It wouldn’t be a year of WWE programming without some unfathomable screw-ups.
The trend for WWE in recent years has been to produce a few great moments hidden amongst a great pile of cow dung. Though that wasn’t necessarily the case this year, there was still the familiar foul odor of manure lingering about.
Sadly, the lack of higher creative thinking didn’t improve a whole lot in 2016, with the main event getting all of the attention while the undercard underwhelmed again.
Those who tuned out in 2015 won’t be impressed to find out that the same politically-driven pushes that frustrated them to no end were still alive and well this year, too.
To give credit where it’s due, WWE has made inroads in atoning for neglecting the 18+ fans that make up the majority of viewership with edgier content and refreshing stories. By all means, 2016 has been a great year for the company for the most part, with the negative moments being fewer and further between than recent memory will allow you to remember.
Still, it has not been a year without faults – big ones.
From nonsensical booking decisions to some downright hilarious fails, 2016 was rife with moments that made us laugh only to avoid crying at how stupid they were.
These are the 20 worst WWE moments produced in 2016.
20. Kalisto’s Promo Fail
The brand split brought about a number of mistakes from the get-go, but none were more hilarious than Kalisto’s clearly unplanned promo that went from bad to worse.
Having just been drafted by SmackDown – an odd choice considering the Cruiserweight Division is on Raw – Kalisto was asked about his feelings regarding the draft. After mumbling about how he was here to shock the world, the already unbearable promo took another turn for the worse.
19. A Half-Empty AT&T Stadium
The last thing you want at any event is to have a half-empty stadium. More to the point, the absolute last thing you want at an event of such magnitude as WrestleMania 32 – billed as the biggest ever, no less – is a half-empty stadium.
Nevertheless, this was the problem WWE faced during the WrestleMania 32 Kickoff show, as members of the WWE Universe missed out on viewing the first matches of the night due to a ticketing issue that left fans stranded.
Missing the pre-show isn’t necessarily that much of an issue in most cases, but considering the United States Championship match, return of Nikki Bella and introduction of the WWE Women’s Championship occurred while fans scorched in the Dallas heat, the issue was inexcusable.
18. James Ellsworth’s Near-Broken Neck
Without a doubt, the Styles Clash is by far the most dangerous signature move in the WWE. Considering wrestlers are staunchly taught to tuck their chins in for impact moves, the Styles Clash requires the recipient to go against instincts and look upwards, all while upside down.
When it goes right, the move looks phenomenal. When it doesn’t, it could easily result in a broken neck. Unfortunately during one of AJ Styles’ meetings with unlikely SmackDown signing James Ellsworth, the latter almost occurred.
As the video shows, Ellsworth tucks his chin as Styles goes to deliver the maneuver. Luckily thanks to Styles’ experience, he held himself from applying full pressure on top of Ellsworth’s neck and a serious injury was avoided. Still, it’s scary to watch.
17. The Wyatt Family Compound
Outside of WWE, the most memorable moment in professional wrestling in 2016 was by far Matt and Jeff Hardy’s Final Deletion. Whether you found it tacky or revolutionary, it had wrestling fans and actually watching TNA, if you can believe that.
Of course, WWE decided that if everyone is talking about this new guerrilla-style segment, it would have to come up with something similar. Enter the Wyatt Family compound.
The New Day was invited to join the Wyatt Family at their creepy campus, where the two factions battled it out in the confusing Final Deletion knock-off. Even if TNA goes out of business, the company can still boast that they forced WWE to copy their product in the year of 2016. Bravo.
16. “Raw Wins! Raw Wins!”
And now for your dose of JBL failing at commentary.
Picture this: it’s Survivor Series and you’re commentating on behalf of SmackDown as its team faces Raw, and your team has just secured victory. Of all the things you could possibly say upon hearing the final bell, the absolute last is declaring victory for the other team (2:52 in the Botchamania video).
JBL has greatly improved his commentary for the most part and brings to the table plenty of facts and discussion topics that are used in a timely manner. However, this was far from his best moment and it took plenty of sting out of what was billed as a vicious battle between brands.
15. Enzo Amore’s Sickening Whiplash
Just watching the video of Enzo Amore’s head injury back suffered at Payback is enough to make you squeamish. Any injury in pro wrestling is unfortunate, but to see Amore in an instantly unconscious state was rather distressing.
It what was a seemingly routine toss to the outside of the ring, Simon Gotch and Enzo Amore got their messages mixed and the ring rope quickly became Enzo’s worst enemy. If you blink at all during, you’ll miss Enzo’s head hitting the second rope and slamming his head on the apron.
14. Sasha Banks Taps Out
It’s no secret that WWE adores Charlotte Flair. From her lengthy spell in her first Women’s Championship reign to becoming a four-time champ in the blink of an eye, the company is clearly hell bent on her succeeding.
At the short end of the stick is Sasha Banks who, despite having the WWE Universe on her side and multiple half-chances, has played the role of a mule tasked with making Charlotte look as good as possible.
There is no way to explain why WWE would book Banks to tap out seconds before the timer expired during her Iron Man match with Charlotte, especially considering she withstood the hold for a solid minute. It was a nonsensical decision that left a sour taste in the mouth of those in the stands, even more so when Charlotte won back the Raw Women’s Championship in overtime.
13. Brock Lesnar Cuts Open Randy Orton
For all intents and purposes, WWE is not UFC and it’s hard to understand why some fans would want WWE to be more like a “real” fighting sport when that is not its purpose. Regardless, Lesnar and Orton worked a real ending that was unnecessarily gruesome, as Orton lay in a pool of his own blood after Lesnar deliver a series of very real elbow strikes.
The resulting TKO finish led to an altercation backstage between Lesnar and Chris Jericho, with the latter disagreeing with the finish to the match. Jericho said after the incident: “Listen, whatever the finish is none of my business. Whatever they’re doing or whatever happens, listen man, that’s the way it is. It’s not my business, it’s not my responsibility or my call — but, when I see a friend of mine lying in a pool of his own blood, whether it’s a work or not, that’s real blood. That’s a real concussion that he suffered.”
12. The Eva Marie Debacle
Everything about Eva Marie is stupid, so it’s no surprise her failed return push was also stupid.
Again gifting the world to a budding Superstar who has shown little signs of deserving it, WWE granted a stunning revamped entrance and plenty of airtime to getting Eva Marie’s face all over SmackDown.
The big payoff? Eva Marie turns down multiple matches for pointless, made-up reasons before genuinely being suspended for violating the company’s talent wellness policy days before SummerSlam. Any reason why fans are disgruntled with the constant favoritism she receives from WWE officials?
11. Goldberg Vs Brock Lesnar
When you pit a returning Goldberg against a bona fide beast in Brock Lesnar, you are creating a match that is WWE’s version of the unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. In such a titanic match-up, you’re not expected to have a result in less than 90 seconds, yet that’s exactly what occurred.
As exciting as it was to see Goldberg make his long-awaited WWE return and claim an unexpected victory over Lesnar at Survivor Series, having him do so in such a dominant fashion essentially burned down all of Lesnar’s achievements in the past three years, including conquering the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak.
Of course, their first in-ring meeting is just one page in this storybook, with the bigger picture to come at Royal Rumble and ultimately WrestleMania. Still, there are many ways WWE could have approached this match without tarnishing Brock Lesnar’s achievements to date.
10. The Brand Split
No matter where you stand on WWE’s second attempt at a brand split, it has been an absolute nightmare to date. As part of the WWE moving into a new era, the brand extension was supposed to create opportunities for new Superstars and signify the company’s change in creative direction. It hasn’t.
For the most part, WWE’s creative stance has remained much the same. The result has been underwhelming undercard feuds and nonsensical booking decisions. Not to mention the plethora of championships added to the WWE mix, making holding a championship as unimpressive as beating Curtis Axel.
More importantly, the brand split has done nothing to stop WWE’s ratings nosedive, with Raw struggling to top an average of 3,000,000 viewers while SmackDown is unable to catch up to the flagship program.
9. Seth Rollins Being Cashed In On
A number of circumstances led to Dean Ambrose’s Money in the Bank victory and cash-in, and the result was mostly positive. However, there is one major glaring negative overhanging Ambrose’s first title victory.
Having returned to a rousing reception from knee surgery, Seth Rollins was red hot going into Money in the Bank in his title match with Roman Reigns. To the surprise of many, Rollins was even successful in his return main event match and the ‘Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim’ goal had been fulfilled.
What fans didn’t know at the time was that Reigns had violated the WWE wellness policy and his title loss was a form of punishment. However, having Rollins win the title only to lose it a matter of minutes later seemed like a waste of his return, especially considering it is his only major championship reign since coming back to date.
8. The Montreal Screwjob Repeat
The infamous Montreal Screwjob will forever be embedded in wrestling history for all the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, promotions all over the globe insist on recreating the Screwjob in much lamer fashion, but it’s not generally something WWE dabbles in. That’s why the finish to Charlotte’s title defence against Natalya at Payback was so cringe worthy.
With her uncle Bret Hart at ringside no less, Charlotte applied the Sharpshooter and “Lil’ Naitch” Charles Robinson quickly called for the bell, bringing up a piece of history that should solely be reserved for documentaries.
To make the moment worse, Natalya and Hart locked in duel Sharpshooters on Charlotte and Ric Flair respectively, with Hart struggling physically to even lock in the move that was once synonymous with him.
7. Roman Reigns Wins At Fastlane
Cast your minds back to Fastlane 2015 when the force-pushed Roman Reigns (boo) and the beloved favourite Daniel Bryan (yay) were pitted against each other for the WrestleMania 31 main event challenger spot. It was WWE’s chance to fix everything and get the fans back on board.
To nobody’s surprise, WWE sided with Reigns and the WrestleMania 31 main event was littered with a chorus of boos. Fast forward 12 months and the exact same situation was at hand.
With the number one contendership on the line, Roman Reigns faced Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar, the two latter being the clear crowd preferences. Instead, Reigns was again hand-picked by WWE and another WrestleMania main event was spoiled.
6. Roman Reigns Wins The WWE Championship At WrestleMania 32
Speaking of which, the WrestleMania 32 main event of Roman Reigns challenging Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship was just awful. WWE did no service to itself by forcing Reigns onto its fans in front of 100,000-odd smart fans.
Not only was the match incredibly slow, dull and ended relatively pedestrian, the guy fans had been rebelling against ended the night with the title. The fans did not appreciate that.
5. Charlotte And Sasha Banks’ Multiple Title Changes
The strides WWE – the Raw brand in particular – made with the Women’s Division in 2016 were incredible and well overdue. The positives well and truly outweigh the negatives, but the title flip-flopping between Charlotte and Sasha Banks was one glaring issue.
From when Sasha Banks won her first Raw Women’s Championship on July 25 to when Charlotte defeated Sasha in the Iron Man match at Roadblock: End of the Line, the title changed hands a total of six times. In the process, Charlotte was made a four-time champion while Banks is a three-time champ.
The matches between the pair were enjoyable and certainly broke new ground for women in WWE, but the constant title changes – especially with Banks being made to look like a fuel with numerous short reigns and losses at pay-per-views – put a dampener over what should have been a monumental rivalry.
4. Curtis Axel And R-Truth’s Impromptu Fastlane Match
Understandably, timing live television is difficult, especially when you have so many contributors as is the case with WWE. However, plenty of people get paid very handsomely to make sure WWE programming doesn’t experience a major screw-up and every single one of them should have surrendered their pay after Fastlane.
The event that was Fastlane was underwhelming as it was, but you can imagine the crowd’s disgust when right before the main event featuring Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar, they are treated to Curtis Axel and R-Truth. Nobody wants to watch that on Main Event, let alone on a pay-per-view.
The match was thrown together in a desperate effort to fill time, an embarrassing mistake for a company that should be well versed in timing events. The crowd reacted as negatively as the situation required.
3. Daniel Bryan Retires
If you’re a wrestling fan and you weren’t shedding tears like a schoolchild with a grazed knee when Daniel Bryan retired, you’re either a liar or need to see a doctor about your lack of soul.
Though most of us could see it coming, Daniel Bryan’s tweet and following appearance on Raw to confirm his official WWE retirement ended hopes of seeing Bryan back in the ring just one more time.
While it’s obviously the best move for his personal health, seeing Bryan be forced to come to grips with retirement was a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully, Bryan is back on WWE programming in some capacity as SmackDown’s GM.
2. The Rock Beats Erick Rowan In 6 Seconds
Sadly, a moment that WWE had clearly planned to be a feel-good, jolly ol’ time turned out to be one of the worst of the year. It’s one thing to poorly manage Superstars, but it’s another to bitch slap them in the face.
After The Rock made an electrifying entrance in a packed AT&T Stadium, the opportunity arose for Hollywood’s highest paid actor to challenge Erick Rowan to an impromptu match. In a move that showed a blatant disregard for the future of its talent, WWE decided that having The Rock embarrass Rowan by winning in six seconds – a new WrestleMania record – was the best move.
Sure, having The Rock involved in some way for WrestleMania is clearly a good decision, but wasn’t using a flamethrower to set ablaze to his own name enough of a moment for The Great One? Erick Rowan might as well retire now after being embarrassed for no good reason.
1. Zack Ryder Loses The IC Title The Night After WrestleMania
Shame on you, WWE. Whether you are a fan or Zack Ryder or not, how the company used him over the WrestleMania weekend and following Monday night was a downright disgrace.
Without a doubt, Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship in surprising fashion at WrestleMania 32 was one of the most genuine feel-good moments of the year, with an underdog that has toiled away finally getting his just dues. Celebration spread all over social media, as did heart-warming tweets regarding Ryder’s dad, tales of Ryder’s battle with cancer, and an amazing comparison picture showing a young Ryder with his idol Scott Hall holding the IC title next to a modern version of the image, this time with Ryder as champion.
Then the very next night, shortly after Ryder received a rousing reception, The Miz won the IC Title and the feel-good moment from the night before was buried six feet deep under a pile of dog turds.