The Great Debate
For as long as there have been professional wrestling matches promoted, there has always been a debate about who is currently or who was historically the best of all time. These debates can get contentious and coming up with a definitive answer is a challenge. It really comes down to what you are looking for in when you have the debate. Some people appreciate aspects of the business more than others. For example, some love a talent that can talk and entertain. Still others prefer a wrestler who is a technician and who displays great versatility. Then there are those who believe that the way you measure greatness is by how successful someone was in “putting asses in seats” as Jim Ross used to say. Of course there are also those who appreciate someone who could have a quality match with virtually anyone. They are just poetry in motion. Personally, elements of all these would be a hallmark for my perfect performer but as we think about this debate, and we put an emphasis on current in ring talent, who truly is the “Best in the World”?
Of course the first place to analyze this question and debate is in the talent pool that is controlled by World Wrestling Entertainment. They have the largest budget and an amazing preparation program that has been a key component in churning out top level talents. WWE has been able to mold the industry with its influence but do they possess the “Best in the World”?
Many fans have grown disenfranchised by a company that allows its Universal Champion to disappear for months on end and that chooses to push talent that the fans refuse to accept. However, when you look at the WWE Superstars, there are a few who could legitimately lay claim to the title “Best in the World”.
We could list accolades for days for many of their talents. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, John Cena, the Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, and even Triple H could easily be placed into the conversation for “Best in the World” when you factor in the different measures. John Cena moves the most merchandise which would seem to indicate that a large portion of the audience appreciates him even though many boo him mercilessly. Then again, he benefits from the support of the kids.
Brock Lesnar has this extended Universal Championship reign but he only wrestles sporadically and is really a part time talent but does that influence the quality of his matches? Braun Strowman is as popular with the crowd as anyone right now but is he really a ring general or just a freak of nature who has a limited move set? Seth Rollins and AJ Styles along with the return of Daniel Bryan are often considered top talents and potentially the “Best in the World” but each has something to be critical of. Rollins supposedly lacks the microphone skills of someone like the Miz while AJ Styles has been hurt by terrible booking. Bryan is phenomenal but is held back due to injury concerns.
Land of the Rising Star
Many die hard fans look to New Japan Pro Wrestling when they nominate their choice for “Best in the World”. It is easy to see why. New Japan has many homegrown talents who have taken the wrestling industry by storm and who have put NJPW in position to legitimately lay claim to the best wrestling action in the world. They are known for their authentic hard hitting action and unique crowd response throughout matches.
Their talent pool is as talented as virtually any promotion in the world. Their stars are led by IWGP World Champion Kazuchika Okada who has held his championship more than 700 days. Behind Okada are established main event level stars including Kenny Omega, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Will Osprey, Zack Sabre Jr, Kushida, Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, and Minoru Suzuki. Much like WWE, all of these stars can lay claim to the title “Best in the World”. The storylines in Japan are a little different than in the United States with far more concentration on realistic feuds and hard hitting action. Unfortunately, a common criticism of the Strong Style is a lack of emphasis on the entertainment aspect of the business and a reliance on high spots.
Still another player in the “Best in the World” discussion is Ring of Honor and the amazing wrestlers competing in what may be the number two promotion in the United States. Like the previous companies, they have a crop of talent that can go with the best anywhere. Jay Lethal, Dalton Castle, Cody, The Young Bucks, the aforementioned Kenny Omega, and Christopher Daniels. With their lack of production and distribution, fans may not have as much experience with their product but die hard fans will attest to the incredible matches that have come from Ring of Honor as well as the laundry list of wrestlers who established themselves in ROH in the past.
The challenge here is that the talent get far less exposure and opportunity to show all phases of their character. A chosen few such as Cody, Jay Lethal, and Kenny Omega have been able to deliver in the entertainment and promo department but others get fewer opportunities to demonstrate their promo skills and have to rely on their in-ring skills to make their case.
Making and Impact
Impact Wrestling has steadily been accumulating a strong crop of talent including Austin Aries, Sami Callihan, Eddie Edwards, and Eli Drake. The production value of their shows and the quality of the matches have been on a steady incline since the change of ownership to Anthem and it bodes well for the prospects of producing the “Best in the World” on their roster.
Best of the Rest
An intriguing aspect of the debate is that the “Best in the World” may not reside in any of these promotions. A host of talents travel the world competing for a plethora of other companies establishing themselves as premier attractions in what feels like a throwback to the territorial days. Matt Riddle, Rey Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Alberto El Patron, WALTER, Austin Theory, and many more may be putting on some of the best performances but get little consideration for “Best in the World”. It makes you think about how we rate these talents in this discussion and whether being in a major international promotion is a prerequisite for being considered.
Finally, there are those stars who are typically brought up in the conversation but who are not currently active. CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, Johnny Mundo, and Chris Jericho come to mind. Punk has been away from the game since early 2014, RVD only makes sporadic appearances, Mundo wrestles in several promotions but has been away filming both movies and Survivor, and Jericho has had spot appearances but is far from an active full time performer.
In the End
When we reflect on all of these possibilities, the Fro Wrestling Podcast opinion is that to properly evaluate a talent, we will consider the quality of their matches, promos they have based on the quality of their peers in their given company, and their ability to work with anyone and deliver on all technical aspects while connecting with the fans. With that being said, here is the Fro Wrestling Podcast Top 10 Talents in the World and at #1 our pick for “Best in the World”.
1)AJ Styles - Our Choice for Best in the WORLD!
What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below!