It's the time of year to give thanks for the blessings in our lives, and WWE fans have plenty of things to choose from in what has been a transformational year for the company. Here are 21 things we're thankful for in 2016:
The rise of James Ellsworth is the most inspirational storyline of 2016, and he just improved to 3-0 all-time against AJ Styles Tuesday night to secure his full-time WWE contract.
The brand split
SmackDown went from being an entirely skippable show to the one you can’t miss each week overnight. Splitting up the roster has allowed midcarders to become stars (Heath Slater is a WWE champion), and each show now feels unique. It was a brilliant move.
The state of women’s wrestling
The “Women’s Revolution” began in earnest years ago, but the women’s division on the main roster has hit its stride in 2016, and the top stars have been delivering incredible matches.
One of the feel-good breakout stars of the year. His departure from the Wyatt family was the best thing that could have happened to Strowman.
Demon Finn Balor's on the main roster
Come back soon, Finn.
Enzo and Cass' entrance bit
Phillips being trolled by WWE stars is the best part of every PPV kickoff show.
Heath Slater's kids
He needs this job.
The Miz and Maryse
The return of Maryse revitalized The Miz, and while his Intercontinental title win over Zack Ryder one day after WrestleMania was unpopular at the time, he’s solidified himself as the best heel in WWE over the last few months.
Sheamus and Cesaro as a tag team
As singles wrestlers, both Sheamus and Cesaro were struggling to find a foothold in any title picture, but as a highly entertaining duo they’re primed to take The New Day’s title and step back in to a well-deserved spotlight.
The Cruiserweight Classic
While the cruiserweights haven’t been the runaway hit many - myself included - expected on Raw, the Cruiserweight Classic is evidence that the division can be a show-stealing, jaw-dropping force. The launch of 205 Live next week should help fans connect with the characters a bit more, which should help their reception on Mondays.
The two-man group that now creates most WWE entrance music, the CFO$ have given us Bobby Roode’s Glorious, Shinsuke Nakamura’s The Rising Sun and AJ Styles’ Phenomenal in 2016 alone.
The funniest man in WWE.
Shane McMahon (and his crazy dives)
Even at the age of 46, Shane McMahon is willingly sacrificing his body to deliver jump-out-of-your-seat moments.
The Undertaker’s return
It remains to be seen how active The Undertaker will be following his return to SmackDown, but the looming threat that his music could hit at any time simply makes the show that much better.
Renee Young is an indispensable part of WWE’s presentation, and without her shows like Raw Talk or Raw pay-per-view preshows would be unwatchable. Her Unfiltered show is also the best original series on the WWE Network.
Speaking of Renee Young, she has incredible chemistry with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack, which makes the show a must-watch each week. It’s also given us the promo of the year.
He’s still got it.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrances
There’s simply nothing else like it. Seriously, go watch NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn right this minute.
It was unthinkable a year ago that AJ Styles, who was heading toward a Wrestle Kingdom matchup with Shinsuke Nakamura in Japan at the time, would even be in a WWE ring let alone the WWE World Champion. He’s since become one of the most popular stars on the roster, and his SummerSlam match with John Cena was arguably the best of the year.
The Gift of Jericho
Drink it in, man. Jericho’s been the undisputed MVP of Raw since the Draft, and at the age of 46 is having one of the best years of his career.