It’s one of my favorites times of year to be a wrestling fan…this
year’s PWI 500 has been released, covering August of 1999 to
August of 2000. I picked up a copy before heading out to a
conference in Washington, DC, and pored through it while taking
breaks from endless sessions detailing Multiprotocol Lambda
Switching in Optical Network Architectures. We’ll start with my
thoughts on the Top 20.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley – The only realistic choice, HHH
has been the lead all year for a company which needed one after
losing Steve Austin. In hindsight, the best thing to ever
happen to Helmsley was the retirement of Shawn Michaels,
because it forced him to be a better wrestler and performer
on-screen, and a locker room leader behind the scenes. Two years
ago, I would have bet my mortgage he couldn’t pull it off. I’m
happy to say I was 100% wrong.
Rocky Maivia – Arguments can be made for him being #1,
but this is the right choice. He gets by too much on charisma and
right hands…but it’s remarkable how far that can get someone
in the Sports Entertainment business. Nobody, Austin included, can
wrap an audience around their finger better.
Chris Benoit – Used to be, unquestionably, the best
in-ring wrestler. May have lost that since his increased size has
hurt what used to be a seamless aerial blend into his mat
wrestling. But he’s done as well as possible for someone 5’10"
with mediocre mic skills in a promotion where the top guys are 6’5"
and do 20-minute interview segments.
Kenta Kobashi – The best choice for top foreign wrestler.
With years of injuries piling up on Mitsuhara Misawa & Toshiaki
Kawada, it’s Kobashi’s time to take over, and the future
of NOAH rides squarely on his capable shoulders.
Jeff Jarrett – We’ll talk more about Jarrett in the
"overrated" section. It’s fair to say he’s the top
guy in WCW right now, but does that mean that he’s had a
better year, either in or out of the ring, than….
Justin Credible – Credible was in the same position that
HHH was, when ECW lost Rob Van Dam for most of the year.
The former World and tag champ worked his tail off all year and
ably served as the promotion’s top guy, a role he’ll continue
to play through ECW’s latest trials and tribulations.
Mike Awesome – Awesome made a huge jump, from Not Listed
in last year’s 500 to #7 this year. Awesome took the ECW title
ball at last year’s Anarchy Rulz PPV, and carried it to the Big
Two, where he was saddled with a terrible "70’s Guy"
gimmick. He’s deserved better from his time in WCW.
Jushin Liger – Liger busted out of the junior heavyweight
division he’s dominated for the last decade to take a run at the
IWGP heavyweight title. He later went to the U.S. and was involved
in a "tequila bottle" finish against Juventud Guerrera
where he lost the IWGP Jr. title, which he regained on the same
trip. He finished the voting period by winning the Super J Cup
2000 tourmanent. Quite a year.
Chris Jericho – Has the talent to pull off a high-flying
style in the punch-and-kick dominated WWF, and the charisma to be
involved in any main event angle, in any role they so designate.
Like Benoit, the move from WCW has paid off from Y2J.
Kensuke Sasaki – Stepped up to successfully spend the
year as the top heavyweight in New Japan. Doesn’t have the
opponents to have "four-star" matches night after night,
but has been excellent in his role as main eventer on their
Vader – The body doesn’t let him be the best big man in
the business, a role he had for much of the 90s. But he’s still
the two-time Triple Crown champ, and the top guy for All Japan as
they move forward into their new life without Misawa and Kobashi.
Scott Steiner – OK, I can’t figure this one out. I’ve
tried and tried. He gets as good a reaction as anyone from WCW
audiences, but hasn’t had anything better than a mediocre match,
and his huge physique and numerous injuries make him immobile in,
and on the way to, the ring.
Kurt Angle – This might be too high for Angle in the
voting period, but he’s definitely on the fast track. His mic
skills and charisma are a welcome surprise, as is the WWF’s
willingness to take advantage of his wrestling.
Mitsuhara Misawa – It’s tough for me to judge today’s
Misawa when comparing him to the mid-90s version. His next impact
may come on the business side, as he struggles to move NOAH up to
the level of his former company.
Hijo del Santo – Still the most over and highest-profile
wrestler in Mexico after many years. The dropped peso may have
affected how business is done with the Lucha promotions, but Santo
"Big Show" Paul Wight – Had a great first-half
of the voting period, leading into the Four-Way Wrestlemania main
event. Troubles maintaining weight have led him down to the Ohio
Valley promotion, where Jim Cornette is happy to have him. This
spot is too high for someone who spent several months in the
Diamond Dallas Page – Another guy with a great first half…super-hot
angle with Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and wife Kimberly
led to an excellent main event at Spring Stampede, the best match
for him or Jeff Jarrett this year. Has been out since July, so his
position in next year’s 500 may drop.
Sid Vicious – Like Page, a WCW main eventer for the first
half, not quite as much the second. In fact, he’s been gone
since the R&B era, which is why I can’t figure out why he’s
this high on the list.
Rhino – I didn’t like the angle with his piledriver on Sandman’s
wife, Lori Fullington. But geez, is this guy impressive. Paul
Heyman used an RVD injury during a match with Rhino to get the
big guy even further over.
Eddy Guerrero – Another wrestler in a position to move up
into the next echelon in the WWF. Problem being, some folks have
to leave (can Undertaker really be a fourth-match guy?)
Now, for the rest. Most of these will be top 200, since everyone
in the bottom half are solely indies, most of whom I’ve never
seen, and most of those I’ve never heard of outside of a name in a
Five Guys Who’re Underrated
Jun Akiyama (42, between Bob Holly and Ric Flair)
Edge (51, between Kevin Nash and Tetsuhiro Takaiwa)
Jerry Lynn (54, between Buh Buh Ray Dudley and Tazz)
Shinjiro Otani (77, between Christopher Daniels and Road Dogg)
Crowbar (127, between The Wall and Gran Hamada)
Five Guys Who’re Overrated (outside of those I’ve already
Scotty Too Hotty (33, between Toshiaki Kawada and Kane)
Universo Dos Mil (64, between Perry Saturn and X-Pac)
Tank Abbott (89, between Super Delfin and Genichiro Tenryu)
Kodo Fuyuki (119, between Bam Bam Bigelow and Psicosis)
Shark Boy (163, between Nova and Hugh "Gen. Rection"
Five Who’ll Be Higher Next Year (outside of those who were low
due to injury)
Lance Storm (40)
Booker T (61)
Steve Corino (155)
Simon Diamond (166)
Five, OK, Six Who’ll Be Lower Next Year (outside of those I’ve
Masato Tanaka (21, unless he returns to ECW)
Crash & Bob Holly (36 & 41, respectively)
Hulk Hogan (59)
Naoya Ogawa (83)
Johnny Ace (146, unless he unretires and leaves the WCW front
One I’d Agree With If I Could Tell Them Apart
Don Harris (134) seven notches above his brother Ron (141)
Top Pure Independent (except for about three weeks)
Michael Modest (116)
Top Pure Independent (period, no development deals)
Mike Quackenbush (160)
Lowest Wrestler Whom You’ve Seen On National TV This Year
Lowest Wrestler You’d Recognize On Sight
George "The Animal" Steele (389)
Lowest Wrestler You Probably Know Who Still Has To Do This For
Tommy Cairo (386)
Lowest Wrestler You Definitely Know Who Still Has To Do This For
Greg Valentine (369)