It’s the final part! Everyone you haven’t read about yet is in this part, including a handful of former world champions. It’s been a long ride, let’s get this show back on the road!
I think Paige is just about unique on this list in not having appeared on WWE programming one single time since the draft. She got hurt last year, needed neck surgery, and got suspended twice due to wellness policy violations. She should be just about ready to return to the ring in the next couple of months I think, but whether we will see her in a WWE ring again is questionable. A string of incidents in her personal life has led to speculation that WWE will think they are better off without her, which seems to be a fair opinion right now. But for Paige’s fans, there is still the hope while she’s under contract that she will return, and with The Rock making a movie about her there’s always the chance WWE will try to capitalise on that publicity. The issue is whether or not they feel they can trust her in that situation. If she gets things straightened out, and recovers physically, she can be a real asset to either show right now. My worry is that it’s all too likely Paige will go down as an underachiever in WWE.
Well, he’s not playing Pokemon Go anymore. He was the idiotic half of a team with Goldust in it, they barely ever won, and now that his partner turned on him he is showing absolutely no urgency in his quest to get revenge. No demands to face him in the ring, no demands to Kurt Angle for a match. Good job WWE, nice logic.
Orton was actually just nearing a return from a long-term injury when the draft took place last summer, and made his return to get his head caved in by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Afterwards, he quickly transitioned into a feud with Bray Wyatt, where the two eventually became Tag Team Champions. Randy won the Royal Rumble in January, leading to the dissolution of the Wyatt Family, and a 13th world championship at Wrestlemania. The House of Horrors match followed, and then seven weeks after capturing the WWE title, Orton lost it in his first defence against Jinder Mahal. Orton has shown good fire in defending his family these last few weeks, but this whole feud just feels unimportant. When he first aligned with Bray, there was huge potential there, but the final payoff was blighted by gimmicks. Orton’s year has been full of good setups, but it has lacked the consistency to see them through to memorable outcomes. Even his revenge on Brock was relegated to a house show match, where Orton lost again.
Debuting the night after Wrestlemania to defeat The New Day, and attack their ice cream cart, The Revival made an immediate impact. But cashing in on their momentum had to wait, as a jaw injury saw them side-lined for a couple of months. They were brought back as suspects in the Enzo & Cass mystery attacker angle, and most recently attacked The Hardy Boyz, setting up a dream match for me personally. However, they are still very new to the roster, even more so because of their absence through injury, so while the few times we’ve seen them Dash & Dawson have delivered exciting segments, I just cannot give them a particularly high rating. Barring further injury, this should more than double for the year to come.
The powerhouse inside the ring, whose Gore is devastating to opponents, Rhyno has also shown his comic timing as the funny man backstage alongside Heath Slater as the duo became the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions. Those two had teased breaking up upon losing their SmackDown tag titles last year, but are still together even if Slater is branching out into Intercontinental Championship matches on his own. I’m not really sure where Rhyno goes from here, but he has a good track record of raising a smile when he does appear on our screens.
The internet’s resident boo boy has had a mixed year by his standards. He won the United States Championship soon after the draft, eventually losing it to Chris Jericho around the turn of the year. But he has as yet been unsuccessful in his quest to become Universal Champion, and was the surprise final entrant in the Royal Rumble, coming up short to the eventual winner Randy Orton. He recovered from that by becoming only the second man to beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, and has since engaged in a series of wars with Braun Strowman. When those two titans clash, it has a real main event feel to it, which is something that has been lacking for a long time in most WWE storylines. The main criticism of him is from a character perspective – for many key moments in 2017 he has acted like a heel, yet has shown no remorse nor faced any real reprimand, and is still pushed as the marketable face of the company. He attempted murder at Great Balls of Fire, but will get cycled out for interviews galore. I know we are supposed to suspend disbelief during the shows, and separate man from character, but isn’t that just insulting the intelligence of the increasingly hardcore fanbase WWE has? Anyways, beating The Undertaker was a huge win – not just in storyline, but also in that Roman’s matches since have had a star power to them that had been lacking before. He has by no means dominated the competition the same way he has in years gone past, but Roman’s reputation has certainly been enhanced in the last 12 months.
Rusev, in theory, had the opportunity with the draft to become a breakout star, and one of the top heels on Monday nights. He initially held the only male singles title on the show, and would have been seen as at least on a par with Kevin Owens, with more durability than the veteran Chris Jericho. But after his feud with Roman Reigns, where he lost the US title, he sunk lower and lower down the card. Eventually he was teaming with Jinder Mahal as his lackey, and was engaging in comedy segments with Shawn Michaels on Raw instead of tearing through the roster. He got hurt at the start of this year, missing Wrestlemania, but returned to lose to John Cena on SmackDown (come on, we all know it’s going to happen). Hardly anything to write home about aside from one or two moments with Roman, but with a thin heel roster on Tuesday nights you can’t rule out Rusev making his way back up the card in the rest of 2017.
Ahh Sami. The perennial underdog, beloved by a lot of fans but never seems to be given a chance to shine. At least, not since his feud with Kevin Owens produced one of the best WWE matches of 2016. He stepped up to the mark for Braun Strowman to roll through, lost to The Miz at Survivor Series, was relegated to the battle royal at Wrestlemania, moved to Tuesday nights where it was thought he may get more of a chance, but instead looks set to be the first to lose to Mike Kanellis. Sami is capable of so much more than WWE are letting him be, we all know that. He has been shown to be quirky backstage, with so much heart inside the ring, but there seems to be a glass ceiling that is preventing him from reaching even a mid-card title, never mind the main event. That I’m struggling to remember any redeeming moment for someone as talented as Zayn since the post-draft rosters took effect speaks volumes to how misused he is.
Was it just me, or did the whole Samoa Joe vs Seth Rollins rivalry feel a little off? Joe’s debut was fantastic, but Seth’s injury delaying their match was not. By the time we finally got to see it, Seth had already slayed the king and had moved on to his assassin, making Joe seem a little second rate without any pay off to the feud as Seth had already vanquished his real enemy, on one leg no less. Then the rumoured Triple H-led faction didn’t pan out when Kevin Owens swapped brands in the Superstar Shake-Up, which left Joe spinning his wheels a tad. But then Joe became the number one contender to Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship, and boy did he catch fire. He looked like a real threat to Brock, helped along of course by Paul Heyman putting him over like a major deal. His promos since locking eyes with Lesnar have been nothing short of outstanding, especially his post-Great Balls of Fire exchange with Lesnar, Heyman, Reigns and Angle. He has also been positioned as the top challenger to Reigns whenever he gets hold of the belt, going 2-0 against the Samoan named Joe. If there was any doubt that Samoa Joe belongs at the top of WWE, that has long been obliviated. And even more impressively, Joe has done this as a true heel. He will get cheers because of the respect he has built up over his career, but nothing he has done has been cool or redeemable. That’s rare to see in 2017, and should be applauded for the achievement it is.
Just a week after the draft took place, Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Championship in one of the best moments of the year. Those two spent the rest of 2016 sparring, trading the gold, and by the time the year was out Sasha was a three-time champion and had competed in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match, the first women’s match to main event a PPV, and her second iron woman match in the company. But since Bayley took over as the top face in the division, Sasha has lost momentum. She looked primed for a heel turn post-Wrestlemania to freshen things up and rekindle her legendary NXT rivalry with Bayley, until Alexa Bliss usurped her spot in the Superstar Shake-up. So now, Sasha has been left in an in-between role, not the top heel, not the top face, too credible to be ignored, but not with enough momentum to really be pushed. She unsuccessfully challenged for Bliss’ title at Great Balls of Fire, but unless a heel turn is in her future it’s difficult to see a path to championship glory for Sasha in 2017.
It’s easy to forget that Seth went into the draft, and indeed SummerSlam, as a heel. The story of his year has pretty much been coming up short. He failed to become the first ever Universal Champion, though he did injure Finn Balor in the process meaning Balor had to forfeit the belt. He then got screwed by Triple H in the four way elimination match to crown a new champion, and was thwarted by Chris Jericho in his efforts to win it from Kevin Owens. Triple H then psyched Rollins out of his Royal Rumble spot, and blindsided him with Samoa Joe, injuring him in the process. Seth did beat Triple H at Wrestlemania, but hasn’t worked his way back into the title picture since, despite declaring his intentions to challenge Lesnar. Instead, he put on underwhelming efforts with Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt, and now looks like he could be the next challenger for the Intercontinental Championship. It’s a bit of a step down for the number one overall draft pick, but Seth has at least practically constantly been near the main event in featured storylines, even if he has never been positioned as “the man” anymore.
Sheamus & Cesaro
When Mick Foley paired these two up for a best of seven series, I was looking forward to good matches with presumably few consequences to them. Instead what we got was the birth of an unlikely tag team who would visibly get better every time they competed together, entertaining with their bickering at first, and developing into a crisp and efficient unit. They are now two-time Raw Tag Team Champions, and when you consider that they ended the record breaking run of The New Day and the nostalgia run of The Hardy Boyz (after turning heel as a unit), WWE clearly has a lot of faith in the hard hitting European pair. Going from mid-card purgatory to two-time tag champions in a revitalised division has been one of the major successes of the last twelve months, even though each man’s previous individual accolades arguably hold more prestige amongst the casual fan.
Debuting on the blue brand two nights after Wrestlemania, the international sensation finally made his long-awaited debut on WWE’s main roster. Talk about star power, this man exudes an aura that is unparalleled amongst his peers. Charisma shining through, all he has to do is enter the ring to be a highlight of any given show. He was first paired up against Dolph Ziggler, who he defeated handily. He was then placed in the Money in the Bank ladder match, where a pre-match attack by eventual winner Baron Corbin took him out of the majority of the match and set up his current rivalry. Nakamura matches on SmackDown have been few and far between, but that only adds to the attraction that is Shinsuke Nakamura. What is does mean is that I have a limited sample to rate him on from the main roster. But his ability to get over on action alone, not in a match or on the mic, has been highly impressive, even for fans of NXT. Popular figures don’t always translate to the main roster, but there should never have been any doubt Nakamura would be an almost universal hit immediately.
Job. Scuffle. Release. No way of repeating, he’s gone.
He’s wrestled? Who knew. I think he may have actually originally been the first recognisable wrestler to stand up to Braun Strowman, but nobody can be sure about that. Since being shifted to SmackDown, he has done what he did on Raw. The man with no face has not been seen.
Summer was drafted to Raw last summer in a similarly lofty position to others (above Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman etc) but to my recollection is the second superstar to not have made an appearance on either show. I could be wrong with that, but I don’t remember one if it did happen. She was definitely injured at one point, but whether that’s still the reason for her not being on TV is anyone’s guess. It is difficult to find a place for her to slot in when the likes of Mickie James and Emma aren’t being used regularly, so maybe a return to NXT may actually be the best thing for her.
Tamina was nearly awol for the year, only resurfacing at the Superstar Shake-up as a part of the SmackDown brand. Since then, she has done nothing to impress, and I don’t even remember her being impressive in either Money in the Bank ladder match she was in, which should have been the easiest opportunity to give her a spotlight. She has been a manager/bodyguard figure for most of her WWE tenure, and it looks like they are going back to what they know by pairing Tamina with Lana. Which will obviously result in the highest quality women’s tag team matches from a technical viewpoint we have ever seen.
Titus Worldwide finally got off the ground this year, after a bad run of segments about wanting to join The New Day, with the signing of Apollo Crews and apparently Akira Tozawa to his stable. It actually looks like Titus’ days as a regular in-ring competitor may be over, but he was always better with a mic in his hand anyway. It might be a good move for Titus in the long run, but we are yet to see his clients reap his rewards just yet.
The perfect ten made his first appearance in the Royal Rumble match, appropriately and predictably entering at number ten. He then debuted on SmackDown post-Wrestlemania to great fanfare, but has barely been used since. He has occasionally been found putting over the WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, but other than that it’s been a struggle. You have to wonder if instead of being a jobber to the stars on the main roster, he would have been better off as a top guy in NXT like I suggested earlier this year.
Jimmy and Jey have been two of the victims of the lack of depth on SmackDown’s tag team roster. Turning heel and freshening up their gimmick and appearance has given The Usos a new lease of life, even if it took a little while to really get off the ground. They have become one of the more regularly entertaining parts of SmackDown in 2017, and after defeating American Alpha for the Tag Team Championships in a feud that produced good matches but little reaction, The Usos have been verbally sparring with the always vibrant New Day. Their rap-battle was surprisingly good, with the potential for better and better matches always in the air with those five guys. The New Day may have given SmackDown’s tag division a shot in the arm, but they needed credible opponents, and The Usos have proven to be more than capable of filling that role.
It looked like Zack had found a path to regular usage when the Hype-Bros made their way to the main roster, with WWE always seeming hesitant about using the Long Island Iced Z. They were going to get title shots (and with the way storylines worked out, they may have won the gold too) when Ryder won a battle royal for his team in December, but unfortunately Zack got hurt in the process, taking him out for six months. He reunited with Mojo upon his return, but tensions are running high and a split could happen any time the two are on screen together.
So there we have it! That is everyone who was either drafted last summer, or a current member of the roster. For the short version without any explanation or justification, here are your classified star by star ratings.
* – Alberto Del Rio, The Ascension, Bo Dallas, The Colons, Curt Hawkins, Curtis Axel, Dana Brooke, Darren Young, The Dudley Boyz, Elias Samson, Emma, Erick Rowan, Eva Marie, Jack Swagger, Kane, Lana, Mark Henry, Mike Kanellis, Paige, R-Truth, Simon Gotch, Sin Cara, Summer Rae, Tamina Snuka
*1/2 – Aiden English, Alicia Fox, Big Show, Goldust, James Ellsworth, Mickie James, Mojo Rawley, Titus O’Neill, Tye Dillinger, Zack Ryder
** – American Alpha, Apollo Crews, Breezango, Carmella, Enzo Amore, Gallows & Anderson, Jinder Mahal, Kalisto, Luke Harper, Rhyno, Rusev, Sami Zayn
**1/2 – Big Cass, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, Heath Slater, Natalya, Nikki Bella
*** – Bayley, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Naomi, The New Day, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura, The Usos
***1/2 – Baron Corbin, Brock Lesnar, The Hardy Boyz, John Cena, Nia Jax, Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks
**** – Alexa Bliss, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Neville, Samoa Joe, Sheamus & Cesaro
****1/2 – Braun Strowman, Charlotte, The Miz
***** – AJ Styles
The average rating of the entire roster is 2.35 stars, which I think is actually a little harsh on the product over the last twelve months. That’s been skewed slightly low because of people leaving the company or having long spells out through injury. I would rate WWE at a solid three stars overall in the last year – there have been some awesome moments and certain stars who have been built up really well, but there has also been a lot of baffling booking decisions or talented superstars who are simply not being used well enough.
But anyway, it’s time to look ahead and not backwards, as we have our last PPV before SummerSlam this weekend! I’ll be back with my Battleground preview in a few days time, but until then let me know who you think has had a particularly good or bad year since the draft!