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Welcome to the fifth annual Rif Rasslin Awards.
This is a blog that I look forward to writing as we look back on the best and worst of 2016. It’s hard work, but the rewards do pay off. You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues (Ringo Starr represent, yo). The fact that this is the fifth edition of the Rif Rasslin Awards demonstrates the growth I’ve made as a writer and the progress we’ve all made with my site.
This is all because of you guys. Thank you, guys.
This edition of the Rif Rasslin Awards will a slight change. This year there won’t be an NXT Match of the Year award. I want to combine both WWE and NXT into one, rather than separate them.
Other than that, everything else remains the same.
Superstar of the Year: AJ Styles (Runner up: Shinsuke Nakamura)
Previous winners – 2012: CM Punk/ 2013: Daniel Bryan/ 2014: Dolph Ziggler/ 2015: John Cena
Who would have ever thought that AJ Styles would ever compete in WWE? From his debut in the Royal Rumble to his first title win against Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles has been on fire this year. He refers to himself as “the face that runs the place”, now he can refer to himself as Superstar of the Year.
Not bad for a “rookie”, right?
He’s had many great matches already with the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, and The Miz. That’s five different guys with very different in-ring styles and AJ has mixed well with them all. His matches are consistently at the top in terms of matches on PPV, Raw, and Smackdown. The fact that he has become the WWE Champion impresses me. I didn’t expect that to happen so soon since he isn’t a Vince McMahon creation. I enjoy his promos, he enjoys being a heel, it’s a role that he has shown a lot of confidence in portraying. I wish his allegiance with Gallows and Anderson lasted longer. Also, at the age of 39, I wish he was in WWE 10 years ago. He was in better position with TNA at the time with a light work schedule which allowed him to spend time with his young family. I look forward to seeing what else he can do next year and the years that follow.
When Shinsuke Nakamura made his debut at Takeover: Dallas, you knew he was something special. The guy just beams charisma and confidence. He has helped carry the NXT brand along with Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Sami Zayn. It’s a question of when, not if, he’ll get the call-up to the main roster.
Female of the Year: Charlotte Flair (Runner up: Asuka)
Previous winners – 2012: Eve Torres/ 2013: AJ Lee/ 2014: AJ Lee/ 2015: Sasha Banks
This was a difficult category to choose a winner as they are six legit contenders to choose from. Those six being Charlotte, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya. When it really boils down to it, Charlotte and Asuka were the two standouts. They both prove how good women’s wrestling can be if given a fair chance.
Charlotte has cemented herself as the cornerstone and there’s no doubt about that. She’s so talented at what she does, and she’s a natural heel. She definitely had the most high profile matches all year long, she’s undefeated in PPV singles matches and also had by far the most opportunities on the microphone. The quality of those matches were of a high standard. Her promos improved a lot along the way as well. She’s more than comfortable on the mic. It was a strong year for Charlotte and I don’t see her push going away anytime soon.
If I was basing this award on in-ring ability alone then Asuka would be the runaway winner. You often read about me singing her praises all the time and rightfully so. The NXT booking really helps her. When you are booked like an unbeatable wrestler there’s a lot of aura about you. It makes people take notice. The matches are great, though. The two she had with Bayley were fantastic and the one against Nia Jax put her in a vulnerable position that we’ve never seen her in before. Hell, she even had a good match against Eva Marie! Perhaps I might need to reevaluate the winner of the award, huh?
What puts Charlotte above Asuka is promo ability. She has been doing some promos this year but they’ve been kept basic due to her limited English. That’s the danger when English isn’t your native tongue.
Tag Team of the Year: The Revival (Runners up: The New Day)
Previous winners – 2012: Team Hell No/ 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns/ 2014: The Usos/ 2015: The New Day
I’ve gone back and forth with my pick here, constantly changing it, but I’m going to go with The Revival. The Revival took their game to an all new level when they were first paired together in 2015. Feuds with American Alpha, Enzo & Cass, and DIY really put them on the map. It’s actually those two matches against DIY which really made me stand up and take notice of them, in particular, the match at Toronto which is widely considered a match of the year contender. The Revival are a throwback to an old-school tag team. The most underappreciated aspect of the team is their in-ring psychology. They’ve won many matches by focusing on their opponent’s ‘injured’ body parts rather than working up towards their finishing move. They refer to themselves as “top guys”, they might just have a point there.
The New Day made history by becoming the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in history. That and releasing an official “Bootyo’s” cereal. I’ve enjoyed The New Day a lot even though some of the booking has been poor. Remember “Old Day”? Horrible. You can’t blame them for that. That’s on creative, they can only make do with what they’ve got. Bad stuff out of the way, they are here because of the quality matches they had on a consistent basis, memorable promos and making this gimmick work so well for two years. No idea how long they’ve got left as a team, but they deserved credit for turning what was a poor gimmick into one of the top draws in the company today. It’s a classic example of making the best out of a bad situation.
If I was going to give someone third place it would be American Alpha. These guys are beloved by the fans. I’ve been to NXT shows in the past and the fans just go crazy with the chanting for these guys. They have all the tools to make it as one of the greatest tag teams in the business. Right up there with the likes of The Legion of Doom, Dudley Boys, Hart Foundation and Rock N’ Roll Express. Give them a long run, WWE.
Feud of the Year: Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz (Runner up: John Cena vs. AJ Styles)
Previous winners – 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan/ 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/ 2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority/ 2015: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Both of these feuds were quality. I think what gives Miz & Ziggler the edge is that these are two guys that have feuded many times before in the past yet they’ve made it feel fresh and new. They had several matches with each other for the Intercontinental Championship, with their best match taking place at No Mercy where Dolph Ziggler put his career on the line. Some people thought he might lose, but he pulled through. I thought the story should have ended there. Miz ended up winning it back, they had another good match at TLC. I had no problem with the feud continuing because it was beneficial for both guys. Ziggler showed that babyface fire that we all love him for and Miz was now being portrayed as a more serious guy.
Styles vs. Cena started with their first ever in-ring showdown on the May 30 edition of Raw. It was the show where Styles turned heel by attacking Cena with help from his buddies Gallows & Anderson. That led to an awesome match at the Money in the Bank event in June. That was followed up with a six-man tag match in July with Cena pinning Styles and then they had a classic, all-time great match at SummerSlam. Styles won both of their singles matches. The rivalry is going to continue in 2017 with both guys set to face off at the Royal Rumble, which is fine me because it was great in 2016. I hope it’s even better next year.
Match of the Year: Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NXT Takeover: Dallas (Runner up: The Revival vs. DIY – NXT Takeover: Toronto)
Previous winners – 2012: Undertaker vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 28/ 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk – SummerSlam/ 2014: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield – Elimination Chamber/ 2015: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley – NXT Takeover: Brooklyn
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn is my pick for match of the year. Outstanding isn’t the word. You’ve got two guys who don’t have a history between each other and they told an incredible story in the ring. A standout match in the history of NXT, WWE and the entire sport of professional wrestling! Being there live was mental. I almost lost my voice during this match because I lost myself in all the chants that were going one. There was so much hype going into this match and it lived up to it. In fact, it smashed the hype! Mark my words, Shinsuke Nakamura will be on the main roster before the year is out. I expect him to be there come the summer. He oozed charisma from walking the moment he walked down the ramp all the way to every move he executed. He is a massive deal! Having Shinsuke win made sense as it puts him over in a huge way and Zayn was already on the main roster, so this is would be his farewell match in NXT. Will we see a re-match? Of course. They’ll be foolish not to! I urge you all to watch this match. Match of the year, no doubt!
Pay Per View of the Year: Money In The Bank (Runner up: Battleground)
Previous winners – 2012: Extreme Rules/ 2013: SummerSlam/ 2014: WrestleMania 30/ 2015: WrestleMania 31
I enjoyed Money in the Bank. It was carried by three matches that were given over 20 minutes including Styles vs. Cena, Dean Ambrose winning Money in the Bank and also Seth Rollins beating Roman Reigns for the WWE Title. The night ended with Ambrose cashing in the MITB briefcase on Rollins to leave with the gold, which meant that all three Shield guys held the WWE Title in the same night. Most of the undercard matches were pretty good too.
Battleground was the final B-level pay per view before the roster split was reintroduced and what a great show. It exceeded my expectations, it just didn’t have anything memorable like what MITB did.
Comeback of the Year: Shane McMahon (Runner up: Maryse)
Previous winners – 2013: Goldust/ 2014: Hulk Hogan/ 2015: The Dudley Boys
When Shane O’Mac returned in February, it was a huge surprise. When he left WWE in 2009 he kept out of the spotlight. From 2009 to 2016, he wasn’t mentioned on TV and then his music hit just as his sister Stephanie was about to deliver a speech. The crowd in Detroit went berserk. He talked about why he wanted to return because of how terrible WWE is and how bad Raw is with Stephanie and Triple H in charge (at least he was still watching the product during his time away, right?). This lead to a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania with the stipulation that if Shane won he’ll get to control Monday Night Raw. He lost but still ended up running Raw because logic.
Maryse returned to the WWE on the Raw after WrestleMania during the Intercontinental Title match between The Miz (her husband) and Zack Ryder. Like Shane, it was a return that I didn’t expect to happen. I always thought that when Maryse stepped away from wrestling that would be it. I do miss seeing her compete in the ring because she’s immensely talented. Perhaps being a manager is more appealing because you don’t need to take bumps every night. Being Maryse back to television has been a great move because allowed Miz to regain his focus and added more depth to his character. They play off each other well too. Her presence has helped The Miz out a lot.
Goldberg’s return was something that came out of nowhere. He was involved in the promotion of the WWE 2K17 video game, so the wheels were set in motion for a return. I never expected it to happen since he was very critical of WWE since he left in 2004.
TV Show of the Year: NXT (Runner up: Smackdown)
Previous winners – 2012: Raw/ 2013: NXT/ 2014: NXT/ 2015: NXT
Once again NXT has won my pick for show of the year. It’s no surprise because everything they do just works. It’s a great alternative from the main shows as they don’t always showcase the same names every week which allow others to get some TV time. It’s been a challenging time for NXT since the reintroduction of the roster split which has seen guys like Finn Balor, Bayley, and American Alpha get promoted to the main roster. They’ve basically had to start from scratch and create new stars to fill the gaps. But, through it all, NXT still remains a must-see show. It’s a brand that continues to grow, and I for one look forward to its continued growth in 2017.
With the addition of the roster split, Smackdown began airing live during the summer months and it’s one of the best decisions that WWE management have made this year. Smackdown now feels like a must-see show, it’s also a show where they give time to allow storylines to play out and wrestlers have more freedom in their promos. Credit needs to be given to Ryan Ward, the head writer for the brand and former head writer for NXT. Could he do what Paul Heyman did for Smackdown back in 2002-2003 and beat Raw in the ratings? Who knows? It’s going to be interesting to see more of the benefits of the roster split as we progress through 2017.
Worst feud of the Year: Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (Runner up: Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil)
Previous winners – 2012: Kane vs. John Cena & Zack Ryder/ 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H & Randy Orton/ 2014: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella/ 2015: Dolph Ziggler & Lana vs. Rusev & Summer Rae
After winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania, Baron Corbin asserted his dominance over Dolph Ziggler the next night on Raw, taking him out with an End of Days on the floor. One would think their subsequent storyline would have been exhilarating from that point forward, but all they ever did was trade wins in mediocre matches. Corbin could have really benefited from beating a former two-time world champion in his first singles match on a WWE pay-per-view at Payback, but he lost to Ziggler in decisive fashion and it was all downhill from there. Just like the Energiser Bunny, it went on and on and on for months! Awful feud.
I always felt that Darren Young and Titus O’Neil were better as allies than rivals, and that was proved to be true after their first feud in 2014 flopped. This feud was no better. The final nail in the coffin came on the post-SummerSlam edition of Raw where Titus botched his lines in a promo. The feud was canned and both guys went their separate ways.
Other contenders for this “award” goes to Charlotte vs. Natalya. It’s easy to get excited about this feud when you look back at their classic encounter on NXT a few years ago. This feud promised a lot, but it was far from what it could and should have been. There matches at Payback and Extreme Rules were decent enough but were overshadowed by terrible finishes (Bret Hart looked as if he couldn’t be arsed about Natty getting screwed over by a ref. Some Uncle he is, huh?) It also didn’t help that Natalya was not a compelling challenger for Charlotte, later leading to her turning heel at the start of the summer. A role that she’s more suited in.
Finally, I can’t forget to mention The New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson. It had so much promise but it took a turn for the worst when The Club resorted to a mixture of dressing up as doctors and terrible comedy. ‘Member The Old Day? Bloody hell, man!
Worst match of the Year: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose – WrestleMania 32 (Runner up: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg – Survivor Series)
Previous winners – 2012: John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis – Over The Edge/ 2013: 10 Diva Tag Match – Survivor Series/ 2014: Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio – Elimination Chamber/ 2015: Eva Marie vs. Billie Kay – NXT TV
When this match was announced, I was excited about it. I’m sure that a lot of people thought the same way. It was going to be interesting to see Ambrose go up against an elite performer like Brock Lesnar, and a chance for him to be the breakout star of 2016. Instead, what we got was a glorified Brock Lesnar squash match. Ridiculous. The crowd was hyped up from the start, but slowly lost interested after they realised where this was going after Brock delivered one German suplex after another. Ambrose’s selling was silly, something you’d expect from a Looney Toons cartoon. Took away from the seriousness of the brawl.
I’ve don’t have a problem with Lesnar winning, but did they really need to make it so one sided? I guess Vince’s logic (yeah, “logic”) is that a guy like Ambrose would be destroyed in a real fight against someone with Lesnar’s look and MMA background. They could have easily booked it where Ambrose comes out looking stronger. At least the defeat didn’t harm Ambrose’s reputation as he went on to become WWE champion two months later at MITB. A strong performance here would have helped him look like a more credible champion.
One minute and twenty-six seconds.
That’s how long it took Goldberg to defeat Brock Lesnar. This was a heavily hyped up main event for one of the classic four pay per views. I don’t get the logic behind it. It just makes everything that Brock has done since his return seem like a waste. Was Brock injured? Is that the reason why they had to cut time? I don’t know. I would’ve loved to have seen Brock’s face when he was told he’d be losing to Goldberg in such quick fashion.
Worst Pay Per View of the Year: Fastlane (Runner up – No Mercy)
Previous winners – 2012: Hell in a Cell/ 2013: Battleground/ 2014: Royal Rumble/ 2015: Royal Rumble
All in all, I thought Fastlane was a serviceable pay per view. Aside from AJ Styles v Jericho, the Intercontinental Championship match between Kevin Owens & Dolph Ziggler and the triple threat main event (Reigns v Brock v Ambrose). Some of the booking decisions left me scratching my head, though. It was just uneventful in terms of storyline. Fastlane is in a tough spot since it’s between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. Major angles don’t take place there, so it is often times a forgettable show. Perhaps it’s best to scrap the February and just focus on building up to WrestleMania.
No Mercy also had some real head scratchers in terms of booking. Putting the World Title match on first? I get why they wanted to do that, due to the Presidential Debate, but was it really necessary? I think WWE should have followed tradition and kept this match as the main event, instead of reacting what else is there. People that like wrestling watched this show live or they can watch it on demand without caring what else was on. I just think it’s a bad idea to do this because then everything else that happens on the card has a tough act to follow.
People also talk about how bad WrestleMania was. I gave it a 6.5 out of 10 rating. It was my first WrestleMania that I attended so I guess you could say I’m being too kind. Re-watching the show it’s understandable why people thought that way about it. The biggest problems the show had was that it was too long and not enough exciting things happened. When the main event features a guy like Roman Reigns, who is booed by 90% of the 100,000 people there and you book him like a face in what is supposed to be his crowning moment then maybe you should question what you are doing.
Best Talker of the Year: Chris Jericho (Runner up: Kevin Owens)
Previous winners – 2012: CM Punk/ 2013: Paul Heyman/ 2014: Paul Heyman/ 2015: Kevin Owens
I honestly reckon that Chris Jericho is having the best years on the mic in his entire career. Jericho deserves some praise for reviving his career and performing at a high level even at 46 years of age. There are others too, but he’s the one I wanted to acknowledge. It’s also a testament to Jericho’s creativity that he’s able to come up with these catchphrases at this stage in his career. From “drink it in, man” to “IT” and “The List”. It is hilarious to me. You just know what’s going to happen when someone annoys him or rubs him up the wrong way. It’s silly and stupid, but that’s pro-wrestling!
Kevin Owens is right up there with his “best friend” Chris Jericho. Like Jericho, Owens is one hilarious dude. He’s one of the most entertaining talkers because it’s a mix of seriousness and comedy. I still remember his verbal sparring with Shane & Stephanie on Draft Night because he wasn’t the first guy picked in the draft.
I’m including Paul Heyman on the list because whenever he appears you listen. He’s still the best at hyping up matches and Brock’s opponents. I just wish he had a more larger role in the company other than Brock’s advocate.
The ‘Next Big Thing’: Big Cass (Runner up: Samoa Joe)
Previous winners – 2012: Wade Barrett/ 2013: Roman Reigns/ 2014: Bray Wyatt/ 2015: Bayley
When Enzo Amore got injured at the start of the year it allowed WWE to experiment with Big Cass as a singles competitor. Vince is reportedly a huge fan of Big Cass, and it isn’t hard to see why. They could very well break up Enzo and Cass in the latter part of 2017. I hope that isn’t the case because the duo still has a long shelve life left in them and Cass could do with some more seasoning in the ring. The way he gets booked backs up my point because he rarely loses and when he does it’s always by some form of cheap fashion. That and he was in the fatal four way for the Universal title when Finn Balor had to vacate it due to injury. If Cass continues to improve and stays over with the crowd, he could very well be the next big star in the WWE.
The first ever two-time NXT champion, Samoa Joe has dominated NXT’s main event picture for virtually the entire time of his run there. It’s time for him to move on to the main roster, and what better time to do it then at the Royal Rumble. With incredibly impressive agility and a catalog of phenomenal matches under his belt, Samoa Joe is in prime position to become an instant hit when he makes his main roster debut.
It’s evident that Braun Strowman is going to make huge waves in 2017, as I write this he is actually the favorite to win the Royal Rumble. He has yet to have a match that I would call entertaining, but that big push is coming because Vince McMahon loves giants.
I know I’ve always been critical of the guy but Baron Corbin has a very bright future. He works well with smaller guys like Kalisto because they can sell his power moves the right way. Tye Dillinger has a cult following, and as for Bobby Roode, he’s just simply GLORIOUS!!!
Face of the Year: Dean Ambrose (Runner up: The New Day)
Previous winners – 2012: John Cena/ 2013: Daniel Bryan/ 2014: Dolph Ziggler/ 2015: John Cena
Dean Ambrose comes across as someone who is a genuinely likable guy that has a strong following from the fans. His career defining moment came when he won and cashed in Money In The Bank on the same night to become the new WWE champion. He’s not a traditional babyface that sucks up to the crowd, comes out with cool catchphrases or shifts merchandise. He’s a hard worker with a good following and one of the most durable guys of the year.
The New Day pander to the crowd the most and they do a great job of it. Like I mentioned before, their popularity has seen them get Bootyo’s released as an actual cereal (still trying to find them in my local branch of Tesco) and the New Day Socks has been one of the year’s biggest merchandise sellers. Out of the three, I would say that Big E is the standout. His charisma is off the charts and he truly is a funny guy. If The New Day were to split next year (which I think they might), I can see Big E having a solid babyface push.
Heel of the Year: AJ Styles (Runner up: The Miz)
Previous winners – 2012: Daniel Bryan/ 2013: Paul Heyman/ 2014: Stephanie McMahon/ 2015: Seth Rollins
One of the hardest things to be in wrestling today is being a true heel that is hated by the fans. Miz and Charlotte truly get booed by the fans whiles the likes of AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho get cheers because they are superbly talented in the ring (as are Miz & Charlotte) and tend to crack jokes.
With that being said, I’m going with AJ Styles and Miz. Styles had the most significant turn of the year by after he BEAT UP JOHN CENA~! He relishes the heel role. He’s confident, he likes to brag about his abilities, he rips on the crowd for cheering him and he hit a low blow right before hitting his finisher when he won the WWE Title. That’s a true heel to me. I don’t think Styles will still be a heel by this point next year, but I hope he’s still in a main event position.
Miz is a pure heel in the respect that he doesn’t suck up to the crowd and the adulation of the crowd. There needs to be more characters like that.
Best Newcomer: AJ Styles (Runner up: Shinsuke Nakamura)
Previous winners – 2014: Rusev & Lana/ 2015: Samoa Joe
No one else comes close to these guys. I think I’ve said everything that needed to be said at the start in regard to these two. I just think it’s cool that WWE is rethinking it hiring policy and more open to hiring guys like Nakamura, Styles, Bobby Roode and The Club. Maybe this could pave the way for guys like Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks to join, although The Young Bucks have turned down WWE a few times already, as has Will O’Spreay and Kota Ibushi.
Most improved Superstar of the Year: The Miz (Runner up: Zack Ryder)
Previous winners – New for 2016
If this year has taught me anything it’s that good things come to those who wait. When you look back a few years ago to the position these guys were in it was pretty bleak. Miz was a former WWE Champion who had main-evented WrestleMania was lost in the mid-card shuffle after a failed run as a face, and Zack Ryder was constantly buried after he went out of his way to put himself over thanks to his Long Island Ice Z YouTube series. Through it all, you never heard either guy moan or bitch or cry or complain about the situation. They just got on with their job.
Miz has been damn entertaining. I think he deserves this award more than anybody else. I loved his promo on Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. You could see the fire in his eyes. You could say that was his CM Punk “Pipebomb”/ Austin 3:16 moment. Bringing his wife Maryse back to television was a great move because she cheated a lot to help him win matches. They play off each other so well too. He seems more motivated than ever before. I’d even go as far as saying that he will win either the WWE or Universal title in 2017.
Zack Ryder when from being the third biggest merchandise seller (behind John Cena & CM Punk) in 2011, to getting kicked in the bollocks off Eve Torres at WrestleMania 28. He has always been a guy that’s willing to do anything for the business. He even got a guy like Mojo Rawley over! He has a real love for what he does. Winning the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania was incredible, even though it lasted for one day it put him back in public eye and given him more TV time. I hope the knee injury doesn’t derail the good thing he had going. There’s still a lot of untapped potential to come from Ryder.
Most improved female of the Year: Alexa Bliss (Runner up: Nia Jax)
Previous winners – New for 2016
If you’ve read my Pay Per View Predictions/ Random Thoughts blogs, you will know how highly I rate both Bliss and Jax. You will also recall me predicting that one of these women will be my pick for the most improved female of 2016. It was always a case of who will get the nod, and that goes to Alexa Bliss.
What can I say about Alexa Bliss? She is someone who has come a long way since her debut back in 2013 as a ring announcer for NXT programming. She’s someone who has that All-American girl next door look, much like Torrie Wilson, and she’s got the in-ring talent to back it up. Her promo skills continue to prove. The Sparkle Splash is a thing of beauty to witness live, believe me. Not a fan of the whole Harley Quinn inspired character she’s adopted but she’s made it work, I guess. The beauty about Bliss is that she’s only 25 years of age and have plenty more years left in her. I look forward to her progress in 2017 and beyond.
Nia Jax reminds me so much of a young Yokozuna in the way that she’s able to move about with such agility. Again, like Yoko, she’s surprisingly talented for a girl of her size. What stopped her from winning this category is the difference between the way she was booked in NXT compared to that on Raw. She even went through a period where she wasn’t even on television at one point, and her feud with Alicia Fox was forgettable and did nothing for both girls. Her recent interaction with Sasha Banks interests me. Could be the start of something special if booked right.
Women’s wrestling in 2016 has been of a huge standard. It seems that everyone has stepped up their game since the formation of the women’s revolution. They’ve even finally dropped the “Divas” name and the ugly looking butterfly belt. Who would have thought that a women’s match would steal the show at WrestleMania? So many women have improved this year. Nikki Bella recovered from a serious neck injury and looks to be better than ever, Natalya has a new-found sense of purpose as a heel, Naomi clearly enjoys her role as a high energy babyface, and Becky Lynch is perfect as the tough, fiery babyface.
I haven’t even begun to talk about the women in NXT. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce have instant chemistry together, Liv Morgan is constantly improving (she’s been working some Raw live events recently so don’t be surprised to see her get called up soon), Daria Berenato has a great look to her, Nikki Glencross is someone I’ve admired since her ICW days, and Ember Moon has all the qualities to become a top-level star.
The future of women’s wrestling is in safe hands.
Most Memorable Moment: AJ Styles debuts at the Royal Rumble (Runner up: Zack Ryder wins the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania)
Previous winners – 2012: Brock Lesnar Returns/ 2013: Bruno Sammartino inducted into Hall of Fame/ 2014: Undertaker loses at WrestleMania 30/ 2015: Seth Rollins cashes in at WrestleMania
Another awards for AJ Styles. it was something I never thought I would see. Roman Reigns was alone in the ring, this new song hit, the word “Phenomenal” appeared on the screen and the crowd went mental when they saw him. It was a special moment.
One of the highlights about watching WrestleMania live was the crowd reaction when Zack Ryder won the Intercontinental Title. We all looked at each other with this WTF reaction on our faces. You could see the emotion on his face. It was genuine. In a sport that’s often looked down upon for being “fake”, it’s moments like that which make it real. Although his title reign only lasted for a day, you can’t take his WrestleMania moment away from him.
The biggest annoyance of 2016: Playing Hot Potato with the Women’s title. (Runner up: James Ellsworth picks up three straight victories over AJ Styles)
Previous winners – 2013: Plugging the WWE App/ 2014: CM Punk chants/ 2015: Who started the Divas Revolution
While I liked the Charlotte and Sasha Banks feud, I didn’t like the number of title changes that happened over five months. Charlotte is now a four-time WWE Women’s Champion, it doesn’t sound that impressive when you think that those four title reigns happened in one year. When you pass the title around as often as they did it hurts the prestige of the championship. I understand why Sasha dropped the title back to Charlotte at SummerSlam because of an injury, but they should have just kept the title on Charlotte after that. We’ve seen this happen way too often in WWE so it’s not as if they’re learning from past mistakes or anything.
Let me just say that I think it’s great James Ellsworth has a job in WWE. It gives hope to guys struggling it out on the indies that one day they too can follow in the footsteps of the chinless wonder. What I don’t like is how involved in the main event scene he has been. He had three straight victories over AJ Styles, the WWE Champion! It’s been a common trend in WWE for a few years now for champions to lose non-title matches and it’s one that I completely disagree with. While I think it’s great that Ellsworth has a job in WWE, I just think there are other ways of getting him over at the expense of the WWE Champion.
Biggest off screen news: Roman Reigns fails Wellness Test (Runner up: Chyna passes away)
Previous winners – 2013: Darren Young comes out/ 2014: Ultimate Warrior passes away/ 2015: Hulk Hogan’s racist comments
What a shocker! When I first heard about Reigns’ suspension I initially thought it was one of those joke articles from Kayfabe News. It sent shockwaves across the entire wrestling landscape. The company must have been furious with him. They did everything to get him over, he main evented WrestleMania, and now this has happened. After the suspension was over he briefly returned to the main event picture before locking into a rivalry with Rusev. He has since re-entered the Universal Title picture against Kevin Owens, with a title match set to take place at the Royal Rumble.
If this had happened to anyone else do you think they would get their main event push back? I doubt it.
Chyna’s death was a long time coming, but it was still a very sad occasion. She broke many barriers down for many women and is often considered a trailblazer. There was even a time where she was seriously considered for a World Title run, that in itself sums up the level of belief management had in her. I always remembered when I was in Dallas and that she was supposed to turn up to Wrestlecon but didn’t appear. One of the organizers mentioned that she was heavily slurring her words when they spoke on the phone when they were questioning her whereabouts. It was clear that her problems were getting the better of her. I just wished she took on the advice she received from her many stints in rehab. Will she be in the Hall of Fame? She absolutely deserves the honor, of course, it’s just sad that they had to wait until she was dead before considering her induction.
Poorly used Superstar of the Year: Sami Zayn (Runner up: Apollo Crews)
Previous winners – 2012: Zack Ryder/ 2013: Wade Barrett/ 2014: Cesaro/ 2015: Dolph Ziggler
There are so many guys I could pick here but I’m going with Zayn. Remember when he had so much momentum after he beat Kevin Owens at Battleground. What did they do with him next? Nothing. There was even a period when he wasn’t even on television. I like what they’re doing with him against Braun Strowman. I just wish they capitalized that said momentum I mentioned. Push him better next year.
I was surprised when Apollo Crews got called up after WrestleMania. He’s been such a non-factor on Smackdown despite being talented in the ring. I think the problem they have with him is that he’s too often portrayed as a happy go lucky babyface. They need to portray him more like a tough guy. They probably should have left him in NXT if they weren’t going to use him.
Speaking about talents who should have stayed in NXT, The Vaudevillians, The Ascension and Tyler Breeze are all poorly used talents. The Vaudevillians gimmick can still work with a few tweaks here and there, The Ascension are criminally underrated, and Tyler Breeze went from being the next Shawn Michaels to one-half of the Fashion Police.
The Club are lost with AJ Styles. They need to be reunited and fast. Perhaps a run in during the Cena title match at the Royal Rumble?
Another guy who has been wasted for a number of years now is Jack Swagger. He was hardly being used on Raw so they drafted him over to Smackdown and guess what? He’s hardly being used on that show either. He feuded with Baron Corbin and then disappeared. I won’t be surprised if he gets released next year. It’s a shame because Jack Swagger is a superb wrestler.
Poorly used female of the Year: Summer Rae (Runner up: Alicia Fox)
Previous winners – 2012: Natalya/ 2013: Layla/ 2014: Natalya/ 2015: Natalya
Summer Rae has shown over the years that she is a versatile girl. From being Fandango’s dance partner to Rusev’s American ambassador to Tyler Breeze’s lover, she has played many different characters in her time in WWE. I guess that’s the problem right there because creative just don’t know what to do with her. She’s not great in the ring, yet she’s not awful either. She has more talent than what people give her credit for.
Alicia Fox is someone else who has the same problems as Summer. The only difference is that management doesn’t know whether she’s heel or face and she’s constantly changing between the two roles. As for in-ring ability, Alicia is a solid performer. They need to make her a solid heel or face and stick with it.
I still think there’s more to come from Dana Brooke. Never used to be a fan of hers, but she’s starting to grow on me. She plays her role as Charlotte’s sidekick well, but she also loses a lot of matches in order to make her opponents look strong for Charlotte. I still think Dana has a bigger role to play.
Paige has had a fall from grace since her 2014 debut. The injuries and suspensions don’t help things. I just think the big problem with Paige is a lack of motivation. She achieved so much, so soon at such a young age. Her fiancée Alberto Del Rio leaving is bound to have an effect on her. I won’t be surprised to see her go in 2017, I just hope that won’t be the case.
Announcer of the Year: Corey Graves (Runner up: Mauro Ranallo)
Previous winners – 2012: JBL/ 2013: William Regal/ 2014: William Regal/ 2015: Corey Graves
Tough choice between Graves and Mauro Ranallo. I think the fact that Graves is working on Raw, NXT and 205 Live shows how much WWE loves his work. He gets the nod here. Ranallo actually calls moves as a play by play guy, which is refreshing. I enjoy his work a lot. Also, a shoutout to Daniel Bryan, who did an awesome job working on the Cruiserweight Classic with Ranallo although it was just a 10-week show without any major storylines. Could be a winner next year maybe?
Overall Year Rating (out of 10):6.5
Previous ratings – 2012: 7/ 2013: 7/ 2014: 5.5/ 2015: 6
I think WWE is loaded with unique talents that can put on incredible shows on a consistent basis. The problems lie with the writing. It’s been average for a few years now.
Like I say, the roster is talented enough that every PPV, television show and takeover should be great on a consistent basis. If the writing isn’t there, and they are booking in nonsensical storylines, the same matches get repeated every month and lame finishes then it’s difficult for fans to get excited over it.
They need to move away from champions losing non-title matches every week, using a roll up as a finish and try to change starting Raw or Smackdown with matches instead of a long drawn out promo.
I would like to see Raw be booked more like Smackdown. It’s easier said than done because Raw is a three-hour show. Try focusing more on the in-ring action, cut down on the bad comedy, and make your champions look stronger.
I do feel that WWE is on the verge of something big. It’s not going to be as big as it was during the Hulkamania era or the Attitude era. They just need better stories and make Raw a must see show again. Also, cut back on the pay per views. Twelve is enough. Give Raw and Smackdown four pay per views each and both rosters can come together for the big 4 shows (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series).
I have belief that the roster can deliver something special in 2017 and beyond.
Thanks for reading, guys. More importantly, thank you all for the support this year. It truly is humbling. Join me tomorrow for my review of the year blog (it’s non-wrestling related).