Weekly Pro Wrestling Rankings Feb 1
February 1, 2018
By: Mike Johnson
Ever week here at FITE, we feature the Top Ten ranked personalities in the world of professional wrestling. Unlike other combat sports, pro wrestling cannot be measured in just wins and losses, especially when the drama and excitement of the genre is specifically based around not just the physical performance, but the excitement level created by its combatants. Thus, our top ten measures the most newsworthy performers in the business, who’s momentum drives not just their own career paths but the promotions they compete for.
This week was all about the Royal Rumble event presented by World Wrestling Entertainment and the centerpiece attraction was the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match. As we noted last week in the FITE rankings, Asuka was the clear favorite, having been undefeated for over two years since coming to WWE from Japan. As expected, Asuka was the last woman standing and for this feat alone, she rockets to the top of the FITE rankings, becoming the first female competitor to do so. Even with the WWE arrival of Ronda Rousey, Asuka was not to be ignored, slapping away an offered handshake from the former UFC Bantamweight champion. Monday Night Raw this past week placed the exclamation mark on Asuka’s big week, as she defeated Sasha Banks in a great featured match that had intensity and some dangerously physical action. As WWE ramps up the road to WrestleMania, everything’s coming up Asuka, Rousey or not.
Since making his way to WWE’s main roster as part of the Smackdown Live brand, the former IWGP and NXT champion has had a rough go as WWE tried to find the proper way to spotlight “The Artist” on their major stage. Beyond a phenomenal entrance, Nakamura had yet to really been given the chance showcase himself consistently in a way that truly resonated with the audience in a way that his work did previously. All that changed this past Sunday at the Royal Rumble event, where Nakamura outlasted every major star in the bout to capture his most important WWE victory yet, one that guaranteed a main event berth at WrestleMania in New Orleans against former foe AJ Styles for the WWE championship. True to form, WWE placed Nakamura into a tag team setting with his once and future opponent Styles in a win over Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. With Nakamura finally having been embraced fully into the upper echelon of WWE, his output in the ring will determine whether he remains at the top of the FITE rankings as he heads into the biggest match of his career.
3. The Miz
The Miz continues his great run as the WWE Intercontinental champion since regaining the championship a week ago. This past week on Raw, he and Roman Reigns improved upon their great match at Raw 25, having the best match on the post-Royal Rumble broadcast from Philadelphia. Miz’s short but eventful involvement in the Rumble match and being the focal point of the season finale of WWE’s Total Divas reality series continues to underscore his phenomenal weekly output as a performer and his continued importance to all things WWE. He’s in the mix as WrestleMania season heats up and it’s because his work ethic is awesome. If there is one talent who can be counted on to be exemplary in every aspect of his work, it’s The Miz.
As we have noted in previous editions of the FITE rankings, our criteria include how much excitement a performer can generate for the company they work for. While Braun Strowman did not exit the Royal Rumble event with the WWE Universal championship this past Sunday, he did maintain his invincible strongman aura in the smash mouth battle. On Monday, he continued to portray the rampaging monster, decimating WWE’s veteran demon Kane by tipping over the entire announcer’s station and dumping it, table, chairs, monitors and all, atop of “The Big Red Machine” to unceremoniously end their Last Man Standing match in devastating, dangerous fashion. Having qualified for WWE’s Elimination Chamber match, Stroman continues to be one of the most popular and anticipated performers on the Raw brand. Let the smashing continue.
Expect Styles to springboard Styles upwards in the FITE rankings faster than you can say “Phenomenal”, but this week, he has tumbled just a little.
5. Roman Reigns
While Reigns failed in his attempt to win the Royal Rumble match on Sunday and his attempt to win the WWE Intercontinental championship back from The Miz over the past week, his work inside the ring was incredible, leading to him maintaining his prominent position in the FITE rankings. Returning to Philadelphia, the scene of the crime where Reigns last won the Rumble, he was the perfect foil for this year’s winner, Shinsuke Nakamura. Reigns’ work was perfect in setting the stage for a big moment for Nakamura and in professional wrestling, the ability to use your assets to spotlight your opponent, are essential. Reigns then repeated the task for The Miz, taking fans on great emotional roller-coaster rides on back to back nights. Undoubtedly, Reigns will continue to be a central figure as WWE builds to WrestleMania but this week, the greatest strength of “The Big Dog” was what he provided for other talents.
6. AJ Styles
Victorious at the Royal Rumble match in his handicap match against The Yep Movement, Styles moves down the FITE rankings not because his work wasn’t great, but because WWE’s promotional machine did very little with the WWE champion this week. Having WWE’s longest running, most important championship in the opening contest of the Royal Rumble was an insult to not just the belt but Styles’ magnificent work as champion. WWE’s focus was on everything but the WWE championship, except for his tag team match with Shinsuke Nakamura on Smackdown Live. As Styles returns to the road this weekend for WWE live events, fans will undoubtedly be treated to great matches and starting this coming week, the build to the Fast Lane PPV will be locked in place as Styles’ challenger for the March Smackdown PPV event is revealed.
7. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar, the WWE Universal champion, doesn’t get paid by the minute, but he sure does get paid for the violence. Lesnar’s match at the Royal Rumble against Kane and Braun Strowman was fast, furious and impactful. As the Elimination Chamber challengers begin to line up for their chance to face off with Lesnar at WrestleMania, Lesnar’s victory at the Rumble and his live event bouts against Kane leading up to them remind everyone that while he keeps a reduced schedule in comparison to most of the WWE roster, Lesnar does the most in the least amount of time. If he was consistently on WWE programming every week, “The Beast” would rule over the FITE rankings.
8. Jay White
One of the fastest rising stars in New Japan Pro Wrestling, “Switchblade” captured his most important victory yet, defeating Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States championship at the New Beginning event in Sapporo, Japan. The victory cements White as one of the top players in the company as they map out their return to the United States this March with Strong Style Evolved in Long Beach, California. Until then, the New Zealand native finds himself in the new role of champion, continuing to evolve as an in-ring performer now that he has a win over “The Cleaner” under his belt.
9. Sasha Banks
“The Boss” is routinely one of the most consistent in-ring performers in the WWE women’s division and this week was certainly no exception. Banks’ work in the Royal Rumble match, where she lasted some legitimate 50-plus minutes that saw her tease a villainous turn by dumping her best friend Bayley over the ropes and an incredibly intense sequence with WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus that may have previewed a WrestleMania showdown, Banks shined like the top-flight star she is. On Raw this past Monday, Banks brought the intensity again in her showdown against Asuka, even scaring the most jaded fan with a dive from the ring that nearly ended in disaster. Her endless pursuit of perfection in the ring may prove to be a dangerous double-edged sword. This week, it led to her debut in the FITE rankings. Still, her long-term career needs to be kept in consideration and she would be well advised to tone down the most dangerous elements of her performances, least she risk major injuries down the line.
10. Rey Mysterio
In professional wrestling, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Talents who seem overexposed, in just a brief time, can be nostalgic favorites when they take a break from national television. It had been years since the former WWE and WWE World champion had appeared inside a WWE ring. His surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble match blew the roof off the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, shocking event the most important WWE officials with its volume. Mysterio looked excellent in the ring, lasting until the final six. While his WWE return was, as of this week’s FITE rankings, just a one-time appearance, certainly a performance that crisp and a return that eventful will open the eyes of promoters worldwide as Mysterio heads to Great Britain for a tour with Five Star Wrestling. The 619-area code is already ringing off the hook.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider.