WWW Editorials

WDKW100 (30-21)

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.

Imagine keeping up with the WDKW100 to this point. The list has peaked already. Now we just keep winding down to see where the BIG GUNS (not the ones from AJPW) land. Lucha pretty much comes off the board here. I nearly cried. The last true Cinderella goes as well. What a hoot. We are coming close to the end of the list though. So that’s something. Something good.

  1. Tetsuya Naito (23 ballots, 1549 points)[HIGHEST RANKED 23 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Scott C (3)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW, 3/4)
vs. Hirooki Goto (NJPW, 3/12)
vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW, 4/10)
vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW, 5/3)
vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW, 6/19)
w/BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI (NJPW, 7/3)
vs. Yuji Nagata (NJPW, 7/22)
vs. Michael Elgin (NJPW, 7/24)
vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (NJPW, 8/4)
vs. EVIL (NJPW, 8/7)
vs. YOSHI-HASHI (NJPW, 8/10)
vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW, 8/13)
vs. Michael Elgin (NJPW, 9/25)
w/Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA & Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW, 12/16)

“Possibly a lock for my top 10. Naito is someone who has increased the workload even more so this time around, while his gimmick still manages to be him being lazy. I still need that hilarious conflict that did him GOOD to set in. Generally in a lot of great multi-mans no matter who/what. He has two of my highest rated matches of the year vs. Kenny Omega (which is one of the best matches I’ve ever seen as well as #1 on my ranking) and Michael Elgin. His G1 run was quite spectaclar beyond Omega having good-great matches with EVIL. Nakajima, Shibata, Nagata, Elgin, YOSHI-HASHI. His New Japan Cup run was under valued in the sense he had a good match vs. YOSHI-HASHI, one of the best short matches of the year vs. Toru Yano, had a WAR with Ishii (which would again happen), and a great final vs. Goto. It’s been a helluva year and when you add on misc. matches and even some ROH work, it’s been the best year of his career by far.”

“Yeah Naito is gonna do pretty well for me. Really liked both the Ishii matches from this year, liked the Okada match from Invasion Attack a lot, G1 he did a lot of great stuff including my MOTY vs Omega. The LIJ tags also help because like you said those matches are always solid and Naito surprisingly works hard in them despite the “lazy” gimmick. He’s really found his groove this year in the ring.”

“I’m not a fan of New Japan’s main event style, so his chances to be high on my list are practically nonexistent, but he will be on the bottom half of it because I enjoyed his other work, specially the tags, the Ishii match in May and the Yoshi-Hashi carryjob.”

“I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to other promotions as right now I only have time to watch WWE, RoH, and NJPW (Which I’m starting to fall behind on) consistently.

That said, Naito is my favorite of the year at this moment. Both his matches with Ishii, Okada, Elgin, YOSHI-HASHI, and Goto have been in the four-star range for me, or really close. On top of that are his matches with Shibata, Lethal, Omega, Nakajima, several LiDJ multi-man matches, and a really fun four-way tag match at Death Before Dishonor. He’s hardly disappointed and has been very consistently great this whole year. I’m glad he’s also found a way to work his character into his matches without going overboard, as he had a tendency of doing that early into the new gimmick.”

“I’m on like day 5 or 6 of the G1 and I’m still waiting on that WOW performance from Naito that makes him the “Wrestler of the Year” type of performer that he’s going to be pushed as come WON Awards time.

2015 Naito was such a breath of fresh air. By the time I got to Wrestle Kingdom, I grew tired of the act with constant interference. And honestly, he comes off lazy sometimes. Hated the hyped Okada matches. I don’t know. Something is off this year. And that seems to be the case with a lot of NJPW main event types that I loved last year.”

“Yeah, definitely one of my favorite acts from New Japan this year. I really enjoyed his NJC match against Ishii from 3/4, loved the G1 match against Shibata from 7/30, the Omega/Naito G1 match was over-the-top but highly entertaining and I thought the Elgin match from 9/30 was fun. Good incorporation of the limb work and using the weak spots to get out of scary situations. He’ll probably place pretty high.”

“Naito has had a tremendous year. His character work as the iconoclast who treats the title like it’s a plaything and rages against the NJPW machine while cheating in almost every match has been tremendous. His in-ring has also been of very high quality, whether it was the Okada matches, his G-1 matches with Shibata and Elgin, or the absolute classic with Omega. Why Gedo took the title off of him so soon instead of strapping the rocket to his back is beyond me. This guy is a bonafide star and will most likely make my top 10.”

“Imagine a Japanese Stone Cold, but more chill. That’s Naito, who is so over his mere presence has made Bushi, Evil and Sanada over in NJPW just by association, and is the highlight of Los Ingobernables, both for The Mexico and Japan versions.”

“Prior to 2016, I hate Naito. Absolutely hated him. I guess that’s the highest praise I can give him: he was able to turn my opinion of him around, to the point where I consider him the highlight of NJPW these days and one of the best wrestlers in all of Japan. I’m in the minority that thinks he didn’t quite have some of the best matches of the year, but time and again I found myself thinking that he certainly had the best match of the night in a promotion of which I increasingly grow weary.” Brock!

  1. Dragon Lee (26 ballots, 1550 points)

High Voter: Steven Graham (4)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Virus (CMLL & NJPW, 1/23)
vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL & NJPW, 1/24)
w/Stuka Jr. & Volador Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero, Kamaitachi & Negro Casas (CMLL, 2/19)
vs. Xtreme Tiger (LLE, 2/21)
vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL, 3/4)
vs. Rey Horus – Lucha Memes (3/6)
w/Mascara Dorada, Mistico & Valiente vs. Fujin, Raijin, Kamaitachi & Okumura (CMLL, 3/18)
vs. El Barbaro Cavernario vs. Guerrero Maya Jr. vs. La Mascara vs. Mephisto vs. Mistico vs. Ripper vs. The Panther vs. Titan vs. Triton vs. Virus vs. Volador Jr. (CMLL, 7/15)
vs. Flamita (LLE, 8/21)
vs. La Mascara (CMLL, 9/2)
vs. La Mascara (CMLL, 9/5)
vs. Dragon Rojo Jr. vs. El Barbaro Cavernario vs. Euforia vs. La Mascara vs. Mascara Dorada vs. Maximo Sexy vs. Mephisto vs. Mistico vs. Negro Casas vs. Valiente vs. Volador Jr. (CMLL, 9/23)
vs. El Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Extreme Tiger vs. Laredo Kid vs. Mr. 450 vs. Willie Mack (The Crash, 9/24)
vs. Kamaitachi (ROH, 9/30)
w/Mistico & Rush vs. Euforia, Mephisto & Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL, 10/7)
w/Guerrero Maya Jr. & Mascara Dorada vs. Euforia, Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja (CMLL, 10/14)
w/Angel de Oro & Volador Jr vs. Barbaro Cavernario, Felino & Negro Casas (CMLL, 11/18)
vs. Polvora (CMLL, 11/21)
vs. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll (ROH, 12/2)
vs. Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA (ROH, 12/4)

“The three matches with Kamaitachi this year already made Dragon Lee worth mentioning as a candidate, but add on his stuff with Rey Horus, Virus, and La Mascara and the case gets even stronger. Another guy that also steals the show whenever he’s in a trios match.”

“Looking back, it’s a good thing Rush got suspended before the CMLL Anniversary show, as it put Dragon Lee in a spot to main, making him for CMLL. Has had multiple motyc vs Kamaitaichi. Is breaking out in the Americas thanks to the ROH relationship, and hopefully more people around the globe can see his talent. Also he is 21! Future of Lucha right there.” Parm!

  1. Kazuchika Okada (26 ballots, 1569 points)

High Voter: Tom Ray (1)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW, 1/4)
w/Rocky Romero, Beretta & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (NJPW, 1/5)
w/Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW, 1/30)
vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 4/10)
vs. SANADA (NJPW, 5/3)
w/Moose vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin – ROH & NJPW (5/8)
w/Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 5/29)
vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 6/19)
w/Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI vs. BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 7/3)
vs. Naomichi Marufuji (NJPW, 7/18)
vs. SANADA (NJPW, 7/23)
vs. Hirooki Goto (NJPW, 7/25)
vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (NJPW, 7/31)
vs. Togi Makabe (NJPW, 8/3)
vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW, 8/7)
vs. Bad Luck Fale (NJPW, 8/8)
vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW, 8/12)
vs. Bad Luck Fale (NJPW, 9/22)
vs. Naomichi Marufuji (NJPW, 10/10)
w/Will Ospreay, Gedo & Hirooki Goto vs. Adam Cole, Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (NJPW, 11/5)
w/Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega & Adam Page (NJPW, 12/10)

“Surprised that nobody has suggested Okada yet. He’s done a great job so far as the new Ace by putting on great matches and drawing strong crowds. His matches with Ishii, Marufuji, Tanahashi, and feud with Los Ingobernables have all been fantastic. I also think his matches with Tenzan and Dalton Castle are a tad overlooked. Definitely in the middle of my top ten list.”

“Never liked him and this year was no different. While I enjoyed a fair bit the Ishii match, he’s still heavily restricted by New Japan style (although I’m not sure if he would improve that much without those restrictions) and his performance in WK was really, really bad. Plus, concerning NJPW main event scene, he got easily overshadowed by Naito and Omega and I’m not a fan of those either.”

“Okada will make my list but I thought he’s really disappointed in a number of high profile singles matches this year. He’s made up for in a number of tag matches throughout the year. But good performance in tag matches shouldn’t get you a high spot on a list like this unless you’re a tag wrestler.”

“He’s looking like a lock for my Top 10. My current MOTY with Tanahashi at the Dome, their rematch in Sumo Hall, two outstanding matches with Marufuji, the killer with Ishii, and two outings vs. Naito where I thought he was the better man, and as Fray mentioned above, a lot of really solid outings in tags. I think his singles catalog is much better than Fray does, so that’s why I’ll have him higher, but I think it’d be completely silly for anyone to not rank him at all. Another outstanding year for the guy.”

“Definite Top 10 for me
I’ve him at ***** for both Tanahashi matches and the Ishii G1 match, and ****1/2+ on both Maurfuji matches and the Naito match. Lots of other good showings in G1 including the Sanada match.”

“He’ll make my top 10 for sure. The Tanahashi matches, Naito matches, Ishii match, and second Marufuji match (the first one was fine but not great) were all high-quality stuff. The only knock I have on him is that the first half of his matches tend to be a bit formulaic and only really pick up in the latter half. Still, he’s had a very good year.”

“Look, I don’t like Okada. I find him to be boring, repetitive, lazy, uninspired, and overrated. But his 2016 was the best year of his career in some time. Even in matchups that have been beaten to death, he managed to bring out above-average performances, and when you sprinkle in a few surprisingly great matches against less common foes like Naito and Ishii, you make for a solid year in one of the most banal main event scenes in the world.” Brock!

  1. KUSHIDA (26 ballots, 1572 points)

High Voter: Chad Campbell (8)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW, 1/4)
vs. BUSHI (NJPW, 2/14)
w/ACH & Matt Sydal vs. The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega (NJPW, 2/26)
vs. ACH (ROH, 3/12)
vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW, 4/10)
vs. Jushin Thunder Liger (NJPW, 5/3)
vs. Kyle O’Reilly (ROH, 5/11)
vs. Kyle O’Reilly (NJPW, 5/21)
vs. Rocky Romero (NJPW, 5/23)
vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (NJPW, 5/29)
vs. Gedo (NJPW, 5/31)
vs. Matt Sydal (NJPW, 6/3)
vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW, 6/19)
w/Johnny Idol, Marco Corleone, Michael Elgin, Okumura, Sam Adonis, w/Tanga Roa vs. Diamante Azul, La Mascara, Maximo Sexy, Rey Escorpion, Rush, Shocker, Ultimo Guerrero & Volador Jr. (CMLL, 7/1)
vs. Taiji Ishimori (NJPW, 7/20)
vs. Kenoh (NJPW, 8/21)
vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (NJPW, 8/21)
vs. BUSHI (NJPW, 11/5)
vs. Dragon Lee vs. Will Ospreay (ROH, 12/4)
w/Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 12/16)

“Very high end stuff this year, maybe more so than his previous years. I think the Kyle O’Reilly match from Korakuen gets overlooked because of the HUBBUB~ over Ricochet and Ospreay. High quality stuff in BOSJ all throughout with matches vs. Sydal, Gedo, and Taguchi. The Liger match ruled, and both guys were top class. Interesting run with BUSHI – I don’t think all of it has hit, but their February match was very strong. Top 20 guy bare minimum, very slim chance of cracking into my Top 10”

“While there’s no chance KUSHIDA will make my top 10 at this point, he’s been a very well-rounded guy the entire year. I’d like to tout the ACH match from March in ROH Philly that is also something you can point too for a damn good match/versatility. Also the O’Reilly rematch on TV was excellent, though my favorite in their series was Global Wars 2015.”

“He’s definitely gonna be in my list, really solid worker throughout the year, but the lack of high end/outstanding stuff hurts him in my eyes. Not sure about him being a top 50 candidate, although I need to revisit his BOTSJ to be sure.”

“I haven’t been in love with the New Japan juniors these last 3 or 4 years, but this year i feel like they’re really turned the corner by finally giving KUSHIDA the run with the title he deserves and making him the ace of that division. 3rd times a charm. Some awesome defences against Liger and Ospreay as well as good performances in the two Jr tournaments he’s been apart of. He’s slightly tailing off as the year ends as I’m not the biggest fan of his matches with BUSHI.”

“Definitely the only NJ junior I care about outside of Liger. I really enjoyed the 5/3 match against Liger and the tag matches building to it with Shibata against Nagata/Liger. When he’s focused and cuts back on the glitzy shit, he’s definitely a joy to watch and it feels like he’s improved so much from last year. Not sure where he’ll place though.”

“He was a guy early in the year I had as a top 5 guy. He’s slipped the last few months. Still his front 1/2 of the year has been really strong. I see him no worse than top 15. Again I’m a mark for limb work. Kushida is a guy who does it in spades.”

“A guaranteed spot on the list due to his matches with O’Reilly alone. Not exactly sure where to place him tho.”

“Lock for my top 20. From BUSHI, to Omega, to Liger, to Ospreay, to Taguchi, to O’Reilly, to ACH, to Ishimori, to Rocky Romero, he’s done very good-great work with all of them. I thought his tour of Mexico was really fun too and I enjoyed him playing rudo in his match with Volador. A guy that’s always reliable for a good performance when you put him in tags. All around I think it’s been a career year for the guy and while he’s maybe losing some steam after dropping the belt and NJPW being in cruise control until WK won’t help, he’s been their in-ring MVP to me in 2016.”

  1. Lio Rush (26 ballots, 1606 points)[HIGHEST RANKED 26 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Sam DiMascio (3)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Brian Fury (ROH, 2/6)
vs. Joey Janela (CZW, 2/13)
vs. Shane Strickland (PWE, 2/20)
vs. John Silver (Beyond Wrestling, 2/28)
vs. Joey Janela vs. David Starr vs. Dave Crist (CZW, 3/26)
vs. Jay Lethal (ROH, 4/1)
vs. Alex Shelley (ROH, 6/3)
vs. Donovan Dijak (ROH, 7/16)
vs. Anthony Henry (EWE, 8/5)
vs. Donovan Dijak vs. Jay White vs. Kamaitachi (ROH, 8/19)
w/Jay White vs. The Briscoes (ROH, 8/20)
vs. Joey Janela (CZW, 9/10)
vs. Jonathan Gresham (ROH, 9/24)
vs. Tyler Bate (wXw, 10/21)
w/David Starr vs. Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani (wXw, 10/22)
vs. Mustafa Ali (Freelance Wrestling, 10/27)
vs. Sami Callihan (CZW, 12/10)
vs. Tony Nese (HOH, 12/16)
vs. Ken Broadway (HOG, 12/17)

“I know he’s had some heat recently, but he’s had a terrific year. I caught his match with Joey Janella from CZW 17 last night and it was one of my favorite matches from the whole year. His ROH run has been steady with quality matches, but what sets him apart is that he’s tearing it up everywhere that isn’t ROH as well. He had the SCI, Dreamwave, Beyond, CZW and everywhere else he landed making an impact with top level matches at all of them.”

“He’s immature, but he is a really great wrestler. He’s got incredible body control and is one of the fastest and most precise wrestlers I’ve ever seen who operated at any level of difficulty at all. He’s also an underrated striker and has shown that he can carry a feud as a heel on top of the being the plucky babyface you would would expect out of a 5’5 dude or however tall he claims to be. Dude has a lots of good to great matches this year, and while he kind of laid an egg one of the times I saw him live this year, he also had brilliant performances v. Jay Lethal in Dallas and v. Anthony Henry at the SCI (which he did on almost no sleep and when there was no real incentive to work that hard considering he flew out early the next morning). As I alluded to before, the Janela feud was excellent and adds some real depth. Probably the best guy in Ring of Honor this year too for whatever that is worth. Will make my top 20 in all likelihood and that’s even without the Ali match from Freelance happening yet.”

“Him and Tyler Bate had a match in wXw a few days ago that Alan4L said blew him away while doing commentary for it, so that should be another one to add to his case when they release it.”

“Match vs. Mustafa Ali is another attribute to Rush this year. Went into a foreign territory and looked credible going against the champion. I also really enjoyed how they worked a 13 minute match that felt substantial but without any wasted motion. Great kickout teases.”

“I’m starting to wonder if Lio is a top 10 contender. I think he’s a lock for my top 20 at least.

Not sure I have seen a match from him this year and everything is at least fun. At the end of the day that plays super well to me. You don’t need to put on the best match of the show, though he has on more than one occasion, but as long as you continue to push out matches that don’t waste my time and grab me then things will be good. He’s faced Anthony Henry, Joey Janela, Matt Riddle (even if it was short), Jason Kincaid, John Silver, and John Gresham all in really good matches. His series with Janela is among the best feuds/series of matches this year. The Kincaid matches sort of put him more on the map.

Matt Riddle is going to be Rookie of the Year. One of the best rookies ever. If Riddle wasn’t here, Rush would be considered the best rookie in recent memory. An unreal athlete who has figured out how to apply that into a wrestling context in quick fashion.”

“Oh gods, as someone who has known nothing about Rush at the beginning of 2016, he has blown me away. Great matches in ROH, and another in a long line of wasted ROH wrestlers, Lio Rush is both great as a heel or face, with his Blackheart gimmick in CZW being great and unique. The best part? Lio is only going to get better as he grows older.” Parm!

“It’s hard to believe that Lio Rush has only been wrestling for two and a half years. Every time I see him, he has the poise and precision of someone with two or three times the experience. With a dozen or more very good matches and two that ended up in my top 25 MOTY, he’s what people pretend Matt Riddle is. Is that snarky and an oversimplification of things? Yeah, totally. But it’s also the truth.” Brock!

  1. Cesaro (28 ballots, 1616 points)[LOWEST RANKED 28 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Francis Adu (13)

Recommended Matches:
vs. AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 4/4)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 4/11)
vs. The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (WWE, 5/22)
vs. The Miz (WWE, 5/24)
vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (WWE, 6/19)
vs. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens vs. Rusev (WWE, 7/25)
vs. Sheamus (WWE, 8/8)
vs. Sheamus (WWE, 9/25)
w/Sheamus, Big Cass, Enzo Amore, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Primo & Epico vs. Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Heath Slater, Rhyno, Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder, Chad Gable, Jason Jordan & The Usos (WWE, 11/20)
w/Sheamus vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston (WWE, 12/18)

“Through remaining one of the best workers on the entire WWE roster, Cesaro has had a stellar year that fails to match others, yet provided us with tons of variety and great matches. April and July Raw four ways, the MITB match, solid random tags, matches vs. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Rusev and Chris Jericho, the Best of 7 series with Sheamus with a tremendous Match #7, and the upcoming tag work with him will be sure to have his case elevated more.”

“I could probably name 40 good Cesaro TV matches this year without much trouble, but I don’t feel like counting them up. He’s managed to be one of the two or three most consistent workers on the WWE roster in a year where he’s been treading water in the mid-card worse than any other year in his career with the company. He’s become formulaic but the formula works very well. It’s true that he isn’t quite as offensively dynamic match to match as he has been in the last few years but the things he does every match are all great. Cesaro’s also brilliant at putting matches together & building off other matches in a series. Watch the awesome Best of 7 with Sheamus for reference. Most of all he’s an outstanding limb seller. The majority of his matches following his return from shoulder surgery involved guys working over his shoulder. In response to that, he sold his shoulder so well that he couldn’t muster up the strength to execute his big offense. Check out the Miz & Rusev matches for his top notch selling. It’s safe to say Cesaro will be making my top 100 for 2016. I’m not sure where yet but he’ll have a comfortable spot.”

“Cesaro might’ve been the best wrestler in the world this year to not have a legitimately great singles match. Maybe partially due to his shoulder injury that cost him some months. He’s almost always the best worker in any multi-man match WWE puts him in tho.”

  1. Kamaitachi (28 ballots, 1640 points)

High Voter: Tanner (15)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Dragon Lee (CMLL & NJPW, 1/24)
w/Gran Guerrero & Negro Casas vs. Dragon Lee, Stuka Jr. & Volador Jr. (CMLL, 2/19)
vs. Dragon Lee (CMLL, 3/4)
w/Fujin, Raijin & Okumura vs. Dragon Lee, Mascara Dorada, Mistico & Valiente (CMLL, 3/18)
vs. Michael Elgin (PWG, 5/20)
vs. Donovan Dijak vs. Jay White vs. Lio Rush (ROH, 8/19)
vs. Trevor Lee (PWG, 9/3)
vs. Dragon Lee (ROH, 9/30)
w/Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA (NJPW, 12/16)

“A man I’ve started to view as a chameleon in regards to wrestling. Drop him anywhere in the world and he’ll adapt insanely quickly. You forget that he is an NJPW guy because he manages to fit in so well everywhere else. Great match in CMLL this year with Maximo Sexy, a couple of matches I enjoyed a lot in PWG versus Michael Elgin and Trevor Lee. Then the three Dragon Lee matches he’s had this year.”

“When Kamaitaichi licked the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship, I had a friend look over my shoulder and just ask “The hell is that?” Kamaitaichi is someone who can and will do anything to get peoples attention, wheather it be Holy Shell spots, his awesome series vs Dragon Lee, having a fan in tears over fighting for his hair against Maximo, Kamaitaichi should be on everyone’s radar. Now that he is clearly being pushed in NJPW, his future is very, very bright.” Parm!

  1. TJ Perkins (25 ballots, 1641 points)

High Voter: Gagne West (10)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Ricochet (EVOLVE, 4/1)
w/Kota Ibushi & Johnny Gargano vs. Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll & Tommy End (WWN, 4/2)
w/Fred Yehi vs. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams (EVOLVE, 5/6)
vs. Fred Yehi (EVOLVE, 5/7)
w/Johnny Gargano vs. Drew Galloway & Ethan Carter III (EVOLVE, 6/10)
vs. Johnny Gargano (CWC, 7/14)
vs. Cedric Alexander (EVOLVE, 8/19)
vs. Rich Swann (CWC, 8/26)
vs. Matt Riddle (EVOLVE, 9/11)
vs. Kota Ibushi (CWC, 9/14)
vs. Gran Metalik (CWC, 9/14)

“Can’t believe he didn’t have a thread already. I’m behind on Raw so I have no clue how his run their has been, but he was great in the CWC, with a Final show performance that was tremendous. Only Kendrick had a better tourney. In Evolve he got lost a bit in the shuffle, but it’s not like the guy was having anything less than very good matches every time out, and he’d staked his claim as a top 30 contender their before even hitting a WWE ring. His qualifying match with Fred Yehi is one of my favorite forgottenish matches of this year. Extra points for making his lucha inspired matwork work effectively and believably up against guys who are coming from a more traditionalist bent.”

“Rather predictably WWE hasn’t been able to present the cruisers in the same way the CWC did and they’ve given him a cringy video game fan persona, so his great year is now tailing off a little. Really pulling for him and Kendrick to put on a great match at HIAC to get things back on track, just didn’t happen for them at NOC.
Would of been a top 10 contender for me with Evolve/CWC, still could be but I feel like he’s gonna have his weakest quarter of the year at the most crucial time when people put these kind of lists and awards together and that will effect his placing. Currently drifting into the top 20.”

“In terms of a talent I’ve always thought he was highly underrated. But this has been his year to shine and he’s gotten the biggest push of his entire career. His goofy video game personal while bad honestly is a bit of a guilty pleasure in terms of just how forced it is, plus doesn’t effect his matches any. I just don’t know if he’ll have the opportunity to put on great matches in WWE as even as the 7th stringer in EVOLVE he still got chances to shine he won’t working against Kendrick in co. on these Raw matches so I doubt he’ll be too crazy high. Can’t see him falling out of the top 30 though, he’s as strong and as versatile of a wrestler as there is going.”

  1. Jonathan Gresham (24 ballots, 1726 points)[LOWEST RANKED 24 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Brock Jahnke (2)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Roderick Strong (ROH, 2/5)
vs. Chris Hero (Beyond Wrestling, 2/28)
vs. Drew Gulak (Legacy Wrestling, 3/11)
vs. David Starr (CZW, 4/9)
vs. Matt Cage (IWA Mid-South, 5/13)
vs. John Silver (Beyond Wrestling, 5/29)
vs. Josh Alexander (IWC, 6/11)
vs. Mike Bailey (C*4, 6/25)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Beyond Wrestling, 6/26)
vs. Matt Cage (IWA Mid-South, 7/7)
vs. Mustafa Ali (Freelance Wrestling & CZW, 7/8)
vs. DJ Z (TNA, 7/13)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Beyond Wrestling, 7/17)
vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Beyond Wrestling, 7/31)
vs. Matt Tremont vs. Joe Gacy vs. Greg Excellent (CZW, 9/10)
vs. Josh Alexander (IWC, 8/20)
vs. Lio Rush (ROH, 9/24)
vs. Homicide (CZW, 10/8)
vs. Donovan Dijak (NOVA Pro Wrestling, 11/25)
vs. Joe Gacy (CZW, 12/10)
vs. Ricochet (Beyond Wrestling, 12/11)
vs. David Starr (Beyond Wrestling, 12/29)

“Gresham very quietly put together an amazing 2016. I thought his trilogy with ZSJ was ZSJ best stuff of the year. That’s actually a common thing, Josh Alexander, David Starr, they all had their best stuff vs Gresham last year. Hopefully he gets more high profile bookings in 2017.”

“Kind of having a holy shit level great year despite very few people talking about possibly because he doesn’t work in the places with most buzz. That said literally every Greshem match I’ve seen this year has been very good whether it be v. Matt Cage in IWA, Ali in Freelance, or Starr in CZW. Great grappler, who ranks right up there with your Gulak’s and Riddle’s and in some ways is even better at it. Sells body part damage very well, and despite being so small is utterly convincing as a cocky shit head heel. Love how explosive and creative he can be on offense. I also absolutely loved his “death match” performance in the match where he won the CZW title.”

“Gresham has done some really awesome work with Josh Alexander at IWC in Pittsburgh too. Of course, IWC isn’t the most popular indie promotion by any means so not a lot of people have seen these but he had 2 awesome matches with Josh there. They killed it in the finals of the Super Indy this year and then I saw them live at IWC Caged Fury in August and they tore the house down, going 30+ minutes that felt like 15. Seeing him live made me realize just how charismatic he really is. Sneaky.”

“I’d add to the matches Dylan already named the Zack Sabre Jr trilogy and his matches with Chris Hero, JT Dunn, Tracy Williams and John Silver, all in Beyond where’s sorta been positioned as their top guy in some ways.”

“He has really emerged as one of the best technical wrestlers on the planet. Most of what I’ve seen was in BEYOUND where he was great every time.

I think if had more exposure, was taller, and maybe wasn’t black he’d be a top star on the indies. Great great technique and is one of those guys that actually feels like a technical match which goes for the win, not just for the show of it.”

“For most of 2016, I had Gresham’s name rattling around in my head when I thought about who was the wrestler of the year. That changed late in the year when I added up the numbers and saw the daunting amount of great matches Hero had. Volume is really the only area where Hero beats out the Octopus, and it’s close, folks. Gresham embodies a few of the qualities I most admire in wrestling, things like variety, believability, subtlety, and the ability to escalate fellow wrestlers to his level. While I think he’s nearly off the charts in all those categories, that last quality is really the one most important to Gresham’s case, as I don’t think there’s a wrestler alive who does more with less. Whereas other top wrestlers like Hero, ZSJ, and Lee tend to be working towards the top of cards with other top wrestlers of comparative skill, Gresham spends much of his time in the midcard of less popular indie shows. While his stellar matches with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr. and Lio Rush are great, I’m much more impressed when he’s able to draw good matches out of a 21 year old Xavier Bell or a well-past-his-prime Homicide. And hey, two of those ZSJ matches ended up in my top 10 MOTY, so that certainly helps.” Brock!

  1. Sami Zayn (29 ballots, 1767 points)[LOWEST RANKED 29 BALLOT WRESTLER]

High Voter: Matt Rogers (6)

Recommended Matches:
vs. Finn Balor (NXT, 1/15)
vs. Samoa Joe (NXT, 1/27)
vs. Johnny Gargano (NXT, 1/29)
vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT, 4/1)
vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust (WWE, 4/3)
vs. AJ Styles (WWE, 4/11
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 5/1)
vs. The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 5/22)
vs. Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 6/19)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 7/24)
vs. Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns vs. Chris Jericho (WWE, 7/25)
vs. Seth Rollins (WWE, 8/22)
vs. Kevin Owens (WWE, 9/5)
vs. The Miz (WWE, 11/20)
vs. Braun Strowman (WWE, 12/18

“Sami Zayn has had yet another great year. He’s had good-great matches with Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Johnny Gargano, AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, Rusev, The Miz, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro and Luke Harper. His high end resume includes multi-man ladder matches, the WrestleMania one which I have at ****3/4, the MITB ladder match that was considered great and the Extreme Rules Intercontinental Title match. Singles matches vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens round things out.”

“He has shown a little bit of consistency, which I like, but I think his lack of any strong programs/in ring time of PPV after Battleground hurts him from getting much higher than the 10-15 range.

I’m very excited about the Braun Strowman program.”

“He will make my list, around the 80-90 spot. Sami definitely disappointed me throughout the year, specially in the Owens feud and his TV matches, but the long match with Joe was very good worked and I can’t deny the Nakamura match despite not liking it nearly as much on the second watch.”

“Due to a pair of mediocre Kevin Owens matches and an injury that robbed him of seven months, Sami Zayn’s 2015 was the worst year of his career since making it big. While still disappointing, his 2016 was far better, featuring a series of good matches with Samoa Joe, a four-way IC title PPV match, a pair of good PPV bouts with the aforementioned Owens, and a solid feud with Braun Strowman to end the year. If you enjoyed his Shinsuke Nakamura match as well, you’d probably have him even higher than I do.” Brock!

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