2019 was a crazy year for professional wrestling. We saw the formation of All Elite Wrestling, NXT becoming the true third brand of WWE, Jay White becoming IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and whatever this was. Overall, it was a great year for wrestling. Last year, I posted my Top 100 Wrestlers for the first time publicly.
As a disclaimer, please keep into consideration I do not watch RAW or Smackdown Live on a weekly basis. I do check in from time to time. That being said, with so much wrestling available on so many different formats, it’s hard to keep up. Now, the list:
1. Jonathan Gresham (Last Year: 22)
It’s really hard for me to put into words how amazing of a professional wrestler Jonathan Gresham is, but I’m going to try my best. The start of 2019 saw Gresham make his debut in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, which was a longtime coming in my opinion. His debut match against Robbie Eagles was fantastic, but it was his follow up match with David Starr that really got the PWG faithful behind him. Gresham entered the Battle of Los Angeles, and made his way to the finals. He was ultimately defeated by Bandido, but it was a hell of a ride to get there. Every match he had ended in ref stoppage (Octopus Hold with hammer strikes. Like a fucking bad-ass).
Every match he has had with David Starr this year is a must watch. Gresham, like many others on this list, competed in a New Japan tournament. While Gresham’s Best of the Super Junior’s record doesn’t look great, his matches were all stellar. Gresham has the ability to work against wrestlers much bigger than him, and make it look believable. I go into every Gresham match believing he can win. His limb work is incredible, his high-flying is great. Everything about Jonathan Gresham is great.
He appears to be around for the long run in PWG, and in Ring of Honor as well. He, along with Jay Lethal, captured the ROH World Tag Team Championships to close out 2019. I know that Gresham has been wrestling for almost fifteen years now, but it feels like his time is now. Do yourself a favor and check him out, you will not be disappointed.
2. Tetsuya Naito (Last Year: 8)
Naito, year in and year out, proves that he is one of the top performers in not only New Japan, but in the world. The leader of LIJ had a scary looking feud over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship with Kota Ibushi. I say scary, because they were seemingly trying to murder each other with ever encounter. He had another great G1 Tournament, and also had a ton of fun tag team matches alongside Shingo Takagi. Naito looks to fulfill his “DESTINO” and become the first ever double champion in NJPW coming up at Wrestle Kingdom. This long tortured Naito fan hopes the start of 2020, has Naito wearing all the gold.
3. Will Ospreay (Last Year: 6)
Will Ospreay had one of the best runs anyone has ever had in a calendar year. He competed in all but one of New Japan‘s tournaments this year. Much like Shingo Takagi, he made the transition from junior to heavyweight halfway through the year. He had top tier matches all year with the likes of Lance Archer, Rocky Romero, Robbie Eagles, and Bandido. His Best of the Super Juniors Final against Shingo Takagi is one of my favorite matches of the year (despite the outcome).
Ospreay may have oversaturated the market by seemingly never taking a break. Also getting out of the Paradise Lock like it’s nothing is…problematic. While those are both more of a personal preference, make no mistake that Ospreay is competing at a high level and will continue to do so every chance he gets.
4. Shingo Takagi (Last Year: 9)
Shingo Takagi is the MVP of New Japan Pro Wrestling for 2019, and you cannot tell me otherwise. He started off 2019 by capturing the IWGP Jr Tag Team Championships with BUSHI. Shingo remained unpinned until the Best of the Super Junior Finals, and then decided he needed a new challenge. He entered the G1 Climax Tournament to prove he could hang with the heavyweights (because he already was one, let’s be real) and he did. Takagi also had multiple Match of the Year candidates with Tetsuya Naito, Will Ospreay, Tomohiro Ishii, and SHO. It’s been an amazing year for Shingo, and hopefully he will continue to flourish in NJPW‘s heavyweight division.
5. Tomohiro Ishii (Last Year: 11)
If Shingo Takagi didn’t have the year he had, Tomohiro Ishii would be my MVP of NJPW for 2019. Ishii is one of the most consistent wrestlers year to year, and it always surprises me for some reason. He, once again, had a strong showing in this year’s G1 Climax Tournament. He had a great series of matches with Taichi, and had a Match of the Year candidate with Yuji Nagata. Do not be surprised to see the Stone Pitbull atop my list for next year.
6. Kota Ibushi (Last Year: 1)
The start to the Golden Star’s year was rough. At Wrestle Kingdom 13, he lost to Will Ospreay and received a concussion in the process. Which cost him two months right off the bat. Ibushi’s year was far from over, however. He returned to have a series of amazing and horrifying matches with Tetsuya Naito. He ran the table in A Block after two straight losses in the G1 Climax Tournament. A tournament he ended up winning. Thus making him the first ever wrestler to win the G1, New Japan Cup, and Best of the Super Junior tournaments. Ibushi looks to start 2020 off with a bang, as he challenges Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1.
7. Ryu Lee (Last Year: Unranked)
The recently former Dragon Lee had a phenomenal year. Lee had most of his success is tournament competition. He placed well in Best of the Super Juniors, Super J Cup, and PWG‘s Battle of Los Angeles. He captured the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship in April, and ultimately lost it to Will Ospreay. Lee recently had to drop the Dragon from his name, which is replaced with Ryu (Dragon in Japanese). He closed out the year by winning the ROH World Television Championship at Final Battle 2019.
8. Adam Cole (Last Year: 50)
Look, I’m as surprised as anyone. If you know me personally, you know I am not the biggest Adam Cole fan. He, up until last year, just didn’t do anything for me. He is (despite most of the crowd reaction) one of the best heels out there right now. His matches with Johnny Gargano were amazing, and he’s quite possibly been one of the best NXT Champions in the history of the promotion. He had one of the best Novembers in recent memory. Defeating Daniel Bryan on Smackdown Live, a fantastic match with Rollins on RAW, and a great showing during Survivor Series weekend. Cole will enter 2020 as the NXT Champion.
9. Johnny Gargano (Last Year: 3)
While Gargano fell in my rankings a couple of spots, he had an amazing 2019. Filled with ups and downs, Gargano started the year off by capturing the NXT North American Championship from Ricochet. A title he promptly lost less than a month later to Velveteen Dream. He reformed DIY with Tommaso Ciampa for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, and looked to extract revenge against Ciampa after they were eliminated. Ciampa suffered a serious neck injury, and we truly never got a true end to their rivalry (at least as of this posting).
In steps Adam Cole, who had my Match of the Year against Gargano at NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn. A masterful bit of storytelling that saw Gargano overcome all odds and become NXT Champion. Gargano suffered an injury towards the end of the year, which quite frankly hurt his ranking this year. He looks to start off 2020 in a program against Finn Balor.
10. Rey Fenix (Last Year: 96)
Both of the Lucha Bros had stellar years, but one more than the other. The bulk of his ranking comes from tag team matches, and from a long running feud with The Young Bucks. Fenix did have some stand out singles matches in 2019. His match with Nick Jackson on AEW Dynamite was fantastic, as well as his opening round match with Aramis at this year’s Battle of Los Angeles. He works well in both tag matches and singles matches, and continues to be one of the best high-flyers around today.
11. Ricochet (Last Year: 30)
Ricochet started the year spitting his time between NXT and, at the time, the main roster. He started the year right out of the gate with a Match of the Year candidate against Johnny Gargano. He then formed an unlikely tag team with Aleister Black. A team that ended up winning the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. He defeated Samoa Joe in June to capture the United States Championship, and had a series of great matches with AJ Styles over that title. Ricochet also had two matches on back-to-back RAW‘s with Drew McIntyre that were fantastic as well. WWE is very high on Ricochet, so look for him to have an even bigger 2020.
12. David Starr (Last Year: 29)
Starr was on an absolute roll this year. He has been, actually, on a roll for a long while. This year’s highlights included winning PROGRESS Wrestling’s Strong Style 16 Tournament, being in the finals of PWG‘s Battle for Los Angeles, and stomping on Walter’s NXT:UK Heavyweight Championship belt. He had a fantastic match over WrestleMania Weekend against Tomohiro Ishii. In addition to everything else, any time he steps into the ring with Jonathan Gresham it is nothing less than fantastic. His match against Jordan Devlin at OTT‘s Fifth Anniversary show was a brilliant piece of storytelling, and should be check out by everyone (OTT’s YouTube page). His promo skills are neck in neck with his wrestling. Look for an even stronger 2020 from Starr, but don’t expect him with any major promotion as he looks to remain INDEPENDENT.
13. Kento Miyahara (Last Year: Unranked)
If you, like me, were unfamiliar with Kento Miyahara: Get familiar real quick. The New Ace of All Japan Pro Wrestling has been at this for a while, and just recently hit my radar in a big way. He is currently on his fourth reign as the Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, and is very close to breaking the records for most defenses and combined days held. His matches are always great, and he has a hard hitting move set that puts hearts in my eyes.
His charisma is off the charts, and he is for sure one of my new favorites. In terms of my match rankings, he did not have a bad match (at least that I had watched). Do yourself a favor and look him up, and try to get your hands on his match with Naoya Nomura from August of this year.
14. PAC (Last Year: Unranked)
PAC is the definition of someone who left WWE, rebuilt his brand, and is now reaping the rewards of that choice. Towards the end of 2018, PAC reemerged in Japan’s DragonGate promotion. He won the Open the Dream Gate Championship (the promotion’s top title) and held it with pride for 229 days. In that time, he was never pinned or submitted anywhere. Yes, ANYWHERE.
During his reign, he had one of the Matches of the Year against Natural Vibe’s KZY. PAC eventually made his way back to All Elite Wrestling, and has been causing chaos ever since. He filled in for Jon Moxley against Kenny Omega at ALL OUT, and shockingly beat Omega. PAC is looking for his rubber match with Omega in 2020.
15. Kenny Omega (Last Year: 2)
After a losing effort at Wrestle Kingdom against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Omega took his talents to All Elite Wrestling. His match quality did not dip, but being out of action for about four months of the year really hurt his rankings. He seemingly could not find his footing in AEW (storyline wise), and it seems as if they didn’t want to pull the trigger on him being in the main event right away. Hopefully Omega can regain his “Best Bout Machine” moniker in 2020.
16. Jon Moxley (Last Year: Unranked)
This year the former Dean Ambrose was on a mission, and I believe he succeed. On his way out of WWE, he reunited with The Shield (again) and had a fun Falls Count Anywhere match with Drew McIntyre. He disappeared until May 25th, when he attacked anything that moved at AEW‘s Double or Nothing. That wasn’t the only shocking surprise, as it was announced the next day that Jon Moxley would be appearing in NJPW.
He won the IWGP United States Championship his first go around, and then had a series of dream matches in the G1 Climax tournament. He then had to have minor elbow surgery, which may have hurt him from breaking my Top 10. Moxley came back from that injury and had a fun series of matches involving PAC, Darby Allin, Joey Janela, and Kenny Omega.
17. Kazuchika Okada (Last Year: 4)
2019 marked the return of “The Rainmaker” for Okada. The first half of the year was spent feuding with Jay White. After he won the New Japan Cup, he defeated White and regaining the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for a fifth time. He had another fantastic G1 Climx tournament, in which he tied in A Block with Kota Ibushi (Ibushi held the tie-breaker). Okada will enter 2020 as the Heavyweight Champion of NJPW.
18. Pentagon Jr. (Last Year: 49)
The Lucha Bros, in my opinion, are the best tag team of 2019. Which makes sense, because both are in my Top 20. The Lucha Bros/Young Bucks feud that ping ponged between AEW and AAA was pretty great. A strong showing in PWG‘s Battle of Los Angeles against Tony Deppen, Darby Allin, and being featured on national television weekly helped Pentagon break my Top 20.
19. Bandido (Last Year: 17)
Bandido had an interesting year. At the end of 2018, he signed an exclusive contract with Ring of Honor. This opened the door for Bandido to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling. While he didn’t have the best showing during the Best of the Super Junior’s tournament, he still had a solid year. He really made his mark winning PWG‘s Battle of Los Angeles tournament; and finally capturing their heavyweight championship during the month of December. Bandido’s one year exclusive contract with ROH has expired, so expect big things from him in the New Year.
20. Zack Sabre Jr. (Last Year: 5)
ZSJ had another strong year, which should be surprising to no one reading this. His series of matches with Hiroshi Tanahashi were entertaining, and he had good showings in both the G1 and New Japan Cup tournaments for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The Best of the Rest of the Wrestlers
21. Jeff Cobb (Last Year: 37)
22. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Last Year: 12)
23. Nick Jackson (Last Year: 28)
24. Daniel Bryan (Last Year: 23)
25. Tony Deppen (Last Year: Unranked)
26. SANADA (Last Year: 15)
27. Taichi (Last Year: 95)
28. Jay White (Last Year: 42)
29. Robbie Eagles (Last Year: 100)
30. KZY (Last Year: Unranked)
31. Matt Jackson (Last Year: 27)
32. Roderick Strong (Last Year: 34)
33. Kofi Kingston (Last Year: Unranked)
34. Oney Lorcan (Last Year: Unranked)
35. Aleister Black (Last Year: 32)
36. Matt Riddle (Last Year: 7)
37. Pete Dunne (Last Year: 38)
38. Lince Dorado (Last Year: 79)
39. Taiji Ishimori (Last Year: 77)
40. Drew Gulak (Last Year: 52)
41. Kaito Kiyomiya (Last Year: Unranked)
42. Jake Atlas (Last Year: Unranked)
43. EVIL (Last Year: 59)
44. Becky Lynch (Last Year: 51)
45. AJ Styles (Last Year: 35)
46. Juice Robinson (Last Year: 39)
48. Chris Jericho (Last Year: 93)
49. Jungle Boy (Last Year: Unranked)
50. Kyle O’Reilly (Last Year: 68)
51. Lance Archer (Last Year: Unranked)
52. Velveteen Dream (Last Year: 36)
53. Lio Rush (Last Year: 98)
54. Santana (Last Year: 66)
55. Ortiz (Last Year: 67)
56. Katsuhiko Nakajima (Last Year: Unranked)
57. Humberto Carrillo (Last Year: Unranked)
58. Sasha Banks (Last Year: 87)
59. BUSHI (Last Year: 45)
60. Akira Tozawa (Last Year: 94)
61. Andrade (Last Year: 19)
62. KENTA (Last Year: 70)
63. Darby Allin (Last Year: Unranked)
64. WALTER (Last Year: 10)
65. Domink Dijakovic (Last Year: Unranked)
66. Ben-K (Last Year: Unranked)
67. Rocky Romero (Last Year: Unranked)
68. Minoru Suzuki (Last Year: 20)
69. A-Kid (Last Year: Unranked)
70. Angel Garza (Last Year: Unranked)
71. Joey Janela (Last Year: 60)
72. John Silver (Last Year: Unranked)
73. Seth Rollins (Last Year: 24)
74. Sho (Last Year: 82)
75. Hirooki Goto (Last Year: 21)
76. El Phantasmo (Last Year: Unranked)
77. Daniel Makabe (Last Year: Unranked)
78. Nick Gage (Last Year: Unranked)
79. Keith Lee (Last Year: 99
80. Trent? (Last Year: Unranked)
81. Kris Statlander (Last Year: Unranked)
82. Go Shiozaki (Last Year: Unranked)
83. “Hangman” Adam Page (Last Year: 26)
84. Cody Rhodes (Last Year: 53)
85. Samoa Joe (Last Year: 65)
86. Cedric Alexander (Last Year: 32)
87. Isiah Kassidy (Last Year: Unranked
88. Marq Quen (Last Year: Unranked
89. Yuji Okabayashi (Last Year: Unranked)
90. Io Shirai (Last Year: Unranked)
91. YAMATO (Last Year: Unranked)
92. Tony Nese (Last Year: Unranked)
93. Naoya Nomura (Last Year: Unranked)
94. Drew McIntyre (Last Year: Unranked)
95. Rey Mysterio (Last Year: Unranked)
96. Finn Balor (Last Year: 61)
97. Kenoh (Last Year: Unranked)
98. Brody King (Last Year: Unranked)
99. Tommaso Ciampa (Last Year: 14)
100. Shayna Baszler (Last Year: 33)