Fans have been obsessed with pro wrestling throughout the decades because these hand-to-hand clashes inspire us, entertain us and electrify us. Annual events like SummerSlam, WrestleMania, and Survivor Series guarantee that wrestling fans will experience thrills and excitement year after year.
However, it still seems that 2017 was a particularly stand-out year for extraordinary performances and spectacles. Here are some of our favorite and most memorable moments of last year.
Our first pick is the SummerSlam Fatal 4-Way Universal Championship Match featuring none other than Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman. The lead-up to this main event melee could not have been better. First, despite being some of the most notorious figures in the WWE, the four of them had barely experienced any physical confrontations with each other prior to this event.
Also, for Brock Lesnar, the drama and the stakes were raised even higher. Not only did Jon Jones call him out just moments after Jones had reclaimed the UFC Light Heavyweight title, but Lesnar’s manager, Paul Heyman, had also announced that if Lesnar lost, he would quit the WWE altogether.
The ensuing brawl among these four heavyweight gladiators did not disappoint. The match was so thrilling that the entire Barclays crowd remained on its feet from the time each warrior entered the ring until the final winner was declared.
The nonstop action — interweaved with captivating storytelling — was a sight to see. Strowman lifted tables and stairs, Roman launched multiple spears and at one point, Joe’s signature coquina clutch looked like it could finally end it all. Then Lesner got carted away for medical attention after Strowman body-slammed him into multiple tables.
The match took on an entirely different energy during the subsequent several minutes of triple-threat combat. And finally, Lesnar dramatically returned to the ring to eliminate his rivals and retain his title (which was not that much of a surprise given that his UFC suspension would remain in effect for several more months).
A.J. Styles spent an entire year defending a title that no one thought he’d ever catch a whiff of, let alone possess. And for much of 2016, Styles fans and foes alike got a kick out of watching him and his peeps “beat up John Cena.” But when Styles and Cena finally faced off in the WWE championship match at Royal Rumble, the two rivals gave us a fight to remember.
Although both wrestling superstars ended up exchanging finishing moves, it was Cena who eventually emerged victorious, crushing Styles with an attitude adjustment from the top rope. And to top it all off, this victory signifies the moment when Cena tied Ric Flair’s record of 16 World Championships, thereby cementing this event’s place in pro wrestling history.
Last year’s NJPW trilogy between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada was too extraordinary to rate the individual matches against each other. So, we will take a bit of journalistic license and venerate all three matches with equally-deserving awe.
These three epic battles took place in January (at Wrestle Kingdom 11), June (at Dominion), and August (at the G1 Climax), respectively. The almost telepathic chemistry between these two relentless combatants was reminiscent of the days of Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat. Each match was unique, but they all shared specific defining characteristics: jaw-dropping action and athleticism.
The event at the Wrestle Kingdom 11 boasted the biggest stage, and was Omega and Okada’s first head-to-head competition, ending with Okada winning the IWGP Heavyweight Crown. After an entire 60 minutes of back-and-forth, the fight at the Dominion resulted in a draw, which is quite a rarity in today’s wrestling universe — particularly when a match is filled with continuous, heart-pumping action.
Their third rumble at the G1 Climax stood out as the most fast-paced of the three contests, with Omega finally besting his opponent (although there wasn’t a title on the line this time). In our opinion, any wrestling fan could justifiably argue that any one of these three matches were the “best pro wrestling match of 2017.”