WWE has seen better days as it pertains to making money and receiving attention from mainstream audiences. It was during the 1990s when the wrestling business drew millions upon millions of viewers across North America every Monday. The WWE, World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling all featured legitimate recognized stars, and all of those companies produced multiple entertaining shows, many of which live up to this day. What is now referred to as "The Attitude Era” is remembered fondly by wrestling fans and also by those running the WWE to this day. Because of this, many forget about all the bad things that occurred in the WWE and in the wrestling business decades ago.
One could easily make the argument that the WWE is better in 2016 than ever before because of a variety of factors that do not involve business, television ratings and the amount of wrestling companies that own cable TV contracts. The WWE is hardly perfect today. The company is far from it, in fact. Those who would suggest that nothing about the WWE entertains them in 2016 may have to consider the fact that maybe they are choosing to dislike anything that falls underneath the WWE umbrella, or maybe they just aren’t all that into pro wrestling these days. Anybody reading this who gave up on the WWE needs to give the company another try at some point before 2017 arrives. You may be surprised by at least some portions of the product presented on TV and via the WWE Network.
15 Health of Performers
We were all bummed to learn in February 2016 that Daniel Bryan had to retire from the WWE and from professional wrestling due to health problems caused by the amount of concussions he suffered during his career. With that said, it is only a positive for everybody involved that Bryan’s health mattered more than any amount of revenue he could have generated for the company as part of the main roster.
The WWE Wellness Policy, like any similar policy, has its flaws, but the WWE does deserve credit for going out of the way in an attempt to protect those signed to the company’s overall roster. Those who follow the wrestling business know that far too many wrestlers and performers passed away far too soon. Some even died during what should have been the primes of their lives. WWE performers are taken care of today more so than ever before and we should all be grateful for that.
14 Corey Graves
Corey Graves is, simply put, the best commentator the WWE has produced in years and maybe even in decades. Graves is somewhat of an odd combination of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Tazz (when Tazz was featured as a SmackDown announcer), Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Graves is entertaining. He will make a joke about the occasional wrestler now and again. The former NXT wrestler also maintains his credibility in that he knows to put over both babyface and heel wrestlers when the time calls for such tactics. What one has to remember is that Graves is still in the infancy of this part of his career, after he learned that he could no longer wrestler because of the amount of concussions he suffered in the past. We should have no reason to believe that Graves will not continue to improve as he works on cable television shows, pay-per-view events and for programs featured on the WWE Network.
13 Awesome Themes
We know this sounds silly, but the truth of the matter is that a great theme can help boost the legitimacy of an act. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, D-Generation X and so many other all-time great acts have had awesome themes throughout the years.
The WWE is giving standout themes to the best wrestlers on the roster in 2016. A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Sasha Banks and American Alpha are only a few examples of top-tier talents being given great themes.
A noteworthy theme causes fans inside of an arena to pop the second they hear the opening bars and that makes the wrestlers associated with those themes come off as even bigger stars. Just imagine how awesome WrestleMania entrances for performers such as Finn Balor, Nakamura and others will be come 2017 and into the future.
12 Brand Split
We understand why diehard WWE fans would have multiple concerns about the WWE Draft and WWE brand split that occurred in July 2016. Remember, though, that the brand split is better than the alternative.
Before the brand split, there was not enough time even on three-hour editions of shows to feature all of the great talent currently signed by the WWE. Fans also had little reason to go out of the way to watch editions of SmackDown, as any major important storylines and feuds played out on the company’s flagship program.
SmackDown and Raw still have their flaws. That can be said about almost any show that airs on TV. The brand split is a positive during its early days and we have to hope that the company will learn from mistakes and grow both shows moving forward. WWE needed a brand split now more than ever. The company has to get it right this time.
11 Amount of Content
There are many complaints one could make about the WWE in 2016. Nobody out there, however, can even joke that there is not enough new content produced by the WWE each and every week.
Every edition of Raw runs over three hours. SmackDown gives fans an additional two hours each Tuesday night. NXT programs are often between 50 and 60 minutes in length. The Cruiserweight Classic, that has been praised by fans and by wrestling journalists, provides another hour of action each week. This does not include other programs that air on WWE Network (more on those shows later).
The truth of the matter is that one could get annoyed about the fact that the WWE gives us too much fresh content in a week. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day and in a week. Even diehard wrestling fans take vacations and step away from TVs, computer and mobile devices every now and again.
10 Quality of Matches
Here is something that some wrestling fans out there possibly take for granted: It is realistic that any WWE pay-per-view could, depending on that show, give you multiple four-star matches. The WWE could even produce a handful of five-star matches each year if the right wrestlers were put together for a feud. Even the most cynical wrestling fan who turned his back on the WWE years ago can no longer deny that some of the best wrestlers in the world in 2016 have worked for WWE shows this year.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn put on an instant classic. A.J. Styles and John Cena seemingly cannot have a bad match in 2016. The quality of matches one could see on WWE shows in 2016 matches, if not exceeds, what was presented during "The Attitude Era” and during any other generation of the company’s existence. Match quality will only improve so long as the WWE continues to sign great wrestlers.
9 Special Programs
Say, for the sake of argument, that roughly seven hours of fresh wrestling content every week is not enough for you. You still have no reason to find yourself bored or without WWE programs. The WWE offers podcasts featuring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin interviewing wrestlers. Mick Foley has hosted multiple programs. The Talking Smack wrap-up show that follows every edition of SmackDown is a nice change of pace and a fine addition to that two-hour cable show. This does not even account for the more wacky shows that air on the WWE Network, such as Holy Foley.
Not everybody will love all of these shows. That is understandable. You nevertheless have to give the WWE credit for thinking outside of the box and for trying to reach out to different varieties of fans. Give the different programs on the WWE Network a shot. You may be surprised with what you find entertaining in 2016.
8 Working Relationship With UFC
Those of us who do not work for the WWE and for the Ultimate Fighting Championship can only speculate about the type of working relationship the two companies are enjoying as of the summer of 2016.
We know Ronda Rousey had an in-ring part of a WrestleMania angle. Brock Lesnar was allowed to step away from the WWE for a brief period of time so that he could compete at UFC 200. Conor McGregor has recently cut promos on WWE performers in such a manner that suggests McGregor is, at the very least, attempting to earn some type of role at a future WWE show such as a WrestleMania.
The WWE and UFC are different, and yet they are similar. They are rivals and competitors, but they can also help each other out every now and again. Fans who actively follow both the WWE and UFC have to enjoy that the two companies are currently more-so friends than enemies.
7 WrestleMania Weekends
One of the best things about the WWE in 2016 and about the company moving forward is that WrestleMania weekend continues to get bigger and better with each year. Anybody lucky enough to attend multiple shows that take place in a WrestleMania city over that weekend can attest to this.
In fact, one could even say that the actual WrestleMania event is no longer the highlight of such a weekend. Raw after WrestleMania is a must-attend show for those able to hang around after “The Showcase of the Immortals.” NXT Takeover: Dallas that occurred on the night before WrestleMania 32 may, when all is said and done, go down as the best overall show of 2016. There are also a plethora of non-WWE shows that occur in a WrestleMania city every year. Every WWE fan reading this sentence needs to attend at least one WrestleMania weekend. You won’t regret it.
6 Women’s Wrestling
Women’s wrestling in the WWE in 2016 is better than ever before and there really is not any good argument against such a take. Sasha Banks and Bayley stole the show at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn in August 2015, so much so that it had to be at least a candidate for WWE Match of the Year among fans and journalists. Banks and Charlotte gave fans a tremendous championship match in the summer of 2016, and those two will likely face off multiple times in the future.
The biggest drawback to women’s wrestling in the WWE following the WWE Draft and brand split is that the women’s division is not on a single show. It seems as if the WWE dropped the ball with this idea, as the women’s division could have been booked stronger had it been held to either Raw or SmackDown. We are, however, trying to keep an open mind as we wait for Bayley and then Asuka to receive call-ups to the main roster.
We fully understand that NXT lost a lot of talent over the past couple of years. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and American Alpha are only some of the talents who moved on from what was once deemed as the developmental brand of the WWE to the company’s main roster.
Those who yearn for the old days of NXT have still had plenty of entertaining programs to watch in 2016. Samoa Joe, Bayley, Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Bobby Roode and other great performers have been featured on NXT shows.
It also cannot be forgotten that NXT provides fans with a real alternative to both Raw and SmackDown. NXT is only an hour per show and the booking of NXT mirrors what was presented on wrestling shows decades ago. NXT is beautiful in its simplicity and we hope that continues through the end of 2016 and beyond.
4 Cruiserweight Classic
We do not, as of August 2016, know if the Cruiserweight Classic featured on the WWE Network is a one-off of a competition or a glimpse of things to come as it pertains to competitions and tournaments that will occur in the WWE.
What we do know, however, is that the Cruiserweight Classic is incredible and one of the best things the WWE has given fans in years. Wrestling fans have historically embraced tournaments, even if those tournaments did not always involve in-depth storylines and great wrestling. There are no such concerns with the Cruiserweight Classic, as it has included different pieces that make pro wrestling fun and entertaining.
Those who are reading this who have not yet seen the Cruiserweight Classic match involving Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa need to go out of the way to enjoy that contest. You will not be disappointed even if you have never before seen either man work.
3 Open Mind
Pockets of WWE fans continue to voice their frustrations at shows due to the fact that the company seems determined to make Roman Reigns into the next version of John Cena. While we do understand those emotions, all would do well to realize that those scouting for and signing talents for the WWE are keeping an open mind in 2016. It was, after all, only a decade ago when the Cruiserweight Classic never would have been featured as a serious competition.
Talents such as A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and other likely would not have been on the WWE radar earlier this decade. NXT being an entertaining touring brand responsible for top-tier “special events” such as the NXT Takeover shows has possibly played a role in the WWE embracing numerous standout stars from outside of the company. We have to hope and assume this practice will continue well past 2016.
Not everybody on a roster of any wrestling company can be a star or a World Champion. That is the nature of the business. With that said, the WWE roster in the summer of 2016 is as deep as it ever was during "The Attitude Era” or any other time.
John Cena, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and other similar acts are who one would expect to see on WWE shows. They are joined by A.J. Styles, Sami Zayn, Neville, American Alpha, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and others. Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura will both likely be on the WWE main roster at some point over the next 12 months.
One could put together literally the greatest overall WrestleMania card in WWE history with the company’s roster as it stands today, so long as all of those acts remain healthy. The future is bright for WWE shows that will occur past 2016 due to its roster and because of who may join the WWE after this year comes to an end.
1 WWE Network
The WWE Network keeps getting better and better as of the summer of 2016. We have already mentioned the NXT and Cruiserweight Classic shows that air on the WWE Network. WWE Network is the home to every new WWE pay-per-view produced by the WWE in 2016 and in the future.
The company continues to add new content, such as older versions of Raw and Nitro, to the WWE Network. Other classic shows and promotions are also included with any subscription to the WWE Network. Passionate wrestling fans who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s recorded all of the shows they could find. It is how many of us were introduced to the National Wrestling Alliance, Extreme Championship Wrestling and other products.
There are still plenty of shows missing, but the WWE Network nevertheless remains a gift for younger versions of fans who once dreamed of being able to watch wrestling at any point of any day.