Weekly Pro Wrestling Rankings
By: Mike Johnson
Every week here at FITE, we will be running down 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. Roman Reigns
Perhaps the most polarizing competitor in World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE Intercontinental Champion Reigns is routinely dismissed by a segment of the audience that wants anyone but him to be presented as the “Top Dog” on the Raw brand. Once you look past the boos and the rejection, what is left is one of the hardest working, consistent performers in all professional wrestling – to the point Reigns is having excellent matches on a weekly basis, yet remains underrated by many fans. With the 25th Anniversary of Raw being presented by WWE next Monday, the fact that one lone bout has been announced for the special – Reigns defending against The Miz, speaks volumes for his importance to the WWE machine heading into not just the Royal Rumble this month, but all the way to WrestleMania 34 this April in New Orleans. Reigns remains the most empowered personality in our rankings.
2. AJ Styles
As the WWE champion, Styles technically holds the most prestigious championship in all the realms of professional wrestling. All through 2017, Styles has blown fans’ expectations with incredible bell to bell performances and has been the centerpiece of the Smackdown Live brand. With the Royal Rumble several weeks ago, Styles is poised to do the same in a handicap match against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, two excellent and well-versed talents who will be the perfect villainous foil for Styles’ ultra-heroic personality. Reigns’ top threat to the number one spot in the FITE rankings, the only thing that can keep Styles from maintaining or enhancing his incredible work ethic and position as the top talent on WWE’s “blue brand” is something completely unforeseeable on the horizon. Until then, the “Phenomenal One” will continue to reign near the top of our rankings
3. Austin Aries
A week ago, Austin Aries was a talent professional wrestling fans were speculating about, wondering what the former ROH and TNA champion’s next move might be after leaving World Wrestling Entertainment last year. Over the course of Impact Wrestling’s latest TV tapings for Pop TV, the answer was revealed. In rapid-fire successive nights, Aries returned to Impact and in just a few minutes, confronted champion Eli Drake, then handily defeated him to capture the Impact championship. Days later, in a scenario that will play out weeks from now on Impact TV, Aries would also go on to capture the promotion’s Grand championship. To go from the fringes of professional wrestling to the centerpiece of a promotion over the course of a week is a hell of a feat – and one that shoots Aries towards the top of the FITE rankings as he becomes not just the man in Impact, but the man they hope to cement themselves around as they build not just to their Redemption PPV event in April, but an overall redemption for a long-troubled promotion.
The newly minted Ring of Honor World champion, Castle’s victory over Cody Rhodes at the Final Battle event cemented him as a top competitor for ROH. Coming off a back issue, Castle’s
win was a great moment that brought fans to their feet, jumping for joy as confetti rained down from the rafters of the Hammerstein Ballroom. As eclectic as he is charismatic, there’s something undoubtedly compelling about Dalton. That magnetism, coupled with his physical performances, garners ROH attention. As the Peacock struts into the first event for Ring of Honor when they hold “Music City Excellence” this weekend in Nashville, his championship defense against Punishment Martinez will not only set the tone for Castle’s championship reign, but for whether his momentum continues upwards in the FITE rankings.
With WWE building towards a huge Universal championship match at the Royal Rumble with champion Brock Lesnar and Kane, it’s Strowman who elicits the most excitement and interest in the Triple Threat match. With Lesnar not regularly appearing due to his unique WWE deal and Kane nowhere to be seen this week, the onus was on WWE to create a spectacle designed to showcase “The Monster Among Men” and they succeeded in spades. Strowman has continued to smash through WWE and garner the attention of the audience. With a series of vignettes on Monday Night Raw, Strowman entertained as he ran roughshod through just about every backstage scene one could image on WWE television, culminating with Strowman massacring the backstage security, taking control of the company’s production team, chokeslamming Curt Hawkins through a catering table, showing his massive strength by “flipping” over a truck and manhandling announcer Michael Cole. As illogical the scenario was, with Strowman being fired and then re-hired, it created a lot of chaos along the way. Chaos is good for pro wrestling. It’s fun and that fun garnered a lot of attention and excitement. In the FITE rankings, doing so it a huge part of our criteria.
At 30 years old, the current reigning IWGP Heavyweight champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling has become the longest reigning IWGP titleholder in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 45-year history. With an amazing title defense against Tetsuya Naito behind him, Okada looks to a future that includes a championship defense against SANADA and several visits back to the United States in the months to come, some of which will be seen on AXS TV. Okada remains the golden child for NJPW with excellent in-ring performances the likes of which pro wrestling hasn’t seen since Shawn Michaels’ best days. As New Japan continues to infiltrate the minds of professional wrestling fans outside of Japan, it will Okada and his “Rainmaker” that helps spearhead that international push.
The lone female performer ranked this week, the longest reigning WWE NXT Women’s champion continues to tear through the Raw roster with a big win against Nia Jax via referee’s stoppage. Since WWE began presenting “The Empress of Tomorrow” as a killer, wiping out her opponents on Raw swiftly, sometimes as quick as 10 seconds, her momentum has been staggering. As WWE hurtles towards, the first-ever female Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, it’s near-impossible to consider anyone a strong favorite to capture the victory when Asuka is in the discussion. Asuka has been kicking the heads off expectations in recent weeks with each successive blow and her hard-hitting and physical match against Jax this week just underscores what an incredible asset she is to WWE’s main roster.
8. The Miz
The yin to Roman Reigns’ yang, The Miz has been back in World Wrestling Entertainment for just a few weeks after filming his latest WWE Studios movie. Since returning, Miz has brought his “A” game as a talker, has been an incredible antagonist for Reigns and has set the stage to main event the 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw, which will be as huge an episode of that series as has been seen in years. Continuously improving and upping all aspects of his game, Miz is exactly what he proclaims to be on camera – Awesome. He continues to raise the profile of not just himself, but everyone associated with him or feuding with him on WWE programming. That’s not just the mark of a good hand in pro wrestling, but of an all-time great. It’s just a matter of time before he’s hitting the upper echelon of the FITE rankings
9. Cody Rhodes
One of the hardest working self-promoters in pro wrestling, 2017 saw Rhodes carry the ROH World championship with a chip on his shoulder. Rhodes put together a good string of championship defenses, all while crossing the globe for appearances in New Japan and independent companies, domestic and abroad. He helped raise the profile of the ROH championship and in doing so, made Dalton Castle’s succession to the top of Ring of Honor all that more important. In 2018, Rhodes looks to do the same for the genre of independent wrestling. With the announcement of a September 1st “All In” event, said to be self-financed by Rhodes and The Young Bucks with the hope of breaking 10,000 fans to become the largest non-WWE crowd in decades in the United States. Pro wrestling is all about performance and swagger. Rhodes carries tons of each on his shoulders. He may be an “American Nightmare” but 2018 looks to be the dream year for someone who decided to invest in himself several years ago by walking out of WWE, gaining great dividends since. Now, Rhodes is set to cash in. We’ll see in the weeks and months ahead how that is reflected in the FITE rankings.
10. John Cena
Only in professional wrestling can three syllables create waves, even without appearing on television. In WWE, those syllables are John Cena. With his announced return to WWE’s 25th Anniversary Raw and his inclusion in the Royal Rumble match, speculation is already growing as to what Cena’s role at WrestleMania will be – will he end up in another championship match? Will we finally see the long-planned and long-delayed showdown with The Undertaker? Will he attempt to avenge his loss last year to Roman Reigns? Even when you can’t see him, Cena has you engaged as a fan, and that’s a hell of a magic trick for a guy who’s been far more focused on television and film projects the last several months.
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.