The Top 20 Wrestlers of the Last 20 Years (According to the PWI 500)

Kurt OppenheimCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

The Top 20 Wrestlers of the Last 20 Years (According to the PWI 500)

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    For 20 years, the PWI 500 has provided wrestling fans with an annual list of the top 500 pro wrestlers in the world. Here I present the top 20 wrestlers of the past 20 years, based on a point system I devised from their ranking each year they were listed. Hope you enjoy!

     

    Note: the point system I used assigns points for every time a wrestler is ranked in the PWI 500.

    The formula I used is: 1  /  (1 + ranking).

    For example, a #1 ranking gets 1/2 a point, #2 gets 1/3 of a point, #3 gets 1/4 of a point, etc., all the way to #500 gets 1/501th of a point.

20. Vader

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    Total number of appearances: 12
    Number of top 10 rankings: 3
    Highest ranking: No. 2 (1993)

    Although Vader is not brought up much in conversation these days, he was dominant in pre-Hogan WCW during the early 90s, winning the WCW Championship three times.

    Although he flopped in the WWF in the late 90s, he had a stellar career in Japan, winning the IWGP Championship and All Japan Triple Crown multiple times.

19. A.J. Styles

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    Total number of appearances: 11
    Number of top 10 rankings: 3
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2010)

    This year's No. 1 is considered the face of TNA and has been one of its top stars since its inception in 2002.

    Hopefully he won't be overshadowed by the influx of former WWE stars over the last few months, and will continue to shine in TNA for years to come.

18. Kenta Kobashi

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    Total number of appearances: 14
    Number of top 10 rankings: 6
    Highest ranking: No. 4 (1996, 2000, 2004)

    Although he has only wrestled a handful of matches in the United States (including a 5-star match against Samoa Joe in Ring of Honor in 2005), Kenta Kobashi was one of the top Japanese wrestlers of the late 90s and early 2000s, holding the All Japan Triple Crown three times. Kobashi could be considered Japan's answer to Shawn Michaels for the quality of his matches, having earned 23 five-star matches from the Wrestling Observer newsletter.

17. Randy Orton

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    Total number of appearances: 10
    Number of top 10 rankings: 4
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2008)

    Orton has created his own "legacy" in WWE over the past eight years.

    From a vanilla third-generation rookie in 2002 to a member of Evolution to the WWE's "Apex Predator," Orton has evolved with a killer instinct and is at his peak, where at age 30, he is likely to remain for many years.

16. Rob Van Dam

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    Total number of appearances: 17
    Number of top 10 rankings: 3
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2002)

    Although many feel he was held back from his full potential in WWE, Van Dam has long been considered one of the top performers in the sport, and is the highest-ranking wrestler ECW ever had in the PWI 500 (No. 2 in 1999). Coming in at No. 15 this year is impressive, considering he spent most of the year on the sidelines.

    Expect to see him back in the top 10 on next year's list.

15. Ric Flair

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    Total number of appearances: 17
    Number of top 10 rankings: 5
    Highest ranking: No. 3 (1991, 1992, 1994)

    Although most of his best years came before the PWI 500 started in 1991, Flair was still considered the best wrestler in the world by many in the early 90s, winning two WWF Championships in 1992 and seven WCW Championships between 1991 and 1999.

14. Hulk Hogan

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    Total number of appearances: 11
    Number of top 10 rankings: 4
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (1991)

    Like Flair, Hogan's best days were in the 80s, but he dominated the world title in WCW between 1994 and 1998 and, of course, was the centerpiece of the NWO.

13. Keiji Muto (The Great Muta)

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    Total number of appearances: 20
    Number of top 10 rankings: 4
    Highest ranking: No. 3 (2002)

    Primarily known to American fans as the Great Muta in WCW in the early 90s, Muto also led the Japanese version of the NWO and has won the All Japan Triple Crown three times and the IWGP title four times.

    In 2002, Muto became the president and owner of All Japan. He is also one of only two men to be listed in every PWI 500 (the other is Jushin Liger, who didn't make this top 20 list).

12. Mitsuharu Misawa

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    Total number of appearances: 18
    Number of top 10 rankings: 5
    Highest ranking: No. 2 (1997)

    Often considered the Hulk Hogan of Japan, Misawa was the top star of All Japan throughout the 1990s, and won the Triple Crown three times. A year after becoming president of All Japan in 1999, he left and founded his own promotion, Pro Wrestling Noah.

    Misawa is as renowned a performer as any in Japanese wrestling history, having earned 24 five-star matches from the Wrestling Observer newsletter.

    Tragically, Misawa died during a match on June 13, 2009.

11. Edge

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    Total number of appearances: 14
    Number of top 10 rankings: 6
    Highest ranking: No. 2 (2007)

    Edge spent many years as a mid-carder in WWE before finally winning his first world title in January 2006. Since then, he has won and lost the title many times, and has certainly lived up to his "Ultimate Opportunist" moniker.

10. Chris Jericho

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    Total number of appearances: 13
    Number of top 10 rankings: 8
    Highest ranking: No. 2 (2009)

    If he's not "the best in the world at what he does," he's certainly still one of the best. A four-time world champion in WWE, Jericho shows no signs of slowing down, and has one of the most impressive résumés of any wrestler not just today, but ever.

9. Chris Benoit

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    Total number of appearances: 15
    Number of top 10 rankings: 4
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2004)

    Although WWE has done their best to erase Benoit from memory, I prefer to remember him for the many outstanding matches he had both in WCW and WWE.

    When he won the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania XX, few argued that he didn't deserve it.

8. Bret Hart

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    Total number of appearances: 9
    Number of top 10 rankings: 4
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (1993, 1994)

    Bret is one of the most respected ring technicians of all time, and won the WWF Championship five times between 1992 and 1997.

    He was also the first man to top the PWI 500 twice. After suffering a career-ending concussion at the hands of Goldberg in 2000, Bret spent many years out of the limelight before making his shocking return to WWE in 2010.

7. The Undertaker

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    Total number of appearances: 18
    Number of top 10 rankings: 7
    Highest ranking: No. 2 (2002)

    Although the Deadman has never been No. 1, he has been a headliner in WWE for almost 20 consecutive years, an unequaled accomplishment. A seven-time world champion, the Undertaker will likely headline every Wrestlemania until he decides to retire.

6. Sting

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    Total number of appearances: 14
    Number of top 10 rankings: 7
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (1992)

    Sting was the face of WCW for many years, and is undoubtedly the most famous and successful wrestler of the past 20 years that never competed in WWE. He returned to the top 10 in 2009 for the first time since 1996, and continues to make waves in TNA.

5. Shawn Michaels

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    Total number of appearances: 15
    Number of top 10 rankings: 8
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (1996)

    Generally considered the greatest performer of this generation, Michaels has had a career that few will ever match. He has received an unbelievable 10 Match of the Year awards (1993-1996 and 2004-2009), and will probably win an eleventh for his final match at Wrestlemania 26 with the Undertaker.

    Shawn Michaels can never be replaced.

4. Steve Austin

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    Total number of appearances: 11
    Number of top 10 rankings: 6
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (1998, 1999)

    Vince McMahon calls Stone Cold the greatest WWE superstar of all-time, and although he only wrestled in WWE for five years, he was the face of the company during wrestling's biggest boom period.

    Nagging injuries forced his retirement in 2003, but fans are always glad to see Austin when he occasionally comes back to WWE to raise hell.

3. Kurt Angle

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    Total number of appearances: 11
    Number of top 10 rankings: 8
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2001)

    The fact that Angle was ranked No. 1 after only two years in the business is an amazing feat itself. Hopefully, Angle's career can be extended by his lighter schedule in TNA, because as a performer and athlete, he has no equal in a wrestling ring.

2. John Cena

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    Total number of appearances: 10
    Number of top 10 rankings: 7
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2006, 2007)

    Spare me the boos, Cena haters. It's based on a point system. There is no denying, however, that Cena is the face of WWE, and has been its top star since 2005 when he moved to Raw and Batista went to Smackdown.

    Since then, Cena has always been in the main event picture, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

1. Triple H

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    Total number of appearances: 17
    Number of top 10 rankings: 8
    Highest ranking: No. 1 (2000, 2009)

    Since rising to the top of WWE in 1999, Triple H has been near the top of the heap more than anyone else. Hopefully, when he returns from his recent injury, he can stay healthy and help build up rising stars like Sheamus and Drew McIntyre before he retires and takes control of the company as a member of the McMahon family.

The Top 100 of the Past 20 Years

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    Here are the top 100 based on my point system:

    1. Triple-H
    2. John Cena
    3. Kurt Angle
    4. Steve Austin
    5. Shawn Michaels
    6. Sting
    7. The Undertaker
    8. Bret Hart
    9. Chris Benoit
    10. Chris Jericho
    11. Edge
    12. Mitsuharu Misawa
    13. Keiji Muto
    14. Hulk Hogan
    15. Ric Flair
    16. Rob Van Dam
    17. Randy Orton
    18. Kenta Kobashi
    19. A.J. Styles
    20. Vader
    21. Jeff Jarrett
    22. Batista
    23. The Big Show
    24. Kevin Nash
    25. Scott Steiner
    26. Eddie Guerrero
    27. Rey Mysterio
    28. Randy Savage
    29. Lex Luger
    30. Booker T
    31. Jushin Liger
    32. The Rock
    33. Dean Malenko
    34. Brock Lesnar
    35. Diamond Dallas Page
    36. Samoa Joe
    37. El Hijo del Santo
    38. Mistico
    39. Sabu
    40. Christian
    41. Toshiaki Kawada
    42. Kane
    43. CM Punk
    44. Bill Goldberg
    45. Ultimo Guerrero
    46. Satoshi Kojima
    47. Jerry Lawler
    48. Kensuke Sasaki
    49. Rick Steiner
    50. Rick Rude
    51. Rick Steamboat
    52. Dr. Wagner Jr.
    53. Goldust
    54. Scott Hall
    55. John Bradshaw Layfield
    56. Jeff Hardy
    57. Shinya Hashimoto
    58. Owen Hart
    59. Desmond Wolfe / Nigel McGuinness
    60. Christopher Daniels
    61. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
    62. Yuji Nagata
    63. Matt Hardy
    64. Yokozuna
    65. William Regal
    66. Steve Williams
    67. Shelton Benjamin
    68. Bryan Danielson
    69. Mick Foley
    70. Arn Anderson
    71. Genichiro Tenryu
    72. Tazz
    73. Jun Akiyama
    74. Sean Waltman
    75. Raven
    76. Shinsuke Nakamura
    77. Perro Aguayo Jr.
    78. Rhino
    79. Masa Chono
    80. Sid Vicious
    81. Barry Windham
    82. Chavo Guerrero, Jr.
    83. Ultimo Dragon
    84. Brother Ray / Bubba Ray Dudley
    85. Hiroshi Tanahashi
    86. Negro Casas
    87. Davey Boy Smith
    88. Shane Douglas
    89. Curt Hennig
    90. Hector Garza
    91. Justin Credible
    92. Koji Kanemoto
    93. Ron Simmons
    94. La Parka (original)
    95. Tajiri
    96. Bam Bam Bigelow
    97. Road Warrior Hawk
    98. Shocker
    99. Takeshi Morishima
    100. Psicosis

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