Ranking the Best Pro Wrestlers of the Decade

Yearly ratings, great matches, title reigns and big stage moments are the four categories that were used to determine this greatest wrestlers of the 2010-2019 decade list. 20 male wrestlers and six female wrestlers met the qualifications for inclusion. Here are the final overall rankings along with explanations and breakdowns of the overall criteria and the four specific category formulas used.

# Wresler C1  C2 C3 C4 Rank
1 Kazuchika Okada 4 (35) 1 (70) 1 (1,785) 2 (30) 2
2 Hiroshi Tanahashi 6 (34) 2 (54) 4 (858) 1 (40 3.2
3 John Cena 2 (43) 7 (16) 10 (441) 3 (26) 5.5
4 AJ Styles 1 (44) 5 (28) 5 (818) 17 (50) 7
5 Seth Rollins 5 (35) 11 (10) 7 (534) 12 (15) 8.7
6 Daniel Bryan 9 (29) 9 (13) 12 (415) 11 (15) 10.2
7 Shinsuke Nakamura 10 (28) 6 (19) 21 (169) 5 (115) 10.5
8 Randy Orton 3 (38) 21 (3) 13 (413) 7 (19) 11
9 Brock Lesnar 25 (12) 13 (8) 2 (1,000) 6 (19) 11.5
10 Roman Reigns 8 (32) 17 (6) 19 (183) 4 (25) 12
11 Charlotte Flair 13 (25) 20 (3) 3 (859) 14 (14) 12.5
12 Kenny Omega t21 (18) 4 (38) 20 (209) 9 (16) 13.5
13 Kevin Owens 7 (33) 14 (8) 14 (331) 19 (9) 13.5
14 Tetsuya Naito 23 (16) 3 (44) 24 (84) 8 (17) 14.5
15 Alberto El Patron 11 (28) 19 (4) 15 (317) 15 (40) 15
16 CM Punk 17 (20) 12 (9) 10 (464) 22 (5) 15.2
17 Becky Lynch t21 (18) 22 (2) 9 (482) 10 (15) 15.5
18 Finn Balor 15 (24) 15 (8) 16 (293) 18 (9) 16
19 The Miz 12 (27) 18 (5) 23 (160) 15 (12) 17
20 Jon Moxley  14 (62) 8 (13) 25 (84) 23 (5) 17.5
21 Bayley 16 (23) 22 (2) 8 (517) 24 (3) 17.5
22 Adam Cole 18 (20) 10 (10) 18 (213) 25 (2) 17.7
23 Asuka 24 (15) 22 (2) 6 (610) 20 (7) 18
24 Chris Jericho 23 (17) 16 (6) 22 (160) 13 (15) 18.5
25 Sasha Banks 19 (19) 22 (2) 17 (274) 21 (6) 19.7

Category 1

AJ Styles

This is the initial qualifying category. It’s based purely off Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s yearly Top 500 male and Top 100 female rankings from each of the past 10 years. To qualify, a wrestler had to have at least one elite ranking (Top Five) or at least two standout rankings (Top 15) during that time frame.

37 male performers met the criteria: Adam Cole, AJ Styles, Alberto El Patron, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar, Bully Ray, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Cody, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, John Cena, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay Lethal, Jon Moxley, Kane, Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, PAC, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Roderick Strong, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Shinsuke Nakamura, Takashi Sugiura, Tetsuya Naito, The Miz and Will Ospreay.

36 female performers met the criteria: AJ Lee, Alexa Bliss, Allie, Allysin Kay, Angelina Love, Asuka, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Beth Phoenix, Charlotte, Cheerleader Melissa, Courtney Rush, Gail Kim, Io Shirai,  Ivelisse Vélez, Jessika Havok, Kairi Sane, Layla, Lisa Marie Varon, LuFisto, Madison Eagles, Madison Rayne, Mayu Iwatani, Mercedes Martinez, Mickie James, MsChif, Natalya, Naomi, Paige, Saraya Knight, Ronda Rousey, Sara Del Rey, Sasha Banks, Sexy Star, Shayna Baszler and Velvet Sky.

The formula used to measure the rankings was pretty simple. Only a wrestler’s rankings within the top 50 were used. The top 50 was broken up into five different 10 number segments and each was given a different weighted value: A ranking in the 1-10 range was worth five points, 11-20 earned four points, 21-30 earned three points, 31-40 earned two points and 41-50 earned one point. For example, AJ Styles, the category’s leader, had seven top 10 finishes (35 points) and three finishes in the 21-30 range (nine points), so his total was 44. John Cena, who ranked second in the category, had seven top 10 finishes (35 points) and two finishes in the 11-20 range (eight points), so his total was 43 points.


Category 2

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 10.18.14 PM

The intention of this category was to determine the total amount of great matches a wrestler had in the decade. Obviously, rating matches is subjective and is dependent upon the personal taste of a viewer, so the formula used for this category was a combination of two different forms of published match ratings: The first being the star ratings of Dave Meltzer, arguably the most famous figure in wrestling journalism, and the second being the match ratings posted on cagematch.net, one of the internet’s largest interactive wrestling databases which allows fans the opportunity to rank wrestlers and their matches on a 0-10 scale. It’s not a perfect formula but it at least builds towards a consensus. If a match was rated so highly by both parties, it was likely to be one of the better matches of the respective year it took place.

To be counted as a great match, a bout had to be ranked over four stars by Meltzer and over eight points by cagematch users. Matches from all federations were counted but only singles matches, no tag team matches or battle royals were included.

This was also used as a weed out factor following the initial qualifying category. The thinking was that a wrestler should have at least two great matches in the decade to be considered one of the best. Anyone who did not have at least two great matches was eliminated from the list.

Seven males failed to meet the criteria: Bobby Roode, Bray Wyatt, Bully Ray, Kane, Rob Van Dam, Sheamus and Takashi Sugiura.

30 females failed to meet the criteria: AJ Lee, Alexa Bliss, Allie, Allysin Kay, Angelina Love, Beth Phoenix, Cheerleader Melissa, Courtney Rush, Gail Kim, Ivelisse Vélez, Jessika Havok, Kairi Sane, Layla, Lisa Marie Varon, LuFisto, Madison Eagles, Madison Rayne, Mayu Iwatani, Mercedes Martinez, Mickie James, MsChif, Natalya, Naomi, Paige, Saraya Knight, Ronda Rousey, Sara Del Rey, Sexy Star, Shayna Baszler and Velvet Sky.


Category 3

Okada

This category was used to measure total days spent this decade as a world champion. The belts considered were the WWE Championship, Universal Championship, WWE World Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Heavyweight Championship, NXT Championship, AEW Championship, WWE Raw Women’s Championship, WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship and the NXT Women’s Championship.

Kazuchicka Okada, the category leader, earned the top spot by holding the IWGP Championship five different times. The second place finisher, Brock Lesnar, accumulated his total by holding the WWE Championship, the Universal Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

For the male wrestlers, John Cena (9) and Randy Orton (7) had the most total number of championship reigns but many of them were on the shorter side. All but one of Cena’s title reigns were less than 100 days and six were less than 50 days. Orton also only had one title reign that lasted over 100 days. Charlotte was far and away the leader of the women in total championship reigns with 11 different title possessions.


Category 4

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 10.20.35 PM

The final category was used to measure big moments on the big stage. Personally, when I think of a big stage, the two annual wrestling shows that immediately come to mind are Wrestlemania and Wrestle Kingdom, so I devised a similar type of weighted formula as category one, which also takes into account Royal Rumble wins.

Being a part of the main event (the last match on the card) at either Wrestlemania or Wrestle Kingdom was worth five points, a Royal Rumble win was worth four points, having a heavyweight title match that was not the last match was worth three points, having a midcard singles title match was worth two points and having a regular singles non-title match was worth one point. Tag team matches and battle royals were not considered.

Unsurprisingly, this was another category that was dominated by Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi, who have both been mainstays in the main event scene of Wrestle Kingdom for the past decade.


Final Thoughts

The last weed out criteria was the totaling of the average ranks that a wrestler had in each of the four categories. To be considered for the list, a wrestler had to have a total average rank of 20 or below. 10 male wrestlers failed to meet this criteria: Austin Aries, Cody, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Jay Lethal, PAC, Rey Mysterio, Roderick Strong, Samoa Joe, and Will Ospreay, as well as one female wrestler, Io Shirai. That group’s considered an honorable mention.

The result was 20 male wrestlers making the final cut and five female wrestlers.  The fact that so many females were weeded out in the great match category is indicative of how women’s wrestling as a whole was viewed and rated up until just a few years ago. It’s a testament to the women included in the final rankings and the job they’ve done elevating the women’s division in the last few years.

There were two ties in the final rankings: Kenny Omega and Kevin Owens at 13.5, and Jon Moxley and Bayley at 17.5. The first tiebreaker used was whichever of the two had the more total lower ranks in the four individual categories. Omega and Owens had two apiece so the second tiebreaker of lowest average rank in one specific category was used which Kenny won with four in category two. Moxley beat Bayley with three lower ranks compared to her one.

Ultimately, the goal of this project was to come up with an unbiased, strictly numbers based list that took emotion and personal preference out of the equation and fairly measured a wrestler’s accomplishments and accolades for a full decade’s worth of work.

My personal rankings list would probably have a few minor tweaks and changes. Kazuchika Okada isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, as I tend to find many of his matches to be too long and drawn out. However, it’s impossible to deny his dominance and his resume. He would be my top wrestler of the decade. After him, I would probably rate AJ Styles No. 2 since he’s been a standout star regardless of the federation he’s been in, whether it’s WWE, New Japan, TNA or Ring of Honor. Brock Lesnar would likely be my No. 3 mainly for the fact that he’s had the biggest presence and his matches have felt like such a big deal and a special occasion.

After those three, the rest of the top 25 list looks pretty solid with no real notable admissions. Time missed is a bit of a factor for guys like Daniel Bryan, who missed three years of in-ring action with an injury, and CM Punk, who accomplished so much in the first half of the decade that he was able to overcome the fact that he was out of action for the entire second half of it. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens also missed significant time as well. John Cena has been more sporadic in recent years due to obligations outside of WWE.

Charlotte would be my personal No. 1 women’s wrestler. The rest of the Four Horsewomen: Bayley, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks would round out the top four in some fashion since it feels like they’ve made an important impact on women’s wrestling and just professional wrestling in general this past decade. Asuka, though she’s had her ups and downs on the main roster, had such a dominant run during her time in NXT and before that in her home country of Japan, belongs in the conversation as well.

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