Professional wrestling is built on hype. If you were to get a dollar for every time a match was the “most exciting,” a dastardly deed was the “most despicable” or a surprise was the “most shocking” thing “ever seen in the history of wrestling!” you’d have enough money to buy one of those crazy-expensive WrestleMania weekend packages. But as fans, we get it. We want to constantly be entertained and promoters use hyperbole to make us think we’ve just seen the greatest thing on earth. That is, the greatest thing until the next thing, which we have to stay tuned to find out about.
It’s these teases to the future that most wrestling fans feel the hype machine at its worst. The more time and energy something is hyped these days, the more spectacular it seems to fail. Hype is a good thing. Promoters want you to get excited about what’s coming next. Knowing that The Undertaker will be back at WrestleMania is good hype. Wondering who his opponent will be is good hype. Telling us we’ll see the best Undertaker match ever, well, we know that’s not going to happen. That’s overhype.
With far too many hours of weekly television to produce, it’s easy for the story writers to get lazy and start a story when it’s obvious they have no ending planned. For instance, The Golden Truth were teased as a team for months on Raw in 2016 until they finally got together. Aside from a couple of minor wins, they’ve been nothing but enhancement talent to feed to the better teams. Why did we get months of hype if there was no payoff?
Goldust and R-Truth didn’t make this list, but they came close. It seems like 2016 was an especially ripe year for the WWE and their hype machine. At times, it was too much to handle and with that in mind, we present to you the 15 Most Overhyped Wrestlers of 2016.
15. Eva Marie
Eva Marie will be on this list, year-after-year, as long as she continues to remain on the payroll of World Wrestling Entertainment. We’ll give her credit that she’s done more in the WWE with less talent and less in-ring time than anybody we can think of. That’s something, right? Who knows what the plans for Natalie Marie Coyle were when she signed a WWE contract back in 2013, but they have never, ever lived up to the hype and at this point, we don’t think they ever could. She has nuclear heat with fans that makes Roman Reigns looked beloved. If you look at when she was signed, it was clear it was with Total Divas in mind, but wasn’t there somebody who thought that maybe an ability to wrestle or act even half-convincingly was important? We saw another hype show for the redhead in 2016 when she joined the Smackdown roster and started to get a push before a dirty test in violation of the wellness policy. We’re sure the WWE will do the same overpush and overhype in 2017 that they did in 2016 (and 2015…and 2014…and 2013) and we’re sure we’ll see you here this time next year, Eva.
14. Shane McMahon
There was probably no bigger return in 2016 than “My son Shane,” Shane-o-Mac himself, Shane McMahon. It was one of the true surprises in a world where it’s hard to put one past fans. Back to claim his birthright, Vince quickly put his son into a Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania in Dallas. We’ll always remember the giant missed elbow drop off the top of the cage, but can you tell us anything else that happened in the match? Do you remember the stakes of the match? Do you remember how if he lost, Shane was supposed to go away? Yet here he is almost a year later as the figurehead General Manager of Smackdown, showing up about twice a month. He wrestled at Survivor Series, getting his clock cleaned, but once that elbow was dropped, his stock fell as quickly as his body. We love Shane, but seeing a 45-year-old guy take bumps a 25-year-old shouldn’t needs to stop.
13. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman may turn out to be the biggest star of 2017, but he was certainly only one of the most overhyped stars in 2016. After splitting mid-year from his background role in The Wyatt Family, Braun was fed month’s worth of jobbers while we watched, bored, being told just how awesome he was. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that he started to face any real competition, and let’s be honest, Sami Zayn isn’t it. We love Zayn, but he hasn’t actually been presented as anything more than the scrappy underdog, sort of a Dolph Ziggler 2.0. There were signs he would be moving on to bigger things in 2017 with confrontations against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to end 2016, but for most of the year, he defeated people who we’d never seen. Perhaps his biggest sin was letting James Ellsworth somehow get over with the crowd, since it was a Strowman match where we were first introduced to the chinless wonder.
12. CM Punk
For somebody who hasn’t been in a WWE wrestling ring in years, we just can’t escape Punk, who still gets chants at every wrestling show that takes place in Chicago. In late summer, he got his butt handed to him in his only UFC bout, losing in 2:14. Stephanie McMahon made a great joke about it when the Chicago fans were chanting for Punk at a late December edition of Raw. She told them if they kept it up another two minutes and fourteen seconds they would last longer than he did, which made us laugh pretty hard. We’re still not exactly sure why the Internet masses have held onto Punk as some kind of savior, but he’s not coming back, folks. It’s time to let him be to live his life in whatever natural miserable condition he exists in. Let him go.
11. The Shining Stars
“Come to Puerto Rico, where we took off our masks and are still a losing tag team!” From 2011 to 2013, they were simply known as Primo and Epico. Toss on a bullfighter outfit and a half-mask and they morph into Los Matadores. Take off that outfit and put them in Hawaiian shirts and you’ve got the Shining Stars who have the gimmick of condominium timeshare salesman. It’s a funny gimmick we’ve never seen before, but it belonged in the 1980s alongside The Repo Man and Hillbilly Jim. Why WWE thought they would be worth three months of vignettes leading up to their introduction is puzzling. Based on their track record, it would have been hard to believe big things were expected. Once they stopped taking up two segments per episode of Raw every week, they quickly disappeared…the very definition of over-hyped.
10. TJ Perkins
We wonder what the creative meeting was like when the Cruiserweight Challenge was being produced and why the bookers decided to put their faith in TJ Perkins to win the tournament and be the first cruiserweight champion. He was the best at nothing, and often not even the second best. Brian Kendrick and Rich Swann are far more charismatic, Cedrick Alexander is more of a crowd favorite, Jack Gallagher is more quirky, and so on. Yet, when it came time to put the belt on someone, it was TJ Perkins. He was pushed hard out of the gate with a couple lackluster Raw matches. Thankfully, someone caught on quickly and others were brought to the forefront. Why the guy with the lego glasses and the 8-bit entrance was deemed to be the best cruiserweight is beyond us and we’re glad the hype died down after a while.
First off, we love to watch Asuka. She’s been the most interesting wrestler ever in what has been a very interesting women’s division in NXT over the last few years. The problem is, she’s wasting her talent down there facing off against fitness models just learning the ropes and the occasional special attraction, like Mickie James. Yes, her English isn’t very good, but she has more passion in her delivery than Nia Jax ever will. She is the queen of strongstyle and is the most fun woman into see wrestle in NXT. So why the overhyping? It’s NXT. Is an undefeated streak that awesome when people like Alexa Bliss and Carmella get called up ahead of her? It’s like putting a high school baseball player on a T-ball team and talking about how amazing he is. Of course, and overhyping him only goes to show that the competition around him is poor. They need to either make Asuka look a lot weaker, or send her up to the main roster.
8. The Club
There is a formula for hype. Anticipation + Expected Delivery Follow Through = Satisfaction. This is when hype works. When hype doesn’t work, the formula looks more like Anticipation + Underwhelming Delivery Follow Through = Overhyped. The Club, like every other tag team on the Raw brand was going to fall victim to overhyping because nobody was able to get the belts away from The New Day. The biggest victims were The Club, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. They made an impressive post-WrestleMania debut and did the unthinkable, laying to waste the Dudley Boyz during their farewell address. These guys had rockets strapped to them and should have gone to the moon. But, no. The New Day. When it finally came time for the trio to drop their titles at the end of 2016, it wasn’t even to The Club. The former IWGP tag champs deserved to be seen as more than an overhyped mid-card duo.
7. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar only wrestles a couple of more times per year than The Undertaker, yet is hyped about 10 times more. With the exception of Roman Reigns and John Cena, there is nobody else who gets as hyped as Brock Lesnar. You can make an argument that when somebody only wrestles five matches per year, they need to have a ton of hype, but did any of it live up to where it should have in 2016? Quick, who did he face at WrestleMania? It was Dean Ambrose and it was nowhere near the main event. He returned at Summerslam and aside from tearing a gash in Randy Orton’s forehead, didn’t deliver much of a show. Then, there was the 90-second squash he took against Goldberg. Their rematch in 2017, most likely at WrestleMania will be crazily hyped, but we can promise you now it won’t live up to it and both Goldberg and Lesnar will make this list next year.
At least in this case, we can say it wasn’t the WWE who overhyped this talent. If anything, they finally put up the white flag, which fans had been begging they do for years when it comes to the talentless void that is Ryback. After his program designed to put Kalisto over, the biggest mark in the wrestling business since Bret Hart walked away and started reportedly demanding $10,000 per wrestling show appearance. His fee has supposedly dropped, but his mouth has opened as he takes to his podcast every week and does nothing but bash WWE and Vince McMahon. He’s proof that you need that X-Factor no matter how strong you’re promoted and how many chances you’re given. Now, he just hypes himself as a martyr week after week after week. Wrestling websites need to stop giving him all of this free ink. You didn’t like VKM, we get it.
5. Nia Jax
There was a drinking game popular in the 1980s when watching WWE wrestling that you’d have to take a shot every time Vince McMahon said, “What a maneuver!” when he didn’t know the name of a hold. It evolved into taking a shot every time Michael Cole said something was “vintage” and was worth two shots if he said “vintage Randy Orton.” The newest entry should be to imbibe every time Corey Graves says, “Samoan Family Dynasty.” Whether it’s Roman Reigns, The Usos, Sean Maluta or Nia Jax, we have to be reminded there are a whole lot of Samoan and half-Samoan wrestlers who are related. This may explain Nia Jax’s huge 2016 push…which came to an abrupt halt a few weeks after getting to Raw in the draft. They built a monster in NXT and then touted a monster on Raw and delivered nothing but another person to take a Survivor Series pinfall. Hopefully they’ll figure out something for her in 2017.
4. American Alpha
American Alpha suffered more from the overhype of NXT fans than anything else in 2016. It was a terrific surprise when they were drafted to Smackdown Live and their debut was heavily hyped the week before. They were impressive in their early summer showings and it seemed like every NXT fan who told the non-NXT fan next to them, “These guys are amazing” were going to be proven true. But then came the unexplainable stall. American Alpha needed to capture the tag belts in their first month or two on Smackdown, but instead got run over by the Heath Slater/Rhyno train, almost the tag-team equivalent of the James Ellsworth story. Then, the new Wyatt Family snuck ahead of AA in line. Thankfully, during the last Smackdown Live of 2016, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable won their titles, but by that point, it felt more like “about time” than anything else.
3. Darren Young
There was just so much wrong with this over-hyped mess. Darren Young, best known as the charisma-less half of the Prime Time Players, was reintroduced in a singles’ role in mid-2016 through a never-ending series of vignettes under the theme “Make Darren Young Great Again.” It was an obvious parody of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, and since there was a presidential angle, Bob Backlund was brought in to the play the role of Young’s life coach. The skits went nowhere, with Backlund stealing the scenes and when he finally debuted, the small push Young got went nowhere. Relegated to a borderline enhancement talent and six-man tag filler, Young probably saw more time in vignettes in 2016 than he did in the ring in winning efforts. This one looked doomed from the start. It’s ironic how the people they built up the most in 2016 through vignettes often suffered the worst fates.
Any other year, this would be the runaway winner. On October 3, 2016, the first vignette promoting “The transformation from Emma to Emmalina – Premiering Soon” aired on Monday Night Raw. In mid-December, there was a tease saying “Premiering Next Week” on one of the vignettes, but the following week it was back to the “Premiering Soon” banner with announcer Corey Graves saying, “I guess Emmalina will appear when she’s ready.” The vignettes continued into early 2017. It was suggested on the Internet that there were two storyline ideas scrapped at the last second, continually pushing the debut out, but it reaches a point it’s just ridiculous. Several years ago, Brodus Clay was overhyped for so long, they debuted him opposite what the vignettes seemed like he would be. As of this writing, it’s unclear what the plans for Emmalina are. Almost four months in, we’re not sure we care anymore, either.
1. James Ellsworth
We would suggest that nobody was as overhyped in 2016 as James Ellsworth. In fact, we’d suggest nobody has been this hyped since Awesome Kong debuted on the WWE roster in 2010 as Kharma. That was a spectacular failure and we’re expecting much of the same from Ellsworth, who went from a fun feel-good story to a guy who was shoved down our throats so much in the last few months of 2016 that everybody was waiting for him to get the tar beat out of him by AJ Styles. As a prop for Dean Ambrose, he was a great comic foil. Once that ran its course, fans quickly soured on the chinless wonder. One of the problems with WWE writers is that when something gets hot, they put all their eggs in one basket and that was the situation with Ellsworth. Who knows what the WWE will do with him moving forward. We have a feeling he’ll hang around a few months, lose a bunch of matches and then fade into history. Hopefully the WWE learns not to overhype someone so hard next time.