It’s tough to truly categorize who is “best” at a job when it’s very much a subjective decision and there are no real tangible ways to come to your conclusion. However, after being a fan of professional wrestling for over 30 years, I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of what makes a great in-ring performer.
Thus, here is my list of the best wrestlers in the world today. I could have made this “Top 10 Sports Entertainers”, but you don’t always need to be a good wrestler to be a great sports entertainer…so let’s just stick with who’s fantastic in the ring, shall we?
This final spot in the top ten is one that could contain any number of performers, but Cesaro is a man who is finally getting his opportunity to shine on the big stage. His fans have known for years just how good he is, but he was never allowed to showcase what he could do. But he is a performer who can wrestle anybody, anytime, anywhere and have a great match. He has a blend of different styles and is definitely one of the “go-to” choices whenever WWE needs a two-segment match to keep viewers entertained.
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi is widely considered to be “the John Cena of Japan”. While you wouldn’t think that is much of a compliment, add the fact that he’s a tremendous in-ring competitor and you can understand why he’s one of the world’s best. Since debuting in 1999, Tanahashi has won the IWGP heavyweight championship seven times and is a two-time G1 Climax tournament winner. If you have seen his matches over the past year, you have seen a reinvigorated Tanahashi (similar to John Cena in 2015) who is ready to show the world that he is, indeed, one of the greatest in-ring performers you’ve ever seen. With the Wrestling Observer giving him five 5-star matches over the course of his career (all from the past three years), it’d be hard to argue otherwise.
8. Roderick Strong
Here is a guy that I never thought would amount to much. I remember watching him as a part of Generation Next in ROH (along with Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, and Jack Evans). I thought he was just an average in-ring performer with below-average promo skills. But over the past decade, Strong has turned into the latest “King of the Indies” by becoming a triple-crown champion in ROH and is the current PWG champion. He is the “go-to” whenever a company needs a 4-star match and is one of the most innovative performers you’ll see around. Why WWE refuses to pick him up is beyond me, because he would fit in perfectly with their current NXT roster.
7. Kazuchika Okada
Here is another guy that TNA completely dropped the ball on. He was part of a “development tour” with TNA back in 2010 and even took on future NJPW opponent AJ Styles at the “Impact Studios”. By the time October 2011 came around, New Japan retrieved their talent ceased their working relationship with TNA shortly afterwards. Okada gained over 20 pounds of muscle and joined CHAOS in early 2012, repackaged as “The Rainmaker”. Over the past three years, Okada has proved himself to be one of the greatest wrestlers in the entire world and is the current (and 3x) IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
6. Finn Bálor
Bálor has been considered one of the best in-ring competitors in the world over the past 5+ years. The two things that really went against him were (1) his lack of personality and (2) his really small size. Thankfully, Triple H has decided that if you’re good then you’re worth a shot. Bálor has been on a rocket ship since debuting in NXT, with his unique entrance exciting the audience almost as much as his in-ring skills. Add to it the WWE money-machine waiting to happen with the “Demon” character, and you’ve got a legitimate superstar in the making. Because of all this, I’ve come to appreciate his incredible abilities. He may never be a superstar on the microphone, but his in-ring abilities will make him a legitimate opponent against almost anybody that WWE throws him in the ring with.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura
The “King of Strong Style” is one of those wrestlers who had a ton of pressure put on him when he first started with New Japan. He was hailed as “the next big thing”, very similar to how “Rocky Maivia” was introduced back in the late 90’s. Over the years, though, Nakamura has developed his own style and his own gimmick, thus adding some sizzle to his steak. He is now one of the absolute best wrestlers in the entire world, without question. I have watched some of his matches over the past year and have become a MASSIVE fan. If you haven’t had the chance to watch him yet, you really need to go out of your way to do so.
4. Seth Rollins
How far has this former Ring of Honor champion come in the past year since splitting with The Shield? Once he got to NXT, he toned down his high-flying style and became a more well-rounded wrestler. Since going out on his own and becoming WWE champion, he has elevated his game to the point that he truly looks like he has earned that title (despite what WWE writers have John Cena tell the WWE Universe). He has learned to whip out the high-risk moves at the perfect times in matches and tells a great story from beginning to end.
3. AJ Styles
TNA never really knew what they had in Styles. From the beginning of the X Division, Styles was the heart and soul of that company. He displayed such in-ring excellence that he overcame his size and eventually became TNA champion. Of course, they let him go in a cost-cutting measure, not realizing the draw that he was on the independent circuit. Now, as a former IWGP champion in New Japan, he is (arguably) the hottest ticket on the indies. He is still performing at a level that makes him a legit contender for Wrestler of the Year and has become one of those guys who can wrestle anybody in the world and make them look fantastic.
2. Brock Lesnar
It’s a damn shame that Lesnar’s price tag is so high because I want to see more and more of him. I was a massive fan of his before he left for UFC and I’ve become an even bigger fan now. The man wrestles with such intensity that it looks totally real. His facial expressions and his abilities inside the ring are second to none. People love to watch him perform and he loves performing (as he has stated repeatedly over the last few months). I guess I shouldn’t complain about the part-time schedule because I never, ever want to get sick of watching Lesnar wrestle.
1. Kevin Owens
To me, without question, the best all-around performer in the world today is Kevin Owens. From his matches in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, to his spectacular series of matches with John Cena, to his matches against other excellent in-ring performers like Cesaro and/or Finn Balor…there is no doubt that you simply cannot put Owens into a bubble when trying to describe his abilities or his style. He can brawl, he can mat-wrestle, he can fly with moonsaults and swanton bombs, and he can entertain while still being a heel. He’s the total package with the exception of his appearance…but that’s not something that has prevented him from becoming an upper-tier WWE superstar.
But what are YOUR thoughts? Sound off in a comment below or via social media and let me know!
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