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.
While McMahon is currently not scheduled to work a match underneath the WWE umbrella as of August 2016, things often change in the blink of an eye in the promotion. The company continues to present McMahon in a way that makes it nearly impossible for fans to boo him, and that could lead one to believe that we have not yet seen the last of Vince McMahon’s son as an active wrestler. You can practically imagine that future match featuring Shane McMahon versus Triple H.
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.
That character was seemingly abandoned once Corbin was called up to the main roster, though, and yet the WWE continues to showcase Corbin on shows such as SmackDown. Remember that Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, a sign that the company wanted him to get over with fans. Don’t be shocked if Corbin wins a championship before the end of 2016.
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.
Perhaps all of this is leading to some angle where Young turns on Backlund and becomes a heel, or maybe the storyline will end with Young winning a championship as a babyface. Either way, Young is still not getting over among fans regardless of the company’s latest attempts.
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.
All indications from watching WWE television in the summer of 2016 seem to point to Jax eventually feuding with Sasha Banks over the Women’s Championship. Banks is beloved among pockets of fans, but the truth of the matter is that she works better as a heel than as a babyface. Jax needs more seasoning before she is ready for such a feud. When the day comes for Jax and Banks to work together, however, do not be surprised if Jax makes the switch from heel to babyface.
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.
Slater is never going to be the WWE Champion. Odds are that Slater will never be one of the top babyfaces on any WWE brand. That does not, however, mean that the company cannot get something out of Slater during his current run in the organization. For what it’s worth, the WWE has featured Slater in segments available on the WWE Network and WWE.com. The company obvious believes Slater can be worth than just an “outcast.”
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.
Cena did not necessarily pass the torch to Enzo during that feud, but Enzo was made to look like a performer capable of hanging with the likes of Cena and capable of working in main events. We don’t know that Enzo will ever win the WWE Championship. What we do know, however, is that you can’t teach what Enzo has as a performer.
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.
We do not know what the company has in store for the futures of either man, but we can, from looking on paper, see that the SmackDown roster is lacking top babyfaces following the WWE Draft and brand split that occurred in July 2016. It sure seems as if the WWE is going to push Orton as a babyface for the foreseeable future. Maybe we should all get used to witnessing the WWE wanting us to like Orton. Then again, Orton could turn heel before the fall.
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.
It makes sense that the WWE would really want us to like Crews. Crews has a great look. He is one of the better athletes signed to the company, a wrestler who can take to the air and who can also work as a powerhouse. With that said, Crews is missing something as a performer. That was the case during his last few months on the NXT brand. Crews has the goods to get over with fans and make money for the WWE. Perhaps Crews merely needs somebody to serve as his mouthpiece. Whatever the case, we hope that Crews finds a spark and becomes a top worker in the WWE.
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.
If the WWE is smart and the company wants to go even beyond what it has achieved with Bayley, the company will call her up to the main roster following the SummerSlam pay-per-view. The audience that attends the Raw following SummerSlam will immediately recognize Bayley’s theme song, and they will give her a response one would expect to hear if a main-eventer made his way to the ring. The WWE has gold and a license to print money with Bayley. Don’t goof it up, WWE.
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.
It makes all kinds of sense why the WWE would want fans to like Kalisto. Replica masks similar to those worn by Kalisto during matches sell during live shows and online. Kalisto is an undersized worker who can complete aerial moves. He is, in multiple ways, an easy babyface to cheer for, particularly among younger fans who are often attracted to such acts. Kalisto may never win one of the major WWE championships, but he is nevertheless a big part of the current 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.
Balor’s demon character provides us with arguably the best entrance among all WWE wrestlers. That same gimmick will likely sell a good amount of merchandise at live shows. No wonder the WWE wants us to like Balor so much.
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.
Rawley is, to put a nicely, a lot both in character and as it pertains to his working style. The former National Football League player is big and has a good look. Rawley has been seen partying with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the two are known to be friends. The WWE has to love the thought of bringing Gronk in for a storyline. We love it too, actually, and we hope to see Gronk and Rawley team up at some point. You’re lying if you say the thought of that doesn’t make you hyped.
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.
We understand why the WWE is so high on Cass. Cass is allegedly seven-foot tall, and you can’t teach that. Cass is a solid worker in the ring, and he can hold his own on the microphone. The WWE is going to push Enzo and Cass as babyfaces for the time being, but we can see Cass eventually making a transition to a top heel. A program with Cass serving as a heel and Roman Reigns working as a babyface would annoy lots of fans, but it could also be fun.
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.
Cena proved himself to be a good worker in the ring long ago. It’s no longer cool to boo Cena. Still, Cena cutting promos about how he bleeds WWE grew old long ago.
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.