WWE's first four months of 2017 have been eventful, with Randy Orton's win at Royal Rumble and The Undertaker's potential retirement at WrestleMania 33.
With WrestleMania in the rear view mirror, it's a reminder that it's WWE's full-time talent, not the part-timers, who carry the load. It's easy to fixate on Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and others, but the full-time talent deserves recognition.
Here are WWE's top 5 stars in the first four months of 2017:
Braun Strowman. Whether it's rag-dolling Roman Reigns or his weekly obsession with destruction, Strowman has arguably been WWE's biggest star, especially since WrestleMania. This was a guy who was relegated to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal — and he didn't win it. He's now locked in a better than expected rivalry with Roman Reigns, and Strowman is dominating.
WWE has to feel good about how Strowman is performing. With The Undertaker likely on his way out and other large superstars, such as The Big Show, inching closer to retirement, Strowman is the present and future. He has the size and, more importantly, he has the charisma. When he enters the ring or grabs the mic, he exudes dominance. He's going to be a star for years to come.
Alexa Bliss. Bliss may not be the best wrestler in WWE's women's division, but her character and the way she carries herself puts her in the top echelon of talent. She was a two-time Smackdown Women's Champion before moving over to Raw. WWE basically swapped her for Charlotte, which tells you what they think of Bliss.
What's most impressive about Bliss is her commitment to her heel role. Even as fans cheer and try to get on her side, she tries to remind them who's side she's really on. That's old school. You'll be hard-pressed to find a superstar in today's WWE who cares about the traditional babyface-heel roles. Bliss is apparently committed to that, and it's an admirable trait.
Roman Reigns. You can boo him. You can say it's not his yard now. But it is his yard.
Whether you like it or not, Reigns is WWE's top guy. He beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 and he's played a key role in getting Strowman over. How many times could you say that about John Cena during his run at the top? WWE usually protects its top talent. But with Reigns and Strowman, they see opportunity.
Strowman, as mentioned above, has done his part. So, too, has Reigns. Reigns consistently delivers good matches and equally good moments. One of his best highlights of the year came when he interrupted the Raw after WrestleMania crowd's Undertaker chant. The crowd booed him for what seemed to be an eternity. Reigns didn't say much. In fact, when he lifted the mic to his mouth, the boos intensified. But he found an opening to simply say, "This is my yard now." He dropped the mic and walked out.
Criticize Reigns if you want. But he's here to stay. And he truly is one of the best WWE has to offer.
AJ Styles. Don't forget about Styles. He's leading Smackdown and he's regularly in some of WWE's best matches. With John Cena embracing more of a part-time role, Styles is clearly Smackdown's top guy.
Sure, Randy Orton is the champion and he's been one of WWE's best for a long time. But it's Styles who has the crowd behind him and is typically a big draw.
The Miz and Maryse. The real-life couple's work has been impressive. Their dual with another real-life couple, John Cena and Nikki Bella, was entertaining. The Miz is now focusing his attention on Dean Ambrose, and both men have had great exchanges on Raw over the past two weeks.
There was a time when The Miz was an afterthought. Maryse's return to WWE seemed to give him the boost he needed. He's been one of WWE's unsung heroes since then. His character has gotten better each week.