wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards: Part One – The Biggest Disappointments of 2016

January 2, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Roman Reigns WWE WrestleMania 32 Image Credit: WWE

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.

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Kevin Pantoja
5. Pentagon Dark not winning at Ultima Lucha Dos
4. The cruiserweight division
3. Ring of Honor
2. Gedo’s booking

1. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks – I originally had both Ring of Honor and Gedo’s booking atop this list. However, I’ve come to expect lackluster efforts from them (ROH as a whole was pretty bad this year, while Gedo dropped the ball multiple times). One thing that I didn’t think I’d strongly dislike was Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte. I was 100% on team Sasha for the past few years. I even met her back in July and it was awesome. However, this feud made me not care. When she first won the Women’s Title in July, I was overjoyed. That turned to disappointment when she lost at SummerSlam. Her second title win got more of a “okay, they’re fixing it” reaction from me. She lost at Hell in a Cell and I just laughed at how bad it all was. She regained and lost the title again to more numbness from me. While the Smackdown women’s division flourished with lesser names, Raw’s division just put Sasha and Charlotte above all and had them wrestle over and over again. None of the matches were bad but you can only do something so many times before people stop caring. It also didn’t help that it didn’t feel like a real feud. Carmella and Nikki had a reason for feuding and felt like they hated each other. Alexa and Becky were similar. Charlotte and Sasha started like that, but then it became all about “LET’S MAKE HISTORY”, “THE WOMEN ARE MAKING HISTORY”, etc. Raw beat us over the head with how impressive it was that they were doing this and it hurt. Shouldn’t you compete in a Cell because you want to fight in a one on one war, not because it’s history? Shouldn’t the ironman match be to prove who the better wrestler is, not to make more history? They’ll go down in the record books for making that history but I’ll just remember this feud for being a massive disappointment.

Jack McGee
5. ROH circles the drain, stars opt to leave
4. The Cruiserweight Division
3. TNA Behind the scenes drama
2. Lucha Underground Season Three

1. Charlotte & Sasha have great matches, but are generally booked like shit – I love the Charlotte & Sasha matches, but I feel that the booking of their feud has been lazy, uninspired and only advanced, lazily, through multiple and unneeded title changes. They have delivered in the ring, which is the real shame; this feud should have been great. But instead of a beautiful crafted story, we get constant title changes and talking heads telling is that it’s history. The women have delivered, but the writing ad presentation has let them down.

Mike Chin
5. Sasha Banks not getting an extended title reign
4. The stop-start booking of Pentagon Dark
3. WWE’s Cruiserweight Division
2. Finn Balor’s untimely injury

1. Triple H winning the Royal Rumble – Triple H winning the Rumble and moving on to main event WrestleMania was predictable in the worst way–an outcome most of us saw coming, sold as if it were shocking, paying off in Reigns’ predictable coronation in a largely dull match at the end of an overlong WrestleMania. To be fair, Triple H did have his moments as champ, putting on better matches opposite Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler, but it still felt like a part-timer people weren’t that excited about and saw coming a mile away stealing the spotlight.

Paul Leazar
5. New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Division Booking
4. Ring of Honor’s Booking
3. The Cruiserweight Division
2. RAW

1. Finn Balor’s Injury – Man, this one really stung. Finn Balor comes up to the main roster, and is immediately shot up to the main event scene. He gets drafted to RAW, put in the Universal Title match, gets injured, still wins the title, and goes into the history books. Then he’s put on the shelf long term. Let’s be real here folks, NXT call ups don’t have the best track record of getting used. Finn Balor was the first one that really seemed to rocket to the top, and get a good portion of the audience behind him very quickly. The landscape of RAW completely changed, and I continue to wonder what would’ve happened if Finn hadn’t gotten hurt. For me, there was no larger disappointment then this (and RAW has suffered for it in my opinion).

Chad Perry
5. NJPW Tag Team Division (Jr. & Heavyweight)
4. Brock Lesnar
3. Lucha Underground Season 3
2. WrestleMania 32

1. Cruiserweight Division – The Cruiserweight Classic was the best North American main stream tournament I can ever remember watching. The final show featured two legit MOTYC with TJP vs. Gran Metalik and TJP vs. Kota Ibushi. Then the division came to Raw with high expectations after the draft and has just sputtered along. Giving the brand their own show sounded like a great idea, but it has not done much to move the meter. TJP has remained a center piece of the division. However, Ibushi didn’t sign with WWE and Gran Metalik is yet to actually wrestle a match as of this writing. A lot independent and international talents I enjoy watching like Akira Tozawa, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, Prince Mustafi Ali, Drew Gulak and Tony Nese were taken from stages they were shining and have either not been used or not been given a chance to shine. Even one of my favorites, Cedric Alexander, has not been given a strong chance to shine and has been saddled with a love triangle storyline. I was excited for 205 Live but after 3 weeks I stopped caring as it was repetitive and “just another show”.

Mike Hammerlock
5. Brock Lesnar
4. Aron Rex underwhelms in TNA
3. TNA and Billy Corgan split
2. The Cruiserweights run on Raw

1. Everything about WrestleMania 32 – From the brain-numbing Road to WrestleMania where the WWE once again tried in vain to make people give a rat’s ass about Roman Reigns to the event itself where they buried much of their full-time roster, it was a WrestleMania to forget. The run-up to the event has been dreadful in recent years, but the talent pulled if off come showtime. That did not happen in 2016. We did get the best women’s WrestleMania match ever with Charlotte defeating Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Yet Reigns beating HHH for the title to close the show was wretched, as was Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose. I still don’t know why in the hell Shane McMahon was fighting the Undertaker. Even A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho fizzled.

Jack Stevenson
5. Brock Lesnar underwhelms all year
4. Cody Rhodes’ independent run proves thoroughly average
3. Hulk Hogan teams up with evil billionaire to force closure of Gawker
2. Daniel Bryan forced to retire from in ring competition

1. WrestleMania 32 – While Daniel Bryan’s retirement was a proper heartbreaker, the fact that it had seemed quietly inevitable for a few months leading up to it cushioned the blow ever so slightly, and while Hulk Hogan closing down Gawker had massive wider cultural significance, its impact on pro wrestling was non existent. As such, a thoroughly lacklustre WrestleMania takes the crown for me. A five hour dirge of a show, with middling match after middling match, most of them ending in dispiriting heel victories entirely inappropriate for what is traditionally the most cathartic show of the year. AJ Styles and the New Day losing to Chris Jericho and The League of Nations respectively was confusing at the time, and now seems downright inexplicable. The Rock chewed up 20 minutes of our lives with a tedious in ring segment, culminating in a ridiculous 6 second bout with Erick Rowan. Shane McMahon flung himself off the top of the Hell in a Cell in a spot that should have been the most dangerous and thrilling in WWE history, but now seems almost forgotten. And it all came to a head with Roman Reigns winning the WWE Championship over Triple H in a just abysmal main event, all the more unbearable because Reigns’ match with Brock Lesnar the year before proved he was more than capable of handling the pressure of the Grandest Stage of Them All. Sadly, Triple H wanted to indulge his wet Harley Race dreams no matter the consequence. Reigns lifting the title reminded us internet geeks of how truly insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things- theoretically, the thing you look forward to seeing most all year shouldn’t do that. There were two redeeming factors in the form of the excellent Women’s Triple Threat and a brief moment of redemption for Zack Ryder with his shock Intercontinental Title victory, but Charlotte-Sasha-Becky had the wrong winner and was surpassed in quality later in the year, and Ryder got to hold his title for 24 hours before losing it again. It all added up, for me, to the worst WrestleMania since 1999. Hopefully, 33 will be a much more pleasant watch all round.

5. Sting and Daniel Bryan retire
4. Shane McMahon post-WrestleMania
3. Cody Rhodes leaves WWE
2. Roman Reigns fails Wellness test

1. Nobody Steps Up – WWE is king; we all know that. However, 2016 was supposed to be the year where other promotions made some kind of dent in the industry. There was TNA Impact Wrestling going to POP TV (ha!). There was GFW with content filmed (ha!). There was New Japan Pro Wrestling starting the year with a bang. There was Lucha Underground and all of their supposed momentum. Then a ton of other smaller companies were out there with new WWE/TNA releases and new distribution in the form of Flo Slam and iPPV. Yet, nothing happened. Either fans didn’t care enough or those ‘loyal’ fans were not willing to support them financially. Ring of Honor is still in the same spot, as is everybody else…with WWE STILL king. By a wide margin, arguably even wider than when the year began. Disappointing.

Jake Chambers
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi and John Cena not wrestling more
4. TNA continuing to produce TNA-like wrestling programming
3. Myself, for continuing to watch RAW despite it being so damn horrible
2. WWE Cruiserweight “Division”

1. Ring of Honor – If you were a fan of Ring of Honor during those first few years then I believe it’s just so hard to be a fan of the company in 2016. What was once a challenging and innovative place to see the best wrestlers in the world, is now this uncomfortably corporate informercial. There was no satisfying end to the lengthy Jay Lethal title run (what ever happened to Truth Martini), the curse of the Bullet Club continued to infiltrate regular programming, mid-card stars like Cedric Alexander, ACH, or Donovan Dijak continued to languish with nothing to do (until some eventually quit), PPV – as in actual $40 cable PPVs – were rushed together with little build or logic, another year went by where they wasted their access to New Japan’s elite, they arguably have the worst commentary team in the history of pro-wresting, and their shit weekly TV show looks like it’s shot in Standard Def in front of a half-full audience of weirdos and rednecks. In 2006 if you’d have told me that ROH would still be around more than ten years later I would have been shocked and ecstatic, but in 2016 this company is a monumental disappointment.

Larry Csonka
5. ROH… Just ROH
4. Another Year of TNA Backstage Drama
3. Lucha Underground (Season Three) Loses it’s Buzz
2. WrestleMania 32

1. WWE pisses away the good will the cruiserweight classic earned them – The Cruiserweight Classic was a great concept, and one that WWE pulled off very well. Part of the Cruiserweight Classic’s success was that it did not feel like a traditionally produced WWE product. Sure it had the WWE’s slick production values, but the shoe felt raw, not sterile and overly sanitized like Raw feels way too often. They brought in great talent, they let them work their style and the competitors got over on their talents and through their great efforts. But since they have been brought to the main matches, their prime goals are matches that don’t get enough time and “Telling STORIEZ about love triangles. The Cruiserweight Classic had a special feeling to it, which has largely been lost since the end of the Cruiserweight Classic and the move o the main roster, which is a shame.


5. The Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks Feud10 points

4. Lucha Underground Season Three11 points

3. Ring of Honor12 points

2. WrestleMania 3214 points

1. The WWE Cruiserweight Division28 points

* The Biggest Disappointment of The Year: The WWE Cruiserweight Division – 28 points
* The Best Non-Wrestler: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 3)
* The Best Tag Team of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 4)
* The Worst PPV/Major Show of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 5)
* The Best Female Wrestler of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 6)
* The Best PPV/Major Show of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 7)

* The Best Promotion of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 8)
* Most Outstanding Performer 2016 of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 9)
* The Best Match of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 10)
* Most Overrated Performer 2016 : TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 11)
* Most Underrated Performer 2016 : TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 12)
* The Best Wrestler of The Year: TO BE DETERMINED (JANUARY 13)