The Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 lists the supposed best wrestlers in the world over the past year from July to June. It is a hotly contested affair amongst fans as the list is created by only 5 individuals. Their criteria is, in order of importance:
– Win-Loss Record
– Technical Ability
– Influence on the Sport
– Success against the highest grade of competition
– Success against the most diverse competition
The problem of course is that the majority of these criteria are subjective and so there is bound to be debate, particularly when it comes to the ranking of independent wrestlers versus that of WWE sports entertainers.
At the top of the list I do not believe there is much to complain about. ROH alumni, and current WWE champion Seth Rollins, grabbed the number one spot with the sport’s poster boy John Cena taking second. There is no arguing with that. The rest of the top ten is a mix of WWE stars and indy darlings which is a great credit to the continued growing importance and credibility of independent wrestlers and promotions. AJ Styles, Jay Briscoe and El Patron are all up there along with Shinsuke Nakamura and ex-ROH and PWG star Kevin Owens. Reigns, Orton and Rusev represent WWE, and whether or not these are deserved, it is a kayfabe list, and all three have had notable achievements in the biggest company in the world in the last year.
As you read the rest of the list there are however some choices which seem bizarre for anyone who knows anything about the world of wrestling. There is a lot of talk about Kane being so high on the list, when all he has seemed to do over the last year is constantly lose, and there is little to support the idea that now, at the age of 48, he is better technically in the ring than a lot of guys on the independent scene. And yet he is ranked 51. I, for one, do understand the high ranking, as he has played a part in the rise of Seth Rollins as a member of the Authority, and he is on a level of recognition much higher than your average WWE, let alone independent, star.
However, it must be said being in the WWE does not simply equal influence on the sport. Whose favourite wrestlers are really Los Matadores or Curtis Axel? Yet, in the grand scheme of things they are placed rather high (160, 161 and 142). Zack Sabre Jr, one of the most technically gifted performers in the world today, is placed below all of the above, at number 165. Dutch sensation Tommy End sits at 163, having held a PROGRESS tag belt (one of the most popular promotions in the UK today), and reached the semis of CZW’s Best of the Best tournament. He has also competed across the globe, facing off against a very diverse set of stars. This seems much more impressive than the so-called achievements of guys like Diego, Fernando and Axel. Especially when you use the criteria provided, End seems to triumph in pretty much every department. That is just one example of many strange positions for WWE stars and independent wrestlers.
I am not implying the lower card of WWE should be placed towards the rear of the list, but if they have not achieved anything of note, they surely cannot rank higher than belt holding individuals in the Indies. Obviously though, the WWE is the biggest company in the world and for the majority of fans even the least popular wrestlers in WWE are more known to them than a wrestler on the British or American independent scene. Equally however, this list is comprised by supposed men in the know and surely they must be aware some of the choices made seem completely ridiculous.
At the end of the day, this list was compiled by 5 individuals, and is only their opinions mixed with some ‘facts’ (win/loss records are obviously not of great importance in reality). Let us keep debating it, but let us not stress over it.