The first half of 2016 is in the books, and along the way there have been plenty of amazing matches put on by a number of wrestlers within the WWE. With the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania in that grouping, you would think most of the matches would come from two of WWE’s bigger PPVs, but that is not so much the case this year. It was overall pretty even with the “B” PPVs busting out some high quality matches. Leading the way with three matches each is WrestleMania and Money in the Bank, with one match even coming from Raw.
These types of lists are always so subjective, though--what you might think was terrible may actually land on this list. So, this list is not a ranking, which just makes things even more complicated; instead, these are just fifteen fantastic matches that are all worth your time, if you missed them. The criteria is pretty simple, as it will be focused solely on the match and the finish. It doesn’t matter how big the names were, nor if the story leading up to the match was awesome or not. Some of these matches had very little build-up, but when it was time to perform, each wrestler put everything they had into the fight.
So without further ado, here are WWE’s must-see matches for the first half of 2016!
30 Intercontinental Ladder Match – WrestleMania 32
Look, it’s WrestleMania and anytime there’s a ladder is involved, you know it’s about to go down in a big way. Hastily thrown together in this match were: Zack Ryder, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, The Miz, and Sin Cara. Basically, all of them got blown up at different times during the match, Sin Cara went from the top of a ladder down to a another that was laid out horizontally, Owens took multiple nasty bumps onto ladders, while Ryder pulled off a diving elbow drop off a ladder, seeing a trend?
Part-way through, Stardust pulled out a black ladder with yellow polka dots in a tribute for his father, Dusty Rhodes. At one point, he put it around his head and spun around in circles, taking out anyone who got in the way. Ultimately, the finish was a feel good moment when Zack Ryder won the match, which was not expected at all, as most expected Owens or Zayn to win the match.
28 AJ Styles Vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Title) – Extreme Rules
At this moment, Styles is a few months into his WWE run and had been lighting up the ring basically every time he gets in there. Styles and Reigns had already been the main event the month before at Payback, and while that was a solid match, it couldn’t touch the one that had at Extreme Rules. Since it was a no DQ match, it also brought in Luke Gallow/Karl Anderson and The Usos, which didn’t take away from the match like most run-ins do.
While Reigns did his part, getting smashed by a chair a number of times and taking a Styles Clash onto a chair, it was Styles who really put this match over the top. The way he sold this match, you would have thought it was going to be his last one ever! He was back body dropped and powerbombed through two tables, while also taking a spear in mid-air when he went for his Phenomenal Forearm. Reigns winning may take this match down a notch for you, but Rollins making his surprise return afterwards was just the cherry on the top for this match.
26 Charlotte Vs. Becky Lynch Vs. Sasha Banks (Women’s Title) – WrestleMania 32
After months of the Divas Revolution being an up and down affair, this match really put fans on notice that the division was changing for the better, it also signaled the end of the Divas title. Here we had dominant Women’s Champion, Charlotte, going up against Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks in a triple threat match.
There were a number of insane spots, including Sasha going for a suicide dive, coming up short, and turning it into a front flip, which luckily worked out. Most notably, Charlotte did an insane moonsault off the top rope down to the floor (the floor!) on both Becky and Sasha. The ending came at a furious pace with every woman getting in their finisher, but it was slightly diminished by Ric Flair getting involved, by holding Sasha Banks down as Charlotte locked in her Figure-Eight on Becky. When it was all said and done, this became not only one of the top matches of the night, but the greatest women’s WrestleMania match ever.
24 Shane McMahon Vs. The Undertaker (Hell In A Cell) – WrestleMania 32
Injuries played a major part in how WrestleMania 32 was booked as wrestlers like John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Randy Orton were all on the shelf for the show. This was seen no clearer than when Shane McMahon stepped up to fight The Undertaker, which was basically thrown together by Vince McMahon. If Shane won, he would get control of Raw and Undertaker would be barred from WrestleMania forever.
Was the match a technical spectacle? Not at all, but both men put everything they had into this match with Shane pulling off his Coast-to-Coast move and nailing Undertaker in the head with a toolbox, among other weapons. The big moment came when Shane McMahon climbed the cell and jumped off it, going through an announcer table as Undertaker rolled out of the way. Even though Shane wanted to keep fighting, Taker hit him with a Tombstone Piledriver to finally finish him off. A pretty sloppy match, but it was one of the most talked about things in WWE, so check it out if you somehow haven’t seen it.
22 Dean Ambrose Vs. Triple H (WWE Title) – Roadblock
This match is important because it really showed the higher-ups in WWE that Dean Ambrose could become one of the top guys in the company. This was during a time when Roman Reigns was about to take on Triple H at WrestleMania for the title but was out of action due to nasal surgery. So, since Dean was Roman’s good buddy, they decided to get him in the mix with Triple H at Roadblock to help somewhat further the storyline.
Well, not only did Dean help the story, but he put together a fantastic performance that went nearly twenty-five minutes and included Ambrose going for an elbow drop through an announce table. There was also an interesting twist when Dean actually got a pinfall on Triple H, but it was quickly reversed because Ambrose’s foot was under the rope, thus nullifying the win. Ultimately, Triple H got the victory, but as we stand right now, Ambrose is the WWE Champion, thanks in part to how well he was received leading up to WrestleMania.
20 Fatal 4-Way IC Title Match – Extreme Rules
We’re just at a point when certain wrestlers get together everyone knows the match is going to be outstanding, as long as it’s given the proper amount of time. This match was for Miz’s Intercontinental title and included Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn who all put in a ridiculous effort to make this possibly the top match of the PPV. This match started off with a bang as Sami went right after Owens with a Helluva Kick, getting the crowd immediately into the match.
With a very up-tempo pace, this match included a ton of false finishes and saves that made the match that much better. For much of the fight, Owens and Zayn focused on each other, thanks to their never-ending feud, which ended up costing them a title win. After dropping Cesaro, Zayn and Owens ended up brawling outside of the ring and a sneaky Miz was able to crawl over and pin Cesaro, continuing his excellent run as Intercontinental champion. This is one of those matches you have to watch two or three times to really catch everything, so get to it!
18 Money In The Bank Ladder Match - MITB
Like bacon, ladders make everything better! At least, in the WWE, they do, and at their MITB PPV we got to see Dean Ambrose, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn come together to beat the hell out of each other. Owens and Zayn continued to focus on each other for much of the match, which included a nasty spot where Zayn planted Owens on the corner of the ladder as it stood up on its side, there’s no way that didn’t hurt like crazy.
Cesaro may have been the MVP of the match though, taking a number of crazy bumps throughout the bout. The ending came when Owens was near the top of the ladder, reaching up for the briefcase Ambrose started brawling with him, grabbing Owens’ shirt, he pulls Owens face first into the ladder, causing him to fall into another bridged ladder, effectively taking him out. Ambrose winning the briefcase really showed WWE was going to trust him with a (potential) title reign and of course, the crowd absolutely loved the winner in this one.
16 Dean Ambrose Vs. Roman Reigns Vs. Brock Lesnar - Fastlane
Earlier in the year, Reigns had to defend his title in the royal rumble match and lost it to Triple H, yep, Triple H was champion in 2016. So, to determine who would face Triple H at WrestleMania the main event at Fastlane was Reigns, Ambrose, and Lesnar. Lesnar was his usual dominant self with suplexes all over the place, but smartly, Ambrose and Reigns worked together to eliminated Lesnar.
In fact, both men pulled off two double powerbombs on Lesnar on two different announce tables to keep him down for as long as possible. “The Beast” made his way back in towards the end of the match, but Ambrose brought a chair to the party to help keep him at bay, unfortunately for him, Reigns was able to land a spear and get the win. Reigns was able to go on and face Triple H in a very boring main event at WrestleMania, Reigns won, the crowd booed.
14 Kalisto Vs. Alberto Del Rio (U.S. Title) - Fastlane
The next pick on this list might be a bit of a surprise, but this Fastlane Kickoff match was really well put together by both Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio. These two had been feuding for awhile with each man getting wins over each other. To help settle things, this match was made a two out of three falls match, giving it the wrinkle needed to make it really interesting.
Amazingly, Del Rio gave up the first fall by DQ when he wailed away on Kalisto with a chair to really soften up the U.S. champion. Del Rio took advantage of this by easily scoring the second fall, evening the count to one and one, Kalisto was able to retain his title in the end winning the third fall. A well paced match that stood out on the PPV, it’s not often a kickoff match ends up being one of the best of the night.
12 Kevin Owens Vs. Sami Zayn - Payback
Hope you’re not tired of these two, because they are back again, this time in a simple one-on-one match. This one took place back in May after Sami had eliminated Owens from the royal rumble, after Zayn cost Owens the Intercontinental title, and after Owens knocked Sami out of a number one contender’s match.
With all of their usual moves used throughout the match, there was a clear hatred between both men that was infectious, the live crowd was nuts for their match as they were unrelenting towards each other. Owens was able to overcome by countering Zayn’s Helluva Kick with a Superkick, then going right for his finisher, the Pop-Up Powerbomb. This match was not their last as they continued to battled for months afterwards, most recently having a match at Battleground that stole the show, unfortunately due to being in the second half of the year, it won’t be counted until the end of the year awards.
10 Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens (Last Man Standing) – Royal Rumble
If this was ranking 2016 PPVs the Royal Rumble would most likely be at the bottom, thanks to a bunch of boring matches and the rumble itself ending with Triple H winning the WWE title. Injuries or not, it was kind of insane to see him as the champ in 2016, fans weren’t happy. The lone bright spot of the PPV was the match between Ambrose and Owens, which was Last Man Standing rules for the Intercontinental title. This match just had everything you would want in a brawl, the spots were done well and at a fast pace for going just over twenty minutes.
Ambrose did his usual dive through an announcer table, but it was Owens who really took some nasty bumps throughout this match. At one point, two chairs were set up next each other, Owens tried to powerbomb Ambrose through them, but instead got back body dropped through the chairs. Even more crazy, as Owens climbed to the top rope, Ambrose pushed him out to the floor where there were two tables stacked up on each other. Owens ended up doing a front flip and crashed perfectly through both of them, getting a big pop from the crowd. Kevin was unable to answer the ten count and Ambrose was able to retain his title.
8 AJ Styles Vs. John Cena – Money In The Bank
AJ was the first wrestler to welcome back Cena, who was out with a shoulder injury for over five months. Initially, it looked like the two would be cool, but as Gallows and Anderson came to the ring, AJ sucker punched Cena, turning heel in the process. A match was then booked as something that could headline WrestleMania, two of the biggest stars in wrestling, meeting for the first time.
The match was everything fans could hope for, an epic back and forth encounter with plenty of false finishes with both men kicking out of each others respective finishers. Even though Cena had been gone from some time, he looked great against the speedy Styles. The end came when Gallows and Anderson hit their finisher on Cena, while the ref was distracted, Styles was able to take advantage and get the cheap win over Superman.
6 New Day vs. Y2AJ - Raw
It’s been a banner year for New Day as they have become one of WWE’s top acts, so it would be criminal to leave them off this list; luckily they had a heck of a match against AJ Styles and Chris Jericho, also known as Y2AJ. After have a few matches against each other, AJ and Chris decided to team up and take on the tag division, unfortunately the party didn’t last long as Jericho ended up turning on AJ after this battle.
Big E and Kofi did their usual thing, mixing strength, speed, and comedy throughout the match. Chris Jericho tried to finish off Big E by throwing him into the ring post, then going for a Codebreaker. Big E was able to catch Jericho in mid-air and throw him over his shoulder for the Big Ending to get the one-two-three. The New Day is still currently the tag champions, while Jericho is on Raw and AJ is over on SmackDown.
4 Chris Jericho Vs. Dean Ambrose – Payback
These two had a fun little feud where Ambrose “stole” Jericho’s show, The Highlight Reel, and turned it into The Ambrose Asylum. Jericho smashed Ambrose’s plant, Mitch, over Ambrose head, while Ambrose destroyed Jericho’s $15,000 light-up jacket, it truly was a fun feud to watch. The match at Payback didn’t disappoint either with both wrestler putting on fantastic performances. It was just a random grudge match stuck in the middle of a “B” PPV, but that didn’t discourage either man from putting on a great match.
Jericho attempted to finished off Ambrose with a Lionsault, Dean blocked by raising his knees, and was able to hit Dirty Deeds for the pinfall. Aside from having a good performance, it was important to see Dean win these kinds of PPV matches, as it was something he wasn’t doing in the year before. WWE finally decided in 2016 that his push to the top would continue on, which fans absolutely loved.
2 Roman Reigns Vs. Seth Rollins (WWE Title) – Money In The Bank
After a devastating injury, Rollins returned to the WWE letting everyone know he never lost the title, and wanted his shot at then champion, Roman Reigns. At MITB, it was given to him and the two went to war. Early in the match, Reigns attempted to spear Rollins on the outside, smashing into the barricade so hard he was nearly sent out of the arena on a stretcher.
After dodging a spear and landing two Pedigrees, Rollins was able to pin Reigns and win the title back! The twenty-six match itself was really fun to watch, but what really put it over was Dean Ambrose coming out and cashing in his title opportunity that he had won earlier in the night. Fans went absolutely ballistic as his match with Rollins only lasted nine second before Dean won his first ever WWE Championship. These events setup a triple threat match at Battleground between the three former Shield members, where Ambrose was able to retain his title.