Wrestling fans can hardly hate a wrestler for long, nor can it love one for a long stretch of time. Their mood swings resulted in booing stars it once adored in Kane, Big Show, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Batista and Triple H at some point. Fans have also cheered for wrestlers they once hated.
The mood swings can be easily justified as fan reaction more often than not pertains to the characters the wrestlers portray and not essentially the wrestlers themselves. When the character becomes obnoxious, monotonous, or stale, fans tend to display their disapproval by booing the wrestler.
With the characters forever going through changes (face turn, heel turn, change of gimmick, or a sex change as in the case of Santina and Santino Marella), the fans’ reaction changes from time to time.
The brand split has helped most of the characters become relevant as the writers have been able to add finer details to every character that appears on WWE television. Even once-irrelevant wrestlers like Apollo Crews now muster some form of reaction from the crowd lately.
Since the changes and the crowd's reaction vary so frequently, here are eight wrestlers we've grown to love and eight we now hate since the brand split.
17 Love: Braun Strowman
Before the 2016 brand split, Braun Strowman was largely a joke as he was essentially a redundant member of the Wyatt Family. After being separated from the Wyatts, it looked as though his WWE career was doomed as he lacked an enticing character. However, after a series of squash matches — most importantly, the one pitting him against SmackDown Live's newest addition in James Ellsworth — and a torn scarf, he is slowly becoming Big Show's spiritual successor.
Despite his unprecedented dominance over favorite Sami Zayn, he has won over some fans. Surprisingly, his squash matches garner more views than many other videos on WWE's YouTube page. His making Chris Jericho's List bears testimony to his growing prominence in the McMahon empire. There's no doubt he's come a long way.
16 Hate: Kalisto
Initially touted to replace Rey Mysterio as the WWE's own masked luchador, Kalisto has now fallen into obscurity. After being thrown into tag team picture alongside the notorious Sin Cara, even a United States Championship run failed to revive his career. Reduced to pre-shows, he now finds himself embroiled in a protracted feud with Baron Corbin, a feud that no one cares about.
With the Cruiserweight Division stuck on RAW, his relevancy has taken yet another huge hit as he has fallen short of being a credible mid-card talent on the blue brand. Although he didn't have much steam before the 2016 brand split, the WWE Universe has definitely begun hating the Kalisto character. With 205 Live now featuring even more masked luchadors, his chance of emulating Rey Mysterio’s success looks bleak.
15 Love: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss was one of the underrated female wrestlers during her time with WWE’s developmental territory, NXT; however, after being drafted to the Blue Brand alongside Carmella, she has grown in prominence. Her Harley Quinn impersonation and condescending facial expressions have helped her win over the WWE Universe, with her wrestling ability being a decisive add-on.
Dethroning babyface Becky Lynch as SmackDown Live Women’s Championship straightaway, she has managed a fantastic start to her main-roster run, which would have been unlikely had she been drafted to RAW. At 25, the Wicked Witch of WWE has a few more years of top-level wrestling ahead of her. With the SmackDown Live female roster featuring only has-beens such as Nikki Bella and Natalya and novice wrestlers like Carmella and Eva Marie, her fan base will definitely grow exponentially in the upcoming weeks.
14 Hate: The Club
The Club arrived to much fanfare thanks to their stints with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Global Force Wrestling (cheers, Jeff). Teaming with their NJPW pal and former Bullet Club leader AJ Styles, they managed a decent start to their WWE career, with their feud with John Cena earning plaudits from both the casual WWE fans as well as those who had followed them from their spells with independent promotions.
However, since the brand split, they have looked weak thanks to their back-to-back feud losses to New Day and Enzo & Cass. Booked as a weak heel team that wins mainly through shenanigans, they have become shadows of their former selves. Although the fans still love Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, WWE's version of the Bullet Club draws little to no interest from the fans.
13 Love: The Brian Kendrick
Despite the new Cruiserweight Division featuring superb talents such as Rich Swann and Noam Dar, it needed a face that was already familiar with the WWE Universe. Bringing on Brian Kendrick as a nostalgic face was looked down upon as the fans expected the likes of Rey Mysterio and Shane Helms to add credibility to the division. However, the former WWE Tag Team Championship holder has not only proved his doubters wrong, but has also earned a huge number of admirers in the process.
Despite his Cruiserweight Championship reign being somewhat short, he managed to put the division on the WWE map as he effectively drew attention to the current WWE Cruiserweight Champion in Rich Swann. With 2016 being a year full of surprises, his rise to prominence definitely ranks among the most surprising happenings at the McMahon camp.
12 Hate: Emmalina
Emma has had a forgettable run with the WWE so far, but it appeared as though she could revive her career with her second return to the main roster. Wearing aviators, shoulder pads and a smirk, she began a mouthwatering rivalry with Becky Lynch; however, an unfortunate back injury sidelined her for the better part of 2016. Although the WWE Universe expected her to return as the heel Emma they had all grown to love, the WWE elected to repackage her as Emmalina, who mirrors SmackDown Live's Eva Marie in many aspects.
The Internet Wrestling Community has already expressed their disgust over the transformation. By the looks of things, she will likely garner a reception similar to that of Roman Reigns and the Red Queen. Aged 27, her chances of making up for her run as Santino Marella's girlfriend now looks bleaker than ever before.
11 Love: The Miz
The Miz had been widely recognized as an annoying personality during his early years. His WWE Championship run was hugely looked down upon as he seemed to take the momentum away from deserving candidates such as CM Punk at that time. However, he has worked the hatred he was garnering into a personality the WWE fans will adore for being annoying.
His "Talking Smack" segments with indie darling Daniel Bryan were impressive enough to garner mainstream media attention besides impressing the fans for being highly realistic. In addition, his being accompanied by his exquisite wife Maryse adds to his impressive work. Although Dolph Ziggler deserves title runs, it would be criminal to take the Intercontinental Championship strap away from the Hollywood A-Lister’s shoulder, given his outstanding storytelling and performances.
10 Hate: The Hype Bros
SmackDown Live boasts highly entertaining tag teams such as Heath Slater and Rhyno and Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton, besides the smarks' favorites in American Alpha. However, caught in the midst are the Hype Bros, who draw attention from less than five per cent of the audience, whom the WWE camera operators never fail to capture.
Although Zack Ryder is widely accepted as an underdog, who will never be successful in the WWE, his tag team partner in Mojo Rawley comes across as an obnoxious male version of Bayley. Despite his persistent efforts to get his gimmick over, he fails miserably at that as the WWE fans seem to have outgrown such levels of stupidity. The Hype Bros will likely only remain a comedic team, but the fans are seemingly wary to embrace the hype, apparently.
9 Love: The Usos
The Usos, much akin to their cousin Roman Reigns, were mustering a plethora of criticism before the split as the fans found their Tag Team Championship pursuits, face paint, attire, theme music, and everything about their characters obnoxious. However, since the brand split, they have transformed into what the hardcore wrestling fans had always wanted them to become.
Donning new outfits and walking down the aisle with a cool theme, The Usos have instantly become likeable, albeit as heels. Their transformation is so successful that the WWE faithful have been advocating a heel turn similar to theirs for 'The Guy' Roman Reigns. With The Usos now feuding with a fan-favorite tag team in American Alpha, they have become a pivotal part of SmackDown Live’s tag team division.
8 Hate: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke’s limited wrestling skill and bodybuilding background is certain to attract derision in the New Era that denies praising anyone who has not paid her dues in the independent circuit. However, the WWE writers handled a rather tricky character superbly when they tagged her alongside Emma, who has also made the list. Emma’s untimely injury helped Brooke in one way or another as she was brought to the main roster as Charlotte’s protégé.
She hardly drew any negative reaction while she was under the Genetically Superior Athlete’s wings; however, her short-lived solo career exposed how bad a performer she is as she botched a finish gloriously when she made a future Women’s Champion in Bayley look as weak as, if not weaker than, Alicia Fox in a televised RAW match. Reduced to Charlotte’s understudy role again, she is now where she belongs, but the fans will never forgive her for making their darling look weak.
7 Love: Heath Slater
Since the death of The Corre, Heath Slater had only been used as a comedic jobber, who hardly produced any chuckles. Fighting against veterans of the industry such as Lita and Vader never helped him make a name for himself. He had an average career, at best; however, the 2016 brand split helped him become one of the hottest free agents in the company, with The Undertaker being the only other free agent.
Failing to attract storyline interest from Stephanie McMahon and Shane McMahon, neither brand chose to sign him. Fighting for a contract to keep the food on his his table, he wrestled many hurdles in vain. However, with the help of Rhyno, he earned a SmackDown Live contract. Since winning the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship, he had been on a roll until being dethroned by the Wyatts. Despite his average wrestling ability, his promo skills and spectacular character development has seen him win over the fans.
6 Hate: The Shining Stars
The Shining Stars were never liked even before the split; however, since the brand split the fans have been reluctant to even recognize them as a tag team as they choose to ignore their presence altogether. Despite their outstanding wrestling ability and respectable promo skills, the WWE writers have always been unwilling to capitalize on their talent. After two failed gimmicks, their third and current gimmick is also certain to fail.
With RAW boasting the Golden Truth, their chance of being a successful comedic team is slim. The only way to revive their careers or use their talent is to repackage them, with a returning Carlito acting as a mentor or the leader of the new faction. Unless the WWE plans on making changes to their characters, fans are not going to buy their timeshares.
5 Love: Bayley
With RAW’s women’s roster oozing star power, with the likes of Charlotte and Sasha Banks carrying the red brand, many expected Bayley to move to SmackDown Live. However, she surprised the fans when she emerged from the curtain as Banks’ tag team partner in her skirmish with Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Ever since her main-roster debut, she has been the hottest female talent on either roster, as the fans have seemingly grown tired of the Banks-Charlotte rivalry.
Down the line, she will earn herself shot at RAW Women’s Championship. As things stand, every single fan is rooting for Bayley; however, as the WWE fans have been known to turn on their favorite stars after a first title reign, she can also become a hated figure. As of now, though, she is the most likeable babyface in the company.
4 Hate: Sasha Banks
When Sasha Banks returned from her injury to challenge for Charlotte’s title, she received one of the loudest pops of the year. She remained the most over wrestler on the roster for weeks. However, nonchalant writing has seen her be lambasted by the hardcore audience. Although she still manages to get decent to great responses from fans in attendance, those who follow it closely have grown tired of her character. The fact that the title is being shuttled between the Boss and Charlotte is hardly helping matters either.
The fans have been critical of her promos as they feel as though she (or the writers) has been using Eddie Guerrero’s name to incite positive response from the crowd. In addition, her talking about the women’s revolution for minutes every time she wins the title does not bode well with the fans. Despite her talent, the fans have begun developing indifference toward Sasha Banks’ character. However, given her talent, it should not be long before she makes them cheer for or boo her religiously.
3 Love: Chris Jericho
Even Chris Jericho himself may not have thought he would be the most exciting thing in wrestling (perhaps, I need to have a word with Broken Matt Hardy and Kenny Omega) in 2016. At 46, he continues to mesmerize the fans with his wit, acting, and wrestling. The fact that being good on the microphone is not the most important attribute to earn plaudits these days (ask AJ Styles) is ironically acting in his favor as the WWE roster is currently crammed with wrestlers who are not even half as good as he is on the mic (forgive me, Enzo).
His ability to make something as stupid as creating a "list for stupid idiots" bears testimony to the fact that he has kept his fingers on the fans’ pulse despite wrestling in multiple eras. I don’t know about you, but I watch RAW only to witness his wizardry and, of course, to watch Mick Foley yelling incoherently.
1 Hate: James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth is a walking meme. Like any other meme, his shelf life has proven to be ridiculously short. In the event of being used right though, he could have become a timeless meme. However, SmackDown Live’s writers spoiled it for the fans as they threw him into the title picture that already had two phenomenal wrestlers (alright, one phenomenal wrestler and a lunatic one) in AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose, who can carry the feud themselves superbly.
The Man With Two Hands’ three-match winning run not only made AJ Styles look weak, but also took the attention from what should matter the most – the WWE World Championship. The fact that he was a key factor in deciding the outcome of TLC’s main event’s result made the fans turn their faces away in disgust. As of now, the fans do not want to see Ellsworth’s chinless face; however, if the writers can fine-tune him, they can cement him as a likeable enhancement talent.