The WWE certainly made the right choice to go with a brand split in the summer of 2016. The roster split has provided more opportunities for more superstars to be able to stand out and be on WWE television. RAW has often been viewed as the flagship show in the WWE and they’ve had their share of successes in 2016.
New main event stars have emerged with the likes of Kevin Owens and Finn Bálor as the first two superstars to hold the WWE Universal Championship. The RAW roster also features other wrestlers who have helped transition from one era to the current – i.e. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Rusev. Let’s not forget the women who have also carried on the WWE women's revolution like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Bayley.
But not everyone on the RAW roster has been able to flourish. They might not have been able to connect with the crowd or their skills have not met expectations. This includes not only male and female superstars competing as singles, but also tag teams. Outside of The New Day and the current Raw Tag Team Champions in Cesaro and Sheamus, the division has struggled.
Less than six months from the WWE Draft last July, the following is a list ranking every current wrestler on the WWE RAW roster. One thing to keep in mind is that the Cruiserweights are not included in this list, considering that they are part of the WWE 205 Live roster that tours with both RAW and SmackDown. Also, tag teams are placed in one entry. For example, Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are listed under “The New Day.”
There was once a time when Paige was the top female wrestler on the WWE main roster. On her first night, she won the WWE Divas Championship from AJ Lee, the night after WrestleMania XXX in 2014. She had competed amongst the best and was considered part of the future with the women's revolution. But since then, she’s found herself lost in the shuffle with the likes of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch stepping up.
31 Summer Rae
It might seem a little unfair to put someone still out of action with a knee injury since being drafted to RAW this past summer. However, Summer Rae hasn’t really done a lot during her time on the main roster. She’s not really considered by many fans as a wrestler who could ever become a women’s champion on either RAW or SmackDown. She has mostly been a manager for wrestlers like Fandango.
30 Titus O’Neil
Looking at the person outside of the WWE ring, Titus O’Neil has shown to be a good person with a big heart. He’s the type of person who is doing things right as a role model. While that’s certainly a plus, he hasn’t been able to flourish as a singles superstar in the WWE. O’Neil has struggled ever since the WWE decided to split up the Prime Time Players, again, in the spring of 2016.
29 Sin Cara
The entire Sin Cara gimmick has been tainted with poor booking and poor execution from the original wrestler to wear the mask. The former Mistico had been guilty of a number of botches and in-ring injuries. That’s why there was a second Sin Cara, which led to having two Sin Caras facing each other in a less than memorable feud. The only thing keeping Sin Cara interesting being in a tag team with Kalisto.
28 Bo Dallas
Going from an inspirational speaker of sorts to a social outcast is a bit of a sad result for this former NXT Champion. Bo Dallas had a gimmick that could have worked, but the WWE gave up a little too early on the main roster. His initial push was quickly ended after a few months and he’s since been viewed more as a jobber than anything else. It’s unfortunate that his main roster run hasn’t gone better.
27 Curtis Axel
The WWE career for the son of Curt Hennig has been anything but perfect. While he has a better ring name than Michael McGillicutty, Curtis Axel has failed to really become a successful superstar in the WWE. The problem is that the WWE hasn’t given him an interesting gimmick. He wasn’t able to get over when he was a “Paul Heyman Guy,” despite winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship and having a win over Triple H. The charisma just hasn’t been there.
26 Darren Young
Not even the great Bob Backlund has been able to make Darren Young “great” again. However, one can question if Young was ever great to begin with. The former member of The Nexus has never quite panned out on a singles run. The most success he’s ever had was in a tag team with Titus O’Neil to form the Prime Time Players. Back then, the WWE certainly needed them for depth in the tag team division.
25 Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox has come a long way from the time she was part of Edge’s affair just before his wedding with Vickie Guerrero. But Alicia Fox is essentially someone who helps provide more depth to the women’s roster. She’s not really going to be a championship threat anytime soon. Not when RAW currently has Bayley, Charlotte and Sasha Banks at the top of the women’s division.
24 Dana Brooke
By herself, Dana Brooke has some work to do in developing herself as one of the top women in the WWE. That’s not a knock on her in-ring abilities or her charisma. Brooke is very young superstar who only got involved in wrestling when she came to the WWE Performance Center in 2013. Before that, she was a bodybuilding and fitness competitor with a number of titles that drew attention to her.
23 Nia Jax
There’s certainly a place for Nia Jax in the WWE. She fills a role for the women’s division that is similar to Braun Strowman in the men’s division. Jax is dominant and is a size mismatch for many of the other WWE female superstars. But she’s not quite main roster material after only a few years in the WWE developmental system. She’s improved a little recently. But there were times after her debut where she looked timid or scared on the camera.
22 The Shining Stars (Primo and Epico)
The Shining Stars are probably the worst gimmick possible in the WWE. Two salesmen who are trying to get other WWE superstars to buy timeshares; which may or may not be a scam. But the two wrestlers are much better than the gimmick. They actually haven’t really gotten a good gimmick in a long time. Remember Los Matadores? The “masked bullfighter” gimmick makes the Shining Stars salesman gimmick look like an upgrade.
21 Mark Henry
Mark Henry has a pretty simple gimmick as the World’s Strongest Man. Because of his history, he doesn’t need anything fancy. He’s done a lot in his WWE career and now enters a veteran roll where he is likely meant to help put over newer superstars. He hasn’t been seen often since he was drafted to RAW in the WWE Draft. He was unsuccessful in defeating Rusev for the United States Championship in August.
20 Jinder Mahal
It’s interesting that since Jinder Mahal has returned to WWE, he’s become more of an enhancement talent to help provide depth after the recent brand split. Since his return this past summer, Mahal has had lost matches to superstars like Neville, Sami Zayn and even Darren Young. This was followed by a character claiming he had found inner peace. Seems he’s been at peace with being Rusev’s new lackey.
19 The Golden Truth (R-Truth and Goldust)
The WWE was able to find something to do with two superstars who probably weren’t going anywhere as comical gimmicks on their own. It eventually worked out after Goldust spent several months at the beginning of the year trying to form the team. The Golden Truth makes sense. R-Truth has certainly become an entertaining act on his own. But added with The Bizarre One in Goldust has provided some entertaining segments.
18 The Big Show
Similar to Mark Henry, The Big Show hasn’t really been seen often on WWE television. He last wrestled Seth Rollins as a heel on Dec. 5 before turning on Kevin Owens to become a face. Honestly, the man switches between good and evil so much that it really doesn’t matter anymore. But The Big Show is certainly a solid mid-card superstar who is also looking to improve his physical condition.
17 Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
There was a lot of potential when the WWE brought in Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. The two found a lot of success when working in New Japan Pro Wrestling. They were members of the Bullet Club with connections to both AJ Styles and Finn Bálor. The two certainly were a big part of Styles’ feud with John Cena earlier in 2016. But the WWE Draft split up the club. Since then, Anderson and Gallows have been in limbo.
The timing of her call-up to the WWE main roster might have seemed a little early last August, but Bayley has become one of the most popular superstars on the RAW roster. The WWE has given her the wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men to stand on the stage for her entrance. She’s also making the immediate connections with the children in the crowd. The rest of the WWE Universe has welcomed her with open arms.
15 Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks could be a little higher on the list, but the WWE hasn’t really done her any favors in recent months. Injuries were a concern with her holding the WWE Raw Women’s Championship. But having three title reigns that last less than a month each shows that she isn’t quite able to be a top female superstar in the WWE. It’s a frustrating fact for many of her supporters.
14 Braun Strowman
When he first came into the WWE main roster in 2015, Braun Strowman showed that he had a lot to learn. He is still very young in his wrestling career. However, he could be the large man who is able to take the place of some of the veteran strongmen in the WWE. Big Show and Mark Henry are up in age and their time in the company is likely winding down. Strowman would fill the gap left behind.
While he may not be holding any championship gold, Rusev is certainly viewed as one of the best mid-card talents on the RAW roster. The anti-American gimmick was a part of why he was such a successful heel with the WWE United States Championship. But he was also a very decent wrestler with a good combination of size, strength and agility in the ring. Rusev has shown since coming up to the main roster he can be a big star.
12 Enzo Amore and Big Cass
Similar to The New Day, Enzo Amore and Big Colin Cassady have a unique type of charisma that has led to quite the following of their own. And you can’t teach that. The two were able to develop quite the reputation during their years in NXT. But the fans gave them quite the warm welcome at their RAW debut the night after WrestleMania 32 nearly a year ago. That’s because their microphone skills are at a different level than most WWE wrestlers.
11 Charlotte Flair
The reigning queen of the RAW women’s division is certainly showing to be one of the best superstars on the red brand. Charlotte Flair has the wrestling talent in her blood, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she would quickly become a multiple-time WWE RAW Women’s Champion. Charlotte was given a quick push after being one of the focal points of the WWE women's revolution in 2015.
10 Sami Zayn
The ultimate underdog on the RAW roster is certainly Sami Zayn. The feud with Braun Strowman is likely the closest possible matchup that is similar to the classic David vs Goliath match. Zayn was able to show he was one of the most resilient superstars on RAW with impressive showings against Strowman. But he’s also another well-rounded athlete who came to the WWE after years of traveling the world on the independent circuit.
9 Cesaro and Sheamus
In fairness, Cesaro is a big reason why the Raw Tag Team Champions are high on the list. Cesaro is certainly one of the best well-rounded athletes in the WWE. He has also shown that he might be the strongest, pound-for-pound wrestler on RAW. Very few wrestlers have the abilities that he does with a natural charisma that have fans rooting for him every night. But he’s just one-half of a very good tag team.
8 Brock Lesnar
Set aside how Brock Lesnar had lost his high-profile match with Goldberg at Survivior Series a few months ago. Also set aside the whole controversy surrounding his UFC 200 win over Mark Hunt that led to a big fine and suspension from the mixed martial arts giant. Outside of those little issues, Brock Lesnar has remained one of the most dominant forces in the WWE. Very few men have dominated a feud with a veteran like Randy Orton.
WWE fans haven’t seen Bill Goldberg in a WWE ring for more than 12 years. While many fans aren’t big fans of part-time superstars coming back and getting major television time, Goldberg is the type of legend deserving of the spotlight. His first run in the WWE wasn’t handled properly. But with a return back in October and a surprising squash victory over Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series.
6 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns certainly faced a lot of criticism for a good portion of 2015 and 2016. The fans wouldn’t have any of the WWE trying to force someone that they hadn’t quite warmed up to yet. In their eyes, they wanted someone like Daniel Bryan or another former independent wrestling star to get their shot at the main event spotlight. However, Reigns has shown a lot of improvement in the WWE.
5 Seth Rollins
Compared to the year Seth Rollins had in 2015, the year 2016 might have been viewed as a bit of a decline. He was still a main event superstar through the year after recovering from his knee injury. Rollins might not be holding the WWE Universal Championship, but he’s definitely still high on the list based on the plans the WWE has planned for him; including a potential WrestleMania 33 match with Triple H.
4 The New Day
Don’t you dare be sour as we put The New Day in the top five of our RAW rankings. The trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods have been able to make history in 2016. Their reign as tag team champions – which started as the WWE Tag Team Championship and then became the RAW Tag Team Championship – with a 483 days holding the belts. For most of the year and a good portion of 2015, they were the highlights of WWE television.
3 Finn Bálor
Considering what the WWE was able to do with Finn Bálor after he was drafted to RAW from NXT, there were obviously big plans to make him the top star on the show. It’s surprising to see how quickly the WWE pushed Bálor up the card within the first few weeks of being on the WWE’s main roster. However, Bálor is not your typical call-up from developmental. The rise of NXT’s popularity certainly helped.
2 Chris Jericho
He might not hold any championship belts at the moment, but Chris Jericho is deserving to be this high on the list. Yes, he just made the list (couldn’t help it). But he’s embraced the role of a veteran who is helping put over the new superstars on the WWE roster. Not only is he accomplishing that goal, he’s also getting over as one of the most entertaining superstars currently on RAW.
1 Kevin Owens
When holding the brand’s top championship, it’s hard not to put a superstar like Kevin Owens at the top of the list. As the WWE Universal Champion, Owens has shown that he deserves to be in the main event picture. But he’s been able to show he’s one of the best in-ring competitors with five-star quality matches with a wide variety of WWE superstars – from John Cena to the mid-card talents.
It’s uncertain is Owens is going to hold onto the WWE Universal Championship past the 2017 Royal Rumble. However, the fans have enjoyed Owens as a championship superstar. Part of it is that he has a different physical appearance than a majority of the roster. He’s also been very entertaining on the microphone and on social media. Owens is the perfect fit for a modern-day heel in the WWE.
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