Welcome to another of our very serious and important year-end awards. In this one, we’ll be ranking our top ten wrestlers for 2013.
Originally when we came to do this, we were each going to do a separate top five. However, when we came to write them up, we saw that we’d all picked a few of the same ones and there were only ten different wrestlers across our different lists. Convenient, right? So, rather than doing individual top fives that we’re all happy with, we’ve mashed them together to make a top ten list that none of us quite agrees on. DEMOCRACY – IT DOESN’T WORK.
Comparing anyone to Shawn Michaels is generally a pretty ridiculous claim to make… but Goldust’s recent return really does remind me of latter day HBK. Crazy? Hear me out. He knows exactly what he’s doing, there’s no wasted energy in the ring and yet he’s still innovating and trying out new things to keep matches exciting.
His return match was the best thing that Randy Orton’s been a part of for years and his tag matches with Cody against The Shield were always excellent. I don’t know how long he’ll be back in the mix, but it’s great to have him here.
9. Seth Rollins
The Shield had an incredible year in 2013 with three great young wrestlers getting the ball and running with it. Of the three, Seth Rollins proved he was one of the best in-ring performers in pro wrestling.
The Shield feuded with the three biggest stars in WWE John Cena, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk respectively over the year and Rollins had by far the best match with each of them. If not for Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins probably would have had the best year of work rate production in North America wrestling.
8. Antonio Cesaro
He’s been languishing in a tag team with Jack Swagger for close to a year, but he’s still shone through in matches with Bryan and others. The list of wrestlers who I’ll always make sure to watch on Raw is getting pretty short, but Cesaro’s on there.
2014 seems likely to be a breakout year for him – a ‘Royal Rumble moment’ for him and his giant swing seems like a no-brainer, which hopefully leads to a breakaway from Swagger, a singles push and a spot on the Wrestlemania card.
7. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose and The Shield in general had an incredible year. They have been one of the few bright spots on WWE programming. Dean Ambrose is definitely the backbone to that trio and should be the first break-out star of the group. While Rollins is exceptional and Reigns brings a natural intensity, Ambrose can seamlessly demand attention while playing it cool. He has great mic skills even though WWE hasn’t even given him the chance to show his full potential in that area. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him shine this past year and predict this will be the first of many years he makes it into my top five.
6. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano placed himself on the upper echelon of independent pro wrestling in 2013 with a standout year. He’s been the best thing in DGUSA/Evolve for a while but a lot of their content gets swept under the rug so this in turn became a breakout year for him. In the two biggest shows for DGUSA where the stage grew a little bit bigger, Gargano had MOTY candidates with Shingo and Chris Hero.
Perhaps bigger for Johnny was his introduction to PWG. His performance in the Battle of Los Angeles was what opened the eyes of a bigger audience with stellar matches vs. Willie Mack, Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin. While we won’t see it until 2014, Gargano faced Adam Cole to close out the year for PWG and I’m hoping it delivers the high expectations I have.
5. CM Punk
CM Punk’s year was strange mostly because he was stuck in a feud with Paul Heyman and his guys for way too long, yet any time he got the mic he tried his hardest to keep it interesting and having Paul Heyman to yell back-and-forth with didn’t hurt at all. Despite this CM Punk had at least three Match of The Year candidates with his match against The Undertaker at Wrestlmania 29, his match against John Cena on the February 25, 2013 episode of Raw, and his match against Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. I also enjoyed his return match against Jericho at Payback. The guy knows how to tell a story in the ring and on the mic.
4. Kevin Steen
Kevin Steen is one of the best in the business. Although 2013 didn’t see him being the center of attention as much as he was in 2012, he still had many entertaining matches and really knows how to connect with the fans. I always know a Kevin Steen match will be worth watching because he always seems ready to have fun in the ring with anyone he works with.
While the spotlight was shifted away from Steen in 2013, he still spent the year having great matches with a variety of incredibly fun opponents. He’s proven how adaptable he is, being able to roll with any any opponent or atmosphere to put together fun, intense and unpredictable matches.
Also, he wears tassled ring gear with the word ‘fuck’ on the back.
3. John Cena
What a strange thing John Cena has going for him. His character is stale and straight up annoying. He takes me out of the moment every time I hear him call his moves… which is a lot, and most of his matches end in a predictable and laughable way. However, when Cena gets in the ring with another talented wrestler it seems that he goes all out. He wrestles like he has something to prove. Cena and CM Punk will always have one of my favorite rivalries because Cena shows what he can really be when he is in the ring with him. The chemistry is off the charts. Then he gets in the ring with Daniel Bryan at Summerslam and there is that spark again. Cena is a talented hard worker and in the right situations he is one of the very best.
Another year, another twelve months of John Cena being the face of professional wrestling. Cena had a phenomenal year with matches vs. Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio, The Shield and Sandow standing out. Cena’s promos before a big show (see the go home RAW segments before his matches vs. Bryan and Orton) are among the best in wrestling and he creates magic in the ring when getting an opponent who steps up and uses a match with John as an opportunity.
Something that raises Cena’s rank was how empty the programming felt when he was out for a couple of months with an injury. The shows would end and just feel incomplete. When he came back, he automatically saved the World Title from irrelevance and improved the product. Unlike past icons like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin due to the timing of their careers, Cena gets better every year which is really interesting to think about and I look forward to seeing how this progresses in 2014.
2. The Young Bucks
Best tag team in the world. There are few times in wrestling where an attraction just takes over the show regardless of where they wrestle on the card. Many fans complain about certain matches not being in the main event or certain acts not being higher on the card but it’s a joy when something changes that dynamic.
RVD made the TV Title the real attraction of the show in ECW. AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe made the X Division the attraction of TNA despite Jeff Jarrett main eventing TNA shows. The Young Bucks have become the attraction of just about every indie show they appear on. 90% of the time they’ll have the best match on the show, their persona is must see right now and they solely have improved so many shows I’ve attended or watched this year from PWG to TNA to ROH to DGUSA to FWE to becoming my favorite part of The Bullet Club in NJPW.
There’s really just no act in wrestling that compares to The Young Bucks right now. Here’s why:
- Ridiculously high match quality. Indie wrestling can be a frequently frustrating experience, but the Bucks always deliver, regardless of which company they’re working with.
- Crowd connection. I saw them turn a family-friendly indie show in a Brooklyn church gym into something reminiscent of Reseda.
- Best gear. We love tassles.
- Best merch. We love cute pillowcases.
- Best entrance theme. We love Hanson.
On my personal list, I had them in the top spot, because it fits perfectly with their gimmick that they be voted wrestler of the year. GOTTA WORK THE MARKS, BROTHER *throws up the wolfpac sign* MAKING MONEY AND MAKING TOWNS F-F-F-F-FOR LIFE.
1. Daniel Bryan
This was Daniel Bryan’s year. Even in a feud that ended up being repetitive and pretty lackluster story-wise Daniel Bryan’s star shined brighter than anyone elses. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He had good to great matches with everyone he got in the ring with. He was the main reason to watch WWE through most of the year. I am pretty confident in saying that he was without a doubt the best wrestler this year.
Daniel Bryan is my favorite wrestler of the last decade with the only other wrestling performer ever to leave me in such awe being Shawn Michaels. His rise to the top of the wrestling world is among my favorite things I’ve seen in any form of entertainment. Bryan gets by on hard work, improvement, giving it his all and being a likable, good human being. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT PEOPLE COULD CONNECT WITH AND RELATE TO THAT?!
If you have a bad match with Bryan, you don’t belong in wrestling. The guy had a great match with Ryback. RYBACK! I don’t think anyone has been given less and taken it to as high a plateau in WWE as Daniel Bryan has. I remember thinking there was no way he’d get past the mid-card in WWE nor provide more entertainment than he did during his ROH/indie years but 2013 proved me wrong as Daniel Bryan was the best thing to happen to WWE since the Let’s Go Cena vs. Cena Sucks era was launched.
Three hour Raw’s are an exhausting watch, but the elevation of Daniel Bryan to the main event scene has made Monday nights that much easier. Even while trapped in a bewildering feud that saw him neutered on a weekly basis, Bryan shone through with lengthy matches against a variety of opponents, and the reaction he gets from crowds is still thrilling to watch.
Here were our top 5 wrestlers each:
5. Kevin Steen
4. CM Punk
3. Dean Ambrose
2. John Cena
1. Daniel Bryan
4. Kevin Steen
3. Antonio Cesaro
2. Daniel Bryan
1. The Young Bucks
5. Seth Rollins
4. Johnny Gargano
3. John Cena
2. The Young Bucks
1. Daniel Bryan