Welcome, one and all, to part one of the unveiling of the most important list of wrestlers you’ll read all year, the 2014 CRL 100! To those of you who are new to the project this year, the idea of the CRL 100 is very simple: determine the 100 wrestlers who accomplished the most, (in terms of both quality of performance and achievement in general,) and then rank them accordingly. If this sounds like an incredibly difficult and exhaustive process, that’s because it is. All year long, we here at Cewsh Reviews make a point to seek out the best of every wrestling promotion in the world so we have a strong idea of who the top dogs are, and hours and hours were spent nitpicking ranking choices and trying to figure out if Rusev reeeeeeeally deserved to be ahead of ECIII. The result of all that hard work is a list of the best of the best, and something that we will proudly hold up next to any other rankings list that may be more popular but has no credibility whatsoever. You know, if something like that exists. In a magazine perhaps.
It’s a big undertaking, but luckily this year I had help, as my Cewshcast compadres, Artie and Julius, joined me in making this list up. So as you read the first 50 members of this esteemed list, just remember: they’re just as much to blame as I am.
Just like last year, i’ll be doing write ups for the top 50, to give you some insight into everything they accomplished this year, but the bottom 50 get no such distinction. So we’ll start with the big list and then break the top 50 into two parts of 25 over the next week, leading to the crowning of Mr. 2014. But before we get to the list, I’m going to post the traditional FAQ to hopefully clear up some questions that may arise from this list.
Q: What goes into deciding these ratings?
A: Everything. This isn’t just a list of who had the best matches this year, (though that plays a major part,) it’s also a list of who was the most valuable to their promotion, and to wrestling in general over the past year. Think of this list as representing where everyone in the wrestling world stood in 2014 in relation to everyone else. But to be clear, this is not a popularity contest. Nobody in contention for the status of “Cewsh’s Favorite Wrestler” even made the top 10. This is meant to be an objective look at who was top shit in 2014. Keep that in mind.
Q: Why 100?
A: Because 500 forces you to include people who aren’t really worthy of consideration, and 276 wasn’t symmetrical enough.
Q: What do all the numbers mean?
A: The first number is their rank this year, the number next to it in parenthesis is their ranking on this list last year.
Q: So where are you going to rank the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar/ etc?
A: We’re not going to. In order to make things as fair as possible across the board, we require that in order to be eligible for this list, you have to have wrestled at least 5 matches in the past calender year. Any less than that and there just isn’t a fair sample size to base an educated opinion on. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Q: John Cena’s not on here, is he?
A: Oh yeah, he totally is.
Q: Why are you combining the men and women on one list? That’s not fair to the women, is it?
A: Judging by some of the women you’ll find on this list, it might not be fair to the men.
Q: But why did *insert my favorite wrestler* rank below *insert wrestler I don’t like*?
A: Because I said so.
Q: But you can’t possibly think…
Q: But that’s ridic…
A: That’s right. Never argue with science.
Alright, that’s enough with the questions already. Let’s get down to the meat of the thing. Here are numbers 100-50 on the CRL 100 list of the best wrestlers of 2014! Think of them as the runners up. They’ll all get a nice fruit basket and a book about dinosaurs. And remember, if you’ve never heard of anyone on this list, please by all means let us know. We’d be thrilled to provide a match or two to get you familiar.
Cewsh: Bray Wyatt will always get the majority of the credit for being the engine that drove the Wyatt Family, but in 2014, Harper and Rowan made a name for themselves and managed to emerge from his shadow. They made a great team, but towards the end of the year they split off into singles and really showed where their real potential was, as both have rapidly ascended the card on their own. It’s just a shame that they spent some of the year in limbo as a team, so their assault on the top 25 will have to wait until 2015.
Psycho: Do you believe in miracles? While the man in question probably does not, the transformation of Tyson Kidd definitely convinces me. In 2012, Kidd got his moment to shine in the sun as he was a part of the Smackdown Money in the Bank ladder match. While it was an excellent showing, he faded into obscurity afterward with an injury, and it was long believed he would never become an integral part of the WWE product. Fast forward to the end of 2014, and after a workshop stint in NXT, Tyson Kidd finally found his niche. His character is on point, his crowd reaction is bigger than ever before, and as we already knew, his wrestling skills are far above the rest. NXT lit a fire under Kidd’s ass that molded him into one of the greatest performers currently in WWE, and I would not be surprised to see him higher on the list next year.
Cewsh: KENTA is one of 3 people on this list, (the other two are further up the list,) who missed nearly half of the year and yet still made it into the top 50. For KENTA, that was due to his life altering decision to leave the comfort of Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he was their last and only hope, to chase his dreams to the United States. Since debuting in NXT he has stirred up an incredible amount of hype and discussion, and he is one of the premiere talents in all of wrestling. This may well be the lowest ranking he will ever have on the CRL 100.
Cewsh: When KENTA left NOAH, it left a huge hole that NOAH was in no position to fill. Things looked desperate, until in stepped the ageless wonder. At the ripe old age of 46, Yuji Nagata grabbed the GHC title and put it back on the map with a series of matches that restored hope to a fading NOAH. Which is good, because Nagata’s work in New Japan over the past year has been a letdown for him, especially a lengthy storyline with the Gracie family that saw Nagata gamely trying to teach MMA fighters how to be professional wrestlers live in the ring, a task that men half his age couldn’t do as well as he did. As he gets closer to 50, it’s entirely possible that Nagata might scale back and slow down in the year to come. Just don’t put money on it.
Artie: Ah, prince pretty. A year ago, this guy was all gimmick, but 2014 has been his year to shine in NXT. After having some great matches with Zayn, Neville, and that 4-way at Takeover 2, Breeze’s stock has gone up considerably in the WWE developmental system. With NXT churning out so much talent right now, Breeze is one of those guys with both character and a solid catalog of ringwork that has earned him a spot in our top 50 performers for the year.
Cewsh: Normally, when a team is as fantastic and high profile as the Timesplitters have been over the past year, I would group them together. But KUSHIDA did so much on his own this year that I had to regard him seperately, which leaves his partner a little ways back here. But that is by no means an insult to Shelley, as the Timesplitters have resurrected his career and all year long, they had unbelievable matches with a rotating cast of tag teams, from reDragon to the Young Bucks and on and on. With the resume he’s built with KUSHIDA on top of his work with Chris Sabin in the Motor City Machine Guns, Shelley has a solid claim to the title of “Best Tag Team Wrestler of His Generation.”
Cewsh: The modern day queen of Joshi had a quiet year by her standard. Only one championship, and more losses than usual as she played her part in attempting to jump start a new generation of Joshi stars. But make no mistake, she is still the premier name in a burgeoning Joshi world which is producing some out of this world matches as it continues to knock of the door of the Japanese mainstream for attention. And when she makes her trips to Shimmer twice a year, she is an attraction like no other.
Cewsh: For years, we were harsh on Mia Yim for everything from being seemingly dangerous in the ring, to trying too hard to ape the styles of people like Low Ki. Despite enormous hype and goodwill from the indy community, Yim had never managed to make her performances match her expectations. Then she went to Japan. Upon coming back, what we saw was a very different Mia Yim, with a personality and style all her own, and equipped to tear the house down every night. All of that finally built to 2014, where she exploded onto the scene, stealing every single Shimmer volume she appeared on and capturing the Shine Championship with stunning performances against a wide variety of styles. Yim may well have the most pure potential of any young woman working in wrestling today. If she keeps living up to it, she simply has no limits.
Cewsh: For another year, SUWAMA WAS AJPW. As the company continues to splinter and fall apart around him thanks to the bizarre whims of it’s owner, SUWAMA has remained the one thing that fans and peers alike could depend on. He won’t ever be a top level wrestler, and he won’t ever be a top level draw. But his loyalty to All Japan, despite obvious opportunities elsewhere, is admirable, and his ability to pull interesting matches out of people like Akebono and Joe Doering is damn near miraculous. He did take a step back this year, as All Japan desperately sought a new main event star to take some of the pressure off of their workhorse. But that’s more a case of people moving past him than any deficiency on his part.
Artie: While his US Title reign seemed never-ending and almost pointless, Sheamus churned out quite a few good defenses. His Win-loss record was impressive, even in kayfabe. Whether facing Del Rio, Wyatt, or doing epic battle with Cesaro, Sheamus produced some damn fine matches. Despite a lack of storyline this year, no one can argue that Sheamus wasn’t one of WWE’s top performing in-ring competitors this year.
Psycho: Bray has not had the greatest year. He debuted rather strong last year and held a lot of promise, but a murky feud with John Cena, a considerable string of losses and a lack of evolution for his character held this man back from where he could have been on the list. Even so, he’s racked up victories over Cena, Jericho and Daniel Bryan, the latter of which he had one of the top matches of the year with. He was a highlight of WrestleMania, a driving force of the product during the summer, and was part of an excellent program with The Shield. Put all this together with the fact that he’s had an excellent run with Dean Ambrose, and he [i]still[/i] manages to rank above the 60 wrestlers before him
Artie: Man, talk about 2 guys who changed my opinion so drastically for one year to the next. I had written these guys off stereotypical ROH indie lame-os who throw too many kicks and kick out of too many false finishes. More than anything, I think that reDRagon were just stifled from the available talent in ROH. This past year, they’ve delivered some great matches with Bad Influence, The Young Bucks, and The Timesplitters that could easily be considered MOTYC in the tag team division. Hopefully these two continue working with tag teams that elevate their skills and status and 2015 is an even better year than the excellent 2014 they had.
Cewsh: Nicole Matthews has been full of talent and potential for years, both in singles and as part of the preeminent women’s tag team in the world, the Canadian Ninjas. But she took a gigantic jump forward this year, first with a fantastic feud with CRL mainstay Madison Eagles, and then by shockingly capturing the Shimmer Championship with the help of a gods damned fireball. Now she holds the title which makes you pretty undisputedly the top female talent on the independent scene. Can it be long before a certain talent hungry corporation comes calling?
Cewsh: The team of Tomoaka Nakagawa and Kelly Skater has defied convention from the beginning. From the combining of the world cheatingest Joshi and the world’s frzziest Australian to their unexpected face turn as fans latched on to their act, 3G has gone from midcard novelty to one of the top draws in Shimmer seemingly overnight. Over the past year they’ve turned away challenges from amazing teams like Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez, Mayumi Ozaki and Saraya Knight, and the Canadian Ninjas, and began stealing main events away from the Shimmer Champion, which is nearly unprecedented for Shimmer. Sadly, this is the last year for 3G as Nakagawa retired from wrestling in early December, but they’ve ensured that 3G won’t ever be forgotten in the Berwyn Eagles Club.
Cewsh: It’s hard to believe that anybody in TNA could actually be moving UP the rankings with the year that company has had, but Aries used what is likely his final year in TNA to his advantage, having his best matches since his unlikely title run a few years previous. Aries is one of the few people on this list for absolutely nothing but his own personal performances in matches, as he’s been given nothing to work with. But here he is all the same.
Cewsh: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Out of nowhere this year, TNA stumbled onto a World Champion who suddenly showed skills, charisma and presence that he had never exhibited before, who delivered a string of titles defenses that actually inspired confidence in fans, before TNA ripped the rug out from under him unceremoniously when a whim took them in a different direction. This year’s version of that sad story is Magnus, who had long had doubters who saw him as nothing but an American Gladiators guy and shut all of them up with his stellar performance as the sellout king of TNA before being forced to dump the belt to Eric Young, and then try to get Bram over as something important. It’s a tough gig, but he made it look good.
Psycho: It’s been a strange year for the violent Suzukigun leader. The first half of it was spent toiling away in a feud with Toru Yano that should have ended in January, if not before the end of 2013. On top of that, a lot of his earlier work was nowhere near his best in-ring work. Despite having a solid tag match with Muta, it seemed Suzuki was floating in limbo until he convinced Iizuka to turn on his former partner Yano and join Suzukigun. The feud with Yano still meandered, but in the meantime, Suzuki was doing some solid character work and getting back in his wrestling groove, racking up a lot of wins along the way. His showing in the G1 Climax was strong, but it was the almost legendary match with AJ Styles that really made this such a successful year for Suzuki, as that match shocked the world on how amazing it turned out to be. Regular exposure and one of the Top 5 matches of the year settles Minoru right inside the Top 40.
Artie: “Let’s light it up” her song says and light it up she did. The true star of the women’s division in 2014, AJ Lee became the standard bearer of what it takes to be Divas champion. Ending her first reign and adding 2 more to her list of accomplishments, AJ racked up a long list of victories, while holding the divas division together. While other divas have also held the title this year, AJ is the one who gave the title meaning. If 2014 is her final year in wrestling, a fine year it was.
Cewsh: As far as i’m concerned, this is the premier indy singles talent. I’m at a loss as to why he seemed to be in less places than ever this year. Seriously, people. I can’t rank him higher if all he does is wrestle Ricochet 800 times.
Artie: What an odd year for Tetsuya Naito. After winning the 2013 G1, he failed to gain the support of the crowd and got bumped down on the Wrestle Kingdom card. After that, he lost his NEVER Openweight title. While it looked bad for Nato, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. With the pressure of being a main event player gone, Naito went on to deliver some much more intense matches and sort of found his own style. As the year winds down, we have a much more confident Naito heading to Wrestle Kingdom to face off against AJ Styles in what should be a damn good match. With this confidence and comfort in the ring, 2015 could be everything that New Japan was expecting out of Naito in 2013.
Cewsh: It may seem baffling that a guy could lose two world titles and somehow jump 30 spots on the countdown, but Kevin Steen’s goodbye tour of the independant scene before he graduated to WWE was some of the best work he has ever done. Where before he spun his wheels in ROH’s nonexistant main event scene, this year freed Steen up to wrestle for fun, and the results were fantastic. From becoming the third Young Buck to giving Silas Young the rub of his life, Steen was on fire all year, and looks to carry that into NXT in 2015.
Cewsh: Really, the fact that we’ve left Sekimoto off of the list all this time hinges on criminal. For years he has been the top talent on the Japanese independent scene, and he continued that into this year by laying waste to everything in front of him. Built like some kind of Japanese bull god and with a lariat that brings a tear to Stan Hansen’s eye, Sekimoto is the great mystery of Japanese wrestling, as he remains the most significant free agent available to the major companies. One signature could put him into position to be one of the biggest power players in wrestling. Will it ever happen at this point?
Artie: What a year for advancement for Kota Ibushi. Increasing his weight to bring himself closer to the heavyweight division, Ibushi powered through the Junior Heavyweight division this year, winning both the IWGP Jr Heavyweight championship and defeating the winner of the BOSJ to retain his title. Moving up to the heavyweight division, Ibushi challenged for the NEVER title and in 2015 has his sights set on the IWGP Intercontinental championship. I have a lot of faith in Ibushi succeeding in adapting to the heavyweight division and being very successful.
Cewsh: For all the talk of Reigns being a lackluster performer, he certainly doesn’t have a resume that reflects it. Of course, that may be because this was the final year that the Shield was intact, and the unbelievable matches they had all through the first half of 2014 gave each member a substantial push to the top of these rankings. Since the breakup, Reigns is the one who has struggld the most to find his identity as a singles performer, and an injury stole much of the last part of the year from him. But the man is young, exciting, and WWE thinks it may have a new top star on it’s hands. He will rise.
Cewsh: Poor Bobby Roode. It must really suck to be one of the best wrestlers in the world and still be stuck spending your prime years wrestling guys like Brom and Abyss for a failing company. But if there’s anyone who the stink of TNA can’t touch no matter what they do to him, it’s Roode, who has put together a sterling resume despite rotten competition and no real motivation or reward for doing so. All we can do is hope that he gets rewarded somewhere down the line with a cushy job for a much better company. I wish I could believe it will come in time to take advantage of his tremendous talents.
Psycho: The New Japan underdog has been on quite a hot streak in 2014. Well, sort of. He has not earned a single victory outside of being a part of a big team, and he’s been utilized sparingly throughout the year, but there’s no denying the heart in his performances, something which the crowd has quickly latched on to. So he may not have often been victorious and sometimes seen as a an afterthought, but the crowd alone has skyrocketed him up on the list. His match Ishii at Wrestling Dontaku was off the charts, and his entire showing in the G1 Climax proves that he has the skill to rise the card, especially when he was one of the few who were making his opponents look better than anyone else. I can’t even tell you any specific matches, because nearly every match he had in the G1 was a top contender for the year. If he can be victorious in 2015, he may find himself in the Top 10 sooner than later.
(TNA Knockouts Championship)
(WSU World Championship)
Cewsh: For Jessicka Havok, 2014 had been a long time coming. After spending years starting a buzz on the indy scene in promotions like WSU, she finally arrived in Shimmer and began tearing it to shreds. For most women on this list that would be enough, but this is also the year that Havok made her way into homes across the US for the first time as she made a dramatic entrance into TNA’s Knockouts Division by destroying everyone in her path and quickly claiming the TNA Knockouts Championship. Sadly, he reign was curtailed by TNA’s headlong rush into obscurity, but if 2014 is any indication, there isn’t a whole lot that can stop the Havok Death Machine from making her way to the top.
Cewsh: Triple H keeps getting older, and somehow he seems to keep getting better. With a limited schedule allowing him ample time to recover and stay fresh, Triple H managed to turn out some of the best matches of his career in 2014, putting over the Shield, and having my personal match of the year against Daniel Bryan after being the focus of the biggest feud at the biggest event in the biggest company in the world. If he had actually put himself in the Survivor Series match for his own job, he very well might have cracked the top 10, but you know Triple H. He’s far too selfless for that.
(ROH World Championship)
(PWG World Championship)
Cewsh: 2014 ended on a down note for Adam Cole, with him losing a title match against Jay Briscoe that everyone was sure he would win, and suffering an injury that will cost him a spot on the most stacked card in wrestling this year, NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 9. But a little bad fortune can’t entirely derail the shooting star of the indy scene. With a main event look, ever increasing skills, and a title resume that gets longer by the hour, Adam Cole really just has a choice to make. Which major company is it going to be? If he makes the right choice, the sky’s the limit. If he makes the wrong choice then, well, at least Orlando is warm in the winter.
(WWE World Heavyweight Championships)
Cewsh: It seems weird to say it but 2014 was the year that Randy Orton actually became UNDERrated. After years of being pushed wholesale down the throats of the WWE Universe, Orton had one of the best in ring years of his career, having solid clashes with John Cena, being a key cog in one of the greatest main event in Wrestlemania history, and feuding all summer with the Shield in some of the best 6 man tags WWE has ever seen. He was just starting to get white hot with a face turn as well when he had to take a break and missed much of the end of the year, which hurt him on this countdown. But if that face turn can keep up the momentum it has shown thus far, the Viper will be back in our hearts very soon.
Psycho: Cesaro is a man that could only be outside of the Top 25 if he was not utilized enough. He’s that damn good. So good, in fact, that despite booking that squandered his potential and left him mucking around in obscurity, he still came out as one of the most valuable components of WWE. While he may not play much of a role in the stories, Cesaro has become the go-to guy whenever you need a top notch bout. He’s been a regular fixture on television, and between his incredible reactions leading up to his epic Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal victory and his upper-echelon matches with the likes of Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler, he’s still managed to rock the wrestling world and put fans on notice. Cesaro is a dangerous man that could dominate this list in a better year, so we’ll see what the future holds for him.
(WWE United States Championship)
Artie: While Cena may be heart of the WWE, Ambrose used 2014 to slither into the very soul of the WWE. After Bryan went down to injury and the Shield went their separate ways, everyone was banking on Reigns being the top guy in the WWE. Until he also went out and when he did, one man stepped up and became the sole reason to watch WWE some weeks. Whether he was jumping out of presents, out from under tables, off a cell, or out of a cab, Dean Ambrose was THE star of the second half of 2014. No one man carried a show like Ambrose could and no one brought as much excitement to constantly losing matches as he did. His W/L for the year is absolutely atrocious, but greatness in wrestling isn’t measured in victories or championships, it’s measured in how important a person is to a company and for a large portion of 2014 Ambrose has been the lifeblood of the WWE.
17. (#61) KUSHIDA (NJPW)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship w/ Alex Shelley)
Artie: After a year in which he fail in his challenges for the NEVER, the ROH TV Championship, and ROH Tag team championships, you’d think KUSHIDA could be called a failure. Well NEH EH. In 2014 KUSHIDA held both the IWGP Jr heavyweight and Jr heavyweight tag team championships simultaneously, a very rare feat. While his tag team partner, Alex Shelley, spent a considerable amount of time on the shelf, KUSHIDA, tore it up in Jr Heavyweight division and had one of his best years ever. His matches with Ishii, Jay Lethal, The young bucks, and reDRagon are all must-sees of the year. KUSHIDA’s 2014 was a damn impressive year overall.
16. (N/A) Ricochet (Freelance)
(DG Open The Dream Gate Championship)
(DGUSA Open The Freedom Gate Championship)
(HOG Heavyeight Championship)
(RPW Tag Team Championships w/ Rich Swann)
(NJPW Best of The Super Jrs. Tournament)
Artie: Look at this man. That smile, those titles, THAT hair. In addition to all of those things, Ricochet is a damn good wrestler. In 2014 he’s been DG USA champion, Dragon Gate Dream Gate Champion, Best of the Super Juniors, and first ever Lucha Underground champion. Switching his style from being super-reliant on flippies, Ricochet brought a lot more ground and power ground to his ring style as he bulked up quite a bit in size. While some were naysayers, there’s no denying his excellent showing in the BOSJ and his performances on the fledgling Lucha Underground show. King Ricochet’s talents are finally starting to be recognized and 2015 can only be better than what we’ve already seen.
Psycho: It honestly might be a mistake having Sami Zayn this low after that phenomenal performance he put on at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, but ranking at #15 is still nothing to sneeze at. The amount of potential the former El Generico possesses to be the next big star in WWE is unprecedented, and every time he steps out in front of a crowd, he proves that he’s more ready than some of the guys on the main roster. The man does not have a single bad match under his belt, and manages to make his opponents look even greater by working with him. He has easily become one of the greatest babyfaces of our generation, if not of all time, and has put in more effort than almost any other performer. Looking at his significant and consistent push in NXT as well as having 4 MOTY-quality bouts under his belt, he belongs among the men he is ranked beside and below, and will only move higher from here.
Cewsh: What do you do when the company you have dedicated your life to loses it’s top star to the WWE and is quickly plummeting out of the public consciousness without him? If you’re Naomichi Marufuji you pick up the slack. Years after his botched first run with the GHC title, Marufuji captured it again in May, beating Yuji Nagata to reclaim the title for the company which is now built on his shoulders. In title defenses against Daisuke Sekimoto, Katsuhiko Nakajima and former partner Takashi Sugiura, Marufuji proved that he wasn’t about to let his company go down without a fight, and his efforts didn’t go unrewarded. NOAH has slowly begun to gain positive momentum for the first time in years, and if you want someone to thank, just look for the guy with the best hair in the locker room.
Artie: Talk about a guy who left his comfort zone, broke out of his shell, and cranked up the charisma to an 11. Neville has always been great in the ring, there’s no doubt about that. When you talk about the best Jr Heavyweight wrestler in the WWE, Adrian Neville steals that title by leaps, bounds, flips, dips, tricks, and acrobatics. Aside from his superb in-ring style, Adrian Neville managed to transforms verbally and tone donw his Geordie accent, while adding some much needed passion and emotion to his speaking style. Easily the best NXT Champion we’ve had, Neville has main evented all 4 NXT Specials and elevated both the title and the NXT brand beyond anything we’ve seen out of a WWE developmental territory before.
Psycho: Remember what I said about New Japan guys not able to have bad matches? Tomohiro Ishii is the epitome of that statement. Ishii could take a pile of shit and polish it into diamond-plated platinum before he would lariat the rare gem into oblivion. It’s seems almost criminal that he’s not in the Top 10, but that has much more to do with his slipshod booking than anything he is responsible for. Despite being bettered in the G1 and occasionally being an afterthought, Ishii has dominated the NJPW ring, taking insane amounts of punishment and dishing it back out tenfold. His reigns as NEVER Openweight Champion have been a story worth spreading, having knock-down, drag-out brawls with Tomoaki Honma, Kota Ibushi and even Yujiro Takahashi. Had his NEVER reign gone uninterrupted and been booked stronger during that interim period where he wasn’t champion, I would be campaigning for him to be Top 5.
11. (#10) Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW)
(IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
(IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
Cewsh: The Ace of the Universe took a step back this year. Despite winning both of the major championships in New Japan, this year was much more about fellow stars Okada and Nakamura, and he did everything he could to cede the spotlight to them. Of course, he managed to do that while growing the New Japan product worldwide, being the babyface foil to the Bullet Club phenomenon, having unreal quality matches with Shibata, Styles, and pretty much everyone else. In order to fall out of the top 25, Tanahashi would basically have to forget how to use his arms for a full year, and even then, he’d probably just get really good at leg locks.
Psycho: Dolph just barely edges his way into the Top 10 through pure heart and wrestling skill, as well as being a part of one of the most cathartic moments in professional wrestling all year. After losing his World Heavyweight Championship and seemingly being jobbed out to everyone possible in 2013, it seemed Ziggler was doomed to a life as nothing more than a good mid card hand. But throughout 2014, Ziggler found himself on the winning end of things most often, even if it was in low card matches that had literally no importance. The crowd stuck with him the whole time, supporting and praising him to the extent that WWE apparently could no longer ignore it.
Enter SummerSlam, where Dolph Ziggler captured the Intercontinental Title in a hotly built feud with The Miz, from which he goes on to have one of the greatest pair of IC Title reigns for only lasting 3 months. While bringing prestige back to the classic championship and re-establishing his worth, he was engrossed in one of the biggest angles of the year in Team Cena vs. Team Authority, being not only the main focus, but the ultimate hero that put The Authority out of business, eliminating 3(technically 4) of his opponents with almost no help. It may have came late, but 2014 was one hell of a year for the Showoff.
9. (#7) Cheerleader Melissa (Shimmer)
(PWR World Women’s Championship)
(APW Women’s Championship)
Cewsh: The unchallenged Queen of Professional Wrestling. Other lists can give that title to whoever they want and i’m sure that’s all well and good. But over the past year, Melissa just continued to prove what we already knew: that she is the premier name in the industry. Defending the Shimmer Championship in dominant fashion, invading the Joshi stronghold of STARDOM, and essentially competing in nothing but championship matches for a year straight. Cheerleader Melissa doesn’t get out of bed for less than a title match, and when you watch her do her thing, it’s hard to blame her.
Psycho: They may be saddled with a terrible catchphrase, but that hasn’t stopped Jimmy & Jey Uso from ruling the WWE Tag Team division with painted faces. From start to finish, The Usos have produced their greatest year inside and outside of the ring, proving that they can handle their selves on the microphone and actually capture the attention of the entire audience. Gaining their first Tag Title reign, they brought legitimacy to a division that was sorely lacking, having quite the pre-show match at WrestleMania that was lauded by many. Other than the overall exposure they’ve had, probably their strongest contribution to the year was their unexpectedly stellar feud with Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. While it may not have ended how it should these two pulled out the best performances out of Wyatt’s former lackeys, while also doing the same for their selves. Whether they can go higher than this remains to be seen, but they have done more than earn their spot this year.
Psycho: Any 2014 list would be incomplete without Seth Rollins automatically locked in above rank 10. The man has been on top of WWE since June when he turned on his brothers, effectively destroying one of the greatest stables ever in The Shield. Not in many years has such a turn been treated so immensely, as fans, marks and smarks alike, virulently chanted “YOU SOLD OUT” at nearly every event he was present. He soon won the Money in the Bank briefcase and has since taken on the role as the #1 heel in WWE that everyone wants to defeat while Brock Lesnar sips wine and has models rub his back, playing the part of the heel champion that is constantly shitting in everyone’s cheerios and making lives hell. While consistently being one of the best in-ring workers and talkers, he almost gets boosted up for kickstarting the mammoth singles careers of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, all the while cementing his own legacy and becoming one of the fastest growing stars of the business.
Cewsh: Well this year certainly didn’t go as expected for AJ Styles. After being unceremoniously rejected by TNA in January, Styles promptly went to the independant scene and became the hottest commodity in recent memory. In no time at all he had captured the 2nd most prestigious title in the wrestling world after beating Okada and joining the Bullet Club in a move that rocked the wrestling world. He held the title for much of the year, and did a killer job of getting himself over, including a match with Minoru Suzuki that ranks up with the very best of his career. He lost the title to Tanahashi, but he’s far from out the door just yet, as he’s set to face off against NJPW golden child Tetsuya Naito in January. The future is uncertain after that for Styles, but for 2014 he was just as phenomenal as ever.
5. (#14) The Young Bucks (Freelance)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships)
(ROH World Tag Team Championships)
(PWG World Tag Team Championships)
(FWE Tag Team Championships)
(HOG Tag Team Championships)
(IWL Tag Team Championships)
(SCW Tag Team Championships)
Artie: While a picture says a thousand words and championships are the most used measure of success, The Young Bucks are not a tag team who were content with just winning a bunch of titles. No, the Bucks rocked the entire world of pro wrestling, elevating tag team wrestling to some astonishing heights. The Young Bucks have put out MOTYC after MOTYC after MOTYC with anybody and everybody thrown before them. reDRAgon, Timesplitters, World’s Cutest tag team, and even the Hardy Boyz were all elevated to their A-game and beyond when facing Matt and Nick Jackson.
The Young Bucks’ accomplishments this year are more than just winning titles or rockin’ in the ring, The Young Bucks are the heartbeat behind The Bullet Club and the Bucks have done so much to make the industry of wrestler self-promotion and marketing a financially viable option for the talent to earn a living. For an A+ 2014 and a 2015 that can only be better, The Young Bucks are definitely worthy of being ranked in the top 5 superstars in the industry.
Cewsh: John Cena is John Cena. By this point in his career he is as reliable as any wrestler in recent memory. Even in a year where the focus shifted away from him, he still managed to have two noteworthy feuds with Randy Orton, bring Bray Wyatt up to the main event, and make Brock Lesnar look like a bigger monster than ever. There is more greater pillar of consistency and spectacle in this industry than the man in the neon everything. Maybe one day he’ll even get to enjoy it.
Cewsh: Last year, the Rainmaker was our CRL champion, and in most years he probably did enough to repeat, but unfortunately the two men above him just pushed past him into further levels of greatness. But let’s not take anything away from the most talented 20something in wrestling, as he still held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for several months, and won the grueling, legendary G1 Climax tournament for the right to face his nemesis Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of what may be the biggest Japanese wrestling show in history. He is the undisputed future of Japanese wrestling. But in 2014, he was just baaaaarely edged out by it’s present.
Artie: The Cinderella story of 2014 and one of the saddest downfalls we’ve ever seen. As 2013 drew to a close, we all assumed the Bryan was done with his brief main event run. He was booked as a lacky for the Wyatts and slowly being phased out in favor of Orton, Cena, and Batista. While it looked grim, the fans fought back, hijacked shows, and changed the landscape of WWE, forcing them to make Daniel Bryan THE focus of Wrestlemania. Having been there live, I can only describe the emotion of Bryan’s title win as “breathtaking”. Given how shortly thereafter Bryan’s career was put on hold, and possibly, an end, he fell a lot lower on this list than originally anticipated. Alas, the matches we got in his five active months, coupled with the beautiful story of his rise to the top cemented Daniel Bryan’s status as a top star of 2014.
Cewsh: The King of Strong Style, the Sultan of Swag, the most charismatic wrestler on the face of this Earth. He was our number one this year by a mile, and he didn’t even hold a world title. He’s that fucking good.
Artie: The undisputed King of professional wrestling in 2014. It takes a special wrestler to make a secondary championship feel like the top title in any promotion, but Nakamura has made himself the biggest prize in NJPW. Having a match with Shinsuke Nakamura means that you could take a nap and wake up having had a MOTYC. Nakamura’s effort on the New Japan/ROH card was the best match of the night and showed so many American fans just what they can expect when New Japan comes to the screen of American TV in 2015. While Tanahashi is easily the face of the company, Nakamura has built a head of steam going into 2015 that could easily translate to him smashing his knee right into the face of the face of the company and claiming his spot at the top of New Japan.
Psycho: Really, what else can you say about Shinsuke Nakamura that hasn’t already been said by any fan of Puroresu? The man eats, sleeps, breathes, sweats, oozes and bleeds charisma—or “Swag,” rather—and has one of the most captivating wrestling styles all around. He’s a man that you have to stop what you’re doing just to say, “Who the fuck is that?” when you see him for the first time. Even when the man has a lackluster match, he’s still considered one of the greatest of all time, and I have a hard time finding any counter-argument to that. The man has made a secondary title seem more important than the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, put Okada over like a bigger star than he already was(which was pretty huge), and still has one of the best finishers in the industry today. Whether it’s for dominating the top of the card for the better part of the year, wrestling his ass off to string together some amazing matches like his classic bout with Tanahashi at Invasion Attack, or just being a generally unmitigated badass, he’s earned this #1 spot, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him do it a few times.
Well that’ll do it for us this year, boys and girls. We collected the 100 wrestlers who defined the year 2014 and ranked them in order. The response thus far has already been rife with controversy, (you should see our emails,) and now we eagerly await your praise, insults, adoration, revulsion and everything in between. We look forward to everything that 2015 will bring us and as always, remember to keep reading, be good to one another, and live your life in a way the King of Swag would be proud of.