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.
But Paige has hurt her status in the WWE due to her personal choices in a relationship with former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio. She’s also seemingly willing to make headlines in the WWE dirt sheets for most of 2016. There’s a good chance that she won’t be given much if she returns after recovering from her recent neck surgery. Paige could be an example of a talented star gone to waste with bad decisions.
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.
There’s no denying that she is an athlete with an interesting background before coming to the WWE. There’s a good chance she could improve and one day become a decent women’s wrestler who earns a championship match. But that’s probably a year, at least, from happening. For now, Rae is near the bottom of the RAW rankings.
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.
The post-match press conferences which almost have a Lonely Virgil feel to them have been entertaining. Especially when he went into a tangent similar to football coach Dennis Green after a tough loss to R-Truth. O’Neil has become more of a comical act for most of the year. It’s unfortunate because at age 39, the window of opportunity is closing on the former Florida Gator.
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.
The Lucha Dragons provided more depth to the tag team division early in 2016. Back then, it was needed. However, the team split after the WWE Draft last summer. While Kalisto has been on television more at SmackDown Live, Sin Cara has become somewhat forgettable on RAW. There’s a good chance his Lucha Dragon is going to be slain when it comes to the annual roster cuts.
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.
Dallas had shown a lot of potential in NXT as a heel who was mostly smiles and still tried to pass himself off as the good guy. Unfortunately, it hasn’t had the same success since his transition into the main roster. Maybe he needs another stint off of the main roster to find a new gimmick or do a few changes to have a better run on RAW.
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.
However, Axel did have an entertaining run with a Hulk Hogan parody with AxelMania. Unfortunately, the sex tape controversy revolving around The Hulkster put an end to that. Axel has become an outcast through 2016, along with Bo Dallas and Heath Slater. Considering that he had a previous main roster run before this one, the WWE will likely release him rather than demote him to NXT.
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.
But the two have been split up not once, but twice. And just like O’Neil, Young hasn’t been able to find success within the WWE main roster. Young has been a great ambassador for the WWE in recent years. But there has to come a time when Young is evaluated for what he has done since he was first signed to a WWE developmental contract in 2005.
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.
There’s also some up-and-comers to look out for like Nia Jax and Dana Brooke. Fox might also have to be concerned about the names in NXT who are also showing a lot of improvement (i.e. Asuka). But unlike Paige, Fox has a little more job security. She might not be the worst RAW female wrestler on the list, but she hasn’t done a lot to stay out of the bottom ten.
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.
She’s certainly learned a lot while working in NXT for the past few years. Her call-up to the WWE main roster last May saw her quickly become a protégé behind RAW Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. It’s a perfect role for her to be supporting the champion. Over time, it could lead to Brooke and Charlotte having a feud down the road.
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.
It’s understandable how she was able to get into the WWE. She comes from the famous Anoa’i family and is a cousin to The Rock. Jax could become a big star in the WWE women’s division. It just seems that she might have been called up a little too early and still has some room to improve in professional wrestling.
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.
They spent a few years as just Primo and Epico where they were successful in winning the WWE Tag Team Championship. If only they were allowed to go with a more “normal” gimmick, they would probably be taken more seriously by the fans of the WWE Universe. While their current gimmick is horrible, the two wrestlers don’t deserve to be placed near the bottom of the rankings.
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.
Since then, he’s only been on three televised matches – granted all were wins. With wins over The Shining Stars and Titus O’Neil, he deserves to be ranked higher than those three superstars. There’s a good chance the WWE might have one more mid-card championship run planned for Henry. He certainly is deserving after being a long-tenured WWE superstar.
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.
Mahal does provide depth, but he doesn’t really bring much to the WWE other than acting as a fill-in opponent or ally to help continue a feud. It would have been interesting if the “inner peace” gimmick was able to develop into a bigger thing. It could have led to a small faction with other lower-card wrestlers looking for that “inner peace.” But Mahal is likely cemented below mid-card status.
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.
Both are certainly near the latter half of their WWE careers. Both are up in age and probably are not going to be pushed towards any world championships down the road. They certainly are not a top tag team, but they do provide depth to a point. They may get a shot at the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship once a year while being used to feed other teams. That's the best we could hope for from them.
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.
Recently, Big Show has been seen dropping a lot of weight. He’s down to below 400 pounds. It’s a bit of a shocker to see how he looks so slim. Fans have been so used to seeing him compete above 500 pounds; which was a selling point as The World’s Largest Athlete. He’s still a big man who might still have a few good years left in him. It will be interesting to see what the WWE has planned for him at this year’s WrestleMania.
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.
They’ve had their opportunities at defeating the New Day for the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship. But they’ve come up short and lost matches to other teams like Cesaro and Sheamus. Maybe if Bálor returns and makes a heel turn, Anderson and Gallows will get a boost from forming a new club in WWE.
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.
There’s not a lot to dislike about Bayley. The WWE hasn’t rushed her into a RAW Women’s Championship match. But don’t be surprised if her current rivalry with Charlotte Flair continues after the Royal Rumble and on to WrestleMania 33. If that’s the case, one would assume that her entrance might set a record for the wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men; a keyboard twister as much as a tongue twister.
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.
Banks seemingly has a lot of the intangibles one would look for in the WWE. There’s a reason she was a focal point of the WWE Women's Revolution in late 2015 and why she was part of the WWE Women’s Championship triple threat at WrestleMania 32. Banks will likely remain a title contender with key rivalries in Bayley and Charlotte Flair.
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.
Strowman isn’t quite a polished superstar. But he’s been handled properly in the WWE as an unstoppable force that hasn’t been pinned or forced to submit. Given more time, he could become a main event superstar battling for a world championship on either RAW or SmackDown. He’s still worth putting at No. 14.
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.
At the moment, there is a lot of competition for the few main event spots on RAW. However, the WWE has done well trying to maintain Rusev as a dominant competitor even after the loss to John Cena at WrestleMania 31. A loss to Cena has led to other dominant wrestlers to fall down the card and eventually into a comedy gimmick. But Rusev persevered to remain a potential world champion in the WWE.
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.
The unfortunate thing is that the team of Enzo and Cass have yet to win tag team gold in the WWE. It could be a matter of time since they are still among the small group of the elite entertainers on the RAW roster. Even in a feud where each has lost to Rusev, they still have a higher upside than most of their Monday night peers.
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.
Charlotte also retired the often-criticized Divas Championship and helped become the first Women’s Champion in the new era of WWE. Part of her dominance of the women’s division stems from having the technical abilities she likely learned from her father Ric Flair. The Nature Boy also probably taught her everything she knows about being a main event heel.
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.
Zayn has his own natural charisma that attracts fan support. There’s a very good chance that Zayn could one day become a WWE Universal Champion. Or maybe he makes the jump to SmackDown Live to win the WWE Championship. He has the skills to match up with Kevin Owens (as fans have seen over the years) and also with AJ Styles in what would be viewed as instant classics.
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.
Sheamus is no slouch. He’s a former WWE Champion who is a very underrated big man with charisma of his own. The two have become a sort of odd couple in RAW’s tag team division. But there are times when odd couples become the best teams in WWE history. Just like Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan) or The Rock and Sock Connection (The Rock and Mankind).
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.
The Beast Incarnate has remained near the top of the WWE card. His recent performances have been buzzworthy and his future matches will likely continue that trend. But his current run in the WWE is much different than his first few years that saw him as the youngest WWE Champion. His MMA background combined with his amateur and collegiate wrestling background has improved his overall in-ring skill.
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.
With an appearance at the 2017 Royal Rumble match coming up and a likely match at WrestleMania 33, Goldberg is gaining a lot of mainstream attention. He might be a part-time WWE superstar, but he’s bringing a lot of publicity to WWE Raw and that has to count for something in the RAW roster rankings. That’s why Goldberg finds himself in the top 10.
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.
Eventually, the WWE is going to have to make Reigns a heel who embraces the jeering from the fans. He’s also shown some great improvement through 2016 with terrific matches against the likes of Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins. He’s done well so far as the United States Champion and should be built up towards another world title push for later in 2017.
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.
Rollins is the type of wrestler who doesn’t need to hold a championship to get over as one of the best in WWE. His combination of technical and high-flying abilities make him one of the wrestlers who will be close to the championship picture for a long time to come. With the potential names being called up later this year, Rollins could be part of a few “Match of the Year” candidates for 2017.
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.
In addition to being great champions, The New Day has been extremely entertaining with their promos and vignettes. How many wrestlers can get silly things like a made-up cereal turned real by demand and unicorn horns to be best sellers on WWEShop.com? They may have lost their titles, but they are still three of the most entertaining wrestlers on RAW.
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.
The fans in attendance of his first official week on RAW showed how many saw what he did in NXT. They were welcoming him as a championship contender. He’s extremely talented and will likely pick up right where he left off after the unfortunate shoulder injury suffered at SummerSlam last August. Things could be very interesting if they have Bálor turn heel and form a club similar to the one he ran in Japan.
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.
While it will be a sad day when Jericho leaves WWE to go on tour with Fozzy, seeing him being able to reinvent himself with his current gimmick has been a treat. Who would have thought someone who walks around wearing a fancy, overpriced scarf with a beard similar to Chris Cornell and making a list of things he hates would get over. Being the professional that he is, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jericho could pull it off.
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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