Moments of 2016: Fight forever

Moments of 2016 is a series of articles that detail the year in review for WWE, whether it be specific moments, matches or superstars who've stood out on the WWE main roster and NXT, one way or another. You'll see this series of pieces go through to the end of December.

As previously mentioned, when Sami Zayn returned in December 2015 after being put on the shelf due to what was planned to be a full-time main roster debut against John Cena on Raw in May of the same year, he returned to NXT and not the main roster to get back into the rhythm of things again. But it wouldn't take long before he would face his long time enemy and former best friend Kevin Owens, who was the last person Zayn faced in a match before his layoff at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable for the NXT Championship.

A month after his return to the ring during NXT's UK tour, Zayn's Batman would once again do battle with Owens's Joker (to use the analogy) at the Royal Rumble in a surprise appearance. And it was a massive surprise. Watching it at 3am in the morning UK time, without screaming at the top of my lungs, I was still hugely marking out to the point I still managed to wake someone up. Ooops.

It was an awesome moment that would signify the start to the next chapter of a book-worthy rivalry that would define a good part of 2016 for the two of them, inbetween dealing with Neville, Dolph Ziggler and Shinsuke Nakamura respectively.

While Zayn's Rumble drive-by on Owens - and it was effectively one, really - was a one-off at the time, Zayn's permanent main roster debut, nearly a year in the making, would finally happen a month-and-a-bit later in the aftermath of a Neville-Owens match on Raw as Zayn dashed down to restart his war with Owens and save the man who he once beat for the NXT Championship - the same night WWE and NXT audiences were first introduced to Zayn and Owens' 'complicated' relationship.

And in their first WrestleMania, it was the two of them who helped play a big part in making the Intercontinental Championship ladder match a fantastic match and arguably a match of the night contender between it and the women's triple threat for the Women's Championship.

But it wouldn't stop there. Things would escalate to a one-on-one environment after with a match on the books for Payback, the first time the main roster audience would see the two go one-on-one. And it was a great match - what do you expect with these two? - but it was rather mooted crowd wise with the preceding match and the concern had over Enzo Amore's scary concussion in his match with Big Cass against The Vaudevillains.

But even when that match, which Owens won, was done, the battle was never done, even going as far to interrupt the Intercontinental Title match between The Miz and Cesaro with Owens doing comms for the match.

So guess what? They get thrown into the IC title scene in a Fatal 4 Way at Extreme Rules with Miz and Cesaro. And what an unreal match it was. Even now, it's a match of the year contender in a year of so many match of the year contenders in the WWE.

(On a side note: can we give praise for the fact that there has been so many MOTY contenders from the 'E this year, whether overall or just WWE-specific contenders)

Another battle would ensue, this time with four other men for Money in the Bank. But despite the odds being heavily tipped in Owens' favour beforehand, it'd be Dean Ambrose who'd win and cash in the same night (but we'll get to that on its own).

By the time Money in the Bank was finished, including the Royal Rumble appearance, Zayn and Owens feuded for the better part of half-a-year plus change (and people like to talk of Charlotte and Sasha having a long feud?). Something had to give. Zayn said it himself, and Owens agreed, that this was having an effect on their careers. So it'd come down to one final match at Battleground, the last time the WWE roster would fight as one and not two separate entities.

And well, to try and talk of it would do it injustice. If it wasn't Zayn-Nakamura at Takeover: Dallas or DIY-Revival at TakeOvers Brooklyn and Toronto, this'd be easily my MOTY. This was a pure fight in every sense of the word. And every moment of it was enjoyable. Every now and then, when I find myself bored and want to put something on in the background from the Network, I usually put this on.

We like to mock how they're destined to do this forever (hell, last night on Raw was another mini-chapter), but they're able to do this forever if they want to because Zayn and Owens have such an unreal chemistry and fantastic relationship, both in kayfabe and in shoot, and their trust in each other to help bring the best out of one another, which is why their matches throughout the year in multiple one-on-one or multi-man matches - but especially Battleground - are an incredible treat when given the proper treatment and time.

Fight forever was a chant I may have heard for the first time when Zayn faced Shinsuke Nakamura in Dallas, but it applies a lot more so to Zayn and Owens here than anywhere. And when they do go at it again outside the occasional match on Raw as they start off another chapter in their feud - hopefully for a title and with some stipulations as well - you know they're going to steal the show. To give the old verbiage...


Day One: The Phenomenal Year (AJ Styles)
Day Two: Grateful (Daniel Bryan)
Day Three: Here Comes the Money (Shane McMahon)
Day Four: The Rising Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn)
Day Five: The Queen - Making history (Charlotte - 1/4)

Johnny Cullen writes about games for a living and has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK and also podcasts about games for My Favourite Game. You can follow him on Twitter - for mostly games hijinks but also WWE tweets (and be a bit obsessive over Bayley), The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Jonsi & Alex) - @JohnnyCullen.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.