As we approach the midway point of 2017, it seems as good a time as any to discuss the year so far in the WWE in this latest Sunday Sermon. So, today we have all the hits and all the misses of the year so far.
Craig: I’m fearful that this could be quite lopsided towards the negatives if I’m being honest or perhaps glass half empty.
Let’s start with the positives… I’ve really enjoyed the booking so far around the Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar feud. The WWE has really made Joe a big deal and an actual threat heading into the PPV that shall not be named… More recently, I’ve also really enjoyed how the WWE has handled the break-up of Enzo and Big Cass. You can’t deny that Enzo isn’t talented it’s just that that talent doesn’t stretch to his in-ring work but his acting during this all has been very good. It is very likely that from this the WWE will be able to create a star in Big Cass.
Can we also have this discussion without praising The Miz and the way he has become one of the most talented and must-see acts on WWE programming, although the LaVar Ball segment this past week was…errrrr…interesting…
Is that it though, when it comes to the main roster? I might just sneakily steal Jamie’s thunder and mention a favourite of his: Aleister Black. Like Jamie, he’s quickly become a firm favourite of mine on NXT and it won’t be long before his talent is being showcased on the main stage. Going forward, I’m looking forward to the Mae Young Classic and hope it’s as good as the UK Championship was but that’s all looking forward, this Sunday Sermon is about casting our eyes over the last six months.
So, before we head into negativity, what else stands out this year WWE wise?
John: There haven’t been many bright spots for me personally this year, I’ve been mainly left cold by what’s going on with the Main Roster and NXT has lost some of its lustre.
The WWE UK Championship scene is something to be happy about though. I was familiar with a lot of the talent due to their frequent trips to Ireland and they didn’t disappoint on the big stage. Pete Dunne quickly became a favourite of mine after I saw him wrestle Chris Hero in Galway last year, I knew after watching that first match that he had the goods to go far I just didn’t think it would be so soon. Pete and his British Strong Style stablemate the outstandingTyler Bate had a fabulous final match at the initial tournament in January and followed it up with an even better UK Championship match at NXT Takeover Chicago. These guys are putting on some of the best wrestling matches in the world right now and that WWE is giving them a platform to do it without the awful “main roster” soap opera garbage is something to be happy about.
AJ Styles and John Cena had a knockout match at the Royal Ruble which was nipping at the heels of Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada’s famous Wrestle Kingdom showdown in terms of match quality.
I found WrestleMania completely underwhelming but I did love the five-minute monster mash between Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. For what it was supposed to be, their match was perfect. It was great to see Goldberg finally be able to exhibit what made him so special in the 90s to a massive WWE audience. While a lot of fans and full-time wrestlers moan about the part timers taking over at Wrestlemania they were left standing on shaky ground when these two behemoths showed them up with five minutes on a five-hour show.
I’m hopeful that Samoa Joe will get a great match with Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire and I’d hope that WWE could turn their product around by the end of the year but right now I don’t bother with it. I haven’t watched a full WWE PPV since Wrestlemania and I can’t imagine that’s going to change anytime soon.
To offer some positivity though, I’ve stuck with New Japan Pro Wrestling this year and avoided my annual drop off after Wrestle Kingdom. The NJPW product is a joy to watch. The storylines are beautifully strung along for months, every wrestler is unique and has their own character, the match quality is second to none and the English commentary makes keeping up with the product much easier than it used to be. If the style of wrestling they promote suits your tastes I’d recommend jumping in with NJPW, their recent Dominion show was easily one of the greatest PPV’s I’ve ever seen. If you’re living in the UK or Ireland at the moment too you’ve no excuse to be an unhappy wrestling fan as this part of the world has the best independent wrestling scene in the world right now. I go to monthly shows in Dublin that feature world class matches with an amazing atmosphere. If you’re struggling to stay positive about wrestling I’d recommend finding your local promotion and going along, it’ll reinvigorate your spirit for sure.
Brian: Wow, 6 months already in the books for 2017, a lot of stuff has happened both good and bad. Firstly, like my fellow observers here on the site, I too have probably more negatives than positives. The WWE has had a very up and down year. They have perhaps the strongest roster (talent wise) they have had in years with the likes of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Finn Balor and so many others. The match quality has certainly gone way up.
The return of the Hardy Boyz has been a pleasant one. While not using their “Broken” gimmick, the WWE fans have still showered them with adulation since their surprising return at WrestleMania. Jinder Mahal winning the WWE title, to me was a great story in 2017. Here was a guy who was nothing more than a jobbing comedy act his entire WWE career, got released, worked his way back on the roster and soon became WWE champion. He has generated great responses from fans who both boo him and cheer him as well.
The development of Braun Strowman cannot be overlooked either. Strowman, so far this year, has become a true superstar that fans who hate Roman Reigns can truly get behind. His booking so far has been flawless and it has paid dividends for the WWE. The women’s divisions on both Raw and Smackdown continue to grow and improve and push the limits of what they can do inside the ring.
Now for the not so good portion of the WWE. The cruiserweight division needs a lot of work. Not so much because of the talent but because they, for the most part, haven’t been built up properly. Too many talented wrestlers from NXT have been booked improperly and the fans haven’t gravitated to them. Guys and gals like Apollo Crews, American Alpha, Tye Dillinger, so on and so forth.
The overall flow to their TV shows hasn’t flowed very well. I find myself DVRing them and fast forwarding a lot of the nonsensical stuff. Believe me, there has been a lot of that this year so far. NXT hasn’t been the same show either, not to be too critical of Triple H and the fine job he has done down there. Too much talent was called up and they haven’t quite been able to build up new stars as fast as they have all left.
Craig: I agree with much of what has been said. Particularly the Jinder Mahal aspect. You can’t criticise the WWE and accuse them of not attempting to make stars then slag them off for putting the strap on Mahal as all they are doing is trying to create a new superstar. Whether it pays off, that remains to be seen but as it stands they have rehabilitated a jobber character of old and made him the champion and he doesn’t look wildly out of place. I’m not sure, however, how I feel about the return of the Punjabi Prison match…
One thing that has concerned me, as it has with Brian, is the misuse of certain talents. Whilst it has benefited the blog as it has allowed the ‘Book or Cook‘ series to return, it has seen the likes of American Alpha and Tye Dillinger with little or nothing to do and they are too talented for that.
For me, the biggest problem is the one we addressed at the weekend in the Sunday Sermon: just too much content. It’s overkill. It means there’s no longer the ‘really must watch this’ feel to WWE programming as more often than not you realise you really don’t ‘have’ to watch it as it’ll be largely filler, not so much killer.
Benjamin: Feel like 2017 took a turn for the worse right after Wrestlemania, which was a highly entertaining show.
In the first part of the year you had one of the matches of the year with AJ Styles and Cena as well as Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunn. We had the debut of Nakamura on Smackdown as well as The Revivial which added to such a loaded roster on WWE as well NXT. The return of the Hardy Boyz was an all-time classic moment and it feels like they never left. However, it seems like people are still just waiting for the “Broken” Hardys to appear.
But then all the momentum was halted with that “Superstar Shakeup.” There was no explanation or repercussion of why people switched shows. The overall feeling of both shows especially Smackdown were immediately changed.
Smackdown got hit hard with the loss of The Miz, Bray Wyatt and his reign as champion, as well as Dean Ambrose who now is just kinda roaming around on Raw.
Personally, I’m not a fan at all of Jinder Mahal, he does nothing for me. Yes he’s a different name, but they way it was presented was awful and it took the main spotlight away from guys like AJ Styles,etc.
Since around the time of the Shakeup, I’ve stopped DVR’n Raw and just click in and out of it and haven’t really missed anything. Like you guys said, nothing is really “can’t miss” and that shouldn’t be the case. Why Finn Balor is not involved in a major angle is criminal.
This is the deepest roster they’ve had since 2002 and they are wasting time.
Brian: I certainly don’t want this sermon to be all gloom and doom. There are a lot of good things in pro wrestling aside from the WWE. For instance, Ring of Honor is seemingly getting stronger and stronger by the day. New Japan wrestling is as good and entertaining as it has ever been. Netflix acquired the rights to air Lucha Underground and airing the GLOW series. TNA has been rebranded the Global Force Wrestling and have vastly improved to what they once were.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.