Debating who is the best at any particular activity is always something that will get people worked up and eager to discuss. This assertion rings incredibly true when the discussion is brought to the world of wrestling. Wrestling fans, some of the most passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable fans of anything out there, take these discussions extremely seriously.
Every fan has their own thoughts, loyalties and insights that they take into consideration when discussing the “best.” In a sport that has predetermined outcomes and storylines, there is really no way to ever rightfully determine, by competition, who is the best. For the purposes of this particular article, we decided to grapple with the question of who is the best wrestler currently in the WWE? If you were to ask 100 different wrestling fans that question, you would probably get quite the variety of different answers. Some fans might consider everything that goes into a sports entertainer such as: charisma, physique, pedigree and pure wrestling talent, while others may just consider one of the aforementioned traits. Regardless of your scale used to rate the best, a roster filled with a recent influx of incredibly talented performers, and great veterans, makes this task harder than ever before. Here are the 20 best wrestlers currently in the WWE:
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Since his arrival from NXT, Kalisto has had quite the run on the main roster. One half of the former NXT tag team champions, the Lucha Dragons, Kalisto has now blossomed into a very strong singles performer. Kalisto knocked off Alberto Del Rio twice in early 2016 to capture the United States Championship and held the belt until he recently dropped it to Rusev at Extreme Rules. Kalisto has quickly become a crowd favorite and has continuously delivered quality matches. His ability to produce some awe inspiring spots as well as his high flying in-ring style earn him a spot on this list. Many WWE fans weren’t truly exposed to Kalisto’s abilities until he became a mainstay on Raw and Smackdown, but Kalisto has showcased all of his talents to the WWE universe. At 29 years old, the ceiling is very high for the in-ring career of Kalisto.
19 Apollo Crews
Formerly known as “Uhaa Nation,” Apollo Crews is one of the most unique talents on WWE’s roster. Crews possesses the incredibly rare combination of heavyweight strength and high-flying agility, making him a spectacle to watch in the ring. At 6’1,” 240 pounds, Crews moves around the ring like a cruiserweight, and at only 28 years old there is still plenty of time for him to fully develop as a complete wrestler. After a very brief stint in NXT, Crews made his debut on Monday Night Raw the night after WrestleMania and many fans have been discouraged by the booking he has received since. Crews is now in the midst of his first major storyline as a member of the main roster and appears to be on the rise. There’s little doubt that Crews has the talent in the ring, but he will really need to work on his character outside of the ring to complete the total package.
The current NXT women’s champion made her debut with WWE in late 2015 when she made her first appearance at NXT Takeover Respect. Asuka has been in the wrestling business for over 10 years before his current stint with WWE and her in-ring experience is more than evident. One thing that many WWE fans don’t realize is that her career nearly came to an end when she announced her retirement in 2006 due to a kidney ailment. However, it was a short lived retirement as she came back just over a year later. Now in WWE, Asuka is one of the most unique women’s wrestlers that WWE fans have ever seen. She features a wide array of offensive strikes that begin with her devastating kicks that have made her one of the most lethal strikers in the women’s division. Asuka also is a submission specialist in the ring which is highlighted by her impressive “Asuka lock” finisher.
17 Bray Wyatt
After being sidelined for the past several months due to an injury, Wyatt recently has returned to action and it appears the family will now be entrenched in a feud with The New Day. Widely regarded as one of the best in the business on the microphone, Wyatt has been booked rather curiously in the recent past. His inability to win the “big match” at numerous pay-per-views has really cost his character some credibility with the average fan, and Wyatt went quite some time without winning a match at a pay-per-view. However, Wyatt’s strong verbal work and in-ring talent will always make him a favorite with hardcore fans. Wyatt has really developed himself into one of the most interesting characters on the roster and he can go in the ring as well. Wyatt is very quick on his feet for his size and his extremely physical nature in the ring always serves as a great sell.
16 Sasha Banks
At only 24 years of age, Sasha Banks has wasted no time making her presence in WWE felt. Banks is still incredibly young, but it is more than apparent that she has already established a tremendous following from the WWE universe. Banks worked her way up to WWE after years of working the independent circuit which eventually turned into a contract with WWE. Once a part of the company, Banks showcased her ability both in and out of ring. “The Boss” quickly turned herself into one of the best characters and best wrestlers that NXT had to offer. Banks produced one of the best matches in NXT history when she battled Bayley in a 30 minute ironmen match for the NXT women’s championship. “The Boss” was moved to the main roster as part of the diva’s revolution and has become one of the most popular divas on the roster.
15 Samoa Joe
After years of rumors and speculation, Samoa Joe finally signed a WWE contract much to the pleasant surprise of many fans. Joe has had a very strong run in NXT since signing with the company and even capped that off by winning the NXT Championship earlier this year. Joe defeated the longest reigning champion in NXT history, Finn Balor, to capture the belt at an NXT live event. Joe will probably spend a fair share of his WWE career in NXT, but the recent announcement of the brand split strengths the possibility that Joe could make his way up to main roster sometime in the near future. “The Samoan Submission Machine” is very talented in the ring and over the course of his career has produced some five star matches; just look back to his Ring of Honor days to see his best work. Joe can still go in the ring now and his work in NXT has shown fans he still has plenty left in the tank.
14 Chris Jericho
The future WWE hall of famer is in the closing stages of his career, but what a career it was for Chris Jericho. Jericho has won 30 different championships over the course of his career in WWE, including a record nine intercontinental championships. In his prime, Jericho was no doubt one of the best in the business as a total wrestler. His innovative offense and strong technical work in the ring to go along with his natural charisma and talent on the microphone made him a star in WWE early in his career. It is more than clear that Jericho has lost a couple steps in the ring over the years, but he can still put on some great matches when need be. Another thing that makes Jericho so valuable is his ability to make younger talent on the roster look so good. Jericho is probably the best at this and in recent memory he has helped more than a few young names earn their stripes.
13 Dean Ambrose
The newly crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion had quite the night at WWE’s last pay-per-view, Money in the Bank. Ambrose won the annual Money in the Bank ladder match and cashed in his contract later in the night after Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns. Ambrose made quick work of Rollins, hitting “dirty deeds,” to win the title. Ambrose is by no means one of the best technical wrestlers in the business, but he can no doubt work some great matches. Ambrose is arguably the top babyface in the company right now, and has consistently showcased his widespread appeal amongst all WWE followers. The “lunatic fringe” works a very unorthodox offense in the ring that is based mostly off his high energy and a quirky move set as opposed to traditional wrestling attack, which is probably a welcome sign for most fans.
12 Hideo Itami
Before his days in WWE, Hideo Itami was formerly known in Japan as Kenta. Itami was a star in Japanese wrestling and quickly became one of the best, and most popular wrestlers in the country. WWE shocked wrestling fans around the world when then signed the Japanese sensation to a contract. He appeared in NXT under the new, repackaged name of Hideo Itami and showed North American wrestling fans what made him a star in Japan. Itami was consistently delivering good matches and captivating the fan base of NXT until he suffered an unfortunate shoulder injury that required surgery. Itami has reportedly since seen complications from the surgery and could still be out of action for some time. Hopefully, Itami can return to form and recreate that Japanese kick-based offense that was oh so fun to watch. Maybe WWE fans will even see his signature “go to sleep” finisher one day.
11 Austin Aries
The self-proclaimed “greatest man that’s ever live,” Austin Aries, is one of the newest member of WWE on this list. Aries signed with the company in early 2016 after years of working the independent scene as well as years of wrestling for rival promotions. Aries has quickly showcased all his abilities as he has put fourth some excellent matches in NXT. Aries possesses one of the most versatile offensive attacks in all of WWE. Aries will often deploy a variety of strikes throughout the course of a match. In addition to that, Aries is a very strong submission wrestler and is also able to work off of the top rope and fly all over the ring. Aries also has good microphone skills and has a well-established name to pair with his in-ring abilities. Aries should warrant a call up to the main roster in the near future and could be a major player.
10 Randy Orton
Similar to that of Itami, Orton has been sidelined from WWE action for quite some time due to a serious shoulder injury Orton suffered in 2015. Orton is expected to return to action in the very near future. Orton has built a very interesting character over his career and when he’s invested in the company there’s little doubt he’s one of the best in the business. Orton has a list of career accomplishments and accolades that can match just about anyone in professional wrestling. Whether he’s serving as a heel or a babyface character, Orton usually delivers great work. Few WWE superstars understand the importance of pace, timing and move sequences within a match like Orton does. Orton has some of the best pace that WWE fans have seen. He can go from 0 to 60 like no other, not to mention the fact that he has one of the prettiest dropkicks in the business. Orton’s ability to tell a story within a match is unparalleled and he’s no doubt one of the best in WWE.
9 Sami Zayn
Zayn joins the list as another big time talent that WWE snagged from the independent scene. While working the “indies,” Zayn worked under the moniker of “El Generico,” but transitioned to the character of Sami Zayn once he hit NXT. An argument can be made the Sami Zayn may be the best superstar in the brief history of NXT and when reviewing his track record of high quality performances, it’s probably a pretty good argument. Zayn gave NXT fans some of the best matches they will ever see for that brand and his bouts with Neville, Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura were instant classics. The superb NXT star Zayn has showcased his immense talent in the ring since his call up to the main roster. The major factor holding Zayn back from stardom on the main roster is the lack of development his character has seen over the past couple of months. WWE fans have really yet to see the full talents of Sami Zayn, both on the mic and in the ring, that made him such a beloved wrestler in NXT. His unorthodox in-ring antics have made him a very pleasant surprise to the causal wrestling fan who was not exposed to his very strong body of work in NXT.
“The man that gravity forgot” has to be one of the most fitting nicknames handed out to a WWE talent in recent memory, and Neville almost always lives up to it. The English-born Neville started off his WWE days with NXT initially working mostly tag-team matches, but an unfortunate injury to his partner opened the door for Neville to work as a single competitor and he took full advantage of that chance. Neville won a ladder match to win the NXT championship and was the longest reigning champion until he was surpassed by Finn Balor.
As the great Jim Ross would often say, Neville is quicker than a hiccup inside the squared circle. Neville also features one of the most entertaining move sets in the company with his powerful strikes, lethal kicks and high-flying assault. Toss in his finisher, “The Red Arrow,” and Neville is an easy selection for the list.
7 Brock Lesnar
The mayor of suplex city, Brock Lesnar, is an absolute beast, both inside and outside of the ring. Lesnar sent shockwaves through the sports entertainment world in 2011 when he returned the night after WrestleMania to deliver an “F-5” to the face of the company, John Cena. Lesnar has been on and off WWE programming since his debut, as the WWE makes the most of his limited contractual appearances, putting him on the card of their bigger events. The rare appearances of Lesnar make him that much more of an attraction to WWE fans, and anytime he is involved in something you know it’s going to be big time. Lesnar is a special wrestler for a number of reasons, the first of which is his physicality and strength in the ring, something that cannot be matched by anyone of the roster. Lesnar can toss around just about any superstar he squares off and it makes for quite the in-ring spectacle. Brock’s current run with WWE has seen him fade from his wrestling roots that made a collegiate standout and NCAA champion, but Lesnar’s early work showcases his pure ability as a technical wrestler.
“The Swiss Superman” has the wrestling prowess that can match just about anyone in the world of sports entertainment. Cesaro is probably pound for pound the strongest man in WWE and he’s a flat out stud in the ring. Cesaro has given fans some absolute classic wrestling matches over his time with WWE and the only thing that really lacks with him is the much desired personality and charisma that a wrestler needs. However, the “king of swing” has been swinging his character in the right direction for quite some time now.
Unfortunately, Ceasro suffered a devastating injury last year that cost him several months of action. Since his return, Cesaro has looked as strong as ever and has appeared to recapture all his popularity. Cesaro has long been plagued by poor booking decisions and a lack of opportunities. However, there has never been a stretch where he has been hotter than he is now. Time will tell with Cesaro.
5 Finn Balor
The well-traveled Balor has made quite the name for himself around the world. Balor made his biggest impact internationally wrestling in Japan for years before bringing his talents over to North America, and more specifically NXT. Balor has spent all of his WWE career in NXT and holds the record for the most days as NXT champion. Balor recently dropped the title to Samoa Joe at an NXT house show, leaving many fans wondering when Balor will get the call. There is most likely little doubt amongst WWE creative that Balor is ready, and will be a star when he hits the main roster. However, it appears that WWE wants one more big match out of Balor in NXT. Balor’s in-ring arsenal is extremely fine-tuned, effective, entertaining and should transition perfectly to the main roster. Balor has the crowd in the palm of his hands before the match even starts, and he knows how to entertain them.
4 Shinsuke Nakamura
The newest addition to WWE on the list, Shinsuke Nakamura has been in the wrestling industry for what seems like forever. Nakamura became a star in Japanese wrestling at a very young age when he became the youngest IWGP Heavyweight champion at the age of 23. Nearly 12 years later, when Nakamura’s tenure in Japan was complete, he compiled a list of accolades a mile long.
In early 2016, it was reported that Nakamura would be headed to North America after signing a contract with WWE. Nakamura made his debut at NXT in April and had the crowd chanting “Holy Shit” before he even stepped in the ring. “The King of Strong Style” left WWE fans in awe after his debut match against Sami Zayn. Nakamura does the majority of his work offensively through his kicked based attack. Nakamura deploys an immense range of variations on his kicks, hitting them with extreme force and faster than the blink of an eye.
3 Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is probably the member of the shield who has benefited the most from the separation of the popular faction two years ago. Rollins was the first of the three to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and when he did, he has a rather lengthy run with the belt. However, due to a brutal ACL tear last November, Rollins was forced to vacate the title. Prior to that, Seth Rollins was undoubtedly one of the best heels WWE had on their roster. Rollins made one hell of a comeback at WWE’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view when he returned to deliver a pedigree to Roman Reigns after he won the show’s main event. Seth won the belt a month later, only to have the Money in the Bank contract cashed in on him by Dean Ambrose. Early indications show that Rollins hasn’t lost a step and his stellar in-ring quickness and awareness are still intact.
2 Kevin Owens
The absence of Seth Rollins due to an ACL tear last November left WWE in desperate need for a top heel. No man stepped up to fill the void more than Kevin Owens did. Owens has made the most of his first 18 months under contract as he sky-rocketed to the main roster after winning the NXT title shortly after his debut. Owens has now been a top heel in the company for over 12 months and proved he can handle the main event picture based off his lengthy feud with WWE’s top man last summer, John Cena.
In the ring, Owens is incredibly light on his feet for a man with his bigger frame, and performs certain moves you would only except to see from wrestlers half his weight. Owens is able to pair that agility with strength and physicality making him the complete package in the ring. He also has established one of the best characters in WWE.
1 AJ Styles
After years of working with TNA, Ring of Honor, and Japanese promotions, AJ Styles finally made his way over to WWE in 2016. The “phenomenal” AJ styles has drastically shot up the power rankings in WWE since signing with the company earlier this year. Styles debuted in grand fashion, shocking WWE fans when he entered the Royal Rumble at number 3 in 2016. The Georgia native put on quite the performance that night logging over a half an hour of time in the match. Styles was eventually eliminated from the match by Kevin Owens, who accompanied the elimination by telling Styles, “welcome to the WWE.” Styles went on the feud with Chris Jericho after the Rumble and was placed in matches for the WWE title at two of the past pay-per-views. Now, Styles in entrenched in the middle of a feud with John Cena.
Styles has wasted no times showcasing his talents in WWE as he turned in several high quality matches with some of the biggest names in the company. Styles is the complete package inside and outside of the ring. He’s a great pure striker with both his arms and legs, a submission specialists and a high-flyer. Simply phenomenal.
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