The 2016 calendar year is coming to an end and what a year it’s been for the WWE! Fans have seen their fair share of questionable blunders and enthralling moments. As a result of the WWE 2016 Draft, talent has been separated, as certain individuals appear solely on RAW and others are Smackdown-based.
Along with the rosters being shuffled, fans have seen wrestlers they adored, detested and were indifferent to part ways with the company. We’ve seen debuts that captivated us and we’ve seen premieres that didn’t provide us with much excitement. We’ve seen wrestlers obtain gold that we couldn’t be happier for and we’ve seen wrestlers obtain gold that we couldn’t question more. We’ve seen wrestlers booked in ways in which their characters are able to grow and in ways in which they were destined for failure.
Here, we take a look at the 8 best and 7 worst things that happened in WWE in 2016.
15. BEST: The Talking Smack Segment Between The Miz And Daniel Bryan
For those who tune out once Smackdown concludes, you’re missing out on Talking Smack which seems to deliver week in and week out. The Talking Smack segment that stands out the most is a August altercation between Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan and then (and current) Intercontinental Champion, the Miz. The segment seemed to contain legitimate heat between the goat faced one and the awesome one. Bryan said Miz was a wrestler that was both a coward and one who was afraid to get hurt. Miz retaliated relayed that injuries were foreign to him and that was a testament to his wrestling style. To further add insult to injury, Miz told Bryan to return to the indies and to fight at bingo halls. The scoreboard reads Miz 1, Bryan 0.
14. WORST: Separating The Club From AJ Styles
Let’s make things clear: The Club needs AJ Styles; AJ Styles does not need The Club. When The Club first debuted and were aligned with Styles, they were perceived as two ruthless, cueball heads that would take out any and every individual that crossed their path. With Styles it seemed believable that Anderson and Gallows were two bad asses ready to assert their domination over the Tag Team division. Without Styles the two have been involved in corny comedic segments, such as impersonating doctors. Raw doesn’t possess an intimidating heel tag team and the number two heel tag team on the show is likely the Shining Stars of all people! The Club doesn’t have to compete with another powerful heel twosome, yet they are still unable to connect with the audience. Anderson and Gallows can’t lead – they need to be led.
13. BEST: Bray Wyatt Finally Wins Gold
“The New Face of Fear”, Bray Wyatt, has been on WWE’s main roster since 2012. Despite being one of the company’s best heels, he has frequently seen his momentum derailed. However, his momentum currently seems to be at an all-time high, as he, along with the newest Wyatt Family member, Randy Orton, captured the Smackdown Tag Team titles against “Beauty and the Man Beast”, Heath Slater and Rhyno, at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs PPV. Prior to this victory, Wyatt had never obtained championship gold within the WWE. With Orton by his side (who has traditionally been one of WWE’s most strongly booked characters), things are looking up for Wyatt. A title for Wyatt was long overdue, now hopefully the reign becomes a memorable one as well.
12. WORST: NXT Talent Not Living Up To Their Potential
Hearing the names of Finn Balor and American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable) called during the 2016 Draft was music to everyone’s ears. While Balor, Gable and Jordan were more than ready for the main roster, the same can’t be said for all of the other picks. Credit goes to both Carmella and Alexa Bliss, who many would’ve probably guessed were being called up too early, but the two blonde bombshells have thrived on the blue brand. Bliss serves as Smackdown’s Women’s Champion, while Carmella has put on a program with Nikki Bella that has been one of the most aggressive, hard-hitting programs between two females in recent memory. Apollo Crews, on the other hand, has gotten lost in the shuffle. Nia Jax squashes enhancement talent weekly and is no threat to Sasha Banks or Charlotte at the top of the women’s division. Baron Corbin is in a feud with Kalisto that no one is lining up to tune into. Neville and Tyler Breeze are pretty much forgotten. And the less said about Mojo Rawley, the better.
11. BEST: Shane McMahon Returns
On February 22nd, 2016 fans in Detroit, Michigan were delighted to here the familiar tune of “here comes the money”. Fans were even more ecstatic once they saw everyone’s favorite McMahon, Shane O’Mac as he was treated to a raucous ovation. It had been close to seven years since Shane was last seen on WWE television and there were no signs indicating that he was returning to the WWE. Since his return Shane has shown the fans that he hasn’t lost a step and that he is still unafraid to perform a death defying maneuver as evidenced by him jumping off the Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 32 against the Undertaker. Shane currently serves as Smackdown’s commissioner and has been in the role since July of 2016.
10. WORST: Having Seth Rollins Return As A Heel
When The Shield were first assembled, most believed Seth Rollins was the natural babyface of the triad. After tearing his ACL, MCL and medical medial meniscus while trying to execute a power bomb on Kane at a live event, Rollins was sidelined for over six months. Rollins returned at the Extreme Rules PPV and hit his finisher, the Pedigree, on WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns. Rollins received a massive pop at the PPV then and on the next night on Raw. Despite this, WWE decided to keep Rollins on the dark side and not shift him over to the role of babyface. To make matters worse, WWE released the documentary, “Seth Rollins: Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim” the following week after Raw. After seeing the gruelling pain Rollins was in during rehab, his unsuccessful attempt to make it back for WrestleMania, and how driven he was to get back sooner than rather later, how could WWE expect fans to hate Rollins? The WWE dropped the ball here.
9. BEST: Finn Balor Is Drafted By WWE RAW
Ireland’s very own Demon King had spent just a couple weeks under two years in developmental at WWE NXT before being drafted fifth overall by WWE Raw. Finn Balor being called up to the main roster had been long overdue as he was (and is arguably still) NXT’s most decorated NXT Champion. Fortunately for Balor he was pushed immediately upon being drafted and even ended up being the company’s first ever WWE Universal Championship. Unfortunately for Balor he suffered a dislocated right shoulder and had to relinquish the belt and has been out of action ever since. By making Balor the first ever WWE Universal Champion the higher-ups at WWE showed they are high on the former Pegasus Kid. When Balor returns look for him to be a pivotal player in Raw’s main event scene.
8. WORST: Zack Ryder Having A One-Day Intercontinental Title Reign
At WrestleMania 32 the unthinkable happened when “Long Island Iced Z”, Zack Ryder climbed to the top of the ladder and grabbed the Intercontinental Championship. Ryder defeated the likes of then champion Kevin Owens, the Miz, Sami Zayn, Stardust, Dolph Ziggler and Sin Cara. With the exception of Sin Cara (possibly), Ryder was clearly the underdog of this match and WWE truly provided its fans with a feel good moment by Ryder defying the odds and becoming Intercontinental Champion. However, it was too good to be true. The next night on Raw, Ryder dropped the belt to Miz. By way of his Youtube show, “Z! True Long Island Story”, Ryder showcased his personality to fans and became a lovable babyface. Ryder got over on his own accord yet WWE continuously places him in meaningless feuds. By having Ryder drop the belt in one day the E showed that their stance has been the same its always been when it pertains to Ryder; there is no faith in Ryder.
7. BEST: The Sasha Banks And Charlotte Rivalry
There are those that have vocalized their displeasure with Sasha Banks and Charlotte playing hot potato with the Raw’s Women’s Championship as the title has changed hands five times in the last five months. Banks has proven to have Charlotte’s number on Raw whereas Charlotte has asserted her dominance over the “BOSSton”, Massachusetts resident, Banks on the PPV scene. Regardless of one’s opinion on the title situation, what can not be denied is the chemistry that Banks and Charlotte have in the ring. When these two step foot in the squared circle you are instantaneously hooked and are hesitant to bat an eye. Banks and Charlotte have provided viewers with entertaining singles matches, an unprecedented Hell in a Cell Match and an out-of-the-ordinary (for female competitors) falls count anywhere match. Two words to describe the Banks and Charlotte rivalry? “Fight forever!”
6. WORST: The Releases Of Wade Barrett And Damien Sandow
These two go hand in hand as the two were released on the same day. Wade Barrett was given an unnecessary gimmick of Bad News Barrett. Damien Sandow was given a number of unnecessary stunt double gimmicks including, but not limited to, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Magneto, Sherlock Holmes, and obviously his most popular one, Damien Mizdow. Sandow was not supposed to flourish with any of these gimmicks; he was supposed to falter, better yet, he was supposed to completely fade into obscurity. Instead, he was one of the most over wrestlers on the roster. Barrett when he first came to the WWE was heralded as being a future WWE Champion by fans. Wade was enticing on the mic, delivered in the ring and had a good, unique look to him. Barrett and Sandow didn’t drop the ball; the WWE dropped the ball with both their booking as well as their releases.
5. BEST: The New Day’s Historic WWE Tag Team Title Reign
Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods have probably even surpassed their own expectations with their New Day gimmick. Sure they are on the cusp of a 500 day title reign and surpassing Demolition for the longest tag title reign in the modern era, but lets not forget that when this group debuted they were bombarded with “New Day sucks” chants. Yet, the inexplicably odd, but hilarious acts of the trio has propelled them to be crowd favorites. Whether its Big E’s ridiculous gyrating while dancing, Kingston’s joyous clapping accompanied with hopping, or Woods playing one of his many trombones (Francesca, Francesca 2.0, or Francesca Turbo), or a plug for the overpriced $12 Booty O’s cereal, the crowd is practically spellbound when the New Day appears. The Day’s segments are always entertaining and their tag reign is as Bobby Roode would say, “glorious”.
4. WORST: WWE’s Refusal To Let Stardust Return As Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes had realized that his Stardust character had run its course and voiced to WWE Creative that he wished to return to his original character of Cody Rhodes. Rhodes claims to have pitched a multitude of storyline ideas for the return of the Cody Rhodes character for upwards of six months. Creative balked at all of Rhodes suggestions. To add salt to the wound, there weren’t any longterm storylines, or even any compelling storylines for the Stardust character hashed out by WWE Creative. Rhodes had essentially done all of Creative’s work for them but was still shot down. Rhodes, a former five-time Tag-Team (once with Drew McIntyre, once with Hardcore Holly, twice with Goldust and twice with Ted DiBiase Jr) Champion and a two-time Intercontinental Champion didn’t fail WWE; the WWE failed Rhodes.
3. BEST: Kevin Owens Wins The WWE Universal Championship
At the 2016 WWE Supplemental Draft, Kevin Owens inexplicably fell to the eighteenth pick. Names such as Sami Zayn and Brock Lesnar were drafted prior to the Canadian prizefighter and with all due respect to the former El Generico and the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Owens should’ve been selected prior to them both. The IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) was livid as they believed this was the sign of Owens burial. After all, Owens doesn’t possess a physique that Vince McMahon raves over; rather, Owens has a physique that McMahon likely loathes. Yet, despite Owens physical appearance he won the WWE’s second biggest prize, the WWE Universal Championship on August 29th, 2016 in Houston, Texas in a fatal four way against Seth Rollins, Big Cass and Roman Reigns. FYI, Houston has been good to Owens, he’s also won an Intercontinental Championship there as well. Owens has held the belt for over three months now as he and his best friend, Chris Jericho, have been able to thwart all challengers.
2. WORST: WWE’s Unwillingness To Turn Roman Reigns Heel
First and foremost, the criticism Roman Reigns is beyond harsh. Yes, his character needs to be revamped, but his in ring work is solid and is particularly impressive for one that stands 6’3″ tall and weighs in at 265 pounds. Behind Seth Rollins, Reigns is supposed to be the biggest face on Raw. Unfortunately for the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Defensive Tackle, he is frequently showered with endless boos that easily surpass that of his heel counterparts. WWE has failed miserably in pushing Reigns as a lovable babyface for over a year now and don’t seem to realize that this is a failed experiment. Reigns mic skills aren’t nothing to be dumfounded by, but he can put on quality matches against the best of them. Whether its against Ambrose, Rollins, Rusev and so on and so forth, Reigns delivers in the ring. Message to the E: cut your losses and turn Reigns heel already!
1. BEST: AJ Styles Debuts At Royal Rumble
The crowd at Orlando’s Amway Center was treated to quite the delight when Styles was revealed as the third entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble. Styles debuting in WWE was the equivalent of Sting debuting in WWE, if not bigger, considering the former has a number of years left whereas the latter did not. The Phenomenal One had finally made a long overdue jump to the WWE, and he has impressed since day one. Seeing him in the WWE at one time seemed unfathomable, and seeing him as the WWE Champion was downright laughable, considering Vince McMahon has never been high on those coming in from outside promotions. Yet, Styles has defied all odds and currently holds the company’s most prestigious prize and has done so for the past three months and counting. Keep on keeping on, AJ!