Despite moments of hope, 2015 will most likely be remembered as a bad year for the company filled with squandered potential, controversy and a fanbase that was on the verge of riot at the start of the year. While it was far from being a complete disaster, the company suffered harshly from injuries to talent of all levels of the card and their failure to have their audience accept Roman Reigns as the new face of the company.
What makes this story even sadder is that the company really has one of the best rosters they've had in a long time. From the "minor" leagues of NXT to the top of the card on the main roster, WWE has something for nearly every wrestling fan. So many of these men and women have been let down by bad creative and booking choices but the cream always rises to the top, and these 15 (okay technically 16) Superstars and Divas all have a shot at having their break out year in 2016.
While it can be argued that a few of these wrestlers have already broken out, they either are still capable of greater heights or have become stars in NXT but not the main roster. As great as NXT is, it is only viewed by a fraction of the audience who watches Monday Night Raw is. You haven't truly made it in the WWE until you become a success on the main roster so with that in mind, here are the top 15/16 WWE wrestlers poised for a breakout 2016.
15 Tyson Kidd
From a creative standpoint, there may have been some silver lining in the horrendous dark cloud which was Tyson Kidd's horrific neck injury that sidelined him for half of 2015.
Always an absolute dynamo in the ring, Kidd's time spent away from the ring has the potential to spark something inside of the Canadian superstar which would propel him to midcard title reign in 2016. If WWE really wants to go the extra mile, Natayla and Kidd could become an ultra dominant power couple capable of holding both the Divas and Intercontinental championships. At the very least, everyone loves a comeback story and Kidd's would be incredible.
14 Apollo Crews
One of the lesser known superstars on the list, Apollo Crews is a standout from WWE NXT who seems to possess superpowers. We're still waiting on word if he actually attended Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters before entering pro wrestling.
To put it into terms that main roster fans can understand, imagine if you take the acrobatics of Kofi Kingston and combine them with the power of Big E. Then you would have what Apollo Crews is: a stocky powerhouse also capable of pulling moonsaults out of thin air.
Repeat after me: if WWE manages to screw up a man whose finisher is a gorilla press drop followed by a standing moonsault, I don't know what to do with them anymore.
Like Crews, Asuka (formerly known as Kana) may not be known to casual wrestling fans but she should be. A wrestler since 2004 in her native Japan, Asuka has been called one of the best female wrestlers on the planet long before entering WWE and now she is finally in the biggest wrestling company on the planet.
It's no secret that WWE has had a sorted history with Japanese wrestlers. Kaientai, Kenzo Suzuki and Yoshi Tatsu were all treated as jokes by the company and fans alike but Asuka has a chance to be the Japanese mega-star WWE should have in the company.
12 Luke Harper
No offense to Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman, but we all know who the best Wyatt family member not named Bray is.
Despite having some of the ugliest looking ring gear I've ever seen, Harper has managed to become the second most over member of the stable by virtue of his underrated ring work and genuinely terrifying facial expressions. With the Wyatt family bound to break up in 2016 at some point, it's almost a guarantee that Harper will reach his peak next year. After all, why else did WWE book him to face the Brothers of Destruction at Survivor Series, hmm?
11 Titus O'Neil
With WWE's propensity to buff their chests about their charity and community work, it's a wonder as to why Titus O'Neil has not been put in a better spot by the WWE.
Comedy acts typically don't become main event players, but that's fine. Not everybody can be a main eventer but Titus O'Neil has enough charisma and comedic talent that I don't see any reason as to why he can't be a solid mid-card act. Remember his promo with John Cena as Pancake Patterson? That was hilarious and I'd personally want to see more of that rather than the on and off again teaming with Darren Young.
He may not rake in millions of dollars, but Titus O'Neil can still break out in 2016.
When Mexican mega-star Mistico was signed by WWE in 2011, the company and fans thought they had found the next Rey Mysterio. That didn't happen, instead we got endless Botchamania clips. But now, the WWE has found their next Mexican luchadore superstar.
While he's doing well in a tag team with Sin Cara version 2.0, it's clear to everyone that Kalisto is the standout of the tag team. Kalisto's superhuman agility, kick-ass costume and knowledge of the English language should be all he needs to become the Hispanic crossover superstar the company has been craving for years.
While she may have debuted in 2015, Charlotte has sort of been a flop since getting to the main roster due to poor booking choices and the Reid Flair controversy on Raw. 2016 is the year where Charlotte becomes a star on the main roster.
Anyone who watched her in NXT knows the talent is there. Her silky smooth in-ring work and confidence carried her for a 258-day reign as NXT Women's Champion. Although she was over-shadowed as a babyface by the more charismatic Paige, Charlotte as a heel with the help of her father Ric Flair could help her to become the true head of the Diva's division in 2016.
8 Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
Anything but sawft, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady have been a longtime tag team in NXT along with their manager Carmella. Taking an old gimmick (the loud mouths from the Jersey Shore) and giving it a fresh coat of paint, Amore and Cassady have become almost like a next generation New Age Outlaws.
It's well known by this point that tag teams in WWE last a couple of years at the most on the main roster and with a couple of teams bound to break up in 2016, Amore and Cassady can debut on the main roster in 2016 and become the realest guys in the room. Let's just hope we don't get another flop like The Ascension.
7 Big E
If someone where to tell WWE fans that the New Day would be the most entertaining part of Monday Night Raw in 2014, you would call him/her a lunatic. However, one heel turn later and the New Day, ahem, rocks!
While the entire group is great, to me it seems that Big E is destined to be the breakout star of the trio. Possessing charisma in spades, tremendous strength and agility for a man his size and the power to energize a crowd like no one else, Big E is the next midcard babyface star waiting to happen and if the New Day disbands in 2016, the year becomes Big E's to take.
Please, pretty please WWE, listen to us about Cesaro. I know he isn't a great talker but god damnit have you seen this man perform in the ring? He regularly pulls off techniques that most wrestling fans didn't even think were possible yet the Swiss Superman performs them effortlessly.
He speaks five languages, is stronger than men who outweigh him by dozens of pounds, is arguably the most talented in-ring performer in the company and has a sizeable fanbase. He has to have an amazing 2016, right? Right?
5 Sami Zayn
Oh yes, it's entirely possible that I'm biased due to the fact that he is from Montreal as I am, but I think Sami Zayn is going to have a fantastic 2016.
It's not often that you have a wrestler stay a babyface or heel for his entire career, but I truly believe that Sami Zayn has potential to be this generation's Ricky Steamboat or Rey Mysterio. A high flying technician and exceptionally likeable, Zayn's gutsy performance versus John Cena in his hometown was a great start but Zayn is capable of so much more in 2016.
4 Roman Reigns
While 2015 will be remembered as the year where Roman Reigns went from public enemy number one to two time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 2016 can be the year where Roman Reigns truly becomes the future of the WWE.
As we are in the middle of witnessing right now, Reigns has dialed down the ridiculous promos and excessive smiling and instead became more of the destroyer that people liked in the Shield. He still has a long way to go, but if Reigns continues on this path of turning in solid performances and stays true to his silent but deadly character, Reigns could turn back public perception and be embraced by the masses.
3 Kevin Owens
Is there any other superstar in the WWE who screams heel like Kevin Owens? In an age where every "heel" wants to be cool and/or funny like the New Day or Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens says hell no to that and decides instead on being a disrespectful bully who does what he wants, rules be damned. In this current era of wrestling, this is a breath of welcome fresh air.
Already coming off a great 2015 where Owens won the Intercontinental Championship, destroyed his best friend Sami Zayn AND beat John Cena clean in his main roster debut, Owens is set to be THE heel to watch out for in 2016.
2 Sasha Banks
You hear the chants: "We want Sasha!!!" week after week on Raw. In 2016, the WWE Universe will finally get what they've been clamouring for.
The former longtime NXT Women's Champion Banks has won the hearts and minds of the NXT fans with her charisma, cocky attitude and fantastic in-ring work. Her match against Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was a contender for Match of the Year by anyone's standards and it's only a matter of time before the Diva's Division feels the wrath of "The Boss".
While 2015 was focused on getting Charlotte and Becky Lynch over, expect 2016 to be the year of Sasha Banks.
1 Finn Balor
2015 saw the rise of Conor McGregor in the UFC due to his carrying of a nation on his back and the way he backs up all the seemingly ludicrous statements he makes. Us wrestling fans though also have an Irishman waiting in the wings to take over...
While it seems that Roman Reigns has to try hard to appear as a convincing badass, Finn Balor does it effortlessly. Everything from his killer attire, speaking ability, unparalleled entrances and graceful in-ring work all point to mega-star. A main roster call-up is bound to happen at any second and considering Triple H's love for Balor, it's practically a guarantee that Finn Balor is going to take the WWE Universe by storm in 2016.
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