WWE stepped up their game by bolstering their cruiserweight, tag team and women's divisions while also giving some relatively new names a crack at the main event.
Of course, WWE wasn't the only promotion to break new ground: New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor (both with ties to The Bullet Club) made headlines both in and out of the ring). TNA Wrestling (a/k/a Impact and Global Force) had another year full of turbulence. And the wrestling world lost some all-time greats during the past 365 days.
In counting down the Top 50 Wrestling Headlines of 2017, Canadian Bulldog's World considered the following criteria:
Was the event unique to this year? Or does it happen quite frequently?
What were the overall ramifications for said event?
Did the development have a profound impact on how this wrestler or promotion did business?
Did this development receive any mainstream publicity outside of the wrestling community?
When possible, we have tried to add a date to each development. Some of them combine more than one event, and some lump a string of developments to demonstrate an overall trend.
If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
Something to Wrestle With wins SI Sports Podcast of the year
Many fans have come to the conclusion that Bruce Prichard's "Something to Wrestle With" is wrestling's greatest podcast, but the best in all of sports? Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch said just that in his annual sports media awards, spotlighting pro wrestling and calling it "remarkably honest audio."
Sexy Star goes too far
During the TripleMania XXV event in Mexico, former Lucha Underground Champion Sexy Star was accused of going off script and deliberately injuring Impact Wrestling's Rosemary during a "shoot" armbar. The move drew fire from everyone from Karen Jarrett to Gail Kim, accusing Star of being unprofessional.
November 20 / 21
Absolution / Riott Squad debuts
Paige returned to Raw, bringing with her NXT stars Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville as the heelish Absolution group. One night later, The Riott Squad made a very similar debut on SmackDown, consisting of Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan.
Glorious NXT title run
Bobby Roode made good on his plan to become NXT Champion at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, defeating Shinsuke Nakamura for the title less than a year into his WWE run. The Glorious One defended his belt against all comers until NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III in August, when he lost it to Drew McIntyre.
The Undisputed Era
Former Ring of Honor World Champion and Bullet Club member Adam Cole debuted in WWE at the end of the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn special.... and he didn't show up alone. Along with former ROH stars Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, The Undisputed Era have quickly become three of NXT's biggest stars.
Thank You, Chavo Sr.
Although there were several deaths in wrestling in 2017, the first to appear on our list is Chavo Guerrero Sr., the oldest brother of WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero and a top star in the AWA, NWA and elsewhere. More recently, Guerrero was known as "Chavo Classic" managing his son Chavo Jr. in WWE.
Bullet Club invasion
In a send-up of the WWF invasion of WCW in 1998, Bullet Club members Cody and Brandi Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Marty Scurll and Hangman Page "invaded" a WWE Raw taping in Ontario, California. The stunt led to some legal issues between the two groups, and the dismissal of WWE writer Jimmy Jacobs.
Asuka debuts on main roster
After surrendering the NXT Womens Championship in August, the undefeated Asuka made her debut on the Raw roster at the TLC pay-per-view, defeating Emma. So far, The Empress Of Tomorrow has kept her undefeated streak intact, becoming the sole survivor at Survivor Series, and several other squash matches.
Jarrett's turbulent year
In January, TNA Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett was returning back home to Impact Wrestling in a management position. By the spring, Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling was acquired by Impact, with the group briefly taking on the name GFW. By September, Jarrett was suspended, and then released the next month.
Seventh time's a charm for The Miz
While not quite as eventful for him as 2016 was, The Miz still had a tremendous year. In addition to securing The Miztourage (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel), The Miz regained the Intercontinental Championship for a seventh time at Extreme Rules. Miz now only trails Chris Jericho for the most I-C Title reigns.
Cena vs. Nakamura
A dream match took place on the August 1 edition of SmackDown Live with the first-ever meeting between John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura. While the match itself only lasted 12 minutes and Nakamura nearly injured Cena with a suplex, The Artist prevailed and the show closed with Cena endorsing Nakamura.
Corbin's missed opportunity
Baron Corbin has been accused by some of failing to live up to his potential since joining WWE's main roster in 2016. In June, he captured the Money In The Bank briefcase guaranteeing him a WWE title show. Corbin cashed it in on the August 22 edtion of SmackDown against WWE Champion Jinder Mahal -- but he failed.
The Rock on The Walk
Although Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has held several accolades since becoming an actor, he finally was inducted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year, thanks to his role in The Fast & Furious films and other big hits. Vince McMahon is the only other WWE star to have ever received this honor.
Phenomenal title runs
AJ Styles began 2017 in less than Phenomenal fashion, losing the WWE Championship to John Cena at the Royal Rumble. After spending the year feuding with the likes of Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens, Styles got his mojo back in November, defeating Jinder Mahal to regain the gold.
Thank you, "Animal"
WWE Hall of Famer George "The Animal" Steele passed away after a long illness. The bald-headed, green tongued star was a staple of the WWF in the 1980s, battling Randy Savage and pining for his manager Elizabeth. After his wrestling career was over, Steele had a key role in the 1994 Tim Burton film Ed Wood.
Realest heel in the room
Even after Big Cass turned against Enzo Amore, there were many (both in the audience and backstage) that wanted to boo the very heelish Enzo. After defeating Neville to win the Cruiserweight Championship at No Mercy, fans got their chance, and Enzo became one of the most despised heels in the WWE.
The Sami & Kevin Show
Lifelong best friends, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have a lengthy and complicated history together in promotions such as ROH, PWG, NXT and WWE. Another chapter was added to their story at the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view, when Zayn surprisingly aided Owens in his match with Shane McMahon.
It's a boy!
After many weeks of Raw General Manager Kurt Angle carrying a secret (that only Corey Graves knew about), the WWE Hall of Famer announced that he had a son born out of wedlock - and that son was SmackDown Live competitor Jason Jordan. Jordan's heelish progression has become a top angle.
Cena vs. Reigns
Another "dream match" for John Cena took place at the No Mercy pay per view against Roman Reigns. Upon Cena switching to the Raw brand, the two headliners engaged in an epic war of words that became as personal as any feud we've ever seen. Reigns not only won the match - he won Cena's respect.
The Festival of Friendship
One of the most compelling non-wrestling segments of 2017 took place on Monday Night Raw between "best friends" Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. Jericho hosted a cheesy, overblown Festival of Friendship in Las Vegas, only to find that his own name was on The List of KO, leading to Owens turning on him.
Not satisfied with the non-rivalry that usually formulates in time for the Raw vs. SmackDown part of the Survivor Series, SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon led an army of his stars into battle against the unprepared Raw competitors. McMahon's #UnderSiege attack was returned by Raw weeks later.
Hardyz come home
Two of the most popular WWE stars in recent history, Matt and Jeff Hardy returned to WWE at WrestleMania XXXIII, becoming a last-minute addition and capturing the Raw Tag Team Championship. It did take some time for The Hardyz to gain control of the gimmicks they had in TNA (see # 33 for details).
Six star match
The main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 11 made global headlines. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship match between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega - a 46 minute all-time classic - was so extraordinary that journalist Dave Meltzer gave the match an unprecedented "six star" rating.
So long, Brain
WWE Hall of Famer Bobby The Brain Heenan passed away after a lengthy illness at the age of 72. Universally regarded as the greatest pro wrestling manager of all time, Heenan was a top heel in the AWA, WWF and WCW. Earlier in the year, The Brain had granted Canadian Bulldog a brief email interview.
Ric Flair kicks out
One of the scariest stories of the year was that two-time WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair had been admitted to hospital with kidney failure and an obstruction in his bowel, which led to a medically-induced coma. Despite some touch and go moments for the all-time great, Flair has recovered and even appeared in WWE.
Billy Corgan buys the National Wrestling Alliance
After failing to gain control of Impact Wrestling in 2016, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan decided to purchase the National Wrestling Alliance instead. While much hasn't happened to the brand since Corgan took it over, the musician has outlined a 20-year strategy to make the promotion relevant again.
Much like any year, WWE announced releases from time to time - some that make sense and some that are head-scratchers. This year's releases, which took place at various points during the year, included Jack Swagger, Simon Gotch, Tajiri, Austin Aries, Emma, Darren Young, Summer Rae and James Ellsworth.
House of Horrors
One of the strangest WWE matches in recent history took place at the Payback pay-per-view, in which WWE Champion Randy Orton battled his former mentor Bray Wyatt in a first ever "House of Horrors" match. The bout began in an abandoned, creepy house and ended up with both men brawling in a WWE ring.
JR comes home
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross returned to WWE for the first time in three and a half years, surprising fans by announcing the main event at WrestleMania XXXIII. Good Ol JR ended up signing a two-year contract with the company, which included calling the Mae Young Classic tournament on WWE Network.
Jericho challenges Omega
Former WWE Champion Chris Jericho appeared on a New Japan Pro Wrestling show for the first time since the late 1990s in November, challenging Kenny Omega to a match. "Alpha vs. Omega" will headline this week's Wrestle Kingdom 12 show.
Neville, Ranallo walk out
While WWE released several talents in 2017, at least two of them left on their own accord. In March, Mauro Ranallo left SmackDown Live for personal reasons, later showing up as an NXT announcer. And former Cruiserweight Champion Neville walked out in October and hasn't (yet) returned to the fold.
Samoa Joe debuts on main roster
After of plying his trade in Ring of Honor, TNA and NXT, Samoa Joe made his debut as part of WWE's main roster in January, attacking and injuring Seth Rollins at the behest of Triple H. Joe had a memorable year on Raw, battling Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship and feuding with Roman Reigns.
Nakamura debuts on main roster
Former IWGP and NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura made his debut on SmackDown Live on April 4 in the middle of a Miz and Maryse promo segment. While Nakamura may not have reached his full potential yet, he defeated John Cena and challenged Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam.
Matt Hardy is Woken
Right after Matt Hardy returned to WWE in April, fans were wondering whether he'd be able to use the "Broken" gimmick he'd used in Impact Wrestling. After some legal wrangling and a slight change to the moniker, Woken Matt Hardy debuted on Monday Night Raw, following a loss at the hands of Bray Wyatt.
Lance Russell passes away
Called one of the greatest announcers in pro wrestling history by no less an authority than Jim Ross, Lance Russell passed away at the age of 91. An institution in Memphis, Russell called the action there for decades opposite Jerry Lawler. He also announced in the NWA and was in the film Man On The Moon.
Bad blood has been brewing between Jim Cornette and Vince Russo ever since the two were creative forces in the WWF in the mid-1990s. However, the rivalry hit new heights in June when Russo filed a restraining order against The Louisville Lip, claiming Cornette had stalked Vinnie Ru and had made threats against him.
Womens Money In The Bank match
Womens wrestling reached another first in 2017 with its first-ever Money In The Bank match in June. Carmella (with more than a little help from James Ellsworth) overcame Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Natalya and Tamina to win the briefcase. A rematch was held the following week, which Carmella also won.
John Cena's mixed tag team match at WrestleMania XXXIII wasn't all that special on its own -- he and girlfriend Nikki Bella easily defeated The Miz and his wife Maryse after a brief program on SmackDown. However, after the match, Cena took a knee and proposed to Bella, making WrestleMania history.
The Mae Young Classic
WWE's first all-female tournament in some time took place between July and September on the WWE Network. 32 women entered the Mae Young Classic, including those from the independents and NXT, but the winner was Japanese wrestling standout Kairi Sane, who beat MMA's Shayna Baszler in the finals.
SmackDown management tension
SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon let his rivalry with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn get the best of him towards the end of the year, punishing the duo and putting them in many must-win situations. That didn't sit right with General Manager Daniel Bryan, causing dissention between them.
Koloff passes away
A shocking omission from the WWE Hall of Fame, Ivan Koloff passed away at the age of 74. Known as The Russian Bear (despite being Canadian-born), Koloff shocked the world in 1971 by ending Bruno Sammartino's lengthy WWWF World Title reign. He also teamed with his "nephew" Nikita Koloff in the NWA.
Bullet Club becomes a Hot Topic
Retailer Hot Topic used to only carry WWE merchandise but by June, demand for The Bullet Club became so great that the pop culture retailer began selling their shirts and other items. Today, The Bullet Club displays are often more prominent in Hot Topic stores than WWE's are!
Not really tied to one single event, the progression of Braun Strowman was one of 2017's wrestling highlights. After breaking from the mid-card, The Monster Among Men engaged in high-profile rivalries with the likes of Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Kane, destroying lots of bodies and vehicles in the process.
April 10 / 11
Superstar Shake Up
Instead of the traditional draft that WWE has done in years past to refresh their Raw and SmackDown brands, they held a Superstar Shake Up in 2017. Raw gained The Miz, Dean Ambrose, Alexa Bliss and others, while SmackDown got Kevin Owens, Jinder Mahal, Charlotte Flair, Sami Zayn and The New Day.
Superfly's last leap
Although the final years of his life were shrouded in controversy, the death of WWE Hall of Famer Superfly Jimmy Snuka at age 73 was still a blow to the wrestling community. Best known for his iconic Superfly Splash off the ropes, Snuka was a massive part of the Rock & Wrestling era popularity in the 1980s.
Nature Boy 30 for 30
WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair broke new ground once again in 2017, the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about his legendary career. The film featured commentary from a who's who in the business (and even some who aren't in the wrestling industry). For a review of Nature Boy, check out Bulldog's DVD Rack.
Hall of Famer? Oh, it's true!
Speaking of big returns.... Kurt Angle made his first appearance on WWE programming in more than a decade when it was announced he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Since then, Angle has been named Raw General Manager and had matches at both the TLC and Survivor Series PPVs.
Former midcarder Jinder Mahal has come a long way since his 2016 return to WWE. After being traded to SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shake Up, Mahal quickly established himself as a top contender and defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Backlash, holding the title for 170 days!
After disbanding violently in 2014, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins put their differences aside in July, where the two defeated Cesaro and Sheamus to win the Raw Tag Team Championship. The Shield was completed later that year, when Roman Reigns agreed to be part of the trio, with the group feuding with The Miz.
Thank you, Taker
Did The Undertaker retire? That certainly seemed to be the case after The Phenom lost his WrestleMania XXXIII match to Roman Reigns in decisive fashion. After the match, The Undertaker left his trademark hat, jacket and gloves in the middle of the ring - an ominous sign. While no one from WWE or Undertaker's camp have confirmed this, it's quite likely the future WWE Hall of Famer has decided to call it a career.