Wrestling fans are a finicky bunch. What peaks one fan’s interest might turn another off completely. And while many fans are not thrilled with the product that the WWE is currently putting out, I think it is foolish to think that the talent on their roster is not some of the best in the world. The shortcomings that writing teams and office personnel might tie them up with is not entirely their fault. While wrestling circles might argue who should be getting “the push” or who is holding back who, one common question that gets asked is this- “Who is THE best overall talent in WWE right now???” A simple question with a not-so-simple answer.
What characteristics define an “overall” talent? What makes a professional wrestler “good?” Is it strictly in-ring ability and athleticism? Is it charisma? Is it verbal skills on the mic? Is it physical appearance? Obviously, the answer is not limited to just one of these. Is AJ Styles a better in-ring performer than Hulk Hogan? Yes, of course. But who is/was the better “superstar?” And why?
Of course, the answer to this question will be as varied as fans’ tastes in what they want from the world of wrestling, but in my mind, I tried to look at the question objectively. I considered all of the aspects I mentioned above, and more, and came to what I think is a compelling, albeit most likely unconventional, answer. The best OVERALL talent in the WWE TODAY
For me, Xavier Woods ticks all the boxes of what I think make a great sports entertainer in today’s era and meets them all at a high level when given the opportunity. In-ring talent? Check. Woods can “go” inside the squared circle and has just as much ability and creativity as any of his contemporaries you want to name- Styles, Rollins, Bryan, etc. While I will admit that he has not been given as many opportunities to showcase those skills on a regular basis in the past few years as his other New Day teammates, when presented, he has been able to take the ball and run with it successfully. He can more than hold his own under the lights. His tag match with Big E against the Usos at Hell in a Cell 2017, and various singles matches with AJ Styles and even Jinder Mahal and, most recently, Dolph Ziggler, on Smackdown Live in the past few years immediately spring to mind as examples
Mic skills? Charisma? Check and check. Woods has been credited as the driving creative force behind New Day, one of the most popular and, perhaps, most commercially successful groups in the WWE in a decade. He is the most comfortable of the trio on the mic, regularly engaging the crowd in the group’s antics and catch phrases, and it is arguably a toss-up between him and Big E for the most naturally charismatic member. The fans love the guy! And no disrespect to Kofi Kingston, but in many ways, Woods was the true “face” of New Day for a long time. And, I don’t think it can be overstated how important he was and is in his role as the de facto mouthpiece for “KofiMania.” His Paul Heyman-like avocation added that extra “it” that Kofi has always needed to really put him over the top. Answer me this- when you think of the WWE Championship today, who first comes to mind? Kofi Kingston as a singles competitor or New Day as a whole? I know my answer. And that is not a dig in any way at Kofi. But it was Xavier’s seed that allowed that flower to grow.
Another aspect I considered when defining the term “overall” is what Woods has done outside of the wrestling business box that has, in turn, brought more opportunities to himself as well as the WWE. Most notable in his portfolio would be his YouTube channel, UpUpDownDown, that has over 1.6 million subscribers, a Guinness record for Most Subscribed-to Celebrity Video Gaming Channel. He has appeared in TV shows and music videos. He has been a voice actor in video games. He is more popular in some circles for these outside endeavors than he is for his wrestling career. And while it might not reach the level of someone like The Rock, it is a crossover that has not been achieved to such success by anyone else currently in the business.
We all will have different opinions about who is the “best” wrestler in the world right now. The qualifiers will be unique to each fan, and the word “overall” can be debated. But if you consider the entire scope of the modern wrestling business and try to identify the individuals who are best thriving in it, I think it would be a disservice to not mention Xavier Woods in that conversation.