Editorials

WDKW100 (10-1)

NOTE FROM SAM: Corwo and Brock have been instrumental when going into the official WDKW100. Brock added some additional blurbs and match recs. Corwo helped with SO MANY match recs it is insane. Lovely humans. Deserve a ton of credit and should be followed immediately. Also, Parm has come to assist!

First year ever for the WDKW100! Are you excited? You probably should be because a fabulous countdown is about to unfold. Earlier this year I talked to my We Don’t Know Wrestling co-host at the time, Tanner, about what was going to be happening here. We were saying how it would be cool if we could do something that was like the WKO100, a list I loved watching unfold for years, but make it a bit more inclusive while still maintaining some sort of barrier to entry. The idea being that we cared more about people putting some sort of effort into their list rather than a bunch of people listing some of their favorite wrestlers of the year real quick. I stuck with the idea and had the backing of Trask and Al to get a forum set up for this project (we should be having a 2017 section going up soon to help kick that off but we are likely being attacked by evil bots).

Let’s get down to what this is, the WDKW100 is a fan voted list of the best in-ring pro wrestling performers of 2016. Your ability to gab doesn’t mean much in these parts. Each ballot consisted of 100 pro wrestlers. We used the Pat LaPrade weighted voting system which works as follows:

1- 125 pts
2- 115 pts
3- 110
4- 105
5- 102
6- 99
7- 96
8- 94
9- 92
10- 90

The more points you scored the better you ranked. Ties were broken by who received the most votes and then who ranked highest on an individual ballot. In any other case there was a tie.

Wow. This is it. The end of the inaugural WDKW100. Hundreds of wrestlers made 33 ballots. Ten remain. The order has been a mystery to most until now. This has easily been the biggest project I have ever personally taken on. There are many things that I will change next year but also so glad I did this. Thank you to those that submitted ballots. Truly amazing how responsive you were and all the lists were tremendous. So many wrestlers I didn’t know had great years because I wasn’t paying attention. Hopefully this can be used as a reference in the future for when someone wants to go take a look at the top wrestlers of 2016. Maybe didn’t accomplish that. Probably did what the WKO100 did for a different segment of people. A weird bubble that exists within Wrestling Twitter. I am okay with that. Maybe next year that bubble can expand. Can’t really tell if that’s realistic at this moment but I’m hopeful. The year of 2016 was tremendous for professional wrestling all over the globe. The top ten consists of many wrestlers that competed under what was considered the best promotion of the year in EVOLVE. Others were across the ring from one another in not one but two of the best tag team matches in recent memory. Two men made their cases against each other in the biggest promotion on God’s green earth. All of them were the elite of the elite. Great wrestlers that all made cases in their own unique ways. Professional wrestling. It is great.

  1. Drew Gulak (29 ballots, 2100 points)

High Voter: Mayafacetico (5)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Timothy Thatcher (PWG, 1/2)

w/Chris Hero vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (AAW, 2/19)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (Legacy Wrestling, 3/11)
vs. Anthony Henry (PWX, 3/13)
vs. Mat Fitchett (AAW, 3/18)
vs. Fred Yehi (EVOLVE, 3/19)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 3/20)
w/Tracy Williams vs. TJ Perkins & Fred Yehi (EVOLVE, 5/6)
vs. Tracy Williams (EVOLVE (5/7)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (CWC, 7/14)
vs. Dasher Hatfield (CHIKARA, 7/23)
w/Cedric Alexander & Johnny Gargano vs. Oleg the Usurper, Princess KimberLee & The Estonian ThunderFrog (CHIKARA, 9/2)
vs. Hallowicked (CHIKARA, 9/17)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE, 10/15)
vs. Timothy Thatcher (EVOLVE, 10/16)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 11/13)

“One of the best ring generals in the world, there’s one word I’d use to describe Gulak: consistency. Put him with any opponent in the world, from undeserving WON Award winners to Chikara rookies, and he’ll make something worth watching with his rock-solid fundamentals and great technical prowess. In 2016 he directed lesser opponents to greatness and held his own against his betters, making for a few of my favorite matches of the year.” Brock!

“Gulak has had great matches throughout multiple promotions this year. From CZW and pulling good matches with his brother against students to becoming a featured wrestler at Beyond to being one of the remnants of CHIKARA being good, to doing the CWC and having very good matches there to him becoming a pillar of Evolve he’s been performing well all year. He’s a guy who’s had a diverse year, but has been very good through it all, and that goes far with me.”

“A real dark horse here in that I think he’ll rank fairly highly but he’s not someone people are really talking about. Matches with Mat Fitchett, Thatcher, Yehi, ZSJ, and Hot Sauce. I also think the team with Hot Sauce has done some good stuff. He’ll do well for me.”

  1. Johnny Gargano (30 ballots, 2167 points)[HIGHEST RANKED 30 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: “Close Personal Friend” Fray (4)

Recommended Matches:
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Chip Day & Murder-1 (UIW, 1/9)

vs. Jimmy Rave (AWE, 1/10)
vs. Sami Zayn (NXT, 1/29)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Drew Gulak & Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (AAW, 3/19)
w/TJ Perkins & Kota Ibushi vs. Tommy End, Marty Scurll & Will Ospreay (WWN, 4/2)
vs. Andrew Everett (AAW, 4/9)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (AAW, 6/17)
vs. Tommaso Ciampa (CWC, 6/23)
vs. Mark Haskins (PROGRESS, 6/26)
vs. TJ Perkins (CWC, 7/14)
vs. Cedric Alexander (EVOLVE, 7/16)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Andrew Everett & Trevor Lee (AAW, 7/23)
vs. David Starr (Beyond Wrestling, 7/31)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder (NXT, 8/20)
w/Drew Gulak & Cedric Alexander vs. Oleg the Usurper, Princess KimberLee & The Estonian ThunderFrog (CHIKARA, 9/2)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 9/10)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Cedric Alexander & Noam Dar (CWC, 9/14)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder (NXT, 11/19)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Akira Tozawa & Tajiri (NXT, 12/3)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Shane Thorne & Nick Miller (NXT, 12/8)

“I’ve gone back and forth on Gargano over the years, with my opinion ranging from “best thing on the indies” to “spotty vanilla nobody”. Today, I’m somewhere in the middle, and I’ve learned to recognize his worth in certain situations. While I don’t consider him to be the second coming of Ricky Morton as some claim, he’s well-suited to being destroyed in tag matches and making the tag out to a fiery Tommaso Ciampa. Even if I found him to be the weakest link in a few of my favorite matches of the year, he was still part of those matches, and you  can’t take away Steve Kerr’s NBA championship ring because he was “only” the fourth best guy on the ‘96 Bulls.” Brock!

“Johnny Gargano has had one of the best years of his career. Between indie matches with the likes of Jimmy Rave, Sami Callihan, Heroes Eventually Die, Mike Bailey, Da Hit Squad, TARIK, Zack Sabre Jr., Catch Point, Mercury Rising six-man, Andrew Everett, Marty Scurll, Drew Galloway, David Starr, Eric Young, Mark Haskins, the series of DIY matches with Revival, as well as CWC matches vs. TJP and Tommaso Ciampa that are other-worldly awesome, it seems fitting that he’ll be at least a Top 50 guy.”

“I’ll probably have him higher than anyone else will.

What a year for Johnny Gargano. Name the promotion and he probably had a **** match or higher. Just great stuff in the indies and WWE and doing it all at the same. Few people, in recent times, can say they’ve done that.”

  1. Roman Reigns (31 ballots, 2221 points)[LOWEST RANKED 31 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Tim Evans (6)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE, 2/21)

vs. AJ Styles (WWE, 5/1)
w/The Usos vs. AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (WWE, 5/2)
vs. AJ Styles (WWE, 5/22) vs. Seth Rollins (WWE, 6/19)
vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (WWE, 7/24)
vs. Chris Jericho vs. Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn (WWE, 7/25)
vs. Finn Balor (WWE, 7/25)
vs. Kevin Owens vs. Big Cass vs. Rusev (WWE, 8/29)
w/Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman, Chris Jericho & Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Shane McMahon & Randy Orton (WWE, 11/20)
w/Seth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens vs. Big E & Xavier Woods(WWE, 12/12)

“It’s a bit odd, when you look at it Reigns is the perfect wrestler. Solid promo, good looking, great matches against almost anyone and one of the biggest merch movers today, yet something about Reigns has yet to create consistent cheers. Has had great matches opposite Styles, Rollins, Y2J, KO, Cesaro ect. The only time I can ever think of Reigns disappointing me would be his series vs Rusev.” Parm!

“The ever-so-critiqued Big Dog has had a damn fine year of wrestling regardless of booking or attitude. He’s had good-great matches with Sheamus, The Big Show, Alberto Del Rio (Germany street fights which were excellent), the Fastlane triple threat, the AJ Styles matches which are MOTYCs, the Shield triple threat, Seth Rollins, Rusev, Finn Balor, and my TV match of the year – fatal four way – which was arguably the best he ever looked on Raw.”

“Without much thought, I have issues with him falling out of my Top 10-15. The HHH match was a terrible flop given the circumstances, but man alive did he have some matches on the big stage that were absolutely fantastic. So many people highlight AJ in their matches but his performance in them was just absolutely phenomenal. Week to week, might not be as strong as 2015, but definitely has the highlights that put him near the top of the list.”

“Reigns will make my list. HHH was a dumpster fire but I really can’t put that on him. Absolutely adore the AJ matches and I think he’s every bit as good as AJ in that feud, especially at Extreme Rules. Loved his performance against Rollins at MITB. Fast Lane triple threat was something I enjoyed a ton. Rusev feud has been fun too. TV match with Balor and the fatal four way on RAW for the vacant title both ruled.”

  1. Fred Yehi (29 ballots, 2258 points)

High Voter: Mayafacetico (3)

Recommended Matches:
w/Gary Jay vs. Aaron Solow & Jason Cade (FIP, 2/12)
vs. Drew Gulak (EVOLVE, 3/19)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE 4/2)
w/TJ Perkins vs. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 5/6)
vs. TJ Perkins (EVOLVE, 5/7)
vs. AR Fox (FIP, 8/12)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 10/16)
vs. Jason Kincaid (SFCW, 10/22)

“I’ve been watching Fred since his backyard wrestling days, long before he turned to pro wrestling. Slowly but surely over the years he’s developed into a fantastic wrestler, melding together mindsets and elements from all corners of the Earth. In 2016, a time in which wrestling became more and more samey and routine, everything clicked for Fred Yehi, and he became a completely unique performer in pro wrestling with a style all his own. You’re not going to find a wrestler out there quite like him, and you’ll be hard pressed to find one smarter.” Brock!

“Anyway, one of the most exciting and unique indie guys of recent years, Yehi’s floor this year has been extremely high. He hasn’t had a bad match yet in Evolve, and is over huge because of his work and personality in-ring. He was able to parlay that overness into an FIP title run that’s been a little overlooked considering how beloved Yehi is, but has delivered a lot of great stuff. Plus, he has tons of great odds and ends throughout the year, the Corino match being the most obvious example.

I imagine some will be put off by a perceived lack of volume, but I can’t see him being out of my top tier of guys. I could go as high as 5 if he finishes strong.”

“Not sure there was a wrestler I enjoyed more on a regular basis than Fred Yehi. He can get me into every one of his matches with one simple movement. The Colby Corino match was amazing to watch considering Colby is so green. Probably Top 10 for me.”

“Would probably be in my top 5 if the opportunities had presented themselves a bit better in the second half of the year, and it’s not impossible he will end there anyhow. Yehi is both the most unique and logical wrestler in the business. The normal rules of wrestling physics don’t apply to Fred which is awesome because you get all sorts of fresh touches on simple things that actually enhance the believability of a match rather than detract from it. Everything from the way he runs the ropes, his changing of direction on a simple spot to set up a cut off, the stomps and the punches as obvious but unorthodox counters or attacks in simple situations just work perfectly. The fact the he is also a legitimately excellent grappler, has some of the best suplexes and throws in the business, and throws meaty forearms only serves to make the other stuff stand out even more. He’s one of the few guys who we have footage of working everything from shindies to literal trainees to the top guys in wrestling and his quality never seems to wane regardless of setting. You could argue that he’s missing that true blowaway MOTYC, but I feel like he has a plethra of 4ish star matches so it sort of offsets that and some of his best stuff is legit great (Hero match, Colby match, tag match from FIP, TJP CWC qualifier, et). I also think he’s hands down the best of the grappling heavy guys at working sprints as evidenced by his stuff in WWA4 and the awesome match he had with Matt Riddle which is a legit Hoot of The Year contender. Just a great wrestler.”

“The more I think about it, he’s a 20-25 guy for me. What a year this kid has had. Stared the year off hot with the Style Battle, had a big Wrestlemania Weekend with Hero/Scurll/Gulak and the Hero match is one of the best EVOLVE matches all year, and since then has tore it up with TJP, Jigsaw, and now ZSJ (very excited to eventually watch that).

He’s so unique. I think he stands out on the EVOLVE shows more than anyone besides Riddle. He lacks matches that I feel are truly great (4 stars) to consider him for a Top 10 spot, but he’s been amazingly consistent all year.”

“Heres hoping the FIP archive on FloSlam is up to date by the time we turn in the ballot as I can then catch Yehi’s latest stuff there. Overall, he has had a really strong year. I do wish he did have that one true MOTYC to be in top 10 contention but I appreciate his ability to have a believable and logical match whether working as a perennial underdog in EVOLVE to the champ in FIP to a heel bully character on some indy spot show in Georgia or Tennessee. He really seems to put a good bit of thought into his matches and that is reflected in the end result.”

“I’ve got Fred at #10 right now. And the new found exposure with the EVOLVE office should help him out a ton this year and also moving forward. Just great in the ring. Would strongly recommend the match with ZSJ from the last EVOLVE show.

Also, one of the genuinely nicest guys I’ve ever met in wrestling. He’s just a swell gentleman.”

  1. Scott Dawson (29 ballots, 2278 points)[HIGHEST RANKED 29 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Matt Rogers & Devon Hales (4)

Recommended Matches:
w/Dash Wilder vs. Chad Gable & Jason Jordan (NXT, 4/1)
w/Dash Wilder vs. Jeff Parker & Matt Lee (NXT, 4/2)
w/Dash Wilder vs. Chad Gable & Jason Jordan (NXT, 6/8)
w/Dash Wilder vs. Chad Gable & Jason Jordan (NXT, 6/24)
w/Dash Wilder vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (NXT, 8/20)
w/Dash Wilder vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (NXT, 11/19)

“It’s funny that people actually consider the Revival some sort of throwback team, as I’d say they have more in common with the Young Bucks than Tully and Arn. One way that they are pretty old school, though, and especially Dawson in particular, is in making every movement in the ring the most effective it can be. Whether he’s mugging for the camera, setting up for the next spot, or stooging around for his opponents, there are few people in WWE who understand how to minimize their effort while maximizing results better than Dawson.” Brock!

“The Revival would be very high on my list, with dawson just beating out Wilder by 1 spot. An incredible year by them, they’ve helped turn nxt tag team title matches from something I was never interested in into the most anticipated part of any Takeover show.”

  1. Trevor Lee (28 ballots, 2418 points)

High Voter: Timothy Robert Buechner (1)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (PWG, 2/12)
vs. Roy Wilkins (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 2/27)
vs. Chuck Taylor (PWG, 3/4)
vs. Drew Galloway (PWG, 3/5)
w/Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay & Mike Bailey (wXw, 3/13)
vs. Jesse Adler (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 3/26)
vs. Chris Hero (AAW, 4/9)
vs. Lance Lude (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 4/16)
vs. Cedric Alexander (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 4/30)
w/Chet Sterling vs. Arik Royal & Ray Kandrack (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 5/14)
vs. Andrew Everett (PWG, 5/20)
vs. Matt Riddle (EVOLVE, 6/11)
vs. DJ Z vs. Eddie Edwards vs. Andrew Everett (TNA, 6/12)
vs. Andrew Everett (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 6/18)
vs. Rob McBride (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 7/9)
w/ Andrew Everett vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (AAW, 7/23)
vs. John Skyler (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 8/27)
vs. Kamaitachi (PWG, 9/3)
vs. Joshua Cutshall (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 9/10)
w/Andrew Everett & Jack Evans vs. Moose, AR Fox & Dezmond Xavier (AAW, 9/16)
vs. Arik Royal (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 10/1)
vs. DJ Z (TNA, 10/2)
vs. Tripp Cassidy (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 12/10)
vs. Brad Attitude (CWF Mid-Atlantic, 12/30)

“Trevor is an odd case. A regular in CWF Mid-Atlantic, PWG, AAW, and TNA, he feels like four very different wrestlers in all of those promotions. Still, regardless of whether he’s dancing around to Taylor Swift, holding down a light heavyweight division, or having mega-long matches in the best-booked promotion in the world, he’s able to bring a certain consistency of quality to nearly everything he does, highlighted by a number of the best matches of the year. Even if he had stopped wrestling after the Wilkins match in February, I might have ranked him in my top 20.”Brock!

“The best title reign in years? Check
Ability to work a variety of styles? Check
Ability to work a variety of roles? Check

There isn’t anything Trevor Lee can’t do at this point which is incredible to say for someone so young. From matches in his home promotion of CWF against Andrew Everett, Roy Wilkins, Jesse Adler, Arik Royal, Cedric Alexander, Joshua Cutshall, and John Skyle, his title reign has been extraordinaryr. In PWG with Zack Sabre Jr, Kamaitachi, Jeff Cobb, and Drew Galloway doing fun stuff. Doing good things in AAW including a killer match with Chris Hero. Even in TNA where he’s used as an undercard guy in the X-Division he’s having consistently fun TV matches with a DJ Z.”

“Trevor is a no-brainer for my top 5. His work in CWF-MA alone propels him to that level for me. Not to mention that I love his comedy stuff in AAW when he tags with Lee, as well as his banger there with Hero. Still need to see more of his PWG work this year though.”

“Trevor Lee is a top 5. He feels like a modern day Ricky Steamboat , or if Ricky Steamboat was working CWF-Mid Atlantic right now. To me he’s elevated the CWF-Midatlantic title to really mean something. He’s the best in ring champion in the world. I think when it comes to ring work may be the best champion in the world today.”

“He’s elevated the entire promotion[CWF Mid-Atlantic]as far as I’m concerned. Definitely in the discussion for a top 5 spot for me, I think he’s done just enough in other promotions (EVOLVE, PWG and a fantastic 16 Carat weekend) to justify it too.”

“Currently my #5. I always thought he was good in PWG, but after discovering his work in CWF this year I have been blown away by his in ring ability. Truly one of the best in the world right now.”

  1. Zack Sabre Jr. (31 ballots, 2955 points)[HIGHEST RANKED WRESTLER WITHOUT A #1 VOTE]

High Voter: Heikki Oinonen, Quentin Moody, Chad Campbell, John L. Pingel III & Scott C (2)

Recommended Matches:
vs. AJ Styles (RPW, 1/16)
w/Sami Callihan vs. Chris Hero & Tommy End (EVOLVE, 1/22)
vs. Chris Hero (Limitless Wrestling, 1/30)
vs. Brian Fury (Beyond Wrestling, 1/31)
vs. Timothy Thatcher (wXw, 2/6)
vs. Will Ospreay (RPW, 2/7)
vs. Trevor Lee (PWG, 2/12)
vs. Adam Cole (PWG, 3/4)
vs. Roderick Strong (PWG, 3/5)
vs. David Starr (wXw, 3/10)
vs. Big Daddy Walter (wXw, 3/11)
vs. Will Ospreay (wXw, 3/13)
vs. Johnny Gargano (EVOLVE, 3/19)
vs. Drew Gulak (EVOLVE, 3/20)
w/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Nathan Cruz & El Ligero (PROGRESS, 3/27)
vs. Will Ospreay (EVOLVE, 4/1)
w/Chris Hero & Brian Cage vs. Ricochet, Rey Mysterio & Matt Sydal (WrestleCon, 4/2)
vs. Chris Hero (WWN, 4/2)
vs. Trent Seven (FCP, 4/15)
w/Marty Scurll vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet (RPW, 4/16)
vs. Michael Elgin (RPW, 4/17)
vs. Morgan Webster (PROGRESS, 4/24)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE, 5/6)
vs. Johnny Gargano (AAW, 6/17)
vs. Cedric Alexander (PWX, 6/18)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (Beyond Wrestling, 6/26)
vs. Mike Bird (ATTACK!, 7/1)
vs. Travis Banks (FCP, 7/8)
vs. Drew Gulak (CWC, 7/14)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (Beyond Wrestling, 7/17)
vs. Cedric Alexander (AAW, 7/23)
vs. Kyle O’Reilly (PWG, 7/29)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (Beyond Wrestling, 7/31)
vs. Pete Dunne (OTT, 8/6)
vs. Jeff Cobb (RPW, 8/12)
w/Marty Scurll vs. Michael Dante & Tommy End (wXw, 8/13)
vs. Will Ospreay (PROGRESS, 8/14)
vs. DUSTIN (CHIKARA, 8/21)
vs. Noam Dar (CWC, 8/26)
vs. Tommy End (PWG, 9/2)
vs. Will Ospreay (PWG, 9/4)
vs. Sammy Guevara (VIP, 9/9)
vs. Johnny Gargano (EVOLVE, 9/10)
vs. Gran Metalik (CWC, 9/14)
vs. Chris Hero (wXw, 9/29)
w/Marty Scurll vs. Chris Hero & JT Dunn (wXw, 10/1)
w/Marty Scurll vs. David Starr & Shane Strickland (wXw, 10/2)
vs. ACH (AAW, 10/8)
vs. Chris Hero (AAW, 10/8)
vs. Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 10/15)
vs. Fred Yehi (EVOLVE, 10/16)
vs. Ken Broadway (HOG, 10/21)
vs. Mustafa Ali (AAW, 11/4)
vs. Juan Francisco de Coronado (CHIKARA, 11/5)
vs. Keith Lee (Beyond Wrestling, 11/6)
vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW & RPW, 11/10)
vs. Drew Gulak (EVOLVE, 11/13)
vs. Anthony Henry (PWX, 11/20)
vs. Trent Baretta (AAW, 11/26)
vs. Marq Quen (HOG, 12/3)

“If you know me, you’re probably aware of my love/hate relationship with Zack. I’m not sure if there’s a more inconsistent wrestler in the world outside of maybe Adam Cole, and even then Cole’s highs and lows aren’t as disparate. Still, even if I find him to be overpushed and overrated, and even if I find his “smart” work to be too obvious for my taste, he’s occasionally absolutely brilliant, which made for some of my favorite matches of 2016, and that’s hard to forget.” Brock!

“The man that’s currently sitting atop my WDKW100 list. I’m not going to act like Zack doesn’t faults, he’s had a few matches this year I haven’t liked at all. But his output of greatness still severely outweighs that and he’s also become one of my favorite CHARACTERS in wrestling today which is something I never expected to say. A ridiculous amount of great singles match and has had a very sneaky output when it comes to tag team work. The EVOLVE 53 tag match and the wXw tag league finals are two of my favorite tag team matches of the year. I’ll have more in-depth and cohesive thoughts on Zack in an article I plan on having out in the next couple of weeks.”

“He still has the highest number of ****+ matches on my list. I have enjoyed seeing him work a variety of areas and promotions and do think his style of match has worked for the most part in those environments.”

“One of the few much lauded indie guys I’ll be dramatically lower on than most. I was higher on him than many last year, so I appreciate his style, and I think he’s super talented. I just haven’t seen many matches from this year I loved him in.

That being said, I haven’t seen some of his most hyped stuff, and I’m big on high points. But right now, I think he’ll just crack my top 40.”

“I feel like you’d have to try awful hard not to rate him. Seriously, a 100 guys better than Zack this year? I mean, the two Hero matches from EVOLVE this year (well, one from the WWN Supershow) have to be good enough that you see that he’s better than Average Joe. I forget what European stuff you’ve watched this year, if any, but you should go out of your way to watch ZSJ vs. Walter from Night 1 of the 16 Carat.

I know we all have style preferences, and Zack isn’t one of your guys (there’s nothing wrong with that), but I would scoff at the idea of him not being on your list. That’s just silly. He’s had too high of an output this year to not include in a legitimate capacity and not an eye roll “Jumbo vote”. Zack’s better than that.”

“Zack will be on my list. Likely the back half but who knows as I haven’t drafted the thing out at all. Zack has quite a few good matches of course but it is his mannerisms that often put me off from viewing some of his bouts as great. That goes for both Hero matches. His attempt at showing Bryan Danielson-esque fire comes off as someone mimicking a highly revered figure which on paper he shows a lot of similarities to but in practice doesn’t quite match. That isn’t a quality comment on him vs. Danielson but more that if I’m describing how they wrestle it is similar but when I watch a match the comparison falls a little flat.”

“He’s a guy I really like. See him as a top 10 guy in my head. I love him as kinda like a Evolved NWA Touring Champ. I’ve seen variations of this vs Sammy Guervara, vs Cedric Alexander vs Silas Young, vs Michael Elgin. He can be either Dory Jr. or Jack Brisco depending on the situation.”

“The Drew Gulak and Keith Lee matches have me see him in a bit of a different light. I still think his mannerisms are visually displeasing at times but when he can scale them down, which he does really well against Gulak, the guy looks like the stud I’m told he is. I think Gulak was the better wrestler which sort of continues reinforcing my own narrative but at this point I’m conceding that he is far behind. I’ve reached the point where if he can at least stay somewhat at the same speed as someone like Gulak and Lee at their matches then that deserves to be credited. Maybe not a top 10 guy but can see the potential of top 20 or 30 if he has less his “touring champ” matches as shoe pointed to.”

  1. Matt Riddle (32 ballots, 3140 points)[WRESTLER ON MOST BALLOTS]

High Voter: SLL & Devon Hales (1)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 1/24)

vs. Mike Bailey (Beyond Wrestling, 2/28)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE, 3/20)
vs. Cedric Alexander (EVOLVE, 6/10)
vs. Trevor Lee (EVOLVE, 6/11)
vs. Roderick Strong (EVOLVE, 7/16)
vs. Tommaso Ciampa (Beyond Wrestling, 7/17)
vs. John Silver (Beyond Wrestling, 7/31)
vs. Corey Hollis (SCI, 8/5)
vs. Jimmy Rave (SCI, 8/6)
vs. Timothy Thatcher (EVOLVE, 8/19)
vs. Tommy End (EVOLVE, 8/20)
vs. Kyle O’Reilly (PWG, 9/3)
w/Pete Dunne, Sami Callihan, Brian Kendrick & Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tommy End, Cedric Alexander, Jeff Cobb & Chuck Taylor (PWG, 9/4)
vs. TJ Perkins (EVOLVE, 9/11)
vs. Anthony Henry (PWX, 9/17)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE, 10/16)
vs. Chris Hero (EVOLVE, 11/13)
vs. Will Ospreay (PROGRESS, 11/27)
vs. Pete Dunne vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Sebastian vs. TK Cooper vs. Travis Banks vs. Trent Seven (PROGRESS, 11/27)
w/Jeff Cobb vs. The Young Bucks (PWG, 12/16)

“The best thing I can say about Riddle is that he’s charming; his laid back weed bro demeanor is infectious, extending to his in-ring work as well. Even if he still very much feels like a fanboy two years into the business, his particular brand of strikes-and-submission-based wrestling is very fun to watch and helped to freshen up the stale EVOLVE roster in 2016.” Brock!

“Quite possibly the greatest rookie in the history of professional wrestling. It’s a bold claim but the resume backs it up. Matches with Chris Hero, Jimmy Rave, Trevor Lee, TJP, Cedric Alexander, Roderick Strong, Anthony Henry, Tommy End, Timothy Thatcher and the list goes on and on. Also has quickly become a strong contender for best bumper in wrestling.”

“Matt Riddle at worst is #5, can see him in the Top 3 and has a real shot at my #1. His work has just been incredible this year. His non EVOLVE work has been killer, had a great 6 man tag Monster’s Ball match in Monster Factory, killed it in the SCI vs Hollis & Rave, Beyond matches vs Silver and O’Neil have been super solid. Will land extremely high on my ballot”

“He’s currently at my #1 spot and that’s still with a few blind spots as I haven’t watched his Monster Factory, AAW, or PWG matches yet. Plus, there’s still four EVOLVE shows I haven’t seen this year.”

“Top five contender but I feel dirty agreeing with Tanner AND Fray about anything.

The guy is a natural. He has an uncanny ability to look like a badass, to work well underneath and become one of the most over faces in a foreign environment, to mix up the wrestling and headdrops in a believable manner that really emphasizes the impact and the Monster Factor stuff shows some brawling chops as well. He is amazing and the person I am most excited to see in the next five years.”

“I’m a terrible person who keeps no record of what he watches, which makes lists like this a very daunting task but there’s no way Riddle is anywhere below #5 for me.”

“Top 5, maybe Top 3. From a pure wrestling standpoint, only AJ can touch him as far as great stuff with different types of wrestlers, and I think Riddle has him beat there.”

“I believe Riddle is a case where the more matches of his you watch, the more you get why people love him so much. It’s because you eventually find out he’s good at everything. Also, he might already be the best ever at making epics out of 12 minutes or less matches. Badly want to see him in a promotion that has him doing TV matches constantly. Probably no. 3 for me behind Hero and Styles.”

  1. AJ Styles (31 ballots, 3382 points)

High Voter: Cam Donahue, Matt Rogers, Skylar, Another Spammer, Mayafacetico, Ed Mills, Scott C, Charles Dulaney & Tim Evans (1)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW, 1/4)

w/Kenny Omega vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI (NJPW, 1/5)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (RPW, 1/16)
vs. The Miz (WWE, 2/2)
vs. Corey Hollis (GPW, 2/5)
vs. Chris Jericho (WWE, 2/9)
w/Chris Jericho vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston (WWE, 3/7)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 3/12)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 3/21)
vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (WWE, 3/27)
vs. Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 4/4)
vs. Sami Zayn (WWE, 4/11)
vs. The Miz (WWE, 4/19)
vs. Sheamus (WWE, 4/25)
vs. Roman Reigns (WWE, 5/1)
w/Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. Roman Reigns & The Usos (WWE, 5/2)
vs. Roman Reigns (WWE, 5/22)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 5/23)
vs. Kofi Kingston (WWE, 5/31)
vs. Xavier Woods (WWE, 6/14)
vs. John Cena (WWE, 6/19)
vs. John Cena (WWE, 7/16)
vs. Neville (WWE, 7/23)
vs. John Cena (WWE, 8/21)
vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE, 8/23)
vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE, 9/11)
vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena (WWE, 10/9)
vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE, 11/1)
w/Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton & Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (WWE, 11/20)
vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE, 12/4)
vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (WWE, 12/27)

“Unless some miracle of mathematics happens, Styles will probably make #1 on this list by a wide margin. I get that, to some degree. His particular brand of mega-athletic highspots was spectacular in 2016, literally breathtaking at some points. But aside from that, his matches almost always leave me cold. I don’t find him to be an effective heel outside of his matches with one of the best babyfaces of all time, and the rest of his matches lack the sort of emotion or realism that I look for in wrestling. His matches make me raise my eyebrows but they don’t make me FEEL, if that makes sense. Still, with a slew of good matches against John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose, as well as the best NJPW match of the year, it’s hard to leave him off my list.” Brock!

“AJ Styles has had another WOTYC type year having good-great matches with Zack Sabre Jr., Shinsuke Nakamura, Chris Jericho, Sheamus, Sami Zayn, Neville, Heath Slater, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, Corey Hollis, James Ellsworth, as well as BIG TIME bouts vs. Roman Reigns, and vs. John Cena (both provide resume of MOTYCs). He’s also had a TV MOTYC vs. New Day as well as providing a solid overall Y2AJ run, plus teaming with The Club and a few assortments throughout the year. Also was involved in a very good triple threat vs. John Cena and Dean Ambrose.”

“#1 contender. I think it is easy to say this is one of AJ Styles best years in ring for an already great career. Couple that with him really being the guy in WWE for most of it and that is an amazing feat at someone his age. I was thinking about it from an historical perspective as to who has been able to match that in ring sucess with the box office success at over 39 and came up with a limited list of Tenryu in 1992-1993 (WAR vs. NJ feud), Flair in 1989, Bock in 1983, and maybe Hansen in 1993 (box office is kind of debatable here since four pillars were established here). That is super impressive feat for AJ.”

“I agree with Soup as he’s my number one guy right now. I’m impressed that he’s applied that aura of touring world champ that he had when was IWGP champ and made it this year as WWE Champion.”

“strong #1 contender, just excels whatever environment he’s thrown into be it the big New Japan match, the big WWE ppv match, the 10 minute TV match and most recently the WWE comedy matches against James Ellsworth. I enjoyed him as a babyface, but since the heel turn he’s gone to the next level.”

“#1. I have to talk myself out of him at #1 which just doesn’t happen considering what he’s done. No chance.”

“Came in as one of my four number one contenders with Trevor Lee, Riddle, and Hero. Right now, he’s in the top spot. It speaks to his mastery of the form that you can take away his ability to be a proven draw at all levels, in any region he wants, take away the development and layers of his character he’s shown, take away his ability in segments and promos to get a program over on national TV, and he is still an easy number one for many people here.

Sometimes it feels like his matches have a *** floor. He dragged Jericho to solid singles matches, he gave Reigns his best moments of the year, he delivered in tons of tags, whether with The Club or Jericho. He’s still in the midst of a great feud with Ambrose, and he is currently a big part of a jobber becoming a TV mainstay.

All of that and he still has the Cena feud and Nakamura match to his name. Styles won’t have the longevity or impact of Flair or Funk, he won’t draw like Cena, he’s not a once in a century technical talent like Danielson, and he still finds it hard to get boos as a heel. Despite all that, he is the best wrestler on the planet, and after this year, he should put any doubts about his place as a pantheon all time guy to rest, in-ring or otherwise.”

“Number 1 on my ballot. Though the Jericho feud could have seriously derailed his momentum, he bounced back in spectacular fashion. The Reigns and Cena feuds have been two of the best this year, and the matches themselves were great. Not only has he had at least 3 match of the year candidates (Nakamura, Reigns II, Cena I), but he’s had good matches with pretty much everyone he’s been paired up with such as Owens, Sheamus, Miz, and Ambrose. He played resilient babyface well early in his WWE career but has really taken off as the egotistical heel who knows he’s the best thing around. A.J. has had the best year of any wrestler and it’s not even close.”

“AJ will be in my top 3. He’s had a career year. What makes AJ’s year so impressive is the variety of settings & different types of matches he’s worked & delivered in.

1. Big time matches against big time workers in the biggest wrestling companies in the world – vs Nakamura at WK, vs Cena at MITB & Summerslam, vs Reigns Payback & ER
2. Consistently strong weekly TV performances – vs Jericho Feb SD, vs Xavier Woods June SD, vs Jimmy Uso June SD, vs Sheamus 4/25 Raw, vs The Miz Feb & April TV matches, vs Kevin Owens 5/23 Raw, vs Ziggler Aug SD
3 .Ability to work good tag or trios matches – Club vs Bloodline tags in May, w/Karl Anderson vs Enzo/Cass July SD, w/Jericho vs New Day 3/7 Raw
4. Consistently work entertaining & strong house show matches – vs Kevin Owens at MSG in March, vs Cena in July & August (MSG, Japan, Australia), vs Tyler Breeze Feb
5. Good, solid performances on the independent scene around the world – vs ZSJ UK, vs Rey UK, vs Corey Hollis Feb in GA, w/Luke Gallows vs Jimmy Rave & Sal Rinauro in GA
6. Work mid-card feuds with older/arguably limited workers – Jericho feud
7. Title matches as the face of a brand in the biggest company in the world – Vs Ambrose Backlash, vs Ambrose & Cena No Mercy, vs Ambrose TLC, vs Ziggler & Corbin 12/27 SD
8. Make a comedy feud entertaining – vs Ellsworth in Fall on SDHe’s shown incredible range. All of those matches I listed don’t include many other gems scattered throughout the year. Mechanically, his offense is as exciting as ever. Not to mention he has amazing variety on offense. He works snug. He’s one of the greatest bumpers of all time & continues to show that. He knows how to pace his matches better than anyone in the WWE. He understands how to build his matches into their bigger moments smoothly with great transitions as shown in the Reigns & Ambrose feuds. He can work face or heel very well. He can work straight matches, Clash of the Titans matches, gimmick matches, brawls, & tags. He’s not the brightest seller but he does that very well too & I can hardly remember a moment where I thought he abandoned that in any of his performances this year. And he can cut a damn good promo when asked to. Just a master year for one this generation’s greatest professional wrestlers. He really shouldn’t fall out of most people’s Top 10 lists.”
  1. Chris Hero (31 ballots, 3634 points)[HIGHEST RANKED 31 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Heikki Oinonen, Steven Graham, Quentin Moody, Fray, VilinskiKonjic, Chad Campbell, John L. Pingel III, Brock Jahnke, Tanner, Andrew Shillinglaw, Gagne West, Francis Adu & Dylan Hales (1)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Roderick Strong (PWG, 1/2)
w/Tommy End vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 1/22)
w/Tommy End vs. Rocky Romero & Beretta (EVOLVE, 1/24)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Limtless Wrestling, 1/30)
vs. Trent Baretta (PWG, 2/12)
vs. JoJo Bravo (SLA, 2/14)
w/Drew Gulak vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (AAW, 2/19)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (Beyond Wrestling, 2/28)
vs. Evil Uno (PWG, 3/4)
w/ JT Dunn vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet (PWG, 3/5)
vs. Cedric Alexander (PWX, 3/13)
vs. Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 3/19)
vs. Matt Riddle (EVOLVE, 3/20)
w/Brian Cage & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ricochet, Matt Sydal & Rey Mysterio (WrestleCon, 4/2)
vs. Fred Yehi (EVOLVE, 4/2)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (WWN, 4/2)
vs. Trevor Lee (AAW, 4/9)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (EVOLVE, 5/6)
vs. Jeff Cobb (PWG, 5/20)
vs. Mark Andrews (PROGRESS, 5/29)
vs. Tommy End (PROGRESS,5/30)
vs. Big Daddy Walter (PROGRESS, 5/30)
vs. Timothy Thatcher (EVOLVE, 6/10)
vs. Marty Scurll (PROGRESS, 6/19)
w/JT Dunn vs. The Young Bucks (PWG, 7/29)
vs. Kimber Lee (Beyond Wrestling, 7/31)
vs. Kyle Matthews (SCI, 8/5)
vs. Chip Day (SCI, 8/6)
vs. Gunner Miller vs. Anthony Henry vs. Jimmy Rave (SCI, 8/6)
vs. Marty Scurll (RPW, 8/12)
vs. Pete Dunne (SWE, 8/13)
vs. Jushin Thunder Liger (PWG, 9/2)
w/Tommy End vs. Fenix & Pentagon Jr. (PWG, 9/3)
vs. Fenix (AAW, 9/16)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (wXw, 9/29)
w/JT Dunn vs. Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr. (wXw, 10/1)
w/JT Dunn vs. Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani (wXw, 10/2)
vs. Kongo Kong (AAW, 10/7)
vs. Mustafa Ali (AAW, 10/8)
vs. Mat Fitchett (AAW, 10/8)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (AAW, 10/8)
vs. Drew Gulak (EVOLVE, 10/15)
vs. Matt Riddle (EVOLVE, 10/16)
vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW & RPW, 11/10)
vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW & RPW, 11/11)
vs. Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 11/12)
vs. Matt Riddle (EVOLVE, 11/13)
vs. Dick Togo (EVOLVE, 12/10)
vs. John Silver (Beyond Wrestling, 12/11)
vs. ACH (WrestleCircus, 12/17)
vs. Keith Lee (Beyond Wrestling, 12/29)

“Mathematically, there’s no way Hero’s not on the top of my list. No one had more matches in 2016 that I considered good to great, and while that alone doesn’t always equate to greatness, the way he made me feel in most of those matches certainly does. He mainly sticks to a predictable formula, but it works for him and the circles that he runs in. There are scant few wrestlers in the world who have a better grasp on subtlety, emotion, and elevating opponents, and none of them had the combination of all three like Hero did.” Brock!

“Chris Hero ain’t nothin to mess with, having a who’s who of great matches. His matches for RevPro, Evolve, Progress, PWG, AAW and various other indies have always been worth checking out. His matches in the UK being the ones I most remember. The best thing about Hero is his variety, he can do good Lucha things against Pentagon Jr, can be an evil bully against Mandrews, the Hero of the match against Scurll ect. Hero is one of the goat indie workers, and I hope he becomes a big deal in NXT.” Parm!

“One of the best independent wrestlers to ever live and having arguably his best year to date, Chris Hero has a strong chance to finish at number 1. From PWG to EVOLVE to AAW to Beyond to PROGRESS and everywhere in between, Hero has had great matches with almost anyone you can think of including the likes of Fred Yehi, Zack Sabre Jr, Mark Andrews, Matt Riddle, Timothy Thatcher, Trent? and even Jushin Thunder Liger. Hero is a master at all things wrestling and has worked in a variety of roles. Singles wrestler, tag team guy, big bully heel, believable babyface, and has been incredibly adaptable when working to get the most out of who he’s working with.”

“You’d have to consider him to be a Top 10 guy for getting a good match out of Matt Tremont.

Add in everything else he’s done – the multiple great matches with ZSJ, the early MOTYC at EVOLVE 53, the beating he put on Fred Yehi in Texas, the battle he fought with Matt Riddle, his PROGRESS appearances, his AAW work (the complete MVP for them this year), and all that he did during BOLA weekend. I will be shocked if I end up voting for someone other than Hero.

I currently have 23 (TWENTY-THREE) four star Hero matches this year and that’s over 9 promotions. Most of those are in EVOLVE, but add in SCI, IWA-MS, PROGRESS, wXw, etc. It’s a beautiful array of diversity.

Only two people with a chance of beating him are Shingo and Ospreay, and I don’t see that happening.”

“Pretty easy lock for my top 5. Hero has shown some great variety and worked wonderfully in PROGRESS, AAW, PWG, EVOLVE, SCI this year.”

“I could put Hero anywhere from 1 to 3. He’s been pretty amazing this year. He has a presence & legitimacy that almost no one else has in indie wrestling. He’s great in every match I’ve seen from him this year. I will say sometimes he can fall into excess from time to time especially in tag matches that go too long. The quantity of good to great matches he has this year is unmatched. No one has the quantity he has this year. Match that with his intensity, the way he carries himself, how he puts matches together, who he’s worked with, & his stellar striking it’s hard to imagine him falling below the number 3 spot this year. He’s just that good in 2016.”

“Hero is the guy.”

“The man. I would argue only A.J. had a better year than Hero.”

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