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10 Best WWE Superstars of 2017

10 Best WWE Superstars of 2017

2017 was a rough year for WWE Superstars. There were plagues of injuries, subpar storylines, and pushes that halted. However, some Superstars did become brighter in 2017, and others kept their remarkable paces going. The Superstars on the list are a mix of the best in-ring matches, promos, storylines, and overall entertainment value of the wrestler. These are those Superstars.

Honorable Mentions

Rusev and Aiden English

Randy Orton

Asuka

Sami Zayn

Chris Jericho

10. Brock Lesnar

BROCK LESNAR. The man was so busy defending WWE against the Universe that he shows up when he wants. When he does, there’s usually carnage and a lot of big moves to go with it. Holding the red strap since Wrestlemania, the Beast Incarnate may keep the belt until mania, and there’s not much any mortal man could do about it.

Notable Match: AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar (Clash of Champions)

WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar

9. Kevin Owens

The former Universal Champion had a quietly excellent year in WWE. The breakup of him and Jericho was the story of WWE heading into Mania, and Chris left putting Owens over.  Ownes had a period of being saddled without a great opponent who could bring out his best in-ring work. He and Zayn have been fantastic together at the end of the year, and I hope he gets into the WWE title picture very soon in 2018. He’s probably the best heel Smackdown has at the moment in their single’s division.

Notable Match: Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon (Hell in a Cell)

8. The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro)

Collectively Sheamus and Cesaro have helped to keep Raw’s tag team division at a good caliber. The two European born stars have gelled into something great together. Their seemingly year-long feud with The Shield is hopefully coming to an end, but with the current booking, who knows?

Notable Match: The Bar vs. The Shield (Raw 11/7)

WWE Superstars The Bar

7. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (The Shield)

After the brand shakeup in 2017, it was almost impossible to see one of these men without the other one. I thought about separating them on this list, but their best run was once they joined forces. Their matches against the Bar were tremendous and after the inclusion of their third wheel Roman Reigns, these two still shined together, especially in Reigns’ absence. Hope you come back stronger than ever, Dean.

Notable Match: The Shield w/ Kurt Angle vs. Braun Strowman, Miz, Kane, and The Bar (Summer Slam)

WWE Superstars Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins

6. Roman Reigns

The current Intercontinental champion Roman Reigns had a great year. At Wrestlemania, he beat the Undertaker being his highlight of the year. Roman’s being kept in the chamber so he can slay Lesnar at Mania and we all know it. However in-ring he’s had some great moments and his “This is my Yard Now” promo may be the best of his career.

Notable Match: Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker (Wrestlemania)

WWE Superstar Roman Reigns

5. Braun Strowman

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUN. Talk about a breakthrough year for a Superstar. Strowman was let loose from the Wyatt Family and spent most of the year laying waste to Roman Reigns. After having his momentum halted by Brock, hopefully, next year brings some gold his way.

Notable Match: Braun Strowan vs. Roman Reigns (Ambulance Match) (Great Balls of Fire)

4. The New Day

After their historic title reign was ended by The Bar, The New Day seemed aimless on Raw. Then they were moved to Smackdown and had the feud of the year with The Usos. It’s only a question of whether The New Day should be separated or kept going, either way, all these guys are incredible talents, and I look forward to everything they do.

Notable Match: The New Day vs. The Usos (Battleground)

3. AJ Styles

It feels like AJ Styles spent most of 2017 in subpar feuds that ended up with fantastic matches. A run with Baron Corbin made him cool off a bit, but high level matches with Lesnar, Cena, Balor, and more established Styles was high on this list. Plus he somehow made Jinder look okay for 15+ minutes. The Phenomenal one is the current WWE Champion and I hope 2018 brings memorable feuds for him while he’s in this position.

Notable Match: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (Royal Rumble)

WWE Superstar AJ Styles

2. The Miz

The only reason Miz isn’t #1 on this list is that he didn’t have a remarkable match this year. The Miz’s mic work, in-ring psychology, and just overall wrestling business sense aren’t matched by many this year. Taking him off of Smackdown was a massive mistake by WWE, he owned that show and Talking Smack. I can only hope The Miz comes back, gets his IC Title again, and keeps his fantastic run going. Thank you, Miz.

Notable Feud: The Miz vs. WWE

1. The Usos

Welcome to the Uso Penitentiary! 2017 was the year of The Usos. At the beginning of the year, The Miz and The Usos made Smackdown the program to watch. Heel Usos have been the best makeover in WWE in quite some time. The rap battle promos, the matches with New Day, American Alpha, and others have solidified The Usos as my favorite Superstars of the Year. If WWE had any sense, they’d give these guys the main event match at a PPV. Every Smackdown PPV slumped after their matches, and they’d usually be the first ones. I’m all in on some Day One Ish, and I hope WWE gives them their due come Wrestlemania 2018.

Notable Match: The Usos vs. New Day (Hell in a Cell)

WWE Superstars The Usos

Agree or Disagree? Leave a comment below. Then head over to Twitter and Instagram to follow us @Baselinetimes and @TheHoWPod. Peace.

Markus X. Murden, Esq.

Senior Editor/Heels of Wrestling

@MXMurden on Twitter and Instagram

WWE Financial Review


Recently, WWE’s  2017 Q2 Financial Report was released. While it would seem that this quarter was strong, compared to years before, it’s taken some bigger spots to average out WWE’s books. Some of these trends should be worrying to WWE.

The following is a continued strategic analysis of the World Wrestling Entertainment Corporation (WWE). The following is profile information on the organization.

  • Company Name – World Wrestling Entertainment, an integrated media organization recognized as a leader in global entertainment.
  • The Company has four principal divisions within the organizational structure. Media 2. Live Entertainment 3. Products 4. Studios
  • The company Headquarters is in Samford, Conn.
  • Statement of Purpose, the WWE consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. WWE is committed to family friendly entertainment on its television programming, pay per view, digital media, and publications platforms.
  • With 115 Wrestlers, 28 Broadcast Personalities, 12 Ambassadors, 16 on the Board, 14 Senior Leaders, the company employees thousands to support these personalities and its programs on a global front. With offices in Ct, Mexico City, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, NY, LA, London, Munich, and Tokyo.
  • Financials for year end 2015
  • 659 Million in Revenue, a 21% growth in Revenue
  • 5 Billion Market Cap
  • 36 Million Dividend Payout
  • 2016 Q2 Financial Reporting shows revenue increased 32% (13% excluding the timing impact of WrestleMania1) to a record $199.0 million as WWE’s Live Event and Network segments achieved their highest quarterly revenue in Company history.
  • OIBDA2of $7.5 million was in line with the Company’s guidance
  • WWE Network reached a record of 1.52 million average paid subscribers over the second quarter 2016, which represented a 25% increase from the second quarter 2015
  • SmackDown transitioned to a live format on USA Network. Since July 25, WWE’s flagship programs, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown, have and will continue to feature unique talent and storylines
  • Through the first six months of the year, digital engagement metrics continued to grow with video views up over 100% to nearly 8 billion and social media engagements up 39% to 570 million versus the prior year
  • Stock Exchange – NY Shock Exchange tag WWE and as of 12:46 pm 10/3/16 the stock was trading at $20.92.
  • The Chairman & CEO of the WWE is Vincent K. McMahon.

McMahon, a visionary promoter and recognized presence as a broadcast leader, joined his father’s company, Capital Wrestling in 1972. Ten Years later he bought the company from his father, established the WWE and took it to the National Market through a newly formed cable network division that started with pay per view and strategically grew to a monthly subscription format.

McMahon’s strategy for the company was to leverage the new technologies of pay per view and closed-circuit television. He used this strategy for the first WrestleMania in 1985. By using these platforms, he has established and built not only a brand that people would watch in syndication but he also built the WWE into a brand that people would pay to watch. This strategy proved to be successful and by the year 2000 more than a million fans purchased WrestleMania X6. For the year 2000, this event was the most watched combat sport event in pay per view history. The strategy and brand loyalty continued and by 2014 the WWE launched its first ever 24/7 direct to consumer network in the United States. As McMahon’s direct to consumer strategy continues to grow the WWE events are continuing to show record-breaking attendance.

This year, WrestleMania 32 set a new attendance record of 101,763 fans. All their formats for Direct to Consumer are showing signs of success for the company. From its live events at its core to its television programming 52 weeks a year, to its newest monthly subscription, the WWE’s syndication strategy is working. The Company has created a brand, like no other in the entertainment industry, and with that brand has created great brand loyalty. They have rewarded that loyalty with continued enhanced ways to view their programming.

In looking at the financials for the WWE their OBIBDA was 35.1 million. They have 80 million in cash on hand and 190 million in available credit. Their current EPS is fluctuating between $20 and $21 / share on the NY stock exchange. Their Debt to Assets on their 2016 Q2 report shows Liabilities at 180.1 million and total Assets at 396.1 million. Important to note in looking at the entertainment industry is the payments related to the Company’s television rights agreements as well as payouts of management incentive compensation which can have a direct impact on cash flow and liquidity. This is not unusual for sports entertainment personalities. In the National Baseball League, they put a cap on salaries so no one team can have a competitive advantage in the sport. With the WWE there is no cap on salaries for the wrestlers with regards to competitors so they must not over extend their cash flow by over paying more popular personalities in their employ to avoid any negative cash flow or liquidity.

NXT has formed an alliance with the WWE and is to them as AAA is to the NBL. They are a feeder for them. The only other competition is the Ring of Honor. This wrestling company was purchased in 2011 by the parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting Group. The SBG is the largest television station operator owning 156 stations in 80 markets as well as 4 radio stations and the Ring of Honor Wrestling. Although the ROH was never a strong competition to the WWE, with this new parent company it has the potential to have a real presence if the SBG parent company chooses to focus on this small new division of its company. It is currently holding live events and pay per view events. SBG had 2 Billion in revenue in 2015 from its media group. They list out their TV channels, FOX, CBS, ABC, and others on their balance sheet but ROH is not listed. They could be lumped into their other assets line which is minimal compared to their TV channels income. Their stock was listed at $28.88 / share. They have 422 million in operating income and list Revenue in excess of 2 billion. The only thing found on ROH in the financial report was a national contract with Destination America to broadcast 26 weeks of wrestling. This parent company is clearly focused on their TV channels.

If they should put some focused effort on the ROH division they could make it more of a competitor to the WWE, cutting into their share of the market. They seem to be the only threat to the WWE in the national market place today. Their corporate Head Quarters is in Baltimore, MD. Their parent company is financially strong but is not diverse. They have a TV and Radio stage for the ROH. They know how to create on air personalities but they are not in the sporting entertainment field in any of their portfolios except for ROH. Certainly, a company that the WWE should keep an eye on.
Identification of Company Sources of Competitive Advantage VIRO Criteria.

In the WWE 2016 Q2 financial report it lists 1.2 million as cash used for capital expenditures as its cash flow source. Additionally, it lists purchase of property and equipment source, purchase of corporate air craft, as 8.8 million as a negative drain on cash flow. So they spent more than they had cash on hand by 7.6 million. In terms of VIRO, or the firm’s strategy. The value of the firm’s ability to exploit an opportunity is high due to its positive cash flow as well as a currently available credit line of 199 million. Now being a monopoly with a unique product form could make them blind to a competitor until it is too late. Take Blockbuster as an example. The all American way to rent a movie seen on every corner across America was taken down by a concept of direct to consumers with net flicks. They stole a huge market share and Blockbuster started closing stores as it rental boxes in supermarkets was too little too late for consumers.

The WWE needs to take a lesson from Blockbuster and be sure to be mindful of the competition out there. Rarity is strong as there are few people in control of the resources of the company. Those few have to make smart decisions on capital investments in salaries as well as luxury items like the airplane listed on the cash flow 2016 Q2 report. Imitability is strong as building a brand of solid characters and stories takes a special talent of writers to create the characters and talent to fit the roles. The company appears to be well organized in four key divisions. In conclusion, in terms of VRIO, the WWE corporate structure and strategies, as well as controls, seems to be solid.

The WWE brand is solid in the entertainment industry. They have very little competition in wrestling entertainment and none that currently leverages the syndication and monthly subscriptions that the WWE offers to its customers. The largest competitors in the National Market are ROH ( Ring of Honor) and NXT. The WWE has embraced the NXT and is using them as a feeder for its future personalities/performers. The writers at the WWE are world-class in their ability to create meaningful story lines behind the performers to make them part of the WEE Brand and leverage the personalities/talent coming up through the NXT to create new story lines. The Ring of Honor wrestling group based in Baltimore, MD with David Smith as CEO was not a threat to the WWE until they were bought out by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG). The Sinclair Group is the largest owners of TV stations owning the likes of Fox, CBS, and ABC and others as well as 4 radio stations. The Ring of Honor has financial backing and TV and radio presence and is on the Pay per view front with the WWE.

They have not done any monthly subscriptions but this could be part of their future strategies for growth and if it is then the WWE needs to keep an eye on the ROH as they could become a stronger competitor in the future. Another privately held company to watch is the UFC. The UFC has personalities and are leveraging the pay per view networking for their events and do have live events as well. They are modeling themselves after the WWE. Now their mixed martial arts offering is a different sport from wrestling so although not a direct competitor in the same entertainment offering, the UFC could take some of their market share in the monthly subscription if the UCF offers this form and continues to grow its personalities. The consumers may decide to have one monthly subscription yearly and flip-flop between the two sports.

I would recommend that the WWE continue to connect with their consumers. I would recommend they add two things to their strategy to continue to retain and grow their consumer base. First I would recommend that they leverage mobile devices through the WWE AP and continue to develop this AP as a means to not only watch broadcasts on the go but also to connect with their customers through live blogs and live streaming interactive events. They need to create a FaceBook merged with Twiter type platform for WWE where the customers can share photos and interact with the stars of the WWE. My second recommendation would be to grow their international subscriptions. Current U.S. subscription revenue is 940 million and the international is only at 277 million. Part of their international growth strategy should include the enhancements to the WWE AP as well as advertising to increase their international subscriber base.

They need to keep an eye on ROH as their parent company could decide to invest in their wrestling division to make it a stronger competitor to the WWE. They have been the parent company for several years and perhaps have not focused on the division for growth. In 2015 they signed a contract for 26 TV shows for the ROH. They seem to be using their core business and contacts to leverage the new wrestling arm to SEG but have yet to try more than pay per view & live events with this division. The ROH does not have the brand recognition or following that the WWE has. Customer loyalty can change with the right introduction of a new product from but in the case of the WWE, they seem to still have a loyal and dedicated following for their personalities and their sport that appears to continue to grow year over year. That kind of customer base is hard to penetrate as long as the WWE continues to provide quality programming to its customers.

WWE Battleground Predictions 2017

(c) WWE.com

It’s PPV time in WWE, and below we have the full match card with our predictions for WWE Battleground

WWE Championship — Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton (Punjabi Prison Match)

John Cena vs. Rusev (Flag Match)

United States Championship — AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens

Tag Team Championship — The Usos (c) vs. The New Day

Women’s Championship No. 1 Contendership — Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Lana vs. Tamina Snuka (Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match)

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis w/ Maria Kanellis

Breezango vs. TBA

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Show)

Predictions:

Bobby Nagel: Aiden English, Mike Kanellis, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, New Day, AJ Styles, Rusev, Jinder Mahal

Adam Gregory: Tye Dillinger, Mike Kanellis, Shinsuke Nakamura, Natalya, New Day, John Cena, Jinder Mahal

Wesley Avendano: Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Charlotte Flair, New Day, John Cena, Jinder Mahal

Markus Murden: Tye Dillinger, Mike Kanellis, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte Flair, The Usos, AJ Styles, John Cena, Jinder Mahal

Justin Velez: Aiden English, Mike Kanellis, Baron Corbin, Tamina, The Usos, AJ Styles, John Cena, Jinder Mahal