In the world that is WWE, sometimes it’s easy to for the quality of matches to be ignored. With so much emphasis on selling merchandise, presenting over-the-top characters, and telling compelling stories, the work happening in the ring can be overlooked. However, when WWE does deliver a match that entertains while still being a feat of athleticism and storytelling, it makes fans remember why they love wrestling. With that said, here are ten matches from the first half of 2017 that deserve to be watched, or re-watched, because they are filled with crazy moves, moments, and just overall great wrestling. Also, I will be spoiling the endings of these matches, so SPOILER WARNING.
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10. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber PPV)
The first match on our countdown is probably one of the best Elimination Chamber matches WWE has ever put forth. With John Cena entering the bout after only winning his title a month earlier, he served as the heavy favorite when the match started. But, enter AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Baron Corbin, and Bray Wyatt, who all had plans to leave with the WWE title around their shoulders. The match really excelled in storytelling, with WWE selling the feuds between Cena and Styles, Corbin and Ambrose, and The Miz trying to sneak out a win all in one match.
There are points where the action drags out a little bit, but the exchanges between AJ, Cena, and Wyatt at the end of the match really highlighted the encounter. As Cena and Styles trade finishers and big moves in vain attempting to eliminate their rival, it was Wyatt who swooped in with a Sister Abigail to eliminate the defending champ, Cena. As AJ and Wyatt duked it out for the title and the chance to headline Wrestlemania, Bray Wyatt finally hit another Sister Abigail on AJ to secure his first world title. Cue the fireflies.
9. WWE Title Match: AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin(Smackdown LIVE)
Appearing on a weekly episode of Smackdown LIVE, this hidden gem between Champion AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin was set to discover who would enter the Royal Rumble as champion and face returning John Cena at the Pay-Per-View. The match showcased the dominance of Corbin early and really acted as a coming out party for the Lone-Wolf on the main event level. With Corbin looking impressive against world-champion-caliber wrestlers in Ziggler and AJ, it forced the pair to team up temporairily to derail Corbin. The tandem of AJ and Ziggler delivered one of the highlights of the match, delivering a leg drop/elbow drop combo on Corbin through the announce table (pictured above). The bout really accelerated towards the finish of the match, featuring multiple finishers and fake-finishes between the participants, before AJ finally took advantage of Corbin laying out Ziggler as AJ stole a pin to retain the title and set up a big rematch from Summer-Slam against John Cena.
While the match suffered from some predictibility, since AJ was almost a sure lock to retain, it made up for it with the in-ring intensity. The match doesn’t place any higher on the countdown because it didn’t tell as great a story as upcoming entries, but still did well to solidify AJ as a fighting champion heading into his showdown with Cena.
8. Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank PPV)
Always a contender for match of the year, the Men’s Money in the Bank match didn’t dissapoint this time either. Seeing US Title Holder Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, and Dolph Ziggler face off for the briefcase was truly a spectacle of hardcore, fast pace action. Baron Corbin played the sneaky heel attacking Nakamura before he could make it to the ring, seemingly taking Nakamura out of the match.
Once the match got rolling, every competitor really seemed to have a real chance at puling out the win at one point or another. Kevin Owens seemed to be the one everyone put through a ladder, and was taking bumps like a champ along the way. Owens and Zayn also had some great moments together, as WWE continued to tease that neither would ever let the other triumph. But the match went from good to great when Nakamura returned to put a beating on Corbin and everyone else in his way, also setting up some great exchanges between AJ and Nakamura. Just as AJ and Nakamura both ascended the ladder, it was Corbin who interrupted the affair to pick up the win and the prestigous briefcase.
7. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs Finn Balor for the Right to be Number One contender for the Intercontinental Title (Monday Night RAW)
Another match that sneaked onto free television, The Miz, Balor, and Rollins went at it to determine the new number one contender for Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title. On paper, this match rocked from the get go because it made the IC title feel really important if these three superstars were interested in the belt. Then, things really defied expectations. Given much more TV time than WWE matches usually receive, all involved really sold their characters extremely well and delivered a match that could have been the best part of any PPV.
The match really showed us why The Miz and Maryse are great, as the two tried to use every dirty trick in the book to upset the mighty Balor and Rollins, who were each given great moments of dominance in this encounter. As the match drew close to an end, we saw multiple false finishes before Samoa Joe intervened to take Rollins out of commission and Bray Wyatt interfered to cost Balor the match as well. While the two interference stopped this match from ranking any higher in the countdown, they worked well to set up two feuds for Balor and Rollins, while giving Miz the win he deserved.
6. Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles
In what was probably the best match from Wrestlemania in my opinion, AJ Styles and Shane McMahon fought in what was the climax of an eipc, window smashing feud. Going into the contest, many were worried that McMahon was nothing more than an over-the-hill risk taker who would hold back the Phenomenal One on the biggest stage of them all. How wrong they were.
Although parts of the match were carried by AJ, McMahon had perhaps the best match of his historic career. The match featured all of McMahon’s greatest hits in the forms of an elbow drop on the announce table, his flurry of punches, and even the introduction of a trash can for the coast to coast. Add in a triangle choke reversal of AJ’s 450 splash and a missed shooting star press, and McMahon more than held his own in a match that was a great punctuation mark to a fantastic feud. Also, in case this countdown hasn’t already made this clear, AJ only has great matches on the big stages and this showdown was no different.
5. Fatal Five Way Number One Contender’s Match for the Universal Title (Extreme Rules PPV)
This match was to determine who would face Champion Brock Lesnar at the upcoming Great Balls of Fire PPV, and with all the big names in the ring, there was a feeling this match couldn’t miss. That feeling was spot on. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, and Bray Wyatt were the combatants in this showdown, and each participant felt like they were going to walk away with the W at multiple points in the match. The story heading in was that Paul Heyman had told Finn Balor he was Brock’s preference to face, so there was some possible foreshadowing that Balor could walk away as number one contender.
That said, as the match really got rolling, we saw so many big spots, the winner was really in doubt. Wheter it be Reigns spearing multiple competitors through the barrier, or Balor stomping everyone into dust, each moment felt like it could be the turning point. Even the slowest part of the match, the Samoa Joe/Bray Wyatt team up, ended in exciting fashion as Wyatt used his cunning to take the advantage. Then, just as Balor looked to pick up the win with a Coup De Grace on Reigns, Samoa Joe swooped in to knockout Balor in a Coquina Clutch for the chance to face the beast incarnate.
4. NXT Tag Team Championship Ladder Match (TakeOver Chicago)
We’ve reached the point in the list where NXT starts to steal the show. WWE’s developmental brand always throws in some fantastic matches that put simple, yet amazing storytelling at the forefront. And, there may be no act in WWE that tells a story in the ring like #DIY. The pairing of Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Garganno is a fixture in match of the year candidates in the past couple of years, and this TakeOver: Chicago Ladder Match finds its place there as well. #DIY entered the match attempting to regain their belts from the Authors of Pain in what ended up being an explosive conclusion to an epic feud.
The match fetured the strong story that is commonplace in a #DIY match, with Ciampa and Garganno relying on their brother-like bond to attempt and topple the Goliath-like AOP. The highlight of the match has to be Garganno taking a ladder to the face for his partner, and then Ciampa going on a one-man demolition course. While both men came out looking like heroes, AOP came out as champions still when the bell finally rung. While #DIY did carry large portions of this match, AOP performed beyond my expectations and proved they belonged on top of NXT. Oh, and after the match ended, lets just say Ciampa made sure it would be a night Garganno would never forget.
3. NXT Tag Team Championship Elimination Match (TakeOver: Orlando)
Take everything I just said about how great #DIY vs Authors of Pain was at TakeOver: Chicago and add in the self-proclaimed Top Guys. The Revival and #DIY have had such a great rivalry before this match that it fueled much of what made this encounter a must-see. While the AOP being not quite as fantastic as the other teams stops this match from climbing any higher than number 3, it was this dynamic duo that forced #DIY and The Revival to put on the best tag match this year.
The match started with the hatred between the Revival and #DIY making both teams vulnerable to the dominance of AOP. While both teams took their best shots at the defending champs, it was futile against the big men of AOP. Then, the part of the match that made it an instant classic transpired. We saw a Revival/#DIY team up that brought together the best aspects of each team in an attempt to take out the champs. We saw a mashup of both teams’ finishers, as well as a sick table-bomb spot. While AOP managed to eventually overpower the team-up when the other teams stopped getting along, the Revival and #DIY once again stole the show.
2. WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (Royal Rumble PPV)
When John Cena and AJ Styles step into the same ring, something special happens. AJ walked into the ring as defending champion, with a chip on his shoulder as he believed that he had to constantly prove his worth while Cena was just given the opportunity to fight for the belt. Cena on the other hand walked in hoping to leave as the record-tying 16 time world champion. With so much bad blood between the two, AJ and Cena came out of the gates swinging, and never seemed to let up as the match drew on.
What made this match so spectacular was the fact that these two really bring out the best in each other. John Cena is often called overrated as a wrestler, but AJ gives him a chance to look as great as even the best technician in the world at times. As for AJ, Cena represents one of the few wrestlers more accomplished than the phenomenal one, and serves as a colossal hurdle for AJ to surpass. This great match-up eventually led to an unbelievable exchange of finishing maneuvers that saw both men kick out of EVERYTHING. AJ couldn’t even stay down after he suffered and attitude off the second rope, and almost got the win. However, two consecutive AA’s later saw Cena make history as a 16 time champ. A great match, just not quite the best on this list.
1. United Kingdom Championship Match (TakeOver: Chicago)
There can only be one number one, and it goes to this UK title classic at NXT TakeOver: Chicago between champion Tyler Bate and challenger Pete Dunn. What may strike you right away is the lack of household names in this match-up. Bate and Dunn were the final two combatants in the WWE United Kingdom tournament, and this rematch served as a real coming out party for WWE’s UK talent as well as the two men involved. The two men involved were bitter rivals heading in, and truly left nothing on the table after this encounter.
I can give no bigger compliment to this match than this: you have to watch the match. If you aren’t a WWE fan, this match will show you why so many love it, and if you already love wrestling, then this match was made for you. The match showcased British strong-style, which is just a fancy way of saying that these guys like to hit each other really hard. The match also did such a good job of showing that both men were desperate to hit their respective finishers, desperate for a win. This contest was the only one on the list that actually had me waiting on the edge of my seat to see who one. In a bout that truly could have gone either way, Dunn hit his appropriately named Bitter End finisher to win the UK belt. This match made me excited to see both men fight anyone, excited for the UK talent coming to WWE, and excited to be a wrestling fan in general. If you don’t take my word, listen to the crowd during this bout. They kept screaming “Fight Forever” and I could not agree more.
Do you agree with my list? Which match was the best in your opinion? Head to our discussion section and get in on the conversation.