By: Troy Boesen
While many may curse 2016, it wasn't a bad year for the superstars of the WWE. This list is looking at championship wins and accomplishments from the 2016 year in WWE. This is not who was the best wrestler, or who had the best feuds, it’s simply looking at who was most successful. Feel free to tell us who you think should be on a list of the best wrestlers in the comments section below!
#10 - Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship)
When Asuka came on the scene, it was clear she would be huge. In 2016, including house shows, Asuka is 112-3. Those 3 losses came via a battle royal, a dark tag match, and a fatal four way. Bottom line, don’t face Asuka in a singles match. She’s gonna kill you.
Asuka won the NXT Title on April 1st from Bayley and has never looked back. You can say what you will about the lack of competition for Asuka now that NXT has been raided, but she continues to be the standard which all other NXT women will be held.
#9 - The Revival (NXT Tag Team Championship x2)
Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, collectively known as The Revival, are the very first two-time NXT Tag Team Champions. The Revival came into the year as reigning champions and held the belts until April 1st, where American Alpha won them. That reign would only last 68 days as the Revival would win the belts back. They held the belts for 164 days, beating their first reign by 2 days. It took a two out of three falls match for them to lose the belt to #DIY. Dash and Dawson have been heaped with praise for their old school heel act and their tremendous Tag Team phycology.
#8 - TJ Perkins (Cruiserweight Championship, Cruiserweight Classic Winner)
TJ Perkins, another TNA outcast, may not have been the star of the Cruiserweight Classic (that goes to Cedric Alexander or Kota Ibushi), but he was the winner. In winning the Cruiserweight Classic, he became the very first (I guess) Cruiserweight Champion. While the division has been a pretty solid failure, it has begun to pick up speed with the emergence of Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander and Jack Gallagher as well as the inclusion of Neville. Perkins remains in the title picture, however.
#7 - Sasha Banks (Raw Women’s Championship x3)
The Legit Boss (which she should only be when she is a heel because who likes their boss?) had to scratch and claw her way into the title picture. She was hampered by bad luck and bad booking, from being in Team B.A.D. to being kicked in the head by a ref, but when she arrived, she brought with her the intensity and passion that made her a success in NXT.
Sasha won the Raw Women’s Championship on the very first post-Draft Raw. Her reign would only last 27 days as Charlotte would get it back at SummerSlam. Banks got another shot on Raw and begun her second title reign. The two stars of Raw’s women’s division would make history at Hell in a Cell by finally main eventing a Pay Per View. Charlotte again ended Sasha’s reign at 27 days. On Raw in Charlotte, NC, Sasha Banks would win her third Raw Women’s Championship. Just 20 days later, the two would complete in the first Iron Man Women’s Match on WWE TV, and Charlotte would again beat Sasha.
The rivalry between the two continues to be a highlight of the Women’s Revolution in the face of other terrible women’s storylines and shows that Women can be compelling and truly steal the show.
#6 - Dean Ambrose (WWE Championship, Intercontinental Championship, Money in the Bank)
Dean Ambrose went from being Roman’s little buddy to one of the more accomplished wrestlers of 2016. Ambrose started the year as the reigning Intercontinental Champion but lost the belt to Kevin Owens on February 15th. Ambrose would float around for a while before building steam heading into Money in the Bank. Ambrose was able to grab the briefcase in a match that featured Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Paige. Ambrose would not wait long to use it. After Seth Rollins beat Roman Reigns for the title, Ambrose cashed in and became WWE Champion. His reign lasted 84 days, and during this time, he was able to beat Roman and Seth again in order to bring the WWE Championship to SmackDown Live. While Ambrose changed a bit after his successful defense against Dolph Ziggler, his reign still was impressive and entertaining.
#5 - Samoa Joe (NXT Championship x2)
Samoa Joe kicked off the new wave of NXT Talent. Not only were independent guys now suddenly keeping the legacy they held before entering the WWE, but they also were built up as actual veterans despite not having the WWE tenure.
Joe came in to NXT the way he enters most promotions, as a dominant and scary individual. Joe became NXT champion at a house show on April 21st by beating Finn Balor, who at that point had yet to look even remotely weak. It was what he would do next that was truly impressive. Nobody had beaten The Demon King. Samoa Joe did it in a steel cage to retain his belt. Joe would reign for 121 days before Shinsuke Nakamura got a hold of him. Shinsuke would lose to Joe on November 19th, as Joe became the very first two-time NXT Champion. His reign would only last two weeks.
#4 - Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Championship x2)
This was difficult to decide which one should be higher, but I give the nod to Shinsuke simply because Shinsuke won the belt on his very first opportunity, while Joe lost twice before finally getting the job done. I could be talked into swapping these two or even making them Co-#4.
Shinsuke entered NXT at the end of January and is already a two time champion. His first reign lasted 91 days, while his second reign is still going on. He will have held the belt for 28 days if he makes it to 2017. Shinsuke is a talent like few have seen and his 2017 is looking very promising.
#3 - Kevin Owens (Universal Championship, Intercontinental Championship)
Kevin Owens followed up an impressive “Rookie” year in 2015 (NXT Champion, IC Champion) by becoming a two time IC Champ on February 15th. Owens would hold the belt for 48 days before dropping it to Zack Ryder at Wrestlemania 32. Owens began a title drought after that where kept winning and looking strong but not really getting into the title picture. That was until Finn Balor was destroyed by Seth Rollins (Hey Bret, how you doing?)
On the August 29th episode of Raw, a fourr-way elimination match was held, which featured Big Cass, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins. Bass Cig would be eliminated first. Out of nowhere, Triple H arrived and took Roman Reigns out. Rollins pinned him to eliminate him before bringing Kevin Owens into the ring. Triple H then turned on Rollins and helped Owens to win the Universal Championship. Owens is the current Universal Champion as well as the longest reigning Universal Champion. Owens will have held the belt for 124 days come January 1st as he is not set to defend the belt on Raw.
#2 - Roman Reigns (WWE Champion x2, United States Champion)
Roman Reigns, largely considered to be an over-pushed lumbering idiot, is actually one of the top 15 wrestlers on Raw. If WWE would ever realize that Reigns would be a great heel, or could be a better face with a makeover (drop the vest, you are not D-Lo) we could be happier for his success.
Reigns began the year as WWE Champion. He held the belt for about 23 days in 2016 until the Royal Rumble, where for the first time in like, forever, the belt was on the line. Triple H dumped him and then his little buddy to win his ninth title (BTW, I could not include Trips on this list because he was only active for like 80 days). Reigns was in the Main Event of WrestleMania 32 and won his third WWE Championship by beating Triple H. He would hold the belt for 77 boo-filled days until Seth Rollins beat him at Money in the Bank. Reigns would go for a while without a belt before beating Rusev for the United States title at Clash of Champions. Reigns is the current US champ and will have held the belt for 96 days unless he defends it on Monday. Reigns spent 196 days with a title on his shoulder in 2016. That’s more than half the year.
#1 - Charlotte Flair (Divas Championship, Raw Women’s Championship x4)
Charlotte Flair began 2016 as the Divas Champion. She held the belt for 93 day until it was retired in favor of the Raw Women’s Championship. She was the final Divas Champion (thank Jeebus) and the very first Raw Women’s Champion. Charlotte held the Raw Women’s Belt for 119 days until Sasha Banks beat her on the July 25th episode of Raw. Charlotte would get the belt back at the very next PPV and hold the belt for 43 days until Sasha again picked up a Raw victory. Charlotte would win the belt back at Hell in a Cell. 29 days later, Sasha got the belt back on Raw. At Roadblock: End of the Line, an Iron Man Match was held, which had to go to overtime and Charlotte became a four time Raw Women’s Champion.
Charlotte has an impressive streak of 15 straight PPV wins when the Women’s belt is on the line. She was also a part of every single 2016 PPV. What’s more, Charlotte has held a championship belt for 291 days. She has been champion for 80% of 2016.
Honorable Mention - Finn Balor (NXT Championship, Universal Championship)
Finn Balor was NXT Champion heading into the year before losing it in April to Samoa Joe. Balor was picked in the first round of the WWE Draft Revival and was given a chance to win his way to a Universal Championship Match. Balor would beat Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Rusev in a fatal four way and then beat Roman Reigns in the same night. At SummerSlam, Balor would beat Seth Rollins to become the very first Universal Champion. This would be bittersweet, as Balor hurt his shoulder during the match, but it’s hard to argue that Balor didn’t have a great 3/4th of a year.
Honorable Mention - The New Day- Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods (Raw Tag Team Champions)
The New Day broke a longstanding record by holding the Raw Tag Team belts for 483 days. They held the belt for almost the entire 2016 year. The only reason that they are not on the top 10 is because it’s my list, so fuck off. Also, having just one long title reign can sometimes feel like less of an accomplishment, and the New Day did not always look the strongest during the run.
The Rest of the 2016 Title Holders
TV & Movies
Henry Huge Pecs
Ray Williams III
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