Top 100 Wrestlers of 2018

Before we get into the list, I should first let you know how we come about these rankings.  We keep a google spreadsheet of matches we watch throughout the year, and we rank them 3 to 5 (with all the half’s and quarter’s in there as well).  Each number is associated with a number of points (3 = 2, 3.25 = 4, 3.75 = 8, and so on).  Add them all up, and that’s how we got here.  Another disclaimer we should add is we stopped watching RAW and SMACKDOWN LIVE about halfway through the year.  So, if someone doesn’t seem as high as you feel they should be…that could be why.  Now, the list:

 

1.  Kota Ibushi

Look, even I’m a little bit surprised.  I don’t think I would call this Kota’s break out year, but it was damn solid.  The Golden Lovers getting back together was a big part of this (their match with The Young Bucks in Long Beach is a must see) but Kota really shined in the G1 Climax this year.  His matches in that tournament with Zack Sabre Jr, Kenny Omega, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hirhoshi Tanahashi (in the finals) were all stellar matches.  He finished out the year tagging with Omega against Ospreay and Tanahashi in a gif-worthy match, and that also helped carried him to the number one spot.

2. Kenny Omega

It seems fitting that Omega and Ibushi are neck and neck at the top of my list.  While I personally feel that Ibushi had a better year, Omega is not to be overlooked.  Although his IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign hasn’t been everything I thought it would be, he still had killer matches throughout the year.  Omega, like Ibushi, had a strong G1 Climax showing.  His match during that tournament with Tomohiro Ishii is amazing, and is for sure a must see.

3. Johnny Gargano

From a fan favorite underdog to obsessive heel, what an insane year it’s been for Johnny Wrestling.  Although his TakeOver record doesn’t show it, he’s been consistent in all of his matches on that platform.  Being so heavily tied to his former D.I.Y. Tag Team Partner made for a fantastic feud, plus his battled with Andrade “Cien” Almas at the beginning of the year were fantastic as well.  His win over Ciampa at TakeOver: New Orleans was a thing of beauty, and helped bring him to number four on my list.

4. Kazuchika Okada

Okada had a very interesting year.  This year, he became the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion in both a single and combined run (720 days and 1,516 days).  He also broke Hiroshi Tanahashi’s successful title defenses record with twelve.  So a record breaking year, featuring fantastic matches with Kenny Omega sprinkled throughout.  After losing the title, he started having a whole lot more fun.  He would carry around balloons, screaming “Scooby Dooby Doo!”, and do a whole bunch of other strange things.  However the quality of matches did not dip with this new “Rainmaker”, but things sure as hell became more entertaining.

5. Zack Sabre Jr.

Love it or hate it: Zack Sabre Jr. is a solid wrestler.  I personally think he turned a corner this year, which is hard to do when you’re already as good as him.  He, like most of the people in my top ten, had a fantastic showing during the G1.  Winning the 2018 New Japan Cup tournament by defeating Naito, Ibushi, Sanada, and Tanahashi was incredibly impressive.  He was the first person to beat Okada after losing the championship to Omega.  His feud with Naito throughout the year was fantastic, and he finished out the year debuting for Ring Of Honor against Jonathan Gresham in another classic.

6. Will Ospreay

Ospreay had a great year that was highlighted mostly by his matches within the IWGP Junior Heavyweight division.  He captured that champion at NJPW’s WrestleKingdom 12, and had a series of great matches with Hiromu Takahashi and Marty Scurll.  Ultimately he would lose that championship after his fourth defense to Hiromu, and would lose in the first round of a tournament to recapture his championship against longtime rival Marty Scurll.  Towards the end of the year he was slightly derailed by an injury, but is now back on track to possibly make the jump to the Heavyweight division.  He finished the year off with an insane tag team match that I mentioned in Ibushi’s write-up.  He will start 2019 by facing off against Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Championship, and Ospreay should pick up exactly where he left off. 

7. Matt Riddle

The rise of Matt Riddle has been an amazing thing to watch.  He’s only been training since 2014, and continues to improve with each passing year.  The better part of his year was spent on the independence, in which he had a fantastic WrestleMania weekend.  He had a handful of fun matches with Will Ospreay, and a fantastic intergender match with Mia Yim in SMASH Wrestling.  After signing with WWE, he looks to impress on a larger scale on NXT.  2018 was great for Riddle, and 2019 is looking to be even better.

8. Tetsuya Naito

The leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon had an interesting year.  He started off main eventing the Tokyo Dome against Okada, having a stellar match albeit in a losing effort.  He had a short run as IWGP Intercontinental Champion, which was ended by Chris Jericho.  After that he kind of just drifted around, despite being one of the most popular stars in New Japan.  He had a decent showing in this year’s G1 Climax tournament, having fantastic bouts with Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega, and Zack Sabre Jr.

9. Shingo Takagi

Back to back members of Los Ingobernables de Japon?  I mean, I’m fine with it.  Shingo was a late entrant into my Top 100.  I truthfully had only heard about him through gifs and word of mouth.  He spent the better part of this year in Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion, and I had the privilege to see him live just before he briefly became a free agent.  He competed in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles, and had three days of stellar matches.  He’s now joined NJPW, and looks to become an international star by doing so.  He’s currently in the Junior Heavyweight division, but I can see him breaking out of that division by hopefully 2019’s G1 Climax Tournament.

10. WALTER

If you haven’t yet heard of WALTER, I have some advice for you: Remember this name.  It’s pretty simple advice, considering it’s just one name.  This dude is a complete powerhouse, and will be showcasing his talents in NXT:UK very soon.  His year consisted of capturing the PWG Championship, the PROGRESS Championship, and may other titles around the world.  He, like many others in the Top 20, had a great showing at the Battle of Los Angeles.

11. Tomohiro Ishii

Year in and year out, Tomohiro Ishii is a consistent wrestler.  He gives you solid matches with pretty much everyone he’s in the ring with.  He is, for me at least, the MVP of the G1 Climax tournament for the past couple of years.  He had an outstanding match with Kenny Omega during this year’s tournament, as well as Kota Ibushi.

12. Hiroshi Tanahashi

The ACE of New Japan Pro Wrestling is still going strong.  He made it to the finals of the New Japan Cup.  He later defeated Kota Ibushi in the finals of the G1 Climax Tournament, in a match I thought was one of the best of the year.  He also had a number of great matches with his rival Kazuchika Okada.  Tanahashi is almost a shoe-in to defeat Omega at WrestleKingdom 13, so it should be an interesting 2019 for Tanahashi straight from the get go.

13. Mustafa Ali

The Heart of 205 LIVE has come a long way since being an alternative in the Cruiserweight Classic.  Although the Cruiserweight Championship has eluded him, that has not stopped him from having an amazing year.  His series of matches with Cedric Alexander, the triple threat featuring Hideo Itami and Buddy Murphy, and finishing out the year with two matches featuring Daniel Bryan on Smackdown LIVE.  Every match he has had on 205 LIVE this year has been fun to watch.  Ali is now officially a part of Team Blue, and seems to be in a program with WWE Champion Daniel Bryan.  His 2019 looks extremely promising.

14. Tommaso Ciampa

The first half of Ciampa’s year was spent ruining the life of Johnny Gargano.  As he was not yet cleared to wrestle, he would interfere in Gargano’s matches, and ultimately cost him his job.  When he was prepared to come back, we saw an excellent street fight at NXT: TakeOver Chicago II.  It featured great storytelling, and a brutal finish.  The Gargano feud fizzled a bit, but Ciampa captured the NXT Championship to the surprise of basically everyone.  He has defended the championship against Gargano, and later in a fantastic match against The Velveteen Dream.  Ciampa’s heel work is a breath of fresh air in today’s wrestling scene.  If his NXT Championship run continues, he could (in my opinion) be on his way to one of the more memorable title runs in NXT history.

15. SANADA

Most of SANADA’s year centered around his tag team with LIJ member EVIL.  They started the year by capturing the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team championships at WrestleKingdom 12, had a series of decent matches with The Young Bucks, and that led him straight into the G1 Climax Tournament.  He had a series of solid matches with Naito, Kenny Omega, and Ibushi.  His best match of the tournament, in my opinion, came against Hirooki Goto.  SANADA’s year came full circle, as he and EVIL won the World Tag League tournament for the second year in a row.

16. Hiromu Takahashi

Man.  I hope to see Hiromu again in a NJPW ring very soon.  He burned bright and fast during the first half of this year.  Winning the Best of the Super Junior’s tournament by defeating Taiji Ishimori in a near five star match.  He then went on to defeat Will Ospreay for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.  Unfortunately, Hiromu was injured during a match against Dragon Lee in San Francisco at a NJPW event.  He had to relinquish the championship days later.  Hiromu was positioned to have a better showing on my rankings, but his first half of the year was so good he still ended up in a pretty respectable ranking.

17. Bandido

“This guy is a made man,” is what I said after night two of the Battle of Los Angeles, and he still had a full night to go.  Bandido is another wrestler at the top here who benefitted from being in BOLA.  Seeing him in person was something else.  He does moves I’ve never seen before, and I have trouble describing them to others.  He’s had fantastic matches in Dragon Gate, PWG, AAA, and more.  All at the age of 23.  He just recently signed an exclusive contract with ROH, which could possibly include some NJPW dates in the future.  Look for Bandido it take 2019 by storm.

18. Buddy Murphy

Mostly known for his tag team work in NXT with Wesley Blake, Buddy Murphy was a pleasant surprise in 2018.  He dropped 25 pounds to be part of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament at the beginning of the year, and he’s been a mainstay since.  He eventually captured the Cruiserweight Championship in his home country of Australia, and has been dominating the entire division since then.  He’s had fantastic matches throughout the year with Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, and pretty much every member of the Lucha House Party.  His transition to a single’s competitor has been seamless, and I cannot wait to see what his 2019 looks like.  

19. Andrade “Cien” Almas

I will admit that Almas is so high on this list because of his work in NXT.  I have just recently watched some of his matches on Smackdown LIVE, and he has had decent matches with AJ Styles and tagging with Daniel Bryan.  Almas started the year off in fantastic fashion, having a five star match with Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver, and followed that up with an amazing rematch on NXT television.  His match at the following TakeOver against Aleister Black was near perfect as well.  

20. Minoru Suzuki

The leader of Suzukigun has celebrated his thirtieth year in professional wrestling in great fashion.  He started off the year a little rough by not only losing the IWGP Never Openweight Championship, but had his head shaved in the process.  He rebounded by capturing the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Hiroshi Tanahashi.  He had a match that was dubbed “The Draw in the Downpour” against Okada on the anniversary of his start in the business.  He has held the RPW Undisputed British Tag Team Championships with stablemate Zack Sabre Jr. for the entire year.  His showing at G1 wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was still decent enough to help him land in the top 20 of 2018. 

21. Hirooki Goto

22. Jonathan Gresham

23. Daniel Bryan

24. Seth Rollins

25. Marty Scurll

26. Hangman Page

27. Matt Jackson

28. Nick Jackson

29. Ricochet

30. David Starr

31. Aleister Black

32. Cedric Alexander

33. Shayna Baszler

34. AJ Styles

35. Roderick Strong

36. Velveteen Dream

37. Jeff Cobb

38. Pete Dunne

39. Juice Robinson

40. Charlotte Flair

41. Timothy Thatcher

42. Jay White

43. Kalisto

44. Tyler Bate

45. BUSHI

46. Ilja Dragunov

47. Mike Bailey

48. Asuka

49. Becky Lynch

50. Drew Gulak

51. Pentagon Jr.

52. Adam Cole

53. CODY

54. Anthony Henry

55. TJP

56. The Miz

57. Ronda Rousey

58. YOSHI-HASHI

59. EVIL

60. Joey Janela

61. Finn Balor

62. Dolph Ziggler

63. Kairi Sane

64. Zack Gibson

65. Samoa Joe

66. Santana

67. Ortiz

68. Kyle O’Reilly

69. Mark Andrews

70. Hideo Itami

71. Tama Tonga

72. Rey Horus

73. Alexa Bliss

74. Flamita

75. Taiji Ishimori

76. Mike Quackenbush

77. Sami Zayn

78. Mia Yim

79. Lince Dorado

80. Travis Banks

81. KUSHIDA

82. Sho

83. Yoh

84. Trent Seven

85. Jack Gallagher

86. CIMA

87. Sasha Banks

88. Kevin Owens

89. Ember Moon

90. Chris Brookes

91. Gran Metalik

92. Jordan Devlin

93. Taichi

94. Akira Tozawa

95. Rey Fenix

96. Chris Jericho

97. Roman Reigns

98. Lio Rush

99. Keith Lee

100. Robbie Eagles 

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