SteelChair Magazine 2016 Top 50 Wrestlers

The SteelChair Top 50 is a list that takes into account the performances of wrestlers from the Raw after SummerSlam to the SummerSlam of next year. Also, despite our designated evaluation period being so WWE centric, our list covers the whole spectrum of professional wrestling. Unlike other publications, the SteelChair list takes into account only the quality of the individual wrestler and not their position in their company. We decide who we think is the best wrestler, not multi-million dollar corporations or even tiny, little independent promotions. We truly believe that this list is the definitive list of the year because it is a true reflection of the fans who have given the most to professional wrestling. And in the end, that is the only opinion that truly matters. Feel free to join in and leave your comments at the end or over at Twitter @VultureHoundMag

Sponsors: Botchamania, the Fans Podcast, SlobberknockerBox.com, The Canvas Theory and The Kevin Gill Show

Picks/Words: Craig Hermit, David Garlick, Elliot Dyson, Erin Dick, Gary Ward, Jay Sichler, Lee Hazell, Liam O’Rourke, Lizz Whitehouse, Mat Lindsay, Shane Bayliss, Tyler Fudge, Vern May, Bradley Tiernan

50 Cesaro
Despite spending a few months out with a shoulder injury, The Swiss Superman remains hot with the crowd, largely due to his always-impressive in-ring work.

Booking has never been Cesaro’s best friend, and this year was no exception. He’s frequently a victim of screwy finishes and is often portrayed as the perennial silver-medalist. Regardless of wins and losses, though, when he’s in the ring, Cesaro always impresses. A match with Roman Reigns in late 2015 was a particular standout, as was his return from injury in a fatal 4-way the night after Wrestlemania. (Elliot)

49 Tye Dillinger
Getting over can’t be easy when the only aspect to your gimmick is a number. The Perfect 10, however, proved it can be done. A lot of the past year saw Tye Dillinger working as enhancement talent, despite the crowd’s backing. Cream rises though, and a recent face-alignment on TV suggests the talented worker might be about to get the push he deserves. (Elliot)

48 Tomohiro Ishii
Tomohiro Ishii has had another absolutely stellar year, capping it off with a run at the G-1 Climax 26 tournament that compares favourably with the all time best. His matches with SANADA, Tanahashi and Okada were standouts which, combined with his series earlier in the year with Shibata, and you’re left wondering why more isn’t done with the Stone Pitbull. (Liam)

Read: New Year, New Japan, New Look? (Jan 2016)

47 Pete Dunne
The wrestler’s wrestler, the Bruiserweight Pete Dunne has reinvented himself and is finally getting the pay off. There is sometimes a worry when every promotion is scrambling for a wrestler that crowds will lose interest, but such is the talent and strength of Dunne, he could be a versatile player for any promotion, which is probably why 2016 saw him make his BOLA debut. (Shane)

46 Rusev
At WrestleMania 31 Rusev lost the US Championship to John Cena and it seemed likely there was no coming back.

In the last twelve months, following a terrible kayfabe relationship with Summer Rae and a run with the poorly executed stable the ‘League of Nations’, Rusev has once again found himself on top.

Defeating the miniature Mexican, Kalisto, with the powerful Accolade, the Bulgarian Brute, has successfully held the US title since May.

A strong feud with Roman Reigns means that, despite defeat, Rusev remains a strong villain. (Bradley)

45 Akira Tozawa
In a world where Brock Lesnar is hitting his opponents with an average of a dozen German Suplexes per match, to the point where his name is now synonymous with the move, Akira Tozawa’s German Suplex is the best in the world. This is a man whose dedication to technical excellence and perfection could not be contained by Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion. (Lee) 

44 Cedric Alexander
Cedric Alexander is victorious in defeat. After his barn burner with Kota Ibushi in the CWC, fans were insistent that his loss not end his time with WWE. The fans burst into a chant: ‘Please Sign Cedric’. Whether it was planned or a magnificent piece of improv, Triple H appeared from behind the curtain, put his arm round Cedric’s shoulders and gave the crowd a reassuring nod. (Lee)

Read: Introducing…RAWs New Cruiserweights

43 Brian Kendrick
Bully Choking his way back from indy obscurity, “The Post-Apocalyptic Scavenger” was one of the surprise delights of the CWC, with both his in-ring charisma and move-set impressing viewers. This more mature incarnation of ‘The Brian Kendrick’ should be capable of playing either the redemptive face or swaggering heel, if the WWE can finally get over the need to label him as ‘Spanky’. (Mat)

Read: Introducing…RAWs New Cruiserweights

42 Bobby Roode
Not only is his entrance music responsible for the best wrestling vines of the year, but Bobby Roode’s in-ring heel persona within NXT has been a masterstroke.

Following his time with TNA that lasted twelve years Roode has wound up at the biggest promotion in the world and is letting everyone know just why he is “glorious”.

Since his TV debut back in August Roode has wasted no time in setting himself up to head for NXT gold and even showcased a superb entrance at NXT Takeover Brooklyn II before defeating Andrade Almas. (Bradley)

Read: Our interview with Bobby Roode and James Storm

41 Alexa Bliss
After separating from emotionally estranged, dubstep cowboys Blake and Murphy, she sparkled in NXT as a fierce singles competitor, before almost instantaneously making a big splash in the new SmackDown Live Women’s division. Bliss adds a spark to the New Era of women’s wrestling. (Erin)

40 The Miz
Surely for his work in Santa’s Little Helper and the latest straight to DVD Scooby Doo movie should grant The Miz inclusion on this list.

Also, The A-Lister is a natural at promos, and the current pairing with his wife, Maryse, has yielded consistently golden results in garnering white-hot heel heat. His ring work is often criticised, but matches this year with AJ Styles, Y2J, Zayn, Cesaro and KO proved that he can hang with the best of them.

‘Miz TV’ is a convenient plot device that would feel overplayed if he wasn’t so darn charismatic. (Elliot)

Read: The Heel Turn Heard Around The World

39 Roderick Strong
Say what you want about Roddy’s “Shitty Little Boots,” he still had a brief stint in NJPW, held the TV Championship in ROH, and he held the PWG World Championship this year as well. He has set a fire under any wrestler’s behind whenever they step into the ring with him. How would you top off a year like that? Being signed to the WWE, which he has since the summer. (Tyler)

Read: Our Top 10 ROH World Champions | ROH Year in Review so far… (July 2016) 

38 Ricochet
Is Ricochet an actual person or a video game character? His moveset delighted thousands across the indies and internationally. Ricochet would see considerable acclaim and discussion in his NJPW Best of Super Jr. Tournament match with Will Ospreay. In addition, Ricochet & Matt Sydal won the 2015 Super Jr. Tag Tournament, worked the Wrestle Kingdom 10 card, and eventually held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. (Anton)

37 Noam Dar
The exciting thing about Noam Dar, isn’t necessarily the past year but potentially the next one. One of the youngest in the SteelChair 50, the last three months have seen all Dar’s hard work pay off with a solid run on WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic and stints as PCW champion. The fact that Noam started wrestling at the age of fifteen means that he’s already got seven years under his belt, and he’s sill only twenty-three. Prepare yourself for the imperial march (or WWE’s knock-off version of it) on RAW every week from this point forward. (Shane)

Read: Introducing…RAWs New Cruiserweights

36 Kushida
After being underrated for a long time, KUSHIDA has opened a lot of eyes. With a great showing in the Best of the Super Juniors (including another barn burner with Kyle O’Reilly), a pair of cracking title defenses against Will Ospreay and a victory in the 2016 Super J Cup, KUSHIDA proved to be the most complete performer in the division. (Liam)

Read: NJPW G1 Climax – Every day reviewed

35 Michael Elgin
It’s been a resurrection year for Michael Elgin. After falling down the ranks in Ring of Honor, Elgin briefly flirted with the idea of retiring. However, going over to New Japan has changed his outlook and demeanor. After participating in the 2015 G1 Climax last Summer, Elgin gained a fan following from the Japanese crowd. He would then sign with NJPW full time in March 2016. He would make it to the Semi-Finals of the 2016 New Japan Cup, and then in June would defeat Kenny Omega in the first ever Ladder Match in New Japan to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. (Liam)

34 Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa had, against his tag-team partner Johnny Gargano, one of the matches of the year in the first round of the CWC. They followed that up with an amazing match at NXT Takeover Dallas against The Revival. In both matches Ciampa had a supporting role, but he went home with the Oscar. In 2016 his storytelling is second to none. (Lee)

Read: Top 10 Tag Teams 2016

33 Mike Bennett
After leaving ROH on less than amicable terms, Bennett began 2016 afresh, shedding his former gimmick and becoming “The Miracle”, and slotting almost effortlessly into the TNA World Title scene. Since then, the arrogant heel has used his skills in the ring and on the mike to serve as an excellent foil for top babyfaces and surely a faces a future that will see him crowned champion. (Mat)

Read: ROH In 2016: Their Year So Far

32 Enzo Amore
When you get a crowd popping over an invisible baby, you know you are damn good. Enzo Amore may not be much to watch in the ring (or maybe that’s just his #cuppahaters) but arguably he has the one thing that you can’t teach; charisma, and the dude is dripping in it. Either that or leopard print. (Lizz)

Read: Interview with Chad Gable

31 Asuka
The “Empress of Tomorrow” has made a huge impact in her first year in NXT. Asuka came to WWE’s acclaimed network show with a terrifying presence using her in ring work to become a feared opponent to anyone who stood in her way. In the space of a year Asuka has successfully defeated NXT’s top star Bayley for the Women’s Championship and has gained popularity with her trademark mask and high quality matches. There is no doubt that Asuka can be a leading figure in NXT until her eventual main roster debut. (Brendan)

Read: Asukas Gonna Kill You

30 Drew Galloway
Wrestling’s multi-promotional talisman has once again made it a year to remember as he captured the TNA Heavyweight Championship and raised the promotion’s profile by defending it across the world before losing it to Lashley. It was a year of electrifying debuts as he made his mark in PCW and PWG while remaining a prominent figure in EVOLVE and ICW. (Craig)

Read: What is my job? Professional Wrestler | Interview with Drew Galloway

29 Becky Lynch
The Lass-kicker may have left it late to become the last member of the four horsewomen to capture her SmackDown Women’s Championship, but it has been an incredible year since departing NXT. The WWE Universe has witnessed Lynch become one of the most valued members of WWE’s Women’s Division as during 2015/16 she was involved or part of every main storyline used. (Craig)

Read: A Beginner’s Guide To WWE: The New Era

28 Sexy Star
Through blood sweat and tears, Sexy Star captured the hearts of the Lucha Underground believers in her ‘no mas’ match with Ivelisse. She captured the Gift of the Gods Championship, kicking ass all the while dancing round the eyes of young girls with dreams of their own. Sexy’s retirement from professional wrestling will never dampen the spirit she brought to the Temple. (Erin)

Read: An Introduction to Lucha Underground

27 Kota Ibushi
The Golden Star” began the year injured and resigning from both DDT and NJPW in Japan, but bounced back to work numerous indies and dazzle in the CWC. Rescuing a match with Sean Maluta from disaster and shining against Cedric Alexander and Brian Kendrick, rumours persist that Ibushi is a man that WWE very much desire to have under contract. (Mat)

Read: Cruiserweights: Live Or Die On RAW?

26 Jack Gallagher
Jack Gallagher is one of those rare wrestlers who seems less like they’re a person portraying a character and more like a person who is that character. As a cruiserweight, Gallagher has managed to turn his size into a key aspect of his identity, as someone who uses scientific ability to defeat larger opponents. We expect big things from this cruiserweight. (Coire)

Read: WWE #205Live Cruiserweight Division

25 Bayley
Bayley and Sasha Banks had the best match of 2015 that is well documented, but it is the work she’s done following which needs to be praised. Staying in NXT whilst the other ‘horse-women’ flourished on the main roster, allowed NXT to bring in a new stock of women and making Bayley the face that ran the place. The brand split however means that Bayley’s time is now.

24 Johnny Gargano
It was only a matter of time until the wrestling world started to take notice of Johnny Gargano. Considered one of the highlights of the US independent scene, Gargano has developed a true knack for being the most likeable guy on any show. WWE fans have already taken to him, but the best is yet to come for Johnny Wrestling. (Coire)

Read: Top 10 Tag Teams 2016

23 Seth Rollins
Despite being injured for 7 months and missing WrestleMania, Seth Rollins remains a prominent name within WWE’s landscape. In fact, the injury he sustained seems to have helped him continue his success into 2016; recently becoming the number one overall draft pick and competing for the Universal Championship. Seth continues to bring awe-inspiring athleticism to his matches; thrilling fans while not losing his storytelling ability. Regardless of recent questioning around his in-ring safety, Rollins has firmly cemented himself as mainstay for years to come. (Lizz)

Read: The ‘New Era’ Rides On Rollins And Reigns | Is Wrestling Really Dead?

22 John Cena
John Cena continues to carve his face into the Mount Rushmore of the WWE’s biggest stars of all time. While he got off to a rocky start due to injury, the leader of the Cenation has maintained high visibility on television and in the media. One of the most polarizing stars of all time, he factored heavily into the ascent of A.J. Styles this year. (Vern)

Read: The Heel Turn Heard Around The World

21 Adam Cole
Current ROH World Champion, whom stopped the dominating Jay Lethal at Death Before Dishonor in August. Since returning from injury, Cole is now the US Bullet Club leader and regular member of PWG Mount Rushmore 2.0. The Florida native has been a consistent performer this year having beaten the like of O’Reilly, Lethal, KUSHIDA & Dalton Castle. 2017 could be his year. (Gary)

Read: The Adam Cole & Jay Lethal Rivalry

20 Kazuchika Okada
Okada has become the biggest name in NJPW since the departures of Nakamura/AJ Styles and the decline of Tanashahi whom he defeated at the company’s biggest event at WrestleKingdom. He became the IWGP Heavyweight Champion on two separate occasions having beaten now WWE Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles in July 15 before losing and then reclaiming the gold from Tetusya Naitio in June 16. (Gary)

Read: How Kazuchika Okada Became The Rainmaker

19 Tommy End
While impressive as one half of the Sumerian Death Squad, it was as a singles performer that End truly came into his own in the past year. Storming across the UK indies and winning the PROGRESS SSS16 tournament whilst feuding with Marty Scurll over the same company’s title pales in comparison to what he may achieve in NXT next year. (Mat)

18 Marty Scurll
The Villain cast his venomous shadow over any promotion he has been part of this year, none more so than Progress Wrestling as he became the first man to seize their premier Championship twice. He managed to better his 2015 PWG BOLA performance this year by winning the infamous trophy defeating big names like Cody Rhodes, Mark Haskins, Will Ospreay & Trevor Lee. (Craig)

Read: Interview with ICW’s Mark Dallas – ICW (The VH Interview)

17 Zack Sabre Jr
British indie darling, Zack Sabre Jr, has recently landed himself a contract within the WWE Cruiserweight division and will be appearing on Monday Night Raw.

A string of impressive technical performances on the Cruiserweight Classic has made the wider wrestling audience aware of the raw talent that sees the 29 year old boast a range of technical wrestling holds and pinning combinations, along with hard strikes.

Having previously competed against the like of El Generico and Prince Devitt on the indie circuits it’s no surprise that Sabre Jr will be joining an array of former Indie talents on an ever improving WWE roster.

The current PWG World Champion is a product of the NWA-UK Hammerlock school and was voted the Wrestling Observers ‘Best Technical Wrestler’ in 2014 and 2015.

With impressive accolades like this, it’s no wonder the Englishman is making a name for himself worldwide and cements his place firmly on our list. (Bradley)

Read: Revolution Pro Wrestling ‘Angle V Sabre’ Review 12/06/16

16 Tetsuya Naito
From Mid Carder to the Top Heel in New Japan, this was a breakout year for Tetsuya Naito. After returning from a tour in CMLL in Mexico, Naito became a heel, and in the process, formed the Heel faction Los Ingobernables De Japon. With the help of stable mates Bushi, Sanada and Evil, Naito quickly jumped the ranks in New Japan. His new attiude would help win the New Japan Cup earlier this year, and would help win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada. Okada would then place second in the B-Block in the 2016 G1 Climax. Despite being a Heel, Naito has become one of the most popular wrestlers in all of New Japan. (Jay)

Read: The Rise of Tetsuya Naito

15 Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks came in at the glorious #1 spot in last year’s Top 50 and she continues to prove that she deserves that spot. Even weeks after she won the title on the Monday Night RAW right after Battleground, it’s still only just setting in that Sasha Banks is obviously the top woman in WWE. Many would call her the queen of WWE, but Sasha would be quick to correct them — she’s the Legit Boss of WWE, and don’t you forget it.

This success didn’t come out of nowhere, even if it’s still taking time to set in. Sasha taking Charlotte down to win the WWE Women’s Championship shouldn’t have come as a surprise. She has the talent, she has the drive, and she has the conviction to not just win that title, but prove she is championship material. She’s shown in WWE that she has what it takes, and she showed in NXT that she has what it takes. She came up from NXT and became a major figure in WWE on the same night as Charlotte in 2015, but then had to sit back and watch as her one-time NXT tag team partner and championship rival passed her by once more.

It was Sasha, along with Bayley, who put on what many believe to be 2015’s match of the year at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn last August and there is no doubt that the pair will carry the women’s divison for the next few years with probably more fantastic matches coming our way. (Brendan)

Read: 2015 Top 50 Wrestlers

14 Dean Ambrose
The mouthpiece of the Shield was always a breed apart from the rest, yet it seemed that Ambrose was fated to run behind the pack. This year has seen the ‘Lunatic Fringe’ reach unthinkable heights. From hotdog carts to gold, Ambrose eventually captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank. Ambrose clawed his way through the mid-card, wielding the imaginations of fans as he went. The highs of his year include his struggle at Survivor Series, the Last Man Standing Match at Royal Rumble, plus the epic with Triple H at Roadblock. He’s more than denim jeans and saturated bafoonery. He’s an unorthodox underdog with irresistible charm. Yet, it’s the complexity that exists beneath the comical veneer, the raw emotion and innovative psychology that epitomises the appeal of the former Jon Moxley. (Erin)

Read: Ways to keep Dean Ambrose Relevant

13 Charlotte
Charlotte is now a three-time Women’s champion. Three if you count the NXT Women’s Championship. Four if you think the Diva’s Championship was a different thing altogether. The point is, Charlotte is now one of the most decorated Women in all of WWE’s history. Yes, there have been times recently, when the direction she was being pointed in didn’t seem all that strong. WWE relying on her father to make her a draw always seemed unnecessary. But her in-ring skills and her strong lineage made her the perfect choice to be WWE’s inaugural Women’s Champion. Upon seeing Charlotte, any fan new to WWE will know that the title stands for athletic excellence and technical proficiency. And her heel work makes her one of the best bad guys in the company. Charlotte Flair doesn’t need daddy to carry on the legacy of the family name. She can do that on her own. (Lee)

Read: WWE Draft Fallout – A New Era?

12 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe saw rapid character development this year. His interactions with Finn Balor would define the basis for his NXT ascension and inclusion in the list.

Joe and Balor would team up to compete in, and win, the first-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament. Shortly thereafter, Joe would become a monster heel by turning on Balor and challenging for the NXT Championship on three occasions – NXT Takeover: London, NXT Takeover: Dallas, and a surprise house-show victory. Along the way, Joe had a well-received series with the likes of Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn to gain contendership. After becoming NXT Champion, Joe would end his seven month feud with Balor in a steel-cage title defense before dropping the championship to Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Back to Brooklyn. (Anton)

Read: Interview: WWE NXT Champion Samoa Joe

11 Jay Lethal

Lethal had a dominant 2015 and early part of 2016 holding the ROH World Title for 427 days. The New Jersey native also held the ROH TV Title during a decisive run in the later parts of 2015, Lethal defeated all-comers such as Roderick Strong, AJ Styles, Jay Briscoes, Colt Cabana, Kyle O’Reilly while touring the world, including the UK and Japan. (Gary)

Read: Interview with Jay Lethal

10 Chris Jericho
He was a future hall of famer anyway, but Jericho’s heel turn while feuding with AJ Styles saw him enter a new career heyday. He’s still great in the ring, but Y2J’s knack for varying his heel patter has kept the act fresh. 2016 Jericho bestowed “Stupid idiot”, “Drink it in, maaaaan” and “It!” upon us, but the real gift is “The Gift of Jericho.” (Elliot)

Listen: SteelChair Shot Youtube

09 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is a controversial figure in professional wrestling. Not just in the WWE, but all of pro wrestling in general. Opinions will vary on if he ‘deserves’ his main event spot in the WWE or not, but we can’t deny that Reigns had a considerable year within the evaluation period. SummerSlam to Hell in a Cell saw Reigns feud with Bray Wyatt, taking the feud victory in a well-received Hell in a Cell match.

Reigns’s overall feud with The Authority carried him well into 2016. Along the way, his character saw three WWE Championship victories between Survivor Series and WrestleMania 32. He also say a triple-threat feud with Lesnar and Ambrose at Fastlane. Two of his pay-per-view title defenses were buoyed by acclaimed matches with AJ Styles at Payback and Extreme Rules. After dropping the title to Seth Rollins, Reigns would go on to compete in the anticipated “Shield Triple Threat” against Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, which also received acclaim.

Even if many find his moveset to be limited and his charisma questionable, Reigns’s constant participation in marquee main events, world title victories, and well-received pay-per-view matches qualifies him for one of the top workers in 2015/16. (Anton)

Read: Roman Reigns – Suspended From WWE

08 Sami Zayn
If there’s any candidate to fill Daniel Bryan’s old “underdog” slot, it’s Sami Zayn. Since returning to the WWE roster in January, stemming from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for nearly 7 months, Zayn has been featured in his share of workhorse pay-per-view matches and feuds. Zayn reignited his long-standing, years-long feud with Kevin Owens to span the first seven months of 2016 – from the Royal Rumble to Battleground. Zayn and Owens would trade singles victories at WWE Payback and WWE Battleground, but anytime their paths crossed, it would lead to some riveting WWE television.

Zayn is also in the Match of the Year candidate discussion for his NXT Takeover Dallas match with the stellar Shinsuke Nakamura, who made his NXT debut at the event. Zayn would lose the match, but in his NXT send-off, Sayn received a standing ovation and considerable praise for his performance – giving Nakamura the perfect first opponent to showcase their many skills.

Zayn also solidified his valuable workhorse position on the roster. Sami participated in the well-received Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania 32, a fatal four-way for the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules, and the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. He’s also seen world title contention, competing against the likes of AJ Styles and Seth Rollins for shots at the WWE World and WWE Universal Championships. Although he didn’t pick up victories in these matches, Zayn’s performance and constant work rate put him in contention as one of the best all-around workers within the evaluation period. (Anton)

07 ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy
“Oh Brother Nero, I knew you’d come” is a phrase that had every wrestling fan talking about TNA of all things; that in itself is an accomplishment. The resurrection of the Hardy brand has been a talking point on all corners of social media, through gifs, memes, podcast, and reaction videos. Hardy has done what a lot of aging characters from the attitude era couldn’t do; reinvent themselves in the twilight of their career. It’s undeniable that Hardy belongs near the top of this list and every other ‘Best of List’ for the rest of the year. (Tyler)

Read: Can ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy save TNA?

06 Will Ospreay
Who would have thought that losing the PROGRESS title to Marty Scurll would have actually marked the beginning of “The Aerial Assassin” becoming a global wrestling phenomenon? From the praise gained at the Texas Wrestlecon rematch with Scurll, Ospreay went on to greater things in NJPW, twice challenging KUSHIDA for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, competing in the NJPW Cup and of course becoming the first Englishman to win the Best of Super Junior tournament. His campy encounter with Vader aside, it’s arguable that no one in British wrestling has either had a better year or been a better worker. (Mat)

Read: Interview With Will Ospreay

05 Kevin Owens
kevin-owens
If he stays on this trajectory, next year, Monday Night Raw will truly become The Kevin Owens’ Show.

Owens is always innovating and isn’t one to fall into the routine of ending every match with the Pop Up Powerbomb, so you find yourself genuinely unsure of where the win is going to come from – as opposed to knowing someone will kick out at 2 and a half, regardless of how Maggle sells whatever move (ahem, Blue Thunder Bomb).

Owens is a fantastic talker, too – not only on the mic, but in the ring his quips are always ones to listen out for.

For the past year, KO has been the most watchable part of every WWE show. He leaves you with something to remember every time he’s onscreen or in the ring. The Last Man Standing match with Ambrose and Owens’ ‘final’ battle with Zayn at Battleground were match of the year contenders. Owens spun gold from his runs with the IC title, Money in the Bank contention and pairing with Chris Jericho.

His appointment as the second ever WWE Universal Champion after Finn Balor really cemented WWE’s commitment to the new era.

Here’s hoping next year is the year he lands a moonsault. (Elliot)

Read: WWE Your Universal Champion

04 Kenny Omega
kenny-omega
Kenny Omega has had one hell of a year; after AJ Styles left NJPW to join the WWE at the Royal Rumble this year, allowing Omega to shine as the new leader of the Bullet Club. From there he beat the ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship after it was relinquished by Shinsuke Nakamura in early 2016, instantly solidifying him as an emerging top guy in the biggest promotion in Japan. From there he had a barn burner of a ladder match with Michael Elgin and becoming the first gaijin ever to win the G1 Climax in history. That is no small feat in itself, damn near guaranteeing him a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight title more than likely coming to ahead with Okada at the Tokyo Dome and ‘Wrestle Kingdom 12’ in early 2017. All that aside, he can talk like no other making post-match promo’s something to look forward to; whether he’s calling out someone on the New Japan roster or breaking the New Day, you know you’re about to hear something special. (Tyler)

Read: The Evolution of Kenny Omega

03 Shinsuke Nakamura
nakamura
This was quite the year for the man many feel is the greatest wrestler on the planet. Nakamura began last Summer competing in the G1 Climax. He would win the B – Block and would face his longtime rival Hiroshi Tanahashi for the final time in one of the greatest matches in the history of New Japan. Nakamura would then win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for a final time in the Fall. Nakamura would then face AJ Styles at WrestleKingom 10, winning a highly anticipated and iconic contest. Nakamura would then leave NJPW for the WWE joining the NXT brand. Nakamura would debut for NXT at their TakeOver: Dallas special where he defeated Sami Zayn in a match many are calling the best match of the WreslteMania 32 weekend. He would then defeat Austin Aires at the NXT Takeover special in June. After defeating Finn Balor in a highly anticipated match, Nakamura then set his sights on the NXT Championship. Nakamura would then defeat Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. Nakamura has shown over the last year whatever wrestling promotion he is in, he is defiantly the top dog in the yard. Fans now are aticpating the night when The King of Strong Style finally finds his way on the Raw or SmackDown roster. (Jay)

Read: Shinsuke Nakamura: Coming To America

02 Finn Balorfinn-balor
From his first NXT Championship defence against Kevin Owens in a spectacular Ladder Match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn to being drafted to RAW and then capturing the WWE Universal Championship to close SummerSlam. It would be hard for anyone to argue that 2015/16 didn’t belong to ‘The Demon’. In NXT, as well as holding the premier Title, he tagged with Samoa Joe to enter the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament. Both men would go on to win the tournament defeating Baron Corbin & Rhyno in the finals. However, this would act as a catalyst in a furious feud between the two that would see Bálor’s record breaking 292 day reign as Champion surprisingly end at an NXT house show. He made an immediate impact on his RAW debut by defeating Rusev, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens in a fatal four-way then later besting Roman Reigns, finally beating Seth Rollins in a joint main-event at SummerSlam to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion, a series of results welcomed by his legion of fans across the world. (Craig)

Read: Summerslam Set To Meet The Demon

 

01 AJ StylesAJ Styles
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the greatest wrestler of the previous twelve months: The Phenomenal One, AJ Styles. Not only is he SteelChair’s pick for the best of the year, but he is your reigning, defending WWE Heavyweight Champion of the world. That’s right, Mr. TNA is the man, putting AJ Styles at the top of the industry, the spot fans like you and I have believed he’s been destined for since the days of Total Non-Stop Action when he was blowing the rest of the wrestling world out of the water with matches against Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe. At both WrestleMania and at SummerSlam, his matches were among the only ones that really hit the standard of excellence that those occasions demand from their performers. His match against Cena was especially fantastic, becoming an instant classic and almost MOTY by default. You can rely on SteelChair to put the right person at the top of a list like this. AJ Styles, our – and your – best wrestler of 2016. (Lee)

 Read:  PHENOMENAL: AJ Styles | Watch: SteelChair Shot: WWE Backlash – Styles Is Champ

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  1. Come on! A guy that paints his gimmick and isn’t that good in the ring shouldn’t even be in the top 20. (Balor)

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