It was an up and down year in the WWE. But I can confidently say that there were more ups and downs… at least in terms of major disappointments.
Sure there are things that I wish had gone a different way but fantasy booking and long-form storytelling rarely mix into a cohesive feud that pays off across the card leading to great moments peppered throughout the year with the audience fully satisfied with the result if not in the short term then in the long term.
There is only one AJ Styles, after all.
But I digress.
This is a pretty personal list so keep in mind that some things that people were disappointed in might not make it because I liked the heat that James Ellsworth generated at Money in the Bank and I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed Jinder Mahal's title reign.
And I concentrate on the moments because the things that we'll look back on with fondness aren't just complete matches. They're the moments that capture our hearts and imaginations that we'll look back on and always remember how we felt when we saw what we saw.
That being said, here's what I thought was the worst of WWE this year:
5. Alexa Bliss bullies Bayley
This was just painful to watch. Anyone delivering a promo usually has the freedom to work the crowd and turn them or try something to get them interested if it's falling flat. Paul Heyman once abruptly ended a promo when he failed to generate heel heat for Brock Lesnar in his home state.
But the “This Is Your Life” sketch that Alexa Bliss put on in which she mocked and bullied Bayley was a nightmare. Have you ever seen the agony of a stand-up comedians face when they can't get the crowd to laugh at any jokes? Usually that happens to stand-ups with limited time on stage.
Alexa's segment lasted nine minutes! From the moment she started talking to when Bayley interrupted, she was trapped on an island of bad writing and bad planning.
Here's a link if you want to torture yourself but I refuse to watch this again.
4. Bray Wyatt's Wrestlemania projector
Of all the matches that could steal the show at Wrestlemania, Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton was on the short list.
It's hard to believe because we're so far removed from the storyline but this was for the WWE Championship!
The hype train was all over this match. Bray Wyatt would finally get his Wrestlemania moment. He was telling different media outlets that if he were Brock Lesnar or Goldberg, he wouldn't want to have to follow up his match with Randy.
What could he possibly have in store!?
Oh... there were bugs projected onto the mat during the match. And it ended up not mattering because Bray lost in a 10-minute match anyway.
Ironically, Brock and Goldberg went on right after them and put on what many considered was one of the best matches of the year.
3. Jinder Mahal makes a racist joke
When the WWE gets mainstream attention from outlets like the Washington Post, it's either something very good or very bad.
In this case, it was very bad.
Jinder Mahal made a joke so racist that the crowd started chanting “that's too far” at him. I remember watching in disbelief. “Did he really just say that?” is a question that many WWE fans were asking themselves when it happened.
Thankfully, Mahal's title reign wasn't a positive experience for most fans and the overall disappointment washed away pretty quickly.
2. Roman Reigns enters the Royal Rumble at No. 30
This year, the Royal Rumble returned to the Alamodome. It was the biggest crowd to watch a non-Wrestlemania event in 2017.
And the Royal Rumble exceeded expectations. The Undertaker, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar had all entered the ring already, with the crowd going bonkers for each. Who would be entrant No. 30, though?
I was there and remember going over the list of possibilities with the people in my section: Could this be Finn Balor? Did the WWE sign Kenny Omega? Samoa Joe?
Nope, it was Roman Reigns. The crowd poured down boos so loud that the WWE Network couldn't drown it out despite their best efforts. We couldn't believe it.
The online reactions are priceless and I'd link to them but the understandable foul language prevents me from doing so. I'll just link to a compilation story here if you want to relive what it was like and sour yourself on Roman's music at the same time.
1. Kane squashes Finn Balor
Whether you believe the reports about Vince McMahon not thinking Finn Balor isn't over enough is irrelevant.
Finn is the future of WWE. He's one of the most popular wrestlers in the company and he's one of the few pure babyfaces on the roster.
To watch him lose to Kane, who's closer to retirement than his prime, was the most depressing thing I can think of seeing this year in WWE.
All right, now that the bad stuff is out of the way, let's take a look at the best of 2017. Starting with…
10. Tye Dillinger debuts at the Royal Rumble at No. 10
You knew it was coming, I knew it was coming, everybody knew it was coming.
Tye Dillinger had become so popular at NXT that “10” chants drowned out any referee count during any match in the months leading up to the Rumble. And when it was time for No. 10 to enter the match, it's all any WWE fan wanted in that moment.
And boy did it deliver.
The music hit, the crowd lost its mind.
It wasn't a surprise. It was just something as simple as something being set up for a perfect delivery and the WWE delivering.
If only it was always that simple.
9. The Festival of Friendship
Speaking of delivering, the Festival of Friendship was the culmination of the best run that both Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho have ever had in the WWE.
It's pretty amazing given Jericho's longevity but he was able to somehow redefine his character and bring the crowd with him.
Everyone knew that the Festival of Friendship in Las Vegas was going to be the end of the Canadian duo's run as partners. But that just fueled the awkwardness and humor of the segment that had everything, including a perfect climax.
It's only fitting that the Festival of Frienship made the list.
8. The Hardy Boyz return at Wrestlemania
Here's a prime example why lists like this should concentrate on the moments as much as the matches.
The Fatal Fourway for the Raw Tag Team Championship doesn't really make anyone's list among the best of 2017. But the moment that the Hardy music hit the Orlando crowd, the ovation was almost overwhelming.
The match was great, and now we're getting Woken Matt Hardy. It's hard to believe that the Hardy Boyz are still making a huge impact in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018.
7. Roman Reigns takes it all in
Nobody loves Roman Reigns for beating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. For everything that encompassed that match, in retrospect, Reigns was actually the perfect guy to do it. It gave us what we needed and we're sure the Undertaker wouldn't have had it any other way.
But where I give Roman all the credit in the world is what he did the following night on Monday Night Raw in front of the harshest and most passionate crowd of the year. He started the show and walked to the ring as the crowd booed and chanted their hatred for him.
I can't link to the full segment because the language used was quite foul.
He took it for nearly eight minutes, pacing in the ring and not saying a word. Then he uttered five words before dropping the mic and making his exit:
“This is my yard now.”
The attitude and defiance shown in that moment is what should give us all hope that maybe this Roman Reigns thing can work in the WWE…
6. The Rap Battle
This isn't 2003. Rap battles haven't been mainstream for a long time. But somehow, The New Day and The Usos put on an impressive rap battle on Smackdown Live this year, and afterward it had everybody talking.
“Just don't get all rated-R like your boy Xavier Woods.”
I'm not allowed to talk about what the Usos were referencing when they dropped that line but it was so devastating that the battle should've ended right then and there.
The New Day were technically declared the winners but nobody was talking about them the next day.
5. Cena delivers Double-AA to win WWE Championship at Royal Rumble
There weren't very many people at the Alamodome that wanted John Cena to beat AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. But by the end of the match, everyone was so incredibly entertained that it didn't matter who won, whoever got that three-count would get a huge ovation of thanks for the masterful display that they just witnessed.
It just so happened that it was John Cena, doing something that I'd never seen before: rolling his signature finisher into a repeat of the move.
Big events like the Royal Rumble are going to have the smarkiest crowds of the year, with people rooting for their favorites no matter who the company is trying to make a good guy or a bad guy.
But on this night, everyone was cheering John Cena when he started a record-tying WWE Championship reign.
4. AJ Styles hits a 450 splash on Brock Lesnar
A smart wrestling fan is right most of the time when predicting what will happen in a match that's been built up for weeks. We all knew that Brock Lesnar was going to beat AJ Styles in their champion vs. champion match.
The toughest part of that match for those two superstars was making us believe that the impossible could happen, that AJ Styles might actually win.
As much as we fought hope, AJ gave it to us with spectacular performance against The Beast Incarnate at Survivor Series.
Styles hit the 450 splash and then rolled into a calf crusher and everyone was either on their feet or on the edge of their seat hoping against all odds that Lesnar might actually tap out.
Lesnar went on to win the match, but it was much more entertaining than anyone could've predicted.
We all know that AJ is the best in the world, and this match is among the reasons why.
3. The Promo
Roman Reigns isn't the most popular guy among fans. As we've shown in this very article, people love to hate on him. Some of it is deserved, some of it isn't. But everyone has their reasons.
We never thought we'd hear someone list all those reasons to him in a WWE ring on national television, though. And almost out of nowhere, that's exactly what John Cena did when he attempted to provoke Roman into signing a contract to face him at No Mercy.
Roman gave it back, too. He hit Cena with a couple of good jabs. But what we will all remember is knockout blow after knockout blow from Big Match John that was so surreal in its existence and so deadly accurate in its delivery that it finally turned Cena haters into supporters.
When we had to pick a side between the two most polarizing superstars in the WWE, Cena made sure that we were all with him.
2. John Cena finally proposes to Nikki Bella at Wrestlemania
There are only a handful of times I've cried watching WWE programming, and this was one of them. And the tears still flow when I've gone back and watched it again.
John Cena and Nikki Bella have been dating for several years. If you follow Total Divas and Total Bellas, the reality shows about the women of WWE, you know that Cena had long held that he would never get married again and would never have children.
And yet among the biggest rumors going into Wrestlemania was that John would propose to Nikki after their match against The Miz and Maryse.
After the match was over, John immediately grabbed a mic, told a sweet story that went all the way back to Nikki's neck surgery and proceeded to bring us all to tears.
1. Too Sweet
It's ironic that the best moment of 2017 was one that wasn't even supposed to happen.
Finn Balor's TLC opponent was supposed to be Bray Wyatt. But a virus swept the locker room and put several superstars out of action for weeks, including Wyatt.
Rather than cancel and replace the match, WWE had stroke of genius: Let's take AJ Styles off the South America tour and put him in this match.
The WWE universe was treated to a clinic of wrestling brilliance.
But the best moment wasn't in the match, itself. It's what happened afterward. The two former New Japan Pro Wrestling stars and leaders of the infamous Bullet Club shared their signature (WWE trademarked) sign of brotherhood.
Too sweet. If that's the lasting image we have of 2017, then it must have been one hell of a year.