AJ Styles becomes the seventh wrestler ever to earn Wrestler of the Year honors in back-to-back years, joining Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Steve Austin, John Cena, Randy Orton, and CM Punk in that very exclusive club.
Styles actually started 2017 on a losing note, dropping the WWE title to John Cena in a tremendous match at the Royal Rumble in January. Frustrated with his inability to get a rematch, Styles attacked Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, leading to a match between the two at WrestleMania.
In July, Styles defeated Kevin Owens for the U.S. title at Madison Square Garden. To some observers, the win seemed to indicate that Styles was settling into a mid-card role with a secondary title; his days as a world title contender appeared to be over.
But you can never count out “The Phenomenal One.”
Given an unexpected opportunity in November, Styles defeated Jinder Mahal to regain the WWE title in Manchester, England. As the new titleholder, he was thrust into the champion-versus-champion non-title bout against Universal champ Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Though Styles lost the match, he fought valiantly and went on to defend his championship against all comers, while Lesnar retreated back into the comfort of his part-time schedule.
Styles started the year WWE champion and ended the year the same way. He won a pair of U.S. titles and reintroduced Cena’s “U.S. Open” challenge, offering to defend his belt against all comers. He was consistently WWE’s top in-ring performer and one of the company’s most popular stars (even as a rulebreaker).
In a year that saw The Undertaker retire and Cena, Lesnar, and Randy Orton wrestle on a reduced schedule, Styles filled the void and asserted himself as the true “Face That Runs The Place” in WWE. His year may have been checkered by losses and disappointments, but no one else in WWE enjoyed as many triumphs in 2017 as AJ Styles.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA 21% “The Rainmaker” made history in 2017, continuing one of the most impressive IWGP title reigns in the history of that championship and becoming the first Japanese competitor ever to earn the top spot in the annual “PWI 500.” He is the focal point on NJPW and, at 30 years old, his best years may lay ahead.
KENNY OMEGA 11% If a champion is only as good as his level of competition, then it makes perfect sense that Okada was terrific, because his top contender had a banner year himself. “The Cleaner” proved that he was one of the world’s best wrestlers, and he may be top contender for Wrestler of the Year 2018.
CODY RHODES 9% Cody made a risky move when he walked out of WWE, but with high risk sometimes comes high reward. Not only did he win the Ring of Honor title and sign a lucrative contract, but he took over The Bullet Club and became one of the most highly sought-after talents on the independent and international scenes.
VOTES FOR OTHERS (21%): Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, Jinder Mahal, Tetsuya Naito, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, and Shinsuke Nakamura