While opinion is divided on the quality of 2016’s WWE programming, what we can say is that its been a great year for wrestling as a whole. TNA was saved by Anthem, WCPW revolutionised the internet-based indie scene, Lucha Underground gave us a female world champion, and World Of Sport is making a comeback in the UK.
Not only have promotions fared excellently, but so have a lot of the industries hottest talents, and with this in mind here are ten who’ve done the best, in no particular order:
Who?: Aj Styles
Where?: WWE SmackDown Live, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
Aj Styles has been undoubtedly the worlds greatest wrestler this year. He has had match of the year candidates with Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleKingdom 10, Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules & Payback, Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania, and John Cena at SummerSlam. He has shown and proven his worth across two promotions in two continents and he won’t just go down as the best of his generation, but maybe one of the best of all time. Styles has long since been deserving of a spot in the main event scene of wrestling’s biggest promotion, and since his debut at the Royal Rumble, Styles has proven that he is here to stay. Sorry, Dixie, this loss is on you.
Where?: WWE RAW
Strength, style, talent. Three words that describe this woman perfectly. Charlotte is the best women’s wrestler alive today, nobody can touch her, she is the total package. She oozes charisma, shes as athletic as they come, and her family pedigree really shows when shes in the ring, she is her fathers daughter, and every time she snaps on the figure-eight leg-lock, that family magic seeps through. She is a heel in every sense of the word, and she is so convincing that she could literally become a professional actress with a seamless transition, but we don’t want that, because we want to see the talent of this magnificent lady on display for many years to come. With several consecutive title reigns under her belt, as well as becoming the first ever Raw Women’s Champion back at Wrestlemania, and creating history with Sasha Banks inside Hell In A Cell, this woman is a trail blazer, and a role model for all young women to aspire to emulate.
Who?: #Broken Matt Hardy
Where?: TNA Impact!
Any NJPW fan-boy smarky internet wrestling snob will tell you that Matt Hardy’s “Broken” Gimmick is ridiculous. Those people are wrong. This gimmick could be the one that breathes new life into wrestling as we know it. Matt Hardy had a good 2016 anyway before this gimmick, winning 2 World Titles with TNA, but when he lost his second, his magnum opus was born. He put on a match of the year candidate with his brother Jeff in The Final Deletion, which you can watch here, he won the TNA Tag Titles, saved TNA from bankruptcy on more than on occasion, and for the first time in his career he became the more popular of the Hardy brothers. I salute your #Broken brilliance, Mr Hardy, you’re so over you may as well become a pole vaulter.
Who?: The Miz
Where?: WWE SmackDown Live
Many would’ve laughed at the start of the year if you told them The Miz would be the most consistently entertaining champion of the last 12 months. “Really?” they would’ve asked, “Really?” They’re not laughing now. The Miz has made the Intercontinental Title mean something again, with the help of his wife Maryse, he has reached devilish new levels of heelishness in 2016. Since the brand split, Miz has shone, mainly with his insanely realistic work-shoot promos with Daniel Bryan on SmackDown Live after-show, Talking Smack. Miz is also excellent in the ring, he manages to be technical and tremendously entertaining while also remaining a completely safe worker. With all the work done in the upper mid-card, you just know that The Miz is going to be one of the first in line for a World Title opportunity in 2017. In the words of the man himself, he is The Miz, and he is awesome!
Who?: Kenny Omega
Where?: New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
Fun fact, Jim Cornette once said he’d like to slit this mans throat. Now all that unpleasantness is out of the way, lets talk about why Kenny Omega made this list. Well for starters, Kenny is one of the few wrestlers in the world that does ever need to work for WWE. Why? Well he’s one of the biggest stars in Japanese wrestling. Winning annual tournament the G1 Climax, becoming the only gaijin, or non-Japanese wrestler, to ever do so. Omega is set to headline WrestleKingdom 11, the second biggest wrestling pay-per-view show in the world, against Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Fans of the Japanese scene have become very accustomed to Omega on the programming over the years, and his success has been welcomed with open arms, lets hope we see some more success in the very near future.
Who?: Cody Rhodes
Where?: TNA Impact!, Ring Of Honor (ROH), WhatCulture Pro Wrestling (WCPW), Global Force Wrestling (GFW), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
The grandson of a plumber certainly has been a busy boy this year, he left WWE in a blaze of glory and he has achieved nothing but success since then. Rhodes, despite not actually being able to use the name Rhodes, as competed in TNA, ROH, GFW, WCPW, WWE, and joined the Bullet Club on NJPW all in one year. His success is huge throughout the world, as he prepares to compete at Wrestlekingdom 11, he takes with him the GFW Next-Gen Championship and the WCPW Internet Championship. During his time in WCPW, Rhodes wrestled Kurt Angle, a dream match for fans worldwide, and Rhodes proved he could go just as good as the Olympic Hero. With Cody slowly becoming the king of the indie scene, you can only expect more great things to come his way in 2017, and his dad would be proud to hear it.
Who?: Johnny Mundo
Where?: Lucha Underground
Johnny Mundo has long since been the poster boy of Lucha Underground, and its not hard to see why, he’s shredded, he’s athletically gifted, he’s great on the microphone and he has charisma by the bucket load. But despite all this, Johnny has never really found that much success when it comes to championships, despite a run as ECW World Champion in WWE, the mainstream World Title success that others have had has somehow evaded jumping Johnny. This all changed this year when Johnny cashed in his Lucha Underground Gift of the Gods Championship on Sexy Star to become the Lucha Underground Champion. Mundo has since lost the title but it was great to see him finally climb the ladder to the top of the company he has fronted since its inception. This also marked his first World Championship on a televised wrestling show since the aforementioned ECW Title reign back in 2007. Here’s hoping we’ll see another, longer Mundo reign some time soon.
Who?: Chris Jericho
Where?: WWE RAW
Behind #Broken Matt Hardy, Chris Jericho is the second most over wrestler of 2016, he has had a number of catchphrases get over, including “Stupid idiot” which is, in my opinion, the best put down since WWE went PG, and it would not have worked if it had been said by anyone other than Jericho. Not only that, but Jericho is great at getting inanimate objects over too, he’s got a scarf over, a list, a potted plant, a jacket, and even none existent things, like the elusive gift of Jericho, drink it in….man. Jericho is the best he’s ever been right now, and he may be too good for the benefit of the others around him, as somehow, he managed to make a list have more value than the WWE Universal Title. Regardless, Jericho remains the man, and it saddens me to think that his current WWE run is coming to an end, but its been one hell of a time, and we’ll miss him until the day he’s back.
Who?: Martin Kirby
Where?: WhatCulture Pro Wrestling (WCPW)
Martin Kirby is great, and I don’t just say that as a WhatCulture fanboy, I say it as a committed wrestling fan. Kirby is a man that we can all get behind, his outrageous, and funny personality makes him the ultimate British wrestling character and he is the heart and soul of this British based promotion. With the help of a certain gentleman in a crown, Martin Kirby is the most over man in WCPW, with WhatCulture Wrestling Issue 3 even giving him a limited edition cover. The WCPW booking team are obviously doing a slow build to Kirby becoming the WCPW Champion and the face of the promotion, and when that day comes, many a pink glow-stick will be raised in the air. You can check WCPW out here.
Who?: Shinsuke Nakamura
Where?: WWE NXT, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
We end with the king of strong style, and if he wasn’t on this list, it would be a crime, frankly. For the most part of 2016, Nakamura was billed as unstoppable, steamrolling through competition, one stiff knee at a time, the most protected and monstrous star since Brock Lesnar, it seems the two are on a collision course to meet. He put on two match of the year candidates this year, one with Aj Styles and Wrestlekingdom 10 and one with Sami Zayn at TakeOver: Dallas, and has one IWGP Intercontinental Championship and two NXT Championships to show for it. Shinsuke defines the word charisma, and he’s destined for great things in his future with WWE, so stay tuned in 2017 for more stiff knees and broken ribs, delivered by this man.
Well that’s it for this list and for 2016, did I miss any out? Was your favourite wrestler of the year not on the list? Have a list idea or a review request? Tell me in the comments or go through the contact page.
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