It’s been a crazy year in professional wrestling. If you had told me at this time last year that the NXT champion would be Shinsuke Nakamura and that AJ Styles would be competing for the WWE World Championship, I would have thought you were either crazy or that Vince McMahon had died. Neither seems like the prototypical WWE Superstar, but both have proven that their styles can shine in the WWE.
It’s a sign of the WWE’s New Era which has brought us a brand split, some new titles, and has moved on from some superstars past. Some of the guys and girls we’re used to seeing on TV every week have been pushed aside for new talent. Others, in some ways, have refused to give up their spot and have taken on a new life with the massive changes within WWE.
For every Baron Corbin, whose stock has risen this year, there’s a Sheamus who has lost his main event status. The latter held the WWE World Heavyweight championship for a month in 2015, but is as far out of the title picture in 2016 as you can be.
Here’s a look at eight WWE superstars who have gotten better this year and eight who have gotten worse.
16 Worse - The Club
Remember when Gallows and Anderson were a pair of ass-kickers in NJPW, holding the IWGP tag titles three times during their run? That was 2015 and this is 2016 where the Club is making genitalia and fart jokes on RAW and not looking nearly as strong as they didn’t when they came into the WWE. I thought the pair would come in a possibly challenge for the WWE Tag Team belts and they have gotten a chance to wrestle for them, but did anyone think they were actually going to win? These guys should not be a comedy act. The whole reason they were signed by WWE was because of what they showed in Japan and they were the furthest thing from a couple of funny guys.
15 Better - Rusev
Now, 2015 was a great and terrible year for Rusev the wrestler. He was killing it for a while, on an undefeated streak and made his first WrestleMania appearance driving a tank as the United States champ. He proceeded to lose to John Cena and from there his year went down the toilet. He went into a terrible storyline with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae which was just an awkward mess. Rusev should be out there as a monster heel, not as a guy who is trying to make out with a woman who isn’t his wife. The whole thing lessened the character’s strength after WWE gave him an undefeated streak and built him up as dominant.
14 Worse - Bray Wyatt
What is this guy’s role in the company at this point? He seems to get a good pop when he comes out and everyone likes his entrance, but is Bray Wyatt a main event player in the WWE? Looking at how this guy has been booked, it’s pretty clear that there aren’t any plans for Wyatt to be at the top of the card. Can anyone take him seriously considering his record in big matches is dismal? This year alone, Wyatt has just one win in four PPV matches. I never expect him to win when it counts and he isn’t a contender for any WWE title right now.
13 Better - Roman Reigns
12 Worse - Alberto Del Rio
I was really excited when Del Rio made his return to WWE last year and to beat The Face That Runs The Place John Cena in his first match, winning the United States championship. It looked like the WWE had some solid plans for Alberto and that he might be in for big things. But it didn’t take long until that surely wasn’t the case. His pairing with Zeb Colter was awkward for starters and didn’t last very long for them to separate. Del Rio did hold the US title from October 2015 until January 2016, but it was downhill from there. He was a member of the League of Nations which was basically the worst faction since The Corre.
11 Better - Breezango
10 Worse – Cesaro
9 Better - Chris Jericho
This heel run by Jericho has been one of his best and that’s saying something considering that Jericho is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the first Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in WWE history. His artsy arrogance has been fantastic and his work in the ring continues to be good. His program with AJ Styles this year was a little long, but the two put on some great matches. Y2J’s work with Kevin Owens has also been very good. Jericho has been great for guys making their way to the main roster like Styles and recently Enzo and Cass. I seriously can’t remember any of Jericho’s feuds from 2015 but remember almost everything he’s done this year. He’s been that much better although I didn’t think much of his feud with Dean Ambrose.
8 Worse - Sasha Banks
7 Better – The Miz
6 Worse - Brock Lesnar
5 Better - Cody Rhodes
4 Worse – Dean Ambrose
3 Better – AJ Styles
2 Worse – Paige
1 Better – Kevin Owens
KO has been on a pretty solid run since he debuted on the main roster last year. While he had a couple of runs with the Intercontinental title and a major win in his debut match with John Cena, I don’t know that anyone would have thought that Owens would be on the top of the RAW roster in 2016. He won the WWE Universal championship after Finn Balor had to relinquish the belt and at this point, nobody can dispute his place on the roster. Of course, if it wasn’t due to an injury to Balor, who knows where Owens would be right now, but as he continues to show, he’s a great worker in the ring and can talk people into the building. There's no doubt 2016 has been very good to Kevin Owens and it looks like it will continue for the rest of the year as he is now an undisputed main eventer for WWE.
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