World Wrestling Entertainment has undergone a variety of changes throughout 2016. Even before this year’s WrestleMania, the WWE set into motion a sequence of events that would lead to what has been called the “New Era” on shows such as Raw and SmackDown. The WWE held a draft that split the rosters between those two brands in July and the company also moved several noteworthy names from the NXT touring show to the main roster. While some fans may lament that the NXT roster has been stripped of much of what made it great over the past few years, viewers should be happy at the thought that every wrestler now working on Raw and SmackDown should receive raises in pay now that they are performing on cable television and also pay-per-view shows.
While a plethora of talents on the current WWE roster are in line for huge raises heading into the end of the calendar year, some are bigger stars than others. That is the case in any professional wrestling or fighting promotions. The top Superstars recognized by fans are big draws who attract customers to arenas, who are responsible for merchandise sold at shows and via the Internet and who land interviews on talk shows. The WWE stars mentioned in this piece who deserve more money have either already made it to the top of the figurative mountain or are close to being worthy of headlining shows. We start with a man who would be a champion in September 2016 had fate not been cruel to him during the summer. He'll hopefully be better than ever once he returns.
15 Finn Balor
The WWE did well to protect Finn Balor from the moment he first arrived on the Raw brand. Balor was booked to win every one of his matches at major shows. He was placed into the Raw main event of SummerSlam, where he defeated Seth Rollins to become the first ever Universal Champion in WWE history.
Unfortunately for Balor, he suffered a legitimate shoulder injury during the match. Balor was, thus, forced to vacate his newly-won championship the following night on Raw before undergoing surgery. While he was only on the main roster for a short time, Balor had already become a significant star and one of the faces of the brand. The company clearly believes in Balor, as the plan was to make him champion. Balor should be in line for a huge raise once he is physically able to return to action. It would probably be a good idea if Balor was also allowed to turn down taking certain moves during matches, though we don't expect him to make any type of request.
14 The Revival
Is there anybody out there who actively follows the weekly NXT shows who believes The Revival should not be on the main roster as of September 2016? Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are the best throwback tag team the WWE has had in years, a duo that routinely draws comparisons to The Brain Busters from decades ago. Like The Brain Busters, The Revival do not work a style that makes them babyfaces, nor do they pander to fans while cutting promos.
Dash and Dawson, as they were once known, play classic heels who do whatever it takes to win and enjoy beating babyfaces who are adored by fans. The Revival would be the top heel team called up to the SmackDown roster if the current NXT Tag Team Champs received such a call-up before you’re finished reading this sentence. They should be on the main roster and making much more money.
13 Dean Ambrose
There are pockets of wrestling fans who post on social media websites and also in online forums who believe the Dean Ambrose character could be more if the WWE removed the handcuffs and allowed Ambrose to cut promos that sound unscripted. While those may be valid opinions, one has to give credit to Ambrose for his work in the ring and on the microphone since the company entrusted him with the WWE World Championship.
Ambrose is the top man on the SmackDown brand as of the posting of this piece, although his days of carrying the banner for the company’s blue team could be winding down either before the end of September or later in the fall. Whatever happens, Ambrose is an interesting character who stands out and offers something different than anyone else on the roster. It may behoove the wrestler and the WWE if the company turns Ambrose heel down the road. Maybe then, the WWE will offer Ambrose a raise.
12 Enzo And Cass
Pessimistic WWE fans out there have to admit that they were wrong in believing the WWE would bury Enzo and Cass once the team was called up from NXT to the main roster. Granted, Enzo and Cass have yet to win the Tag Team Titles while working on Raw. It has also already been teased that the company could push Big Cass as a solo act. After all, Cass is seven-foot tall and you can’t teach that.
Fans in attendance at shows pop loudly the minute they hear even the opening of the team’s theme and Enzo’s monologue before every match is a hit among Raw audiences who might not have paid much attention to the duo when they were working im NXT. It should be a matter of when and not if the WWE pushed Enzo and Cass as champions for at least a brief amount of time. That championship run should coincide with the pair of performers earning raises for their hard work.
Charlotte is currently the biggest female star on the WWE roster. No fewer than three different women may leapfrog Charlotte on the list at some point over the next 12 months, but the division currently belongs to the daughter of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Charlotte is not only a good performer in the ring, she also does well to draw heat with her promos regardless of who she is facing at any given time. Charlotte also has the often-discussed “it factor” as it pertains to conducting herself like a star when she is making public appearances.
There will eventually come a time when the WWE needs to push a different woman as the best wrestler on the Raw brand. There is no better female heel on the roster than Charlotte and she should be awarded with a raise for carrying a portion of the roster during a time when the supposed “Divas Revolution” could have potentially fallen apart.
10 Heath Slater
Maybe we are crediting the wrong entity here. Perhaps the person who deserves the raise is whoever it was on the SmackDown team of writers who came up with a way to get fans to care about Heath Slater in the summer of 2016. Imagine somebody told you in April of this year that Slater, of all the wrestlers on the roster, would become an over babyface and underdog by the middle of September. You probably would have laughed in the face of the individual who offered that prediction to you.
Slater is drawing cheers from fans rooting for the “One-Man Band” and Rhyno to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions. The gimmick is undeniably somewhat comical on purpose, but it is making for interesting portions of SmackDown shows. We don’t think Slater is a future WWE Champion, but that doesn’t mean he is not worthy of an increase in pay.
9 Samoa Joe
It is hardly breaking news to any passionate pro wrestling fan that Samoa Joe is great in 2016. The truth of the matter is that Joe is one of several performers who should have been able to skip NXT entirely before earning a spot on the WWE main roster.
Joe quickly became one of the biggest stars working in NXT and his feud with Finn Balor was one of the best things in the WWE over the past year, even if the two had too many matches before Joe defeated Balor and ultimately sent Balor to Raw. Joe has done all that he can do while working in NXT, minus having one rematch against Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Title.
Once Joe loses that match, which he should, he should immediately be called up to either Raw or SmackDown. Joe working on one of those brands should lead to him receiving a big raise.
8 Bobby Roode
We have to admit that arguably the best part about the character Bobby Roode is playing as a member of the NXT roster is the 'Glorious' theme song associated with the wrestler. The awesomeness of that song should not, however, overshadow that Roode is a great performer that has all of the tools to be a major star on the WWE main roster.
Just like with Samoa Joe, Roode should have been allowed to join the main roster without having to spend even a day on the NXT brand. The WWE does not want to completely bury NXT, thus talents such as Roode are necessary for NXT to draw as its own touring product. Roode should not be in NXT for more than a few months, at most, before he is working on either Raw or SmackDown shows as a top guy. His raise in pay, like his work and his song, should be glorious.
7 American Alpha
American Alpha are the best tag team in all of the WWE. With that said, the duo of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable should only get better the more time they spend working together and working with other talented teams on the SmackDown brand. Jordan seems to have all of the goods to become a massive star on his own a couple of years down the road. Gable, meanwhile, is already a dynamic babyface who has been compared to none other than Kurt Angle.
The WWE is seemingly stalling putting the titles on American Alpha, as an injury angle involving The Usos attacking Gable after a match will prevent Alpha from winning tag team gold in September. That’s fine, as the slow build should only build anticipation for when Alpha cement themselves as the top team in the company. Both men are still early into their WWE careers, but both have earned big raises with all they have done in 2016.
There is admittedly a part within us that would be perfectly fine with watching Asuka serve as an unstoppable monster who beats up on female wrestlers in NXT for all eternity. Asuka has recently worked more like a heel, particularly during the build to her rematch with Bayley at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II show.
The current NXT Women’s Champion probably should be an intimidating heel who runs that brand these days. Asuka should, however, eventually be welcomed with open arms to the main roster. There is, right now today, no woman anywhere on the WWE roster who is the total package as is Asuka. She even received an ovation from fans when she defeated Bayley, the most popular woman in NXT this past August.
She deserves a big raise even if she is going to remain in NXT for the foreseeable future, as she is unquestionably the biggest female star wrestling on that brand.
5 New Day
Has New Day, to steal the phrase often associated with television shows, “jumped the shark?” Maybe, but the trio continues to get over with certain fans at editions of Raw and who attend pay-per-view events. New Day do well to push and sell merchandise, and they still draw reactions even if the group’s best days are now in the past. Those who would criticize New Day in September 2016 need to remember that the team is currently not for everybody. In fact, one could easily make the argument that New Day is mostly meant to entertain younger viewers. There is no harm in that. Comedy has a place on wrestling shows so long as that place is not routinely in the main event.
New Day earned whatever pay raise may come their way by turning what was an awful and even somewhat offensive gimmick into something that still exists at the end of summer.
WWE fans around the world have one big request for the WWE regarding Bayley; whatever you do, do not screw this one up. Bayley is beloved unlike any other performer on the roster, including John Cena. While Cena still draws some boos at shows, probably because those fans just like to boo Cena, Bayley is adored by a wide variety of audiences. Children love Bayley. Grown men and grown women sport Bayley merchandise, and they leave their feet to cheer whenever her music hits during an edition of Raw and at live events.
Bayley should already be in line for a pay raise for the reactions that she generates. The former NXT Champion defeating a heel and winning the Raw Women’s Title could make for a special and memorable moment so long as the WWE does not waste her character and produces a good storyline before Bayley earns what would, to date, be the biggest victory of her career.
3 A.J. Styles
Every knowledgeable individual who follows the business believed, even before A.J. Styles made his official WWE debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble, that Styles could be something special in the company. Some fans, however, were understandably concerned the WWE would squander the talents of the man who may be the best overall wrestler in the world today.
Not only has that not happened, but Styles is now the top heel on the SmackDown brand and he seems to be in line to win the WWE World Championship from Dean Ambrose. It appears, to we mere mortals who observe from the outside, that the WWE is producing a storyline where Styles eventually defends that championship against John Cena at a major show, such as next year’s WrestleMania. Styles winning the title and then working with the company’s top star should earn the former Total Nonstop Action Wrestling champion a raise in pay that is, pardon the pun, phenomenal.
2 Shinsuke Nakamura
It would not be a struggle to come up with all kinds of reasons to explain why Shinsuke Nakamura deserves a huge raise before the fall of 2016. For starters, Nakamura is now the top draw on the NXT touring brand. He is literally a number one attraction who helps the company fill seats at arenas. Nakamura spending a little bit of time working in NXT was fine, but he has left no doubt that he can work the so-called “WWE style” without any complications. Nakamura is also capable of cutting promos that draw reactions and that also do not drag.
We should see Nakamura on one of the two main rosters before the spring of 2017 so that he can have a role in what should be one incredible WrestleMania entrance. Imagine the possible feuds featuring Nakamura that could evolve once his services are no longer needed in NXT. That day, coinciding with Nakamura receiving a raise, cannot come soon enough.
1 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens is now, in actuality and also in storyline, the top man on the top brand in all of the WWE. Owens was picked to be the second Universal Champion after Raw and the WWE lost Finn Balor to injury for a significant period of time. While this was not the company’s original plan, Owens certainly earned the honor with all that he has done since his first night wrestling on the NXT brand. Owens has had great matches with multiple wrestlers during his WWE stint, including Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and John Cena. Owens is an entertaining and a believable heel who is tremendous on the microphone when he is cutting promos on other wrestlers and when he is working as a guest announcer during a television show.
We hope Owens is in line for a huge raise and that he will work in multiple main events before the end of 2016.