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10 Best Feuds Of 2017 From WWE And NJPW

The best rivalries from all over the world...

Feuds are the lifeblood of professional wrestling. A good rivalry can take a good match and elevate it into completely new territory, opening up so many avenues for storytelling and ring psychology.

In a calendar year already rich with fantastic matches, it only makes sense that many of these were due to the excellent feuds behind them. All across the wrestling landscape, from WWE to New Japan Pro Wrestling, we saw well-booked rivalries executed to perfection by some of the most talented workers in the business.

Some were deadly serious blood feuds, while others were infused with elements of comedy and flamboyance. Importantly, they also paid off in a host of unique and interesting ways too. Sometimes we were treated to a simple, intense showdown between two fantastic wrestlers. Other feuds were blown off with over-the-top stipulations, driving the action in a specific, storyline-appropriate direction.

So yes, 2017 will primarily be looked back upon as a year of game-changing individual matches - but it's important to remember the storylines behind many of these too. Let's pay homage with a look back at the 10 greatest feuds of the year.

10. Aleister Black Vs. Velveteen Dream


WWE


Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream's feud was perhaps the simplest on this list, but that doesn't take away from its quality.

An off-kilter build led to their wonderful match at TakeOver: WarGames, a bout that deserves to go down as a star-making one for the 22-year-old Dream. Black was in irresistible form here too, delivering a performance up there with his many wars on the independent scene.

The match was given the chance to be so good because of its foundations. Dream had stalked and antagonised Black for weeks, like a purple new-age Goldust, demanding that the Dutchman say his name. The stoic Black - the perfect counterbalance to Dream - refused, but eventually did so at the end of their TakeOver clash. The fact that the crowd popped so loudly for a single line of dialogue demonstrates just how impressive both men were from beginning to end.


9. Chris Jericho Vs. Kevin Owens


WWE


Of all the feuds on this list, this was perhaps the most light-hearted - but that didn't stop it from being a legitimately compelling rivalry, thanks to the unrivalled charisma of Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens.

The pair had delighted fans for months as heel 'best friends', finding US and Universal Championship success along the way. However, when Y2J held a 'Festival of Friendship' on Raw, Owens heartbreakingly attacked his partner as he opened 'the list of KO'.

The line "how come my name's on this?" was delivered perfectly by Jericho, and the beatdown was appropriately vicious, Owens ramming Y2J's head into a TV monitor.

Their eventual match at WrestleMania 33 was a good one, despite being bafflingly dismissed by Vince McMahon on KO's 24 special on the WWE Network. It may not have been the most serious feud of the year, but in terms of pure entertainment, not many topped it.

8. Asuka Vs. Ember Moon


WWE


In WWE, women's wrestling has come on leaps in bounds in terms of landmark matches. 2017 saw the first ever women's Money in the Bank ladder match, following on from 2016's Hell in a Cell PPV main event between Charlotte and Sasha Banks.

However, the best example of storylines hasn't come courtesy of the Raw or SmackDown women's division; it's been on NXT. The unbeatable Asuka laid waste to everybody in her path this year but found her toughest challenge by far in the form of Ember Moon.

In a feud which saw Asuka subtly embrace her more heelish side as the months went on, the pair clashed in two excellent matches in Orlando and Brooklyn. The second was probably WWE's best women's match of the year and saw Asuka surprisingly retain, despite her impending call-up to the main roster.

Eventually, with the belt vacated due to injury, Ember Moon was able to claim her prize in a four-way at TakeOver: WarGames. Fittingly, it was Asuka who stepped into the ring to present her biggest rival with the NXT Women's Championship.

7. Kenny Omega Vs. Tomohiro Ishii


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Although not Omega's most defining feud of the year (more on that later), his eternal war with Tomohiro Ishii waged on in 2017. The pair are two of the hardest hitting men in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and provided us with a trilogy of awesome - and occasionally terrifying - matches this year.

The first came in the opening round of the New Japan Cup, a 30-minute epic which saw Ishii surprisingly knock the Bullet Club leader out of contention - only a couple of months after Omega's astonishingly good performance at Wrestle Kingdom 11.

Their rematch came at Wrestling Dontaku and saw Kenny avenge his earlier loss. A rubber match was needed, and that wish was granted when both men made it to the final of the IWGP United States Championship tournament in Long Beach.

In a Match of the Year candidate (well, all three of their bouts could be considered Match of the Year candidates), Omega finally proved his dominance, emerging victorious from a wince-inducing strong-style war.


6. The New Day Vs. The Usos


WWE


Like Ishii and Omega, The New Day and Usos share a tangible chemistry in the ring. However, I've bumped the tag teams slightly higher on this list due to the adversity they had to overcome.

Simply put, this feud wasn't supposed to be a highlight of the year. The numerous clashes between SmackDown's top tag teams were often given little time, despite sparks flying whenever they took to the ring together.

A fantastic SummerSlam pre-show clash overshadowed much of the main card and forced WWE to acknowledge the feud's potential. It was finally given due attention, most notably in a thrilling Hell in a Cell match at the eponymous pay per view. The five men blended entertainment and brutality without either compromising the other and unquestionably earned the respect they'd deserved all along.

5. DIY Vs. Authors Of Pain


WWE


DIY had one of the best feuds of 2016 - their emotional, tactical battles with The Revival - and carried on that form into 2017. Their opponents, however, may have taken a few of us by surprise.

The Authors of Pain initially seemed like an unwelcome addition to the NXT tag title scene, and even though their TakeOver San Antonio match against DIY was a good one, their victory left a sour taste. We assumed them to be little more than lumbering big guys.

The triple threat tag bout in Orlando was far better received, perhaps due to the inclusion of The Revival before their main roster call-up - but again the AOP were victorious. The tide, however, was beginning to turn in their favour.

The final clash between DIY and the Authors was an utterly terrifying ladder war in Chicago, one which was fittingly given main event status. The two teams packed an incredible amount of storytelling and drama into the bout, without sacrificing any of the carnage and danger the most compelling ladder matches also have.

To top everything off, the aftermath featured the heel turn of the year, as Tommaso Ciampa mercilessly turned on his battered partner, hopefully setting up another Feud of the Year candidate in 2018.

4. Tyler Bate Vs. Pete Dunne


WWE


Although they may have been heel allies on the UK independent scene for much of the year, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate put their friendship aside, treating WWE audiences to one of the most jaw-dropping rivalries of 2017.

The pair first clashed over the United Kingdom Championship, meeting in the finals of the historic UK tournament in Blackpool. A simple (but very effective) story was told, with Bate playing the triumphant underdog, defeating his larger, more sadistic opponent in a wonderful match.

The next chapter, however, was even more thrilling. Not content with resting on their laurels, Dunne and Bate topped their first bout with a Match of the Year candidate at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. A recent WWE poll indicated that this will be voted their MOTY by fans, even surpassing John Cena vs. AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble.

This is simply an astonishing achievement, especially given the youth of both men involved. The future certainly looks bright.


3. KUSHIDA Vs. Will Ospreay


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Will Ospreay and KUSHIDA are two of the best junior heavyweights in the world today (or cruiserweights, or flippy wrestlers, or however you refer to their style). Pretty much everyone can appreciate their athleticism and agility - but 2017 saw both prove that they're also two of the best storytellers around.

The feud between the pair spanned a great deal of time - Ospreay actually lost to KUSHIDA in the 2016 Best of the Super Juniors tournament - and even promotions. Whether clashing with the Time Splitter in NJPW or the final of the WCPW Pro Wrestling World Cup, the young Brit was simply unable to defeat his foe.

He even burst into tears after losing to him in the final of the 2017 BOSJ. KUSHIDA seemed insurmountable.

Then came King of Pro Wrestling 2017, and one of the most thrilling 15-minute stretches of the entire year. In a jaw-dropping encounter, Ospreay was finally able to overcome KUSHIDA and win the coveted IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship - a perfect example of one pro wrestler passing the torch to another.

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Tetsuya Naito


New Japan Pro Wrestling


The feud between Tanahashi and Naito was a strange one, almost taking place in reverse - but that didn't stop it from being one of the very best of 2017.

Their most important and climactic contest actually came first, at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Here, Naito finally redeemed himself, defeating the man who publicly doubted his main event credentials three years prior.

Having retained the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, the LIJ leader proceeded to treat the title with maximum disrespect, physically hurling it around with reckless abandon. Finally, Tanahashi, NJPW's purest babyface, was able to rescue the championship, defeating Naito in a 25-minute epic at Dominion.

The rubber match came during the G1 Climax tournament and saw Naito finally put Tanahashi behind him en route to glory - while simultaneously capping a feud with years of prior build-up. In any other year, it would have been the defining rivalry. Of course, as we all know, 2017 wasn't any ordinary time for pro wrestling...

1. Kazuchika Okada Vs. Kenny Omega


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega's trilogy of matches have already secured legendary status in pro wrestling history. Many, including Dave Meltzer, have placed the bouts on a higher pedestal than the classic Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair rivalry of the 1980s.

The most amazing thing about this feud has to be the way each match surpassed the hype leading up to it, while remaining entirely distinct from one another. The first - at Wrestle Kingdom 11 - was a near-perfect wrestling match, and saw both men solidify their status as the best wrestlers on the planet.

The rematch at Dominion had an even more epic feel, lasting the full 60-minute time limit, and creating a series of visually stunning moments: Okada's rope break, Omega collapsing beneath an attempted Rainmaker, Cody attempting to throw in the towel, and so on.

Finally, in the G1 Climax, Omega finally seized victory - demolishing a weakened Okada in one of the most brutal matches of the year, after relentlessly targeting the neck of his nemesis.

This feud will unquestionably go down in history, not just as the best of 2017, but as one of the greatest wrestling rivalries of all time. The best part? A fourth bout is surely on the horizon...

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]