WWE's 10 Worst Moments of 2016
With 2016 now in the history books, let’s take a look at what won’t be remembered fondly in the years to come from WWE.2016 was a polarizing year in many ways. We’ve learned of shocking deaths, crazy stories from around the world, and one of the most hotly-contested and controversial presidential elections in history. Needless to say, many people won’t be looking back at this year fondly, especially with WWE.The world of pro wrestling was no different. We’ve witnessed many odd, disappointing and irritating things as wrestling fans, especially in WWE. The year began on somewhat of a strong note with several shocking signings from NJPW. Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Shinsuke Nakamura and A.J. Styles are all regular fixtures of WWE programming.We’ve also seen a lot of great moments throughout the year with many outstanding matches. Styles, in particular, showed that he really is arguably the best wrestler alive today, winning the WWE Championship in September. Nakamura’s the top star in NXT right now, but given his otherworldly charisma and magnetism, he isn’t likely to stay there for long.As for Gallows & Anderson, well, their booking puts them somewhere on this list of worst moments.Sadly, for every good thing WWE has done this year, they executed at least one equally bad or worse thing to counterbalance it. From bizarre booking decisions to terrible overreactions to random events, WWE has been more volatile than ever in their decision-making. More people are calling for Vince to retire (or some other major shake-up in WWE management) than ever. We’re even seeing terrifyingly low ratings for a show that has one of the most stacked rosters it’s ever had.WWE failed with many things this year, but the following ten items stand out as the worst of the worst…Next: No. 10
10. Titus O’Neil’s Bizarre Suspension
As everyone stood on the entrance ramp during Daniel Bryan’s retirement ceremony (more on that later), Titus O’Neil did something unscripted. Just as the show faded to black, O’Neil grabbed Vince by the arm. We learned later that he held Vince back to let Stephanie go first, because O’Neil is a gentleman.
We also learned that Titus O’Neil was suspended for 60 days for doing this, and the original suspension was supposed to be 90 days.
The hoopla that followed was ridiculous. Virtually everyone commenting on the situation felt it was a major overreaction, especially since Titus didn’t really do anything wrong, and initial reports suggested Vince thought he was being playful.
Regardless, WWE suspended O’Neil for 90 days, meaning he missed a major payday in WrestleMania. They also damaged their own public image, as O’Neil was one of their most ‘positive’ wrestlers towards the community.
After his suspension, O’Neil has been treading water in uncertain seas. His ‘reignited’ feud with Darren Young was an abysmal failure, as it his continued attempt to get the ‘Titus Brand’ over. Truly, this event set 2016 off to a bad start.
9. The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Appearance Gets Wasted
The mythical Undertaker’s appearances are increasingly rare, so WWE needs to make the most of each one. Putting him with Shane McMahon is not making the most of it.
If there was ever a sign that WWE’s creative team is incompetent and cannot cover of logical fallacies, this is it. They booked the Undertaker to face Shane in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania, with two major caveats.
If Shane won, he’d have full control over RAW and the Undertaker would have to retire. If the Undertaker won, the status quo prevailed. Needless to say, given WWE’s recent direction, it would’ve actually been more exciting to see Shane win.
Unfortunately, WWE accomplished a whole lot of nothing with this match. The contest itself was a resounding disappointment, save for Shane’s spectacular dive off the top of the cell. It made the entire roster look weak, as the 46-year-old Shane showed he could go toe-to-toe with the Deadman. There was no interference, nor any special gimmicks to give the match any added drama. It was a slow, plodding match, to be sure.
What’s more, the booking didn’t make sense before, during, or after the match. Why was Undertaker OK with this stipulation, given that he normally does whatever the hell he wants? What would stop Shane, had he won, from reversing Vince’s stipulation and reinstating the Undertaker? But most importantly, why did Vince give Shane any authority the night afterward if he lost against the Undertaker?
These plot holes and booking decisions rendered this supposedly-historic match entirely moot. It also didn’t help that Shane actually walked down the ramp the night afterward (way to sell the pain, Shane).
Most people are doing to want to forget this WrestleMania moment, but odds are it will be a true low point for years, as people look back at 2016 and wonder, ‘what the hell were they thinking?’
8. Opening RAW Promos Almost Every Week
OK, so this isn’t a single moment per se, but rather the same moment repeated almost every week this year.
During the 2016 calendar year, virtually every single episode of RAW opened in the exact same way: a long, boring promo from either the Authority or some other wrestler. When the New Day opened with a match on December 12th, it made that episode one of the best of the year by default.
With RAW opening with a promo every week, it takes the fans out of the show from the moment it starts. People tune in to see wrestling, so opening with something that isn’t wrestling is anathema do a wrestling product’s survival. There’s a time and a place for talking and developing a story verbally, but it shouldn’t be in the opening segment of every weekly show.
7. Triple H Wins the 2016 Royal Rumble
This year’s Royal Rumble match was unique. For the first time, the current champion defended the title inside the Rumble match. With Roman Reigns entering as the passionately-hated champion, there was genuine intrigue as to who’d win the match.
There were a lot of credible potential winners, but out of all those possibilities, WWE chose Triple H to win. Triple H, the man who hadn’t wrestled on a full-time basis in years, eliminated not only the champion Reigns, but also the last guy in the match, Dean Ambrose.
Now, when Ambrose and HHH stood eye-to-eye, many people got excited. Many thought, finally, Ambrose would get a shocking win over the Game, and we’d get Reigns/Ambrose at WrestleMania. Instead, Hunter won, with WWE hoping HHH would be hated going into the bout and Reigns would be cheered. Oh, how wrong they were.
Triple H didn’t enter the match as the evil corporate boss. He entered as the DX-inspired badass (complete with crotch chop) to a roar of approval. When he won, people cheering raucously. Not because HHH specifically had won, but because Reigns had lost. WWE got their signals mixed up in every possible way.
This led to a dreadful main event months later (more on that soon), and made the entire roster look weak in comparison. It also didn’t help that the League of Nations demonstrated classic WWE stupidity by pulling Reigns under the ropes to hurt him, instead of eliminating him over the top rope, which is the first rule of the bloody Rumble match.
6. Several High-Profile WWE Releases
WWE’s inability to create new stars has been profiled on this site any many others across the internet for years. Aside from John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and to a lesser extent the Undertaker, no one else on the roster has risen to that top level where they’ve reached true cross-cultural appeal. If you were to rank WWE’s roster, it would look like this: The Undertaker, John Cena & Brock Lesnar > Vince & the Authority > everyone else.
These problems have frustrated many people, including four in particular that decided they’d had enough of WWE’s nonsense. Cody Rhodes left WWE after being doomed to play Stardust forever, in a gimmick that had long since passed its expiry date. The fact that WWE nixed the planned Goldust/Stardust WrestleMania match again demonstrated just how little faith they had in this talented wrestler.
Damien Sandow was likewise released, despite one of the most organically-popular wrestlers on the card. He had gotten ridiculously over as Miz’s stunt double, and people laughed at everything he did. But instead of taking the ball with him, WWE seemed to punish him by having languished in the mid-card without any direction. It’s almost as if they thought, ‘how dare he get over without us doing everything for him?’
Then there was Ryback, who had gotten tired of the ‘start-stop’ booking that had been a victim of. He was at one point pegged to be a big star in WWE, yet he ended up working the WrestleMania pre-show. Ryback was a solid worker and had a good thing going for him for quite some time, yet WWE didn’t let him grow as a performer.
Then there’s Wade Barrett, who might be the most abused performer in recent WWE history. He had a great thing going as Bad News Barrett, then they had him lose match after match after match, even while he held the Intercontinental Championship. They simply had nothing for him, despite being one of the most talented people on the roster for a time.
All four of these departures highlighted the serious problems WWE has right now. Sure, they have a deep roster, but the overwhelming majority of their top guys are all ‘outsiders’ having adapted to WWE’s style to an extent. The only pure WWE guys right now are Cena, Orton, and Reigns. Two of these men are on the downside of their respective careers, and the other is one of the most hated wrestlers in the past 25 years.
2017’s going to be a rough year for WWE, to be sure.
5. Finn Balor Gets Injured During WWE Universal Championship Win
Finn Balor’s main roster debut was a long time coming, but damn was it great. In his first matches, he defeated Rusev, Cesaro, Kevin Owens and then later Roman Reigns to become #1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship. Then, at SummerSlam, he defeated Seth Rollins to become the inaugural champion. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Balor suffered a major shoulder injury early into the match, which forced him to relinquish his newly-won championship. This was a major setback, as Balor could’ve carried the RAW brand on his shoulders as champion quite easily. We would’ve seen very different matches from the ones we’re seeing now, especially since WWE have gone down the ‘cowardly heel’ route for Kevin Owens.
While Owens is a great performer, he isn’t being used properly, and should instead be a dominant heel that does everything himself. Sadly, Balor’s injury forced WWE to rethink their plans entirely, and their lack of careful planning is painfully obvious in some of the poorly-booked directions we’re seeing with Owens.
Now, the only thing we can do is wait for Balor to return and regain his crown.
4. Rusev is Somehow Still a Bad Guy
WWE thinks all Russians are evil. They make everyone from Russia out to be a villainous monster that hates everything American. But their ‘logic’ was never more confusing and paradoxical than with Rusev.
For the majority of 2016, Rusev’s storylines have centered on his relationship with Lana. The two are real-life husband and wife, much to the chagrin of the many fans that find Lana attractive. Yet Rusev and Lana have endured several ridiculous storylines and segments that are somehow meant to portray them as villains, when logically they’d be the good guys.
Roman Reigns interrupted their wedding celebration on RAW and made sexual jokes at Lana’s expense. Enzo Amore walked naked in front of Lana and then attempted to seduce her. In these segments and many more, Rusev stood up to defend his wife’s honor, yet the crowd was supposed to boo this man. How does this make any sense? If you were in Rusev’s shoes, you’d do the exact same thing, regardless of your nationality, right?
It’s illogical storylines like this one that exemplify WWE’s abysmal creative process. The storylines aren’t given proper forethought, and obvious plot holes and errors are omitted, with the creative department hoping that fans wouldn’t catch on. But fans these days aren’t as dumb as WWE think they are. So if WWE needs an explanation for their terrible ratings, they can look no further than storylines like this one that insults the intelligence of every person involved and watching.
3. The ‘Old Day’
What did Gallows & Anderson do to deserve this?
This could very well be the single-worst promo segment of 2016. Gallows & Anderson, two successful gaijin tag team wrestlers from New Japan, debuted on something of a high note. By SummerSlam, their warm reception was tepid, at best. And by the time this segment came along, they were colder than Canadian winter.
This segment was the epitome of Vince’s terrible sense of humor. Jokes about senility, farts, urine and more farts. We were supposed to take G&A seriously after this segment, but this effectively killed off what little credibility they had left. They were no longer viewed as an invading menace from New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Instead, they’re now seen as two guys lost in the RAW mid-card without any distinguishable characteristic.
Please, WWE, never do a segment like this again, no matter how much Vince and his circle of cronies might find it funny.
Credit: WWE on Twitter
2. Roman Reigns’ Main Event Victory at WrestleMania 32
There has never been a WrestleMania where the winner of the main event was booed. Never has the audience in attendance been so upset with the result that they left the show angry. Never had the heels in a match had to placate the crowd to try and send them home a little less angry.
Until WrestleMania 32 earlier this year.
It’s often said that the most devoted of wrestling fans attend WrestleMania live. These are those people that have the most passion for the product and are willing to spend thousands to prove it. So when they attend a show and they let their voices be heard, it really should matter.
Roman Reigns was booed the moment he first entered the arena too long after the cameras stopped rolling. Every move he did received a negative reaction, even when he Speared Stephanie McMahon. When he began his celebration, you could tell few people, if any, were happy. Many of those fans had sat for around six hours from start to finish, only to have that kind of an ending. This was a perfect example of booking a show to anger fans that still follow the program solely out of loyalty and years of goodwill. This match shattered that goodwill and may have serious long-term ramifications.
WWE has a hard enough time keeping their current fanbase at stable levels. It’s even more difficult for them to attract new viewers. Given how they booked this match, how Vince and company went out of their ways to do what they want instead of making the paying fans happy, you shouldn’t be surprised the company isn’t doing well.
1. Daniel Bryan’s Retirement
Earlier I mentioned WWE has few transcendent stars on the roster. When 2014 began, they had three fulltime top regular stars: John Cena, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. By the dawn of 2015, they were down to two. Then, on February 8th, 2016, arguably their biggest star announced his retirement from active professional wrestling.
Bryan had been dealing with serious injuries and concussion-related issues for months, if not longer. Though he was, and still is, immensely popular, he had spent a long time away from the ring due to his health issues. Then he announced that he could no longer wrestle and had to give up the craft he loved so much.
This was a devastating day for both WWE and its fans. Bryan was a genuinely likable wrestling character and person. He was quite possibly the best technical wrestler on the entire planet for almost an entire decade. He was so popular he forced WWE to place him in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. His ‘Yes’ chants have crossed into other areas of pop culture, being used by other athletes and in arenas around the world.
He had achieved what few wrestlers could ever dream of, and on February 8th, that rollercoaster ride ended.
Had Bryan been in good health, he would’ve kept wrestling for many years. We could’ve had several insane dream matches, most notably Bryan vs. Nakamura. He could’ve fit into any role and flourished. Instead, he finds himself acting as an on-screen authority figure on SmackDown alongside a McMahon.
While it does allow him to stay close to the wrestling business, you can tell that he misses wrestling as much as we miss him.
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