We’ve finally arrived. We’ve been hyping up this project as often as we could here on Nerdopotamus. It is our first collaboration with Mark Out Entertainment and its owner Anthony Iovino. Our goal is to present quality wrestling-based content, and we figured this would be a great way to start.
The Nerd/Out Top 100 Wrestlers will shine a light on the best wrestlers of the year. We’re not talking strictly 2015, and 2016 is only four months in. The qualifying period goes from the final bell of WrestleMania 31 to the final bell of WrestleMania 32. Anything that came before or after will not factor into this list. With that in mind, our committee got to work. Through a system of voting and open debate, they chose their hundred.
Joey Finnegan will be handling the lion’s share of the writing for this list, with some invaluable help from other members of the committee as we go along.
Anyway, rather than waste anymore space, let’s get into it.
Right now, there’s a good chance you’re thinking, “who is this guy and why the hell is he on this list?”
To that, I have but one response: watch this and shut the fuck up.
Juan Francisco De Coronado
This is a man I’ve had the pleasure of seeing wrestle live on several occasions. He is a current member of the Chikara roster, but he also came in and won the inaugural Pro Wrestling Magic Championship. He’ll be defending it on April 23rd at their SuperShow. Click HERE for details.
I was in person for that win, and I watched Juan work the crowd wonderfully, as he always does. He starts with an overly long entrance set to a song that’s supposed to sound like “My Heart Will Go On.” Then he pokes his way through the curtain with an Ecuadorian flag and takes his sweet time getting to the ring.
Here’s a small taste of it.
I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Juan when I first saw him wrestle last summer. He quickly earned my heat, however, based solely on the amount of time it took him to get to the ring. All my booing was in good fun, though. I genuinely appreciate what Juan Francisco is able to do with only a walk, a flag, and a song. He puts you in the proper mindset from the jump.
He’s a heel. You’re supposed to boo him.
By the time he actually steps between the ropes, you can’t help yourself.
Dave Finlay Jr. could have rested on his father’s wrestling pedigree and nobody would have thought twice about it. Instead, this journeyman decided to ply his craft in the legendary New Japan dojo and become one of the next class of gaijin young boys.
He’s involved in a semi-angle with fellow young boy Jay White, who was placed a bit further up this list (you’ll find out why when we get to him).
In regards to win-loss percentage, Stardust may not have had the best year. Luckily, Cody Rhodes made sure that didn’t matter nearly as much as it could have. With the help of social media, he got himself a featured match on SummerSlam 2015. Did he lose to an actor? Yeah, he sure did.
Having said that, Stephen Amell can do this:
So I don’t think it hurt Stardust too much to take a loss to him. Plus, Adrian Neville was Stephen Amell’s partner. We all know what that guy can do.
Anyway, the point of this was supposed to be that despite being booked low in the card (or not at all), Cody Rhodes has managed to keep himself and his alter ego relevant. That’s no easy feat, and I believe it comes down to the fact that no matter the role he’s playing, Cody makes you believe every second of it. He’s a very talented actor (one of the best on the current roster).
He could be dashing, disfigured, a member of Legacy, or driven so crazy by family expectation that the mere mention of his real name drives him up a wall. It doesn’t matter. Cody Rhodes makes you buy into whatever he is doing.
How much do I really need to say about why Chris Jericho is on this list? I suppose, at most, I have to explain why he is so low. That is mostly due to the relatively small amount of time he spent wrestling during the qualifying period. However, that is also due to the fact that his very inclusion was a split decision amongst our committee. After a debate, we decided Y2J had done too much to not be on here.
He had his match with Neville at Beast in the East. While in Japan for that tour, he also faced off with Finn Balor. Then he did the 6-man tag match with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns at Night of Champions 2015. That one was weird. Then the cool dad stuff began. He did segments with The New Day. He even broke Francesca, Xavier Woods’ prized trombone. That was all well and good. Some were happy to see Jericho back.
Others made memes, which he eventually responded to:
It’s true…I’m the coolest damn dad you could ever have. https://t.co/H3faa8FQD6
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) March 4, 2016
Later, AJ Styles made his debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble. The next night on RAW, AJ and Y2J began their rivalry. Styles won the first match and Jericho won the second, leading into Fastlane, which AJ also won. After that, the two joined forces, forming the tag team known as Y2AJ.
That lasted a bit and then Chris Jericho turned heel, attacking AJ and breaking up their team. That is when things took a sharp uptake in quality entertainment, in regards to Y2J. A full year of heel Jericho probably would have placed higher, but we didn’t get that. We got more of cool dad Jericho, the guy who just wanted to have fun and dance with AJ and Mark Henry.
Here is a man whose WWE career began when he signed a developmental contract on January 21st, 2006. If you didn’t know that, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. I only found out recently. He even wrestled on WWECW under the name Gavin Spears. He was eventually released from his contract on January 19th, 2009, almost exactly three years after signing.
He worked the independent circuit from there, and eventually ended up back in WWE. This time, he was signed to NXT. His first sign of life came when he teamed with Jason Jordan. They ended their partnership in February of 2015. Dillinger made appearances until April and then he was taken off television to be repackaged. When he returned in August of 2015, it was under the “Perfect 10” gimmick that he has managed to get over with the NXT crowd.
I was at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, which is where Apollo Crews debuted. I would’ve never guessed then that’d he would be so low on this list. His athleticism and natural ability ensured that he would be on it without so much as a single vote against him. When it came time for placement, Crews was a surprise. He can do crazy things, don’t get me wrong, but so can a lot of the people on this list.
Most of those people also had better years than he did, and they didn’t finish the qualifying period by wrestling Elias Samson in a dark match for NXT TakeOver: Dallas.
One thing I would like to specifically point out, however, is that phenomenal match that Crews had with Balor on NXT.
Here’s a taste (head to the WWE Network for the entire match):
These two guys have consistently entertained for as long as I have seen them, but this year was definitely their best. They picked up a ton of steam and wound up winning the NXT Tag Team Championships from Blake and Murphy in a fantastic match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. When they got the three count, the crowd at the Barclays Center lost it (myself included).
They held onto them for a bit, and then in came The Revival (Dash and Dawson), who won the titles in surprising fashion on an episode of NXT. After that, the Vaudevillains went heel but it didn’t matter. They were one of many teams of former NXT Tag Team Champions that American Alpha tore through on their way to the top. In short, the Vaudevillains saw their year culminate in Brooklyn.
Who knows what the future holds?
Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
It hurts me to put both these men this low on the list, but it is purely due to the injuries that they sustained. They weren’t around for much of the qualifying period. On June 7th, 2015, WWE announced that Tyson Kidd had sustained a serious neck injury during a match with Samoa Joe. WrestleMania 31 took place on March 29th. That’s a little more than two months.
During that time, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro took on The New Day in two PPV matches that stole the show. First, there was Extreme Rules 2015, which, despite the name of the show, was a straight up tag team match. Then there was Payback 2015, which was the Best 2 Out of 3 Falls match. New Day won both, but Tyson Kidd and Cesaro looked stellar throughout.
After Tyson Kidd was injured, The Swiss Superman had to go it alone. It seemed rough at first, but then the CESARO SECTION signs started. He also had the thirty minute Monday Night Raw match with John Cena. Most still consider that a match of the year candidate for 2015.
Once that happened, the future looked great for Cesaro. Then the injury bug decided to step in and ruin it for everybody.
A photo posted by natbynature (@natbynature) on
On November 23rd, 2015, WWE announced that Cesaro would need shoulder surgery for an injury he was dealing with for at least two months. The whole ordeal was projected to leave him out of action for 4-6 months. He still hasn’t returned, as of this writing (4:23 PM on 4/4/2016).
For the final spot on this first installment of The Nerd/Out Top 100 Wrestlers, the committee decided to go with Luke Harper. He is, arguably, the most underrated member of the WWE roster. He is also the only member of The Wyatt Family to make it onto this list. Strowman and Rowan don’t belong anywhere near it, and Bray has had a really terrible year. Despite that, I thought there was a chance he’d get voted on. Nope. It was almost a unanimous no.
Yet, there was never a question of whether or not Luke Harper would make it. He was a totally unanimous yes. There’s something about the guy.
Hardcore fans have known for a while that he’s capable of greatness, as evident in this classic Steel Cage match he had with Cesaro when they were on the independent circuit. WWE fans learned as much when he went out and had a killer Ladder Match with Dolph Ziggler at TLC 2014. He hasn’t done much since then. It’s been mostly Wyatt Family stuff, or he’s been injured.
He also didn’t do much of anything during the qualifying period. He tagged with Bray to take on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns at SummerSlam 2015. That’s a pretty solid match. He also got tossed around by Brock Lesnar at Roadblock. He was on television a lot, standing behind Bray Wyatt as he rambled on and on. Yet, here he is. Number 91 on our list of the top 100 wrestlers of the year.
They say it all the time in WWE produced documentaries. So much they’ve actually helped cheapen it, but this Luke Harper situation boils right down to one simple fact: he has the ‘it’ factor. He has that intangible that makes it impossible to explain why so many of us love watching this bearded axe murderer wrestle in a sweaty sleeveless t-shirt and jeans.
That brings us to the end of our first day. Numbers 90-81 will be published tomorrow. Feel free to question our choices in the comment section.
We’d love to hear from you!
Click HERE for numbers 90-81
Click HERE for numbers 80-71
Click HERE for numbers 70-61
Click HERE for numbers 60-51
Click HERE for numbers 50-41
Click HERE for numbers 40-31
Click HERE for numbers 30-21
Click HERE for numbers 20-1
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of WWE.com.