2017 Bobby James Awards | Best of World Wrestling Entertainment

 

Tag Team of the Year | The Usos

Tag Team - The Usos

“Welcome to the Uso’s penitentiary.” It’s been a long time coming for Jimmy and Jey Uso, sons of the legendary Rikishi. This team’s been around for the better part of a decade, but 2017 became a defining year for them as tag team wrestling flourished in the wake of a new brand extension. Their battles against The New Day (notably their Hell in a Cell match) elevated them to heights unseen – and in the process The Usos captured the Smackdown Live! Tag Team Championships three times in one calendar year.

Runner-up: The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro)


Newcomer of the Year | Shinsuke Nakamura

Newcomer - Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura’s main roster debut came two nights after WrestleMania 33. He battled immediately with Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin, before moving into decisive victories over John Cena and Randy Orton, to earn two separate WWE Championship opportunities. Despite coming up short in his feud with Jinder Mahal, Nakamura was positioned to have a wondrous 2018 – and stands as the strongest newcomer of 2017.

Runner-up: Bobby Roode


Pipebomb! of the Year | “This Yard” by John Cena (RAW, August 28, 2017)

Pipebomb - This Yard - John Cena

John Cena and Roman Reigns engaged in a bitter, primarily verbal rivalry, but their feud blurred the lines between reality and kayfabe. One exchange in particular, from the August 28 edition of RAW stood out as John Cena explained:

I’m what you call a polarizing figure. Every single week you can audibly hear those people so desperately wanting me to change the content of my character – maybe a little heel turn – but with you [Roman Reigns] it’s different. They go back and forth with you because when they look at you they see what I see: A cheap ass, corporately-created John Cena bootleg!

He [Reigns] ain’t the guy – dude, you’re just a guy – a guy so desperately trying to fills shoes that you never will.

(interrupting Reigns) Go ahead, find it. I’ll wait (pause). It’s called a promo man. If you wanna be the big dog you’re gonna have to learn how to do it…

“There’s an old saying: ‘It’s better to keep your mouth shut and have them think you’re stupid than to open it and prove them right.’ You, of all people, you waltz down here and use the same pathetic excuse that every other single person before you has done. You with all your gifts and all your opportunities – you have the gall to blame me. Congratulations ‘Big Dog,’ it took you five years to cut a halfway decent promo – but now I’m about to shrink you down to size.

I’m still here because you can’t do your job! When it comes to this yard, you probably haven’t learned it yet, there’s only one rule: Step up or step aside. And over the years, there’s been a few to step up but nobody to ever keep up – and then I finally hear about this one guy – “the guy” – “the Roman Reigns” – “the one that can keep up” – and now I look at you and I listen to you – you should be ashamed I’m a part-timer, ’cause I could do this part-time better than you could ever do it full-time.”

Their bitter war of words continued raged for weeks and on the September 11 edition of RAW, John Cena declared, “At No Mercy, consider me like a drug test – you ain’t gettin’ past me.”


Most Improved Wrestler and Return of the Year | Jinder Mahal

Most Improved - Jinder Mahal

A repackaged and dramatically, physically improved Jinder Mahal returned to the WWE in 2017. It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago, there was a trending hashtag: #DontHinderJinder.

Upon his return, Jinder Mahal catapulted to the WWE Championship picture and defeated AJ Styles for the title, to become the 50th recognized WWE Champion. Gone were the days of Mahal as a tag team competitor and singles competition mid-carding jobber. He reintroduce the Punjabi prison match (against Randy Orton), formed a stable with the Singh Brothers and became known as “The Modern Day Maharaja.”

He ended 2017 in a tournament for the United States Championship.

Runner-up  for Most Improved: Alexa Bliss

Runner-up for Return of the Year: The Hardy Boys at WrestleMania


Show of the Year | SummerSlam, August 20, 2017

Show of the Year - SummerSlam

The thirtieth WWE SummerSlam featured eight championship matches (the most in the history of the event) and was the culmination of some of the summer’s hottest rivalries.

The event saw “The Demon” Finn Bálor def. Bray Wyatt, Natalya def. Naomi (c) in a hard-fought match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship (marking Natalya’s second title victory in her decade long career), Sasha Banks def. Alexa Bliss (c) for the RAW Women’s Championship (her fourth title), AJ Styles (c) def. Kevin Owens to retain the United States title, Jinder Mahal (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the WWE Championship and Brock Lesnar (c) def. Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman to retain the Universal Championship.

(c) indicates champion heading into the event.

Runner-up: NXT TakeOver: Chicago – May 20, 2017)


Cruiserweight of the Year | Neville

Cruiserweight - Neville

Neville’s status with WWE may be in question, but there’s no denying “The King of the Cruiserweights” this position. Neville dominantly reigned over the division for a significant portion of 2017 before disappearing without fully explained or explored reasons. Of course, his absence for half the year – coupled with WWE’s inability to fully develop or push other division stars or stories (on major brands) – might make this an brow-raising selection, but it’s one I believe in fully.

Neville is an incredible athlete that brought prestige to the Cruiserweight Championship – and his feud with Austin Aries (another departed division star) dominated many discussions in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of WrestleMania.

With Neville as champion, the struggling division seemed a bit more elevated and relevant, as it once did when the inaugural champion, TJ Perkins, debuted on RAW.

Runner Up: Enzo Amore


Favorite Superstar of the Year | Finn Bálor

Fan Favorite - Finn Balor

With 42.86% of the vote, Finn Bálor has been selected as your favorite Superstar of the year! Sasha Banks and AJ Styles tied as runners up in the poll.


The Bálor Award | Naomi

Balor Award - Naomi 2

In 2017, did you “Feel the Glow?” Naomi – far and away – had the hands-down best entrance package in all the WWE. Black lights, glow-in-the-dark attire, makeup and hair were paired with her electro-remixed entrance theme and dance skills. Naomi’s entrance was a show moment and literal neon highlight, made all the sweeter at WrestleMania, when she claimed her second Women’s Championship in her hometown of Orlando, on the grandest stage of all.

Runner-up: Jinder Mahal


Non-Wrestling Personality | Corey Graves

Non-Wrestler - Corey Graves

Wrestler-turned-color commentator Corey Graves was an essential part to WWE’s commentary team. He’s improved drastically since his early days at the table and he’s become one of the more entertaining and reliable voices of the programming. Whether he’s hosting a WWE Network special, or calling the action on both RAW and SmackDown Live! the once “Savior of Misbehavior” has earned his seat.

Runner-up: Paul Heyman


Valet of the Year | Zelina Vega

Valet - Zelina Vega

Every once in a while, a valet comes through that not only enhances the talent they represent, but that possesses a star-power all their own (i.e. Trish Stratus). This year, Zelina Vega debuted in NXT alongside Andrade “Cien” Almas and managed him to numerous victories and the NXT Championship. Vega’s poised for a meteoric rise all her own one day. Until then, as she remains with Almas, it’ll be hard to deny her recognition as the best valet in all of WWE.

Runner-up: James Ellsworth


Moment of the Year |
RAW Women’s Championship Match
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
December 7, 2017 | United Arab Emirates

Moment - Sasha vs. Alexa - UAE

It’s difficult to select one defining moment for the WWE each and every year – but one moment felt culturally relevant and most significant in 2017: When Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks became the first women to ever compete for the Women’s Championship (in the first-ever women’s match) in Abu Dhabi.

Those in attendance chanted “This is hope,” as this moment – perhaps more than the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell (2016) or Money in the Bank matches, or even the Mae Young Classic – confirmed the women’s evolution was complete. The next phase is in order – and the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match that kicks off 2018 is a step in that direction.

Very seldom do moments transcend the sport. This was one such moment that elevated women’s wrestling in the WWE, and women’s rights in the Middle East.

Runner-up: The Mae Young Classic


NXT Tag Team of the Year | The Undisputed Era
(Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole)

NXT Tag - Undisputed Era

Despite Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly not debuting until mid-2017, the team (formerly known as “reDRagon” on the independent circuit) make a significant impact. Despite both debuts recording losses against Aleister Black, their tag team formation and allegiance with Adam Cole (against NXT Champion Drew McIntyre) proved fruitful. The team went on to win the first War Games Match in over twenty years and they rounded out their debut season as NXT Tag Team Champions.

Runner-up: SAnitY


NXT Woman of the Year | Asuka

NXT Woman - Asuka

Asuka may have debuted on the RAW roster in 2017, but there was no denying that “The Empress of Tomorrow” reigned supreme in NXT. Due to injury, Asuka retired the NXT Women’s Championship prior to her main roster debut. Her reign is recognized at an impressive 523 days and she remains undefeated since her WWE debut in October 2015. Her matches with runner-up Ember Moon were highlights in the NXT Women’s Division.

Runner-up: Ember Moon


NXT Newcomer of the Year | Pete Dunne

NXT Newcomer - Pete Dunne

Pete Dunne originally appeared in WWE’s tournament to crown a United Kingdom Champion. Though he lost the tournament final to Tyler Bate, months later, Dunne would move on to defeat Tyler Bate for the UK Championship, which he’s held since NXT TakeOver: Chicago, on May 20, 2017 – making him one of the most dominant champions in all the WWE in his inaugural year.

Runner-up: Tyler Bate


NXT Superstar of the Year | Drew McIntyre

NXT Superstar - Drew McIntyre

“The Chosen One” Drew McIntyre returned to WWE as part of NXT in 2017. It’s been a long road back for the former main roster talent, but his incredible physique and prowess in the ring catapulted him into the league he was always destined for.

Billed as “The Celtic Colossus,” McIntyre defeated Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship on August 19 at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III. He served as NXT Champion until suffering a torn bicep and dropping the title to Andrade “Cien” Almas on November 18 at “War Games.”

Runner-up: Bobby Roode


Match of the Year |
(tie)
WWE Championship Match
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
Royal Rumble | January 29, 2017

Match - AJ Styles vs John Cena - RR

AJ Styles versus John Cena is a big money match, one wrestling fans clamored to see for over a decade. When AJ Styles arrived in WWE, the two of them working together became inevitable.

Months after establishing his name and capturing the WWE Championship, AJ Styles once again came face-to-face with John Cena. History would be made regardless – either AJ Styles’ proverbial “Road to WrestleMania” began and he’d enter the “Show of Shows” as champion, or John Cena would become a 16-time world champion and tie the record set by Ric Flair.

The match had the hype and stakes, delivered action and emotion and clearly had staying power, as it became the crowning achievement in wrestling, or a close runner-up in year-end lists (a testament to it’s staying power).

Match of the Year |
United Kingdom Championship Match
Tyler Bate (c) vs. Pete Dunne
NXT TakeOver: Chicago | May 20, 2017

Match - Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate

Two newcomers. One new title. A match of the year.

Tyler Bate became the inaugural UK Champion when he defeated Pete Dunne in January 2017 in a tournament final. The two competitors remained bitter rivals until it was time for Dunne’s crowning moment.

The match itself is widely regarded as a highlight of the year and featured exciting action in and out of the ring, hard-hitting styles and numerous breath-holding near-falls. In the end, Pete Dunne emerged victorious, but both Dunne and Bate came away with their names known and futures bright.

Runner-up: n/a


Feud of the Year | Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho

Feud - Jericho-Owens

Owens and Jericho started as friends, but became bitter rivals. Their friendship slowly deteriorated in the wake of Kevin Owens becoming the WWE Universal Champion. From that point on, their rivalry transcended the brand split, was contested at WrestleMania 33 and was fought for the United States Championship, before Jericho ultimately was sent away from the WWE.

Runner-up: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman


SmackDown Live! Woman of the Year |Charlotte Flair

SD Woman - Charlotte

Upon being drafted to SmackDown Live! , Charlotte Flair sent shockwaves through the WWE Universe and the internet community. She was seen as one of the most valuable transfers from WWE’s flagship RAW.

In 2017, Charlotte commanded attention without a championship. A face-turn on a new brand equated to new opportunities and allegiances (notably with Becky Lynch). She was one of six women to compete in WWE’s first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match and by years end, had captured the Women’s Championship (her fifth title on the main roster). She was engaged in a bitter rivalry with Natalya and later the debuting trio known as the Riott Squad.

Runner-up: Naomi


RAW Superstar of the Year | The Miz

RAW Superstar - The Miz

Listen – I know you might be disappointed to see this pick. It’s understandable – after all, WWE spent the better part of 2017 trying to make Roman Reigns happen. They gave Reigns clean victories over The Undertaker (at WrestleMania) and John Cena – but the way I see it, 2017 truly belonged to The Miz.

The Miz formed the “Miztourage” (Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel), remained a flagship mainstay and spent all of 2017 in the Intercontinental Championship picture. He began 2017 as IC Champion, defeated Dean Ambrose to reclaim the title over the summer and entered into a feud with “The Big Dog,” Roman Reigns, which he ultimately emerged victorious from (on Jan. 22, 2018).

The Miz became one of the most must-see champions in all the WWE, as he endured some cross-over success in film and television.

Runner-up: Roman Reigns

 


RAW Woman of the Year | Alexa Bliss

RAW Woman - Alexa Bliss

No other woman had a bigger year in all of WWE than Alexa Bliss. Upon being drafted to WWE RAW, “The Goddess” became the RAW Women’s Champion (her third title reign, and the first woman to have held the RAW and SmackDown Women’s Championships). Despite a loss to Sasha Banks at SummerSlam, Bliss regained her title and has reigned as champion ever since.

She’s been built as a true goddess of the squared circle, she’s far and away the best mic. worker and she’s dominated all who’ve stood before her.

Runner-up: Sasha Banks


SmackDown Live! Superstar of the Year | AJ Styles

SD Superstar - AJ Styles

WWE SmackDown remained the “House that Styles built.” He entered 2017 as the WWE Champion, put on a classic with John Cena at the Royal Rumble and had memorable feuds with Shane McMahon (culminating at WrestleMania 33), Kevin Owens (netting him two United States Championships) and Jinder Mahal, which ended with Styles becoming a two-time WWE Champion. There was no star bigger on SmackDown Live in 2017.

Runner-up: Jinder Mahal


The Icon Awards | Lita

Lita earns the distinction of being the sole recipient of the 2017 Icon Award. In 2017, the WWE Hall of Famer and 4-time Women’s Champion worked commentary in the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament, a year after introducing the RAW Women’s Championship (in place of the WWE Divas Title).

The Women’s evolution and eventual revolution wouldn’t be possible without her.

Lita debuted in the WWE as the valet of Essa Rios in 2000. Before long, she was aligned with the iconic tag team The Hardy Boys, to form “Team Extreme.” Lita made a name for herself with her high flying lucha libre style – her signature ring attire and moonsault finisher – and she was no foreigner to in-ring action, or facing off against the men, innovating the “Litacanrana.”

She defeated Stephanie McMahon in the main event of Monday Night RAW to capture her first Women’s Championship, was engaged in a career-defining and spanning feud with Trish Stratus, was involved in the first-ever Tables, Ladders and Chairs match (at WrestleMania X-7), worked alongside Trish Stratus in a “Battle of the Sexes” feud against Chris Jericho and Christian, and was one of the few women to legitimately challenge the late 9th Wonder of the World, Chyna.

In December 2004, Lita made history alongside Trish Stratus by competing in the RAW main event for the Women’s Championship (the first time two women held the spot). An untimely injury followed and when she returned to WWE, a high profile affair-turned-on-air feud greeted her and led to Lita aligning with Edge and feuding with former-beau Matt Hardy.

She made history once more in a controversial “Live Sex Celebration” segment at the end of Monday Night RAW (with Edge), and in her final year, moved into championship feuds against Trish Stratus (she was Trish’s last match at Unforgiven 2006) and Mickie James, notching two final runs as champion.

Lita was a fire-haired, tattooed and high-flying Women’s Champion that paved the way for many risk-takers that followed.

 

 

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