Throwback Thursday: 2017 – WWE’s Best Matches of the Year, As Seen on WWE Network

December 21, 2017 by Brock Allen

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For the last two years Throwback Thursday has used this time of year to look back on the year that was for the entire WWE Network. This year, though, we’re going to shake things up by focusing on the best matches of the year, as they’re found on the Network. Sorry, no Omega/Okada here!

2017 was yet another banner year for the WWE Network even if the WWE product was, to put it mildly, hit and miss. In short, 2017 was the year of stutter steps for the WWE. The long talked about WWE U.K. TV series never came to fruition; major titles were swapped on a whim to satiate short-term booking goals; a major play for India blew up in the company’s face; the “Women’s Revolution/Evolution” cooled considerably until year’s end; the Cruiserweight division declined to the point of virtual obscurity; and none of the recent NXT call-ups were truly able to break through.

On the flip side we saw the returns of Kurt Angle, The Shield, Kane, Drew McIntyre, and “WarGames”, each of which led to intriguing and memorable moments on WWE TV. We also saw Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Kairi Sane, four of the best wrestlers in the world, make their WWE debuts this year. There was also the much-anticipated Mae Young Classic, a star-studded “Royal Rumble”, the emergence of Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman as bonafide WWE Superstars, and the possible acceptance of Roman Reigns. For all its faults, 2017 was a pretty good year to be a fan of WWE!

So, without further ado, let’s get to the ring!


2017 Matches of The Year (chronological order)

WWE Universal Championship – “No Disqualification Match” – With Chris Jericho Suspended Above the Ring in a ‘Shark Cage’ (WATCH – 25:46)
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens(c) w/Chris Jericho
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 January 29, 2017

WWE - Chris Jericho Throws Down Brass Knuckles from The Shark Cage!
2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens, Royal Rumble

Despite a program that many fans had simply gotten bored with there were plenty of high expectations that this match, with Jericho in the “shark cage”, would deliver the classic fight this feud promised from the beginning. And boy did it deliver! Featuring too many memorable spots to list here and a finish that kicked off the Reigns/Strowman program from hell, this match was one of Owens best showings of the year and was only the beginning for Roman Reigns and his year of hardcore. This “No DQ” classic would have stolen the show if not for the second match on our list…

WWE Championship (WATCH – 1:37:48)
John Cena vs. AJ Styles(c)
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 January 29, 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - John Cena vs. AJ Styles, Royal Rumble

Despite the hate Cena was getting for potentially tying Ric Flair’s “official” record of 16 World Heavyweight Championship wins and the flack WWE would get for “burying” AJ Styles from the hyperventilating social media “smarks”, AJ Styles and John Cena put on one of the best World title matches in Royal Rumble history. Though most thought it would be impossible the two managed to outdo their match from SummerSlam the previous August, putting on one of the greatest matches of either mans career and cementing their places as two of the all-time greats.

NXT Tag Team Championship – “Tag Team Triple Threat Elimination Match” (WATCH – 44:24)
The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. The Authors of Pain (Akem & Rezar)(c) w/Paul Ellering
NXT TakeOver: Orlando April 1, 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Tag Team Triple Threat Match, NXT TakeOver: Orlando
2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Tag Team Triple Threat Match, NXT TakeOver: Orlando

This match, The Revival’s NXT TV swan song, marked the end of a golden era of tag team wrestling in NXT. A unique three-way that incorporated great wrestling, brawling, and psychology to tell a one of a kind story and deliver one of the greatest three-way tag team matches in WWE history. The Amway Center in Orlando, Florida was rocking the night A.O.P. cemented their place at the top of the NXT tag team division and gave The Revival an epic sendoff.

WWE United Kingdom Championship (WATCH – 23:24)
Special Guest Commentator: Jim Ross
Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate(c)
NXT TakeOver: Chicago May 20, 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate, NXT TakeOver: Orlando

This was my pick for the 2017 match of the year in WWE. Part cruiserweight, part catch-as-catch-can, part brawl, part New Japan this instant classic told an incredible story and employed the kind of pacing and patience usually seen in much older talent. In front of a super hot crowd these two tore the house down with one epic moment after another that included a death-defying finish that left even the most jaded fan breathless.

WWE Universal Championship (WATCH – 2:45:07)
Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar(c) w/Paul Heyman
WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 July 9 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar, Great Balls of Fire

Brock Lesnar’s first title defense after his WrestleMania triumph over Goldberg should never have been in doubt. But, thanks to some clever booking and enthusiastic fans, this bout with Samoa Joe was shrouded in it. For weeks fans and insiders alike openly pondered the thought of Samoa Joe actually defeating Lesnar for the Universal title. At the very least everyone expected a great match. Coming on the heels of one of the most absurd moments of the year (the Reigns/Strowman “jaws of life” spot), Lesnar and Joe delivered a short, believable match that kept fans guessing until the bitter end.

NXT Women’s Championship (WATCH – 1:13:06)
Ember Moon vs. Asuka(c)
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III August 19, 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III

In what would be the final NXT match for the “Empress of Tomorrow” Asuka spoiled the coronation of Ember Moon so many expected on this night. The match was physical, psychological and well paced and featured a number false finishes that on any other night would have spelled the end for either woman. Asuka kicking out Ember’s Eclipse stands as one of the most shocking moments of the year in all of NXT.

WWE Universal Championship – “Fatal Four-Way Match” – If Brock Lesnar Loses He Will Leave the WWE (WATCH – 3:22:11)
Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar(c) w/Paul Heyman
WWE SummerSlam 2017 August 20, 2017

WWE - Brock Lesnar Walks To The Ring to Confront Braun Strowman!

This was one of the most talked about matches of all of 2017 in the WWE. Between rumors that Brock Lesnar was re-entering the USADA anti-doping pool and considering a return to the UFC and reports that WWE was souring on the projected Reigns/Lesnar WrestleMania XXXIV showdown there seemed a high likelihood that Lesnar would not walk out of SummerSlam ’17 with the Universal title. What we got instead was an instant classic that ranks as one of the greatest, most unpredictable WWE title matches in SummerSlam history.

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship – “Tag Team Hell in a Cell Match” (WATCH – 3:32)
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs. The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods)(c) w/Kofi Kingston
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 October 8, 2017

2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - The Usos vs. New Day, Tag Team Hell in a Cell Match

These two teams had been tearing the house down show after show in 2017’s version of the Revival/American Alpha from NXT past. After nearly stealing the show in the pre-show of SummerSlam two months prior it didn’t seem possible these four could out-do themselves, but that’s exactly what they did. In one of the greatest “Hell in a Cell” showdowns ever The Usos and New Day blew the roof off yet again and delivered a match for the ages that will not soon be forgotten.

“WarGames: The Match Beyond” (WATCH – 1:37:37)
NXT Tag Team Champions SAnitY (Eric Young, Killian Dain, & Alexander Wolfe) vs. The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. Roderick Strong & The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) w/Paul Ellering
NXT TakeOver: WarGames November 18, 2017

WWE - WarGames Two Cage Structure Returns at NXT TakeOver: War Games
2017 Best Matches on WWE Network - WarGames Match in NXT

It had been 19 years since the last official “WarGames” took place at WCW’s Fall Brawl ’98 and the clamor for its return never truly died away. Though the WWE updated the rules and modified the cage the essence of “WarGames” was intact in this instant classic. In “WarGames” of old “The Match Beyond” was often the most lackluster, anti-climactic, shortest portion of the match. This was “fixed” with the modifications and it became the focus of the match like never before. What we got was a nine-man death match rarely seen in WWE’s “PG Era” that lived up to the spirit of the concept and paid a violent tribute to the warriors who came before them.

“Non-Title Champion vs. Champion Match” (WATCH – 2:22:43)
WWE Champion AJ Styles (SmackDown Live) vs. WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar (RAW)
WWE Survivor Series 2017 November 19, 2017

WWE - AJ Styles Locks in the Calf Crusher to The Beast, Brock Lesnar!

This dream match came together just 12 days before Survivor Series when AJ Styles pinned then-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in London on the November 7, 2017 edition of SmackDown Live. The match that followed was one of Lesnar’s best matches since returning to the WWE in 2012 if not the best. Together Styles and Lesnar painted a masterpiece that proved, when motivated, the Lesnar of old was still alive and well.


Honorable Mentions (chronological order)

Finals of the Inaugural WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament (WATCH – 1:47:59)
Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament: Part Two January 15, 2017

NXT Championship (WATCH – 1:34:05)
“Glorious” Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura(c)
NXT TakeOver: San Antonio January 28, 2017

“2017 ‘Royal Rumble’ Match” (WATCH – 2:21:29)
Featuring (In Order of Entry):
1) Big Cass; 2) WWE United States Champion Chris Jericho; 3) Kalisto; 4) Mojo Rawley; 5) Jack Gallagher; 6) Mark Henry; 7) Braun Strowman; 8) Sami Zayn; 9) Big Show; 10) Tye Dillinger; 11) James Ellsworth; 12) WWE Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose; 13) Baron Corbin; 14) Kofi Kingston; 15) The Miz; 16) Sheamus; 17) Big E; 18) Rusev; 19) Cesaro; 20) Xavier Woods; 21) Bray Wyatt; 22) Apollo Crews; 23) Randy Orton; 24) Dolph Ziggler; 25) Luke Harper; 26) Brock Lesnar; 27) Enzo Amore; 28) Goldberg; 29) The Undertaker; & 30) Roman Reigns
WWE Royal Rumble 2017 January 29, 2017

NXT Tag Team Championship – “Ladder Match” (WATCH – 1:48:07)
#DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar)(c) w/Paul Ellering
NXT TakeOver: Chicago May 20, 2017

WWE Cruiserweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 35:42)
Austin Aries vs. Neville(c)
WWE WrestleMania XXXIII April 2, 2017

WWE Universal Championship (WATCH – 3:44:53)
Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs. Goldberg(c)
WWE WrestleMania XXXIII April 2, 2017

NXT Women’s Championship – “Last Woman Standing Match” (WATCH – 31:56)
Nikki Cross vs. Asuka(c)
NXT #399 June 28, 2017 (TAPED: June 23, 2017)

NXT Championship (WATCH – 1:43:05)
Drew McIntyre vs. “Glorious” Bobby Roode(c)
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III August 19, 2017

Singles Match (WATCH – 1:29:40)
AJ Styles (sub. for Bray Wyatt) vs. “The Demon King” Finn Bálor
WWE Tables, Ladders, & Chairs 2017 October 22, 2017

“Grudge Match” (WATCH – 15:23)
The Velveteen Dream vs. Aleister Black
NXT TakeOver: WarGames November 18, 2017

Final Thoughts

Though 2017 lacked the number of truly great matches from the year prior there was still a lot to be pleased with, even if you had to squint through the rain to see it at times.

WWE - Randy Orton Wins the 2017 Royal Rumble Match

Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can re-live some of the year’s best matches or see them for the very first time! Remember, these are just the thoughts of one wrestling fan. Tell us what you think in the comments below. What were your picks for matches of the year?

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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!

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8 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Anan says:

    No offense as this is a great list but how do you leave out:
    – AJ vs KO – SSlam
    – Orton/Nakamura vs KO/Sami, Clash of Champions
    – any matches from WM33
    – Cena vs Reigns, No Mercy
    – AJ vs Balor and TLC match, TLC
    – Both SSeries Elimination Tag matches, Survivor Series
    – Any match involving The Bar vs Ambrose/Rollins and/or Hardyz
    – Any match involving The Usos vs New Day (especially that HIAC match)

    I see some of the above are in the honorable mention section but my above question pertains to the main section where each match had a well written and thought out review and a bit of background story. Also appreciated NXT matches being included as many see TakeOvers as NXT Specials rather than ppv’s. It’s ok. They’re entitled to their thinking.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello Anan. The New Day/Usos HIAC was included in the actual top ten list. The KO/AJ match was more about Shane than the match and I wasn’t really feeling that. The SummerSlam main event and the tag team pre-show match were, in my view, better matches. The same thing with the recent COTC tag match, the match was fluff to advance the angle with Shane and Bryan and not about the match. I didn’t think the COTC event or the tag match were all that great to be honest. Just another maintenance PPV in my book.

      I included two matches from WM 33 but I didn’t feel (again in my view) that either were worthy of a spot in the actual top ten just because they were on this show or that. Until WarGames happened Goldberg/Lesnar was the one slated to make the list despite the list being Lesnar heavy already.

      Cena/Reigns was not all that great in my opinion, and the same goes for the Survivor Series tag team matches and the overbooked TLC match (during which my wife laughed out loud with it was so damn hokey). As for the Bar/Shield matches, blame it on burnout but I just didn’t think the matches were nearly as good as the Usos/New Day matches, which were simply that much better.

      As I said in the article, I’m just one fan with a keyboard. I’m sure I missed a few, what top ten list ever gets it truly right? I love hearing what you guys have to say though. I’ll go back and rewatch the matches in question and see if, given some time, my opinion of them will change. The list won’t, but maybe my mind will.

      Thanks for reading Anan and taking the time to leave your thoughts and opinions. I hope you have a safe and joyous Christmas with you and yours! Take care!

      • Anan says:

        Yeah I totally understand all your points. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But that is why I’m in all honesty not a fan of top 10 or whatever number lists because then you know no matter how great, accurate and such the lists may be, some things will be left out because the lists have a certain numbered limitation. Other than that limitation, zero problems w/the lists. I’m just not in support of things being left out that should not be left out no matter what. Just how I feel.

        Thanks for the happy holiday wishes. Same to you. Have a very blessed happy new year!

  2. RabidHeat says:

    This was a good read and reminded me of some of the positives, because at the moment I only have to hear the words “WWE in 2017” and I think “Jinder Mahal” and feel quite depressed.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Well, I must admit RabidHeat, the same thing was going through my mind as well. I thought I was going to have a hard time coming up with a good list but before I knew it I had over 20 matches and not one thought of Jinder. I think it’s safe to say that 2017, despite the other solid to great matches, will be best remembered for Jinder: the one man WBF debacle!

      Thanks for reading RabidHeat and leaving your thoughts! Merry Christmas!

  3. Anthony says:

    WWE in 2017 had a lot of good wrestling, but not too many compelling story lines.

    • Brock Allen says:

      I couldn’t agree more Anthony. So many things were tossed out and then paid off while others just never ended.

      Thanks for reading Anthony and taking the time to leave your thoughts! It’s always appreciated. Have a Merry Christmas!!

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