2015 was a pretty great year if you are a wrestling fan. Wrestle Kingdom 9, the impact of Lucha Underground, the continued ascension of NXT, and a banner year for women in sports entertainment are all testaments to how great professional wrestling can be when you have talented, passionate performers and they are given the right vehicle to showcase their talents. Here are five talents that deserve special attention for 2016.
Starting his professional career in Chikara and working through the Evolve and Dragon Gate promotions, this past year was a career year for Prince Puma when Lucha Underground debuted in late 2014 and continued his momentum into 2015 winning the inaugural Lucha Underground Championship. Fantastic feuds with Johnny Mundo (formerly John Morrison in WWE), Cage, and Mil Muertes, Puma is a dynamic performer who turns in 4 and 5 star matches consistently. The second season of Lucha Underground airs in 2016 and will provide a great platform for Prince Puma to continue to display why he is one of the best professional wrestlers out there. He also has the distinction of being one of three foreign born wrestlers to have won the New Japan Pro Wrestling Super Juniors Tournament.
Cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania this past April, Seth Rollins became WWE World Heavyweight Champion and continued his meteoric rise since mid 2014 when he turned on the Shield and went into singles competition. Feuds with John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and his former teammate Roman Reigns, the self proclaimed ‘Architect’ displayed his standout abilities. Currently sidelined with a knee injury and due back sometime in the summer of 2016, Rollins should be able to pick up where he left off and reclaim the title he didn’t lose.
Poised to become “The Man” in New Japan Pro Wrestling if he isn’t already, Okada, also known as the RainMaker is everything that a professional wrestling fan would want in a main event performer. He’s got the charisma, the attitude, and the ability to beat anyone at any time. He is the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, having won it in what Jim Ross would call a ‘barn burner’ of a match with A.J. Styles (you remember him, he’s probably one of the best wrestlers on the planet and TNA just let him walk out the door). His first match of 2016 looks to be against Hiroshi Tanahashi, who is currently the franchise of NJPW at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Has a clothesline that will make your teeth rattle just watching him throw it.
The Boss. That is really all one needs to know about Sasha Banks. She won the NXT Womens Championship in February 2015 from her former stable mate Charlotte, successfully defended that title through most of 2015 until meeting Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn this past summer. Sasha Banks and Bayley had one of the best matches you will ever watch, not women’s match, but wrestling match period. It is required viewing if you consider yourself a wrestling fan. The Boss made her in-ring main roster debut that weekend at SummerSlam as well, but her NXT work is what put her on the map. Having had a number of main roster matches to end 2015, the upcoming year can very well be the Year Of The Boss.
Kevin Steen has been a professional wrestler since 2000. He has worked in Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and Ring Of Honor. It took him 14 years to get to the WWE, but when he did he made an impact immediately. He won the NXT Championship in early 2014 and then showed up on RAW, answering John Cena’s US Title Open Challenge. His first match on the main roster was at Elimination Chamber with the WWE franchise, the face that runs the place, John Cena, and he won. CLEAN. No shenanigans, no disqualification, Owens went toe to toe with “the man” and came out on top. Moving to the main roster, he claimed the Intercontinental Championship, which he has since lost to Dean Ambrose, but he is currently on the warpath to get it back. 2016 is about to get hit with a Pop-Up Powerbomb.
Agree? Disagree? Did I leave someone out?
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