As is the tradition for all things at the end of a year, it’s time for me to look back and decide who I thought were the best ‘Superstars’ of the last year. I’m keeping this WWE exclusive because I simply do not watch enough of anything else to have formed a proper opinion. Although, if I allowed myself I would just award everything to Dalton Castle and be done with it!
So who out of the WWE (including NXT) entertained me the most and who put on the best matches? Who stood out from the crowd and really made 2016 their year? Lets find out!
Female Superstar of the Year
2016 will be looked back on as the year that the women in WWE finally started getting treated with respect. Although, I still do think that WWE have far too much of patting themselves on the back mentality about the whole thing. I would even argue that instead of being treated equally, the women are still being treated as some what of a ‘novelty act’. Just now with more respect. While it’s been interesting to see the likes of Hell in a Cell, Tables and Ironman matches involving the women. It’s actually just been the improved story telling and match quality that I’ve enjoyed the most about it.
In my opinion there have been 3 stand out women from the year. Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. I think Bliss has been amazing since she got called up during the brand split on Smackdown. It’s amazing how good Alexa is considering how young she is. I honestly think she’s doing a better job than Becky Lynch, one of the 4 horsewomen of NXT. Sasha Banks has been great too and has put on some good matches with Charlotte on Raw. Granted the Title has changed hands a lot, that’s a debate for another time. What yo can say is that it’s been unpredictable, exciting and a whole lot of fun. However, there’s only been one true MVP for the Women’s division this year.
Charlotte Flair, the Divas Champion at the start of the year. The first newly crowned Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania and is now a 4 time champion! All the while putting on an excellent heel performance throughout the year. Sasha Banks may be good, but Charlotte has been in a league of her own this year. She’s a one of a kind.
Without Charlotte doing such a great job all of Sasha Banks’ moments on Raw mean that much less. Without Charlotte being so damn good, we’d still be in the awful ‘Divas Revolution’ phase we were this time last year.
Tag Team of the Year
For Tag Team of the Year I considered a few different teams as main contenders, but after scrutiny only one remains standing tall in my opinion. Let’s work through my list.
American Alpha. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable had a fantastic first half of 2016. They were one of the most over acts on the entire roster, let alone NXT. Their match at NXT Dallas against The Revival was amazing and they got an absolutely monstrous reaction when they won. They were then called up to the main roster to be part of Smackdown Live during the brand split but since then haven’t really done all that much. They lost a lot of momentum doing not all that much. Spending a lot of their run in the multi-man pre-show tag team match ups with fellow forgotten tag teams like The Ascension and Breezeango. They did just win the Smackdown Tag Titles in the last show of the year, so that’s pretty cool but they haven’t done quite enough to make the cut for me.
The New Day have dominated the main roster tag team division in 2016, both before the brand split and then continuing as Raw exclusives. For the first half of the year they were truly untouchable both on the microphone and in fan receptions. They were the biggest merchandise shifters for ‘Mania 32 and that’s no small feat! Its got to be said that while their achievement of becoming the longest reigning tag team champions of all time is remarkable, it was also kind of boring. New Day became stale in the last few months of the reign although I blame the creative direction for me as the majority of that. It does however mean that I can’t honestly put them as my number one team.
Ever popular fan favourites Johnny Gargano and Tammaso Ciampa have put on some great matches this year in NXT. Both against each other and as their tag team #DIY. They’ve put on 2 of my favourite matches of the year on back to back NXT Takeovers too. However, there’s been a consistent foil for both DIY and American Alpha who have to be my number one pick.
The Revival. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. What an amazing team. I’ve said thousands of times how much I’ve enjoyed their work and if anything they improved during 2016. Their matches have consistently either stolen the show or come inches away from doing at every single NXT Takeover this year. The duos heel work has been the perfect foil for both American Alpha and DIY to work against and I honestly can’t sing their praises enough.
Quite rightly they became the first ever tag team to win the NXT Tag Team Titles twice as they have consistently been must watch performers not just in NXT but WWE as a whole. They’ve helped take tag team wrestling back to forgotten heights in match quality, ring psychology and fan engagement and they quite rightly belong as the number one tag team of the year.
Male Superstar of the Year
In reality I think there’s only really one person who you can say is the true Male Superstar of the Year. Only one man has had a truly phenomenal year *wink wink, nudge nudge*. There are a few people who should be at least considered Honourable mentions though.
Kevin Owens never ceases to entertain me. He consistently puts on great matches, is one of the best on the microphone and is often downright hilarious. His run with the Universal Title has been booked rather oddly, being a scared heel champion doesn’t really suit him in my opinion. Plus he has almost been over shadowed by Chris Jericho and a certain list.
Speaking of Chris Jericho, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a million times. He has reinvented himself yet again and continues to be truly brilliant. Now admittedly he did have a dodgy start to the year being the totally uncool ‘cool’ dad like babyface, but since his heel turn he’s been great. Only Chris Jericho could get the catchphrases ‘Stupid Idiot’, ‘It’ and a list as over as he has.
Finally The Miz, he’s just been brilliant since the brand split hasn’t he? He and Dolph Ziggler helped make the Intercontinental Title mean something again by having fantastic matches. Putting together an actually brilliant meaningful storyline in which Dolph’s career was on the line. Miz has always been a guy who can get the crowd to hate him and love someone else. For a few years people decided that made him a bad wrestler, but he’s always been a favourite of mine. Plus he has arguably had the best promo of the year on an episode of Talking Smack in which he tore Daniel Bryan apart. It was an amazing worked shoot mess of pure glory. I loved it.
Its got to be said though. AJ Styles has been in a world of his own for the majority of the year. Nobody can touch him in the ring! He’s so good!
That explosion you heard during the Royal Rumble was the fans blowing their collective minds as Mr TNA finally debuted in WWE. Since then he’s put on fantastic matches with literally everyone he’s wrestled, including James Ellsworth! He’s had great matches with Roman Reigns. Fantastic matches with John Cena and looks every single bit of a true World Champion.
If you believe the rumours, Vince only brought Styles in to be a midcard guy, but was so impressed by the fan reactions, match quality and merchandise sales that he simply had to push him to the moon. For a ‘rookie’ year, have many had a better one than AJ? Maybe Kurt Angle?
AJ Styles is in league of his own and has truly been phenomenal this year.