Saturday, April 20, 2024
EditorialTop 10 Breakout Stars Of 2017.

Top 10 Breakout Stars Of 2017.



Hi everyone! Every year I like to look back and go over the best & worst it had to offer. I rarely do Top X lists as they are subjective and occasionally impossible to rank, but I’ll give it a go this time. Your rankings will differ and I respect that. How I ranked them isn’t important; the featured talent are.

The key thing is recognizing the body of work these men & women have put in to enhancing their careers. I ain’t seen enough of ROH or New Japan this year, so I’m keeping it mainly in WWE .. with one exception from Impact Wrestling. I considered many names, so here’s some honourable mentions:

  • Andrade Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) – He struggled for much of the year, to the point he seemed like a waste of space. That was until Zelina Vega cracked the whip and got him focused, and in doing so he was able to defeat Drew McIntyre for the NXT title.
  • Big Cass – The solo run he had when Enzo got injured proved he belongs. His heel turn and Enzo squashes were meant to lead to a big push, but an injury sidelined him and he remains at home.
  • Johnny Gargano – It’s difficult to get genuine babyfaces, but Johnny Wrestling is probably the most reliable face on NXT. He always gets positive support, and was destined for great things when DIY split up .. but then Ciampa got injured, and since then he’s been stuck in limbo waiting for his former buddy to return.
  • Lars Sullivan – The undefeated “Braun Strowman of NXT” (is what I like to call him) has the power, the look, and the work rate to be another big monster in WWE in the next year or two. He just needs experience.
  • Laurel Van Ness – She went from being a Maria Kanellis stooge, to a crazy wife-to-be, to a psycho bride left at the altar, back to being a crazy wife-to-be, and again to a psycho chick prowling audiences for her future hubby. It’s weird, but she makes it work.
  • Marty Scurll – As a British wrestling fan I feel happy when I see Scurll succeed. He was ROH TV champion last year, and it helped propel him to a better year when he joined the Bullet Club and won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship.
  • Moose – He was great in ROH, but his move to Impact has been really positive and he continues to improve. Moose will be a household name if WWE is smart enough to pick him up when his contract runs out.
  • Rosemary – She was amazing in Decay’s feud with the Broken Hardys, but after they left it became clear she would sit on top of the Knockouts Division with little competition. She turned face, garnered a decent following, and I still believe she’s the best female character outside WWE. Sexy Star trying to break her arm showed wrestling fans care a lot about her.
  • The Undisputed Era – They ain’t been in NXT long, yet they’ve made a huge impact. As the leader of the group, Adam Cole has been accepted by the NXT Universe as they always chant “ADAM COLE BAYBAY!”. Cole, O’Reilly & Fish collectively won the first NXT Wargames, and more accomplishments are bound to come their way.
  • Velveteen Dream – His match with Aleister Black put him in the spotlight and gained him respect among wrestling fans. He’s not quite there in terms of breaking out, but his program with Black shows his undeniable potential. Pic Credit: SK-Graphix

10. Tyler Bate

Before this year he was virtually unknown to anyone who isn’t a British wrestling enthusiast. He was the youngest in the UK title tournament, and it was clear early on that he’s way more experienced than his age suggests. As the first WWE UK Champion, Tyler deserves to make it on to any list featuring this years top breakout stars.

9. Aleister Black

In January, Tommy End showed up before the UK finals to lose a match to Neville, but it’s what happened afterwards which made his career. As the character known as Aleister Black, he’s managed to make a dark gimmick work as a tough, no-nonsense babyface. The undefeated Black continues to show he’s main roster worthy, and it’s only a matter of time til he emerges.

8. Elias (Samson)

I said way back before anyone knew who he was .. he would do very well on the main roster. He continues to prove that his character is really well-suited. His ring work isn’t the stuff of legend; but at least he gets it done no matter who the opponent is. I’m a big fan of all his hit songs.

7. Eli Drake

2017 was a year which saw Eli Drake make a lot of progress in his career. NXT never gave him a chance, but Impact Wrestling opened the door and he stepped right on through with microphone in hand. The “Namer Of Dummies” went from being an upper mid-carder, to the Global Champion shortly after a reshuffle in management. I’ve enjoyed his promos a lot, certainly one of the better parts of the show. He’s got a lot more to accomplish, yet he’s a locker room leader and has proven worthy of being the main event. Will we see him return to WWE next year?

6. Jinder Mahal

Much controversy. The Maharaja has literally gone from jobber to WWE Champion in the same year and who else can say they’ve done that? No one. So while you may hate him, or hate the company for pushing him, or think he’s crap and didn’t deserve any of it .. just remember he’s always done a professional job. He did everything asked of him during his time as champ, and the benefits from the exposure will ensure he never gets relegated to jobber status ever again.

5. Pete Dunne

Wish I could put him #1 because the fan reaction gives me goosebumps. Only reason he isn’t higher is because we ain’t seen him enough on television (for good reason). While he didn’t win the UK tournament against his student Tyler Bate, it was obvious early on that he had more to offer. The rivalry with Bate has to go down as one of the best in recent memory; and not just of this year. When he won the UK title you could see what it meant to him. Dunne will continue into 2018 making an even bigger name for himself, much like what Triple H said to him in January.

4. Alexa Bliss

The most successful woman on the main roster, being the first to win the Smackdown and Raw Women’s Championships. What more can I say? Little Miss Bliss has the world at her fingertips, and it’s going to take something huge to dethrone The Goddess. Maybe someone who got promoted from NXT? She’s certainly come a long way since her valet days with Blake & Murphy.

3. Bobby Roode

While he’s now in a US title program (which some might think is a demotion), Roode took the “IT Factor” momentum from his TNA days and injected it in to NXT with a large dose of “Glorious”. Early this year he defeated Nakamura to become the oldest NXT Champion in history. It remains to be seen if he can reach the top on the main roster, but at his age I don’t think WWE will hang around too long. 2018 should be the year when he wins the WWE title; otherwise they are wasting his talent.

2. Asuka

I’ve talked enough about Asuka in my recent articles (see the “Is Asuka Overrated?” series), but again I have to feature her because of the records she broke with her NXT title reign. She’s still a bit of an unknown to some of the WWE Universe, but to those who’ve seen her work knows she’s going to win a lot of titles, and will entertain us for many years to come. Her legend is being forged, but it might take some time to kick off on the main roster as WWE’s building her up on the slow path.

1. Braun Strowman

Remember who eliminated Strowman in this years rumble? Baron Corbin. That’s how far the “Monster Among Men” has come in 11 months, there’s no way he’d be eliminated by Corbin again. Braun had his first championship match against Kevin Owens for the Universal title, but it wasn’t til his program with Roman Reigns did his career skyrocket. They worked a feud which should go down as one of the best of 2017.

Strowman transformed from being “the typical monster who squashes jobbers”, to being the guy who did what many others wished they could do .. relentlessly beat up Roman Reigns. The classic line of “I’m not finished with you!” will be replayed in highlights of his career. He got so over, management had to turn him face. He’s a natural, and the scary thing is he’s still improving. He was injured in May, which was unfortunate, but I guess it could be seen as a blessing in disguise as it gave fans time to miss what he brought to Raw.

His meteoric rise went one step further when he was given the chance to face Lesnar in the same ring at Summerslam. The encounter was so good he was given a singles match against Lesnar at No Mercy. He also won Survivor Series for Team Raw, with unwanted assistance from Triple H. And it seems likely he will be facing Lesnar again soon, as he feuds with Kane over who the biggest monster is. Needless to say, Strowman has had a really successful year filled with hard work and sacrifice. 2018 could be even better and cement his name in history if he is able to grab the Universal title.

And that’s all for today! I’m looking forward to bringing you more articles on the best of 2017. Got any suggestions? Did I leave anyone out? Leave me a comment and I’ll consider it. Thanks for reading! And see you again.

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