The Year That Was – Top Wrestlers of 2016: Part III
Now it’s finally time to reveal the big five who shone brighter than the rest in 2016. Here are the top 5 wrestlers from 2016.
5. Finn Balor
This should have been the year of The Demon. Unfortunately an untimely injury set him back by several months. However, we cannot discount the achievements Finn Balor has accomplished this year. From becoming the longest reigning WWE NXT Champion to becoming the only wrestler in the WWE to have won a major title in his first PPV, Balor achieved it all. Winning the top prize on NXT in 2015, Balor retained his title through the first half of the year, finally losing it to Samoa Joe, after clocking in an impressive 292 days as champion. He had also previously won the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament, partnering with Samoa Joe. Debuting on Raw after the brand split, Balor would go on to win matches that would propel him into the main event of SummerSlam opposite Seth Rollins to compete for the newly formed WWE Universal Championship. Although Balor did manage to win, he had to relinquish his title due to an injury he suffered in that match, which would keep him out for the rest of the year.
4. Shinsuke Nakamura
The WWE has NEVER seen anyone quite like this competitor…EVER! The enigma that is Shinsuke Nakamura was a global wrestling legend long before he stepped foot into a WWE ring. Touted as one of the biggest signings for the WWE, Nakamura proved that he was worth every penny. Described by former wrestler Sean Waltman (X-Pac) as a guy whose enigmatic charisma transcends barriers, Nakamura hypnotised audiences with his mannerisms and entrance alone, forget that fact that he is known as ‘The King of Strong Style’for his in-ring capabilities. Nakamura provided some in-ring classics throughout the year squaring off with Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and eventually Samoa Joe to become NXT Champion. While he was undefeated throughout the year, he lost the title to Joe at NXT Takeover: Toronto, but would win it back again at a live event in his home country of Japan to become a 2 time NXT Champion.
3. Kevin Owens / Chris Jericho
If there was someone who benefited from Finn Balor’s unfortunate departure from the main event scene, it was Kevin Owens. Owens has been one of the best performers on screen since he debuted in the WWE. With his unique blend of sarcastically funny and brutally aggressive persona appealing to very large sections of the fans, Owens was literally handed a main event opportunity when he won the vacant WWE Universal Championship (with a little assistance from Triple H). But that was not all, the WWE managed to turn this title reign into a memorable one when they paired Owens up with his ‘best friend’ Chris Jericho. And RAW was never the same…again. The pair entertained audiences with their refreshingly natural comic acts throughout the rest of the year, bringing much life back to a very stagnating RAW; with Jericho adding his charismatic flair to Owens’ arrogant genius – making for wonderful TV. Since their bond is so unbreakable we decided both deserved to share this spot. Here’s to more antics from Team Kevin & Chris in the new year!
2. Charlotte Flair
This has been a great year for WWE’s Women’s division and there has clearly been only ONE Queen. While ‘The Four Horsewomen’ (Charlotte, Sasha, Bayley, Becky) have been highly praised for bring forth a true revolution in the WWE’s women division, there was only one who truly conquered 2016. Bringing forward a generation, the legacy of Ric Flair’s in-ring prowess and arrogantly flamboyant personality, Charlotte Flair truly rose to the mantle of being Ric Flair’s daughter. Be it headlining a main event with Sasha Banks in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match or grappling her way through an Iron Man match, Charlotte did it all – managing to become a record four time Women’s Champion in the process. She also managed to bag a PPV winning streak which is quite an achievement in itself – considering she has been defending her title against some of the best women wrestlers in the entire world. This is the beginning of what looks like a decorated career, and we can only look forward to what Charlotte has in store for us in 2017.
And finally, the No. 1 wrestler for 2016 is…
1. AJ Styles
This has been a phenomenal year for ‘The Phenomenal One’. AJ Styles is a decorated performer who like very few others, was the one world famous performer who had never appeared in the WWE. Yet 2016 bode good tidings for us when, Styles made a surprising debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble, to the delight of fans all over the world. While, Styles feuded with Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho for a few months, his true potential was unveiled when he faced off against John Cena, managing to defeat the veteran twice – a feat that very few active performers have been able to achieve. Being drafted to Smackdown Live, Styles managed to pick up the WWE World Championship from Dean Ambrose ending the year as champion. Styles’ much awaited debut in the WWE has been termed by analysts and critics as one of the best debutant years in the history of the business. More importantly Styles managed to do something that only a handful of performers before him (Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk to name a few) have been able to achieve. Styles was able to get over with the crowd (read ‘getting cheered by audiences’) naturally even though he was scripted to perform as one of the top heels in the business. This in itself shows the calibre that AJ Styles possesses, backed by his unparalleled in-ring ability and cocky on screen persona. AJ Styles has truly arrived on the big stage and whether you like him or hate him – he is here to stay.
So there you have it, our Top 10 for 2016. As always, do let us know who you think should have been a part of the Top 10 by sharing your comments with us below or on our Facebook page or tweet us @BuzzContinuum.