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2016 PWI 500 Reactions

By Luke Raven

(Photo courtesy of

It’s that time again! While my girlfriend is putting on her UGG boots and drinking a pumpkin spiced God-knows-what, the PWI put out their annual list of the top 500 wrestlers in the world. Each year the list is greeted with applause, condemnation, and a lot of “Huh? Who’s that?” I will take you through the top 5, some guys I feel should be higher/lower, and some random guys you may not know who have either recently been in Iowa or will be soon. Let’s get this started!

#1 Roman Reigns

Let’s rip this one off like a Band-Aid. Roman Reigns is at the top of the list. I know. It hurts, but let’s try and look at this objectively and forget that the “Sufferin’ succotash,” moment came in January of 2015. Reigns was number four in PWI’s 2015 list and he has had an even better year since. He has grown as a talker with both himself and writing staff really starting to understand his character. According to the Wrestling Observer, Reigns has had seven 4-star or above matches since last September. The Big Dog has had great matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Sheamus, Cesaro, and more. Do I think he should be at the top of this list? Not at all. Maybe it’s the Internet fan in me, but for as many strengths as he has he also has weaknesses. Average on the mic, limited move set, poor selling, and I don’t think he elevates his competition.

#2  Kazuchika Okada

“The Rainmaker” continues his dominance in Japan. It is crazy to think of how many great matches he’s had in his career while still only being 28-years-old. Last year was a who’s who of top matches. Okada had thirteen, yes THIRTEEN, 4-star matches or above in the last twelve months. That includes two 5-star instant classics in that time period; one against the gold standard of Japanese pro wrestling, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and an instant classic against Tomohiro Ishii. If you haven’t watched the Okada/Ishii match from this year’s G1 Climax tournament you are ill and the only cure is

#3 Finn Balor

No argument here for Finn. He put NXT on his back and carried it until being drafted to Raw. Balor made the NXT title something to strive for not just in NXT, but all of professional wrestling. He had a record breaking run as their champion and told an amazing story with recently dethroned Samoa Joe. No other wrestler is able to jump back and forth between two distinct personas the way this man has. Sorry, Kane. While he was able to become the first ever WWE Universal Champion it was, of course, short lived due to a devastating shoulder injury. Get well, Finn. We will be waiting.

#4 AJ Styles

The NEW face that runs the place! Man, is this guy…….What’s the word? Starts with an “ph” sound. Oh yea. Fantastic! Styles has had 10 4-star or more matches this year and boy were they good. Styles versus Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10 is worth watching a re-watching on a weekly basis. The Phenomenal One was able to have multiple great matches against Roman Reigns which helped elevate them both to the next level. For me, AJ Styles would be my number one.

#5 Jay Lethal

If AJ Styles is my #1, then Jay Lethal would be my #1A. Although he recently lost the title to Adam Cole, had his head shaved by the Bullet Club, and doesn’t have as many 4+ star matches as the others ahead of him on this list, he has been as good at being a villain as anyone else we’ve seen in the last 5-10 years. He’s gotten even better as a heel without Truth Martini consistently by his side like the beginning of his TV title reign. Ring of Honor has been incredibly inconsistent this year, but Lethal has been steady. He comes in, makes you despise him, wins in some underhanded way, and then laughs at you while you boo him.

The Rodney Dangerfield’s (Get it!?)

These guys got no respect from Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Each is a capable performer and could’ve been much higher on the list:

Kenny Omega #22

He was the first foreigner to win the G1 Climax tournament, had a 5-star match against Tetsuya Naito, a hellacious ladder match against Michael Elgin, and is possibly the most entertaining wrestler on the planet. He’s in my top five.

Chris Hero #125

Doing some of the best work of his career, Chris Hero is turning out amazing performances from PWG, Evolve, Progress, and really anywhere he goes. Also, he recently wrote a great piece for Sports Illustrated. Go read that after you’re done here.

Marty Scurll #204

This man is a James Bond villain come to life and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Competing mostly in Europe, he is one of the most inventive wrestlers out there today. Please check out his YouTube channel if you haven’t already.

Think Again

A few gentlemen on the PWI 500 seemed a bit high on the list to me. Feel free to disagree, but here’s who I thought could’ve been lower:

Dean Ambrose #9

Yes, he is the current WWE Champion. Yes, he is the main guy on Smackdown Live. However, his matches with anyone except Seth Rollins are pretty meh. Seriously, try and remember the best part of his Summerslam match with Dolph Ziggler.

Brock Lesnar #19

Have you ever watched Lesnar do a German suplex? Then you’ve seen his offense in each of his last ten matches. For being the Mayor of Suplex City he only really does one suplex. It’s monotonous. I really don’t look forward to his matches any longer.

Mark Briscoe #83

The lesser of the two Briscoes has failed to evolve in some time. Without Jay around Mark simply exists in ROH.

The Iowa Connection

A few guys with connections to Iowa not named Seth Rollins and Big E made the list. Check them out:

Wrestling Revolver
Fenix (#89), Chavo Guerrero Jr. (#220), Brian Cage (#95), Sami Callihan (#172), AR Fox (#233), Trevor Lee (#60), PJ Black (#140), and more will be coming to Clive on October 28th.

Arik Cannon’s (#300) has brought us WWE Cruiserweight Classic competitor Ariya Daivari (#280), Colt Cabana (#157), Chuck Taylor (#235), and Joey Ryan (#158). Let’s hope they come back soon!

Impact Pro Wrestling
IPW always puts on great shows. They have even brought to Ricochet (#15), Wes Brisco (#380), and on September, 29th, will have current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Michael Elgin (#18) in the house in Des Moines.

 That’s it for this year’s PWI 500 review. Remember to keep listening to the podcast, checking the site for new content, and follow me on Twitter @ravenluke. Thanks!
About Dustin Smothers (187 Articles)
Dad. Nerd. Slammy Winner. #GoodBrother. Glorious Guy. Sith. Co-Owner/Creator/Producer/Host of the #ProWrestlingIowa Network of Podcasts.

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