My Two Centsss - These are the Seven Best Feuds of 2016
By Super Chrisss
Dec 24, 2016 - 12:07:07 PM
Tom Jenner rocks!
Merry Christmas Eve! Whether you’re spending the holidays with family, friends, or the PS4, please be safe, drink responsibly and enjoy the time off work/school. For those of you poor souls who have to work during the next week and a half, believe me, I feel you. There are few things worse than having to deal with customer service on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Some people really do suck. Anyways, let’s continue with the look back at WWE in 2016 by counting down the top rivalries of the year. Some of these feuds spanned for half the calendar year; some of them produced multiple MOTY candidates; one didn’t even culminate a match (yet). Who made the cut? Let’s find out!
7. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
You could have fooled me that Joe vs. Nakamura wasn’t the main-event of TakeOver: Dallas or TakeOver: The End. It almost feels like the two top dogs of NXT spent the entirety of 2016 feuding with one another. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike Joe’s feud with former NXT and Universal Champion Finn Balor, you could really detect the bad blood brewing between Joe and NXT newcomer Nakamura. Both guys made you think that they really did hate each other, even behind the scenes, and their match at TakeOver: Toronto was wrestled to reflect that edginess. Speaking of their two TakeOver matches – as well as their two previously taped title matches from the international tour – many fans have mixed feelings on the quality of their bouts. Some thought their matches surpassed the efforts of Joe vs. Balor; others felt their styles didn’t quite mesh. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of their initial match at TakeOver: Brooklyn II, but I thought they really brought it for the rest of their feud. A feud, by the way, which consisted of Joe taking out Nakamura after a vicious beatdown, Joe interrupting matches and destroying the NXT roster until William Regal granted him his title rematch, and even saw the babyface superstar from Japan attack security guards just to get to Joe. Joe and Nakamura’s matches might not fall into the ‘Match of the Year’ discussion, but their rivalry was certainly memorable.
6. Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz
Huh??? you might be asking yourself right now. Daniel Bryan retired this year; he didn’t have a match with Miz. Right you are, sir/ma’am. However, if you have been keeping up with SmackDown and the just as awesome Talking Smack since the brand split last summer, then you know fully well that General Manager Daniel Bryan has been engaged in a heated verbal rivalry with his former NXT prodigy, The Miz. Miz, who will be discussed many more times in this column and other year-end countdowns, is one of many superstars who gained the most from being drafted to SmackDown. In fact, the A-Lister’s feud with Bryan arguably began that night, as moments after Raw drafted United States Champion Rusev to their brand, Bryan begrudgingly had no choice but to retaliate by choosing Miz, who just happened to be the Intercontinental Champion. Since then, Miz and Bryan have been engaged in a game of one-upmanship. Bryan keeps booking Miz in matches he doesn’t want to compete in (usually title matches) while Miz responds by copying Bryan’s signature moves in the ring and calling him out afterwards on Talking Smack. Seriously, if you guys aren’t watching Talking Smack you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Moreover, the war of words between Miz and Bryan has been so entertaining and so relentless that it has many people wondering if it’s all leading up to Bryan coming out of retirement for one night only to face Miz at WrestleMania 33. I could see that happening since Miz wrestles one of the safest styles in the business (a fact that Bryan pointed out on Talking Smack and resulted in Miz cutting one of the best promos of his career). No matter how this Miz/Bryan feud ends, I’m enjoying the ride so far.
5. John Cena vs. AJ Styles
When AJ Styles turned heel and officially reunited with The Club following his second loss to Roman Reigns, and it became clear that AJ’s next feud would be with John Cena, I was PISSED. I even wrote a column saying how I didn’t want to see that feud because even though the matches would surely be spectacular, it would follow the same Cena post-WrestleMania formula of the past three years. Much like Cena did with Rusev, Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens, I expected AJ to *maybe* win a match against Cena but then lose the rest of the series and stay in the midcard for the foreseeable future. That’s what happened with Rusev & co. and I expected nothing different for the former face of TNA.
Man, was I wrong.
Styles and Cena had a good – not great, but good – match at Money in the Bank which Styles won thanks to interference from Anderson & Gallows. As expected, it wasn’t clean, and this led to a six-man match being booked for Battleground the next month between The Club and Cena with Enzo & Cass, with the babyface trio prevailing. As soon as AJ/Cena II was made official for SummerSlam, almost everyone expected Cena to get his win back and then go 2-1 against Styles at Clash of Champions. But that didn’t happen. Styles beat Cena in one of the best matches of the year and Cena took a month off. Immediately afterward, Styles started walking around SmackDown with Cena’s armband declaring himself “The Face That Runs The Place”. Then, after using his momentum to dethrone Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion at Backlash, Styles would also refer to himself as “The Champ That Runs The Camp”. Despite thwarting Cena once again in a triple threat match at No Mercy, you have to wonder if there isn’t one more match left in the AJ Styles/John Cena saga.
Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
4. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Sometimes the best feuds are the one who get started to reignite in the Royal Rumble match. That’s exactly what happened in January 2016 when Kevin Owens, still feeling the effects of his Last Man Standing Match with Dean Ambrose earlier in the night, entered the Rumble and managed to eliminate crowd-favourite AJ Styles from the match. After the crowd voiced their displeasure towards Styles’ elimination, their attention turned to Sami Zayn, making his main roster return since his match with John Cena where Sami hurt himself. Zayn made a beeline for his NXT rival, Owens, and the crowd popped big for their scuffle as well as Sami tossing KO over the top rope, prompting many people to wonder if we were going to see Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn at WrestleMania 32. Unfortunately, we had to wait until PayBack to see that match, as WWE felt the need to throw both guys into their yearly multi-man ladder match instead *eye roll*. They had a very good match at PayBack, but they weren’t done with each other yet. They continued fighting for a few more months, during that time they competed in an amazing Fatal-Four-Way at Extreme Rules before their rivalry finally culminated in what was supposed to be their blow-off match at Battleground. Despite both guys being drafted to the same brand, Owens vs. Zayn was billed as a “One Last Time” match, but of course they wrestled two more times on Raw in 2016 (side note: fuck you, Raw). Considering how their feud lasted almost half the year and spawned many great matches during that time, I was tempted to put their rivalry in the top spot of this list. However, the mistreatment and lack of follow-up to Zayn’s win at Battleground kept me from putting it any higher. It’s great that KO is the Universal Champion but how the hell is Raw not doing more with Zayn. I’ll leave it as this: fuck you, Raw.
3. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this feud, none of which I feel hold any merit. With John Cena on hiatus and Randy Orton busy with The Wyatt Family, WWE had almost no choice but to keep the feud between AJ and Dean going from September 2016 onwards. Rather than take a page out of Raw’s terrible book and just have Dean and AJ wrestle or confront each other every week, they took a different route which involved a lovable jobber. I know a lot of people weren’t happy about how James Ellsworth became so involved in their rivalry (to the point where The Man With No Chin actually got three non-title victories over Styles). However, not a single one of those wins were clean. In a video game like OverWatch, Ambrose would have been credited 100% points for the assist each time. Ambrose was the special guest referee in Styles/Ellsworth I, he tricked Styles into getting himself disqualified in their rematch, and Dean dressed up as The Goon to help Ellsworth defeat Styles in their ladder match. It’s not like Styles laid down for Ellsworth three times in a row. The whole Ellsworth angle served to keep the feud fresh and when it came time for a standard wrestling match between the two, AJ annihilated Ellsworth with minimal effort. No harm done to The Phenomenal One.
Those of you who hated the Ellsworth involvement can at least appreciate the awesomeness of Styles and Ambrose’s two title matches at Backlash and TLC (two of the best matches of 2016, in my opinion). The matches they had in-between those two Pay-Per-View outing were also memorable, which included a couple of non-title matches between the two on SmackDown as well as the aforementioned triple threat from No Mercy which also featured Cena. Ambrose and AJ deserve credit for not only having amazing matches together but carrying the SmackDown brand on their shoulders when there weren’t many other options available to do the heavy lifting. If Ambrose vs. Styles was a placeholder for Styles vs. Cena, Styles vs. Miz, Styles vs. Orton or Styles vs. The Undertaker, it was one hell of a placeholder.
2. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
Let me make something clear. These two are ranked so high not because of their promos (which sucked) or because of the booking (fuck outta here with the non-stop title swapping and keeping Charlotte undefeated on Pay-Per-View nonsense). They’re here because of the quality of their matches and the accomplishments they achieved for women’s wrestling in 2016. Keep in mind that one year ago today, the women’s championship was still an ugly-ass pink butterfly and the women were still being referred to as “divas”. Fortunately, as of WrestleMania 32, that all changed with WWE Hall of Famer Lita being present that night to award the winner of Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha a brand new Women’s Championship (it’s just a pity the old belt wasn’t tossed in a garbage can or set on fire). Since that night, the main roster female matches have no longer been considered the ‘bathroom break’ portion of the evening and that’s greatly thanks to the matches put on between Charlotte and Sasha. In less than a year, two women main-evented Raw for the first time since 2006, competed in the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell match (and main-evented the PPV, no less) and competed in many memorable matches. Although their feud peaked at HIAC, it’s not surprising that WWE milked Sasha vs. Charlotte for as long as they could since they appeared to be drawing. That being said, now that both women have found themselves preoccupied with different opponents, it will be interesting to see how Raw can keep the momentum of their women’s division going in 2017 (since the “Female SmackDown Six” has that covered on Tuesday nights). Oh, and did I mention how much I hate Charlotte’s undefeated streak on PPV? That shit really needs to stop.
1. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
365 days ago, if you told me that a[nother] feud between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler would have been the most compelling feud of 2016, I would have begged the universe to keep me in 2015. Prior to their feud this fall, Miz and Ziggler have had countless matches together, with many of those being for the Intercontinental Championship. Thus, when Miz and Ziggler began their feud in September, I groaned, thinking I’d seen this match so many times already there was nothing left for them to do.
Once again, I was seriously mistaken.
I don’t know what it was exactly, but something about Miz and Ziggler feuding with each other this year clicked like it had never done before. Maybe it was the newfound confidence Miz had gained as a character and a wrestler. Maybe he was motivated by having his wife travelling with him. Maybe it was Ziggler feeling the need to shut the critics up once and for all by showing why he was once considered a future major star for the company. In all likelihood, it was a combination of all those things and more that resulted in not only three amazing Pay-Per-View matches between the two, but a rivalry that elevated both men AND the Intercontinental Title. Their feud was so hot that many fans were livid that Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt main-evented No Mercy over Miz vs. Ziggler (especially since the latter was a Career vs. Title Match, while the former had nothing on the line). Alongside Styles vs. Ambrose, Miz vs. Ziggler helped showcase SmackDown as the superior – and more entertaining – brand all the while making the IC title matter again, up to the point where some would argue that the Intercontinental Championship is more prestigious than Kevin Owens’ poorly booked Universal Championship. The feud between Miz and Ziggler may be definitively over, but after four great matches, a blast from the past with The Spirit Squad, and Ziggler being on the edge of an early retirement, their rivalry is one that is sure to stand the test of time.
-DIY vs. The Revival
-Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss
-Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
YOUR Two Centsss: What was your favourite feud of 2016, WWE or NXT?
UP NEXT: The seven best NXT matches of 2016. Available as of Monday, December 26th!
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