2016 saw a lot of wrestlers move around. Some new faces came to the WWE while others made their impression felt on the indie scene. Ultimately, it was all about change. And in the midst of change, some rise to the occasion while others simply aren't able to. This is a list of the top ten professional wresters who have made 2016 their year to entertain.
10) The Young Bucks
#TheYoungBucks have revolutionized tag team wrestling. Real life brothers, they know each other and they know tag team wrestling well. Known for their synchronized maneuvers, Matt and Nick Jackson have dominated Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. The art of tag team wrestling is to cut off the ring and always keep the fresh guy in there. The Young Bucks are part throwback to The Rock 'n' Roll and Midnight Express tag teams, but also emblematic of the future, performing stellar acrobatics that force the crowd to their feet to applaud as a show of respect.
9) The New Day
2016 was #NewDay’s year. Nobody had more screen time, sold more merchandise, and came up with more catchphrases than these guys did. We saw them create their own cereal boxes, create unicorn horns, get a trombone over, and even wear Dragon Ball Z costumes during Wrestlemania 32. Last but not least, The New Day also broke the record for longest reigning WWE Tag Team champions of all time. In 2016, it truly was New Day’s world, everyone else was just living in it.
You may know him as #Ricochet or on Lucha Underground as #Prince#Puma. Either way, he's a remarkable talent who continues to improve every facet of his game as the years go by. This year, Ricochet was involved in a pair of match of the year candidates while pushing his stock through the roof. The WWE cannot be too far away from getting their hands on him.
7) Kevin Owens
#KevinOwens was everyone's favorite indie wrestler who was far from the prototypical WWE superstar. If you would have said that Owens would be a WWE champion five years ago, you would have been laughed out of the building. But, here he is, in all of his charismatic glory as one of the best performers in all of pro wrestling. Granted, his 2016 Universal Championship run hasn't made him look strong, but there is no doubt that Owens is one of the best in the game.
6) Will Ospreay
#WillOspreay is 23 years old and the future of professional wrestling. If Ospreay can keep his body healthy -- and who knows if he can with all of those amazing, incredible bumps he takes -- he's going to revolutionize professional wrestling. Ospreay is more than just an "indie darling." He has the charisma down too. Most of all, Ospreay is fantastically athletic -- and stiff. Sometimes high-flyers are just flyers. Sometimes stiff fighters are just stiff. Rarely do you find the total package, and in Ospreay, you have the total package. He is the future.
5) Shinsuke Nakamura
The WWE has had major issues handling Asian talent. But when you have a guy with the charisma and talent of #ShinsukeNakamura, you'd have be a fool to ruin him. After defecting from New Japan at the top of 2016, Nakamura appeared in WWE's developmental brand NXT and debuted at NXT Takeover: Dallas during Wrestlemania weekend against Sami Zayn. The WWE didn't tinker with his character as he is already a megastar. It's only a matter of time before Nakamura makes the jump to the main roster and it's going to be very difficult to keep him out of the top spot next year.
4) Kenny Omega
#KennyOmega is a big man who performs moves like he is a cruiserweight. He will forever be known as the one the WWE let slip away. He was a WWE developmental territory washout, which was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Omega makes high-flying moves look like real endeavors, not stunts, and they are all the more impressive considering that he is 6 feet tall. The leader of Japan's Bullet Club, Omega drips with arrogance, but backs it up with his amazing array of offensive moves. His victory at the G1 Climax tournament only furthered his legend. Combine Randy "Macho Man" Savage, with Diamond Dallas Page, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura and you get Omega.
Our vote for the most improved WWE Superstar of 2016, and the best female wrestler in the world. Through sheer dominance in the ring and on the microphone, #Charlotte proved that 2016 was her year. Nobody was more hated than her, and very few wrestlers commanded the presence she displayed. She still holds an undefeated record in PPVs, and still manages to find new ways to hit that Moonsault in incredibly crazy spots. All hail the queen, Charlotte Flair.
2) Kazuchika Okada
It’s very hard to find someone outside of WWE who has had a better year than #KazuchikaOkada. He’s the current IWGP heavyweight champion, and is about to main event the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Okada’s G1 Climax opener match with Naomichi Marufuji won the prestigious Match of the Year award from Tokyo Sports. He was also just ranked number 2 out of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500. So if you’re looking for a wrestler to watch outside of WWE, you watch Okada.
1) AJ Styles
For years, #AJStyles has been recognized as arguably the best talent who never set foot in the WWE. Until 2016. He started his year off by putting together a classic bout with Shinsuke Nakamura and then debuted at the WWE Royal Rumble in January. Since then, he's been invaluable to the WWE and has put together brilliant performances for the entire year. He's made Roman Reigns look like a million bucks, engaged in an excellent feud with John Cena and lifted the title from Dean Ambrose in a series of great matches. The self-proclaimed "Champ That Runs the Camp" has been nothing short of a revelation with magnetic promos and stupendous in-ring ability. It may have taken over a decade for him to get to the WWE, but it's certainly a decision the company absolutely doesn't regret.