This ranking will take a closer look at the top performers in World Wrestling Entertainment today. For the purposes of this column, I will look at every on-camera performer in the company and rank them from No. 50 all the way to No. 1.
I'm writing this in early October because it is about halfway between WrestleMania 28 and WrestleMania 29. It's a good time to evaluate the entire WWE roster as we head into the fall season and into the new year with major events like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 29 on the horizon.
This is a column I have written annually for the last three years. I've written about every episode of Raw for nearly four years on my website TJRWrestling.com, I watch Smackdown every week and I also pay attention to the other WWE shows such as NXT, Superstars and now Main Event also. Of course I watch the pay-per-view events as well.
The Grading System
I tried to look at each wrestler's workrate, microphone work, charisma, drawing power and importance to the company as a way to grade them. For a better explanation of my criteria, here's a look at the grading system.
A+ = Workrate, mic work, ring psychology, charisma are exceptional. If you're wondering about the A+ rating I'd say there have been some in the last decade or so. I'd have given A+ to Chris Jericho in 2008, Kurt Angle in 2002, Steve Austin in 2001 and Triple H in 2000 off the top of my head. There might be some in today's WWE. You will have to read on to find out.
A = Excels in all of the key areas that I explained above, but may lack one or two special qualities.
B, B+, A- = A very good performer that needs a little work in some areas in order to improve or may be slipping a bit due to age.
C, C+, B- = A performer who has not reached his potential or a wrestler who is unable to improve on some areas due to their size and/or talent level.
D+, C- = A performer that struggles in certain aspects and doesn't appear to have the talent to improve.
D or lower = I would rather watch paint dry.
F = The Boogeyman. I don't miss him.
In addition to the letter grade, I will be including a feature that I've admired in Pro Football Weekly's annual NFL preview issue for many years. They have this feature where they rank the players by position. After their rating (they use numbers, not letters) they have a bonus rating for players that are either on the rise or past their prime. Here's an explanation on that:
(u) = This means the performer has an upside. It's usually for a new talent that is still growing as a performer.
(uu) = This means the performer has a bigger upside. Think of Shawn Michaels in 1992 or John Cena in 2003, before he was main eventing.
(d) = This means the performer is on the downside of his/her career. It's usually going to be for an older performer, or maybe somebody with a long injury history.
(dd) = Same as above except maybe this person is a little older and a little more banged up. The Great Khali, who isn't in this top 50, is an example of a "dd" type of performer.
If you don't see any letters in brackets following the capitalized letter grade of the performer then that means I think that person doesn't have an upside or a downside. You should take it to mean that I believe that performer is at or near the peak of his or her talents.
Notes on the Grading Process
- Following the letter grade of the performer, I will have a section called Outlook where I will write a few sentences about where I see that person headed in the future. I will also note what I graded the person last year (Raw 2011 roster and SmackDown 2011 roster) if they were a part of that review.
- Some write-ups will be long while others will be shorter. It depends on the individual, obviously. The grading will be based on their current activity with the company as well as where they might fit in the company in the future.
- I won't be writing about NXT performers. I do watch the show, so maybe I will write something about the talents on that show in a separate piece at a later date. However, after evaluating more than 80 people and coming up with a list of the top 50, I think I have the roster covered fairly well.
- I'm not including announcers or referees in this list. While announcers are performers, the list will focus more on the characters. That does include general managers and managers as well.
Before I have people complaining to me about any of my comments, please remember that I respect every person involved in wrestling. It's a tough, demanding business that requires these performers to sacrifice many other things in their lives.
While it may seem like I'm "bashing" somebody, it's nothing personal. It's just their work on WWE television.
I've always considered WWE to be like a favorite sports team. Even though I will criticize decisions made by the company, I am still a fan and always will be a fan. It's the same thing when a sports fan questions a free agent signing or a coaching decision during the game. It's never personal.
On top of all that, I have been a fan of pro wrestling for 25+ years (I turn 32 years old in November) and as a man that follows this company on a daily basis, I feel like I've gained a lot of experience in evaluating talent.
Now that I've got that out of the way, let's look at four big name part-time performers and then we'll get to the top 50 immediately after that.