2016 in Review

2016 In Review: The Absolute Worst Of WWE

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/32/article/wrestlemania-32-results Source: WWE.com

In every year, a lot of good things happen that remind us why we like pro wrestling. But this is not that sort of list. Here, we’re going to look at the times when WWE fell far short of the mark, when wrestlers just didn’t live up to expectations, and when just plain bad things happened in the course of the wrestling year. We do this not out of malice, but because we just want WWE to do things better, and the easiest way to learn is to have someone point out when you’ve made a mistake. So, if you want to know what depressed, annoyed, and sometimes genuinely upset us in WWE in 2016, look no further than these examples right here.

Worst News Story: Daniel Bryan Retires

Last year, we gave this to Daniel Bryan because we weren’t sure if he was ever going to wrestle again. Oh, how we long for those carefree days when we lived in a world of uncertainty, as opposed to 2016, which let us know very quickly that the year was probably going to involve a series of gut punches, and WWE would not be excluded. In early February, after nearly a year of speculation, it was suddenly revealed, via a terse statement on social media, that Daniel Bryan would be appearing on Raw that evening to announce his immediate retirement, ending the career of one of WWE’s most beloved Superstars just after it seemed like he’d hit his peak. Bryan’s speech that evening was heartbreaking, and it slowly came out in the ensuing weeks and months that he’d been hiding the full extent of his medical issues from even his wife and family, out of (completely correct) fear that it would mean the end of the career he’d given his life to. While it’s certain that retirement was the best, and only, course of action for Bryan, it doesn’t mean that it hurt any less.

http://wrestlingnews.co/full-recap-of-daniel-bryans-retirement-speech/ Source: wrestlingnews.co

Worst Tag Team: The Shining Stars

You know things aren’t working out with your new personas when people consider your old gimmick as masked bullfighters to be superior. We’ll give Primo and Epico credit for sticking around through a lot of terrible gimmicks, but their new role as evil Puerto Rican tourist agents selling fake timeshare properties somehow manages to top everything they’ve done before. WWE killed this concept right out of the gate, when people couldn’t tell how they were supposed to react to two guys who did nothing but talk about the virtues of living in Puerto Rico. They weren’t saying bad things about America, they just really liked their home country, so obviously, they were supposed to be bad guys, apparently. After they finally debuted, it was unclear on a weekly basis whether they were supposed to be a low-card comedy team or serious title contenders, as they would beat top contenders one week, and lose embarrassingly the next. With both Raw and Smackdown now fairly flush with tag teams, the Shining Stars are the most forgettable and lamest of the bunch. At least other jobber teams like The Vaudevillains and The Ascension have a unique look. Is it too late to bring back El Torito?

http://wrestlingrumors.net/the-shining-stars-getting-big-push/ Source: WrestlingRumors.net

Worst Promo: Kalisto, “Good Lucha Thing”

We’re not sure how many people actually watched the post-Smackdown part of the Draft, which took place on the WWE Network, but we’re pretty sure a lot of people found out about Kalisto’s epic fail of a promo that took place after he was drafted to the Smackdown brand. Aside from reminding us that Kalisto was essentially feuding with Baron Corbin for six months, it also features a man who is very happy he was wearing a mask to hide his expression. Kalisto clearly loses the thread of what he’s supposed to say from moment one, and bless his heart, he tries to find his way back, which just results in him repeating himself several times, ending with the phrase “I’m here to stay, and make…a good…uh..good lucha thing”, before literally sprinting off-camera and shouting “God dammit!” We’re not sure you could fail so hard at a thirty second promo if you were actively trying.

Worst Gimmick: “The Drifter” Elias Samson

When even the heel commentator is mocking your gimmick, you must be really bad. The Drifter, an NXT Superstar who literally portrays a guitar-playing hobo, draws heat for all the wrong reasons. He’s a terrible guitar player, his promos are nonsensical and vague, and in the ring, he’s barely adequate. You could hide at least one of those deficiencies if you were strong in any other area, but Samson simply isn’t. He’s clearly trying to portray and aura of mystery, but he comes across as one of those jerks you’ve seen on every university campus, playing the one song he knows because he thinks it will impress women. Some will say that because he’s a heel and people clearly hate him, that he’s doing his job, but in the case of the Drifter, it’s not so much hatred as it is a desire for him to go away so someone more interesting could take his place. Whatever The Drifter thinks he is, it’s definitely not what NXT needs.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/2016/6/6/11871256/wwe-reports-elias-samson-suffered-a-broken-ankle-at-nxt-nashville Source: CageSideSeats.com

Worst Misuse Of Talent: Neville

As always, there are several contenders for the Superstar most under-utilized by the geniuses in WWE Creative this year, but we have to give special attention to the man who was allegedly 2015’s Breakout Superstar of the Year according to the Slammy Award voting, Neville. Since winning that “prestigious” award in December of last year, Neville has gone on to do…nothing. To be fair, he was injured for a portion of 2016, but was back in plenty of time to potentially be a part of WWE’s new Cruiserweight Division, an area in which the high-flying Neville would almost certainly thrive. And unlike Kalisto, Neville was even drafted to the Raw brand, creating what should have been a match made in heaven! Instead, Neville has remained largely absent from Raw, in the Cruiserweight Division or otherwise, with no obvious plans for him to take part in anything meaningful in the future. While there have been other shameful misuses of talent, such as Cesaro and Sami Zayn, at least they still have a regular spot on TV, which is more than we can say for the master of the Red Arrow.

http://worcestermag.com/2015/10/01/two-minutes-with-wwe-superstar-neville/36739 Source: worcestermag.com

Worst Announcer: David Otunga

WWE’s obsession with three-man announce booths has been one of several reasons why WWE commentary is pretty much the worst in the known universe, outside of obvious bright spots Corey Graves and Mauro Ranallo (when he’s not comparing everything to complete non sequiturs, anyway). And the worst of the worst is the man inexplicably still employed by WWE, Jennifer Hudson’s husband (wait, maybe we can explain it), David Otunga. Otunga was tapped to fill the third spot on Smackdown’s commentary table after the brand extension made Byron Saxton exclusive to Raw, and he has spent every moment since figuring out new ways to contribute absolutely nothing to the on-air product. He provides no insight into matches, has no perspective on the wrestlers, and what he thinks passes for witty one-liners would embarrass Jerry Lawler on the King’s worst day. He provides so little, WWE actually added a fourth man, Tom Phillips, to the table, with some theorizing that it was so Otunga would have less available time to talk! Hopefully in 2017, WWE will finally decide to take away his headset for good.

http://prowrestling.wikia.com/wiki/Mauro_Ranallo,_JBL_%26_David_Otunga Source: ProWrestling.wikia.com

Worst Authority Figure: Stephanie McMahon

In a year where WWE brought back the brand split, we saw four authority figures parading around for most of 2016, plus a lot of Vince McMahon before that. And while Daniel Bryan has done a great job as the embattled Smackdown GM trying to be reasonable with very unreasonable Superstars, and Shane McMahon has kept himself mostly off-screen when not needed, we really need to talk about the abysmal job being done on Raw. Mick Foley has done his best, but it’s become painful to watch him struggle, and he’s been forced to deliver far too many “emotional shouting” promos at Superstars, to the point that it’s lost a lot of its weight. But the worst of the bunch has been Stephanie McMahon, who’s spent most of her on-screen time making sure that everyone knows she is the dominant force on Raw, who is responsible for everything good that ever happens, will continue to never get her comeuppance, yells at everyone, slaps anyone she feels like, and still insists on maintaining the thin veneer of pretending to actually be a good person. In moderation, Stephanie McMahon is a great heel character. The problem is, as Commissioner, she’s been on-screen far too much, and taken the spotlight away from the actual wrestlers in favor of giving her more exposure.

https://wrestlingrumors.net/the-real-reason-why-stephanie-mcmahon-missed-monday-night-raw-revealed/ Source: WrestlingRumors.net

Worst Storyline: Roman Reigns, Road To WrestleMania

So, after the WWE audience relentlessly rejected Roman Reigns’ rise to power against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31, WWE called an audible and had Seth Rollins cash in Money in the Bank and steal the World Title. It was a great moment for a match many had dreaded going into the event, and turned many people’s opinion of the PPV. However, Reigns’ ascension was only delayed, not cancelled, and after Reigns started getting some positive reactions in late 2015 (while facing the easily disliked Sheamus and Vince McMahon in his “evil billionaire” persona), WWE saw it as a sign that it was okay to try again, this time planning for Reigns to win the World Title at WrestleMania 32, set to be the biggest Mania in history. The problem was, while fans hated Sheamus, that didn’t mean they actually liked Reigns, and once the Road to Mania started, all Reigns’ momentum disappeared. WWE also did Reigns no favors, booking him to defend the World Title in the Royal Rumble match by entering at #1, then having him taken out by the League without being eliminated, sitting out of the match for nearly half an hour before returning for the finish, making his participation a massive, and unfunny, joke. To make things worse, Dean Ambrose started amassing a sizable following, and thanks to Reigns accidentally breaking his nose and being sidelined for most of the weeks leading up to Mania, Ambrose was programmed into his spot against Triple H and looked far better in the role. By the time Reigns returned, fans were once again decidedly not interested in seeing Reigns’ “triumphant” victory at WrestleMania. The match itself took place in the seventh hour of what seemed like a never-ending Wrestlemania, was poorly received, and actually forced WWE to obviously mess with the audio feed, in order to try and suppress the clearly negative reaction of (allegedly) over 100,000 fans to Reigns’ win.

http://wrestlingrumors.net/rumor-roman-reigns-will-remain-wwe-champion-through-brand-split-summerslam/ Source: wrestlingrumors.net

Worst Feud: Roman Reigns vs Rusev

After a disastrous 2015 saw Rusev trapped in a ridiculous feud with Dolph Ziggler over the alleged affections of Lana and Summer Rae, we had to believe that 2016 would be better for the Bulgarian Brute. Unfortunately, we had no idea how much worse it could get. After spending the first quarter of the year trapped in the dismal League of Nations faction, Rusev finally broke away from the group and captured the US Title for the second time, which seemed like a sign of a brighter future…until he was placed in a feud with Roman Reigns. The feud, such as it was, involved Roman Reigns interrupting Rusev and Lana’s celebration of their (very real) wedding, calling Lana a mail-order bride, and basically acting like a jerk, causing Rusev to seek revenge. This pattern continued for several months, with Reigns making fun of Rusev and Lana’s relationship, marriage, and even Rusev’s family. At some point, even the commentary team stopped pretending that Rusev wasn’t the wronged party in the feud, even if every indication was that the fans were supposed to be getting behind the love-hating jerk Reigns. On top of all that, there was a sense of inevitability that Reigns would eventually win the US Title, even as WWE tried to extend the feud with a nonsensical non-match at SummerSlam that put off the title switch for a month. And indeed, Reigns won the title and was immediately placed back in the Universal Title hunt, while Rusev plummeted back down the card again.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe-raw/2015/11/23/9789294/rusev-return-wwe-raw Source: cagesideseats.com

Worst Female Wrestler: Dana Brooke

With all the wrestlers, especially female wrestlers, who deserved to be called up from NXT in 2016, the promotion of Dana Brooke continues to be a baffling one, especially when you realize that she was on the main roster months ahead of Bayley. Brooke’s character work and development drew positive reviews in NXT, which the caveat that she still had a long way to go. However, WWE decided to promote her far earlier than anyone would have expected, in order to replicate her partnership with Emma on the main roster. Unfortunately, Emma underwent back surgery shortly after Brooke arrived, and rather than just send her back to NXT, WWE tried to salvage things by turning her into Charlotte’s protege. Brooke’s lack of experience began rearing its ugly head immediately, as she often looked lost, both in her role as a ringside manager and in her rare matches, while her strong character work was minimized by making her subservient to Charlotte. Brooke has faded into the background slightly as the year winds down, but we maintain that a trip back to NXT would probably be the best direction for her career, before she’s no longer salvageable.

http://newwrestlecrap.proboards.com/thread/24717/eva-maria-dana-brooke Source: newwrestlecrap.proboards.com

Worst Male Wrestler: Titus O’Neil

Look, nobody in WWE is truly a bad wrestler. Even a big lug like Braun Strowman is a far better wrestler than the lumbering super-heavyweights of the past. But there are some wrestlers on the roster whose presence on TV far exceeds their actual ability, and among the ones that actually appear on TV, we’re going to have to give this award to Titus O’Neil, who started the year by getting suspended for horsing around with Vince McMahon during Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech, and spent the rest of the year losing. The thing is, as he’s proved time and time again over the years, Titus’ best role is as the “hot tag” guy in a tag team. That way, he stays on the apron while his partner sells for the majority of a match, then comes in and hits a few big moves leading to the finish. But when asked to work an entire match as a singles wrestler, Titus is just plain bad, and has been that way for years. At one point in the past, WWE sent him down to NXT for extra training, and he came back having not improved or evolved a single bit. He’s unbelievable when he tries to sell, and his offence is so limited you could count his moveset on the fingers of one hand. And yet, even though he’s not winning, Titus continues to be on TV nearly every week, mostly because of his off-screen ambassador work (and don’t get us wrong, that’s great, but it doesn’t make him more enjoyable to watch on Raw), while more talented wrestlers haven’t been seen in months.

http://wrestlingnews.co/jtg-on-titus-oneil-vince-mcmahon-incident-it-wasnt-his-first-offense/ Source: wrestlingnews.co

Worst PPV: WrestleMania 32

No, it’s not just because Roman won, although obviously that was a factor. Roman Reigns, the babyface champion nobody except Vince McMahon wanted, winning a ridiculously long slog of a main event that didn’t even start until the PPV was already running over its advertised four hour length, was just the cherry on top of the excruciating death march that was WrestleMania 32. The first match of the evening, a seven-man Ladder Match that saw massive underdog Zack Ryder shockingly win the Intercontinental Title, was literally the high point of the evening as positive emotions went, and the four-plus hours that followed it was a series of disappointment and bad endings. The New Day, who had been carrying the tag team division for months, lost to the League of Nations in a non-title match after beating them regularly in title matches in the weeks leading up to the show, then got destroyed by three retired Legends in a segment designed just to pop the live crowd. The newly created Women’s Title was won by Charlotte the same tired way she’d been winning every match since becoming Divas Champion, by having her father interfere in the finish. A potentially intriguing storyline where Shane McMahon attempted to wrest control of WWE away from his father was squashed when he lost to The Undertaker, who had no reason to want to fight Shane in the first place. An anticipated street fight between Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose was a disappointing suplex-filled squash. It’s a telling sign that most of the enjoyable moments in this show involved people who weren’t actually wrestlers. Oh, and have we mentioned enough that the PPV was scheduled for four hours in length, had a two-hour pre-show, and then ran over by nearly an entire hour, absolutely exhausting anyone who tried to watch the whole thing? It wasn’t the worst Wrestlemania ever, but it definitely belongs in that company.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/32/article/wrestlemania-32-results Source: WWE.com

Worst Match: Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar, Street Fight, WrestleMania

Given the level of talent currently employed by WWE, it’s almost unfair to call anything a true “Worst” match. Long gone are the days of lumbering giants and barely-trained swimsuit models fumbling around the ring in things that could only be called “matches” by virtue of the fact that they took place in a wrestling ring. Sure, we could give this award to some forgettable match on Raw that nobody remembers even taking place, but we’d prefer to go with the most disappointing high-profile match we saw this year, and under that criteria, Ambrose vs Lesnar basically runs away with this award. Going into the event, Ambrose was on fire, thanks to a hot program with WWE Champion Triple H (which only really happened because Roman Reigns broke his nose and spent most of the build to his WrestleMania main event match off TV) that saw Ambrose drop a lot of his goofier character traits and become more of a tough-as-nails street fighter who just kept coming at you. The match with Brock basically promised extreme hardcore violence, and while no one expected Ambrose to win, the thought was that it would be one heck of a match thanks to the brutal violence of Lesnar and the underdog, never-say-die vibe of Ambrose. Instead, we got a limp excuse of a match with minimal hardcore elements that lasted way too long, where Brock threw a dozen suplexes and called it a day. It would later be revealed that Lesnar basically didn’t even want to really have the match, because he was secretly training for a UFC comeback and didn’t want to risk injury, and it definitely showed in the incredibly disappointing match that we got.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/32/dean-ambrose-brock-lesnar-street-fight-results Source: WWE.com
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.