Back for its second year; here’s my personal ranking of the pro wrestling personalities who had the biggest impact on the industry in 2016. As I said last year, these are my subjective opinions and I can only rank what I watch. This year I saw a bit more of Ring of Honor because of their relationship with NJPW so they are better represented. I know for a fact there are fantastic wrestlers on the indie scene and in TNA. Just because I left out someone good like Bobby Lashley doesn’t mean I think Liv Morgan is better than him. I just didn’t watch much of Lashley this year and can’t fairly compare him against performers whose shows I watch. Frankly, it’s impossible to watch everything. I’m only one man and there are only so many hours in the day!
Now without further ado, here is the 2016 Irish Whip 250:
(Parentheses are last year’s ranking and how far they rose or fell)
250. Sawyer Fulton (207, -43): Finally got a real, sticking gimmick as part of the NXT stable SAnitY until he was injured and replaced before the group has done anything notable.
249. Steve Cutler (-): So low on the NXT totem pole, he’s not even listed on wwe.com’s roster. He tried to make himself a thing by challenging Shinsuke Nakamura. It did not go well.
248. Henare (-): Gorilla controversially killed when a young boy got into his enclosure. No, wait, that’s wrong. New Japan’s newest Young Lion. He appeared as Nakanishi’s partner in World Tag League.
247. Aliyah (-): A young member of NXT’s roster of women, Aliyah is just starting to get better and work her way onto television.
246. Ho Ho Lun (-): While he might not be spectacular in the ring, Ho Ho Lun is an inspirational story outside of it. If pro wrestling doesn’t exist in your country, make it exist! A savvy political move for WWE to hire this guy as they continue to gain footing in China.
245. The Headbangers (-): A surprise return to help fill out the thin Smackdown roster, Mosh and Thrasher look better than ever. And by better, I of course mean older and chubbier.
244. Angelo Dawkins (208, -36): NXT jobber stricken by the “curse of greatness.” His biggest claim to fame might be (is) wearing two headbands.
243. Mr. Cisco (153, -90): He was over with the crowd when The Crew unexpectedly turned babyface. Then he became a sympathetic figure caught in the middle of the Castro/Ryan undercover cop story. Then Dario Cueto murdered him.
242. Colt Cabana (-): Returned to ROH with winning gold on his mind but it won’t be in the tag team ranks since he betrayed his partner, Dalton Castle, and turned heel.
241. Patrick Clark (-): The latest of the often polarizing “Is he gay?” gimmicks, Clark’s newly found flamboyant side is a step in the right direction as far as getting noticed and getting onto NXT television.
240. Billy Gunn (-): Appeared in NJPW’s World Tag League as Yoshi Tatsu’s first official new member of the Bullet Club Hunters.
239. Alexander Wolfe (245, +6): It will be interesting to see how far Wolfe can go as a soldier in the SAnitY army. The future looks bright at the moment.
238. King Barrett (69, -169): The oft-injured Brit was declared the weak link of the doomed League of Nations stable and was booted out of the group…never to be seen again.
237. Buddy Murphy (127, -110): Ditched by Alexa Bliss and broke up with his tag team partner, 2016 was not a good year for the former NXT tag team champion. 2017 might make or break his WWE career.
236. Wesley Blake (127, -109): Same.
235. Mickie James (-): With no credible opponents for NXT Women’s champion, Asuka, WWE looked to the past & brought back James for Takeover: Toronto. She did well for herself and looks to have parlayed that appearance into a definitive return to the company.
234. Drew Gulak (-): A great wrestler and one of the eye-openers in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament over the summer. As a heel, he is sadly booked as a loser in the fledgling WWE Cruiserweight division.
233. Erick Rowan (158, -75): Easily the most inept member of the Wyatt Family, Rowan is the new record holder for fastest loss in Wrestlemania history thanks to an impromptu confrontation with The Rock.
232. Jay White (206, -26): Left NJPW on excursion to Ring of Honor where he is getting a bit of a push. I am greatly anticipating his return to New Japan and ditching of the Young Lion trunks
231. Mustafa Ali (-): A talented performer who was robbed in the first round of the CWC by Ho Ho Lun. It appears he will be taking on the ‘before its time’ Muhammad Hassan gimmick of the American wrestler being held back by racism. I think the world is ready this time.
230. Paul London (-): Arrived in the Lucha Underground temple as the leader of the psychedelic Rabbit Tribe. Too early to tell how much impact he will have on the show.
229. Tajiri (-): Brought some name recognition to the inaugural CWC and was able to keep up with the youngsters fairly well.
228. Peyton Royce (220, -8): The “Posion Ivy” of NXT; she really likes sniffing flowers. Formed a mean girls alliance with fellow Australian, Billie Kay.
227. Paige (36, -191): Shelved with a serious injury and embroiled in a tabloid-worthy love affair with the departed Alberto Del Rio, Paige has been removed from WWE for all intents and purposes. A sad end for a pioneering performer in the women’s division.
226. Damien Sandow (94, -132): It was patently obvious that WWE was never going to push Sandow to a level that matched how over he was. Left for TNA where he was immediately given a well-deserved midcard championship.
225. Tony Nese (-): An extremely impressive all-around performer who is taking full advantage of the recent opportunities being given to cruiserweights in WWE.
224. El Siniestro de la Muerte (159, -65): Killed off his virtually indistinguishable brothers in the Disciples of Death trio though absorbing their life force couldn’t elevate his power high enough to avoid being murdered by a frustrated Mil Muertes.
223. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley 152, -71): Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley ditched their tag team partners to reform MCMG. They are currently recruiting young ROH stars to form a stable that can take out Bullet Club.
222. Ariya Daivari (-): A regular presence in WWE’s Cruiserweight division, the younger Daivari brother is one of the few who gets to show some personality, even if it’s a stereotypical evil “foreigner.”
221. Spirit Squad (-): The Miz brought back Kenny and Mikey as part of his mockery of Dolph Ziggler’s career. Against all odds, they’ve stuck around as both a good hand Smackdown tag team and Miz’s lackeys.
220. Billie Kay (221, +1): Billie appeared on an episode of Smackdown and made it onto an NXT Takeover as Ember Moon’s first opponent. Slowly moving up in the NXT women’s division.
219. Dante Fox (-): Left for dead on the battlefield by Killshot, Fox entered the LU temple and got his revenge with a couple of beatdowns and a victory over his former brother in arms. Now what?
218: Jinder Mahal (-): The WWE brand split opened the door for some previously disposed of good hands to make their return. The dastardly Mahal betrayed his former bandmate, Heath Slater, to earn a spot on the Raw roster.
217. Daga (-): A new face during Season 2 of LU, Daga didn’t win much and when he turned down the advances of Kobra Moon, he was… eaten by a snake god (???) off camera. My favorite part of Lucha Underground is how you can be written off by murder. It’s the truest form of “wrestling as soap opera.”
216. Liv Morgan (230, +14): The spunky Morgan got in a little over her head when she challenged Asuka.
215. Dr. Wagner Jr. (-): A legendary Mexican wrestler, but I can only rank him based on his work in the LU temple, which is…the least interesting person in a feud between a midget and a manager.
214. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels 164, -50; Frankie Kazarian 165 -49): One of the better heel tag teams in ROH; they only fall because they made no appearances in NJPW this year and I just didn’t see enough of them.
213. Ryback (44, -169): The Big Guy seemed poised to take Kalisto’s US title after a heel turn, but instead left WWE after failed contract negotiations. Now he’s tell-all podcasting, training for MMA and legally changing his name, a veritable greatest hits of disgruntled former WWE employee sideshows.
212. “The Drifter” Elias Samson (236, +24): An injury derailed the absolutely zero momentum Samson was gaining as the ill-defined, unsuccessful Drifter character.
211. Black Lotus Triad (Black Lotus 214, +3): Lotus wasted Season 2 of LU as Dario Cueto’s bodyguard but returned to the temple in Season 3 with a band of Japanese ninjas in tow. They are awesome.
210. Lio Rush (-): The winner of ROH’s top prospect tournament, Rush certainly looks like a future star and will probably join the MCMG’s anti-Bullet Club initiative.
209. Matt Sydal (132, -77): His career is back on the rocks after being busted for carrying drugs in Japan. He’s out of jail but also out of NJPW.
208. Oney Lorcan (-): A rough and tough up and comer on the NXT roster. Hopefully that truly awful ring name doesn’t hinder his rise in the ranks.
207. Bollywood Boys (-): Though Gurv & Harv Sihra got jobbed out in both the CWC and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, they stuck around to be a part of the new 205 Live show. Their outside the ring story is inspiring; one can only hope their in ring performance can catch up.
206. Manabu Nakanishi (177, -29): The nearly immobile old-timer is always booked as the least relevant member of NJPW’s “Third Generation.”
205. Nikki Cross (-): The female member of NXT’s SAnitY stable is arguably the most interesting. She’s essentially a wild animal that the others can barely control.
204. William Regal (181, -23): Another solid if unspectacular year for Regal as the leader of NXT. He’s not called on to do much besides announce matches but his war of words with Samoa Joe proved he still has his acting chops.
203. Hideo Itami (117, -86): Finally returned from injury after over a year only to be almost immediately shelved again. Fingers crossed that he gets healthy in 2017 and ascends to where he should be.
202. Curt Hawkins (-): Another lower midcarder who found a place back in WWE after the brand extension. His gimmick is lame but he’s not on TV much so it’s all good.
201. Alicia Fox (124, -77): The veteran of the women’s division currently finds herself in an enhancement role on Raw and an unlikely to go anywhere romance angle with Cedric Alexander.
200. Mr. McMahon (-): The Chairman was involved in a potentially interesting blackmail angle when Shane McMahon made his surprise return to WWE. Unfortunately, that devolved and fizzled out. Post-Wrestlemania, the eldest McMahon set his children against each other and then disappeared.
199. Akira Tozawa (-): One of the stars of the CWC, Tozawa has officially signed with WWE and should be a major player in the cruiserweight division moving forward.
198. Tiger Mask (119, -79): Veteran still plugging away in NJPW’s junior heavyweight undercard. He’s a lighter version of the mostly irrelevant older generation.
197. Bob Backlund (-): Made a surprise return to WWE as Darren Young’s life coach. He’s crazy and they teased a “poisoning of Young’s mind” angle that might have been interesting were it not immediately dropped.
196. War Machine (-): The big and burly duo of Hanson and Rowe had a decent run as ROH tag team champions in that crowded division and fended well for themselves in NJPW’s World Tag League.
195. The Ascension (187, -8): Smackdown’s tag division is filled with more heel jobber teams than they know what to do with so it is especially glaring and disappointing when these former NXT juggernauts don’t get even a middling push.
194. Bone Soldier (Captain New Japan 184, -10): After a year of being treated like dirt by his so-called friends (refusing tags, hitting him etc), Captain New Japan made the most reasonable and justified heel turn in history by joining Bullet Club.
193. Brie Bella (108, -85): Retired to spend more time with her family. Then Daniel Bryan and Nikki Bella both returned to WWE. Whoops!
192. Breezango (Tyler Breeze 56, -136; Fandango 142, -50): Pre-split, this pair might have saved their jobs by coming together. On Smackdown, the self-appointed Fashion Police are an underrated and underutilized delight.
191. Jack Swagger (156, -35): Seemed like he might be heading for a mild push when he jumped from Raw to Smackdown following an embarrassing loss to Jinder Mahal. Uh, nope. Disappeared again, as usual.
190. Jeremiah Crane (Solomon Crowe 185, -5): The former Solomon Crowe/Sami Callahan showed up on Season 3 of Lucha Underground as Ivelisse’s new boyfriend. But like almost everyone in the temple, he has ulterior motives.
189. Yoshi Tatsu (-): Got a brief run as part of NJPW’s new six man tag titles as a congratulations and thank you for miraculously returning from a life-threatening neck injury. Sadly, his Bullet Club Hunters faction is pretty damn impotent so far.
188. Eric Young (-): The TNA vet showed up in NXT for good this time as the leader of SAnitY. Time will tell what the faction’s motives are.
187. Paul Ellering (-): Another surprise edition to the NXT roster. Ellering gives a much needed voice to the monster Authors of Pain tag team.
186. Joey Ryan (-): The internet famous/ sleaziest wrestler in the business brought his body hair and baby oil into Lucha Underground’s temple in Season 2. The big surprise is that he’s an undercover cop. Less surprising is that he ratted out his partner and sided with Dario Cueto.
185. Hangman Page (-): Youngster who ditched his first name and gained a noose when he joined Bullet Club’s expansion within Ring of Honor.
184. David Finlay (205, +21): As a Young Lion, he actually managed to land 2 points in the Best of the Super Juniors by flash pinning Gedo. He has since graduated and ditched his unflattering black trunks for …pink leopard print trunks. So that happened.
183. Kobra Moon (-): A non factor for most of her Season 2 run in LU, Kobra is emerging in Season 3 as a potential big player in the upcoming tribe wars.
182. Gedo (129, -53): Wrestling as a comedy jobber is Gedo’s third most important role after hype man for Kazuchika Okada and head booker of NJPW.
181. The Shining Stars (Los Matadores, +10): Primo and Epico were repackaged back to their original names. They love Puerto Rico and are shady timeshare salesmen. It’s…not much better than “bullfighters”.
180. Lince Dorado (-): This high flyer did well in the CWC and landed himself a roster spot in WWE’s new cruiserweight division.
179. Tom Phillips (222, +43): Increased his role as all-around utility man on the announce crew, becoming the voice of NXT and the slightly awkward “host” of Smackdown.
178. David Otunga (238, +60): Smackdown color commentator. 80% horrible, 15% unintelligible, 5% really great lines that justify his presence.
177. Emma (110, -67): Immediately after making her triumphant return to the main roster, Emma was sidelined with a serious injury. Her advertised return, a repackaging as “Emmalina”, is moving along at a Glacier’s pace.
176. The Dudley Boyz (D’Von 99, -77, Bubba Ray 98, -78): The sure-fire Hall of Famers ended their latest WWE run by not renewing their 1 year deal and riding off into the sunset.
175. Jushin Thunder Liger (109, -66): The living legend is still going fairly strong, bringing some serious star power to NJPW’s curtain-jerking matches.
174. Roderick Strong (-): Had a run as ROH’s Television champion early in the year. He would later defect to NXT where he is still too fresh to have made an impact at this point.
173. ACH (-): An athletic and dynamic performer on ROH’s midcard, he recently left the company and hasn’t landed anywhere permanently yet.
172. The Rock (196, +24): Even haters have to admit that showing up at Wrestlemania with a freaking flamethrower is pretty baller. Now holds the record for fastest WM victory with his impromptu win over Erick Rowan.
171. Chase Owens (215, +44): With some outside help, this lowly Bullet Club hanger-on scored a big win to eliminate Ricochet from contention during Best of the Super Juniors. He also competed out of weight class as Kenny Omega’s partner in World Tag League.
170. Katsuhiko Nakajima (-): One of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s entrants in the G1 Climax, he had a mediocre to mildly strong run in the tournament. He has some good moves and facial expressions and led the charge during the brief interpromotional feud with NJPW.
169. Juice Robinson (199, +30): Slowly climbing the ladder in New Japan, Juice got to win some matches this year and became a frequent friend and partner to Hiroshi Tanahashi.
168. Golden Truth (Goldust 139, -29; R-Truth 133, -35): A few months of skits is a long road to the formation of a jobber tag team but at the very least it kept a couple of old timers on TV without taking too many bumps.
167. Cedric Alexander (-): His fantastic match in the CWC against Kota Ibushi brought the crowd to its feet and their reaction appeared to will Triple H into signing him. Probably not entirely true, but still a nice story.
166. Sin Cara (106, -60):The Lucha Dragons went their separate ways and Sin Cara slid back into near-irrelevance. He tried to bring some star power to the cruiserweight division but that didn’t land too well because he’s Sin Cara. Not landing well is what he does.
165. Ric Flair (-): Helped his daughter Charlotte cheat her way to a lot of victories as Women’s champion but he’s difficult to keep reigned in and caused a few embarrassments over the year. He was phased out and “disowned” by Charlotte but recently returned, this time on Sasha Banks’ side.
164. El Dragon Azteca Jr. (-): Came to the LU temple to avenge the death of his father. He’s got some flashy high-flying moves but often feels like the least important character in his own storyline.
163. Mark Henry (126, -37): The world’s strongest man is phasing himself out of the game, only occasionally showing up to put someone over or humiliate Titus O’Neil.
162. Curtis Axel (113, -49): Finally got back on TV as part of the Social Outcasts jobber stable. There were some good moments but the group did not survive the brand split.
161. Eva Marie (141, -20): Her elaborate introductions followed by some excuse to not wrestle were some great comedy spots on the early brand-split Smackdowns. A wellness policy violation put an end to that.
160. The Big Show (60, -100): Mostly used as an ambassador as his career winds down but he did have a Wrestlemania moment with Shaquille O’Neal, which could lead to a match in 2017.
159. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English 120, -39, Simon Gotch 114, -45): Upon arriving on the main roster, they won a tournament and feuded with New Day but the push was short-lived. Gotch is apparently not well-liked behind the scenes and these fine gentlemen are beyond buried at this point.
158. Texano (102, -56): You wouldn’t think a blue collar brawler would be so boring, but here we are.
157. Neville (55, -102): An injury took him out of Wrestlemania season. Inexplicably left out of the cruiserweight action until recently.
156. Noam Dar (-): Some interesting, (if not necessarily good) mannerisms made the youngest participant in the CWC a breakout character. He should be a big part of the cruiserweight division moving forward.
155. Andrade “Cien” Almas (-): The Mexican star was a much-anticipated edition to NXT but was an almost instant flop. A heel turn and a reboot should do wonders for him.
154. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (68, -86): In Season 2 of LU, he won the Gift of the Gods championship, even though it was all part of Cage’s master plan. In Season 3, he was ousted from his on-screen role in a loser leaves town match with Rey Mysterio.
153. Jack Evans (135, -18): Joined forces with Johnny Mundo, Taya and PJ Black, an extremely athletic group who prefer to hit their opponents in the nuts because it’s easier. Heel 101
152. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (86, -66): The Violent Bull (is there any other kind?) was gifted a spot in G1 Climax by his tag partner, Satoshi Kojima. He took that gift and got…2 wins, I think? He’s old and terrible.
151. Yujiro Takahashi (147, -4): Now one of the longest-tenured Bullet Club members, the Tokyo Pimp is arguably the leader of the B team, often teaming with Hangman Page and Bone Soldier.
150. Volador Jr. (-): The luchador from CMLL did well for himself in New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors; a loss to Will Opreay on the last day kept him out of the finals.
149. Hype Bros (Zack Ryder 173, +24; Mojo Rawley 183, +34): Ryder was finally regaining his footing on the midcard, holding the IC title for 1 day with an unlikely Wrestlemania moment. Then his frat boy buddy showed up and suddenly, Smackdown’s tag team division seemed like a demotion.
148. Ember Moon (-): Her NXT intro trailers made her seem cooler than she turned out to be. She’s a werewolf (??) who looks and acts like a regular person. Killer finishing move, though.
147. Cody Rhodes (Stardust 72, -75): Left WWE by choice after getting frustrated with the creative team. Brief run in TNA followed up with appearing in ROH and becoming a high profile addition to Bullet Club.
146. Byron Saxton (146, +/- 0): Completely unintentionally put in the exact same spot as last year. So I’ll just repeat last year’s comment: More like Boring Saxton, amIright?
145. Darren Young (101, -44): A path to relevance looked to be in Young’s future when he took on Bob Backlund as a life coach, won a battle royal and challenged for the IC title. Sadly,that push has all but evaporated now.
144. PJ Black (Justin Gabriel 250, +106): Arriving at Lucha Underground’s temple at the beginning of Season 2, the Darewolf is getting on TV a lot more than he ever did in his late WWE run.
143. Titus O’Neil (80, -63): A disastrous year for Titus when a bizarre “daring to touch Vince McMahon” incident led to his suspension. His return has been a ritual burial and he might have been better off leaving.
142. Mascarita Sagrada (148, +6): The smallest wrestler in the temple took on Famous B as his manager but failed to win a match under his hype man’s tutelage. Got his revenge for being dissed and dismissed by B in a Season 3 Believer’s Backlash match.
141. Alberto Del Rio (31, -110): And so Del Rio’s dumpster fire second run with WWE came to an end. At least he met Paige. They seem happy.
140. Mark Briscoe (-): The Briscoe Brothers added an IWGP tag title reign to their impressive collective resume. Mark is a less accomplished singles competitor than his brother, however.
139. Beretta (150, +11): The Roppongi Vice relationship has always come across as a dormant volcano, but the duo held it together and won the annual Junior tag tournament
138. Rocky Romero (144, +6): Rocky has become a valuable English-speaking asset for NJPW; he did the best job of their guest announcers on World’s English broadcasts. (I realize that may be faint praise since Yoshi Tatsu made Art Donovan sound like Jesse Ventura.)
137. JBL (97, -40): A move to Smackdown and his pairing with Mauro Rannallo have markedly improved JBL’s performance. This ranking drop is based on a crowded wrestling landscape, not merit.
136. Gran Metalik (Mascara Dorada 143, +7): Quietly left New Japan at the beginning of the year. Tore the house down in the CWC, coming up just short of winning the whole thing. Scheduled to be a regular in the Cruiserweight division but hasn’t turned up yet.
135. Bo Dallas (160, +25): The dorkiest member of the Social Outcast but, as God is my witness, he defeated Flo Rida in a rap battle! The Outcasts are no more while Dallas gets a mild push as a “serious” guy.
134. Tonga Loa (-): The former Camacho was brought into NJPW by his brother Tama Tonga. The Guerrillas of Destiny sub-unit of Bullet Club are two time IWGP tag champs and made it to the final of World Tag League as champions, a rare feat.
133. Mariposa (-): Marty “The Moth” Martinez brought in his sister during the Sexy Star kidnapping story but besides a brutal I Quit match with Sexy, she hasn’t looked that great and generally hasn’t come off as as much of a threat as she’s supposed to be.
132. Dana Brooke (136, +4): Though she’s a botch waiting to happen whenever she’s within 5 feet of a wrestling ring, Ms. Brooke is quietly owning her character outside of it, the Grover Dill to Charlotte’s Scut Farkus.
131. Matt Striker (178, +47): While not the greatest announcer in the world, Striker has settled into a comfortable role as the voice of Lucha Underground and embraced his own unique style, warts and all.
130. Jay Briscoe (-): Along with his brother Mark and Toru Yano, Jay was part of history as the first ever NEVER openweight six man tag champs in NJPW. Also spends a decent amount of time in ROH’s main event scene.
129. Satoshi Kojima (93, -36): The Cozy Lariat not turning on his partner, Tenzan, for screwing up the G1 Climax was the most disappointed I’ve ever been that New Japan doesn’t operate under WWE tropes.
128. Paul Heyman (91, -37): Brock Lesnar’s lack of WWE air time means much less of Heyman on TV. His one “Brock is great” talking point is beyond stale, anyway.
127. Vampiro (79, -48): While Vamp’s color commentary varies wildly from “expert” to “annoying,” he makes up for his shortcomings by being a critical part of the Lucha Underground backstage soap opera segments.
126. Cheeseburger (-): How can you take one look at Cheeseburger and not fall in love? Not just scrawny for a wrestler, he’s scrawny for a HUMAN BEING. His heart, guts and determination keep him in the fight and that is everything great about pro wrestling.
125. TM61 (-): The Australian indie tag team came stateside to make a splash in NXT, coming very close to winning the Dusty Rhodes Classic. It’s only slightly distracting that Nick Miller shares a name with a New Girl character.
124. Naomi (87, -37): An unexplained face turn, a mild reboot and the brand split did wonders for Naomi, positioning herself as a player in Tuesday’s smaller pool. Even so, it feels like she might be “always a bridesmaid” when it comes to championships.
123. Cortez Castro (131, +8): One of LU’s biggest twists came in Season 2 when it was revealed that Castro is an undercover cop working to take down Dario Cueto from the inside. Best retroactive excuse for losing all the time ever!
122. Moose (-): A likable performer with an easy-to-imitate taunt makes Moose a lot of fun in the ring. Perhaps a strange choice to leave ROH/NJPW for TNA instead of heading to NXT but to each his own.
121. Jack Gallagher (-): Delightfully different, there is a lot to like about the Extraordinary Gentleman. One of the few newcomers to get pops from crowds predisposed to cruiserweight indifference. Watch him for 30 seconds and you’ll see why.
120. Famous B (224, +104): An LU jobber who reinvented himself as a manager to the stars. His Get Fame ads and his match with Mascarita Sagrada were some of the funniest spots LU has ever done.
119. Marty “The Moth” Martinez (182, +63): Little more than a joke at first, Marty has grown steadily over LU’s history and is now a physical force to be reckoned with. Even teased some babyface potential by not backing down from Matanza during Aztec Warfare III.
118. Dalton Castle (-): Perhaps the best character in ROH, Castle really brings the spectacle back to wrestling entrances. It’s a testament to the changing times that someone so “flamboyant” can be arguably the most over guy on the roster instead of lustily booed out of the building.
117. Aerostar (81, -36): The high flyer was revealed to be a time-traveling space man for Christ’s sake, yet still feels less important than most temple residents. His character is still pretty close to the vest, so he might have a larger role to play in the future.
116. Naomichi Marufuji (-): The centerpiece of NOAH’s cross-promotion with NJPW. Marufuji defeated Kazuchika Okada in G1 and then handily kicked his ass in their IWGP title match before Okada squeaked one out.
115. Tye Dillinger (167, +52): His development into one of the most over guys in NXT has been fun to watch, even if it did help derail Andrade Almas’ initial push. Worse still, the fan interactive “10” chant threatens to ruin the show as the next “What?”
114. Renee Young (100, -14): Continues to be the gem of WWE’s backstage announce team and is the anchor of Talking Smack, a post-game show people actually like to watch.
113. Carmella (172, +59): A surprise late draft pick to Smackdown, the Princess of Staten Island has found her footing as an obnoxious heel, getting legit heat for warring with Nikki Bella as opposed to the “X-Pac heat” she would often get in NXT.
112. Ryusuke Taguchi (84, -28): It’s frustrating to see the Funky Weapon content at the bottom of the card with his wacky antics when he can be so very good as a serious competitor, as seen in his advancement to the Best of the Super Juniors final match.
111. Taya (-): Johnny Mundo’s right-hand woman has been a fantastic edition to LU, going toe to toe with Cage and being instrumental in many of Mundo’s wins, including his long sought-after singles championship.
110. No Way Jose (-): The future is bright for this NXT star from the Dominican Republic. His energy and charisma have overcome a fairly one-note gimmick.
109. Lana (61, -48): A shell of her former self, Lana is no longer an authoritative manager with actual agency but instead has devolved into an eye candy prop for Rusev to defend.
108. Luke Harper (77, -31): Missed most of the year due to injury but returned recently to rejoin Bray Wyatt. It would be nice if he could be presented as an equal to Bray and Randy Orton but will probably be used as the “guy who takes the pin.”
107. The Mack (88, -19): Gets his fair share of wins inside LU’s temple, but is not a major player in the ongoing narratives, other than “Sexy Star’s friend.”
106. Kane (46, -60): Back to being the Demon Kane full time, The Big Red Monster is actually getting more wins than he has in the past few years. The only question is, “Why?”
105. Natalya (151, +46): Her heel turn on Becky Lynch was a welcome change. She got sidetracked with a weird tweener gimmick where she didn’t realize she was quoting song lyrics but is back on track after finally admitting she attacked Nikki Bella.
104. Apollo Crews (42, -62): It’s mind-boggling how such a “can’t miss” prospect is, well, missing even on the thin Smackdown roster.
103. The Undertaker (26, -77): Showed up for his annual Wrestlemania feud but his wrestling on behalf of Vince McMahon, (as well as most of the angle if we’re being honest), made very little sense.
102. Ivelisse (92, -10): Held her own in a Season 2 Lucha Underground title match vs. Mil Muertes and her ongoing feud with Catrina is set to culminate at Ultima Lucha 3, if she can get back in time from another bad injury.
101. Zack Sabre Jr. (-): Advanced to the semifinals of the CWC even though he didn’t stand out from the pack as much as expected. Not signing with WWE ruined his chances of winning the tournament and surely hurts his visibility moving forward.
100. Bobby Fish (104, +4): ReDRagon stayed together but mostly pursued singles goals this year. Fish enjoyed a reign as the ROH Television champion.
99. Adam Cole (-): Made waves by joining Bullet Club and entrenching that faction firmly within Ring of Honor. His subsequent run as ROH champion was surprisingly short.
98. Kalisto (71, -27): Got the better of Alberto Del Rio in their US title feud but his credibility plummeted once he jobbed the belt over to Rusev. Bounced back more recently with arguably the best “Chairs” match ever with Baron Corbin.
97. Killshot (157, +60): The masked soldier of LU had his character upgraded in Seasons 2 & 3 with a backstory and a long war with Marty the Moth culminating in an epic Weapons of Mass Destruction match that arguably made both guys into stars.
96. The Usos (Jey 163, +67; Jimmy 137, +41): Their heel turn was a much-needed alignment change and made the most stale tag team on the WWE roster feel fresh again.
95. Michael Cole (83, -12): He’s gotten much better since Corey Graves replaced JBL and forced him to up his game.
94. Catrina (45, -49): Ran LU’s temple in Dario Cueto’s absence at the start of Season 2. Still controls Mil Muertes and is a constant force to be reckoned with.
93. YOSHI-HASHI (162, +69): WWE’s purge of New Japan’s roster left a lot of spots open for the taking and YOSHI-HASHI was one of the wrestlers who noticeably stepped up. He is no longer the obvious loser in multi-man tag matches and earned a main event shot at Kenny Omega’s G1 briefcase by beating him during the tournament.
92. Rhyno (123, +31): Formed an unlikely duo with Heath Slater that led them to tag team gold on Smackdown. He may be limited in the ring but he’s perfect for a hot tag and his character work outside the ring is above average.
91. Toru Yano (66, -25): The clown prince of NJPW split his time with NOAH but still made an impact in his home promotion. Was the first ever NEVER openweight six man tag champions with the Briscoe Bros, made an unlikely run to the final four in New Japan Cup and, of course, cheated his way to a middle of the pack record in G1 Climax.
90. Rich Swann (-): The smiling and dancing black guy has never felt so sincere. Swann is always having a good time, even if it doesn’t make any sense for the circumstances. Since TJ Perkins bombed as the face of the cruiserweight division, Swann has taken up the mantle as champion.
89. Maryse (-): The Miz’s wife has helped raise her husband to another level, getting them both legit heel heat with her obnoxiousness and cheating ways despite being gorgeous. That is hard to do. (see: “Lana, We Want”)
88. EVIL (82, -6): The King of Darkness stepped up his singles game this year, finishing strong in the G1 after a poor start and briefly dethroning Katsuyori Shibata as NEVER openweight champion. As Los Ingobernobles de Japon continue to grow, his mismatched gimmick is starting to stick out more.
87. Son of Havoc (62, -25): It’s been a struggle for Havoc to break out of Lucha Underground’s midcard. He’s booked as an ultimate underdog type but there’s no end game in sight and it’s already crowded at the top.
86. Bad Luck Fale (63, -23): The big man stayed loyal to NJPW when three of his Bullet Club brothers jumped to WWE. Oddly, he has not been rewarded for that and even moved slightly down the card.
85. Tama Tonga (174, +89): The Bad Boy at long last stepped up and took a leadership role in Bullet Club after the big departures. He brought in his brother, Tanga Loa, and together they captured tag team gold twice and made it to the finals of World Tag League. As a singles competitor in G1 Climax, Tama got the win of his career, defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi.
84. Jay Lethal (-): Had a long run as ROH World champion and defended the title at many of New Japan’s big shows.
83. Austin Aries (-): His big NXT debut was overshadowed by the arrival of Shinsuke Nakamura and the “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” used that as motivation for a very effective heel turn.
82. Nia Jax (121, +39): Has been booked as a dominant force since being drafted to Raw but she’s got a slight “Big Show” problem where it’s difficult to write around the plot hole that she should just kill everyone and reign as champion forever. Apparently, the answer is to leave her off TV a lot.
81. SANADA (-): “Cold Skull” made an impactful debut in NJPW, interfering in a world title match and helping Tetsuya Naito finally capture the big prize. The blatantly obvious pecking order in New Japan has made his own singles career a bit of a mediocre letdown.
80. King Cuerno (38, -42): He was a major player in Season 2 of LU but it was an ill-advised to target Mil Muertes as his big hunt and he was killed off at Ultima Lucha Dos. It’s expected he will turn up in WWE.
79. American Alpha (Jason Jordan 138, +59; Chad Gable 112, +33): Their energy and enthusiasm kept them over as babyfaces once arriving on Smackdown but main roster audiences have been given little reason to care about them as characters and they are getting a bit lost in the surprisingly crowded tag team landscape.
78. Mick Foley (-): The hardcore legend’s run as the GM or Raw has been good at times but is too often cringe-worthy, be it from bad writing or from the poor guy’s obvious physical and mental breakdowns caused by the wrestling industry.
77. Tomohiro Ishii (48, -29): It was a down year for the Stone Pitbull that started when Katsuyori Shibata got the best of him in their feud for the NEVER openweight title. He saved some face by beating Kazuchika Okada in G1 Climax, but still finished with a losing record.
76. Drago (28, -48): Drago is one of the faces of Lucha Underground but never seems to be embroiled in the larger stories, feuding with the likes of Jack Evans and Kobra Moon.
75. Bobby Roode (-): No words.
74. BUSHI (203, +129): Though he often takes the pin when he wrestles out of weight class, BUSHI has been one of the only wrestlers to take down KUSHIDA in the junior division. If the ref never punishes you when your opponent is clearly covered in toxic mist, why stop doing it?
73. Tommaso Ciampa (175, +102): His partnership with Johnny Gargano is one of the best displays of friendship in wrestling. Rather than turning on his buddy for letting him down or even beating him in the CWC, Ciampa stuck it out and it paid off in NXT tag team gold.
72. Yuji Nagata (128, +56): It’s one thing for your gimmick to be “anti-aging” but Nagata actually backed it up in 2016. He took the NEVER openweight title from Shibata and the two earned each other’s respect over the course of their war, eventually becoming tag team partners.
71. “The Club” (Doc Gallows 59, -12, Karl Anderson 32, -39): Seeing the most dominant tag team in NJPW for the last 2 years turn up in WWE was exciting. Seeing them neutered at every turn is not.
70. Authors of Pain (-): Paul Ellering’s monster tag team are taking over the division in NXT, undefeated since their debut and winning the Dusty Rhodes Classic.
69. Togi Makabe (41, -28): Makabe didn’t challenge for any singles titles this year but his tag team with Tomoaki Honma is solid, winning the IWGP tag titles and taking home the World Tag League trophy for the second consecutive year.
68. Johnny Gargano (176, +108): Masterfully portrays the “face in peril” portion of the classically booked tag team match. One of the best sellers in the business.
67. Kyle O’Reilly (105, +38): From a technical standpoint, one could argue that O’Reilly is the best pure wrestler in the world. He’s always treated like a force in the NJPW junior division and finally captured the ROH World title after a long struggle to the top.
66. Stephanie McMahon (64, -2): Her need to be the center of attention who can never get her comeuppance is a real detriment to Monday Night Raw.
65. Tomoaki Honma (67, +2): Not as much of a joke in singles matches as he used to be, scoring two wins in G1 Climax (he gains one every year!). As a tag team wrestler with Togi Makabe, he’s booked strong.
64. TJ Perkins (-): The surprise winner of the CWC (most likely because Sabre and Ibushi wouldn’t sign) and the first champion of the revived cruiserweight division. Bad booking hurt his chances of getting over, as well as seeming too smug for a babyface.
63. Alexa Bliss (115, +52): Ditched Blake & Murphy before heading to Smackdown where she surprisingly dethroned Becky Lynch in a Tables match to become Women’s champion.
62. Cage (43, -19): He may look like a musclehead but helping his enemy, Chavo Guerrero, win the Gift of the Gods so he could squash him for it later was pure genius. He was the first to make Matanza Cueto look beatable too.
61. Fenix (18, -43): He’s got Mil Muertes number, defeating the big man for the Lucha Underground title. He lost it only a week later in Aztec Warfare. Feels like he’s in a holding pattern with the rest of his “super friends” until the tribe wars can finally begin.
60. Enzo Amore (130, +70)
59. Big Cass (134, +75): Enzo is the most naturally gifted man on the microphone to come along in quite a while. With his gift for gab and Big Cass’ size and strength to back it up, they form the perfect team and were destined for instant success on the main roster.
58. Baron Corbin (85, +27): The Lone Wolf is making the most of his main roster opportunities, winning the Andre the Giant battle royal at Wrestlemania and coming out on top in feuds with Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto.
57. The Brian Kendrick (-): Kendrick’s underdog story (as well as his friend Daniel Bryan’s investment in him) was one of the best parts of the CWC. His desperation eventually turned him heel, which carried over to a cruiserweight championship reign on Raw.
56. Kota Ibushi (57, +1): A match of the year waiting to happen every time he steps in the ring. Unfortunately for WWE fans, the man is a true free spirit who refused to sign no matter how much money they offered him.
55. Sheamus (24, -31): The League of Nations did none of its members any favors (2 of the 4 are out of the company) but Sheamus’ slide into irrelevance was halted by his rivalry and subsequent pairing with Cesaro.
54. Nikki Bella (27, -27): Made an amazing and inspirational return from a career-threatening neck injury. It’s only a matter of time before she gets into the Smackdown Women’s title picture.
53. James Ellsworth (-): Easily the most unlikely main event player in WWE history, Ellsworth parlayed a memorable loss to Braun Strowman into a legitimate contract and a spot in the ring standing next to Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles.
52. Shane McMahon (-): The pop he got for his surprise return to WWE was one of the biggest reactions of all time. As manufactured of a moment as it was, Shane’s leap off of the Hell in a Cell cage is a clip that will be showed forever. He definitely made an impact in 2016.
51. Rey Mysterio (-): The lucha legend showed up in the temple looking more fit than he has in years. He can go again and Lucha Underground is taking full advantage of his star power.
50. Hirooki Goto (47, -3): Another year of always being the bridesmaid for the increasingly hapless Goto. Lost in the finals of both the New Japan Cup & the G1 Climax & blew his one IWGP title shot. In the ultimate emasculation, he then joined Okada in CHAOS. His entrance video shows him losing to Okada, for God’s sake! Just awful.
49. Mauro Ranallo (-): Though his shouting and strained references turn some people off, Ranallo lends WWE an air of credibility with his combat sports announcing background. It’s refreshing to hear a play-by-play man saying the names of moves.
48. Heath Slater (168, +120): Suffered the ultimate indignity when he wasn’t drafted by either Raw or Smackdown but it ended up being a career turning point. Slater didn’t back down from Brock Lesnar or the daunting task of having to win a tag team title tournament to land on Smackdown. After 7 years, he’s finally not a jobber anymore.
47. The Young Bucks (89, +42): Matt & Nick Jackson were the first to support Kenny Omega in his power play for Bullet Club leadership, cementing themselves as “The Elite” trio in the business. A six man tag title, an ROH tag title and another IWGP junior tag title to throw on the pile makes the Bucks arguably the best in the business.
46. Michael Elgin (76, +30): Big Mike was so over in New Japan, it only made sense for him to sign on full time. He was one of the few men to defeat Kenny Omega this year, taking the IC title in a rarely seen NJPW ladder match.
45. Dolph Ziggler (33, -12): The roster split brought Ziggler back near the top of the card but as usual, his career was still mostly defined by losing. The exception was his emotional IC title victory when he put his career on the line.
44. Triple H (58, +14): The last gasp of The Authority was Triple H entering the Royal Rumble and winning one more world title, garnering a huge pop for eliminating Roman Reigns. His Wrestlemania main event was a slog that should not have gone on at the end of a 7 hour show.
43. Sami Zayn (118, +75): Had a match of the year with Shinsuke Nakamura as a passing of the torch in NXT before moving onto a full time roster spot with mixed results. Best seller in the business.
42. Daniel Bryan (51, +9): Strange that a man who retired under unfortunate circumstances would move up in the rankings but 1) his speech was an emotional moment for the ages and 2) his role as Smackdown GM has been entertaining, particularly his carefree, say anything attitude on the post game show, Talking Smack.
41. Goldberg (-): An unlikely comeback. An even more unlikely 90 second squash of Brock Lesnar. Anything can happen in pro wrestling. Goldberg is back (!?!)
40. Cesaro (40, +/- 0): No matter where he ends up on the card, Cesaro continues to come out every night and simply be one of the most dynamic and physically gifted wrestlers in the world.
39. Will Ospreay (-): Though he failed in two tries to dethrone KUSHIDA in New Japan’s junior division, it was Ospreay’s innovative acrobatics en route to a Best of the Super Juniors crown that helped start a national conversation about the art of wrestling.
38. Bray Wyatt (21, -17): The Wyatt Family hit rock bottom at Wrestlemania (literally) when Bray wasn’t even on the card save for a surprise encounter with The Rock. Even as a big fish in Smackdown’s little pond, he hasn’t reached main event level. His feud with Randy Orton was mostly dull but it led to a much needed hit of the refresh button for both men when they decided to team up.
37. Rusev (37, +/- 0): Was the best part of the doomed League of Nations and had a return to form in the singles circuit when he reigned as US Champ. Still gets pegged too often into a heel role when he’s usually in the right.
36. Becky Lynch (70, +34): The Irish Lass Kicker benefited from the roster split since she was always going to play runner-up to the other 3 Horsewomen. She owns the blue brand as its most popular face and first women’s champion.
35. Randy Orton (35, +/- 0): Returned from a long absence to lose to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam in essentially a non-competitive match. As mentioned above, he’s been much better served as an unlikely member of the Wyatt Family.
34. Brock Lesnar (7, -27): Lesnar was clearly mentally checked out of WWE this year. He quietly walked away after being eliminated in the Royal Rumble. He barely tried to make a good match with Ambrose at WM. Hopefully that complacency will be used in storyline to explain his quick loss to Goldberg and The Beast will return to form next year.
33. Johnny Mundo (20, -13): There’s just something so classically wonderful about a heel who’s such a dick that even his evil incarnate boss hates him and his friends don’t even like him all that much.
32. Bayley (19, -13): The face of NXT lost her two biggest matches of the year but finally got to graduate to the main roster where she is as over as everyone hoped. Bayley is impossible not to like and root for.
31. Braun Strowman (95, +64): The draft helped the big man escape the sinking ship of the original Wyatt Family and on Raw he has found a home as a tweener monster who does whatever he wants. Six months in, he’s already hanging around top guys like Owens, Rollins and Reigns.
30. KUSHIDA (72, +42): The crown jewel of New Japan’s junior division, KUSHIDA has accomplished everything he can possibly do in his current position.Until he moves up to the heavies, his victories are nearly as inevitable as Okada’s now or Super Cena’s ever were.
29. John Cena (4, -25): Cena missed a lot of time due to injuries and outside projects but when he was around, he was flourishing in his late career role as surprisingly good wrestler and star-maker to the current crop of guys.
28. Pentagon Dark (Pentagon Jr. 23, -5) Arguably, the most over guy in the Temple, LU still won’t pull the trigger on Pentagon as a top guy. His arcs with Matanza, Black Lotus and Vampiro might be part of a larger character-building narrative but his losses are still frustrating to fans as the functional reality.
27. Seth Rollins (1, -26): Rollins made an early return from his bad injury but was shoehorned into a heel role that just didn’t work. The course-correcting face turn was eventually made but has resulted in nothing but losses in the big spots.
26. Katsuyori Shibata (54, +28): Shibata has owned the NEVER openweight division for the entire year. Now a three time champ, he defeated Ishii at WK10 for his first and then gained the belt right back after brief dethronings by Nagata and EVIL.
25. Corey Graves (39, +14): Quite simply the best color commentator to come along in the last 20 years.
24. Mil Muertes (5, -19): Owned the first half of LU Season 2 as the ruler of the temple watching all the matches from his throne made of skulls. Season 3 has been less kind, but he did defeat Prince Puma in a casket match, which in LU kayfabe is lethal.
23. The Revival (154, +131): Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson lived up to their team name this year, bringing back all the subtleties and nuances of effective tag team wrestling and becoming the best team in the world because of it.
22. Shinsuke Nakamura (9, -13): Made the bold jump from NJPW to WWE exactly as rumored this time last year. Hopefully his dominance in NXT won’t bore him as much as being #3 in New Japan did and he can make a bigger splash on the main roster ASAP.
21. Sexy Star (30, +9): A medicore feud with the Martinez family was capped by an epic I quit match with Mariposa that gave Sexy confidence moving forward and launched her towards Gift of the Gods and LU Championships.
20. Finn Balor (10, -10): The (male) face of NXT also got to move up to Raw this year after his epic feud with Samoa Joe finally ended. Unfortunately, he suffered a long term injury right as he was being booked straight to the top on Raw.
19. Samoa Joe (34, +15): Though his title reigns were short, the NXT main event scene still revolved around Joe for all of 2016. He defeated the previously unbeaten demon version of Balor and handed Nakamura his first NXT loss.
18. Dario Cueto (11, -7): His absence was greatly felt at the beginning of LU Season 2. Lucha Underground just isn’t the same without the conniving Cueto running the show. Producers learned their lesson when his jail sentence was completely skipped over & quickly forgotten at the start of Season 3.
17. Hiroshi Tanahashi (2, -15): A frustrating year for the Ace of New Japan defined by big losses and an injury hiatus. Except for a short run with NJPW’s worthless six man tag titles, Tanahashi held no gold this year.
16. Asuka (75, +59): Still undefeated after over a year in NXT, Asuka is the most dominant character on any wrestling show. She’s not even a heel or a face, really; Asuka is a force of nature.
15. Roman Reigns (6, -9): This year it became clearer than ever that nothing can derail the WWE-mandated run to the top for Reigns. Not years(!) of fan rejection or endless character reboots. Not even a wellness policy violation.
14. The Monster Matanza Cueto (229, +215): Entering Aztec Warfare II and reigning until Aztec Warfare III, LU has never had a more dominant champion than Dario’s caged monster of a brother set loose on the world.
13. The New Day (14-12, +/-0): Their inevitable face turn made their act get a little stale and their cheating make less sense. Their run to the longest title reign of all time buried acts that needed the titles much more. Still, they’re fun and popular and it must be acknowledged that they’ve made a place for themselves in history. The first people to make butt cereal a real thing.
12. Tetsuya Naito (22, +10): His IWGP title win was the first time in years that the belt was not held by Okada, Tanahashi or AJ Styles. Instead of it being the start of something fresh, he dropped it almost immediately right back to Okada. Win or lose, it can’t be denied that Naito has been elevated to Top 4 status in New Japan and he’s the leader of one of the most popular factions in the business, Los Ingobernables de Japon.
11. Chris Jericho (140, +129): Y2J being back as a full timer in WWE has been nothing short of glorious. He’s doing some of the best character work of his career and is an ageless wonder in the ring.
The List! (of things Jericho has gotten over with the crowd): made-up names for people both real and imaginary, a feud over a potted plant, a clipboard, the word “it.” Jericho’s career renaissance: drink it in, man!
10. The Miz (50, +40): As crazy a year as it’s been, The Miz moving up into the top 10 seems like it might be the craziest. Miz has become as must-see on Smackdown as he always claimed to be. His feud with Daniel Bryan was one of the year’s best even if it can’t end in the ring.
9. Sasha Banks (25, +16): The Boss became a 3 time women’s champion this year and even though she never successfully defended it (like ever), her back and forth feud with Charlotte legitimized women’s wrestling in a way it has never been in the modern age.
8. Prince Puma/Ricochet (8, +/-0): Ricochet had one of the most talked about matches of the year with Will Ospreay during New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament, helping solidify his place as one of the greatest flyers of all time. As Prince Puma, he remained an important figure inside the temple, even though he’s now 0-2 in Ultima Lucha main events.
7. Kevin Owens (15, +8): KO could have been an upper midcarder for life but fate put Finn Balor on the shelf and suddenly Owens was the next chosen one. His title run has been typical “heel champ can’t do anything on his own” but no one can ever take a world title win away no matter how poorly it’s booked.
6. Charlotte (29, +23): The 4 time women’s champ was always the one to get the more important wins compared to Sasha Banks’ victories. Are Network historians more likely to watch Ms. Flair lose the title 3 times on random Raws or Banks lose the title 3 times on pay per view? Still so young and already making a case for greatest ever.
5. Broken Matt Hardy (-): I don’t watch TNA. Many people don’t. But you had to be living under a rock to not at least hear about the innovative, game-changing, broken genius stuff Matt Hardy did in 2016. Presenting his character at the center of his own weird universe in a series of miniature movies, Hardy broke the mold of what a wrestling show can be. And it was amazing. Even more amazing? The fact that someone could still bring positive attention to a wrestling company that’s usually in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
4. Dean Ambrose (17, +13): The Lunatic Fringe finally got to the top of the mountain and shattered the notion that he was the least important of the three former Shield members. He won Money in the Bank, won the world title and won the long-awaited Shield triple threat. In the increasing absences of John Cena, Ambrose has carried Smackdown as its top face.
3. Kazuchika Okada (3, +/- 0): Can’t penalize a top guy for staying at the top, even if his run is getting a bit repetitive and in need of a creative shake-up. Okada reigned in New Japan for most of the year and while he has shown some vulnerability and made his opponents look good, he was never in much real danger of being knocked off the mountain for very long.
2. Kenny Omega (52, +50): On January 5th, Kenny Omega stunningly pinned Shinsuke Nakamura in a tag team match and then physically removed AJ Styles from Bullet Club. His rise to the top since that moment has been nothing short of meteoric, culminating in his becoming the first Western wrestler ever to win the G1 Climax tournament.
1 AJ Styles (16, +15): The Phenomenal One started the year in an IC title match at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 and ended the year as the WWE World champion. Along the way, he has gotten match of the year candidates out of Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, John Cena and Dean Ambrose. Styles has everything you could ask for in a superstar, yet remains humble enough to show ass against someone like James Ellsworth. (or Ambrose at TLC.) AJ Styles doesn’t just have a nickname; he actually IS the most phenomenal wrestler in the world.