The Year That Was – Top Wrestlers of 2017: Part II
Having gotten the honourable mentions out of the way it’s time to have a look at the Top 10 pro-wrestlers who have hit the ball out of the park this year.
Here are Nos. 10 to 6 of the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2017.
KUSHIDA had a surprisingly great year in 2017, putting up some of the best junior heavyweight/cruiserweight matches of the year. Starting the year as the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion he dropped the title to Hiromu Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 11, igniting a feud which continued throughout the year. In May, KUSHIDA went on to defeat Marty Scurll for the RoH World Television Championship at the War of the Worlds PPV. He also won the 2017 Best of Super Juniors tournament, defeating Will Ospreay in the finals, becoming a 2-time BOSJ winner. Following his victory, he regained the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from Hiromu. KUSHIDA also won the stacked WCPW Pro-Wrestling World Cup which featured big names from across the pro-wrestling industry including Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Pentagon El Zero M and Zack Sabre Jr., defeating Will Ospreay in a very entertaining final.
Although he did drop the IWGP Junior Heavyweight before the end of the year to Will Ospreay, KUSHIDA had an excellent year, winning two prestigious tournaments and his fifth IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, putting up some great matches in the process.
#9 CODY (RHODES)
What a turnaround year it has been for Cody (Rhodes). Relegated as a lower mid-carder in the WWE, Cody left the promotion to seek greener pastures, and in the process became one of the most sought-after talents in the indies. Now billed as ‘The American Nightmare’ Cody established himself as a true contender in the heavyweight division across various promotions including WCPW, TNA/GFW, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. His inclusion into the infamous Bullet Club only added value to his rising stock, resulting in him eventually capturing the ROH World Championship, which became his first ever world title in a career spanning over 11 years. Cody also put up some impressive matches for NJPW taking part in matches for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Okada and with Hangman Page for the IWGP Tag Team titles.
Although being unsuccessful in both bouts and eventually losing his ROH World Championship to Dalton Castle at ROH Final Battle, Cody has through the course of the year proven himself to be a true main-eventer, one that is here to stay.
#8 ALEXA BLISS
Alexa Bliss continued her exceptional run from last year, re-establishing herself as one of the top talents in WWE’s Women’s Division. This is a huge feat considering the big names that the division currently boasts of. Bliss was already the Smackdown Women’s Champ in her second title reign when the year began, and although she dropped the title to Naomi at Wrestlemania, it did not take long for her to capture the Raw Women’s Title once she was drafted to Raw, later in the year, in the process becoming the first woman to have won both titles. Alexa is also the longest reigning Raw Women’s Champion, in the title’s history, with her current reign stretching over 120 days.
With a roster that boasts of names such as Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch and despite her diminutive figure, Alexa has truly proven through the course of the year that she is very talented in the ring and on the mic – a performer who is here to stay.
#7 JINDER MAHAL (AND THE SINGH BROS)
No other star has improved themselves more this year than Jinder Mahal. The former 3MB member who returned to WWE last year as a bit piece player, completely transformed himself into a legit main-eventer. The man had already put a lot of effort into building up his physique by focusing on a clean personal lifestyle and a strict fitness regime, but Jinder showed shades of his future self when he managed to be one of the last two survivors of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania this year. While he went on to lose to Mojo Rawley, Jinder faced a stroke of fortune when he was drafted to SmackDown Live later in the year. Winning a six-pack challenge to become the No. 1 contender for Randy Orton’s WWE Championship, Jinder defeated The Viper with the help of The Singh Brothers at Backlash, to become the new WWE Champion (his first title run in the WWE). Jinder would continue to be the champion for the Blue brand for the remainder of the year, fending off challenges from Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and a MITB cash-in attempt by Baron Corbin.
While he did finally drop the title to AJ Styles by the end of the year, Mahal considerably improved himself on the mic as well as in the ring to become one of the few pure heels in the WWE today.
#6 TETSUYA NAITO
Tetsuya Naito is one of the most charismatic and unique performers in the entire NJPW roster. As the leader of the erratic and eccentric Los Ingobernables de Japon, he is the embodiment of anarchy in NJPW and the rising star of New Japan. Already a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Naito entered the year as reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion, successfully defending his title against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson. Naito finally dropped the title to Tanahashi in June at Dominion. The following month Naito won the prestigious G1 Climax tournament – his second G1 win, by defeating Kenny Omega in the final. He then went on to defeat Tomohiro Ishii to cement his spot in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12 for Okada’s IWGP heavyweight title.
Naito’s in-ring ability combined with his unique charismatic persona has helped him maintain his position as one of the best performers in NJPW and in the world of pro-wrestling this year.