Wrestling fans have been spoiled in the last twelve months to some amazing wrestling matches and moments from promotions around the globe. It really has been a standout year for this wonderful sport that we love, so narrowing down everything that happened into just one list was a difficult task. But here it is, part one of my list of the Top 20 Things that Happened in Wrestling in 2016.
In this list, I won’t be including any specific matches, as they will be getting a list all of their own.
Return of Mickey James – A genuine legend of the women’s division made her long-awaited return to the company that made her a star, to the delight of everyone. Hopefully, this won’t just be a one-time appearance for the former women’s champion.
Expansion of Bullet Club – The most popular faction in wrestling lost a few notable members this year, but it also gained a load of new substantial stars. They’re not quite at NWO levels of overpopulation yet, let’s hope it just stays that way.
Heel Usos – A simple heel turn transformed one of the most stale acts in WWE into one of the most interesting. The Usos were born to be bad guys, and after their stellar performance at Survivor Series, I can’t wait to see more from the twin brothers in the new year.
Enzo and Cass Moving to the Main Roster – The charismatic duo are one of the most popular and entertaining acts in WWE. Seeing how much their stock has risen in the company and with the fans since they made their Raw debut has definitely been a personal highlight of 2016.
ROH partnering with CMLL – Two great companies exchanging talent can never be a bad thing, especially when it leads to matches such as Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi, and Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay vs Dragon Lee.
20. Returns from Injury
Injuries are inevitable, yet that doesn’t stop them from being one of the unfortunate parts of wrestling. There’s not much worse than having a wrestler in the prime of their career suddenly being sidelined by a broken bone or fracture. On the other hand, it doesn’t get much better than seeing one of your favourites returning from injury in glorious fashion.
Considering how plagued by injury the main roster was at the beginning of this year, we saw plenty of healthy returns in 2016, most notably Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, and John Cena. When someone is knocked down, it’s fantastic to see them get back up, and with Finn Balor and Hideo Itami currently on the sidelines, I’m sure we are in for some epic returns in 2017.
19. World of Sport is Back
In the 1970s and 80s, British wrestling was a staple of Saturday afternoon television for households around the country, pulling in millions of viewers every week. It’s hard to believe now but wrestling really was the height of popular culture; the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Hawstacks were household names, but unfortunately, the good times didn’t last long. By the end of the 1980s, British wrestling was completely eradicated from television on these shores, leading to a huge decline in live attendances, and the beginning of a real dark period for the sport.
Luckily, in recent years, British wrestling has experienced a boom period once again. Due to this surge in interest, British wrestling fans were blessed late this year with the news that the sport is finally coming back to primetime television, something which I wrote in-depth about back in October. Although it is only scheduled to be a one-off two hour special on ITV, the return of World of Sport is fantastic news for this wonderful business, and could lead to some very exciting things in the coming year.
- The Growth of NXT
I’ve been watching NXT since 2013, back when there was no WWE Network for it to be exposed on, and was difficult to watch for fans around the world. Since then, it’s gone from struggling to fill the Full Sail Arena, to selling-out the same arenas that house main roster PPVS. NXT specials now accompany each of the four big WWE PPVs, and are home to some of the best matches of the year.
NXT gets bigger and bigger every single year, and seeing something you love grow and develop is a wonderful thing.
17. TNA Stays Alive…for Now
I’m not exactly the biggest fan of TNA; in fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched it for anything other than Broken Matt Hardy (we’ll get to him later), but even if you’re not a viewer, there’s no denying that TNA’s existence is good for the business. Having a place for wrestlers to perform in front of an international television audience that also allows them to work independent shows is an amazing thing, and although it was once again close to the brink of demise this year, I am extremely thankful that TNA is still around for the sake of the wrestlers, and the wrestling industry as a whole.
16. The Return of Goldberg
We all love a good injection of nostalgia every now and then, and we were all subject to a huge dose of it when Bill Goldberg made his long awaited return in 2016. Given some of the comments he had made in the past, another run in WWE seemed unlikely for the icon, but money is a wonderful thing, and Goldberg made his first Raw appearance in over twelve years in surprisingly emotional fashion. It always came across that Goldberg was only in the business for the money, and whilst he was away, he shared absolutely no desire to be involved in wrestling whatsoever, so when he stepped into the ring with tears in his eyes and passion in his voice, it was a genuinely lovely shock to us all.
At Survivor Series, Goldberg stepped into the ring against Brock Lesnar once again, and although the match itself may have divided opinion massively, it was still a wonderful trip down memory lane for most of us, and I look forward to seeing more from the legend in 2017.
15. James Ellsworth
Okay, so I understand that this man will feature on many people’s lists of the worst things to happen in 2016, but for me, seeing this chinless wonder on WWE television was, and still is, extremely entertaining.
Having an almost complete unknown being signed to a full-time WWE contract after what was supposed to be a one-time squash match appearance is a really unique case in the wrestling world, especially in the modern era. Once again, the power of the internet affected WWE’s booking decisions after social media was alive with memes and jokes about the strange looking man destroyed by Braun Strowman. Even I wrote a piece about the man from Baltimore as it was obviously that he clearly had something special that resonated with the audience, and had a lot of entertainment to offer WWE.
Since being signed, he has been involved in main events, PPVs, and has even beaten AJ Styles several times. Some people are definitely sick of Ellsworth by this point, but for me, he’s still one of my highlights of 2016.
14. Marty Scurll – Global Domination
This year, one of my favourite British grapplers took over the American wrestling scene by winning PWG’s BOLA tournament in the summer, signing with ROH in the winter, winning the ROH Television Title on his third night in the company, and defending it at their biggest PPV of the year. Seeing somebody as talented, entertaining, unique, and charismatic as Scurll finally getting the opportunities he so rightly deserves is one of the best parts of being a wrestling fan; we all love watching a rising star becoming more and more successful, and accompanying them on their journey to the top.
2016 was a great year for The Villain, let’s hope that 2017 is even better.
13. The Return of Shane McMahon
The pop Shane McMahon got when he made his surprise return to WWE back in February was pure magic. The crowd erupted when the words “Here comes the money!” echoed through the arena for the first time in seven years, and fans watching at home leapt out of their seats, myself include.
The spawn of Vinny Mac is one of my favourite performers of all-time, due to his surprising athleticism, complete lack of fear and common sense, and his willingness to sacrifice his body despite the fact he has absolutely no reason to due to his inherited wealth. I always felt as though Shane was perhaps a little underappreciated for the risks he took and the work he did, yet the sheer excitement radiating from the wrestling world when he made his returned reassured me that Shane O’Mac is as beloved and cherished as he deserves to be.
Since he made his way back to his father’s company, Shane has treated us to a fantastic Survivor Series performance, a decent run as Smackdown general manager, and of course, the most insane high spot of the year when he dove from atop the cell at Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon may not be as youthful as he once was, and his thick black hair has been replaced by a thinning grey do, but there’s one thing for sure, he’s still got it.
12. The Miz
I’ve already written at length about the quality of The Miz’s work this year, but in short, 2016 has been one big career highlight for the A-Lister. His in-ring work has improved dramatically, as evidenced by his match of the year candidates with Dolph Ziggler, and he delivered some of the best promos of the year, including his Talking Smack pipebomb which converted many a hater into a Miz believer.
If you’ve watched just one episode of Smackdown Live this year, you will know exactly how tremendous Mike Mizanin has been in the last twelve months, and I’m sure this Hollywood trend will carry on well into 2017.
Regardless of what you may think about WhatCulture as a whole, or the actual WCPW content they put out, nobody can deny that having a platform to showcase upcoming talent that anyone around the world can access easily for free is an amazing thing for the business. Yes, the booking may be questionable at best from time to time, and there are admittedly some problems with the promotion, yet talented wrestlers such as Martin Kirby and El Ligero are now stars known around the globe because of it, which is something every fan can appreciate. They’re not just pulling in the internet viewers either; they’ve managed to acquire a loyal live following at their shows. In October, over 2000 people attended their show in Manchester, and in April 2017, they’ll be jetting off to Orlando for Wrestlemania weekend, something pretty much unprecedented for a British promotion. It’s exciting to see a homegrown product doing so well, especially one that is based only an hour drive from my house, and it’s a representation of how well British wrestling as a whole is doing at the moment. It really is an exciting time to be a fan of the graps on this side of the world right now.
If you ignore the company and the whole extra wrestling booking bullshit that comes along with it, and focus solely on the wrestling, and the positive impacts it has on anyone who performs there, it cannot be contested that WCPW is one of the best things to happen in British wrestling in 2017.
Click here for part two of this list.