Professional wrestling is about more than two competitors producing matches inside of rings. The business model for pro wrestling and for any promotion in combat sports is based upon big personalities promoting fights and feuds and then settling scores and/or competing for championships. It, thus, makes sense that a company such as World Wrestling Entertainment would want to push certain wrestlers to the tops of cards in order to get those performers over among fans. The hope is that those wrestlers will generate interest and draw attention to the product as did acts such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Undertaker and so many others. History has shown stars, not championships and titles, sell fights and matches in the WWE, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and promotions around the world.
Some might automatically assume that all of the wrestlers the WWE REALLY wants fans to like in 2016 are babyfaces and fan-favorites. That is not necessarily the case. The WWE has also gone out of the way to attempt to get fans to buy into certain characters who are heels. In some instances, heels are booked to squash local talents and “jobbers” so that those heels become monsters in the eyes of paying fans. As you will see in this piece, WWE fans have a history of rejecting some talents the company really wants customers to like and support either by cheering those wrestlers or by believing those performers can defeat any opponent. In the scenario of the man atop this list, it seems as if the WWE has learned little as it pertains to fans picking and choosing who they will cheer and who they will boo.
15 Shane McMahon
One of the humorous things about what the company is referring to as the “New Era” that was introduced in 2016 is that Shane McMahon is once again a babyface among audiences as he was roughly 15 years ago. “Shane-O-Mac,” as he is affectionately known among WWE audiences, is currently serving as a babyface authority figure for the SmackDown brand. McMahon also worked as an underdog versus the Undertaker at WrestleMania 32.
14 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is the first example in this piece of the WWE wanting fans to really “like” a wrestler who is a heel. By that, we mean that the company seems eager to have fans see Corbin as one of the next major monster heels in the promotion. Corbin became somewhat of a boring character during the final months of his run in NXT until he and the promotion found gold with an “Indy Killer” gimmick that featured Corbin wrestling performers who previously worked in companies such as Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
13 Darren Young
We are adding Darren Young to this list because we are assuming that WWE really wants us to like him. That at least seems to be the case as of the summer of 2016. Young went from being a forgotten character who never appeared on either Raw or SmackDown to a wrestler aligned with former WWE Champion Bob Backlund. Backlund, for reasons that still haven’t been thoroughly explained, wants to “make Darren Young great again.” This has led to the obvious jokes pointing out that Young never really was all that great during his WWE career minus the time when he and Titus O’Neil held the tag team championships.
12 Nia Jax
Some WWE fans out there may be wondering why the company was so quick to push Nia Jax from the NXT brand to the main roster and to Raw shows. It probably doesn’t hurt Jax’s cause that she is related to The Rock. Jax has been a heel since she first debuted in NXT, but it was clear even from her early days in the company that the WWE wanted fans to see Jax as a legitimate performer and as a big deal.
11 Heath Slater
Some of you out there may be chuckling at seeing Heath Slater mentioned in a piece of wrestlers the WWE really wants us to like in 2016. Think about it for a minute. The WWE could have simply positioned Slater on either Raw or SmackDown as a comedic jobber or even as a forgotten act who faded from memories. Instead, the WWE is pushing the idea of Slater as a struggling performer looking for a contract from one of the two brands.
10 Enzo Amore
It is often fashionable among WWE fans who post on social media and in wrestling forums to bash the company for its booking and for storylines it produces. The WWE often gets things right. Enzo Amore is one clear example. Enzo does not need all that much extra help from the WWE to get over. His microphone work is some of the best the WWE has to offer in 2016. Enzo plays a believable and entertaining babyface in peril. In the summer of 2016, the WWE aligned Enzo with John Cena for a storyline that involved A.J. Styles and The Club.
9 Randy Orton
Throughout his career, Randy Orton has been an awkward babyface when put into such a role. Some wrestlers are simply natural heels. That is the case with Orton, but the company nevertheless wants fans to really like Orton in the summer of 2016. Orton is in a feud with Brock Lesnar as of the posting of this piece, and the two will meet for a match at this year’s SummerSlam.
8 Apollo Crews
Want to try to turn somebody on the main roster into a top babyface? Have him feud with The Miz. That is exactly what the WWE is doing with Apollo Crews in the summer of 2016. Crews may even win the WWE Intercontinental Championship before the fall months arrive.
WWE fans around the world don’t care if it is a gimmick or if they are reacting exactly how the WWE wants them to react each time that Bayley emerges from the curtain. Bayley goes out of her way to interact with younger fans. She offers high-fives and even hugs to adults who wear her merchandise and who cheer her on at Full Sail and around the United States.
It does not seem like all that long ago when Kalisto was a wrestler who hung around on the NXT brand and who was used to put other wrestlers over. The WWE then decided that the promotion wanted fans to like and get behind Kalisto. Kalisto, thus, was placed in a tag team that won championships while working in NXT. The WWE went one step further by having Kalisto win the United States Championship as a solo worker while on the main roster.
5 Finn Balor
Some WWE fans may have been concerned about the future of Finn Balor once it became clear that Balor was going to leave NXT for the WWE main roster. Have no fear, as the company seems to realize what it has in the former NXT Champion. Balor was booked to become a star in one night during an episode of Raw, as he won a four-way match and then defeated Roman Reigns to earn a spot in the SummerSlam main event. Even if Balor is not given the Raw championship during the summer of 2016, the WWE still attached a rocket onto the entertaining performer and demonstrated to fans that the promotion wants viewers and customers to like and support Balor.
4 Mojo Rawley
Perhaps we are jumping the gun with this one. After all, Mojo Rawley was only called up to the main roster in July 2016 during the WWE Draft and subsequent brand split. Rawley has, however, been pushed as a semi-top babyface while with the NXT brand, and we would not be all that surprised if Rawley and Zack Ryder were given a run as tag team champions of a brand.
3 Big Cass
We absolutely love the tag team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. We can also see the writing on the wall as it pertains to the futures of both men. The WWE did not wait long before making it clear to all observers that Cass is the top draw of the team, the guy who swoops in to save the day whenever Enzo is in trouble during a match or if Enzo is attacked by a heel during a segment.
2 John Cena
John Cena is probably never turning heel. At this point, why would the WWE even entertain the thought? Part of Cena’s gimmick is that the WWE wants certain fans to like Cena while knowing some will reject him. It’s the idea behind the “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks!” chants that Cena mentions during promos. Just when you may have thought that the WWE was going to leave the matter alone and allow Cena to simply work as a wrestler on the roster, the company put him in a storyline with A.J. Styles that is somewhat based on the fact that Cena gave his career to the WWE while Styles made his name in promotions such as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Ring of Honor and also overseas.
1 Roman Reigns
Everybody out there who is sick of the WWE trying to get you to like Roman Reigns needs to get over it. The company clearly isn’t out of ideas. As of early August 2016, the WWE’s latest attempt to turn Reigns into a beloved babyface is to have him feud with Rusev, the evil foreigner, over the United States Championship.
In a way, you can’t help but laugh at this point over the matter. The WWE may drag us kicking and screaming along the way, but we are going to like Reigns if it is the last thing we do as customers! What is funny about the situation is that Reigns is talented and could get over it the WWE didn’t shove him down our throats for two years and if he wasn’t saddled with such a lame character once The Shield dissolved. There’s still time to save Reigns, and you are fooling yourself if you think the company is going to give up on him all because of one Wellness Policy violation.
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