our 2016 Match of the Year return, with some terrifying new company, in this three-tandem thriller from NXT TakeOver: Orlando. WrestleMania Week fans are among the most ravenous in sports-entertainment, so it’s a good thing this Elimination Match was a feast for both the eyes and the soul. #DIY attempt to work with The Revival to eliminate AOP, only to be betrayed by Dash & Dawson ... who are summarily picked off themselves minutes later by Paul Ellering’s monsters, who retain the tag team gold. The Revival showed up on Raw for the first time two days later. Top Guys, out — and on the highest of notes.
Signature Moment: #DIY and The Revival mix and match for their finishers as Johnny Gargano and Scott Dawson meet in the middle against Rezar, while Tommaso Ciampa and Dash Wilder combine for a Shatter Machine to Akam.
Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne — WWE United Kingdom Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Chicago)
The UK lads haven’t been in WWE for very long, but this TakeOver: Chicago match already gave the division a masterpiece, with Tyler Bate (who is 20) defending his title against the aptly-named “BruiserWeight,” Pete Dunne in a rematch of the United Kingdom Championship Tournament Final.
Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness call the action in a bout that combines catch, strong style and spectacle to earn a “U-K!” chant from the Chi-town faithful before Dunne achieves the hard-earned win to capture the title. Both Superstars have been mostly quiet since, but a few more matches like this and the UK Championship picture might just be the one to watch over the next few years.
Signature Moment: Dunne goes for his whirligig finisher, the Bitter End, and then Bate (who, again, is TWENTY) reverses it in midair into a DDT.