It feels weird, but 2016 is almost done as in eleven days we will be ushering in 2017. I figure it’s now a good time to look back on what WWE did in 2016. While we surely had some memorable debuts like AJ Styles, Nakamura, and Bobby Roode just to name a few, we also had a lot of bad moments. However, I want to end 2016 on a positive note, so for this list, I will be looking at some of the debuts we saw in WWE in 2016 and talk about where I see WWE going with these people. I would also like to note that list will include both Main Roster debuts and NXT debuts
Here are my top five debuts in WWE in 2016:
1- AJ Styles ( Debuted for the WWE at the Royal Rumble)
For the longest time, people were saying that Sting will go down as one of the most successful wrestlers to not wrestle for WWE. However, that changed after he debuted at the 2014 Survivor Series. Then AJ Styles took the top of the list as he made a name for himself in such wrestling promotions such as ROH, TNA, and NJPW. However, that all changed when he finally made his debut in WWE as the 3rd entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble. Right out of the gate, WWE had him in feuds with Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, and John Cena. He would end up being one of the first wrestlers picked for Smackdown Live at the WWE Draft in July and two months would end up winning the title. In all honesty, I suspect AJ Styles to be in the main event scene for a long time.
Here is the video of his debut at the Royal Rumble:
2- Shinsuke Nakamura ( Debuted at NXT Takeover: Dallas)
Nakamura is very similar to Styles as he also made a name for himself outside of the WWE. However, unlike AJ Styles who made his debut with the WWE on the main roster, Nakamura made his debut on NXT during NXT Takeover in Dallas, the night prior to Wrestlemania 32. He would then make his official NXT TV debut the next week as he would beat Tye Dillinger. WWE had high hopes for Nakamura as he was put into matches with Austin Aries, Finn Balor, and had a very good feud with Samoa Joe that saw history being made with Joe and Nakamura both becoming two-time NXT Champions. I suspect Nakamura will be in NXT for some of 2017 and I suspect we will either see him up on the main roster on the night after WrestleMania or the night after Summerslam. Once he makes the jump to the main roster, the list of possible opponents is rather large as we could see him going into feuds with Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, or even Samoa Joe.
Here is the video of his debut match:
3- Sami Zayn (Debuted at Monday Night Raw)
He wouldn’t make his official debut until mid of March when he came in to save Nevile from being attacked by Kevin Owens. He appeared in the Royal Rumble but got eliminated real fast. The first feud he would have on the main roster was against his former friend, Kevin Owens. He would also put on matches that were very good. Right now, he is in a feud with Strowman. I suspect that Zayn will still be in either the United States Championship picture or in the picture for the WWE Universal Title in 2017. I went with the RAW debut over the Rumble debut because that was his actual official debut on the main roster. Here is the video of his debut during RAW:
4- Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows ( Debuted on Monday Night Raw)
In the time spam of a few months, the WWE universe saw the debut of AJ Styles and Nakamura who were two of the bigger names from New Japan Pro Wrestling. There were two more big name wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling who made the switch from NJPW to WWE was Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, who made their debuts on Monday Night Raw as they attacked the Usos after they had won a match. Once they made their debuts, there were several people within the WWE universe that figured that they were going to win the tag titles very quickly. While 2016 was not a great year for Anderson and Gallows, I have high hopes for them in 2017.
Here is a video of their debut:
5- Finn Balor ( Debuted on Monday Night Raw)
If Balor didn’t get injured at Summerslam, he would have been much higher on my list. But after he had his title run cut by Samoa Joe at a house show in Massachusetts and his match with Nakamura, it was only a matter of time before Finn Balor was getting brought up to the main roster. He ended up being the first NXT wrestler drafted to RAW and was put right into the main event picture. He would end up going up against Rollins at Summerslam and would end up winning the Universal title. Unfortunately, it was cut short as it was reported that Balor had suffered a shoulder injury and was put on the shelve for the remainder of 2016. I have incredibly high hopes for him in 2017, when he does return which according to sources could be as early as the Royal Rumble to the latest being right around WrestleMania. Here is a video of his debut:
I would like to just stress that this is my opinion and you can leave your top five debuts in the comments or you can tweet them to @jon_blayne