WWE: 10 future main eventers were named back in 2016 - what happened to them?

WWE Superstars

A lot can change in the world of WWE, especially in six years.

Back in 2016, the team that WhatCulture predicted which ten WWE stars at the time could turn into main eventers for the company.

Now, six years after that article was published, what are those ten names doing now, and did they live up to their potential?

Let us dive right into it.

10. Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods WWE
Xavier Woods WWE

We all love Xavier Woods, but while he may be one of WWE’s most beloved stars right now, he can’t be seen as a main eventer.

WhatCulture predicted that Woods would be a main eventer in WWE, and while that could still happen, he hasn’t reached those heights yet.

He’s had some iconic moments though, as part of New Day, but remains the only member of the crowd to have not won the WWE Championship.

However, it’s clear how much WWE values Woods, and given that he’s only 35, he could very well become a main eventer in the future, but as of right now, he’s not reached those heights.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura WWE
Shinsuke Nakamura WWE

When WhatCulture published this list (February 2016), Shinsuke Nakamura hadn’t even wrestled a match for WWE yet.

His debut would come two months later, at NXT TakeOver Dallas, and at that time, Nakamura seemed like a future WWE main eventer.

However, six years later, and he’s never won the WWE title, and seems stuck in the mid-card right now, despite his undeniable talent.

Things looked on the up in 2018, when he won the Royal Rumble and faced AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34, but the match failed to meet expectations, and Nakamura was sent back down to the mid-card.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever be picked to win a world title in WWE, and has arguably never been deemed a main eventer by higher-ups within the company.

8. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn WWE
Sami Zayn WWE

Sami Zayn may have never won the world title in WWE, but it’s clear that people within the company really do like him.

To say he’s a main eventer may be slightly generous, but Zayn is often positioned in high profile spots on TV, just over the last few months, mixing it up with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.

In fact, at WrestleMania 38, Zayn was involved in arguably the best match of the weekend with Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville, showing just how much WWE values him.

After signing a new contract last year, Zayn is sticking with WWE, so there’s a chance he’ll shoot up the card in the future and win world titles.

But for now, while he may be an incredibly entertaining figure and one of WWE’s most valuable stars, he hasn’t quite hit those main event levels yet.

7. Cesaro

Cesaro WWE

The first name on this list (and he won’t be the last) to no longer work for WWE is Cesaro.

Cesaro left WWE this year after turning down a contract extension, and while he hasn’t wrestled since, he’s a free agent and is now free to work elsewhere.

There’s no denying that Cesaro is one of the best athletes to ever work for WWE, but the company seemingly didn’t believe that he ever had the charisma to make it to the top.

A short-lived push in 2021 saw him beat Seth Rollins at WrestleMania and feud with Roman Reigns, but that didn’t last long, and he was back in meaningless midcard feuds before too long.

That short run last year was probably the best it got for Cesaro in WWE, and considering he’s no longer under WWE contract, we’ve got to say that he didn’t reach the heights that WhatCulture predicted.

6. Big E


To be fair to WhatCulture, they got this one kind of right.

It took him some time, but fans knew from the moment he debuted in 2012 that Big E was destined for big things in WWE.

Nine years later, Big E beat Bobby Lashley to become the WWE Champion, the first name on this list to hold a world title in WWE.

His reign lasted just under four months, when Big E was beaten by Brock Lesnar ahead of The Beast’s WrestleMania feud with Roman Reigns.

For a brief period of time, it can be argued that Big E was WWE’s number one babyface, and one of their top stars behind Reigns.

So, to their credit, it can be argued that WhatCulture got it right when they said that Big E would end up as a main eventer in WWE.

He’s now sidelined with a broken neck, but when he’s back and healthy, we hope that WWE puts him back into the main event scene.

5. Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens WWE
Kevin Owens WWE

Like Big E, Kevin Owens has also won a world title in WWE, holding the Universal Championship between 2016 and 2017.

Owens is often involved in WWE’s high profile storylines, feuding with Roman Reigns in late 2020 and early 2021.

KO also main evented WrestleMania 38 this year, having Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first match in 19 years, showing just how much faith WWE has in him.

So yes, you’ve got this one right WhatCulture, Kevin Owens is one of WWE’s top stars and is a main eventer.

4. Braun Strowman

Braun Strowman talks WWE run
Braun Strowman talks WWE run

To be fair to WhatCulture, Braun Strowman is a hard case to judge.

Pretty much from his debut in 2015, it was clear that WWE liked him, and just by looking at his sheer size, it’s not hard to see why.

He then split from the rest of The Wyatt Family, and started on a singles run, feuding with the likes of Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar shortly afterwards.

Strowman was involved in high-profile segments and storylines on WWE TV, and could arguably have been seen as a main eventer by WWE.

He would win his first piece of singles gold in 2020 at WrestleMania 36, beating Goldberg for the Universal title.

Just over a year later, he was surprisingly let go by WWE, so while he obviously isn’t a main eventer by WWE anymore, it’d be harsh to say he never was one.

This one is a tricky one to judge, but WhatCulture probably got this one right.

3. AJ Styles

AJ Styles WWE
AJ Styles WWE

One month after his WWE debut, WhatCulture seemingly has higher hopes for AJ Styles in WWE than most other fans.

Many didn’t expect Vince McMahon to get AJ Styles, but six years on, he’s done better in WWE than many expected him to.

He’s held two WWE Championships and he’s feuded with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar, as well as pretty much every other top star in WWE, including Edge right now.

He also worked for The Undertaker at WrestleMania 36, main eventing night one of the show, in what was Taker’s final ever match.

While he’s had spells not doing much on TV, it’s clear that AJ is one of WWE’s top guys, and to be fair, has been a main eventer for the majority of his six years with the company.

Again, WhatCulture, you got this one right.

2. Finn Balor

Finn Balor WWE

Poor Finn Balor.

A few months after this article was written, in what was his WWE PPV debut, Finn Balor beat Seth Rollins to become the first Universal Champion.

Unfortunately, that’s as good as it got for him, as 24 hours after winning the belt, Balor was forced to vacate the title due to a shoulder injury.

As noted, Balor hasn’t reached those heights again, and while he may have impressed after returning to NXT in 2019, he’s not been a top star on the main roster since.

This one feels harsh, as who knows what could have happened if Balor didn’t get hurt in 2016, but as of now, we can’t say that he’s been a consistent main eventer for WWE.

1. Dean Ambrose

Dean Ambrose WWE
Dean Ambrose WWE

In 2016, WhatCulture pencilled Dean Ambrose in as someone who was ready to break out onto the main event scene.

Less than six months later, Ambrose won the WWE Championship, his first for the company, and it seemed like he was finally set to be positioned as one of WWE’s top stars.

However, 2016 was about as good as it got for Ambrose, and he left WWE in 2019 after his contract expired.

Since then, Ambrose went on to join AEW as Jon Moxley, and has been one of the promotion’s top stars, and an undeniable main eventer.

However, in WWE, we can’t say he was a consistent main eventer, with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns both being above him in the pecking order.

Despite that, Ambrose had spells right at the very top of WWE, particularly around the time of the brand split in 2016-17.

This one, like Strowman, is hard to judge. It’d be safe to say that he did have moments at the top of WWE as a main eventer, and for a period of one of their top five stars, so WhatCulture did get this one right.

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