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10 Best WWE Wrestlers of 2016

From Seth Rollins to Sasha Banks, we rank the best pro wrestlers of the year

Lists, as we know, are no longer just for year's end. Critical rankings have become the backbone of daily online content, both watering down and helping to organize cultural conversation. But the only ones that really matter are those meta-lists we compile come December, those that state definitively: "These were the absolute best or worst of a particular class of thing." And for our purposes, that thing is pro wrestling. And in this instance, the class in question is WWE. (Besides, all the NJPW, ROH, etc. stars will find their way to NXT within 2017 anyhow.) And here, then, is our no-disqualification, eligibility counts anywhere (i.e. either Raw or SmackDown), numerically ordered roundup of WWE's top 10 performers for 2016.

Best Wrestlers 2016 WWE

WWE

1

AJ Styles

He came, he conquered and, most crucially, he stayed healthy. Has there ever been a more cleanly executed transition from eons spent toiling internationally and in TNA to the McMahon clan's big top? In some ways, Styles assumed more of the risk, leaving lucrative and legendary residencies with New Japan and Ring of Honor at age 38 (now 39) to gamble on the no-guarantees pressure cooker of WWE. But what superstar – particularly one who deferred his initial shot with WWE development nearly 15 years prior – could resist the itch to debut as a hotly tipped outsider in the Royal Rumble, let alone get lined up for major storylines with names like John Cena and Chris Jericho? You could argue Styles was primed for success, but the onus was on him to seize his moment, first by flashing teases of world-class technique and then quite literally springboarding front and center as a cocky villain with no one on SmackDown who could rival his game. He is truly in a class of his own on Tuesday nights, and however the rest of his run turns out, 2016 concretized his reputation as once in a generation. 

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