Dot Net readers were allowed a single vote each of the 2016 awards categories. The following are the results of our poll for Best Heel along with our staff comments. Thanks to everyone who took part in the voting.
(1) The Miz (33 percent)
(2) AJ Styles (13 percent)
(3) Kevin Owens (13 percent)
(4) Charlotte (12 percent)
(5) Chris Jericho (10 percent)
Others: 19 percent
Jason Powell’s Thoughts: After years of writing that Miz needed an edge to his character so that he could become more than a mid-card pest heel, it was fun to see it finally happen. Miz never tries to be cool and he’s never shy about being the butt of a joke. He antagonizes his opponents, broadcast team members, authority figures, fans, and anyone else he comes in contact with. He’s true heel. Owens might be the best heel in the industry, but he and Chris Jericho spent too much time going for laughs. It’s a shame that we can only wonder how great the Owens title reign would be if WWE had positioned him differently. Charlotte was a spectacular top heel of the women’s division, and I also felt that Maria Kanellis-Bennett shined from the moment she arrived in TNA. Samoa Joe failing to crack the top five surprises me.
Jake Barnett’s Thoughts: I think Charlotte really elevated her game in 2016 and delivered the most consistently great heel work I watched this year. She managed to find a way to make feuds entertaining despite how poorly the creative was designed around her as the Women’s Champion, and delivered some classic matches that have been major contributing factors to the WWE’s ability to redefine expectations for it’s female athletes. Her character work has been the cornerstone on which the new Women’s continues to be built, and 2017 had thus far continued in that fashion.
Darren Gutteridge’s Thoughts: Samoa Joe was proof that even the smartest and most hardcore fans can be worked if you are skilled enough. The NXT fans love to cheer their indie stalwarts, but Joe used every trick in the book to force them to accept him as the top heel in the company for a whole calendar year with hardly any contrarian cheering. Given the same opportunities, I’m sure he’ll be a top heel on the main roster too come the end of 2017.
Will Pruett’s Thoughts: Hey look, it’s AJ Styles again for me. After seeing AJ perform as a heel in NJPW for two years, I knew he was capable. I was never sure of his English language promo ability and confidence. As AJ came to Smackdown, I became more and more sure. AJ stood out in downright magical segments with John Cena, brought the logical realism to segments with “wacky” Dean Ambrose, and delivered as a centerpiece heel on Smackdown.
Haydn Gleed’s Thoughts: Marty Scurll has been a terrific heel on the UK Independent scene and gets what is required to get a negative reaction. He doesn’t look for cheers even when the crowd are adoring him. I’m hoping 2017 is the year that he gets to display that on the global scale. The Miz has been great in the second half of the year, Silas Young in ROH has been consistent with the way his character has been portrayed, but the only wrestler who I feel has made the fans want to see the babyfaces get the better of is Charlotte.
John Moore’s Thoughts: Who would have thought? Maria Kanellis-Bennett was such a strong heel this year! Especially when she came off of her ROH run as more-of eye candy that the commentators can ogle over. Maria was a really unlikable person and I’ve called her the Kevin Owens/Kevin Steen of TNA, because she can just open her mouth and antagonize someone to start a feud with them (just as Owens feuded with everyone on the NXT roster when he came to WWE). Maria also might have created TNA’s next generation babyface female with her feud in developing Allie.
Zack Zimmerman’s Thoughts: Tetsuya Naito. Sure, he gets cheered wildly more often than not. Sure, he’s the top merch mover in the business. Despite that, Naito is a game-changing heel. He broke all the rules and said “to hell” with tradition in a company largely built upon tradition, and that didn’t go ignored. Naito has made more waves and drawn more interest into New Japan than any other star since the inception of the Bullet Club. With the loss of talent at the top of the card to start 2016, Naito and his persona are perhaps the most valuable component NJPW has right now.