navigation-background arrow-down-circle Reply Icon Show More Heart Delete Icon wiki-circle wiki-square wiki arrow-up-circle add-circle add-square add arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up calendar-circle chat-bubble-2 chat-bubble check-circle check close contact-us credit-card drag menu email embed facebook-circle facebook-square facebook faq-circle faq film gear google-circle google-square google history home instagram-circle instagram-square instagram linkedin-circle linkedin-square linkedin load monitor Video Player Play Icon person pinterest-circle pinterest-square pinterest play readlist remove-circle remove-square remove search share sign-out star trailer trash twitter-circle twitter-square twitter youtube-circle youtube-square youtube

You have to have a valid membership to attend this event

You have to have a valid membership to attend this event

The Hot Tag's 2017 Awards: Part II

January 10, 2018
Kevin Eck is a former member of the WWE creative team and now blogs about pro wrestling for PressBox.

Here are more of my selections for the best performers and performances in U.S.-based pro wrestling in 2017.

(For Part I, click here.)

Feud of the Year: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

The program pitting "The Big Dog" against "The Monster Among Men" produced some of the most memorable moments of 2017, as the conflict between the two powerhouses featured spectacular stunts, brutal brawls and violent gimmick matches.

Reigns handed Strowman his first pinfall loss at "Fastlane" in March, but Strowman proved in the bout that he could work a main-event style match. The following month on "Raw," Strowman sadistically attacked Reigns, including pushing the stretcher that Reigns was strapped onto off a platform, and culminating with Strowman turning over the ambulance that Reigns had been loaded into in a display of superhuman strength.

Strowman went on to defeat Reigns at "Payback" a few weeks later, and he also won their Ambulance Match at "Great Balls of Fire" in July. Reigns gained a measure of revenge after the latter match when he rammed an 18-wheeler into an ambulance that had Strowman inside. When the bloodied and battered Strowman was rescued from the smashed ambulance via the Jaws of Life, he refused medical attention and walked away from the wreck under his own power. Strowman returned to defeat Reigns in a Last Man Standing Match (with an assist from Samoa Joe) on "Raw" in August and in a steel cage match (with an assist from Kane) on "Raw" in October.


Tag Team of the Year: The Usos

Although Jimmy and Jey Uso had been in WWE for nearly seven years and were two-time former tag team champions heading into 2017, the high-flying twins hadn't fully connected with the audience. That changed in a major way this past year.

The Usos turned heel and took on a street thug gimmick that was reflected in the way they dressed, acted and -- perhaps most importantly -- talked. They had finally found their voices. The traditional Samoan war dance and "When we say 'Uce,' you say 'O'" chant had grown stale and were replaced by fast-talking promos with catch phrases about "The Uso Penitentiary" and having the "SmackDown Live" tag team division "on lock."

The Usos won the "SmackDown Live" Tag Team Title three times in 2017 and engaged in a hot feud with New Day that produced several show-stealing matches, including a Hell in a Cell Match in October. The Usos were so "over" with the audience by that point that WWE turned them babyface again.


Match of the Year: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe at "SummerSlam" Aug. 20

One of the most-anticipated pay-per-view main events in some time saw four badass alpha males all going for the one prize -- Lesnar's Universal Championship. The marquee match delivered and then some.

The incredibly physical bout told a good story that solidified Strowman as a nearly indestructible monster; established Joe as a guy who can run with the big boys in WWE; and showed that Lesnar is truly a "Beast" who can overcome the odds -- not to mention a nearly catastrophic attack -- to retain his title. As for Reigns, he may have been the one to do the honors, but it was such a thrilling, intense match that he lost nothing as far as his status as "The Guy" is concerned.

About four minutes into the 20-minute match, Strowman power-slammed Lesnar through one announce table and then power-slammed him through a second one. After that, he dumped a third broadcast table on the fallen Lesnar. EMTs rushed down to ringside, put Lesnar on a stretcher and carted him away, which seemed to indicate not only that a new champion would be crowned, but Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman would be leaving WWE (Heyman had said before the match that they would leave if Lesnar lost). Less than five minutes later, however, Lesnar returned to the match. After several more minutes of furious, hard-hitting action and near falls that had the rabid crowd chanting, "This is awesome!" Lesnar hit an F-5 on Reigns for the win.


Female Wrestler of the Year: Asuka

Asuka entered 2017 as the undefeated NXT Women's Champion. The Japanese star ended the year as one of the top female stars on "Raw" -- and still undefeated. Before making the jump to WWE's main roster in the fall, Asuka relinquished the NXT Women's Title after a 523-day reign. It was the longest title reign in WWE since Fabulous Moolah's supposed 28-year reign as women's champion ended in 1984.

With her technical skills and high-impact moves, "The Empress of Tomorrow" has proved to be one of the top in-ring performers in WWE regardless of gender, and she exudes charisma. The only aspect of her game that needs to improve is her promo skills, which are lacking due to her limited English.

Asuka's successful title defenses against Ember Moon at "NXT TakeOver: Orlando" and "NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn" in April and August, respectively, were among the top matches in WWE/NXT this past year. Her best moment since arriving on the main roster occurred at "Survivor Series," where she won the match for her team and was the sole survivor.


Male Wrestler of the Year: Roman Reigns

Love him or hate him, there's just no denying that Reigns -- the most polarizing performer in the business -- had a fantastic 2017. He main-evented "WrestleMania" for the third consecutive year and was the focal point of "Raw" for the majority of the year. Along the way, Reigns scored an extremely rare victory against The Undertaker at "WrestleMania," as well as clean wins against John Cena and Braun Strowman. He also won the Intercontinental Title for the first time and was involved in of the biggest stories of the year, as he, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins reformed The Shield, one of the most popular factions of all time.

Reigns' detractors ridiculously claim that he's overrated, but he's actually underrated when it comes to in-ring ability. Reigns consistently delivered good-to-great matches on pay-per-views and "Raw." He started off the year with an outstanding match against then-WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens at the "Royal Rumble" and went on to have exceptional pay-per-view singles matches against Strowman (at "Fastlane") and Cena (at "Great Balls of Fire"). He also participated in excellent multi-man matches at "SummerSlam" and "Extreme Rules."

Reigns continued to show growth on the microphone as well, as he refused to let hostile reactions from the crowd affect him. His straight-to-the-point promos fit perfectly with his badass persona. Bottom line: No one had a better year than Roman Reigns. Believe that.


Catch "The Hot Tag" every   Wednesday   on PressBoxOnline.com, and follow Kevin Eck on Twitter,   @KevinEck_WWE  .