We have reached the half way point of the year, so what better time to take a look back at WWE’s 2016 so far?
Here’s the thing. Here is the reason I’m writing this article – I don’t think most people would say it’s been a great year. Week to week reviews that I’ve seen online say that the shows have been average. There’s always something to complain about, even amongst the highlights.
One of the main thoughts I had when I wrote about how the Attitude Era wasn’t that great was that despite us now classing moments as legendary, they didn’t feel that massive at the time. I say at the time, I watched old Raws on the Network, so I already knew of the moments themselves, but not always when they were going to happen.
But when I look back at 2016 so far, there are so many things I can point to and say “that was fantastic”.
Let’s start with the first PPV maincard match of the year. Kevin Owens. Dean Ambrose. Intercontinental Championship. Last. Man. Standing. What a match this was, and it’s one I think has gone underappreciated because of what happened later that night, and to both men since. It was a war that perfectly suited both men, and should have put the IC belt back on the map. As I’ll come to later, it didn’t quite manage that, but it was brilliant to watch.
Later that night you then had the Royal Rumble Match. I’ve already written about just how good the booking of that was, so I won’t go through it all again, but the biggest thing for me was the oh my god moment that was AJ Styles’ debut. WWE TV has been all the better for him since January.
Next is admittedly a bittersweet one. At the start of February, Daniel Bryan officially announced his retirement. It was obviously not fantastic that he had to retire, but he had been off-screen for so long it was hardly surprising. What it did give us was one of the most emotional segments in Raw history, and certainly one that will live long in the memory.
And just a couple of weeks later, we got the return that elicited a bigger reaction from me than AJ Styles’ debut did. Shane O’Mac came back! The ovation he got that night was incredible, and it’s lasted ever since to the point he’s still one of the most popular characters on the show.
On March 7th, Sami Zayn made his full time arrival on the main roster. And ever since, he has been embroiled in a feud with Kevin Owens. On that night he got a great reaction saving Neville from an Owens attack, and they went on to have a great match at Payback. But not before he said goodbye to the yellow brand…
NXT Takeover. The phrase has become synonymous with top calibre matches. And this time round, in front of an electric crowd at Wrestlemania weekend, Sami Zayn capped off his time in NXT with my WWE Match of the Year so far against the debuting Shinsuke Nakamura. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that American Alpha (my favourite team in WWE) won the NXT Tag Titles in a great match against The Revival on that show.
Then you obviously had Wrestlemania itself. We had some memorable appearances (Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shaquille O’Neal and The Rock), we had one of the all time great Wrestlemania moments as Shane McMahon leaped off the top of Hell In A Cell through an announce table below.
And we also had some gratification from the Divas Revolution last year. The triple threat match for the newly introduced Women’s Championship was my match of the night. And importantly, it was made to feel like a big deal. All three women involved got big entrances and special attires, and the presentation from the introductions to the commentary was extremely encouraging.
I suppose some would also say Zack Ryder winning the IC belt was a feel good highlight of the night. Personally, I didn’t like his involvement in the match at all, and I hated him winning. I still do. But I’ll mention it because I think it was a great moment for a lot of other people.
The aftermath of Mania was the start of the so called “new era”. We saw the debuts of Baron Corbin (who had won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal the night before), Apollo Crews, the Vaudevillains, Enzo and Cass, and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and the return from injury of Cesaro and John Cena.
At Payback and Extreme Rules, Roman Reigns had two great matches with AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. It didn’t do much to sway the fans towards Reigns, but it put AJ right at the top early on, and the story told with uncertainty over AJ’s relationship with The Club was really well done.
And at the end of Extreme Rules, Seth Rollins made his long awaited return, attacking Roman Reigns to a huge reaction. As one of the best wrestlers in the company, he has proven his worth as an invaluable asset to the company.
There was a lot of speculation regarding what NXT Takeover: The End would mean, and as it turned out it meant the yellow brand was moving into a new era. But it lived up to it’s reputation for great matches, with another tag team classic between American Alpha and The Revival and the culmination of Samoa Joe and Finn Balor’s feud over the NXT Championship.
Which brings us to Money in the Bank. For all three former member of The Shield to hold the top title in one night – no matter how much WWE waters it down by repeating it – was pretty incredible. We also got to see the dream match (another watered down phrase here) between AJ Styles and John Cena that many of us never thought would happen. And it too, delivered.
To me, that’s a hell of a lot of positives to take out of six months of TV. No, it hasn’t all been perfect. I think we can all agree we don’t need to see anymore Golden Truth vs Breezango matches, or Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler matches. What happened with Cody Rhodes was sad to see. There are still people who are being misused or overused, and it remains to be seen if WWE can book more than one women’s rivalry at a time.
My argument here is, we’re not going to remember all that in a year’s time. Unless it’s something earth shattering like CM Punk walking out, or maybe even Roman Reigns’ suspension, we tend not to remember the negatives as much as the positives. I think there has been far more memorable moments that we will look back on fondly than otherwise.
I would say it’s been a very good year for WWE so far in terms of content. And with the brand extension coming up, which I didn’t even mention, it has the potential to be a really great year. The roster is going to be boosted by more NXT call ups, the returns of Randy Orton and Neville from injury, and the returns of various veterans.
As far as I’m concerned, the future is very bright, and we are on the cusp of something special. If the trends from the first half of the year continue, I am very excited to see where we end up.