Well another year in the crazy world of the WWE has gone by. We've seen new champions being crowned for the first time, surprise debuts, and shocking returns. It was the year that AJ Styles finally found himself in a WWE ring, Triple H main evented WrestleMania one more time, and the Roman Reigns train couldn't be stopped despite more than a few bumps on the track.
2016 was also the return of the WWE Draft and brand extension and the establishment of a new top-tier title, the WWE Universal Championship, which is exclusive to the Raw brand. It's been an interesting year, to say the least, as the New Era has given us the next stage of their modern day heroes and villains that will be the tentpoles for years to come.
But who is the superstar of the year? The best of the best of 2016?
We take a look at the biggest names in WWE and who helped make the biggest impact in the company. Whose star shone brightest in an ocean of talent?
Presenting our list of The Best Superstars of the Year, starting with one of their brightest "rookies" ever to step in a professional wrestling ring.
The King of Strong Style was New Japan Pro Wrestling's biggest stars, but rumors began circulating around the beginning of the year that Shinsuke Nakamura had signed to the WWE.
Would he actually leave the realm of the Tokyo Dome? Would WWE fans embrace his unique style and presentation? Would he have to vacate the IWGP Intercontinental Championship? Those questions were answered in the weeks leading to NXT TakeOver: Dallas as Sami Zayn's first opponent back after almost a year-long absence from injury was Nakamura himself.
In the meantime, Nakamura defended his IWGP IC Championship against AJ Styles at WrestleKingdom X, but soon vacated the title in an emotional presentation as he set his sights for America and the biggest name in sports-entertainment: WWE. Nakamura's debut match against Zayn (which we'll get to later) cemented Nakamura's arrival to the global giant as an undeniable force of charismatic energy and an in-ring technician with a style all his own.
His matches this year under the WWE banner have been some of the best and certainly some of the most hyped matches for sure. He is the current NXT Champion in his second reign, but it's not a question of if he'll make it big on the main roster, but when.
I'm fully aware this is going to cause a bit of discussion, but hear me out: Roman Reigns had a good year. It wasn't his best year, but certainly a good one. Roman was picked to be the new golden boy and yeah, some fans resent him being shoved down our throats, but at already a three-time WWE World Champion and current United States Champion, Reigns had a pretty prolific year. His match with Triple H at WrestleMania might have been
It wasn't his best year, but certainly a good one. Roman was picked to be the new golden boy and yeah, some fans resent him being shoved down our throats, but at already a three-time WWE World Champion and current United States Champion, Reigns had a pretty prolific year. His match with Triple H at WrestleMania might have been
His match with Triple H at WrestleMania might have been widely panned from critics and fans, but it was the matches he did after that to make up for it were his shining moments. His rivalry with WWE-newcomer AJ Styles was easily his best run yet and both men came out look like champions in their own right. And yes, the Wellness Policy violation didn't help the budding star, but he bounced back and he's looking to start anew in 2017.
We still think he deserves a great heel turn, but that's another story for another list.
It was a long time coming, but Dean Ambrose finally became WWE World Champion in 2016.
As the former mouthpiece of The Shield, it was pretty much predetermined that Ambrose had what it took to be at the top of the card and it was only a matter of time before the gold was around his waist. While he might look like an unconventional champion, him ascending to the top was well worth the wait for the man formerly known as Johnny Moxley.
His feud with AJ Styles for the title (which AJ now wears) showcased Ambrose's ability to adapt to any style of athlete he's paired with. Yeah, he might prefer a more brawler-type of offense, and his Money In The Bank match showcased that, but Ambrose is just getting started as one of the biggest stars of the WWE.
I know, I'm just surprised as you are that in 2016, The Miz is one of the brightest and best that the WWE has to offer. Top heel? Look no further than the A-Lister himself.
The Miz has had a career renaissance as of late with this name being synonymous with the Intercontinental Championship with Miz currently in his sixth reign (he shares the second most reigns with Jeff Jarrett and Rob Van Dam). His feud with Smackdown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan was the talk of the Summer and his ring work with the likes of Dolph Ziggler has given both men some of the best matches of his decade-long career.
What makes Miz stand out is his over-the-top persona and being paired with his real-life wife Maryse, he's given the WWE Universe some of the greatest material of this generation. Now could this be the beginning of the second coming of the Miz as World Champion? Possibly, but where he stands now, being the Undisputed King of the Midcard isn't a bad position.
Kevin Owens (With An Honorable Mention of Chris Jericho)
It's the Kevin Owens Show and we're merely watching it.
Having signed with the WWE in 2014, the Kevin Owens (real name Kevin Steen) had established himself as a major independent star in across various promotions, but it was in 2016 that he proved himself to be a class all his own by becoming the second WWE Universal Champion and setting the course for what is sure to be the rest of his career.
With Owens already settle feuds with the likes of John Cena and Roman Reigns, Owens is at the top of the Raw world with the Big Red Belt in his hands, but it's his work with fellow Canadian and future Hall of Famer Chris Jericho that has evolved him into so much more. While he still has a malicious streak to his ways, Owens and Jericho have been the highlight of Raw each week for the past few months with insane acts of friendship, but of course, some things can't last forever....
It'll be interesting to see what 2017 has in store for WWE's Prizefighter. Will he manage to stay at the top of his game or will he be humbled by the next breed of superstars?
Name somebody that had a more phenomenal year.
Go on. I'll wait.
Coming fresh from the grounds of the Tokyo Dome, AJ Style debuted at the Royal Rumble to an incredible ovation. Styles had worried that he wouldn't be recognized, but that wasn't the case with the WWE Universe ready to embrace Style and finally call him a WWE Superstar.
He carried Roman Reigns through their feud, and even though Roman came out on top, it was his feud with John Cena that sealed his rookie year with the company and made AJ a bonafide megastar, something that longtime fans had known for the past decade.
AJ's rise to the top was something that few had seen, especially given the WWE's track record of treating stars that they didn't have a hand in creating. AJ Styles defied odds and with each match he gives is an instant match of the year contender.
At press time, he's the current WWE World Champion at 92 days with no signs of giving it up anytime soon.