A lot went on in the WWE in 2016. The roster split again between Raw and Smackdown. A plethora of wrestlers from NXT made the jump into the big leagues of both WWE brands. But one man arrived with big fanfare at the Royal Rumble and his path only went uphill. That wrestler is A.J. Styles and he is my 2016 wrestler of the year.
Styles is the first wrestler in recent memory to make a big splash in his debut only to continue his way up to being one of the top heels of the WWE roster. He’s one of the lead heels of the Smackdown roster and current Smackdown heavyweight champion.
Consider the path that Styles took to get to where he is today. Long before there was any talk of Styles arriving in the WWE, he was one of the very few TNT wrestlers who I thought would do well in the WWE. He has great wrestling skills. He’s wrestled everywhere except the WWE until last year. I knew the WWE brass had plans for him but I never expected so much to happen to him in a twelve month period.
Think about it. Styles debuts at the Royal Rumble match and lasted a while. Since then he got entangled in a great feud with Chris Jericho that ended up at Wrestlemania. Styles lost but it was arguably the best match of the night. From there, Styles gets a push to WWE title matches against Roman Reigns. Okay, yes he didn’t win the title but for all that to happen within six months is impressive.
Just when you thought things would cool down for Styles he gets involved in a brilliant feud with John Cena. Loved the development of the feud where they showed their admiration for each other and then turning on Cena. If there was a segment of the year for me it was the on the first Monday in June on Raw where Styles and Cena were on the mike. Styles did well on the mike but Cena’s rant was so sweet that it left Styles speechless and the crowd applauding. In fact, I applauded. It culminated to the Summerslam match where there were so many two counts that we had no clue who would win. It was arguably the match of that night.
And then Styles finally got his shot at the WWE title and won it. His feud with Dean Ambrose has been entertaining to say the least with a feud good matches. All of this shows why he’s one of the best professional wrestlers in the world and why I picked him as the 2016 wrestler of the year.
Styles enters 2017 as the current Smackdown champion and will face John Cena at the Royal Rumble. I’m hoping for another quality match between the two that should last for a while. If not the Rumble I can see Styles’ title reign come to an end by this year’s Wrestlemania. Even if he does lose the title Styles isn’t going anywhere but needs to accomplish one more thing to make his stay in the WWE complete; a trade or promotion to Raw.