My Two Centsss - Seven Things We Learned About The WWE In 2016
By Super Chrisss
Dec 16, 2016 - 1:14:54 PM
Tom Jenner rocks!
What’s up, guys? Long time no talk, eh? In case you’re wondering/care why I’ve been absent the past few weeks, it’s because I was finishing up my last semester of University EVER. To quote Broken Matt Hardy, “IT’S OVAH!”. I now have two Bachelor Degrees under my belt and a lot of free time until I enter the professional workforce, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.
But enough about me. For those of you who have been following my columns here at LordsofPain.net, you know that every December, after the final WWE Pay-Per-View of the year, I start banging out my “Best Of” columns. So after Roadblock: End of the Line goes down on Sunday night, be sure to check back here as I count down the top WWE matches, NXT matches, wrestlers, special events and feuds of 2016. To give you a bit of a preview of what’s to come, I thought I would start by looking at the year from more of a ‘smart fan’s’ point-of-view. In other words, what did the IWC learn this past year based on booking decisions, tournaments and whatnot? Let’s find out.
7. Aj Styles is the best wrestler in the world today.
Might as well kick things off with an indisputable observation. Everyone has offered praise for Aj Styles’ amazing first official year in WWE and many have gone on to compare him to Shawn Michaels, in that you can expect a four-star match or better from Aj no matter where he is on the card. While that may be an acceptable comparison, I personally view Aj as a younger, more polished Chris Jericho. Why? Unlike HBK, Jericho was able to kill it as a character regardless if he was an endearing babyface or an antagonist. Like Jericho, the crowd loves Styles so much that they still chant “Aj Styles”, regardless of his opponent. That’s the kind of respect and admiration the fans have for Aj. In the ring, he brought it this year, having classics with John Cena, Roman Reigns and John Cena, as well as having some good, underrated matches with The Miz and Dolph Ziggler. Styles proved in less than a year why he truly is phenomenal.
Oh, and before anyone tries to tell me that so-and-so from Lucha Underground, ROH or NJPW is the ‘true’ best wrestler in the world – no, they’re not. Unless you’re performing on the grand stage – the WWE – you’re not the best at anything. For example, Montreal is home to plenty of beautiful women, and even though I’ve seen countless women who put celebrities like Angelina Jolie or Mila Kunis to shame. However, they will never be considered one of the world’s prettiest women because they’re virtually unknown. The same applies here; until you’re performing in front of WWE audiences, you’re not the best at anything. Sorry.
6. WWE will always value short-term business over long-term.
Obviously, I’m specifically referring to the main-event of Survivor Series 2016 as my core example. It’s been nearly a month and I still think having a nearly-retired Oldberg not only defeat but SQUASH one of WWE’s remaining few draws in less than two minutes was completely asinine. Brock Lesnar spent nearly two years crushing the majority of WWE’s top stars, past, current and present: John Cena, Big Show, Triple H, The Undertaker, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins. All that build-up and damage done to Lesnar’s victims just so they could have Brock get owned by Goldberg in a squash match. What did that gain them? A brief and temporary ratings bump for Raw? An “anything can happen” moment? Well, you know what else could have happened? Let one of their FULL-TIME stars do the exact same thing to Lesnar instead of the chosen one being Goldberg. That would have a) created a new, top-drawing star; b) possibly created a longer-lasting ratings bump (with fans wanting to tune in and watch the guy who decisively slayed The Beast; and c) made WWE unpredictable in a GOOD way. Instead, WWE opted to rely on their past stars (again) to set up a Royal Rumble encounter between Brock and Goldberg and (presumably) a third and final match at WrestleMania 33. And then what? Goldberg permanently retires and Lesnar takes another vacation until SummerSlam. Great business decision, guys.
Speaking of WrestleMania, I will not condemn WWE for their reliance on the Attitude Era stars at WM32 this year. Unlike the past few years, WWE had a limited roster to work with going into this year’s Mania with John Cena, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and others all hurt or unavailable for the big show. Stacking the card with older names was pretty much their only option. However, I would love it if WM32 was the final occurrence for these practises, but with Brock/Goldberg and Triple H, Shane McMahon and The Undertaker all rumoured to be competing at WM33, we may not see this trend dying anytime soon, unfortunately.
5. Not only has women’s wrestling been revived, but the women can draw.
2015 saw the so-called “women’s revolution” take place. However, the revolution itself did not truly come into effect until earlier this year. The first meaningful step was the introduction/return of the women’s championship at WrestleMania 32 (having Lita be present for the coronation was a nice touch), as no one was going to take the ladies seriously as long as they were competing for that joke of a butterfly belt. What really allowed the women to find their footing alongside their male counterparts – in my opinion – was the brand split. Prior to the draft, I was hoping WWE would keep all the women on one brand, similar to how the Cruiserweights appear exclusively on Raw, not SmackDown. However, the brand split allowed for more women to make names for themselves. Over on the red brand, regardless if you’re a fan of their feud or not, you have to appreciate the waves that Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks have made since the split. They’ve main-evented Raws and PPVs, competed in gimmick matches previously reserved for men, and are far from being the “bathroom break” match of the night.
SmackDown, despite initially appearing to receive the short end of the stick following the draft, has managed to create their version of the “SmackDown six”, but with their women’s division. Unlike Raw, which is three hours opposed to SmackDown’s two-hour time slot, every female on SmackDown is involved in some kind of feud or featured on TV every week. The SmackDown Six had a great mutil-woman match at Backlash to crown the first-ever SmackDown women’s champion; the Nikki Bella/Carmella/Natalya feud has been surprisingly engaging, and the current feud between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss is a lot of fun. One year ago, there was rarely more than one women’s feud co-existing at any given time. As of this writing, we have at least three (I don’t watch Raw anymore but I think Bayley and Dana are sort of feuding?). 2016 was indeed a defining year for the women.
4.NXT is a beast of a brand.
Much like several previous entries on the countdown, this isn’t new information. However, I think NXT deserves to be applauded for not only surviving but thriving after the main roster depleted their roster after the WWE draft. In one night, NXT lost their top face over a year (Finn Balor), 90% of their women’s division, as well as one of their hottest and most popular tag teams,
The Hype Bros American Alpha. It took them a few weeks to restructure themselves, similar to post-WrestleMania 32 when they lost guys like Enzo & Cass, The Vaudevillains and Baron Corbin, but that didn’t take very long. Their women’s division is still a bit weak with Asuka head and shoulders above the others, but Ember Moon, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay all being built up nicely the past few months. The Revival have been able to keep the tag division must-see due to their feud with Johnny Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa, with other teams like TM61 and The Authors of Pain waiting in the wings. With Samoa Joe and Shunsuke Nakumra just recently ending their multi-month rivalry, new faces like Bobby Roode, Tye Dillinger and Austin Aries (when he’s healthy) are primed for the main-event spot. Regardless if/when WWE calls up several NXT names between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, I have no doubt NXT will continue to restack, especially with the upcoming women and UK tournaments. Many of the credit has to go to one Triple H, which brings me to my next point…
3. It’s time for Triple H to officially take over from Vince.
About a week ago, I read a brief interview from a former WWE writer who talked a bit about why WWE stars almost always lose in their hometown. He explained it’s a trend that has been going on for as long as he can remember, and no one can justify why it happens – it’s simply something Vince insists on, for reasons unknown. As you may have noticed, that trend is well and live today, and it’s little things like that, the dismal booking of the cruiserweights on Raw (versus their booking in the Cruiserweight Classic), the burial/mishandling of many NXT call-ups and plenty of head-scratching booking decisions that reinforce the notion that Vince is truly out of touch. He’s a 70-year-old man, so it’s somewhat expected of him. But it’s time for Vince to finally give up the reigns (put intended) and let Triple H take over the WWE. HHH has proven that he can make a second brand (NXT) a success by not only getting talents over, but by selling out arenas when touring. I suppose Vince is leery of stepping down because NXT and the CWC are void of the entertainment that he enjoys: silly gimmicks, bad jokes and segments that are a waste of people’s time. Plus, there’s no one in NXT cutting promos on their opponents calling them “Sparkle Crotch”, which is a red flag for Vince. However, father time slows down for no one and there will come a day when Vince is physically and/or mentally unable to carry out his day-to-day duties. Hopefully Vince steps down long before that happens because HHH is more than ready to carry the company on his shoulders.
2. The days of John Cena and Randy Orton at the top of the card are officially over.
Although we saw the signs in 2015, 2016 proved that Vince has finally moved on from his two top stars of the late 2000s, Cena and Orton. Both Cena and Orton were constantly involved in the world title scene in 2015, but this year, both men had a combined total of ONE title shot (Cena challenging Aj Styles and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat at No Mercy). That’s definitely saying something, especially with both guys now on the same brand. Granted, Cena missed a lot of time this year as he was either injured or filming TV shows/movies. Nevertheless, it’s surprising to not see Orton in the world title picture, especially with SmackDown’s roster presently thin roster. WWE seems determined to keep Orton in the midcard and give Cena all the away-time he wants while they try to build new main-eventers in Styles and Ambrose, which, to their credit, has been working. I don’t doubt either man has another world title run in him, but gone are the days with Cena and Orton as the top guys on the roster. I guess their time is finally up. Meanwhile…
1. WWE will not turn Roman Reigns heel.
I’m not entirely sure, but there’s a good chance that in every single column I penned in 2016, I advocated for the need to turn Reigns heel (or at the very least, criticized WWE for not doing so). Therefore, it’s only fitting that I end today’s countdown by blasting WWE for their stubbornness and man-crush on Reigns. I think the guy has a great look and is a good wrestler but he is NOT the replacement to John Cena; he’s Batista v2.0, if anything. I always laugh at his defenders who claim that as long as he’s getting a reaction, that’s what matters. Um, not necessarily. You know who gets the kind of face pops that Reigns SHOULD be getting? Enzo & Cass (a tag team), Aj Styles (a heel), Brock Lesnar (a heel), Kevin Owens (a heel). THOSE are the kind of reactions you want your top babyface to receive, not 85% boos, 15% cheers. Even Cena – at the height of his popularity and jaded fans everywhere – received a truly mixed reaction, with the women and children consistently in his corner. Reigns has the support of the female portion of the audience but that’s it, really. The treasured 18-49 male demographic hate his guts and it’s shocking to me that WWE hasn’t turned him heel and put Sami Zayn in his spot instead (a guy who’s actually over).
It’s funny, because I want to like Reigns’ character, but it’s just impossible. From his no-selling performance at the Royal Rumble, to Michael Cole praising him as the second coming of Jesus Christ, to his over-protection, it’s just too much. How WWE can justify keeping their United States Champion who gets booed at Tribute to the Troops a face is beyond my comprehension. They had so many opportunities to turn him heel these past 365 days yet they never bothered. It’s quite ironic how Reigns has buried the same championship Cena spent so many months last year elevating. For all we know, Reigns could very well walk out of Roadblock on Sunday as a dual-champion. I’m sure that will get the fans behind him!
YOUR Two Centsss: What would you add to this list in terms of observations from this past year?
Shining a Light on the CF
While the main page of LOP has some of the best columnists on the interweb, all of these writers come from a sub-forum known as the Columns Forum. Here, aspiring writers - both new and old - hone their skills in hopes of one day getting called up (or back up) to the LOP main page. Consider it the NXT of LOP, if you will.
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