NXT and TNA weren’t the only ones to have a wild year, so did the WWE. In fact, one can say that this has been the strangest and most progressive year we’ve seen from the company. Compared to how last year ended, I don’t think any fans could’ve predicted half of the events that occurred.
Feud of the Year: Dean Ambrose vs AJ Styles
There were some solid feuds this year, but none of them were as consistent as Styles vs Ambrose. Sure, it didn’t headline a major four PPV, but it gave Smackdown an entertaining main event scene from September to December. Essentially, it went four months, and no point did it ever feel stale, which is quite amazing considering the other long term programs on WWE television. Owens vs Rollins only went two months, yet it became flat within one.
This feud also benefited from the extra dimensions it was given. It was serious when it had to be, but the addition of the James Ellsworth comedic angle kept it fresh.
Runner Up: John Cena vs AJ Styles
Match of the Year: John Cena vs AJ Styles (Summerslam)
The two had already competed earlier in the summer, but this felt like a bigger deal. That’s probably because we knew the Club wasn’t going to interfere, and that the match would most likely end clean. Along with that, it occurred at the WWE’s second largest event of the year, which gave it more significance.
Similar to John’s matches with Punk, this match was about the story and skill. In fact, it’s fair to say that the story was told through the skill of each competitor. The character motives were simple, and it purely came down to who was the better wrestler.
Runner Up: Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens (Battleground) & Raw vs Smackdown (Survivor Series)
Male Wrestler of the Year: AJ Styles
It’s not often that the WWE immediately takes a chance on someone they just signed to the main roster. The fact that AJ became champ nine months after his debut shows how special he truly is. Even a company as stubborn as the WWE figured this out quickly. From the moment Styles debuted on WWE television, he became a focal point.
In terms of his in ring ability, he’s the best in the company. Every PPV singles match he’s put forth has been entertaining, and he keeps the fans at the edge of their seats. His promo skills weren’t initially his strong suit, but he quickly became one of the best talkers as soon as he turned heel in July.
Runner Up: Dean Ambrose
Female Wrestler of the Year: Charlotte Flair
In 2016 the WWE essentially relied on Charlotte to be the evil face of the women’s division, and she did a superb job at it. It’s not easy to stay in the title picture all year without the fans getting bored (see New Day), but Charlotte made it look like a walk in the park.
The heel champ proved that she can carry feuds, and that’s exactly what she did with Sasha for the second half of the year. Flair found a way to become a compelling character, which is why she’s one of the only heels that can generate heat on weekly basis.
While she’s only been with the company for a year and a half, she’s the first female in WWE history to ever make the women’s title feel as prestigious as the men’s. Of course her booking had a lot to do with her success, but it still required an individual effort on her part in order for everything to translate well on screen.
Runner Up: Becky Lynch
New Comer of the Year: AJ Styles
See male wrestler of the year
Runner Up: Corey Graves
NXT Call Up of the Year: Sami Zayn
So often fans are quick to judge the lack of impact many NXT stars have when they first get called up. What they forget is that sometimes many of these newer talents need time to acquaint themselves with the casual audience and tweak their character to have an larger appeal. While Sami Zayn may not have been used to his fullest at times, he’s certainly left the biggest impression on fans from the crop of NXT wrestlers that were called up.
Out of the entire roster, it’s fair to say that Sami is easily in the top five in terms of work rate. He continuously put on great matches on TV and PPV throughout 2016. Along with that, he did an excellent job at showcasing his character during his matches, which isn’t something many wrestlers can say. If all is right, Zayn should be holding a title at some point in 2017.
Runner Up: Baron Corbin & Alexa Bliss
PPV/Network Special of the Year: Summerslam
Summerslam accomplished what Wrestlemania couldn’t, and that’s finding a way to make the full time stars feel like a big deal. This was the first major PPV after the brand split, and the majority of feuds felt important. It goes to show that by splitting up the roster every talent was given more attention and character development.
The buildup to this was strong, and the match quality was above average, which isn’t bad for a four hour PPV. While Cena vs Styles stole the show, we can’t forget how Finn Balor was crowned the first ever Universal Champion. Along with that, we were given one of the more controversial finishes to a match from Orton vs Lesnar.
Runner Up: N/A