|The ultimate problematic fave|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
AJ Styles - Wrestling is full of problematic faves. In fact, one could pore through every person who has ever worked in the business and maybe find a handful of people who don't have enough warts to keep at arm's length. Some are worse than others, obviously, and I feel with a lot of friends that I have whom AJ Styles wouldn't approve of, sometimes I feel dirty enjoying him the way that I do. But for as much as his personal views are bad is as good as he is at this pro wrestling thing. No one in WWE really has had the year that he had this year in the ring, and he totally turned the rep that he had coming in, that he was an awful talker, on its head as he got plenty of time to cut some nifty promos. And thus I'm stuck in a hard place. But the dude really is a fine pro wrestler, even if I kinda wanna paintbrush him across the face for things he says sometimes.
Kenny Omega - Speaking of Bullet Club leaders rumored to be headed to WWE after the Dome show, hey, lost in all the talking points and rumors and shitposting about Omega and the things going on in his career, the dude went from comedy promotion mainstay to a Dome main eventer who got bales of praise from everyone for his performances in the last year. Funny can't equal money? Fuck you. (Yeah, I know he "got serious," but for fuck's sake, how isn't the Bullet Club at least part comedy at this point, and how does Omega not draw from that past to help inform his future? Again, fuck you.)
Sheamus - Sheamus gets ragged on way too hard, man. It's not his fault WWE pushed him cluelessly. I hope that this tag team thing with Cesaro changes perceptions about him, because he's one of the best pure brawlers in WWE. I've been a fan of his for several years now.
Jason Kincaid - I've heard about this guy for years, but never got to see him. He showed up in EVOLVE and impressed me big-time. I'll forgive the bargain-basement Rob Zombie look for the pyrotechnics he can launch inside a ring. Figurative pyrotechnics, by the way, not the real ones that Matt Hardy so gloriously made a part of pro wrestling this past year.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady - I've soured a little bit on these guys, even though a lot of it is bad writing. Still, the misogyny bit makes it rough to support them. But honestly, they're still naturals talking on the mic. Get them away from any angle that pits them against someone with a valet or questioning manhood, and they're enjoyable again.
Raul Mendoza - This can act as sort of a blanket entry for all those one-and-done Cruiserweight Classic dudes who should have gotten signed to developmental deals or NXT contracts right away. Mendoza had a baller match with Brian Kendrick and then poof, I don't think he appeared for WWE again in 2016. He left me wanting more, man.
Apollo Crews - The lack of character development did him dirty, but Crews is still an extremely likable dude who does insane shit in the ring. I know Miz has become more meme than man and people love to give him praise when he may not warrant it (and this is from Miz Mark OG over here), but he and Crews had a great Intercontinental Championship match at the Wild Card Finals, and a lot of it was Crews. He's going to learn how to get over on his own, and when that happens, he'll be fine.
Josh Alexander - His comeback has to be one of the feelgood stories of the year. Happy to see him back and active, even if he's mostly confined to Canada these days.
Su Yung - Some wrestlers I like strictly based on aesthetic. I haven't sat down and seen a Su Yung match in forever, but the Black Metal King Diamond Tribute act she has going is fuckin' killer.
"The Drifter" Elias Samson - NXT officials gave Samson a shit gimmick that didn't fit him, and he's leaning into it so hard. I love what he's done with the character, and it sucks he lost so much of last year to an injury.
Will Ospreay - Like Reigns, Ospreay became more meme (bad, not good meme) than man in 2016, but I mean, I can't totally get annoyed with a dude who had the kind of match he had with Ricochet. This guy is the truth.
Bobby Roode - You can say he's just an entrance. I will counter that Roode has leaned into that entrance and is milking it for all its worth, and that's truly GLOOOORIOUS.
Jaka - He's got a hella problematic gimmick. The Wrestling Savage is something that probably should be left in the past, but at the same time, he's a hard worker who brings so much enthusiasm to whatever show he's on. That's a huge plus for me.
John Cena - I think the 180 that Twitter has done on John Cena is fuckin' hilarious, like keep me in stitches laughing for hours hilarious. But the guy deserves all the respect in the world for what he's done. Also, I love that he's shilling pistachios voicing a CGI elephant.
Sexy Star - She's definitely regressed as a wrestler since the first season of Lucha Underground, but I'm not going to lie, she's still got tremendous enthusiasm and fire. I enjoy getting behind her character on LU weekly.
Baron Corbin - A funny thing happened when WWE spammed him in worthless matches against Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto. Corbin became a decent worker and refined himself more as a heel. This guy worked super hard to get where he's at now.
Shayna Baszler - Personally, the Horsewoman shtick might grate on some MMA folks, but it's working for her in wrestling. I mean, much like I didn't give a shit about Ronda Rousey outside of wrestling and thought she had "it" when she hopped the rail at WrestleMania, the same feels true for Baszler.
"That Ol' Juke Joint" Lucas Calhoun - He's another guy who's really come a long way in the last year or so. Anyone who takes the Honky Tonk Man tribute act and turns into something organic and fun deserves to be put over.
Andrade "Cien" Almas - I never watched CMLL before Almas showed up to WWE, so I didn't know what made La Sombra special. But Almas so far in WWE has been a cool addition, even if he hasn't found a steady footing yet. I can see why people liked him under a hood, even if he's got so much bright charisma right now without the mask that I'm surprised he doesn't generate lens flare. When he starts acting more and more ingobernable, he'll move right up the card and probably bins at the end of next year.
Natalya - I try not to put people on here for thirst reasons only. But also, aside from turning into the hottest thing to come out Canada since poutine, Nattie always shows an earnest quality to her character in the ring that makes her likable beyond comparison. Even now with the Nikki Bella feud, it's only not working because Bella is not as folks say good at this acting thing. But Natalya tries and that's endearing at least.
EVIL - I always dug him on his excursion into America as Takaaki Watanabe. I'm super pumped to see him as the second guy in command in Los Ingobernables de Japon.
Ariya Daivari - WWE threw him into the most stereotypical gimmick possible, and it didn't even have the courtesy not to put a duplicate alongside him. Still, the younger Daivari has all the tools to put together a run that will hopefully allow him to transcend the dumb anti-Middle Eastern character given to him. He's been a great foil for Jack Gallagher so far.
Stevie Richards - Glad to see he's still Stevie-kickin' around, to be honest.
Dean Ambrose - Look, I've cooled on Ambrose a tad too, but some of the shit said about him lately has been borderline slander. For one, the only reason that WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar was any good was because Ambrose gave every shit he had and then some to make it good. People mistake two admittedly bad, overused spots (the dive and the Nigel) as proof that he's a terrible worker and thinking that the only reasons his matches with AJ Styles were any good were all to Styles' credit. I will go to my grave holding my praise of Ambrose close to my heart. WWE fucked up on him, but that doesn't mean he's, y'know, bad.
James Ellsworth - I admit I didn't "get" Ellsworth at first. WWE hired him to be mean to him, but he not only went along with it but he, get ready for the third instance of this idiom, leaned into it and found a nice groove. He was a nice addition to Smackdown this year.
"Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams
Authors of Pain
Beer City Bruiser
Crazy Mary Dobson
Ethan Carter III
Hania the Howling Huntress
Jeff Cobb/Matanza Cueto
Juan Francisco de Coronado
Jushin "Thunder" Liger
Marty "The Moth" Martinez
Missile Assault Man
Officer Warren Barksdale
Punk Rock All-Stars
Rey Mysterio, Jr.
So Cal Val
Son of Havoc/Matt Cross
Speedball Mike Bailey
Steve "The Turtle" Weiner
Super Smash Brothers
Supercop Dick Justice
Team Big Deal
The Big Deal
The Black Lotus Clan
The Brian Kendrick
The Crawfish Trio
The Proletariat Boar of Moldova
The Spirit Squad
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Part 1: Unequivocal Hatred
Part 2: Begrudging Toleration