The elusive second “W” in WWE stands for “wrestling.” World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to WWE, the promotion was known as the World Wrestling Federation; prior to that, the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Anyway you look at it, wrestling is the core of this company.
However, somewhere along the line “wrestlers” became “sports entertainers.” Vince McMahon took his father's promotion – which was build as a regional wrestling company – and turned it into a worldwide spectacle. WWE became an entertainment company and McMahon saw the monetary gains in marketing his product outside of the North East.
Hence, Vince McMahon created guys like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Men who really didn't know how to wrestle but were placed at the forefront of a wrestling-based organization. These were the “sports entertainers” who were going to help carry WWE into the entertainment world and prove that they belonged on that scene.
The process of creating “sports entertainers” continues to this day. John Cena – the biggest star in WWE – fits this description. Cena became a huge draw in WWE despite his lack of wrestling ability, though he's definitely come a long way. This is the way the business works; like it or not certain “wrestlers” will never be top the card. The protocol is often frustrating but ultimately understood.
Some of the biggest stars of the independent circuit have made their way to WWE expecting to main event in the big leagues but it never happens. The “indy darlings” are great and fun to watch but they were not created by the WWE machine which hinders their progression within the promotion.
The following article will examine the current WWE product (including NXT) and pick out the “wrestlers” from the “sports entertainers.” Believe it or not, they do exist within the WWE Universe.
These are the top 20 best wrestlers currently in WWE:
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20 Sasha Banks
Let's kick off our list off with a new type of female. “The Boss” Sasha Banks is still very young but has already proven her worth to the WWE audience … or at least the NXT crowd. Banks is full of star power but can also go while in the ring.
Unlike Divas of the past, Sasha Banks didn't just show up looking good and get handed a job with the company. Banks has wrestled her way to WWE, having worked (successfully) on the independent circuit before finding her way to the NXT Women's Championship.
To the untrained eye of the modern wrestling fan, Rhyno is simply a powerhouse performer who crushes opponents and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. However, Rhyno is so much more than just aggression and a Gore.
Older wrestling fans may best remember Rhyno as "Rhino" in Extreme Championship Wrestling where he first made his name by partaking in some memorable wrestling matches and feuds; catching the eye of WWE in the process.
Paige came into the WWE with wrestling in her blood and fire at her back, never stopping to turn around and always moving forward. Paige would become the first ever NXT Women's Champion as well as the youngest holder of the WWE Divas Championship.
Paige comes from a family of wrestlers and began taking bumps in the ring as a teenager. Despite her youthfulness, her experience is vast. Paige may stand out as the Different Diva but there is nothing wrong with not fitting in with the crowd.
17 Apollo Crews
Who is Apollo Crews? … One of the newest additions to the NXT roster and a man definitely worth watching in the months to come. Crews first rose to prominence as Uhaa Nation while working the independent promotions before finally singing with WWE.
Apollo Crews has a great look and tremendous wrestling ability. Crews is exciting and could potentially be a breakout star… in NXT. While we support Crews and his wrestling ability, something doesn't quite scream “main roster talent.”
Did you know that Charlotte is the daughter of Ric Flair?… Well, we're telling you again that Charlotte is the daughter of the greatest professional wrestler who ever lived which makes for some pretty damn big shoes to fill.
However, Charlotte has been making her own name in the business as a natural female wrestler who may possess the most talent of all the current Divas. Charlotte has recently won her first Divas Championship and there is no telling how high Charlotte will climb in WWE.
Something sorely lacking in the current WWE product is the influence of the lucha libre style. Perhaps this is a direct result of the shifting product where Superstars are now bred by WWE morose than ever before; preferably eliminating outside influences.
Nonetheless, there is still Kalisto; a young, agile, high-flying, masked madman who reminds fans of the deep heritage that comes along with Mexican-style wrestling. Kalisto often resembles a young Rey Mysterio.
14 Samoa Joe
It sure took a while but Samoa Joe has finally signed a WWE contract. Joe is currently working down in NXT where he will likely remain during his tenure with the company. Joe is an independent wrestler who became a main event star in TNA but will never main event in WWE.
That is not a criticism towards Samoa Joe's talents as Joe has proven since his days in Ring of Honor that he is a top-tier wrestler. However, these are different worlds and fans of Joe should be happy enough to watch him perform in NXT.
13 Tyson Kidd
The deeper we get into this list, the more apparent it will become that being a good wrestler doesn't always equal success. Tyson Kidd is a prime example of a “wrestler who will never get over.” This is simply a result of the system.
While there are those who will claim otherwise, being a good wrestler is just not enough in WWE. The independent world? Absolutely but not in the company. Tough luck for Tyson Kidd but such are the ways of the wrestler.
12 Triple H
Does Triple H make this list strictly as a way to annoy those in the IWC community? Well, the thought does come to mind but in reality: Triple H has always been a good wrestler. Love him or hate him, The Game delivers when in the ring.
Triple H is always going to be a polarizing figure. The fact that he married Stephanie McMahon has followed him around for years and is often used by others to justify his success. However. Triple H has worked his way up through the wrestling ranks and earned his spots.
While clearly not as quick or even as good as he once was, at his core Sting is a professional wrestler and a damn good one at that. Until finally signing with WWE, Sting had always stood his ground in the wrestling world as the only real legend to never work for the company.
Obviously, that has changed and Sting has now competed in a WWE ring. What doesn't change is the fact that Sting is not a “sports entertainer” but an old-school wrestler who still has something – no matter how little – left in the tank.
10 Brock Lesnar
Call him what you want: Beast. Conqueror. Ass-Kicker. It doesn't really matter. Brock Lesnar is all of those things rolled into one package. Lesnar is also a wrestler with roots that can be traced back to the amateur level of competition.
While much of a Brock Lesnar match these days consists of visits to “Suplex City,” Lesnar can put on a methodical wrestling match should the situation call for one. In case you don't remember: re-watch Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIX.
9 Chris Jericho
It's always nice to see Chris Jericho pop up on the scene from time-to-time. What's great about Jericho is his willingness to put over young talent; an admirable quality in professional wrestling and one that is often hard to find.
Chris Jericho may fall into the “part timer” category but every time he steps back into the ring, there is no visible rust. Jericho has it in terms of wrestling ability; always has and still does to this day. Sometimes things are just inherent.
The closest thing to a Superhero in WWE is the English-born, high-flying, Neville. “The Man That Gravity Forgot” certainly lives up to the anti-gravity calling as Neville has quickly become one of the most exciting young Superstars to watch.
Neville is a former NXT Champion and another great wrestler whose success with the company will probably end there. Sure, their may be a few Intercontinental and/or United States Championships in Neville's future but no WWE World Heavyweight Championship in sight.
7 Hideo Itami
Prior to NXT and the ring name Hideo Itami, there was a Japanese Superstar known as KENTA who was taking his country by storm as the newest professional wrestling sensation. Now in North America, Hideo Itami continues to be a phenomenal professional wrestler.
However, Hideo Itami may never break through in WWE; not only due to his international flare and his already-established pre-WWE wrestling style but as a result of language issues and the broken English which Itami speaks .. still fun to watch wrestle though.
6 Sami Zayn
Until finally signing a deal with WWE, Sami Zayn – formerly known as El Generico – would wrestle under a mask. However, the time had come to ditch the mask and show his face as Zayn quickly became a crowd favorite in NXT.
Sami Zayn can be considered another “indy darling” wrestler who could have very-well been signed on hype alone but at least he finally made it out of the independent world. Zayn is a unique talent who always comes through when putting on a match.
5 Seth Rollins
Seth “Freaking” Rollins as the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion has referred to himself as not only the top dog in WWE but also a good wrestler. Yes, the current champion is more of a wrestler than “sports entertainer.”
Seth Rollins is good at what he does and knows how to operate around the abilities of his opponent. Rollins is quick and can easily turn a match into a lightning bolt style of competition. Rollins has done well with the gold and has been a welcomed chang at the top spot.
4 Finn Balor
The name Prince Devitt had been circulating around the wrestling world for a number of years. In New Japan Pro Wrestling, the standout Devitt quickly rose through the ranks and made his name on pure wrestling ability.
Eventually, Prince Devitt would make his way overseas and find himself in NXT, re-branded as Finn Balor and ready to show the North American audience his talents; which of course he has been doing since day one and he now holds the NXT Championship.
3 Daniel Bryan
It seems as though every time Daniel Bryan would catch a break, something would go wrong. The man behind the “Yes Movement” grew organically with the fans and suddenly became the most over Superstar on the roster.
Will this support continue when/if Daniel Bryan returns to action? Only time will tell as we eagerly await the day Bryan can step back between those ropes and do what he loves to do more than anything else in the world: wrestle.
The compelling story of Cesaro tells the tale of an underdog fighting for his life in the WWE Universe. Cesaro has all the wrestling ability a man could ask for but lacks in the personality department which hinders his push in the process.
Cesaro is going to stick around and outperform almost everybody while the crowd will continue to cheer for the “Swiss Superman,” but he is far from the top of the card. It is a hard reality that Cesaro must face.
1 Kevin Owens
What makes Kevin Owens the best wrestler currently in WWE? Owens has a move-set like no other and can transition styles and speeds with ease. Owens isn't chiseled or ripped but remains packed full of athletic ability.
Kevin Owens is also a very interactive wrestler, which makes him that much better. Yelling things at his opponent while stealing their moves or mannerisms, screaming at Michael Cole, mocking the fans; this all comes into play.
Kevin Owens spent years on the independent scene before finally arriving in WWE where he rightfully belongs.
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