Big M’s Best Matches Of 2016 - Part Three

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Well WNW people, here we are at last! This is part three of my best matches of 2016 article. This is the part where I list the ten best matches to occur on WWE’s main roster.

As in the last two parts, I will be judging the matches on three main criteria.
1. The level of in-ring work by the pro wrestlers involved.
2. The story that was told before, during and after the match.
3. The buzz generated by the matches and the people involved.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed these articles as they were honestly a very time-consuming project to undertake. Thankfully, I love writing for WNW and for you crazy WNW people. So it was a pure joy to look back at all the wonderful matches and moments that occurred in the world of pro wrestling in the rather unfortunate year that was 2016.

10. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks: Iron Women Match For The Raw Women’s Title
Event: Roadblock
Date: December 18th

Just when we thought these two incredible athletes had shown us everything, they put on yet another five-star match to end their year-long feud. Sasha and Charlotte a great story on December 18 (not the first one they’ve told either) and completely showed up the boys in the main even match (not the first time the women’s division has done that as well).

Now, while like the rest of you, I feel Sasha should have been the person booked to go over for several reasons, I still don’t think it takes away from how special the match was. Vince just sadly still values aesthetics above everything else when it comes to who he pushes as his top stars. And while Charlotte and Sasha are without a doubt equals in the ring, Charlotte has Vince’s preferred look, unfortunately. But Sasha didn’t leave Roadblock looking like a loser to anyone! She left looking like a true legend in the business. And it’s moments like those that fans will remember forever.

9. Dean Ambrose vs Kevin Owens: Last Man Standing Match For The Intercontinental Title
Event: Royal Rumble
Date: January 24th

If you want to see something in the industry we call pro wrestling (or sports entertainment depending on what kind of fan you are) that serves as a precursor for future events…watch this match!

Both Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens would go on to win World Titles in 2016, and this phenomenal Last Man Standing match had to have helped convince WWE’s higher-ups that both were worthy of receiving such pushes. Even though most fans would have agreed that both were main event calibre workers years before they each received their big pushes in 2016!

I remember watching this match, thinking right then and there that these two men were the future of WWE and the whole industry. And while recent booking of both men has really done them no favours whatsoever, it's matches like this that prove that WWE’s higher-ups can’t stop fan favourite workers taking the spotlight away from the office favourite workers!

8. The Miz vs Cesaro vs Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens: Fatal 4-Way Match For The Intercontinental Title
Event: Extreme Rules
Date: May 22nd

I have been outspoken for quite some time about the long held belief amongst fans that WWE preferred choice of superstar almost always has a certain aesthetic and background. For the men, it’s size, a muscular physique and rugged good looks (e.g. Roman Reigns). For the women it’s beauty, big boobs usually fake and a modeling background (e.g. Eva Marie). As a result, many a talented worker find themselves playing second fiddle to WWE’s golden boys and girls, despite arguably being better all round performers.

But every now and then, these woefully underutilized talents are given an opportunity to show WWE’s higher-ups and the world why they shouldn’t be playing second fiddle to ANYONE! And the individuals involved in the Fatal Four Way match for the IC Title at Extreme Rules got such an opportunity. And man alive did they ever make the very most of it!

All four of these men don’t really possess the shallow “qualities” that WWE higher-ups want in big main event level superstars. And yet all four of them proved without a shadow of a doubt that they CAN and SHOULD be main eventing shows with this amazing match!

7. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn
Event: Battleground
Date: July 24th

This match is a prime example of what happens when two workers who knew each other like the back of their hands are given twenty minutes on the big stage to show the world what they can do in a twenty by twenty ring. They steal the show! They steal the show, and once again prove that they should be WWE main eventers. Now, these two probably had better matches in Ring of Honor if we are being honest! However, both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will probably consider this match a huge highlight for both their careers and rightly so.

They should also be especially proud of the match when you consider that Sami Zayn botched a split leg moonsault to the outside in the first five minutes! It takes two true ring generals to not only salvage a match after such a colossal and potentially dangerous botch but also turn it into a show-stealing performance. And that is exactly what Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are…true ring generals!

6. Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins: First Ever Universal Title Match
Event: SummerSlam
Date: August 21st

This match, despite having everything going for it leading in, could’ve ended up being a disaster. Everything you could and couldn’t think of going wrong in a match, it happened in the first five minutes! First, the crowd in attendance seemed far more focused on the admittedly awful design of the newly created Universal Championship. And then the very worst possible thing happened! Fin Balor severely injured his shoulder after taking a Powerbomb onto the barricade. Obviously, the luck of the Irish wasn’t with Finn on this night!

But, through sheer toughness and determination, Fin kept performing at an elite level. He and Seth Rollins managed to not only salvage the match but turn into an instant classic. Do you want to see what the next generation of WWE superstars look like? Then look no further than Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins at SummerSlam 2016.

5. Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns (And Dean Ambrose): WWE World Title Match/s
Event: Money In The Bank
Date: June 19th

At the time, this match had all eyes on it for many reasons! Seth Rollins had just returned from a career-threatening knee injury four months ahead of schedule and had not seemed to have lost a single step (take that John Cena). Roman Reigns, despite having the full backing of WWE’s brass had almost no support from the WWE fan base for his big WWE Title win at Wrestlemania 32 and the great match with AJ Styles at Extreme Rules.

Many people had hoped that WWE would have seen that Roman Reigns just wasn’t working out as a babyface and were planning to book a double turn (something both men teased in the match). Everyone knew we would wind up watching an amazing match between these two, but no one knew what the finish would be.

And due to Roman Reigns then unannounced Wellness Policy violation forcing WWE’s hand in regards to him dropping the Title, WWE’s higher-ups decided to remind us that they can still shock us fans from time to time.

For those who did watch the Money in the Bank PPV and think I shouldn’t be including what was technically two matches in the number five spot in this list, let me just remind you on the criteria I’m basing my choices on.
1. The level of in-ring work by the pro wrestlers involved.
2. The story that was told before, during and after the match.
3. The buzz generated in the matches and the people involved.

And so, based on those criteria I think I can list what happened after the bell technically rang on Rollins vs Reigns as part of the same match!

4. Dean Ambrose vs AJ Styles: TLC Match For The WWE World Title
Event: TLC
Date: December 4th

This match is something I like to refer to as a “holy crap” match. It’s one of those matches that are so intense, so incredible to witness that you keep saying “holy crap” throughout! I mean, all the amazing high spots that Dean and AJ continued to pull off without the slightest hitch shows just how good both men really are.

Now some of you may have disliked the finish with James Ellsworth costing Dean the match and the WWE World Championship. But I personally thought is was absolutely brilliant. Even though a few people predicted it might happen, I think it was still a shock to most fans everywhere. And it was the perfect way to continue the James Ellsworth storyline. Which was arguably the most unorthodox yet best-written storyline in WWE for the year 2016.

3. Sasha Banks vs Charlotte: Falls Count Anywhere Match For The Raw Women’s Title
Event: Monday Night Raw
Date: November 28th

In every generation, there are two male workers and two female workers that are considered to be the very best of their era! The last generation of best female workers are undoubtedly Trish Stratus and Lita. Those two women changed the game and put on some of the greatest matches ever seen. Even after all these years people still debate whether Trish or Lita was the better worker and bigger star!

And on November 28 edition of Raw, we as fans collectively decided which two workers amongst the current crop of amazing female talent in WWE would be considered the very best of their era. The two workers we chose were Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks! We chose these two phenomenal performers because they put on arguably the best main event match on Raw for many years. And they did so after they having so many incredible matches together already! I have no doubt in my mind that we will all be debating which one is better than the other long after they have both hung up the boots.

2. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch: Triple Threat Match For The New WWE Women’s Title
Event: Wrestlemania 32
Date: April 3rd

We need, to be honest with ourselves WNW people…Wrestlemania 32 sucked! The show was too long, lacked a lot of star power (thanks to the injury bug hitting WWE hard in 2015) and it had some of the most counterproductive booking in history.

Admittedly Shane vs Undertaker and the IC Title Ladder Match were pretty good. But Shane and Ryder’s booking the next night on Raw pretty much made those matches meaningless. But there was one very big bright spot in an otherwise lackluster show! It was this incredible match that ushered in a new era of women’s wrestling in WWE. You all know I am an outspoken supporter of the Women’s Revolution in WWE. So much so that I have been accused of “wearing blinders” as far as the quality of the matches goes. But I think we can all agree that Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks put on one of the best triple threat matches ever.

And they did so on the grandest stage of them all for the brand new WWE Women’s Championship (now the Raw Women’s Championship). I dare anyone to tell me that this match did not steal the show at Wrestlemania 33!

Now before I name the match that topped this list, I would like to name some matches that deserve an honorable mention.

Honorable Mentions
Miz vs Dolph Ziggler: Intercontinental Title vs Career Match
Event: No Mercy
Date: October 9th

Cesaro vs Sheamus: Final Match In The Best Of Seven Series
Event: Clash Of The Champions
Date: September 25th

Charlotte vs Sasha Banks: Raw Women’s Title Match
Event: Monday Night Raw
Date: July 25th

Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose: Triple Threat Match For The WWE World Title
Event: Battleground
Date: July 24th

Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles: Extreme Rules Match For The WWE World Title
Event: Extreme Rules
Date: May 22nd

Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker: Hell In A Cell Match
Event: Wrestlemania 32
Date: April 3rd

And now, without further ado, the best match to happen on WWE’s main roster in 2016 was…

1. AJ Styles vs John Cena
Event: SummerSlam
Date: August 21st

I’ll be honest with you WNW people, when this match first started, I wasn’t all that excited to watch it. Not because I thought it wouldn’t be any good (we all know it would be an amazing match), but because I was confident I knew what the outcome would be. AJ Styles was working a typical three match program with “Super” Cena himself. AJ was booked no differently than most other people working with Cena! He won the first match thanks to outside interference, and he lost the second nice and clean.

The only deviation from this typical formula for Cena feuds was the second match was a six man tag that included the Club and Enzo/Cass. But even this slight deviation was not enough for me to believe that AJ was going to go over in this match. Especially when you consider AJ is not really a WWE guy! He was someone who had made his name in other promotions. I mean let's face it, WWE’s higher-ups LOVE signing people who made their name outside WWE just to put over WWE’s homegrown stars. And after AJ’s program with Roman Reigns ending the way it did, I was very confident the result of this match would be no different.

But the one thing WWE’s higher up’s like doing more than trying to prove their superiority over other companies is shocking their audience. And AJ Styles pinning John Cena clean in the middle of the ring was something that both shocked me and had me jumping for joy. In fact, it wasn’t just the outcome that shocked me and filled me with joy, I was feeling both those emotions throughout the entire match.

You just tell we were watching something special during these amazing performance put on by both men! The back and forth and the ebb and flow was paced so perfectly, so sublimely that you didn’t dare take your eyes off your TV screen. And the look of disbelief to the point of terror on John Cena’s face when an Attitude Adjustment off the top rope still wasn’t enough to put AJ away was something to behold. Every single aspect of this match was perfectly produced and performed. And I dare anyone to say that this match doesn’t deserve to top this list!

Well, that’s it! I hope you have enjoyed reading these articles as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Feel free to follow me on twitter @TheBigM91 and make sure to join in the fun and discussion that is WNW’s new Facebook group that Richard Gray and myself administrate.
The group URL is www.MMAPW.com, and it’s all about pro wrestling and MMA discussion. I hope to see you there!

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