The Wrestling Observer Newsletter is one of the oldest and most respected sources for breaking news, opinions, and features related to the wrestling world. What started as Dave Meltzer’s attempt to keep his friends in the loop regarding news in the wrestling world soon ballooned into a full publication. However, the thing that the Newsletter is best known for is Meltzer’s match ratings. This is the source of those star ratings you hear so much about. While these ratings are the simple opinion of Dave Meltzer, they have become something of a standard as it relates to judging matches and the performers who participate in them.
To that end, a wrestler’s average star rating has long been considered the metric for their overall merit as an in-ring performer. While it’s true that the ratings don’t always take into account things like promo quality and gimmicks, they do usually give you a pretty good indication of a wrestler’s value. When determining the value of modern-day wrestlers according to the Observer, their 2017 star ratings, as well as their ratings from recent years, were taken into account. You may disagree, but these are the 15 worst wrestlers in the business today (according to the Wrestling Observer). These aren't official rankings by the Observer, but judging from their match ratings and overall evaluations, you can definitely say the Observer does not think highly of these 15 current wrestlers.
It’s easy to forget just how long Kane has been wrestling for WWE. He made his debut as Kane in 1997, but Glenn Jacobs was performing for the company for years before that. While Kane has been WWE’s rock throughout the years - his debut angle is still one of the best in company history - he hasn’t exactly been the best in-ring performer over the years.
Kane can put on a decent enough match with the right opponent, but the man isn’t exactly a brilliant technical wrestler nor is he a particularly gifted power wrestler. He’s always relied more on psychology, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that Kane has been involved in some awful storylines over the years. For some reason, WWE continues to use him, and hopefully once he puts over Braun Strowman one more time, Kane can shift his full attention to his post-wrestling career.
14 The Big Show
The Big Show has long stated that he feels like WWE wasted his talent during his early days with the company. He felt that he should have been pushed as an unstoppable monster. Instead, Big Show has spent more time as a comedy character who occasionally destroyed someone. Given that WWE kind of wasted his early years, Big Show never really had a chance to showcase his surprising athleticism. As such, the majority of his matches over the years have ranged from painful to forgettable. While Show isn’t the worst wrestler ever - he’s not even the worst big man out there - it’s not hard to understand why he’s one of the lowest rated performers in recent memory. We doubt he has the years needed to turn this around.
13 Darren Young
While Darren Young was recently cut from the WWE roster, his match record is too bad not to talk about here. Some thought that Darren Young might actually prove to be an above average mid-card performer. He did, after all, possess a decent amount of in-ring talent and wasn’t the worst on the microphone either. However, it soon became clear that Young didn’t really possess the intangibles needed to make him one of WWE’s better performers. While a lack of opportunities over the years hasn’t helped Young’s overall match ratings, we really do challenge you to name one Darren Young match that you remember off the top of your head. Can’t do it? Maybe that’s because a memorable Darren Young match just doesn’t exist.
12 Toru Yano
Toru Yano is one of the few non-WWE regulars to be ranked amongst the worst of the modern era. Of course, there’s a pretty simple explanation for why that is the case. See, Yano mainly works for New Japan Pro Wrestling. There, he serves as a kind of comedy performer. Think of him as a modern-day R-Truth. While Yano occasionally wrestles a more serious match, he mostly works the same schtick time and time again. Said routine typically involves a chair, some fakeouts, and very few wrestling moves. If you’ve seen one Yano match, you’ve probably seen them all. That wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that even a single Yano match wasn’t really ever that good to begin with.
11 Curtis Axel
Yes, Curtis Axel is still a member of the WWE roster. No, we’re not entirely sure why that is the case. You may remember that Axel enjoyed a pretty illustrious start to his WWE career. He was openly referred to as the son of Curt Hennig and was even given the Intercontinental Championship for a time. Not long after all that, however, Axel essentially disappeared from view. While there are theories about why WWE gave up on Axel so quickly, the most popular one seems to have something to do with the fact that he was never that good. His character was boring, his promos were bland, and - for our purposes - his ring work was dull as dishwater. Axel has always been an unspectacular performer.
10 Titus O’Neil
Titus O’Neil is one of those guys that some people felt could have achieved more if he had been given some fair chances along the way. He was big, athletic, and actually had a genuine personality. Over the years, though, a few odd things have plagued O’Neil’s career. He’s faced a couple of suspensions for some rather odd things - such as grabbing Vince McMahon too tightly - and once battled a lawsuit for his role in the WWE prank show, Swerved. Mostly, though, his career was hindered by his general lack of skills in the ring. O’Neil never really put his individual talents together in service of becoming a great overall talent. While that’s a bit of a shame, it’s hard not to fault anyone for calling him one of WWE’s worst.
This one is a bit surprising. You may remember that Paige was one of the first WWE female wrestlers to make a name for herself as a good in-ring performer. Her matches with Summer Rae and Emma in NXT were well ahead of their time so far as WWE goes. However, you also have to remember that Paige was brought to the main roster at a time when female wrestlers could barely get 10 minutes to work a match. Furthermore, she had to work with a lot of wrestlers over the years that aren’t nearly as talented as she is. While Paige might fare better in the modern era now that there are more talented people to work with, her overall low ranking does make sense.
8 Alexa Bliss
This is another name that might catch some people off-guard. After all, some people are saying that Bliss could turn out to be the next Trish Stratus so far as talented heel female wrestlers go. However, you do need to consider a few things here. First off, this is mostly based on the opinion of Dave Meltzer, and Meltzer even rated many Trish Stratus matches quite low. Secondly, Bliss is not that great of an in-ring performer. She plays her character well, but the nature of her character doesn’t really afford her the chance to participate in many longer matches that allow her to show off her skills. While this ranking may not be a great indication of Bliss’ overall skills, it is pretty accurate so far as her ring work goes.
Once upon a time, Goldust wrestled under his real name of Dustin Rhodes. During that time, Rhodes made a name for himself as an all-around talented wrestler that was a bit lacking so far as personality goes. As Goldust, it’s been; the opposite case. Goldust is a great character that was never that good of a wrestler. Actually, over the years Goldust’s character has all but vanished. That just leaves us with a not so great in-ring performer, hence his ranking on this list.
Goldust has actually participated in some good matches in recent years - his tag matches with Cody Rhodes were a highlight - but this ranking makes sense if you look at his full body of in-ring work over the last couple of decades.
6 Nikki Bella
Some people will tell you that Nikki Bella has improved as an overall performer in recent years. We wouldn’t necessarily argue with that, but that’s a pretty low bar to set considering that Nikki Bella’s early career was pretty dismal across the board. Since then, Nikki’s promos and in-ring work have improved slightly, but not nearly enough to justify ranking her above a great number of her fellow female wrestlers over the years. While current Nikki Bella is nowhere nearly as bad as she once was, you could still make the argument that her recent in-ring work justifies ranking her amongst the worst in the business today. The argument against her position here is that there are actually a couple of decent Nikki Bella matches floating in the wild.
5 Baron Corbin
We’re a little surprised by this one. In NXT, Corbin made a name for himself by playing up the fact that he wasn’t some indie wrestler that had to work to make it to WWE. As he infamously said during a promo, he didn’t call WWE...WWE called him. While Corbin was clearly still in the process of improving during his time in NXT, many figured he would eventually get to the level he could theoretically perform at. If anything, Corbin has regressed a bit since joining the main roster. His character is okay, but he hasn’t proven that he’s capable of doing much in the ring even when he’s working against a clearly talented opponent. We’re not sure that we’d write him off just yet, though.
Ah, Naomi. Naomi joined the WWE main roster in 2012 as part of Brodus Clay’s dancing entourage. It was an auspicious start to her career that didn’t get much better when she actually started wrestling. Naomi soon became a fixture in those multi-person matches that WWE used to love throwing the Divas in when they had nothing better for them to do. WWE has tried to push her over the years, but Naomi’s progression has always been hindered by her general lack of in-ring skills. She’s not the worst wrestler that the business has ever seen, but compared to Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair, she’s a remnant of a time when WWE didn’t necessarily care whether or not their female talent was capable of putting on a respectable match.
3 David Otunga
We'll throw an announcer in here, since the Wrestling Observer does in fact have an 'award' for the worst announcer of the year. David Otunga won the award in 2016 by a large margin and we wouldn't be surprised to see him take home the award again this year. Otunga is currently in a messy split from his wife Jennifer Hudson, which many thought was the only reason WWE has kept him employed for so long, always craving any tie-in with a celeb. You probably won't find an argument against this choice from many wrestling fans, as it's pretty much universally agreed that Otunga is in fact a terrible announcer. You wonder if his split from Hudson will result in his release from the company sometime in 2018.
Goldberg’s WWE career is likely over, but we’re still going to consider him to be a wrestler of the modern era simply because he did wrestle on the biggest stage of them all just earlier this year. While Goldberg is one of the greatest characters in the history of professional wrestling - he’s arguably WCW’s greatest creation - Goldberg hasn’t exactly been an outstanding in-ring performer. He does a few things well, but the vast majority of his matches were little more than squashes that saw him steamroll another performer in record time. Even when he had very good matches - his battle with DDP comes to mind - they’ve been the result of his opponent carrying him to something decent. Goldberg actually got a decent rating for his five-minute car crash match with Lesnar this year, and that's only because WWE executed the match the only way it could work.
1 Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox is one of the few performers that WWE has held on to from that time period in which they basically hired runway models to run the ropes. She was brought in during the diva dark days of 2008. Actually, she was introduced as Edge and Vickie Guerrero’s wedding planner (like we said, the dark days). In WWE’s defense, Fox’s wrestling has always resembled something that a wedding planner might do if they tried to step into the ring. Despite WWE’s attempts to keep Fox relevant through a variety of angles, no storyline could possibly hide the fact that Fox just can’t wrestle. Thankfully, she isn’t as bad as she was during her early days when she would put her opponents at risk, but she’s fairly atrocious nonetheless.