wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part Two – The Biggest Disappointments of 2017

January 10, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Randy Orton disappointment WWE

Welcome back to the Wrestling Top 5, year-end awards edition! What we are going to is take a topic, and all the writers here on 411 will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, and the end, based on where all of these topics rank on people’s list, we will create an overall Top 5 list. It looks a little like this…

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

It’s similar to how we do the WOTW voting. At the end we tally the scores and get our overall top 5! It’s highly non-official and final, like WWE’s old power rankings. From some of the best and worst, the 411 staff is ready to break down the awards! Thanks for joining us, and lets get down to work.

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Jake Chambers
5. Hiromu Takahashi changing from a cool, innovative badass into a stuffed animal-loving Eugene-like gimmick
4. The Miz being the best wrestler in the WWE for the second straight year, goes nowhere
3. The EVOLVE/FloSlam bust
2. Chris Hero signing with WWE

1. WWE UK Title – Out of the blue last January the WWE announced they were going to air a tournament to crown the first ever UK Champion. Even more shockingly, they were doing it with a huge field of un-signed UK-based wrestlers, many I’d never even heard of before. Whatever wizardry induced the WWE to do this led to a full-on, two-day, 16-man, live single-elimination tournament that was based on “pure wrestling”, featured great commentary, and immediately developed a handful of interesting new wrestlers. These are NOT features of modern-day WWE programming. The final match of the tournament had stakes and consequence that is possibly only comparable to the finale of the first season of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter. Promise of more shows, perhaps a regular show, sent shivers down the spine of any Cruiserweight Classic fan still sticking with the horrendous 205 Live, but there was hope. And then one month went by, and another; sporadic appearances by some of the stars were welcome, but the momentum of that first weekend dissipated. And then you had to start to wonder what were the stipulations for this “championship”? Did you have to be a UK citizen, like those in the tournament? Was this just to be the NXT equivalent of whatever vagary defines the main roster’s “United States Championship”? One year later and I can’t feel anything but disappointment over what happened to this title, the wrestlers who put their heart into that tournament, and the WWE’s consistent inconsistencies for producing wrestling content that wrestling fans really want to see.

Robert S Leighty Jr
5. The Shield Reunion (Due to Sickness and Injuries)
4. Jason Jordan as Angle’s Son Payoff
3. Nakamura’s SmackDown Run
2. Strowman vs Lesnar

1. Survivor Series Main Event – I tend to stay out of the negative awards as I look for the good of the year, but I decided to mention how bitterly disappointing the RAW vs SmackDown Men’s Traditional Survivor Series match was. This match had me more interested in a Survivor Series match than I had been in years and the talent involved had me going nuts thinking about Joe vs Cena; Roode vs HHH; Balor vs Nakamura; Angle vs Nakamura; Angle vs Joe; Angle vs Cena, etc. They opening few minutes were great and then it all went to hell and lacked any sense of being a fun and interesting match. Then the cluster that was the ending happened and there was nothing inside a ring that left me more disappointed.

Kevin Pantoja
5. NJPW’s tag divisions
4. ROH in general
3. The booking of Bayley
2. Minoru Suzuki, Hirooki Goto and the NEVER Openweight Title

1. Katsuyori Shibata’s injury – When I first looked at this, I was going based on lackluster performances (Goto, Suzuki, Nakamura) or booking (ROH, Bayley, NJPW tag divisions), but then I remembered hearing about Katsuyori Shibata’s injury. I haven’t felt that sad about an injury in a while. Probably since Tyson Kidd’s back in 2015. To make it all the more disappointing, Shibata had just come off his first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title and it was an absolute classic. It was the best Heavyweight Title match since 2013 and felt like Shibata had finally reached the main event level where he belonged. Unfortunately, he went down backstage and his career is most likely over. Since I first saw him, Shibata has ranked towards the top of my favorite wrestlers in the world. I’m going to miss him. If it indeed was the end for him, he went out on a very high note.

Rob Stewart
5. Kane’s return and booking in two thousand and friggin’ seventeen
4. Braun/Brock being a throw-away match at No Mercy 2017
3. Pretty much the entirety of Shinsuke Nakamura since his Smackdown Live call-up
2. Neville’s walking out of WWE after a brilliant first half of 2017

1. Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble – Biggest personal disappointment? I haven’t done very much work for 411mania this past year thanks to just a crazy year of surgeries and other hospital stays and pets dying and other plans and projects getting in the way. But 2018 is shaping up better, I promise! In regards to wrestling’s biggest letdowns… there wasn’t one or two HUGE moments that weighed me down all year, but more of a smattering of “What? Really? Why?” occurrences throughout the calendar. Ultimately, I think Randy winning the Rumble was the biggest disappointment for me because I actually really enjoyed the ’17 Rumble, but it ultimately all fell apart and had a dreadful last few minutes, resulting in Randy Orton winning it when he had felt like an afterthought for such a while. With the plans for the “real” ‘Mania main events being Goldberg/Brock and Roman/Taker, the winner of the Rumble was hardly going to be noteworthy, but even then, WWE couldn’t let go of its safety blanket of old standbys and go with a newer talent. But hey! At least we got that cockroach ring match at WrestleMania, I guess. So… win/win?

Ken Hill
5. Dolph Ziggler’s “Meta Madness”
4. Jinder Mahal’s WWE Title run
3. Shinsuke Not Shining, Balor Biting the Bullet
2. Bray Wyatt’s Slow, Painful Demise

1. Randy Orton’s 2017 Performance – A defining aspect of “disappointment” is someone or something failing to live up to a certain level of expectations that’s we, well, expect from them. While Ziggler’s failed “meta comedy” run and Mahal’s six months as WWE Champion were both a chore to sit through, both came in with rather low expectations to begin with, given that fan interest in Ziggler had hit an all-time low after losing out to Miz and Mahal hadn’t gotten the proper organic build towards his championship win in the first place. Randy, on the other hand, has been and still is a proven main-event level talent who should know well enough to put his best foot forward regardless of his true position on the card. Instead, though, we’ve had to watch Orton slog his way through main-event matches with Bray Wyatt (WM 33, Payback), Jinder Mahal (Backlash, Battleground), and Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Clash Of Champions). Admittedly, part of that falls on the creative team; having little to no proper blueprints to work with, i.e. Wyatt’s House of Horrors, Punjabi Prison, or a lack of credible opponent in Jinder Mahal, I can only imagine, would grate on the steeliest of veterans. but that veteran role is exactly what Orton is at this point and what he should’ve been fulfilling for the entirety of 2017. Doing his part would’ve helped to elevate the storylines he was involved with (or at least make them less of a disaster, pertaining to the much-maligned House of Horrors) and perhaps done less to expose Mahal’s in-ring fallacies as a potential main-event talent so that we wouldn’t immediately have labeled the title run an utter waste. Instead, we got what was probably the most mailed-in year of performance of his entire career, and that’s a big-time disappointment in my book.

Jake St-Pierre
5. Jason Jordan’s reveal as Kurt Angle’s “son”
4. Matt Riddle not being in NJPW Tag League
3. Cody Rhodes being ROH’s top star
2. Michael Elgin’s handling of Glory Pro sexual assault case

1. The Mae Young Classic… well, mostly the Finals – This was one of the most difficult lists to make because I had to try and do a good job weighing in personal feelings with impact on the business at large. So I think putting the MYC as my number one pick does both pretty well considering. This is not me saying it was a BAD tournament, because it doesn’t take rocket appliances to see that it was actually quite good. Kairi Sane came off as a superstar in every appearance she made, and was quite clearly the best of the bunch. Toni Storm came off as a star in her appearances, Shayna Baszler looked good, and we got a couple fun runs from the likes of Piper Niven and Bianca BelAir. The commentary was awful, but that’s what happens when Lita touches a microphone. But my main problem lies with both the MYC’s distribution and the way the finals were handled. To a point, I actually understand why WWE did the Netflix binge-watching thing with the tournament, just as a simple experiment. I don’t agree with doing it with THIS specific “Classic”, but I understand why it was done. It completely diminished the impact of the tournament in the end, but I understand the impulse. What I don’t understand on any level was the boneheaded and counterproductive manner in which they did the Finals between Kairi Sane and Shayna Bazsler. Not only did they put it in the same position that does a great job in harming 205 Live, but it came off so unbelievably rushed and unmemorable that it almost undid whatever positives the tournament itself gave them. It was in front of an ambivalent Las Vegas crowd that reacted okay, but it was not done in a manner that could even trick them to see it as significant. The match was 12 minutes of what essentially boiled down to a top of the hour RAW match, and nothing felt as special as the “look at how progressive we are!” WWE was trying to tell you. Hopefully WWE will have learned this lesson if they duplicate this tournament, because the Mae Young Classic turned out to be nothing more than a somewhat insignificant speed bump in WWE’s wacky 2017.

Jack Stevenson
5. Popular U.K. promotion Lucha Forever burns out after only seven months
4. Yoshihiro Takayama’s health problems
3. Cody Rhodes’ lacklustre year
2. Katsuyori Shibata forced into early retirement

1. Takehiro Yamamura forced into early retirement – Every year I find it difficult in this award to choose between the objectively worst things to happen to wrestlers and wrestling (probably the deteriorating health of Yoshihiro Takayama), and the things that most negatively affected my own personal day to day enjoyment of wrestling (Lucha Forever, one of the better indies here in England, closing down all too quickly). So I’ve compromised and gone for the serious injury suffered by Takehiro Yamamura, one of the brightest young prospects in my favorite promotion, Dragon Gate. Only 22 years old, but as smooth as anyone else in wrestling and a terrific, convincing underdog, Yamamura had a breakout 2017. On the 1st October, however, he landed an ordinary springboard dropkick in the middle of an eight-man tag match on a B show, and didn’t get back up. He ended up diagnosed with a serious neck injury that had kept fellow Dragon Gate roster member Yasushi Kanda out of the ring for six years in the early 2000s; it doesn’t seem unreasonable to speculate that his career has ended before it’s even begun. Maybe he’ll come roaring back in his late 20s or maybe the injury proves somehow less severe than it seems at the moment, but as it looks now I am going to really, really miss seeing this guy on Dragon Gate shows. He was the most obviously outstanding young talent Dragon Gate had, and it’s such a shame that he’s going to be sitting out what should have been the most exciting years of his career.

5. TNAImpactWrestlingNWAGFW Is A Mess: Then, Now, Forever
4. Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura not in the main event
3. Superstar Shakeup falls flat
2. No Sasha Banks heel turn…still

1. Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion – Let me just explain my four other choices before getting to number one. TNA Impact Wrestling turning into Global Force Wrestling or whatever was a joke and entirely transparent from the moment Jeff Jarrett returned. Even though that debacle is somewhat in the rear view mirror, the same issues are there. Cheap production, pay issues, no attendance, low ratings, and rumors of top talent ready to bail. My guess is the company eventually teams up with Billy Corgan (yep!) and does something with NWA in 2018. Really though, it won’t matter. Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura, their 2017 campaigns both started right after WrestleMania 33 and have both been…fine. I hesitate to call it a disappointment, but the word fits. The good news: WWE is well aware of the talent and will absolutely take full advantage at some point. Not to make excuses, but 2017 may not have been the time to pull the trigger. No doubt 2018 will. No much potential there to be wasted. The Superstar Shakeup? Eh, besides me nailing a bunch of the moves it didn’t shake much of. It did for Jinder Mahal! However, we will get to that in a second. Sasha Banks is still a face and doing very little on Raw. A shame. Just turn heel on Bayley already. Seriously. Ultimately, we go back to Jinder. I will keep this short and sweet because I have a feeling a lot will be written about him during the next few weeks. More than willing to give the dude a chance to shine, doing so in the main event scene after such short notice and going full monty with the WWE Championship was absurd. Disappointing it lasted so long. Disappointing it even happened. Disappointing it didn’t even increase international WWE Network subscriptions or help ticket sales with the December India tour. Disappointing business for Smackdown LIVE tanked so badly. Disappointing all the way around.

Larry Csonka
5. The WWE UK Show’s Failure to Launch
4. The EVOLVE/FloSlam Fiasco
3. 205 Live Fails & Evolves Into Can Miss TV
2. Randy Orton’s 2017 “Main Event” Run

1. Katsuyori Shibata forced into early retirement – At the NJPW SAKURA GENESIS 2017, IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada defeated Katsuyori Shibata after 38-minutes in a true in ring war; it was the best match 2017 in my opinion. Katsuyori Shibata ay had lost, but he had finally overcome, had the support of NJPW management and was a newly minted main event star for the company. But unfortunately this was the match where Shibata threw a shoot head butt, which he had done in previous matches and was something that created amazing drama, but ultimately something that wasn’t needed and has in all likelihood, ended his career. Shibata collapsed backstage and was rushed to a hospital, where it was discovered that he had a subdural hematoma, which required emergency surgery. He thankfully survived the procedures and by all accounts is recovering well and will be able to live a normal life. It’s a cruel reminder that these in ring heroes we love to watch and be entertained by are all too human, and that their careers can end at any time.


T-5. WWE UK6 points

T-5. Cody Rhodes’ 20176 points

T-5. Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar6 points

4. Jinder Mahal’s WWE Title Run7 points

3. Shinsuke Nakamura’s 201711 points

T-1. Randy Orton’s 201714 points

T-1. Katsuyori Shibata’s Injury & Retirement14 points