Wrestling is a wonderful thing. Part sport, part soap opera. But behind all of the pyro, the storylines, the spandex, and the razzle dazzle, the true reason we love this crazy world of sports entertainment is because of the in-ring action. Sure, we need all of the extravagance and kayfabe that comes along with it, yet all of that would be nothing without some good ol’ wrasslin’. This list honours those ring technicians that are at the top of their game right now, the masters of their craft, those that keep us watching and chanting “fight forever” and “this is awesome” repeatedly. Here are the Top 10 Highest Quality Wrestlers in the World.
For this list, I’ll be looking at wrestlers who have been consistently great between the ropes since January 1st 2016. It’s not necessarily a list of those who have been involved in the best matches over the past year or so, but those who are able to put on the best performances night after night no matter where they are. With that in mind, let’s get things started.
Whilst The Swiss Superman hasn’t exactly been involved in any one-on-one classics in the past year, Cesaro claims the first entry on my list because nobody puts on a show in every single match they have quite like him. Cesaro shows off so many parts of his seemingly never-ending list of abilities in every outing he has, whether on Raw, at live events, or on pay-per-views, it’s easy to forget how talented he really is. He never takes it slow or turns down the effort levels; he puts on a show no matter where he is or who is watching. If Cesaro is involved in a match, no matter if it’s 2 minutes or 20 minutes, you are guaranteed to witness something spectacular.
9. Sami Zayn
Similar to the previously mentioned Cesaro, Sami Zayn is a workhorse – he always puts on a show no matter what. WWE rely on Sami to spice up whatever show he’s on, and 90% of the time, he steals it. In 2016, he was involved in some of my favourite matches of the year, including the instant classic against Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover Dallas, and another epic instalment in his on-going rivalry with Kevin Owens at Battleground. When Sami is given the time, platform and opportunity, he will always put on a match of the year candidate, but even if he’s given two minutes on an episode of Raw, he’ll put everything he has into it, and that’s the sign of a consistently great wrestler.
It’s incredible to think that only five years ago, wrestling wasn’t even on Charlotte Flair’s radar. Despite her Championship heritage, Charlotte never had any interest in stepping into the squared circle throughout her life, but luckily for us, the former personal trainer decided to give it a go, and turned out to be one of the greatest female performers in WWE history. In such a short time, Charlotte has managed to pick up what many take years to achieve, and played a vital part in the changing attitudes towards female performers in WWE. This second-generation superstar’s resume isn’t just history making moments and multiple women’s championships though, she’s also racked up an impressive list of great matches to boast about. In the past year alone, we’ve seen her steal the show at Wrestlemania in a triple threat match, have multiple standout encounters with Sasha Banks on Raw, compete in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match, and open one of the biggest Royal Rumble PPVs of all time with a fantastic brawl against Bayley.
Although this phrase may be thrown around a little too often, there is no doubt that Charlotte Flair was made to be in this business, and as she continues to grow and improve over the next few years, we may end up witnessing the greatest women’s wrestling match of all time, thanks in part to the Queen of WWE.
- Tetsuya Naito
Part man, part God Tetsuya Naito not only knows how to pull off an all-white suit, a seemingly impossible task for us mere mortals, but he can also put on one hell of a great match. In 2016, he clinched his first ever 5 star rating courtesy of Big Bad Davey Meltzer in his G1 semi-finals match against Kenny Omega, and put on a string of outstanding bouts throughout the year, against the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, AJ Styles, and Michael Elgin. Considering the fact he’s the current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, and the amazing show he put on at Wrestle Kingdom 11 against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Naito could be in for some huge opponents in 2017, and with it, even more high quality matches.
- Shinsuke Nakamura
Let’s look at the pay-per-view matches Nakamura has had since the beginning of 2016:
Vs AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 – One of the best matches of the whole year.
Vs. Sami Zayn at NXT Takeover Dallas – Many people’s pick for MOTY.
Vs. Austin Aries at NXT Takeover: The End – Easily match of the night.
Vs. Samoa Joe at NXT Takeover Brooklyn and NXT Takeover Toronto – Both four stars at the very least.
And finally, Vs. Bobby Roode at NXT Takeover San Antonio – It was GLORIOUS!
If you don’t think Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the best wrestlers in the entire world right now, you deserve a Kinshasa to the face.
DIY are incapable of having a bad match. Two of the greatest talents on the American indie scene came together to NXT, formed a team, and turned out to somehow be even greater as a duo. It’s safe to say that their encounters with The Revival will go down as some of the best tag team matches in history, especially given the fact their encounter at NXT Takeover Toronto gained a 4.75 star rating from the Wrestling Observer, and won NXT’s Match of the Year award. Also, we cannot forget about the first round CWC match these two men had against each other – not only was it one of my favourite matches of 2016, it was also one of the best pieces of storytelling I have ever seen in my life.
To gain so much in-ring acclaim as a tag team is rare, particularly in WWE; the company isn’t known for producing amazing two-on-two contests, especially without the help of gimmicks and stipulations to increase the excitement factor. DIY have achieved a huge level of critical and company praise as a pairing in relatively short amount of time. There’s no doubt in my mind that as long as they’re in the ring, an incredible match is bound to happen; let’s just hope that the WWE higher-ups realise the two potential stars they have on their hands, and give them the opportunities they deserve to create even bigger, and even greater matches.
4. Kazuchika Okada
This man practically owns a Dave Meltzer galaxy given the amount of five star matches he has been awarded. He’s earned himself two top quality showings since the beginning of 2016, and even bagged himself a victory in the first-ever six star match. He makes MOTY candidates rain from the sky, along with thousands of Okada Bucks (I still need to get my hands on one of them). In fact, despite his still relatively short stint atop the New Japan mountain, Okada has already gained the 7th highest average match rating in history. With so many star-studded encounters under his belt, it’s hard to argue against the claim that Kazuchika Okada is one of the best wrestlers in the world.
3. The Revival
No team in the 21st century has taken the concept of tag team wrestling, and turned into an art form quite like The Revival. It seems there is no adult wrestling fan on the planet that isn’t talking about how incredible this team are. It’s not just fans that are praising the only two-time NXT Tag Team Champions though; their peers, inside and outside of WWE, cannot stop commending the two for their abilities. Their chemistry and ability to utilise the rules and traditions of tag team wrestling to their full advantage are simply staggering. Their matches against American Alpha and DIY in 2016 made tag team wrestling history, and stole the show every single time. They may not be flashy, they may favour fists over flips, the may not throw an endless amount of superkicks, and you’ll certainly never see them wearing unicorn horns on their head, but with their undeniable abilities and incredible chemistry, The Revival have got to be the highest quality tag team in the world right now, and are destined for great success on WWE’s main roster.
2. AJ Styles
Debut years don’t get much more phenomenal than AJ Styles’ first annum in WWE. From entering at number 3 in the Royal Rumble, to winning the WWE Championship at Backlash, AJ Styles had one hell of a year. And whilst AJ was achieving these major accomplishments, he managed to put on some of the best matches of the year in the process. Styles featured in my list of the best matches of 2016 more than any other wrestler, and it’s easy to see why: an MOTY candidate against Shinsuke Nakamura, two show-stealing bouts with Roman Reigns, various great encounters with Dean Ambrose, and of course, the stupendous Summerslam match that saw the former Mr TNA beat Big Match John clean for the 1-2-3. What’s more, judging by the performance he’s had so far in 2017, it seems as though The Phenomenal One isn’t going to turn down the excellence any time soon. His match at Royal Rumble is in my opinion one of the best WWE Championship matches in history, and further proof of why AJ Styles is the highest quality wrestler in WWE today.
John Cena – It was so difficult not to include this man on my list considering how fantastic his encounters with AJ Styles have been recently. Perhaps if he had been wrestling a bit more full time in the last year, maybe he would have made the list.
Pentagon Jr. – Go and watch his Gauntlet Match against the Black Lotus Triad from 2016; it will completely blow your mind.
Kushida – Kushida has been in some absolutely amazing, and often underappreciated IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship matches over the last year, all of which are more than worth your time.
Shibata – When someone is willing to destroy their own face to hurt their opponent, and also has the ability to pretty much kick somebody’s chest cavity in, their matches will always be worth watching.
Kevin Owens – The Universal Champion has put on some stellar showings in the past year, but as entertaining as they were, they still weren’t the best that the prizefighter has to offer.
Young Bucks – Matt and Nick Jackson are arguably the best tag team in the world. If I ever get tired of witnessing a superkick party, please shoot me.
- Kenny Omega
There’s a reason why this man has “MOTY factory” in his Twitter bio.
One of only two men to receive the previously non-existent honour of having a six star match, Kenny Omega is capable of constructing in-ring showings so perfect that new ratings have to be created especially for them. In my Top Matches of 2016 list, Kenny Omega claimed three of the twenty-five spots, and after the unbelievable showing on January 4th this year in the Tokyo Dome, he’s pretty much guaranteed the number one spot in my 2017 list.
Not only that, in 2016, Kenny also managed to claim a five star rating in the G1 semi-finals, put on an extremely underrated classic against Kushida, put on one of the best ladder matches I have ever seen against Michael Elgin, and won the G1 Climax finals in absolutely spectacular fashion.
Kenny omega has the wrestling world in the palms of his hands, and if he carries on constructing complete masterpieces of matches like we saw on January 4th, then that’s where the wrestling world will remain for a long time to come.
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