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The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part Eleven – The Most Underrated Performers of 2016

January 12, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka

Welcome back to the Wrestling Top 5, year-end awards edition! What we are going to is take a topic, and all the writers here on 411 will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, and the end, based on where all of these topics rank on people’s list, we will create an overall Top 5 list. It looks a little like this…

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

It’s similar to how we do the WOTW voting. At the end we tally the scores and get our overall top 5! It’s highly non-official and final, like WWE’s old power rankings. From some of the best and worst, the 411 staff is ready to break down the awards! Thanks for joining us, and lets get down to work.

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part Eleven – The Most Underrated Performers of 2016

(The wrestler with the most ability, who, for whatever reason, doesn’t get a push commensurate with their ability. This should be based on this past year, and not on a history of perceived misuse.)

Rob Stewart
5. Luke Harper
4. Ivelisse
3. American Alpha
2. The Club (Gallows and Anderson)

1. Sami Zayn – I am not insinuating that most fans don’t appreciate Sami–they certainly do–but going by the criteria given for this category, which is essentially “Whose push/usage by their promotion is woefully short of their overall abilities” (which obviously was my determining factor for the runners-up, too), Sami was the name that sprung immediately to mind. I direct you to this summer where, less than one full month after having a MotY candidate encounter with Kevin Owens, Zayn was relegated to a tag team match on the pre-show of a four-hour SummerSlam show. Not enough for you? Let’s fast forward to early fall where Sami was held off Hell In A Cell entirely–and that was a brand split show! They couldn’t even find room for Sami on a three hour show with half a roster? Wow. And now he’s on “get Braun over” duty, which… fine. I guess someone has to, and Sami plays imperiled so damn well, but still… there’s nothing more rewarding they could be doing with him? By the criteria of this category, it’s Sami all the way for me.

Jake Chambers
5. ACH
4. Sami Zayn
3. Sheamus
2. Drew Gulak

1. Austin Aries – When Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Austin Aries at the NXT Takeover – The End event I wasn’t happy. I’m a huge Nakamura fan, but Aries is arguably just as good in the ring while also having proved to be an incredible main event level face or heel. Aries was used as enhancement talent for Nakamura’s ascension to the top position in NXT with a match that you knew he wasn’t winning from the first couple of minutes, and I was furious at the WWE underrating what Aries could accomplish if they gave him that opportunity instead.

Justin Watry
5. Brock Lesnar
4. Cesaro
3. Braun Strowman
2. The Miz

1. Roman Reigns – Considering how Roman Reigns ended 2015 (which I wrote about last week), it is a shame that 2016 is the year he officially got the permanent label as being another John Cena who will never get credit. No matter what he does, there will be cynicism and naysayers dragging him down. Sheamus is another guy, to a lesser extent. It’s too bad fans make up their mind on somebody and never let go of those feelings, no matter how wrong they and have to eat crow on a consistent basis. Roman Reign has just completed yet another stellar year, full of kayfabe and non-kayfabe achievements that any other wrestler on the planet would love to have. Either it is feeling petty or just pure jealousy, I don’t know. Reigns is THE MAN going forward for WWE, and everybody backstage is 100% correct in making that determination years ago. The scary part is the potential has still yet to be fully realized. The sky is the limit for him, and 2017 could easily be better than 2016 for Roman Reigns. Maybe, maybe then he will get the respect he deserves. Believe THAT!

Jack McGee
5. Neville
4. Rusev
3. Katsuyori Shibata
2. Cesaro

1. Sami zayn – Zayn should have been a made man this year, he certainly didn’t need to be “the guy,” but there’s no reason that he couldn’t have been part of the foundation for either the US or IC title, delivering great matches on TV and strengthening the mid-card. Outside of a few great mathes, the best use of him has been in being the ultimate face to help build Braun Strowman.

Chad Perry
5. Cesaro
4. Nia Jax
3. Tyler Breeze
2. Luke Harper

1. Rusev – Originally I gave this spot to Zayn, then I realized I was being a typical, cynical fan that thought all of my favorites should be World champ. Zayn has actually been pushed in some pretty high profile stuff this year. Rusev on the other hand has been made to look like everyone’s whipping boy whenever WWE gets the chance. The most recent example would be Goldberg punking Rusev out the night after Rusev lost his feud with Reigns. Since then Rusev has been saddled with a pretty poor mid-card feud against Enzo & Cass. Rusev showed so much potential in his first year and was built in a great fashion. I would love to just see him leave the E and go to Japan to face Ishii.

Kevin Pantoja
5. Braun Strowman
4. Baron Corbin
3. Mil Muertes
2. Rusev

1. The Miz – There are people that still give The Miz no respect. I understood it back when he first started wrestling because he was rather useless. Over time, Miz gradually improved and was fantastic during his original US Title reign and I enjoyed him as WWE Champion. Hell, he was the best part of the Rock/Cena angle going into WM27. After floundering as a babyface, Miz returned to heel and continued to make things work. However, in 2016, Miz took things to the next level. After winning the Intercontinental Title and bringing his wife Maryse back as a valet, Miz became one of the best things about the WWE period. He made the Intercontinental Title feel relevant again. Good to great matches with Zack Ryder, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler followed. He even did well with a lackluster Apollo Crews feud. His rivalry with Daniel Bryan is my favorite authority figure vs. wrestler feud since Austin/McMahon. Miz is excellent at getting himself and his opponents over. For example, early in the year he hosted MizTV with AJ Styles. Styles was still new to the casual audience. Miz continued to interrupt him during the segment, saving AJ from talking (not always his strong suit). He also managed to build up AJ’s accomplishments, while being a dick to him and getting the crowd to go from relatively silent at the start of the segment, to rabid for AJ. Miz did that. Whether it’s hosting MizTV, ripping Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack, working the best matches of his career or putting someone else over, Miz is awesome, pun intended.

Mike Hammerlock
5. Eddie Edwards
4. The Revival
3. Mil Muertes
2. Katsuyori Shibata

1. The Miz – Had an outstanding 2016. Somewhere along the way, he’s become really good in the ring. He’s managed to be a cheat-to-win heel champ that doesn’t feel like an annoyance. He cheats in a slightly different fashion in every match, times his cheating perfectly and only cheats just enough to win. The key is he’s capable. He might win without cheating, but he doesn’t want to take that risk. He’s been brilliant out of the ring as well. His back-and-forth with Daniel Bryan has generated some of the best talk segments the WWE has produced in ages. They’ve been so good I’m starting to think it means Bryan and Miz are setting up a match in the future (maybe even WrestleMania 33).

Larry Csonka
5. Cesaro
4. Katsuyori Shibata
3. Neville
2. Luke Harper

1. Rusev – Rusev has proved to be a talented performer, in and out of the ring, but for whatever reason they can’t book him as anything other than Lana’s husband or the attitude era’s punching bag. I don’t need Rusev to be the world/universal champion tomorrow, but I feel that thy have no real clue as how to use a truly talented guy that could be doing so much more for the company. I keep hearing that he’ll be fine, but do you ever honestly see him getting one up on Rock, Austin, Goldberg or HBK to even the score?

AND 411’s Most Underrated Performers of 2016 ARE…

T5. Cesaro7 points

T5. Katsuyori Shibata7 points

4. Luke Harper9 points

3. Sami Zayn12 points

2. The Miz14 points

1. Rusev16 points

* The Biggest Disappointment of The Year: The WWE Cruiserweight Division – 28 points
* The Best Non-Wrestler: Dario Cueto – 45 points
* The Best Tag Team of The Year: The Revival – 45 points
* The Worst PPV/Major Show of The Year: WrestleMania 32 – 23 points

* The Best Female Wrestler of The Year: Charlotte – 44 points
* The Best PPV/Major Show of The Year: NXT Takeover: Dallas – 27 points
* The Best Promotion of The Year: NJPW – 33 points
* Most Outstanding Performer 2016: Chris Hero – 27 points

* The Best Match of The Year: DIY vs. The Revival (From NXT Takeover Toronto) – 22 points
* Most Overrated Performer 2016: Dean Ambrose – 17 points
* Most Underrated Performer 2016: Rusev – 16 points
* The Best Wrestler of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 13)