For this years Royal Rumble, 15 names from last year had been omitted, and instead replaced by the same amount of new names. However, half of the list managed to get an invitation this year as well. Does that mean they managed to stay hot all year long, or did some of them maybe cool down for a while in those 12 months? While there were ups and downs for everyone, a few of them had to climp their way up again from a real low. Lets see what those 15 men have been doing between those two moments when their numbers came up:
- We didn't see a lot of The Worlds Largest Athlete in 2016, though still more then from most guys I covered in my first article. But most of those appearances were either in multi-men matches, background segments, or filler matches that wouldn't lead anywhere. I actually had to look up if he was there at all in the past half year, since there were only two moments with him that may actually be worth remembering: His stare-down with Shaq at the Andre the Giant match at Mania, and him breaking a laptop during a background segment with the Rock. Oh, and they did body-paint him to look like a stature for the second season of Swerved, which he regretted in hindsight as the paint got into his eyes or something like that...
- If you've been following Raw lately, you probably heard a roaring just by reading his name. The new monster of Raw had a good 2016, though most of it is due to the last third of it. Earlier that year, he was still a henchman of Bray Wyatt, and when the Eater of Worlds hurt his back, the entire family wasn't seen for several months. There already were talks about him facing Undertaker at Wrestlemania one year ago, just like there are now, but in the end his only appearance on the greatest stage of them all was along with his brothers, to suffer a much disliked beating by Cena and the Rock. Following the draft, however, his stocks began to climp higher and higher with every new episode of Raw, where he got new victims to squash on a weekly basis. Once he got tired of that, he set his eyes on Sami Zayn instead, pretty much destroying the Underdog from the Underground on their every encounter. The (temporary) end of that feud was a match where Zayn had to survive against Strowman for 10 minutes straight. Not win. Just survive. (The only reason he was succesful in doing so was that Braun seems to like playing with his food...) At Survivor Series, he dominated the entire 5-on-5 match, and was only eliminated due to Elsworth meddling with him, which was met with all the retaliation you would expect. Since then, he seems to be mostly interupting other matches to kill some time (and maybe some competition as well). His entrance in the Rumble had a huge impact on the possible outcome for sure.
- The Eater of Worlds had an interesting year, to say the least. On the one side, his family, which easily dominated last years Rumble, slowly broke apart due to injuries. They were also buried by Cena and the Rock at Wrestlemania, which may have led to a rumored face-push...but Bray hurt his back during a house show, so we'll never know. When Strowman was taken from him in the draft, he went to Smackdown with Rowan, who had to leave for surgery as well (in Kayfabe, Bray discarded him due to dissapointment). He was frequently featured in the big title scene, though, even if it was just as an extra most of the time, and after an interesting feud with Orton, he began to rebuild the family with the Viper at his side. When Harper returned, it looked like the family was close to regaining its former glory, as they even managed to win the tag-team belts on Smackdown, but it turned out that his new and old brother didn't play that well together, and eventually he parted ways with his most loyal follower in favor of "The Viper"...arguably, Bray has been portrayed pretty much oblivious to the signs that Orton isn't someone who deserves his trust, which somewhat hurts his character as an ancient and wise demon, but he was (and is) involved in what is probably the longest running storyline in the past year, and still manages to keep it fresh. Like I said: A very interesting year.
- So, what has the Beast been up to in 2016? Well, first of all he had a highly acclaimed triple threat match against Ambrose and Reigns in the main event of Fastlane. He lost, but only because the other two teamed up on him whenever he was back on his feet. His next match was at Roadblock, where he defeated the Wyatts in a 2-on-1 handicap match, followed by a streetfight match against Dean Ambrose at Mania. The Lunatic Fringe threw a lot of fancy stuff at him, Lesnar broke nearly all of it, including Ambrose, and the match has mostly been forgotten by now. He wasn't mentioned again until they announced him as Ortons first post-return opponent. During the build to that match, he won a fight at UFC 200, but later failed a drug test and got suspended for a year, though only from UFC, not from WWE, which rubbed quite a few of his fellow co-workers the wrong way, as did him busting open Orton during their match at Summerslam. He was approached by Jericho after the match, who apparently said a few things many fans thought as well, but it didn't really lead anywhere. His next opponent, Goldberg, proved to be a far greater obstacle the Orton, as he was easily squashed by him in less then two minutes at Survivor Series. One week after Goldberg announced his participation in the Rumble, Lesnar followed his example, and the feud still continues as of today. Oh, and apparently he got the same win/loss stats in 2016 as Elsworth, with 3 wins and 3 losses...now, that's something to think about...
- One of the reasons Ambrose is such a fan favorite is that his backstage segments and promos are usually as good as his in-ring performance, and he once again delivered on all three bases in 2016. Memorable matches at Fastlane, Battleground, and pretty much every Smackdown PPV, winning a great MITB match and succesfully cashing it in the same night to become the new champ, getting his own talkshow, the Ambrose Asylum, avenging Mitch (may he rest in peace) by destroying Y2Js jacket, and of course the whole Elsworth thing...I'd really like to say it's always entertaining if Ambrose is involved, but sadly I have to mention things like his Streetfight against Lesnar or the Assylum Match here, too...theres no denying those were his lows in 2016. They didn't hurt his popularity much, though, as he is still the probably most popular face on both shows. If there is anyone who truely stayed hot all year, it's gotta be him. His recent feud with Miz even allowed him to enter the Rumble as the Intercontinental Champion once again, just like he did last year.
- 2016 was a year of opportunities, and Dolph Ziggler certainly had his share of those. Sadly, none of them gave him anything permanent for his résumé. He tried and failed twice to take the IC belt from Owens, at Fastlane and Mania, then was caught in a seemingly everlasting feud with Corbin that did neither of the two a favor. Following the draft, he somehow won the match to determine the new No. 1 contender for the big gold of the blue brand, to everyones surprise. While he and Ambrose had one of the better face-vs-face feuds in the weeks after that, he failed to win the title match itself, and once again tried to get his hands on the IC title, held by Miz at that time. He eventually put his career on the line for a title match at No Mercy, where "The Miz Never Ending Intercontinental Championship World Tour" would come to an end. But the belt went back to the A-Lister soon afterwards, and Ziggler, despite creating several memorable matches with Miz during this feud, was left emptyhanded again. He tried for the main title once again, and even got a title shot, but eventually some meddling from Corbins side ruined that one as well. No longer willing to put up with all his efforts coming to naught, he finally turned heel on Kalisto, and seems to be working with Crews now. While 2016 was a year full of missed chances for him, the portrayal of his character was one of the most consistant ones, as he refused to stay down no matter how many spokes were they put in his wheels, until he simply snapped. Maybe his heel turn will finally give him a title run that last for more then just little over a month.
- Well, has it really been a year already? I'm pretty sure not many expected Jericho to stay around that long on this run. But he did, and his first feud was actually one of the best in the early parts of 2016. His matches against Styles were great, and even led to a short-lived yet much loved tag-team. Even their match at Mania was among the better ones of the night, resulting in a win for Y2J. His next feud against Ambrose wasn't quite as good, neither for him (two words: jacket and thumbtacks) nor for us (the entire Assylum match). It did get better in the next storyline he was involved in: the one leading to MITB. Aside from memorable moments like the Jimmin Marvinluder one, or when he reminded us all of his first MITB win in Apple...ton, he also was part of a great match at the actual PPV. But the most imporant part he played in 2016 has to be in his alliance with Owens. Not only did he help on several title defenses against both Rollins and Reigns, he even ended up with a title win for himself. He also got a few popular new catchphrases, including the List of Jericho and IT (whatever it may be), and somehow managed to do what everyone thought was impossible: working alongside Owens for more then a match without getting betrayed by or betraying him! It's still a miracle to me that they lasted for more then a week, let alone several months.
- Nothing left to say here, as I already mentioned everything regarding the New Day when talking about Big E, and there wasn't any bit where Kofi was more involved then the other two. He wasn't active outside of wrestling either like Xavier(at least I don't think he was), so nothing new here.
- Oh, the tragic case of Luke Harper...if you haven't heard about it yet, let me tell you then: There once was a man who blindly trusted the Eater of Worlds. When he was asked to charge at monsters like Kane, Ryback and Big Show at Fastlane, or Brock Lesnar at Roadblock, he did, even though the outcome was foreseeable both times, and he would've kept on blindly following his brother if he hadn't injured his knee. When he returned to his family more then half a year later, he found that two of his former brothers were gone, and had been replaced by a new one...which he did not get along with. While his family won a title even without him, it was due to him and his new brother not getting along that they lost those belts again, and in the end the man he had blindly followed for years picked the new brother over him...possibly the most tragic (kayfabe) story in WWE in 2016, don't you think?
- I think he filled in for a match or two. He also was on Ride-along with Jericho and squashed an apple barehanded there. Aside from that, he wasn't really seen much.
- Well, by now we all know that he's neither a good guy, nor a bad guy. He's a polarizing guy, and boy did he do that on so many different occasions in 2016...he had an acclaimed match at Fastlane, but his title win at Mania was mostly panned. He managed to gain some popularity while facing Styles, of all people, in a feud where he played his character a little more tweener like then usual, but was still booed when he ended up winning it. His match against Rollins at MITB was well received, but he lost his title there and was suspended the next day for a month. Then he had 3 great matches in 2 days at his return, one at Battleground and the other two on the Fallout Raw, but lost 2 of them. Next up was a not really popular feud with Rusev for the US title, which ended up with Reigns at Night of Champions. Apparently on better terms with Seth Rollins at that point, the two worked together in their well received Survivor Series match, where Reigns was the last member of Team Raw to be eliminated. The teamwork of the former SHIELD-brothers continued, and let to some memorable matches against Jeri-KO, until they ran out of new variations and began to become somewhat repetetive (though they did add a title change of the US belt to shake things up). Honestly, I have no idea how Reigns can still walk in a straight line despite all the ups and downs he went through in those 12 months...
- Usually when a staple disolves, that's somewhat of a bad thing for the former members, but I think we can agree that all four members of the League of Nation are better of with it gone, and that's taking into account that two of them are not with WWE anymore! Rusev had no direction while he was a part of it, and once it was gone, he almost immediately got a title run with the US belt, which lasted all the way to Night of Champions, where he lost it to Reigns. Granted, all of his feuds have been mostly panned, no matter if it was against Titus O'Neil, Roman Reigns, or Enzo&Cass, but it's still better then anything he did between the Rumble and Mania, even if it's not much.
- For a good deal of 2016, his story was the same as Owens: the two kept getting into each others way whenever they could, costing both of them several titles and title shots. Zayn failed to win the IC title at Mania, and then once again at Extreme Rules, as he was too busy with Owens to go in for the kill when he had the chance, and the same happened at MITB. They finally settled things once and for all (and so far for real, which many didn't expect when both were drafted to Raw). Things didn't get much brighter for him, though, as he somehow ended up on Strowmans diet. Raws monster chewed on him a few times, and spit him out again, but Zayn demaned another match, and Foley agreed to let him try to survive against Strowman for 10 minutes, which he managed to do, just to be smashed to smitherins by Braun on their next match. He also seems to be getting some heat from the powers that be, both in and outside kayfabe(acording to some weird rumor), and was the only member of Raw who didn't just get to enter the Rumble, as he had to defeat Rollins for his spot. He did, however, suceed, even though it was only due to Triple H fooling Rollins, so who knows where he's heading now.
- His high hopes for the League of Nations proved to be nothing but that: hopes. While they did manage to defeat the New Day in a non-title match at Wrestlemania, it was followed by a beatdown at the hands of Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Steve Austin, and the group disolved shortly after. While Rusev was at least mildly sucessful in his single run, Sheamus had a few rough months. He failed to even qualify for MITB, which he had won on the previous year, and then lost to Crews at the PPV itself. After that, it's the same as with Cesaro: a feud that lasted too long, an odd-couple style tag-team that somehow got people interested in them, the end of New Days record title run, and then a loss at the preshow of the Rumble. I'd like to think of him as one of the guys that had to climb their way up to being relevant again for a spot in the rumble, and somehow, he did!
- I openly admit to being a huge mark for the Miz, and I even was one already at last years Rumble. We still were a very exclusive (aka small) club at the time, though, as his rise to the top heel of the company wasn't even close to begining back then. He mostly appeared in Miz TV segments before the built for the IC title match at Wrestlemania, which he was close to winning before Zack Rhyder took the belt from right under his nose. But that title run lasted only one day, as Miz brought back Maryse the following night to win the belt, starting his ascent to true stardom outside of kayfabe. For two months, he was part of a great feud for the title filled with fantastic matches, followed by a hiatus to shoot a movie during which he frequently reminded the audience why his character should be hated with well done short videos. Darren Young and Bob Backland tried to strip him of the IC title, but Miz and Maryse proved to be the better team. While all of this was definitely an improvement from his pre-mania time, it wasn't until after the draft that his career skyrocketed. He cut several "Promo of his life"-candidates, arguably stole the show on two PPVs where he was working with Ziggler, and recently was part of a feud that proved just how much WWE(or at least some part of it) has improved in the way they portray female characters outside the womens devision.
And, we're done. 45 names, 45 stories. I hope you enjoyed this review, and maybe learned a thing or two you either didn't know yet, or had already forgotten about. It'll be interesting to see which participants of this years Rumble will be brought back in 2018, and who will loose some steam in the months to come and may be forgotten by then.