Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kevin Owens: #9 in the Top Wrestlers of 2016

The first repeat appearance from last year's Top 10 list dropped seven spots from his #2 finish in 2015. But while Kevin Owens didn't have the astronomical rise in 2016 that he had in 2015, he has been one of the most consistent wrestlers on the WWE and later Raw roster in the last year.

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From his dominating run as Intercontinental champion at the beginning of the year to his renewed feud with Sami Zayn to his new BFF relationship with Chris Jericho and his rise to WWE Universal champion, the former Kevin Steen has put on solid matches week in and week out on television and on pay-per-view.

In my opinion however, many of his accomplishments have been mired by the terrible writing typical of Raw. Since the brand split, Smackdown simply became a stronger brand and it takes a ton of star power to overcome the mess that is that broadcast.

But Kevin Owens has always shown an ability to stand out from the pack. He did it in Ring of Honor, to the point the company had no choice but to rehire him and give him the championship. He did it in NXT where he immediately became the top star, albeit in a short run. And he did it on Raw in 2015, taking his first onscreen win against John Cena.

It's hard to separate Owens' championship success from his
partnership with Chris Jericho. Image credit:
Unfortunately, his rise to WWE Universal champion also came with the typical chickenshit heel exploits it seems Raw's writing team requires for all their heel main eventers. While he and his partner in crime Jericho have done their best with the material, it is hard to argue the staleness of the material hurt Kevin Owens's ranking this year. While last year he received multiple first place votes, this year his highest ranking by any contributor was fifth place. Only a consistent showing in the middle of the Top Ten on multiple lists brought him to the Top 10 at all, and then just barely. He didn't even make my personal Top 25, coming in at the 28th spot right behind Xavier Woods.

But the one thing wrestling fans can be sure of is that Kevin Owens will continue to try and make every match he wrestles compelling. Here's hoping in 2017 he's given a lot more to work with than the same stale finishes.

Tomorrow NXT gets their first star on the list, a talent that is anything but a developmental star.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Johnny Mundo: #10 Wrestler of 2016

Last year, I was allowed to write some great pieces on two of my Lucha Underground favorites, Prince Puma and Pentagon Jr. (now Pentagon Dark.) This year, only one Lucha Underground performer made the Top 10, but he's a talent familiar to many fans and one that truly did have his best year in wrestling in 2016.

Image credit: Lucha Underground.
You might know him as Johnny Nitro or John Morrison, but to me he's definitely Johnny Mundo.

While not all of his 2016 appearances on Lucha Underground television were actually filmed in 2016, the calendar year cannot be looked at as anything other than impressive for the Mayor of Slamtown. He opened the year with a win over Dragon Azteca, Prince Puma and Rey Mysterio for the Lucha Underground Trios title. Though he lost them at Ultima Lucha Dos, he went on to beat Sexy Star for the Gift of the Gods title, again for the Lucha Underground title (which she won only a week before during Aztec Warfare III) and a final time to retain her title. He didn't manage any of those wins without sly tactics, but Mundo is a world class heel by any measurable rights.

His success cannot be pointed out without also talking about his Trios tag partners Jack Evans, the long time indie star that's years in Mexico are finally paying off with some great work on American television, and PJ Black, the former Justin Gabriel and now "Darewolf", another talent showing he was so much more talented than WWE ever let him give fans. Perhaps his most amazing ally is Taya, the Canadian wrestler turned veteran luchadora. She's been a true revelation in the last two seasons of Lucha Underground, almost as much as Mundo's career renaissance.

Mundo's only issues in Lucha Underground now is a lack of depth remaining in his opponents. He's wrestled almost every tecnico in the company and a decent number of the rudos as well. But Lucha Underground is always about surprises and I suspect he'll bring a few more in 2017.

Tomorrow we continue the list with the first repeat talent from last year's list, a man that continued an impressive run towards the top of his promotion in 2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2016 End of the Year Honorable Mentions List

For the next two weeks, The Wrestling Weekday will look at some of the best wrestlers in the world, the men and women that shaped the industry in 2016.

Tomorrow, the list actually starts to get into wrestlers that earned multiple votes before the Top 10 list starts full speed ahead on Tuesday. All remaining vote getters, the ones that fell short of the Top 10 but received votes from multiple sources, will be revealed next week.

But for now: on with the first list of Honorable Mentions, presented in point order from lowest to highest.

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Sami Zayn did not have a spectacular 2016 clearly as he received only a single 25th point vote. He stands alongside James Ellsworth, an ignominious spot if ever there was one, and Hallowicked, a talent I might have ranked much higher if I was anywhere near to caught up with Chikara in 2016.

I expected The Miz to get a bit more support because of his great work on Smackdown Live in the second half of 2016. He just missed my list and perhaps failed to make a few others as well. Similarly, only I was impressed enough by Baron Corbin's work in 2016. Admittedly he only had a few great weeks in NXT at the beginning of the year and his impressive work since Survivor Series with a huge lull in the middle, but he is decidedly a talent that grew exponentially in the year. He's easily one of the best WWE developmental talents without an indie background ever.

I also was a bit surprised that I was the only person to rank the Cruiserweight Classic winner TJ Perkins at all and that he came in behind Randy Orton in points total. NJPW's Katsuyori Shibata and TNA's Lashley both came ahead of him on my list though, as both showed amazing growth in ring and, in Lashley's case, character-wise in the year.

Andy Sheets gave the only votes for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, two talents that just barely missed my list. He also gave a vote to Tomohiro Ishii, a man that fell out of the NEVER division in NJPW early in the year but had a few great showings for ROH as their Television champion.

Sami Callihan (or Jeremiah Crane for certain fans) did amazing work on the indies and in Lucha Underground this year, showing why WWE seriously missed the boat with Solomon Crowe. I can see him entering a few more folks radar in 2017.

A bunch of tag team wrestlers got single votes as well. Nick Jackson, Matt JacksonJason Jordan and Chad Gable only received votes from yours truly, while John Morgan Neal gave Heath Slater and Rhyno their only props. Other talents that made their most significant strides as part of a tag team in 2016 also fell in this place, such as Bray Wyatt or Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy.

I thought Rich Swann deserved a place on the list here as well, as he's the man that seems to have lit a fire under the Cruiserweight division as 205 Live kicks off. Dalton Castle and Pentagon Dark (#10 in last year's poll) get similar rankings, I expect for similarly great character work backed by strong in will skills.

Much like Sami Callihan, I felt Cody Rhodes deserved a place on this list. He's electrified audiences in huge ways since his time as Stardust ended and he took to basically every non-WWE wrestling company. He may have lost his last name (a real poor move by WWE in my opinion), but he's showed why he deserved a higher spot on the card than he ever received on the WWE stage.

Kofi Kingston and Big E both made last year's list (at #8 and #5 respectively), but only got one vote this year. Ricochet (a.k.a. Prince Puma) fell similarly, dropping to only receiving a single vote after ranking at #7 last year. Just ahead of them was the final member of The New Day, Xavier Woods, who fell just short of the 2015 list but through increased in ring presence really cemented himself as a strong third member of The New Day in 2016.

Image credit: Lucha Underground.
We close out today's list with a few of the folks that ranked in several folks' Top 10 positions. Lucha Underground's Cage and NJPW's Kushida and Kazuchika Okada all made Andy Sheets' list in the #8, #7, and #6 spots respectively. Joe Crowe named Goldberg as his sixth best wrestler, an impressive feat for a man with two minutes of ring time in 2016. But they were an impressive two minutes, we all must admit. I ranked Finn Balor at #6, higher than I expected most people to do so, but I was shocked to see him make no one else's list. The first WWE Universal Champion dominated NXT in the first half of the year and impressed on Raw for the month he was on television. It still amazes me he didn't get props from anyone other than yours truly. Finally, Jeff Yelton gave a fifth place vote to ROH's Adam Cole, saying “The two-time ROH World Champ has come from being a bland good guy to a great heel. And he can go in the ring. I keep wondering when WWE is gonna call.”

With this list I have revealed all but twenty names that received votes in the 2016 Top 10 Countdown. The ten final Honorable Mentions will be revealed next week, but for now, stay tuned for tomorrow and the reveal of the #10 wrestler in the world today, despite almost all of their acclaim coming from one tiny venue in Southern California.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reminder: Get your votes in for the year end Top 10!

Next week, we kick off the year end Top 10 countdown of the best wrestlers in the world! Remember to get in your votes between now and the extended final date of December 25, 2016 to help determine who best deserves the top spot as wrestler of the year.

Email your list of up to 25 wrestlers, ranked from 1 to 25 (tag teams must be listed as individuals) and leave them in the comments below or email them to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lucha Underground Top 10

Lucha Underground has been a favorite of mine for years now, but I have never featured it in a Top 10 until today. Why? Because the weekly storytelling of the show makes it a bit harder to work out a list of the ten stars that consistently should rank as the highest in my viewpoints. But I want to share my picks here as fans continue to turn in their votes for the top wrestlers of the year. So without any more ado, let's go straight into the top ten wrestlers of Lucha Underground!
Image credit: Lucha Underground.

  1. Mil Muertes: The man of a thousand deaths is a dominant force still in Lucha Underground, but he still seems to be missing a lot of the drive he possessed in the first two seasons. Already out of the latest tournament, he may be on a collision course with the returning Prince Puma soon.
  2. Drago, Fenix and Aerostar: Though the reigning Trios champions are still dominant in their division, the Trios titles seem to have received a demotion this year. With Kobra Moon aligning forces against Drago, that could change. We may be in store for a war between the Snake Tribe and the Trios champions for several weeks to come. 
  3. Pentagon Dark: Another man left rudderless (and off television) after his attack on Dragon Azteca and Black Lotus last season bit him in the rear this one. With two broken arms he's likely to miss the next ten episodes or so, which could jeopardize any more appearances on this list for some time.
  4. The Mack: I'm still not sure why he's never really been given a driven storyline, but even as the friend of Sexy Star he's shined. He seems poised to become a stronger player in the company as Season Three continues, but he remains a match away from really accomplishing anything of importance.
  5. Cage: The best of five series with Texano seems to move at a glacial pace, but Cage still seems to be the dominant force of the two hosses. He seems poised to have a bigger storyline going ahead on the show, especially if the demonic possession hinted at earlier in the season comes to be.
  6. Black Lotus Triad: Doku, Yurei and Hitokiri backed up Black Lotus and allowed for a great set of matches with Pentagon Dark that left him broken. With Black Lotus herself still limited in the ring, this is the perfect way to continue her progression on television.
  7. Matanza Cueto: He may have lost the Lucha Underground title, but he's still an absolute monster. With his brother losing control of him, he may become more terrifying without the title than he was for his full season with it. 
  8. Rey Mysterio: The company treats him like their biggest star and everyone of his matches has been high profile. They have smartly kept him away from the title picture, but now he seems on a collision course with Matanza that could leave both men broken.
  9. Sexy Star: She won Ultima Lucha to become the Lucha Underground championship only to have it taken away from her only days later by the Worldwide Underground. But Sexy is still poised to be a top star in the company, even if her time with Lucha Underground might be coming to an end sooner rather than later, much as her time in AAA has.
  10. Johnny Mundo: Though he might not be where he is without the Worldwide Underground backing him, Mundo has put on some of the best matches of his career in Lucha Underground. He's proven himself to be a top star and here's hoping he continues to shine as the show continues through into the second half of the current season. 

Image credit: Lucha Underground.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Looking back: The top 10 wrestlers of 2015

With votes now open for the Top 10 wrestlers of 2016, I thought it would be convenient to look back at the ten wrestlers that topped the list in 2015. It was an interesting list, featuring two Lucha Underground standouts, four WWE midcarders, an NXT wrestler and a recent WWE graduate who barely accomplished anything on the main roster that year. Yet, I can think of few lists as representative of the great talent of 2015 as this one. So without more ado, here's the list of some great talent. Click on each name to read their full entry.

  1. Pentagon Jr.: I ranked him much higher, but Pentagon Jr. deserved to be near the top of any list he was on for his work in Lucha Underground.
  2. Cesaro: Few talents are as consistent as the Swiss Superman.
  3. Kofi Kingston: The New Day rose to fame in 2015, but even I was a bit surprised by Kofi's high placing. I actually personally placed him below Xavier Woods, who just barely missed the list. 
  4. Prince Puma: Rather as Puma or Ricochet, he put on some great matches in 2016 in both Lucha Underground and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
  5. John Cena: It's not that often that an IWC site would rank Cena so high, but few people could argue how good Cena was during his United States title reign.
  6. Big E: No one emerged with as much flair as part of The New Day as Big E. He showed why he deserves a main event push sooner rather than later last year. Hopefully 2017 is the year of Big E..
  7. Seth Rollins: Iowa's own Seth Rollins dominated the main event picture of WWE and put on some great matches to boot. 
  8. Bayley: Fact: There was no greater babyface in wrestling in 2015 than Bayley. 
  9. Kevin Owens: He was already an indie superstar, but Owens took NXT then WWE by storm in 2015. 
  10. Sasha Banks: I don't think anyone put on as many great matches in 2015 as Sasha. Sadly her 2016 might not have been quite as bright, but she's still easily one of the most talented wrestlers in the world today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You decide... time to vote in the Wrestling Weekday's Top 10 wrestlers of 2016!

Last year, The Wrestling Weekday debuted its inaugural edition of the year end Top 10, a master list of the greatest wrestlers of 2015. This year, it returns in bigger and better fashion as we again team up with the fine folks at ESO-PRO: The Pro Wrestling Podcast to bring you the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016.

The process is simple. All you have to do to vote is to send me your list of top wrestlers anywhere in the world. Your list can be as short as one or as long as 25, but it needs to be ranked in order of best to worst. Send your choices to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com (or leave them in the comments below) and I will tally the fan choices as well as my own top ten to give a full list of the top stars of 2015.

The only requirement for a wrestler to be eligible for the list is if they were active in the calendar year 2015 as an in ring worker. Promotions, gender and age are not limited, just as long as they wrestled a match at some point in the year 2015. Wrestlers should be rated on quality of match rather than out of match promos or shenanigans, all though those can be taken into account as an overall reason for your choice. Tag teams and units must be listed separately on this list. If you feel they had equal levels of performance in your list of twenty, please put them one after another.

Though it is not required, any commentary on the wrestlers you chose and why you chose them would be appreciated, as it will be included as thoughts on the wrestler in the final Top Ten list.

In order to have the proper time to tabulate fan input, I ask that all votes be received by Sunday, December 25.

The Top 10 list will kick off on December 26 and run for two weeks as we cover all the great talent that made 2016 another great year in wrestling.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Smackdown Top 10

It has been far too long since The Wrestling Weekday last ran down the top ten stars of any promotion. But with WWE split into three distinctive brands, it seems apt to focus on the Smackdown Live brand in the aftermath of Sunday's TLC pay-per-view. So let's take a look at the ten big winners for the brand coming out of the show.

Just a reminder about the numbers at the end of each entry. The first number is the wrestler's rank from the last list. The second is the number of months they have been ranked on the list.

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  1. American Alpha: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable have become the kings of the pre-show for WWE in recent months, but on television, they continue to score some great looking wins. Probably the crispest team on the roster, both men are great all arounders with huge futures as a team or in singles competition. They've clearly been kept away from the tag titles for the last several months, but one should strongly suspect a huge push for the team heading into Wrestlemania season. (6/4)
  2. Baron Corbin: Corbin needs better quality of foes if he is ever going to hope to succeed on WWE's main roster. But he faces a major dilemma in Smackdown's complete lack of depth on the midcard level. His feud with Kalisto now done (hopefully), he can perhaps move on to the former tag champions, as Heath Slater and his old foe Rhyno both seem like great foes for him in the months ahead. (U/1)
  3. Dean Ambrose: I'm not sure if anyone came out of TLC looking as bad as Ambrose. He put up a valiant effort, almost got the win, but still came up short against AJ, this time because of the betrayal of a man that he helped bring into the company. A feud with Ellsworth seems nonsensical, but he might be able to do something interesting if someone like Dolph Ziggler would align with Ellsworth against him. (2/11)
  4. Dolph Ziggler: Sure, he didn't regain the Intercontinental title. But Dolph looks strongly poised to move into a higher position yet on the card. He could easily be the next opponent for AJ Styles or he could continue his short feud with Ambrose from earlier in the year. But it seems clear he's a key player in the future of Smackdown Live. (10/2)
  5. WWE Super Card: The promotions for the game were integrated right into the programming. The game often seemed ignored in the push of the 2k series of games, but the free mobile game is literally one of the most addictive things ever and a blast to play. Good for WWE and company for making the game feel like a true part of the WWE Universe. (U/1)
  6. James Ellsworth: I am still not sure how a chinless jobber has become pivotal to Smackdown storylines yet here we are. He's played a huge role on TV in recent weeks and his apparent heel turn at TLC poises him to be a huge part of Dean Ambrose's continuing saga. (U/1)
  7. Alexa Bliss: If there's one talent that has came into her own best on the main roster since their recent NXT days, it is Alexa Bliss. While never dominant in the NXT women's division, she has been a spitfire in her quest for the Smackdown Women's Title. She picked up the title in a tables match, a convenient stipulation often used for heels to steal a title from a face. Her feud with Becky seems to be far from over, but whether she can maintain the title will show where she stands in the future firmament of Smackdown Live. (10/2)
  8. The Wyatt Family: I have absolutely no idea where WWE is going with Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton as a unit, but having the evil influence of Wyatt finally sway a foe does amazing things to cement his importance to the brand. Randy Orton continues to put on some of the best matches of his career while also having a unique direction of his own right now. And while Luke Harper didn't get to be a part of the tag champions, he still is the hossiest hoss in WWE. (U/1)
  9. The Miz: He put on a hell of a match with Dolph Ziggler, but it might be his continued battle with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack that might make him one of the true icons in the future of wrestling. Much like Corbin, he's left with little competition with Ziggler out of the way, but he seems poised to have a big Wrestlemania moment as a match between him and Daniel Bryan looks incredibly likely. (U/1)
  10. AJ Styles: Eleven months ago, he was in the semi-main event at the Tokyo Dome in New Japan. Now he seems like the most dominant star in WWE today. "The Champ That Runs the Camp" seems almost unbeatable on the WWE roster. So unbeatable that he seems destined for a huge match at Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. Sure, John Cena could return to feud with him before either event, but with both Undertaker and Shawn Michaels looming in the rumors, AJ Styles could be on his way to his biggest match ever. (U/1)
Image credit: NJPW.
Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know who your choices would be in the comments section below or on social media.