Weekly Pro Wrestling Rankings May 18
May 18, 2018
By: Mike Johnson
Every 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.
1. Cody Rhodes
In the world of professional wrestling, WWE is the alpha dog. What they present becomes the standard. Several years ago, unhappy with how he had been presented, Cody Rhodes made the life-changing decision to go out on his own and leave WWE. This week, that decision became life-affirming as Cody and his Bullet Club brethren, sold 10,000 tickets in 30 minutes for the "All In" event set for this September. In doing so, Cody changed the trajectory of mighty rivers and will forever be remembered as the prime personality involved in the greatest independent wrestling success, ever. There are asterisks or excuses here. Cody and his co-conspirators struck gold with their YouTube series, their in-ring exploits and their personality-driven shenanigans. To make a mark in the FITE Rankings, you need to turn heads and create ripples with your hard work. Rhodes went above and beyond – he created a franchise. Add in a series of strong in-ring performances on Ring of Honor's War of the Worlds tour this past week and it's obvious, the grandson of a plumber stands tall, a king among men.
2. Seth Rollins
The WWE Intercontinental Champion's stock continues to rise on the back of his work ethic, this week headlining the Raw side of the WWE European tour, climaxing with another excellent title defense, this time against Kevin Owens on Raw. Rollins has been in the zone in recent weeks, to the point that it appears to be when, not if, he has a showdown with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Like a silent assassin, Rollins has leapfrogged all the competition, morphing into one of the most intriguing performers anywhere in the world of professional wrestling.
3. Ronda Rousey
While all eyes leading into the NBC Upfront presentation this week in New York City were on whether WWE would unveil a new television pact with the broadcast juggernaut, it was instead former UFC Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey who ended up making the most noise. Coming out of the event, Rousey, who has yet to have a singles match for WWE, landed a Raw Women's Championship bout against Nia Jax at Money in the Bank in Chicago. It's a fascinating test for Rousey, who doubled up on her attention by making her European debut for WWE with a series of six-woman tag bouts where she scored the submission victories over Mickie James. As WWE begins to craft her story towards Jax, Rousey continues to make mainstream attention, whether it be the trailer for her upcoming action flick Mile 22 or whether it be her claim that she and her husband will soon be pregnant. Rousey makes waves and brings her to this position in the FITE Rankings.
As we have noted in recent FITE Ranking columns, the WWE Champion had not been properly serviced, from a creative standpoint, by WWE. This week on Smackdown Live, Styles and arch-enemy Shinsuke Nakamura finally had the opportunity to create and execute the type of in-ring attraction that fans had been waiting for since January. In doing so, even in losing (to set up future rematches), Styles finally bounds up the FITE Rankings as what can truly be a groundbreaking feud finally begins to bloom.
5. Roman Reigns
WWE has taken some of the spotlight off "The Big Dog" of late, but don't expect that to be for long. While he's been mathematically eliminated from competing at Money in the Bank, that is likely for the best for the former WWE Champion. This week, Reigns scored a series of wins on the WWE European tour but on television, was focused on attacking Jinder Mahal, keen on seeking vengeance for Mahal's part in keeping Reigns out of the MITB Ladder Match. By shifting Reigns to a secondary story, WWE takes some of the pressure off Reigns' shoulders, allowing him the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of that portion of the audience that continues to reject him outright.
Since WrestleMania 34, Shinsuke Nakamura has been tasked with being in a top story for the Smackdown brand but being trapped in an underserving situation given the level of his charisma and skillset. This week, defeating WWE Champion AJ Styles, it all crystalized for the Japanese star. The victory sets the stage for their showdown at Money in the Bank next month, but beyond that, it raises Nakamura's stock and legitimacy. It's been well worth waiting for.
7. Matt Taven
Matt Taven was set to face ROH World Champion at the War of the Worlds tour stop in Lowell, MA, his home area, but injuries prevented Dalton Castle from being able to perform. Instead, Taven delivered a passionate promo that captivated the fans watching, setting the stage for SoCal Uncensored to arrive to create a ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship match to headline the event. In the end, Taven and his Kingdom stood victorious, winning the Championship gold, bringing down the house and standing tall center ring. What pro wrestler could ask for anything more?
8. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens, as great as he is in the ring, may be underestimated and overlooked by those studying professional wrestling. This week, he smashed everyone in the face with a stark reminder that he won't be easily forgotten. This past week on Raw, Owens had a great showing in his loss to WWE Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins. For mere mortals, that would be enough to make them happy with a job well done. Not Owens. Owens was added to the main event of Raw as a surprise, defeating Elias and Bobby Lashley in yet another entertaining bout, culminating with Owens securing his path to the Money in the Bank ladder match in Chicago. Either performance would have been a major positive. Accomplishing both during a three-hour broadcast is mind-blowing.
9. Nia Jax
The WWE Raw Women's Champion was in the middle of a long, strong run on the WWE European tour, only to hop off, jet to New York City, represent the company at the NBC Upfront, set the stage for a massive bout against former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and then hop right back on the European tour for the remainder of the live events. That is the mark of a champion right there, only who continues to grow into her role as performer and representative for WWE. The Rousey match will be an interesting clash and perhaps the biggest test for Jax the in-ring competitor to date, but her work ethic and importance to WWE's women's division cannot be ignored, especially this week.
As the muscle for New Japan Pro Wrestling's Los Ingobernables de Japon, EVIL has grown from underutilized talent to one half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions. Over the past week, however, EVIL has never shined brighter, bringing incredible work and impressive performances on every night of the Ring of Honor War of the Worlds tour that crisscrossed The United States and Canada. In the darkest night, EVIL stands triumphant.
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.