As history reviews the year 2016, it will easily say that the year was one of the GREATEST in the annals of pro wrestling history. From Wrestlemania attendance at an all-time high to the introduction of new stars and the proliferation of independent wrestling worldwide, this year will not soon be forgotten.
To commemorate the year’s incredible happenings, we introduce The Faction Awards. For two weeks, public voting was open to recognize the year’s biggest moments and personalities. With that said, we present the 2016 recipients of The Faction Awards.
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR (Male)
Let’s be honest. Outside of Sting, prior to 2016, AJ Styles was the greatest wrestler to never don the doors of the WWE (and no, we’re not counting his brief and forgettable time as enhancement talent many moons ago). After making a huge name for himself in TNA and Ring of Honor, Styles made all sorts of waves in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Towards the tail end of 2015, the rumor mill ran rampant about his imminent arrival in WWE. All rumors were silenced at this year’s Royal Rumble when he debuted at #3.
After receiving one of the biggest crowd reactions in recent memory, Styles embarked upon a year that was nothing short of “Phenomenal”. The year started in a bit of a challenging way, with a loss at his Wrestlemania debut to Chris Jericho, followed by a series of outstanding matches with Roman Reigns where again Styles would battle in a losing effort.
However, the middle of the year would turn everything around for Styles as he went to war with the company’s poster boy, the 15-time WWE Champion John Cena, in a dream match for the ages. The result was one that caused fans to salivate, as the Money In The Bank pay-per-view saw AJ Styles pin John Cena in their first encounter. Their rematch at SummerSlam was an easy candidate for Match of the Year that saw Styles pin Cena clean for two consecutive victories over Cena, something that few have on their resume.
Enter September and Backlash, the first Smackdown branded pay-per-view of this year’s Brand Extension. It was here where AJ Styles would pretty much cement his legacy, as he defeated Dean Ambrose to become the WWE Champion. He would go on to successfully defend the title through the end of the year against John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, and more.
Perhaps only Kurt Angle can lay claim to a more successful debut year in WWE than AJ Styles. Styles has consistently delivered in the ring and immediately entered the main event picture proving that he is INDEED “the fact that runs the place”.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Owens (29%), Seth Rollins (18%), Shinsuke Nakamura (18%)
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR (Female)
While Charlotte Flair is not the first second-generation wrestler, she is on par to be one of the few to surpass the accomplishments of her progenitor. Her entrance into Monday Night Raw in 2015 was the kickoff of the movment known as The Women’s Revolution. Charlotte came in to 2016 as the WWE Divas Champion, ending the historic 301 day reign of Nikki Bella. At Wrestlemania, the Women’s Revolution would experience a seismic shift as the Divas Title was dissolved and rechristened as the Women’s Championship. In the same breath, women would no longer be referenced as “Divas” but as “Superstars” like their male counterparts. With that said, Charlotte would enter and win the Women’s Championship defeating Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in a historic Triple Threat Match at Wrestlemania 32.
Charlotte’s list of accomplishments in 2016 is nothing short of astounding. Her rivalry with Sasha Banks produced a flood of historic moments, including the first ever women’s Hell In a Cell match, which marked the first time that women were the main event of a WWE pay-per-view. Charlotte and Sasha would become the first women to main event Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita did in 2004 in a variety of matches. Whether a Falls Count Anywhere match or the Ironman match, Flair’s combination of ring precision and incredible mic skills has made her one of the year’s most enjoyable talents, male or female.
She’s also in the midst of a historic winning streak on Pay Per View, as she is undefeated over a string of 19 pay-per-views, which is unheard of in WWE folklore. No superstar in WWE history has had such a streak. Not John Cena. Not Hulk Hogan. Not The Undertaker. Charlotte is establishing herself as not just the dominant female in the industry but has begun a journey to being named one of the all time greats in the business!
Honorable Mention: Asuka (44%), Sasha Banks (38%)
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR
THE NEW DAY
In a year where tag team wrestling across the industry saw a true resurgence, The New Day made it a point to stand head and shoulders above the rest in ways that many didn’t anticipate when the team first formed. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods were three individual wrestlers who were barely holding on to mid-card status when they came together. Of the three, only Kingston had tasted gold within his run on the main roster. Big E was the second NXT Champion and was wildly successful in the then-developmental brand. In either place, gold alluded Woods.
Fast forward to 2016 where the triumvirate was in the middle of their second tag team title reign. Using the famed Freebird Rule, the three-man team became the most popular team in the industry perhaps unlike most other teams. While their in-ring performance is memorable, this team won their way into the hearts of with their entertaining promos and catchy catchphrases. With charisma second to none, The New Day became merchandise juggernauts for the company, launching into their own cereal, multiple t-shirts, and paraphernalia which launched their popularity into the realm of teams such as The New Age Outlaws and DeGeneration X.
The crowning achievement of this team however will be their 483 day reign as WWE Tag Team Champions, making them the longest reigning tag champions in WWE history. This eclipsed the 479 day reign of Demolition and has now caused many to raise the question if The New Day should rank among the greatest Tag Teams of all time. And we can’t forget that they did all of this as African-Americans, which makes this reign even more monumental.
Their historic reign would end on Dec. 16, as they would lose the titles in a scintillating battle with Cesaro and Shaemus. However, that loss does not tarnish what has been a career year for The New Day.
Honorable Mention: The Revival (41%), The Wyatt Family (29%)
MATCH OF THE YEAR
JOHN CENA VS. AJ STYLES (SummerSlam)
Arguably the most challenging category of this year’s Awards is Match of The Year. With so many candidates, there was something special about John Cena vs. AJ Styles at Summerslam. This was the rematch between two of wrestling’s biggest names. The first match took place at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view in June and the interference of The Club caused a bit of controversy surrounding the ending of the bout. This time around, The Club was banned from ringside causing the two wrestling powerhouses to go toe-to-toe.
While this match would have been a main event on virtually any card in the world, it was actually given mid-card status on this pay-per-view, which was headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton. No one will argue that this match predictably stole the show and the hearts of the fans of The Faction, as this match was voted Match of the Year.
AJ Styles emerged from this match as the definitive winner, charting two very different courses for the superstars as they marched towards the twilight of the year. Styles would march on to the WWE Title while Cena would head to Hollywood for a few months before making a full return at the final Smackdown of the Year.
Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks (Hell In A Cell, 31%)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover Dallas, 25%)
Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander (Cruiserweight Classic, 25%)
The Young Bucks vs. Motor City Machine Guns vs. Kazarian & Daniels (ROH All-Star Extravaganza, 25%)
RIVALRY OF THE YEAR
CHARLOTTE FLAIR VS. SASHA BANKS
This rivalry seemingly was about more than just two fantastic athletes. This was the flagship of the Women’s Revolution. Flair and Banks seemed to be on a mission from their arrival on Raw in Summer of 2015. That mission was to prove that they can do anything a man can do and better. Their rivalry was about competition, against each other and a male-dominated industry.
This battle really began back in 2012 when both entered the ranks of NXT. As they grew and the brand grew, their skills were placed on display. They both were part of a group called B.F.F. As Charlotte would go on to win the brand’s Women’s Championship, a rift would form between Charlotte and Sasha, seeing them never pair up again. They both entered Raw in opposing groups with Sasha teaming with Naomi and Tamina Snuka while Charlotte paired with Paige and Becky Lynch.
Everyone knew that the Alpha Females would indeed by Charlotte and Sasha. Fast forward to 2016 and the year was dominated by their rivalry. In a quest to top each other and buck the system, the two would be the first women to main event Raw multiple times in one year. They would trade the Women’s title on three separate occasions in matches such as Falls Count Anywhere, Hell In A Cell, and a 30 minute Ironman match that would need overtime. They went through tables and drew blood, almost unheard of for women’s wrestling within the WWE.
When it was done, Charlotte emerged as a four-time WWE Women’s Champion. However, a rivalry of this nature seems to be life long, much like Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, The Von Erichs vs. The Freedbirds, and The Rock and Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express. The 2016 chapter of this war is over but we expect it to resume at some point in their illustrious careers.
AJ Styles vs. John Cena (44%)
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (25%)
Check out more of The Faction Awards HERE!!