14th Sep2020

The 2nd Annual Nerdly WWE Top 50 – Part Two!

by Chris Cummings

Welcome, one and all, to part two the second annual Nerdly WWE Top 50! I began this idea last year. Our version of such established ranking lists as the “PWI 500” and the like, but just with WWE in mind. I mean, I watch other products and promotions, like AEW, New Japan, Ring of Honor and NWA, but… sticking to one promotion, the promotion I tend to watch the most, makes sense, and makes this one-man-job a lot easier to do. This list will cover the last twelve months, from September 2019 until August of 2020.

Like last year, this will take into account work-rate, match-quality, visibility of the workers on television, their promo work, but also… and this is important to note, the way that they’ve been used. You see… there are men and women in WWE who, if they were used more often and booked in a more substantial manner, would rank way higher than they likely will on this list. I can’t really rank Ali at number three here, but that’s not because the guy isn’t one of the best in the company. So, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get going. The Nerdly Fifty: Year Two…

Nerdly Top 50 of 2019 – Number One: SETH ROLLINS

Close-Calls (A long-list of Men and Women who almost made the cut, but didn’t because of various reasons, ie; they haven’t been on TV much for whatever reason, they weren’t booked well, or they didn’t have the best of years in WWE): Liv Morgan, Drew Gulak, Ricochet, The Velveteen Dream, WALTER, Kay Lee Ray, Austin Theory, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Bronson Reed, Dolph Ziggler, Bobby Roode, Elias, The Viking Raiders, Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Humberto Carrillo, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Trent Seven, Tyler Bate, Fabian Aichner, Marcel Barthal, Killian Dain, Santos Escobar, Drake Maverick, Oney Lorcan, Mia Yim, Ricochet, Sheamus, KUSHIDA.

25) Angel Garza

The young and talented Monterrey native has been a revelation since he debuted for WWE on their NXT brand back in May of last year. Won the NXT Cruiserweight Championship from Lio Rush in December before losing the belt in a four-way bout at World’s Collide to Jordan Devlin. Began appearing on Monday Night Raw around February of this year, competing in matches with Rey Mysterio and Humberto Carillo. Aligned himself with Zelina Vega, Austin Theory and Andrade and has spent much of the past few months teaming up for tag bouts with teams such as The Street Profits, Apollo & Kevin Owens, The War Raiders and others. Handsome and hugely talented wrestler has so much potential. Has a cockiness and likeable-slimeballness reminiscent of Eddie Guerrero. Tandem with Andrade will, like they all do, eventually dissolve, and I’m excited to see the resulting feud, for sure.

24) Nikki Cross/Alexa Bliss

Cross and Bliss land on this list together merely because most of their matches have been alongside the other, with most of the exceptions still including the other in some way. The two have been a fun babyface duo for a while, but recently there has been some drama between the two and it looks likely that a feud is on the horizon. The tandem, who have a nice chemistry together, defeated Asuka and Kairi Sane at WrestleMania to win the Women’s Tag Titles. They defended the belts for a couple of months against challengers like The Iiconics, Asuka & Sane and Carmella & Dana Brooke. Lost the belts to Bayley and Sasha Banks in May. Each of these talented women have a lot to offer as singles performers as shown by their previous runs, and it’s likely we’ll see Bliss pick up where she left off as a bigtime heel soon. It’s been cool to see them get a chance as a team, though. It’s lasted longer than many expected.

23) Kofi Kingston

Kingston’s past twelve months haven’t met the successes of his prior twelve months, but he’s still done a lot and had a year that further solidifies his legacy as one of the best tag-team workers in the world. He added two more WWE Tag Team Championships to his long list of credentials, defeating teams like Morrison & The Miz, The Revival, Cesaro & Nakamura and others throughout 2019 and 2020. Kingston has been a member of the WWE roster now for 12 years and has truly left his mark on the business. The New Day are still a beloved team in WWE and Kingston is an integral cog in the Power of Positivity machine. Who knows what he’ll do next. One minute he’s trust-falling onto tag teams, and the next he’s wrestling in front of thousands of rabid supporters for the World Title. He’s talented enough to go for much longer doing any of these things.

22) Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens really isn’t doing as much as he should, based on his talent and abilities, be doing in WWE, but he’s still done some great work in the past twelve months. Biggest moment of the past twelve months came at WrestleMania when he defeated Seth Rollins in a great match. Has been up and down the card with a lack of consistency from the booking department, but when he’s on TV he still shows us why he’s one of the best. His rivalry with Rollins lasted a good while and featured some solid moments. Made a one-night return to NXT in November to compete in the War Games match, which received an enormous pop from the fans in attendance. Owens is a fantastic talker and a great wrestler, but the lack of aim for his character and the on-and-off push he seems to get, makes him hard to place. He could be number one, if he were booked properly. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later, because he’s damn good.

21) Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns has been a polarizing character in WWE for many years, so it’s lovely to see a big ole change to “The Big Dog” in recent weeks, with him turning to a more heel-like gimmick, with a much moodier and less apologetic tone. Oh, and Paul Heyman is by his side as his advocate, so that can’t hurt either. Reigns is an underrated worker, really. Talented in the ring, and with the ability to cut a good promo, he’s an obvious choice for a long-term face of the company. These tweaks to his character could really push him to the moon and have him accepted more by the fanbase. Worked a tedious and somewhat boring feud with Baron Corbin in 2019 and into 2020 that lasted way longer than it should have, but the two still managed, in the midst of said rivalry, to pull out a couple of fun bouts, including a falls-count-anywhere clash at Royal Rumble in January. Has hardly worked with many other people over this period, but did pick up a big victory upon his WWE return in August, defeating The Fiend and Braun Strowman to become the new Universal Champion. The future is bright, once again, for Roman Reigns.

20) Shayna Baszler

“The Queen of Spades” has continued her dominance over the last twelve month period. Had NXT Women’s Title defences against talented women like Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai and others at the back-end of 2019, before dropping the belt to Rhea Ripley in December. Had a dominant showing at Royal Rumble in the women’s Rumble bout, but didn’t win, though many expected and thought she should have. Made her debut on Monday Night Raw in March, attacking Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch. Faced Lynch for the belt at WrestleMania but came out on the losing end, which was a poor booking decision. Struggled to find her footing on Raw for a while, but has recently entered an odd-couple tandem with Nia Jax and the two won the Women’s Tag Titles at Payback, defeating Sasha Banks and Bayley. A very talented brawler with slick submission skills, Baszler has the ability and intensity to go far in WWE if she’s given the opportunity. After such a prominent positioning and dominant run in NXT, it’s mind-blowing that she isn’t way higher up the card on Raw. Maybe we’ll eventually see her get there.

19) Murphy

The 32 year old Melbourne native has really moved up the card in WWE over the past twelve months. Went from having random, but good, matches with guys like Cedric Alexander, Matt Hardy and Aleister Black, before aligning himself with Seth Rollins at the start of 2020. Being part of Rollins’ group only helped the stock of the talented Murphy. Has been embroiled in a feud with Rey and Dominik Mysterio over the Summer months, which has resulted in some cool matches, including a good tag-team match at Payback in which Murphy teamed with Seth to face Father and Son Mysterio. The former WWE Cruiserweight Champion and former NXT Tag Champ is hugely talented and works well as a lackey, so long as he also gets a good chance to shine. Hopefully he’ll have more of that chance soon, and maybe even a mid-card title run.

18) Johnny Gargano

Johnny Wrestling has moved over to the “dark side” over the course of the past twelve months, becoming a heel, along with his talented wife Candice LeRae. The new bad-guy character has been fun, though I did prefer Johnny as the underdog babyface, I must admit. Has worked some wonderful matches with Keith Lee, Finn Balor, Cameron Grimes and others. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gargano debut on the main roster in the next year, but until then I’m excited to see who his next NXT feud will be with, because Gargano is one of those talents that can have good matches with most, and great matches with the best. He is still the heart and soul of NXT, and it’s a matter of time before he turns back to the light again, and steals the hearts of fans once more.

17) Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan, over the past twelve months, went from being one of the biggest and best heels in the company, to (once again) one of the most popular babyfaces. Spend the back-end of 2019 working in tag matches alongside Roman Reigns to face Rowan and Luke Harper. Had a great match with Adam Cole for the NXT Title in November, which Cole won. Feuded with The Miz in December for a while before entering a feud with Bray Wyatt/The Fiend. Feud with Wyatt lasted a couple of months, with the highlight being a Strap Match in January at Royal Rumble, which The Fiend won. Had a fun match with Sami Zayn over the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania, which once again saw Bryan come out on the losing end. Match with Drew Gulak at Elimination Chamber in March was spectacular stuff, and Bryan’s best match of the past twelve months. Has been off WWE TV for a few months, since his wife Brie Bella and he had a new baby. When he returns, I do hope he gets more wins and becomes one of the main guys once again, because he’s still one of the greatest under contract. Yes.

16) Braun Strowman

“The Monster” is one of those guys that I personally don’t enjoy too much, but it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t had a very successful 2020. When Roman Reigns went on hiatus in March due to COVID 19 concerns, Strowman was chosen to oppose Goldberg for the Universal Title at WrestleMania, which he won. Strowman then went on to defend against guys such as Shinsuke Nakamura, Bray Wyatt, The Miz and John Morrison, before losing the belt to The Fiend at SummerSlam in August. A talented and pretty agile big-man, he’s been turned from heel-to-face and back again so often that he’s almost becoming a modern version of The Big Show. His matches are often a little on the “same-old” side, which can be an issue, but he’s had a damn good twelve months, and that can’t be disputed. Spent the latter half of 2019 working tag matches alongside The War Raiders, and matches with guys like Seth Rollins, but 2020 has certainly been a bigger year for “The Monster Among Men”.

15) Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch, as well all know, made history many times during her run as “The Man” in WWE. She is further down the list, here, due to her inactivity due to pregnancy since March of this year. Prior to relinquishing her Raw Women’s Title, though, she had some fun matches with women like Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Sasha Banks and Bayley among others. Was so super over during her run and has shown an ability to carry a product on her back as one of the primary faces of WWE for a while. Lynch is currently out of action, as I said, but it’s obvious to most that she could easily slot right back into the top of the card when and if she wants to. Held the Raw Women’s Title for seven of the twelve month period before vacating it in April.

14) Andrade

30 year old has been one to watch during the “No Fans” era of WWE. Has been involved in some fine tag team battles with Angel Garza as his partner. The two have chemistry, and with manager Zelina Vega at their side, have a really cool overall presentation. Has had some top notch matches with names like Apollo, Ricochet, Rey Mysterio, Humberto Carrillo and Aleister Black over the past twelve months. He is such a talented worker, it’s hard to see why he hasn’t been offered a bigger push yet, but hopefully that will happen for him soon. In need of some higher profile feuds and some big memorable wins, but the guy has it all and could be one of the big hispanic stars for WWE for some time if they treat him properly.

13) AJ Styles

“The Phenomenal One” hasn’t had the best or most successful year of his illustrious career in the past twelve months, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been doing some awesome stuff. Has worked some blistering bouts with guys like Drew Gulak, Matt Riddle, Gran Metalik and Daniel Bryan over the Intercontinental Title in the Summer of this year, before losing the belt to Jeff Hardy in August. Had a memorable and highly entertaining brawn with The Undertaker at WrestleMania in the cinematic Boneyard Match that closed the first night of “The Show of Shows”. Feud with Randy Orton at the end of 2019 and early 2020 was fine, though not the best matches that the two have shared. Triple Threat with Roddy Strong and Shinsuke Nakamura at Survivor Series in November was a lot of fun. Styles is, without a doubt, one of the best wrestlers in the world, so it’s likely we get to see more great stuff from him as time rolls on. Will he stay in WWE? That’s the question many of us ask when contract discussions pop up with AJ. We’ll see, eh?

12) Rhea Ripley

Ripley has had a very good twelve months in WWE. Defeated dominant NXT Women’s Champ Shayna Baszler in December of 2019 to become NXT Women’s Champion. Held on to the title against a variety of challengers, such as Baszler, Toni Storm, Bianca Belair and Chelsea Green, before losing the strap to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania this March. A powerful and aggressive character, Ripley keeps getting better and better the more experience she gets under her belt. Currently part of NXT, she’s been working with the likes of Io Shirai, Dakota Kai and Mercedes Martinez in fine outings. The sky’s the limit for the strong and talented Aussie.

11) Rey Mysterio

The 27 year veteran continues to show the world why he is the most successful luchador of all time, and one of those guys you can point to and say “Hall of Fame” without a second thought. Has had a very good twelve months in WWE, competing in a bunch of fantastic bouts on PPV and Raw. Is something of an iron man when it comes to Raw TV matches, competing against the likes of Andrade, Seth Rollins, Murphy, Angel Garza, AJ Styles and others in quality bouts over the past few months. Has been involved in a long-term and entertaining rivalry with Rollins since May, in which Rey’s son Dominik has debuted and began competing too. Feud with Andrade in early 2020 featured various top notch bouts. “The Master of the 619” is 45 years old but can still fly around like he’s in his twenties. Whether or not he’s about to hang up his boots, Mysterio can rest well knowing he’s been putting out some great stuff again.

10) Io Shirai

“The Genius of the Sky” has been tearing it up in NXT for a while now, having great matches with most of the NXT women’s roster. One of the best female workers in the world, Shirai has been a revelation since turning to the dark side with her character in the Summer of 2019. Worked some wonderful matches with Candice LeRae last year, too. Competed in War Games and at Survivor Series at the end of 2019. Shirai has had an even better 2020, though, winning the NXT Women’s Title in June at TakeOver: In Your House. Has since battled Sasha Banks, LeRae and Dakota Kai in wonderful matches over the strap. Shirai has the potential to be the very best wrestler in the company, but needs some more big feuds and big matches under her belt, I feel. Entertaining, exciting and innovative, she seems capable of having good or great matches with just about anyone she’s booked with. Here’s hoping the remainder of 2020 and 2021 are kind to her and we see even bigger things from NXT’s Women’s Champ.

9) Sasha Banks

One half of the former “Golden Role Models” tandem with Bayley has been on fire in 2020, working some fine matches and showing off her considerable skills as an on-screen villain. Worked some good bouts with names like Asuka, Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross and others in 2020. She’s been one of the shining faces of the “No Fans” WWE era, and just recently began her long awaited feud with Bayley. This should, all going well, result in some great stuff, considering how well we know they work together from their NXT days. Won the Raw Women’s Championship from Asuka in July, before losing it back to her in August. Became Women’s Tag Team Champion for a second time in May alongside Bayley. In 2019 Banks worked various tag matches, and had a good match against Becky Lynch at Hell in a Cell in October. A great wrestler with heaps to offer, it’s about time we saw Sasha as one of the faces of the company, and that may well happen now that her feud with Bayley has started back up. The Boss could very well be firing on all cylinders again.

8) Drew McIntyre

The current WWE Champion (as of writing) has had a hell of a year. Started 2020 out by blasting Brock Lesnar out of the Royal Rumble to an enormous ovation with a Claymore Kick and going on to win the whole thing. He would become the first ever British WWE Champion at WrestleMania when he defeated Lesnar for the belt. Drew has had a long and winding journey to the top of WWE, and his improvements are massive. Has worked some really fun matches since becoming champion with the likes of Randy Orton, Andrade and Seth Rollins, but is still in need of that big feud and that defining moment to solidify his reign. Prior to his title victory, McIntyre dotted around the show, wrestling various guys, from Kevin Owens to Sin Cara, with no real focus. His babyface turn made all the difference, and it wasn’t long until management got fully behind the big Scot. His in-ring work is solid and hard-hitting, and his promos get better and better. A talented big-man who should have a few years left as one of the top names in WWE, all going well.

7) Bayley

The reigning SmackDown Women’s Champion (as of writing) has been an absolute blast during this “No Fans” era of WWE. It’s about time, too, because many of us have been waiting for Bayley to make her mark on WWE since she was called up from NXT. Her NXT run, afterall, was fantastic. Over the last few months, Bayley has been a fantastic heel champion, going full on with her bratty, entitled and arrogant heel persona to become one of the standout characters on WWE television. Her Golden Role-Models duo with Sasha Banks was one of the highlights of WWE for a good while, and the fact that Bayley turned on Sasha finally this September should result in some top class action between the two.

6) Charlotte Flair

Say what you will about her over-exposure at times over the past twelve months, but Charlotte Flair is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the (if not THE) best women wrestlers of all time, and she’s only eight years into her wrestling career. Whether she’s a heel or a babyface, she’s capable of putting on a fantastic show, and she appears like a mega-star, carrying herself with the poise and importance that the biggest names in pro-wrestling have in the past. Worked some very good bouts with names like Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley, Asuka, Mia Yim, Bianca Belair and others this year, beating Ripley at WrestleMania to become the NXT Women’s Champion, which surprised many fans. Opened the year by winning the Women’s Royal Rumble. Spent much of the latter end of 2019 working against or alongside Becky Lynch, sometimes against Asuka and Kairi Sane. Charlotte is a real presence and can pretty much do it all in the ring. If WWE were to limit her exposure on television a little, and keep her feuds fresh, she will continue her already shining legacy as one of the greatest. Woooo!

5) Seth Rollins

“The Monday Night Messiah” is still a revelation on WWE television, regardless of what some may feel when it comes to the guy. A phenomenal talent in the ring, he’s also been doing some wonderful work as the self-centred, religious-style preacher-heel with Murphy as his lackey. His feud with Rey and Dominik Mysterio has been really fun, and resulted in some fine matches, including a very enjoyable scrap with Dom at SummerSlam which Rollins won. Had a really good match at WrestleMania against Kevin Owens, which saw Owens come out victorious. His recent heel run has been really entertaining and should see Rollins eventually sit back on top as WWE or Universal Champion, eventually. Prior to turning heel, even though his babyface character was becoming stale, he put in some good matches with guys like Adam Cole, Andrade and others. His feud with The Fiend, however, in 2019, is better left forgotten. Seth is an excellent heel character who does his best promo work in that villainous role, and he remains one of the best wrestlers in the world, too. Some additions to his crew could really accentuate his positives as a leader, and give some new talents a rub in the process, now that AOP have been let go from the company. He’s still burning it down, and doing so with a sniveling smile on his face.

4) Randy Orton

It’s 2020, some 18 years on from Orton’s WWE television debut, and Randall Keith Orton is putting in the best work of his Hall of Fame calibre career. It’s pretty damn cool to see, and The Viper is unapologetically setting WWE on fire again with impassioned promo work and some of his best in-ring stuff we’ve ever seen. When Edge returned in January at Royal Rumble, he immediately entered a feud with Orton, and the two have brought the best out of one another again, with some fantastic interviews and a fun, albeit long, scrap at WrestleMania. They then went on to have “The Greatest Wrestling Match of All Time” at Backlash. Now, this was a silly tagline, but the match itself was indeed fantastic. In 2019, he feuded with WWE Champion Kofi Kingston which, though it didn’t always hit the marks it could have, still resulted in some nice matches, and helped cement Kingston’s reign as champion as more than it otherwise may have been. Feud with AJ Styles at the end of 2019 into 2020 was fine, but not the best work of either’s careers. Orton, at only 40 years old, still has plenty to offer WWE, as shown by his fantastic form of late. His most recent feud with Keith Lee has also been very good, and shown Orton to be a very giving worker too. The three most dangerous letters in WWE history may also be three of the most important to the company’s history books.

3) Adam Cole

The leader of The Undisputed Era has had one hell of a twelve months. He began the twelve month timescale in the midst of his run as the longest reigning NXT Champion. During that run he worked a burst of matches across NXT, RAW, SmackDown and WWE PPV. Had a fun match on SmackDown with Daniel Bryan in November, competed in a wonderfully entertaining War Games match at NXT TakeOver that same month, and then went on to compete in a great bout with Pete Dunne at Survivor Series. As NXT Champion he had various top notch scraps with guys like Finn Balor, Tommaso Ciampa, The Velveteen Dream and Keith Lee, who Cole would drop the title to in an action-packed blinder in July of this year. Following his loss of the NXT strap, Cole went on to challenge Lee again, and have a peculiar feud with former NFL punter Pat McAfee, which culminated in a better-than-expected bout at TakeOver XXX. Cole is one of the great all-rounders in WWE today, a great talker, fantastic in-ring worker, and the leader of the best faction WWE has seen since The Shield. Has all the tools to be one of the big names in the company, if his size doesn’t upset any backstage folks. Boom!

2) Asuka

If you were to ask me about which WWE talent has stood out the most during this “No Fans” era of wrestling, then I think the first name that would come into my brain would be “The Empress of Tomorrow”. Asuka is one of the premiere wrestlers in the world, but it’s widely known that WWE haven’t exactly used her to her full potential since she left NXT and moved to the “main roster” a few years back. Over the last twelve months, however, whether she has been competing as a singles star, or in tag matches with her partner (who has since left WWE, sadly) Kairi Sane, she’s been amazing. Won the WWE RAW Women’s Championship after a memorable but pretty odd Money in the Bank match, and was surprised the night after on RAW by being awarded the RAW Women’s Title by Becky Lynch who was taking time off to have her first child. A wonderfully charismatic performer, Asuka is phenomenal at what she does, and remains the best female talent in WWE. It’s nice that she’s finally getting a chance to show just how damn good she is. It’s true that, when she’s at this level, nobody is ready for Asuka!

1) Keith Lee

Some may call it an upset, and some may say it’s a controversial choice for the number one spot this year, but… I beg to differ, kind sir. Lee has stormed the ranks of WWE over the past twelve months, winning the NXT North American Championship and putting in stellar matches with the likes of Doiminik Dijakovic, Damien Priest, Roderick Strong, Cameron Grimes and others over said title. Lee then went on to win the NXT Championship in early July in a match with the longest reigning NXT Champion Adam Cole. Lee and Cole would go on to have some blinders together, and Lee would also defend against Dijakovic in a fantastic bout on NXT TV. This was all in 2020, but Lee also had some fine matches in 2019, too. He worked tag matches against The Undisputed Era, he had some nice contests against guys like Austin Theory, Roderick Strong, Finn Balor and others, and helped build himself up to the mega-star we see today on RAW. Oh yea, Keith Lee debuted on Monday Night RAW in August of this year and immediately entered a program with Randy Orton. He went on to beat Randy in a terrific match at Payback. Lee is a good promo, a wonderful in-ring talent, and has the star-power to be an even bigger star over the coming years. Lee, for my money, has been THE guy to watch in the past year in WWE, and thus… he stakes his claim as the number one in the 2nd Annual Nerdly 50. Bask in his glory, for he is limitless.
______

So, there we have it, The 2nd Annual Nerdly WWE Top 50. I hope you enjoyed it. Now… like all lists, and all rankings, you may not agree with the placing of certain wrestlers, you may not agree with those who made the long-list but weren’t on the main list, either. It’s all fine. This is subjective, and we’re all allowed to agree, disagree and discuss. Either way… here’s to a second year of this, and may the Nerdly WWE 50 continue for many years to come. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.