Looking back at the best matches of the year, one name keeps popping up AJ Styles. He’s been in the WWE less than two years, but he’s already made a tremendous impact. He’s been WWE’s MVP since his debut, and he stole the show at this year’s Royal Rumble. While Cena and Styles fought a few times, their match at the Rumble was their finest one.
#4 WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (Royal Rumble)
In my write up for match #5 on this list, I mentioned I don’t like when matches rely on finisher kick outs. I stand by that point, but there are times when it works, and this match was one of them. Velveteen Dream and Aleister Black don’t have the name value of a Cena or Styles, and their finishers are too new not to be protected. On the other hand, Cena and Styles have been around forever. Everyone kicks out of the AA, and the first time Styles hit the Styles Clash in WWE, Jericho kicked out of it.
While false finishes were one part of this match, both guys worked their ass off and gave us a match of the year candidate in January. The match went over 24 minutes but kept a brisk pace, mostly thanks to Styles insane cardio conditioning. Styles can keep you invested in the beginning/middle parts of matches then kick it into high gear for the ending. Cena kept up to, and even though ‘big match John’ is an annoying nickname, it’s true. Cena almost always rises to the occasion in big time matches, and he had the perfect foil in AJ Styles. The historical significance of the match was huge too, as Cena’s win tied him with Ric Flair for the most world title wins in history.
2017 was a great year for wrestling. Whether you enjoy WWE, NXT, NJPW, ROH or any other promotion, there were many excellent matches to choose from. I’d like to watch every match from every promotion, but that’s impossible. WWE puts out 8 hours of TV every week (11 or more if there’s a PPV) so they occupy most of my wrestling time. While WWE put out their own list of the top 25 matches of 2017, I decided to whittle it down to five. Starting today through next Friday (skipping Christmas) I’ll post one match a day and explain why it made the list (not THAT list). Enjoy!
Average Nobodies note: make sure to follow us on Twitter – @averagenobodies and like us on Facebook – Facebook.com/AverageNobodies. We love talking pro wrestling, so you can comment on this post or reach out to us on social media if you want to join the discussion. You can also find all of our wrestling content by clicking the ‘wrestling’ tab under the banner on our home page.
#5 Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: WarGames
Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream had the best build on the War Games card and told one of the best stories of the year in WWE. Velveteen Dream wanted Black’s respect, and he was going to do anything to earn it. Dream tried getting inside Black’s head, attacking him and costing him matches. Nothing worked. With no more options to choose, Dream only had one left thing to do. He laced up his boots, put on his airbrushed tights and had a match of the year candidate.
Most guys in WWE can put on a good match but too often those matches don’t have a story behind it. One of my favorite things about NXT is that they focus on storytelling, which makes the pay-off match that much better. In a lesser man’s hands, Velveteen Dream would be a caricature. In 22 year old Patrick Clark’s hands, it’s a work of art. While Dream is a flamboyant, over the top character, Aleister Black is the polar opposite. He’s reserved, quiet and let’s his in ring work do the talking. When you put those two characters together, there’s a chance for magic, and that’s what we got at TakeOver: WarGames.
The psychology of the match was great and the actual wrestling was even better. I also loved how these two didn’t rely on kicking out of finishers to keep the match going. While that can be effective, if it happens too often it takes your mind out of the match. Dream gave it everything he had, but just like everyone else, he fell to the Black Mass. Black giving Dream the satisfaction of saying his name after the match was the perfect ending.