2016 Pro Wrestling Awards: Story Of The Year

Wrestling Awards Story of the Year

In 2016, we were treated to so many stories across the world of professional wrestling that this category was certainly one of the more difficult to vote for. From AJ Styles appearing at the Royal Rumble, Goldberg manhandling Lesnar, the mass exodus of talent (Styles, Nakamura, Gallows and Anderson) from NJPW, 2016 really gave us a little bit of everything. But its fair to say that the winner of this category, the WWE brand split and draft, really changed the landscape of wrestling moving forward.

Now before we get going in breaking down the draft itself, I think it is important to recall exactly how the draft went down. So here is the list of the full draft:

Round No. 1
1. Seth Rollins – Raw
2. WWE Champion Dean Ambrose – SmackDown Live
3. WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte – Raw
4. AJ Styles – SmackDown Live
5. Finn Bálor – Raw from NXT

Round No. 2
6. Roman Reigns – Raw
7. John Cena – SmackDown Live
8. Brock Lesnar – Raw
9. Randy Orton – SmackDown Live
10. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day – Raw

Round No. 3
11. Sami Zayn – Raw
12. Bray Wyatt – SmackDown Live
13. Sasha Banks – Raw
14. Becky Lynch – SmackDown Live
15. Chris Jericho – Raw

Round No. 4
16. United States Champion Rusev (with Lana) – Raw
17. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (with Maryse) – SmackDown Live
18. Kevin Owens – Raw
19. Baron Corbin – SmackDown Live
20. Enzo & Big Cass – Raw

Round No. 5
21. Gallows and Anderson – Raw
22. American Alpha – SmackDown Live from NXT
23. Big Show – Raw
24. Dolph Ziggler – SmackDown Live
25. Nia Jax – Raw from NXT

Round No. 6
26. Neville – Raw
27. Natalya – SmackDown Live
28. Cesaro – Raw
29. Alberto Del Rio – SmackDown Live
30. Sheamus – Raw

Round No. 7 (announced during WWE Draft Center Live on WWE Network)
31. Golden Truth – Raw
32. The Usos – SmackDown Live
33. Titus O’Neil – Raw
34. Demon Kane – SmackDown Live
35. Paige – Raw

Round No. 8 (announced during WWE Draft Center Live on WWE Network)
36. Darren Young (with Bob Backlund) – Raw
37. Kalisto – SmackDown Live
38. Sin Cara – Raw
39. Naomi – SmackDown Live
40. Jack Swagger – Raw
41. The Ascension – SmackDown Live

Round No. 9 (announced during WWE Draft Center Live on WWE Network)
42. The Dudley Boyz – Raw
43. Zack Ryder – SmackDown Live
44. Summer Rae – Raw
45. Apollo Crews – SmackDown Live
46. Mark Henry – Raw
47. Alexa Bliss – SmackDown Live from NXT

Round No. 10 Picks (announced during WWE Draft Center Live on WWE Network)
48. Braun Strowman – Raw
49. Breezango – SmackDown Live
50. Bo Dallas – Raw
51. Eva Marie – SmackDown Live
52. Shining Stars – Raw
53. The Vaudevillains – SmackDown Live

Round No. 11 (announced during WWE Draft Center Live on WWE Network)
54. Alicia Fox – Raw
55. Erick Rowan – SmackDown Live
56. Dana Brooke – Raw
57. Mojo Rawley – SmackDown Live from NXT
58. Curtis Axel – Raw
59. Carmella – SmackDown Live from NXT

Heath Slater

Having always been a fan of drafts, I was likely to be a fan of this years attempt regardless. I honestly must say, though, I think that they got things spot on with this one. Well almost spot on (No Bayley? C’mon…)

What was great to see was the NXT call-ups of Balor and American Alpha. These guys had been creating absolutely phenomenal stuff on NXT and were really at the top of the pile in terms of work rate, character and sheer in ring-talent. Seeing Finn Balor being announced in the first round was just a testament to his hard work over the years both in NXT and on the international scene.

As a big fan of Charlotte, it was also great to see her being drafted as the third person in the company. Someone who has worked her butt off to come out from her father’s shadow has now finally made a name for herself. Seeing her picked that high was a great moment.

What also excited me about the draft is the possibility of how they can run drafts in the future. WWE has a great opportunity with NXT to really get creative and create a buzz around the talent in its ranks. Just imagine Shane and Stephanie competing to try and get Samoa Joe or Nakamura to join their brand. The options are endless, and if they were to put NXT wrestlers through something similar to the Draft Combine before the NFL Draft, it could be a whole lot of fun.

The draft of course lead to the brand split, something that I believe was a big time success in 2016. Here are some reasons why.

First and foremost, the brand split has provided more of WWE’s superstars opportunities to make a name for themselves. Let’s look at Dolph Ziggler. Prior to the split, he was just taking up airtime on RAW. He did’t have much in the way of storyline or push. Post brand split, he became a contender for the IC Title and put on one of the best feuds of the year with Miz. This likely wouldn’t have happened without the split. You just have to look at certain other wrestlers such as Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, and Slater & Rhyno to really appreciate just how the split has opened up doors which were previously sealed.

Perhaps the most outstanding thing to come from the brand split has been the reception of SmackDown Live, resulting in SmackDown beating RAW in the ratings during the last week of the year. It was rumored that the brand split was largely driven by the USA Network’s displeasure with the weekly SmackDown rating, and it’s no secret that historically SmackDown has been treated as the B-show. But if that rumor is to be believed, then our friends at the USA Network will be more than happy with how #TeamBlue have turned the tables and held their own against the A-team.

The WWE brand split created diversity, gave wrestlers more opportunity to shine, slightly reduced their workload, and saw SmackDown overtake RAW in the ratings towards the end of the year. All the qualities which made the WWE brand split and draft the 2016 Story Of The Year.

Runner-Ups For 2016 Story Of The Year

  1. NJPW Talent Exodus Early In The Year
  2. Goldberg Defeats Brock Lesnar At Survivor Series

Methodology: The TopRopePress.com staff participated exclusively in our year end awards project. Staff members first submitted nominations for each award category. Following our nominations phase, voting among staff members took place by secret ballot to determine the winners.