The Year That Was – Top Wrestlers Of 2016: Part I
While most people are quite relieved to get 2016 behind them, the year was infact a great one for pro-wrestling. The so called new-era of wrestling came into its prime when the stalwarts of yesteryears made way for the next generation. Through this series of articles we shall take a look at 10 of the top performers from across the world of pro-wrestling who came into their own last year, from the WWE as well as from across the larger wrestling universe. The performers who are a part of this list have all been chosen because not only did they touch the pinnacle of success, they did so throughout the year.
Before we call out the best of the best, let us look at a few wrestlers who while did not make the Top 10, but nonetheless managed to do quite well for themselves in 2016.
The Miz (and Maryse)
This has definitely been the year of comebacks and who else, but the man who defeated John Cena to retain the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 27 – The Miz, leads this parade. While The Miz did gain some prominence in 2015 with during his program with Damien Mizdow, he was slowly slipping into obscurity once Mizdow left the WWE. However, ever since the return of his significant other and former 2 time WWE Divas Champion, Maryse, his star seems to be on the rise again. The night of her return, Maryse helped The Miz capture the Intercontinental Championship from Zach Ryder on the Raw episode following WM 32. Putting up a brilliant performance alongside Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Kevin Owens in a fatal four way at Extreme Rule, The Miz retained his title going onto a phase which he dubbed the Intercontinental Championship Comeback Tour, and rightfully so.
This was truly a well-deserved comeback for the brash star who along with the returning Maryse, went on to become one of the main-stays of Smackdown Live after the brand split, being part of a riveting feud with Dolph Ziggler, an on-going never-ending war-of-words with SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan and ending the year as IC Champion.
Currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose that only promises to get better, 2017 seems to be a good year for The Miz and Maryse.
The return of the Cruiserweight division was truly a refreshing addition to the WWE’s overall product. This was the second venture of the WWE (after the very successful NXT) that has a stronger focus on in-ring competition as compared to the ‘entertainment’ aspect of their offerings. With the clinical Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) initiating the return of the Cruiserweight division followed by a brand new show – 205 Live, completely dedicated to the division, the cruiserweights have definitely been given quite the platform to showcase their prowess on. And have they delivered! The CWC did give us several Match of the Year contenders including a very emotional and memorable matche between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano and the in-ring classic between Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi.
While the tournament was widely praised and well received by critics and audiences alike, the division kind of lost its lustre over the next few months on an over-crowded RAW show, until they were given 205 Live to themselves. 2017 should prove to be a showcase year for the division, which already has an exciting roster filled with talented performers that is only going to grow.
Jay Lethal is another performer who had a standout 2015 when he won both the Ring of Honor (RoH) Television Championship and the World Championship, becoming the only man in the history of RoH to do so. 2016 saw him become the longest reigning RoH Television Champion and cementing his legacy as a main eventer when he defended his World title against reputed main-eventers like Colt Cabana and Jay Briscoe. He eventually dropped the World title to The Bullet Club’s Adam Cole, ending his reign at 427 days. For an athlete who was once considered a cruiserweight and a mid-carder, Jay Lethal has come a long way. Hopefully we will get to see more of the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest First Generation Wrestler’ in 2017.
The Former Shield (Rollins, Reigns, Ambrose)
All three former members of The Shield are huge stars on their own. As expected, 2016 was a good year for all the three ‘Hounds of Justice’.
Seth Rollins came back from an unfortunate injury and went straight into the WWE World Championship scene, winning the title from Roman Reigns at the Money in the Bank PPV. A victory that would be short lived, however, as Dean Ambrose cashed in his MITB briefcase, one that he had won earlier in the night, becoming champion and ultimately carrying the title to Smackdown Live during the brand split. He would continue being champion until he eventually lost the tile to AJ Styles whom he feuded for the remainder of the year. Reigns however, facing very negative reactions from a majority of the live Raw and PPV crowds dropped his title and was relegated from being a main-eventer to the US Title scene, where he did have a brutal feud with then champion Rusev, whom he ultimately defeated for the belt. Reigns ended the year as reigning champion, while also winning a number one contender’s opportunity for facing current WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens.
And as for Rollins, he continued to feud the new WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens and then Chris Jericho till the end of the year, while setting up an interesting feud with Triple H on the side-lines that looks set to culminate at Wrestlemania 33.
Sasha Banks has come a long way from when she started out in NXT as one of the Four Horsewomen who redefined the Women’s division for the WWE. Banks and Charlotte have had a rivalry that is a definite contender for the various Feud-of-the-year awards for 2016. From participating in gruelling iron man matches to the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match and becoming a 3 time WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Sasha is a true pioneer of this women’s revolution and an achiever in 2016. The only reason that she didn’t make it to the Top 10 list is because she was always one upped by her rival Charlotte, losing the title not once, not twice, but thrice in crucial PPV matches to the Queen, thereby ending the year without the strap.
So there you have it. This is the list of performers who did have a great year, but didn’t quite make the list. Do let us know your thoughts and comments on this list as well as who you think made it to The List of Top 10 performers of 2016.