It's been said before, but I'm willing to say it again here: 2016 has been a great year to be a wrestling fan. No matter what wrestling company you were watching this year, there were plenty of entertaining matches and storylines to be seen. WWE in particular had one of their better wrestling years. Not as a sports entertainment corporation, but as a wrestling organization that gave us some of the best in-ring match-ups and moments in the sport this year. We saw international superstars like AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura enter WWE and quickly reach the top of their brand's mountain, respectively winning the WWE Championship and NXT Championship. We saw Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns assert themselves as the new top faces of WWE. We saw Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks revitalize the Womens Division. We saw teams like The Revival, DIY, and American Alpha set the tag team scene ablaze. We saw the rebirth of the Cruiserweight Division after a tremendous Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. We saw a lot of great things in WWE during this calendar year, but we also saw a lot of bad. We saw enough bad to make us reconsider being wrestling fans.
Nothing great comes without a few terrible things and there were a good amount of terrible things. In some cases, some of the bad in WWE from 2016 weren't downright terrible, but they were certainly bad enough to give us second thoughts about watching WWE programming. It's already too easy for some of us to be embarrassed to watch wrestling on general principle alone given the ugly reputation that wrestling has received over the years, but this year, WWE has provided enough reasons to keep our love for wrestling to ourselves. In fact, WWE have given us enough cringe-worthy, second hand embarrassment inducing moments to compile this list below.
15 Golden Truth
If there was ever an award for worst tag team of the decade, Golden Truth would surely be a top contender. Starting off the year with a storyline that would span several months, it was about R-Truth begging Goldust to be his tag team partner before Goldust finally accepted. It never led to a Tag Team Championship match or anything like that. The two just became Raw's resident loathsome duo. The only payoff from the angle was that we got to see the two take part in some of the most unfunny attempts at comedy to ever take place in WWE. Goldust isn't all that bad, but R-Truth has just been the absolute worst. For someone who was once a talented wrestler and even a former World Champion (in TNA at least), R-Truth has become one of the most obnoxious personalities on the WWE roster. Whether it be the Pokemon Go segment or the Halloween one, they were just godawful. Worst part is they'll probably keep tagging in 2017. If you’re ever trying to convince non-wrestling fans that modern wrestling can be entertaining, it's best you just leave Golden Truth out of the conversation.
14 New Day’s Unicorn Horns
Here is our first New Day entry, but it certainly won't be the last. Nothing against The New Day. After all, they took a gimmick about positivity that was never supposed to work, got booed out of the building upon their debut, and turned it into a moneymaking cash cow worthy of being Tag Team Champions for 483 days. They are a genuinely talented trio. It's just that they have a knack for taking part in cringeworthy segments and thanks to their long championship reign this year, we received plenty of those. Before we even try to break down their worst segments, we have to talk about their merchandise, namely their unicorn horns. Imagine showing a close friend an episode of Monday Night Raw for the first time and The New Day come out to pull off their usual schtick while wearing their horns. The first thing your friend is going to ask is "Why are those guys wearing dildos on their heads?" It's kind of hard to explain it away by saying they're actually wearing unicorn horns. Not sure if your friend is better off thinking they're wearing dildos on their heads.
13 Breezango Sunburn
Let's be honest for a second. As a tag team act, Tyler Breeze and Fandango have been surprisingly entertaining. Sure, their tag team name is as dumb as they come (FaBreeze would have been SUCH a better, smarter name), but the two have managed to take some awful material given to them and turn it into comedy gold. Whether you see them on the Pre or Post Smackdown shows or they actually manage to sneak onto the main show, it won't be hard for them to get a laugh out of you. However, one night during this year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view in a match with The Golden Truth, not even Breezango could salvage this segment. Right before their match, R-Truth and Goldust tampered with the flamboyant duo's tanning machines and they emerged with a sunburn. Not only was it not funny, it made for an overlong squash match that saw Golden Truth get the win. Perhaps Breezango failed to make this segment any good because they were given a bad set of opponents as well, but when the makeup job looks like some chewed up baloney got smeared over their chests, no one could make this better. Definitely not a segment wrestling fans were proud to call their own.
12 James Ellsworth
When James Ellsworth showed up to the July 25th edition of Raw as a local talent getting squashed by Braun Strowman, it was a cool moment. When he returned a few months later as AJ Styles' hopeful tag team partner only to be taken out by The Miz before the match began, it was a fun cameo. Then he returned a month later to defeat AJ Styles. He actually spent much of late 2016 racking up wins against the WWE Champion. Before we knew it, James Ellsworth was a regular on Smackdown and it was irritating to watch. The Ellsworth act has long overstayed it's welcome and lost it's entertainment value. God bless the guy for achieving his dream of getting to WWE despite being such an unlikely candidate, but he isn't exactly a main event caliber superstar. And yet, the main event scene is exactly where he's been on Smackdown as of late. No wrestling fan is proudly claiming this scrawny twerp as a main event superstar to their friends. Even as a plucky underdog, it's hard to comprehend why he was offered a 3 year contract.
The thing about The New Day and their merchandise is that it's only funny if you've been viewing their schtick long enough as a wrestling fan to understand their references and humor. To someone on the outside looking in, their outlandish get-up looks a little hokey. Just as the trio wearing unicorn horns doesn't make sense without the proper context that a wrestling viewer would understand (even without context, those things still look like dildos), their Booty-Os cereal looks pretty goofy. Wrestling fans have to admit that when someone who doesn't watch wrestling sees a cereal box cover with the word "BOOTY" in big bright letters with three black men engulfing a bowl of cereal while a phallic looking unicorn horn rests on one of their heads, the image is going to look a little crazy. You've got to feel bad for the poor kids who have to explain to their parents what this stuff is and why they should buy their child a box of Booty-Os. In a scenario like that at least, it's hard not to feel a little embarrassed at the sight of Booty-Os as a wrestling fan.
10 Old Farts At The Top
A big reason why old wrestling fans may have turned away from the WWE product is because they deem current WWE not as good as it used to be. While that may be true, it's important for a company like WWE to let their roster and overall product evolve with the times. Well, WWE must have not gotten the memo as in 2016, what was old was new again. And by new, I mean stale and played out by about 10 years. We saw 47 year old Triple H enter the main event of WrestleMania as the WWE Champion, The Rock decimated the young Erick Rowan in 6 seconds, and The Undertaker found himself selling for Shane McMahon of all people. While WWE's focus on creating young stars improved by 2016's end, we weren't off to a great start. Sure, maybe there's the possibility that all of this focus on old stars passed their prime could bring old fans back, but it can also leave older fans scratching their heads as far as why we clamor for the current product with young stars. With all of these old guys at the top, it only reiterates that wrestling was better back in the day when these old guys were in their prime.
9 CM Punk’s UFC Debut
No matter how much CM Punk despises his former profession of wrestling these days, he represented wrestling when he entered the octagon for the first time at UFC 203. Whether he likes it or not, CM Punk is still associated with the wrestling product after 14 years in the business. In addition to playing an underdog in his first MMA fight (on a large platform like UFC nonetheless), he played the role of a wrestler entering unknown territory. He entered his first fight as a wrestler there to prove that those in the wrestling business could be as tough as the guys in UFC. Punk lost in 2 minutes and 14 seconds into the first round. He wouldn't be the first wrestler to lose their first big UFC match in embarrassing fashion (Lesnar lost in 1:30 into the first round of his first fight at UFC 81, so at least Punk lasted longer than Lesnar), but Punk's particular loss gave everyone from non-wrestling fans to UFC fighters the freedom to call wrestlers a bunch of "pussies" (Conor McGregor's words, not mine). When a sport you love is alleged to be full of pussies, you're not so inclined to vouch for it as a fan.
8 New Day Time Machine Segment
If The New Day ever had their own "Jump the Shark" moment, it might have been this one directed towards The Vaudevillains. In the weeks leading up to their title defense against The Debonair Devastation of Such Exquisite Sophistication, The New Day decided to travel to the bygone era to see why their challengers love it so much. Xavier Woods crafted his own New Day-lorean (get it?) and the trio went back in time. They returned with faux mustaches to let us know that the bygone era sucked and had no video games. In retrospect, it was a rather harmless segment, but I recall that when it first aired, several viewers found it boring and embarrassingly silly even by New Day's standards. If fans weren't embarrassed to be wrestling fans after this segment, it was certainly the first sign that fans started to grow tired of New Day's championship run. Though, to be fair, if there was one highlight to this segment, there is a hilarious moment where Kofi Kingston emerged from the time machine as his old Jamaican gimmick. If nothing else, it proves that even when The New Day is at their worst, they can still make us chuckle.
7 The Kiddie Guests
Nowadays, wrestling gets a bad rep as something for kids. From an outside perspective, someone may judge wrestling as something trivial because it speaks mostly to a children's demographic. It's the same reason why die-hard wrestling fans aren't usually quick to flaunt their love for wrestling like a badge of honor. WWE programming gets the same kind of flak. While WWE admittedly try to provide entertainment for audiences of all ages, 2016 is littered with examples where WWE tried their damnedest to cater to children. Those examples were never more evident than when child stars appeared in guest roles on WWE programming. Whether it was seeing Nickelodeon's Jagger Eaton side by side with The Miz on September 13th edition of Smackdown or Nikki Bella palling around with web star Sophia Grace on the December 6th Smackdown, us old farts watching couldn't have been more confused as to who these kids were. It was just a friendly reminder from WWE to older audiences that these are segments for kids and maybe we're too old to be watching.
6 Brock Lesnar
I know what you're thinking: Odd choice for an entry on this list, right? After all, being a former UFC Champion, a guy like Brock Lesnar has the legitimacy that should make us proud to be wrestling fans. And it should. Brock Lesnar would be the perfect wrestler if he actually gave a damn about wrestling. In the past year, his in-ring "laziness" (as Dean Ambrose loosely put it) has been obvious throughout 2016. While Lesnar put enough effort last year to produce MOTY candidates against guys like Roman Reigns and The Undertaker, he provided the same played out formula consistently in 2016: no sell, take no offense from his opponent, a thousand suplexes, and an F-5 for the win. Even if you don't mind the repetitive formula of Lesnar, we can't ignore that what Lesnar did to Randy Orton at SummerSlam is nothing a wrestling fan should be proud of. It doesn't matter if it was scripted. If you tell a non-wrestling fan you love wrestling and the first match they see is Lesnar pounding into Orton's skull like a braindead gorilla until The Viper's head poured open like a broken faucet, they're going to look at you like a madman. Knowing it's planned just makes wrestling look like a barbaric, uncivilized sport. And we haven't even mentioned how this so called legitimate UFC fighter got caught juicing before coming to the octagon. As far as painting a positive image for the WWE, Lesnar is nothing to be proud of.
5 Mauro Ranallo Trying To Be "Hip"
Mauro Ranallo is one of the best commentators that WWE has to offer. He can easily be argued as the best commentator on any brand's commentary booth. As a play-by-play commentator, Ranallo comes off as someone who is genuinely excited about the match he's watching and he makes the action sound even more exhilarating for us watching at home. On the other hand, as a color commentator, Ranallo comes off as a cheesy dad who tries too hard to be hip with the young crowd. We've heard Ranallo sprout of such lines as "Like Designer on the song Panda, Gran Metalik is macho like Randy!" and worst of all, we've heard him say "It's LIT!" Mauro Ranallo is 47 years old. We all love the guy, but no 47 year old should be saying anything but a candle is "lit." His pop culture and social media references come off as terribly forced and cringey. You never know if you should listen in awe of his incredible play-by-play, or mute the tv to avoid hearing the next cringey line to come out his mouth.
4 This KFC Spot
Look at this sad sight. These are former World Champions cosplaying as a chicken and KFC's own Colonol Sanders. You'd expect this from Dolph Ziggler given how badly he's fallen off in recent years, but The Miz main evented Wrestlemania. He was in The Marine, dammit! What makes this commercial all the more worse is how it felt like WWE decided to show it at the most inopportune of times on their Network. Dolph Ziggler just had a big WWE Championship match with Dean Ambrose at Summerslam? Show the stupid KFC commercial. Ziggler and The Miz just stole the show at No Mercy in an electric Career vs Title match at No Mercy? Show the stupid KFC commercial. It was like WWE tried to deliberately undermine the credibility of both competitors by showcasing them in rousing, serious match-ups and then following up with this commercial immediately after. Wrestling may be at it's most entertaining when it's silly, but this spot seems more suited for WWE's child fanbase. You may not be so quick to admit you're into wrestling when this commercial pops up.
3 The Wyatt Compound “Match”
We have spoken at length about how bad this segment was. I myself gave my two cents on the matter recently when I wrote about "WWE's Top 15 Missed Opportunities of 2016" and to avoid repeating myself, I'm going to focus on why New Day vs The Wyatts at their compound is the absolute antithesis to TNA's Final Deletion match between The Hardy Boyz. The Wyatt Compound match was simply boring and the worst thing that any medium (art, sport, or otherwise) can be is boring. Whether you love or hate the Final Deletion, one thing you can't call it is boring. One may be more inclined to show an unsuspecting non-wrestling fan this match to highlight the unpredictable madness that goes on in the wrestling world. Or to just have a good laugh or two. The Wyatt Compound match doesn't have that same luxury because it was just six guys brawling in a swamp. Nothing fun, exciting, or unpredictable about that. The Final Deletion helped TNA gain new fans and even old fans who had long given up on the product. With the Wyatt Compound match, fans couldn't wait to change the channel and I wouldn't be surprised if WWE lost some fans because of it.
2 New Day vs Gallows & Anderson: A Feud About “Balls”
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This time last year, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were one of the most dominating tag teams in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Now, since arriving to WWE, not only has their credibility disintegrated to that of a joke, they had what is arguably the worst wrestling feud of 2016 against The New Day. WWE took two world renowned badasses and turned them into a comedy act. Which wouldn't be so bad if the comedy was actually funny and not so awful. Awful, cringeworthy, juvenile, etc. Call it what you will. This feud was literally one big testicle joke. After injuring Big E's groin, doctors Gallows & Anderson vowed to take the balls of Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston. If there was ever a feud that made you ashamed to be a wrestling fan and made you ask yourself "Why am I watching this?", it's this. It had to be the worst thing these teams ever had to participate in during their careers. Well, almost the worst.
1 The Old Day Segment
This segment. Just...this entire segment. Oh God. I'm cringing just recalling it in my brain. This couldn't have been much more than 10 excruciating minutes of tv time, but it felt like a lifetime. It hurts having to summarize what went down here, but alas, I must do just that. On the September 5th edition of Raw, fresh off of "retiring" The Dudley Boyz, Gallows & Anderson announced their plans to retire The New Day's Raw Tag Team Title reign. To show the world what New Day would look like in post-retirement, the Club members brought out senior citizen versions of The New Day from the future called The Old Day. What proceeded was undoubtedly one of the worst segments in WWE history. It was cringe-inducing with childish humor. In fact, calling it childish would be an insult to children and infants alike because no one in any demographic found this funny. By time The New Day came out, the crowd was long dead. The segment was so bad, the beloved New Day got some boos for participating in it. It really epitomizes the worst qualities of WWE: bad writing, bad comedy...just plain bad. Of course you'd be embarrassed to be a wrestling fan if someone walked in on you watching this.
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