Angel’s Top 10 Wrestling Moments of 2016
2016 has been one of the best years for wrestling fans. Almost every major company in the world shook things up for the betterment of the industry. For me personally, this was the year where I finally hit a breaking point with the WWE. After watching one of the worst Wrestlemania’s of all time, I decided I needed change. Now, I watch a lot more independent and Japanese wrestling. So needless to say, it was hard selecting my top 10 moments of 2016. This list of moments, matches, and events are things that I either enjoyed, or I feel made massive impacts on pro wrestling. These are not ranked in particular order.
Steve “King” Corino vs BJ Whitmer in a Fight Without Honor- ROH Best In the World (June 24)
NJPW Super-J Cup (August 21)
AJ Styles beat John Cena- Summerslam (August 21)
Finn Balor wins the WWE Universal Title- Summerslam (August 21)
HHH helps Kevin Owens win the WWE Universal Title- Raw (August 29)
Tetsuya Naito wins the IWGP Intercontinental Championship- Destruction in Kobe (September 25)
All-Japan Pro Wrestling New Explosion (November 27)
Tag Team Apocalypto- Total Non-Stop Deletion (December 15)
10. A.J. Styles debuts in the WWE – Royal Rumble (January 24)
Video Courtesy of WWE’s YouTube Channel
I have been a fan of A.J. Styles since 2005 when he wrestled in TNA. He opened up my eyes to a world of athleticism, and skill that, at that point, I never knew existed. He was one of the sole reasons why I watched TNA. I was shocked when he left TNA in 2013, but even more shocked when I heard he was possibly signing with the WWE in January 2016.
Keep in mind that less then three weeks ago at the time, Styles had one of best matches of year with Shinsuke Nakamura at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10. Not only that, but before A.J., every new wrestler signed to the WWE had to go to NXT first. So, there were no indications that he would show up at the Royal Rumble. I nearly lost my voice, and cried when I saw him on appear on stage. Mr. Freaking TNA was in a WWE ring. Wow.
9. Shinsuke Nakamura debuts in the WWE – NXT Takeover Dallas (April 1)
Video Courtesy of WWE’s YouTube Channel
Shinsuke Nakamura has been one of my favorite wrestlers since I saw his match vs Kota Ibushi at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9. He has been someone who I have been raving about to all of my wrestling friends. When I heard he was signing with the WWE, I was nervous. Japanese stars do not have a good track record in the WWE. Admittedly, Kenta Kobayashi, better known as Hideo Itami, has been booked well in NXT. However, I wasn’t sure if that was just an anomaly.
My concerns were quickly erased when Nakamura’s amazing theme song came on. I had chills seeing his entrance. Even his opponent, Sami Zayn, sat there in amazement. Nakamura and Sami Zayn not only stole the show, but the whole weekend. That match reinforced all my praises, and showed that Nakamura came to be main event player in North America.
8. Adam Cole Joins Bullet Club/World’s Biggest Super Kick Party – ROH Global Wars (May 8)
Video Courtesy of Ring of Honor’s YouTube Channel
Before this event, Adam Cole’s career in ROH was just kind of stagnating. His stable, The Kingdom, broke up at the end of 2015. Then, he failed to capture the ROH World Championship in a Three Way match at ROH 14th Anniversary Show on February 27. Finally, he lost to his bitter rival Kyle O’Reilly in a No Holds Barred match at Supercard of Honor IX on April 2. As a fan, I wasn’t sure what was next for Adam Cole. Fast forward to Global Wars, where the Young Bucks were promoting the fact they were going to have the biggest super kick party ever, and add a new Bullet Club member. At first, the Young Bucks trolled fans by not throwing a single super kick in their match. When they showed up at the end of the main event, I thought they were going to add Colt Cabana to the group. Then the lights go out, and who appears? Adam Cole “Bay Bay” wearing a Bullet Club shirt. After that, the Bullet Club began the super kick party taking out everyone, including the commentary team! By the end of the night, a total of 51 super kicks were delivered.
7. WWE Cruiserweight Wrestling Classic (July- September)
Image Courtesy of WWE.com
The WWE Cruiserweight Classic is probably the greatest thing WWE have done since the creation of NXT. Going into the tournament, I only knew a handful of guys like Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr, Gran Metalik, T.J Perkins, and Cedric Alexander. Again, this was another situation where I saw guys in the WWE ring that I never expected to see there. I tried to pick a moment in the tournament, but honestly there was way too many to just pick one. Almost all the matches were great. There was a lot of emotional moments such as HHH shaking Cedric Alexanders, and Daniel Brian hugging Brian Kendrick. Also, I was introduced to amazing wrestlers such as Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, Lince Dorado, and Tony Nese. More importantly, the tournament introduced me to the wrestling promotion Evolve, which I am eternally grateful for.
6. Broken Matt Hardy vs Brother Nero – TNA Final Deletion (July 5)
Video Courtesy of TNA Impact Wrestling’s YouTube Channel
It is mind boggling the transformation Matt Hardy went through in 2016. Although I loved the Hardy Boys, I have never liked Matt Hardy as an individual performer. When he initially discovered his brilliant broken self in May 2016, I thought it was just a dumb new persona. TNA was running out of ideas, so they just made Matt Hardy into a cheap version of Bray Wyatt. Boy was I wrong! He is arguably the most interesting character in the wrestling industry. I watched the Final Deletion out of pure curiosity, and was blown away by the match. It was crazy, hilarious, weird, and bad all at the same time. By no means was this the best match of 2016, but it definitely is one of the most creative and memorable. Plus, it had everyone talking about TNA, something that has not happened in years.
5. Kenny Omega wins the NJPW G1 Climax – (August 14)
Image Courtesy of VoicesOfWrestling.com
When A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows left for the WWE in January 2016, everyone proclaimed the Bullet Club was dead. NJPW chose the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Kenny Omega to lead the Bullet Club, arguably the hottest group in wrestling. I wasn’t too sure how he would perform as a main event heavyweight, but he has stepped up to the plate. He beat the Ace of NJPW, Hiroshi Tanahashi, for the IWGP Intercontinental Title at The New Beginning in Niigata on February 15. Plus, he won the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship with the Young Bucks at Honor Rising: Japan 2016 on February 20.
Despite all of his success, no one gave him a chance to win the 2016 G1 Climax except me. I remember when I told my friends he was going to win, they all laughed at me, and called me crazy. Well, Kenny Omega proved all of the nay-sayers wrong when he beat Hirooki Goto to win the tournament. He is the first Westerner, and second Gaijin to win the G1 Climax. Now at Wrestle Kingdom 11, he has a chance to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada.
4. Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Samoa Joe the NXT Title – NXT Takeover Brooklyn II (August 20)
Video Courtesy of WWE’s YouTube Channel
Since his debut, Shinsuke Nakamura has been the hottest wrestler in NXT. His entrance is mesmerizing, his charisma is through the roof, and his Freddy Mercury/Michael Jackson persona makes him one of the most unique wrestlers in the WWE. By the time he challenged Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship, he was still undefeated. As usual, Nakamura had an amazingly memorable entrance. The match? Not so much. I will admit I have seen better matches from both, but it was still an enjoyable match. But more importantly, the King of Strong Style became the first ever Japanese wrestler to win a heavyweight championship in the WWE.
3. Pro Wrestling Guerilla 12th Battle of Los Angeles (September 2, 3, and 4)
Image Courtesy of DailyWrestlingNews.com
Over the past two years, I have heard a lot about the Los Angeles based PWG. They have a strong, dedicated online fan base who swear by the product. Hell, even Dave Meltzer, arguably the most important and respected pro wrestling journalist, has given high praises to PWG. Needless to say, I had high expectation for the BOLA tournament. PWG did not disappoint. The matches were some of the best I have seen this year. There were two matches that stood out above the rest.
The first one was Adam Cole & The Young Bucks vs Will Ospreay, Ricochet, and Matt Sydal. This match had it all. It was hard hitting, technical, acrobatic, athletic, and just pure fun. The second was a ten man match with Jushin Thunder Liger, Cedric Alexander, Jeff Cobb, Tommy End, and Chuck Taylor vs. Sami Callihan, Tommaso Ciampa, Pete Dunne, Brian Kendrick, and Matt Riddle. This was the craziest match I have ever seen. There was a conga line of guys with their thumbs up each other butts. At another point, Jushin Liger slowed down the match with a remote control. Everything from the commentating, the wrestling, and even the fans chants and movements slowed down. Just pure comedy.
2. A.J Styles defeats Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship – WWE Backlash (September 11)
Image Courtesy of WrestlingRumors.net
No one expected A.J Styles to win the heavyweight championship in the WWE. He was a not a WWE made guy. Although he had two great matches with Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, I was bummed he didn’t win. Then, Styles began feuding with John Cena, and the unthinkable happened. He beat the superman of the WWE. I was on cloud nine! Suddenly, AJ Styles became “the face that runs the place”. At that point, anything was possible, but still I had doubts in my mind. When A.J. Styles beat Dean Ambrose, I lost my mind. I ripped my shirt, lost my voice, and ran around like a crazy person. The Phenomenal One became the first wrestler to become the World Champion in WWE, TNA, NWA, NJPW, and PWG. He truly is one of the greatest wrestlers of my generation.
1. Saw Pentagon Jr wrestle live @ Lucha Underground En Vivo: Houston (October 31)
Pentagon Jr is one of my favorite wrestlers currently. He is the best wrestler in Lucha Underground, and in a roster that has Ricochet, Johnny Mundo, Rey Mysterio, and Jeff Cobb among them, that is saying a lot. He has an intensity and charisma that makes fans gravitate towards him. I never thought I would ever have a chance to see him live. He doesn’t wrestle around Texas often. He mostly sticks to the west coast and Mexico.
So, when I heard he was going to wrestle on a Lucha Underground house show in Houston, I was ecstatic. I woke up at 0600 to drive four hours just to stand in line to hopefully get a tickets to the show. He lived up to my expectation. He had the biggest pop of the show by far, and he also had a great hardcore match versus Mil Muertes. Best of all, I was able to grab a pic with him. Fun night over all.