We are now entering the twilight of 2017. What a roller coaster these last 11 months have been. There have some extremely high highs and abysmally low lows. But when we look back on 2017, we’ll realize that these 4 superstars have grown immensely as performers and athletes.
While Neville’s been absent from WWE programming for around a month now, he really had quite a year. In January, he beat Rich Swann for the WWE Cruiserweight title, and then he had an excellent program with Austin Aries over the coming months. Fast forward to August, and he was already a two-time Cruiserweight Champion.
What was truly amazing to witness was Neville’s growth as a character. He was one of the babyface superstars who hardly had the chance to show any character, but a surprising heel turn allowed him to grow into the sneering jerk who dominated the title scene for nine months. Many people were unsure if Neville had any charisma at all, but he proved them wrong. The evolution of the King of the Cruiserweights was truly a sight to see. Many people forgot about the man with the purple cape, but nobody forgot the man with the purple championship around his waist for more than 200 days.
Things were going great for Baron Corbin at the start of the year. He eliminated Braun Strowman from the Royal Rumble and looked like an absolute star while doing so. He was in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship. Despite a lackluster Wrestlemania match, he was headed for big things. Then he won Money in the Bank. Then he lost it. And then he lost to John Cena in an absolutely disgraceful match that saw Cena clowning around before beating Corbin cleanly.
Despite rumors on backstage heat (first for insulting a veteran on Twitter, and then for correcting a doctor about CTE), Corbin soon won the United States title, and then he had a surprisingly very good match against the Miz at Survivor Series. Things have been on the upswing for the Lone Wolf recently.
Last year, Corbin was one of the many superstars who featured on Talking Smack often. He showed he was a capable talker then, but his in-ring promos and backstage interview left a lot to be desired. Now he seems a lot more comfortable on the mic (especially with his most recent promo against Bobby Roode). Corbin is quite possibly one of the next big things.
Say what you will about Jinder Mahal (and boy is there a lot to say), but you cannot deny his improvement as a performer during his 6 months as champion. He carried himself like a true champion, and he put a lot of effort into working on his character. His sneer is unmatched, and there’s a certain charisma to him. It’s a shame that charisma hasn’t translated into his in-ring skills or his promos, though. However, his more recent work on the mic where he wasn’t bogged down by repetitive material showed that he was more than capable of delivering. When he turned away from “you guys hate me because I’m brown” to “I will defeat Brock Lesnar, and AJ Styles sucks”, he was able to showcase some of his skill.
His matches aren’t the flashiest or the best, but I will be one of the first to say that I enjoyed his series with Orton for the most part. The matches were solid, hard-hitting affairs. They weren’t going to win any awards, but they were entertaining. Even the Punjabi Prison match.
Being put in the ring with some of the best superstars in the world today also helped Jinder immensely as a performer. While just a year ago people would be calling him the weakest member of 3MB, now he’s no longer an obvious answer.
Braun Strowman has most definitely grown leaps and bounds as a character. Last year, he was absolutely horrendous. His solo push at the start of the brand split left many shaking their heads, but Strowman quickly improved. By 2017 he was an absolute monster. He’s had entertaining matches against Big Show and Roman Reigns. He’s been the highlight of many a Monday Night, be it because he tipped over an ambulance or broke a ring.
WWE’s investment in Strowman has more than paid for itself. He is now a a bona fide star. If he had that star-making moment, he would be cemented as a big deal forever. He’s already got wins over Big Show and now most likely Kane. Despite a lackluster match against Brock Lesnar that was not as great as it should have been, Strowman is still very much a big deal.
Few would have seen this coming. Last year he was squashing no-name superstars to silent crowds, and now they’re chanting his name.