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The Top 100 Wrestlers in the World, 2010-11

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Occasionally, I write about wrestling.  Like here. Or here. Or here.  I could keep going.  But you see my point (or "catch my drift", which I hear all the cool kids saying these days; with their slicked back hair and their windbreakers.  You kids in your windbreakers get out of my yard!).

For about a decade, approximately every other year I've sat down to systematically construct a top 100 wrestlers in the world list; it's not an all-time value list, nor is it a snapshot of this second ('cause dudes get knee injuries) instead it's what you'd conventionally think of when asking  - "okay, who are the best wrestlers?" 

Unless by "who are the best wrestlers?" what you think of is impact on the business or the ability to draw money or memorable promos.  I don't care about any of that.  I look at a wrestling match the same way I look at a television show and evaluate its quality based on some normative standard of excellence that exists in my head.  If I can say "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is a better show than "Two and A Half Men" which is utterly without qualification or any interest in a view contrary - I can make the same claim about a wrestler, even if he draws less money. 

I also don't watch a lot of lucha.  I'm sorry. 

With that - The Top 100 Wrestlers in the World, 2010-11 version.

101. Takuya Sugawara - Zero One
-Not on the list is Sugawara; I've decided that's where the line is, to make the list, you have to be better than he is; sort of like Duke Snider on my baseball list.

100. Manabu Nakanishi - New Japan
99. Paul London - Independent
98. Walter Inoue - New Japan
97. Doug Williams - TNA
96. Tomohiro Ishii - New Japan
95. Fit Finlay - WWE
94. Chris Sabin - TNA
93. Mistico - CMLL
92. Shuji Kondo - All Japan
91. Teddy Hart - AAA

Probably, this will be the last time on the list for Nakanishi and Fit, given their age; Kondo and Mistico are both lower than they were two years ago; I like both Ishii and Inoue and think they could move in either direction over the next couple of years; I'm probably a little too hard on Sabin; I don't know what's gonna happen with London, his career path is up in the air as of this writing - and I'm a Teddy Hart mark, I like that whole shtick, I'd like to see him come back to the states; I'd think, even with the baggage, it would make sense for TNA to capitalize on his name. 

90. Takayuki Iizuka - New Japan
89. Kenta Kobashi - NOAH
88. Makoto Oishi - KDojo
87. Jack Evans - AAA
86. Akihiko Ito - NOAH
85. Testsuya Naito - New Japan
84. John Morrison - WWE
83. Claudio Castagnoli - ROH
82. Koji Kanemoto - New Japan
81. Yujio Takahashi - New Japan

Iizuka got picked over a big group of Big Japan guys; I wound up taking just a couple of the BJ garbage wrestlers for this list, as I find it hard to incorporate most of them into this analysis but I think the best of those light tube matches are really good.  We get a bunch of juniors here - both Yujio and Naito, young Oishi and Ito and not so young Kanemoto.  Claudio has really improved in the last few months and could be poised for a workrate breakout; Morrison's here instead of Shelton Benjamin or MVP or both Young Bucks; and Kobashi's the greatest wrestler who ever lived but health is a skill he no longer possesses.

80. Toru Yano - New Japan
79. Minoru Fujita - Zero One
78. Satoshi Kojima - All Japan
77. Masaaki Mochizuki - Dragons Gate
76. Kenny Omega - PWG
75. Jun Akiyama - NOAH
74. Takeshi Sasaki - Big Japan
73. Yoshinobu Kanemaru - NOAH
72. Kagetora - Dragons Gate
71. Kengo Mashimo - KDojo

-I love Akiyama, think he's incredibly underrated historically, but he's apparently wrapping it up this year; Sasaki is one of the BJ garbage workers who I like a lot and put here; I like Omega but the comedy wears me out a little bit, Kanemaru's uneven, Mochizuki and Kojima are on the back sides of their productive careers, then there are the juniors and the lesser half of a longstanding good NJ tag team.

70. Genki Horiguchi - Dragons Gate
69. Kohei Sato - Zero One
68. Ryouji Sai - Zero One
67. Isami Kodoka - Big Japan
66. Masashi Takeda - Big Japan
65. Homicide - TNA
64. Ricky Marvin - NOAH
63. Evan Bourne - WWE
62. Brian Kendrick - TNA
61. Kevin Steen - ROH

Hard for me to separate Sato/Sai and Kodoka/Takeda; Horiguchi maybe should be higher than this - Homicide maybe should be lower, he's hard to evaluate given how little he's asked to do in TNA; two more years at his current level of work and he's not on the list.  Marvin was much higher the last time I did this list, he had a ridiculously good year just a couple of years ago but has slid; Sydal's good every time, but he got taken from the indies so quickly that its hard to tell if he can do a lot more than he shows; Kendrick's just now coming out of that WWE style funk, hopefully he'll get a chance to crank it up in TNA; and despite the weight gain Steen's only slid a little bit.

60. Taka Michinoku - KDojo
59. Ultimo Guerrero - CMLL
58. Mike Quackenbush - Chikara
57. Tyler Black - ROH
56. Chris Jericho - WWE
55. Christian - WWE
54. Rocky Romero - AAA
53. Mark Briscoe - ROH
52. Jay Briscoe - ROH
51. Kurt Angle - TNA

-Lot of guys you know here.  Taka's maintaining a lot of his value; there's Romero and Guerrero - Ultimo's my highest lucha worker on the list and Quack's the only Chikara rep.  Briscoe Brothers are the highest of the "how do you separate them" pairings.  Black's on his way up; I'm a big Christian fan considering that style of match - and the two famous guys are here too. 

50. Fujita Jr. Hayato - MPro
49. Yamato - DGate
48. Minoru Tanaka - All Japan
47. Harashima - DDT
46. Ryo Saito - DGate
45. Dragon Kid - DGate
44. Suwama - AJapan
43. BxB Hulk - DGate
42. Pac - DGate
41. El Generico - ROH

-Dragons Gate takes over this block with half of the representatives; everyone else is a jr. too save for Suwama. 

40. Rey Mysterio - WWE
39. Roderick Strong - ROH
38. Chris Daniels - TNA
37. Susumu Yokosuka - DGate
36. Atsushi Aoki - NOAH
35. Go Shiozaki - NOAH
34. CIMA - DGate
33. Taiji Ishimori - NOAH
32. Chris Hero - PWG
31. CM Punk - WWE

-Rey's an all time legend; he and Punk are the first representatives from WWE in the top 50.  3 NOAH guys, and 4 if you include Hero - who also could be included as a ROH guy with Strong, or he and Strong could be called PWG guys.  And Daniels, who is screwed in the new TNA configuration.

30. Low Ki - WWE
29. Steve Regal - WWE
28. Daisuke Sekimoto - BJapan
27. Hiroki Goto - NJapan
26. Togi Makabe - NJapan
25. Prince Devitt - NJapan
24. Ikuto Hidaka - Zero One
23. Masato Yoshino - Dragons Gate
22. Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJapan
21. Takashi Suguira - NOAH

-I love me some Low Ki; I love me some Steve Regal.  I wouldn't mind watching them go 8 minutes on ECW next week.  Make it happen!  We get some powerhouse guys here - Goto/Makabe/Suguira/Sekimoto - and the talented juniors, Devitt/Hidaka/Yoshino.  Tanahashi supporters will be upset that he's this low. 

20 best wrestlers in the world:

20. Takeshi Morishima - NOAH
-falling since the last ranking, but not falling as much as others would have him go.

19. Nigel McGuinness - TNA
-I enjoyed hearing Hogan on Bubba say that Desmond was "real close" - "just missing something" as if the words coming out of his face ever had any content. 

18. AJ Styles - TNA
-Wooooooooo!  I assume eventually they pull the plug on this and Flair turns on AJ to instead align with another young guy as the Nature Boy.

17. Alex Shelley - TNA
-Alex Shelley's awesome. 

16. Kaz Hayashi - All Japan
-If Kaz wrestled top end guys on a constant basis I wonder if he'd be in the top 5.

15. Austin Aries - ROH
-I dislike the current gimmick, not as a gimmick, as a gimmick it's good - but when he incorporates the chickenshit aspect into his matches it drives down the work.

14. Kota Ibushi - DDT
-Best high flyer in the world.

13. Naruke Doi - Dragons Gate
-He got my vote for the WON Wrestler of the Year in '09.

12. Yuji Nagata - NJapan
-Always been good - was good with WCW and has just maintained that good - I'd enjoy a Yuji/Regal program right now.

11. Masato Tanaka - Zero One
-Who would have thought that Tanaka would actually be better a decade after those ECW matches with Awesome?

The Ten Best Wrestlers in the World...

10. Yuko Miyamoto - Big Japan
-The most underrated wrestler alive, he can do a four star light tube match any time he wants.  The best garbage match wrestler alive. 

9. Shinsuke Nakamura - New Japan
-Nakamura's a bad, bad man.  With the leather pants and kicking you in the orbital bone. 

8. Samoa Joe - TNA
-Who the hell knows?  Hogan and Bischoff talked about Abyss as their young breakout franchise star - I don't know if they get Joe. 

7. Kotaro Suzuki - NOAH
-Kotaro's been behind  more high profile NOAH juniors, but he's pretty damn terrific in his own right.

6. Naomichi Marufuji - NOAH
-Marufuji's one of those more high profile juniors, I haven't seen any of his return work yet, hopefully he's rounding back into form.

5. Davey Richards - ROH
-2 years ago I put Richards in the top 20 and heard protest; no one's protesting now.

4. Shingo Takagi - Dragons Gate
-Goddamn Shingo.  You see that guy?  I want Shingo and Davey battering each other all year, frustrating that Davey's pulled from the DGUSA shows.

3. Katsuhiko Nakajima - KOffice
-He might have gotten my vote for most improved each of the past three years; two years ago maybe he's the 80th best wrestler in the world - today, he's right here at number 3.

2. Bryan Danielson - WWE
-A WWE wrestler is the second best wrestler in the world?  Yup.  Yes he is.  I don't know if you'll ever see him, but he is.

1. Kenta - NOAH
-Kenta was in 14 of the 50 best matches of the decade.  The Observer online had a poll for the top wrestlers of the decade - there should have been only 2 choices; Kobashi, who won - and Kenta, who wasn't on the list of nominees.

And that's your list.

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