Sports Illustrated has named their top then list for best wrestlers of 2020…
…and it is pretty ridiculous. I do not expect much from Sports Illustrated when covering professional wrestling, especially when the column is written by Justin Barrasso. I will leave it just at that comment there, but if you want a credible voice that is respected in the industry, you are barking up the wrong tree. Just for kicks though, let’s take a gander at the top ten list that just dropped.
Number one was Sasha Banks. You could argue she wasn’t even the best female in WWE, much less male and female from EVERY single company. Arguably, Bayley and Asuka had a better 2020 than her. Off to a rough start already SI!
Number two was Jon Moxley. I do not watch much AEW (All Elite Wrestling) anymore, although I did see every episode from late 2019 until about mid-2020. Moxley won their top title from Chris Jericho…and yeah, that was probably the peak. He was certainly well protected and won a lot, but nothing memorable will be taken from his reign. Sorry, I know he is an internet darling and beloved online, but this run was similar to his WWE main event journey. The “moment” was better than everything else combined. Just for the sake of being the top champion in a company though, I get the high ranking. He just isn’t going to be #2 on my list. Not even close.
Number three was Drew McIntyre. I call him “The Stud” Drew McIntyre because that is what he is. In my opinion, and I wrote about this two weeks ago, it is not even a discussion. Drew was THE top of the top in 2020. he won the annual much hyped Royal Rumble. He eliminated The Beast and unstoppable Brock Lesnar from that very Rumble match in an epic moment. He then built the road to WrestleMania brick by brick to win the WWE Championship in the main event of the biggest event of the year. Against Brock F’N Lesnar mind you. Then he racked up clean victories over Big Show, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, and countless others, rarely, rarely losing. he did drop the title to Randy Orton for three weeks (a still very questionable move) but then quickly reclaimed the belt in a great RAW main event. How does he end the year? In a battle with Roman Reigns at Survivor Series in a clash of WWE vs. Universal Champions. Beyond being the top star from January to December; it’s not even close.
Number four was Naito. I do not watch New Japan Pro Wrestling, so I am not even going to bother. I do know that Sports Illustrated hardly ever covers wrestling outside of the United States, and now the writer suddenly wants to show off his knowledge on a year-end list? Please. Very transparent. At least I am honest.
Number five was Kenny Omega – the current AEW World Champion. He just dethroned Jon Moxley as ‘the man’ in All Elite Wrestling a few weeks ago. Omega spent much of the year in the tag team ranks, before recently moving to the main event title scene. Hard to give a guy WRESTLER OF THE YEAR while being in a tag team for much of the year. Just my two cents. He is primed for a big 2021, to be fair.
Number six was Bayley. I am fine with this selection. As noted in the ridiculous Sasha Banks as number one section, one could make the case for bayley having a MUCH better year than her former tag partner. Depending on your criteria, of course. Bayley spent much of the year carrying gold, spent time in the tag ranks and solo ranks and was on every single brand for WWE. All the while, she re-invented herself yet again to the “Karen” character. Great year for Bayley.
Number seven was Io Shirai from NXT. Okay, I can live with this one. Again, nowhere near my top ten list but whatever. Io is awesome and is doing good things for the NXT brand, every Wednesday night on the USA Network.
Number eight was Ibushi. Again, I do not follow NJPW. I won’t pretend to, unlike some writers…
Number nine was Roman Reigns. On top of all the other ridiculous choices, this one may be the most laughable. Yes, Reigns was gone from March-August. I get that. I understand why that may hurt his rankings here a bit. However, he was a main event player for the first quarter of 2020 and set to main event WrestleMania for the Universal Title against Bill Goldberg. Upon returning at Summerslam, he was immediately in the thick of things – winning the Universal Title a week later and doing so as a HEEL WITH PAUL HEYMAN!!! That was a huge game changer, and he has been the best thing in all of WWE since then. Big time quality for the blue brand and big time ratings as well. he is Smackdown right now.
Number ten was Eddie Kingston. Just ridiculous. On a list that did not include Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, The Fiend, Cody Rhodes, Thunder Rosa, Asuka, Britt Baker, Johnny Gargano, Finn Balor, Adam Cole, Keith Lee, MJF, and many others…we get Eddie Kingston?!?! Okay, sure, I don’t even need to say anything here. Bottom line – there are so many great performers in the wrestling industry. Just a shame an outlet as big as Sport Illustrated decided to make such a ludicrous top ten list that was NOT at all representative of 2020.
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)