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10 Best WWE Superstars Of 2017

The cream of both Raw and SmackDown Live's crop...

This time last year, it seemed as though WWE was on the brink of a total indie revolution. With AJ Styles at the helm, a new wave of Superstars appeared to be on the horizon - especially with names like Sami Zayn and Finn Balor looking to break through.

Looking back from the end of 2017, the reality is far more mixed. Yes, certain former darlings of the independent scene have managed to thrive, but more than a few Sports Entertainment-style workers enjoyed a crucial 12 months too.

The rest of the members of the elite from the last little while is made up of true surprise packages; those who were seemingly trapped in inescapable mid card ruts but somehow managed to break free through a combination of personal creativity and more liberal booking.

In terms of global wrestling talent, most of the critical acclaim has been heaped on those over in New Japan - particularly Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada - but despite not churning out incredible matches with such startling regularity, several members of the WWE roster have still enjoyed a year they can be very proud of.

Here are the 10 best WWE Superstars from WWE's main roster over the past 12 months...

10. Alexa Bliss


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Far from the most polished wrestler in the women's division, Alexa Bliss is the most charismatic and engaging by far. She can consistently be relied upon to cut some of the best promos in WWE, as long as the writers don't provide her with unsalvageable material as they did during her feud with Bayley.

In terms of pure match quality, Bliss' performances depend very much upon who she's wrestling - but few are able to generate as much heat with verbal barbs and facial expressions.

Bliss recently became the longest reigning Raw Women's Champion in the belt's short history and it's easy to see why WWE have entrusted her with a regular position at the top of the division.


9. Samoa Joe


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Samoa Joe played his part in some of WWE's most compelling matches of the year, namely the big four and five-way demolitions between some of the roster's more destructive members. But they aren't the main reason for his inclusion on this list.

Nobody else in WWE (except for Brock Lesnar) has quite the same presence as Joe. He looks, talks, and carries himself like a legitimate ass-kicker, something that has been known to Impact and NXT fans for years - but which also translated to the main roster incredibly smoothly.

Although few expected Joe to actually beat Lesnar, his attitude and menace in the lead-up to that match still made it a very intriguing contest. Just watch his bone-chilling promo and attack on Paul Heyman to get a sense of his unrivalled presence.

8. Kevin Owens


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From a purely in-ring point of view, 2017 may actually have been Kevin Owens' least-impressive year since joining WWE. In terms of storylines and momentum, however, he's again proven why he is one of the biggest personalities in wrestling today.

His betrayal of Chris Jericho turned a hilarious heel duo into intense rivals, and although their WrestleMania match was strangely criticised by Vince McMahon, it was actually one of the best bouts of the night.

The loss of the Universal Championship and a move to SmackDown Live threatened to halt Owens' momentum, but his new rivalry with Shane McMahon (and shocking alliance with Sami Zayn) has been one of the most unpredictable and exciting long-term storylines of the year.

7. The New Day


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From the moment they turned face in 2016, it seemed only a matter of time until The New Day's act grew stale. Many may have predicted this year as the beginning of the end for Kofi, Xavier, and Big E, but the beloved trio have remained just as popular.

A move to SmackDown provided them with a change of atmosphere and fresh opponents - but more importantly, placed them on the same roster as The Usos, with whom they shared one of the feuds of the year.

An excellent match on the SummerSlam Kickoff show sparked fan demand for WWE to raise the profile of the rivalry, and that wish was granted with a wonderful tag team Hell in a Cell match. However, with the feud seemingly over (or at least softened), it'll be interesting to see where The New Day go from here.


6. The Usos


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Since turning heel towards the end of 2016, The Usos have seemed entirely more comfortable. After years of trying (and often failing) to forge a connection with the fans, a far more organic popularity has come about thanks to blistering promos and a tweaked offence.

The most important storyline of their year was, as previously mentioned, the feud with The New Day. Jimmy and Jey surprised many with just how well they held their own in the rivalry, and actually emerged on top after winning the immensely enjoyable showdown at Hell in a Cell.

So good was the feud, it actually turned The Usos face again - this time without sacrificing their aggression and energy. The brothers are certainly in a more promising position now than they have been in the past.

5. Roman Reigns


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This is hardly the most surprising confession ever, but I've found it very difficult to be supportive of Roman Reigns this year. As ever, he has been booked relentlessly strong, rarely losing a match (and only really doing so via interference or dubious heel tactics). He retired The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 and looks to be marching towards an inevitable victory over Brock Lesnar in 2018.

Despite this, it can't really be denied that this has been one of the best in-ring years of Roman's career. His PPV matches have been some of the most chaotic and entertaining clashes in WWE this year - from a wild brawl with Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble, to his role in the big fatal four-way at SummerSlam.

There's little doubt that Reigns can wrestle. He may not be a super-worker in the mould of Shawn Michaels or Eddie Guerrero, but he fights with a smoothness and intensity that would be applauded in the case of many others. The only problem - and it's a big one - is that WWE still seem utterly convinced that he is Hogan 2.0 and that we'll eventually accept him as such.

4. Neville


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A year ago, who would have thought that Neville would have undergone one of the most universally-enjoyed runs of 2017? A heel turn seemed promising, providing the Brit with a change of pace after rapidly losing relevance on the main roster - but few could have predicted just how far he'd run with it.

For most of this year, Neville was the clear highlight of 205 Live by a huge distance. A brutally hateful, vicious heel, he referred to himself as King of the Cruiserweights and demolished everyone who stood in his way.

Messrs Swann, Gallagher, Perkins, and Aries all fell to Neville in entertaining matches - his feud with A-Double proving a particular highlight. He lost the Cruiserweight Championship to Akira Tozawa which turned out to be a very strange booking decision, considering he won it back the very next week.

Now Neville appears to find himself in limbo having reportedly taken badly to Enzo Amore's repositioning as the new top dog of 205 Live. It's unclear whether he'll return or head onto the independent scene, but whichever path he takes, he's guaranteed to do so with a huge amount of momentum.


3. Brock Lesnar


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The issue with Brock Lesnar is, of course, the irregularity of his appearances. His frequent absence from television has given the Raw main event scene a curiously empty feel - but simultaneously, has made the Beast Incarnate feel like even more of a special attraction.

Much of 2016 was disappointing for Brock, most notably his underwhelming WrestleMania match with Dean Ambrose - but a shockingly quick loss to Goldberg at Survivor Series led to an unlikely revival.

This year, since wrenching the Universal Championship from the WCW icon in Orlando, Lesnar has been on a tear. Backed up by the ever-present mouthpiece, Paul Heyman, he has re-cemented his status as the most dominant force in WWE. His matches have largely backed this up too, as wonderful displays at SummerSlam and Survivor Series have proven.

That November matchup with AJ Styles was particularly impressive, and reminded us all that Lesnar isn't simply a wrecking machine; he's a damn good wrestler too, when he wants to be.

2. Braun Strowman


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When the impossibly massive Braun Strowman emerged as the newest member of the Wyatt Family, a lot of eyes were rolled. He seemed like, and arguably was, another inexperienced, clunky big man booked more for his size than any semblance of ability.

2017, however, has been truly transformative for Strowman. Separated from Wyatt and repackaged as an amoral tweener, his path of destruction has been one of the most consistently compelling aspects of Monday Night Raw.

Although not yet the finished product, Braun has improved to a remarkable degree. Often moving with frightening speed for such a huge man, he's been the main attraction of numerous pay per view battles: Extreme Rules, Great Balls of Fire, SummerSlam, and so on.

Part of what makes Strowman so enjoyable is his throwback appeal. We don't really see new wrestlers of his size and terrifying potential anymore, so to see an angry monster running through his opponents in brutally straightforward fashion has been one of 2017's most surprising positives.

1. AJ Styles


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For the second year in a row, AJ Styles has been the best wrestler in WWE - and one of the best on the face of the planet.

The Georgia native enjoyed one of the best debut years in WWE history, debuting at the 2016 Royal Rumble, winning a stellar feud with John Cena, and ultimately becoming WWE Champion. 2017 didn't seem as though it was going to be nearly as positive for the Phenomenal One, despite another classic contest with Cena in January.

Despite a perceived demotion into the US title picture as the summer approached, The Phenomenal One came roaring back towards the end of the year. The catalyst was a shock television victory over Jinder Mahal in the UK which provided The Modern Day Maharaja with the best match of his career - and returned the WWE Championship to AJ.

Since then, there's been no looking back. Styles was made to look strong despite losing a brilliant match to Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, and can be confident in his status as one of the most popular and talented Superstars in WWE today.

With several Match of the Year candidates, a boatload of momentum, and the WWE Championship in his possession, would anyone bet against AJ retaining his top spot by the end of 2018?

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

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