Sometimes WWE has to call an audible and they end up booking a better match than the original. That’s exactly what happened at TLC when AJ Styles fought Finn Balor.
AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor – TLC
The original match for TLC was Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt. After Wyatt came down with an illness, WWE had to make a last minute substitution. Their pick set up a dream match, as 2017 MVP AJ Styles flew in from the Smackdown South America tour to face Balor. Styles and Balor were both former Bullet Club leaders in NJPW, and fans have been clamoring for a match between the two for awhile. We finally got it at TLC, and they did not disappoint.
When I went back and watched this match, I can’t believe this didn’t thrust Balor into the main event. The fact that he’s answering open challenges from Curt Hawkins and not fighting Lesnar at the Rumble is mind boggling. Guys like Balor and Styles should be fighting each other, as the quality of matches and fan reactions improve immensely. As I stated in the AJ Styles/Cena write up, Styles could have made up the entire top five list with his performances this year. I thought Styles/Balor at TLC was his best performance for a few reasons.
This match was booked only two days before the pay per view so neither guy had time to prepare for the match. Also, in a year filled with Cena and Jinder Mahal matches, Styles finally got to wrestle someone with talent who could keep up with him in the ring. This match had a frenetic pace from bell to bell, with both guys working and selling their ass off. The crowd ate up everything they did (rightfully so) AND they didn’t have to rely on finisher musical chairs to keep the crowd interested. One coup de grace from Balor and it was over. Two world class athletes at the top of their game having a match of the year candidate. What’s not to love?
In the tag team division, what WWE lacks in depth, they made up for in quality in 2017. Most that credit goes to two teams: The Usos & New Day. These two teams have been fighting since New Day arrived on Smackdown, and almost all of their matches have been great. My favorite one happened at WWE Battleground in July.
New Day vs. The Usos – Battleground
This was the show opener at Battleground, and nothing that followed came close to it. Heading into 2017 my favorite New Day tag combo was Kofi & Big E, but this was the year of Xavier Woods. He shined during this feud, and easily had the best performance of the night at Battleground. With The Usos switching to their ‘day one’ characters, New Day finally had a heel team to play off of, and it was wonderful. Woods looked natural as the baby face in peril, and Kofi was equally as good with the high octane hot tags.
As great as Kofi and Xavier were, The Usos matched them beat for beat. The Usos adapted a more aggressive style that completely changed their matches. The crowd ate up everything these two teams did, and the title change at the end earned the pop of the night.