Well here we are, boys and girls. The third installment of this year’s CRL 100, counting down number 50 through 26 on the countdown of my choices for the best wrestlers in the world over the past 12 months. We’ve already counted down 50 of these magnificent warriors, and we’ve had surprises and controversies galore. But if you think that stuff was crazy, you haven’t seen anything yet as we’re about to unveil the order of everyone’s favorite wrestlers. So just keep this in mind as we continue forward from here: for every person who thinks someone like Chris Jericho should be number 1, there’s someone who thinks he shouldn’t be on the list at all, and people who have every opinion in between.
So get on your debating shoes, and get out your dueling cane. Because we’re plunging onwards into the heart of the storm. See you on the other side.
Seeing as this is the third part of this list, I’m not going to waste you time by reposting the Q&A that explained all the basics about the CRL 100. But if you did miss it, and somehow wound up on this website with no idea how to operate it, by all means follow THIS LINK RIGHT HERE and have all your cares and worries soothed away.
Onwards the list!
Over the past year McKay continued to put her name forward as one of the brightest young stars in wrestling with great matches against the like of Portia Perez, Paige and Kana and her skills seem to improve exponentially with each new opportunity. If she’s not in WWE by this time next year, then someone isn’t doing their job properly.
What if I told you that the best wrestling character in the world danced with his opponents, used wild laughter as a transition move, and dressed like an 80 year old man? That would probably sound a bit off, right? Well feel free to believe me anyway, because that man is Bray Wyatt, though you might know him best as Husky Harris. Before donning the mantle of Wyatt, Harris had already had a great year. Feuding with Richie Steamboat, winning the tag titles and having great matches with his brother Bo and generally raising hell. But when he became Bray Wyatt, everything just clicked. Frankly, the man is only this low because he’s had limited chances to show off his new persona in the ring thus far. But it’s only a matter of time until he makes this list burn just like his daddy’s houseboat.
Madison tore into her role as Gail Kim’s lackey with gusto, while still managing the win the Knockouts title twice in past year. She participated in most of the best women’s matches that TNA put on throughout the year, and recently has again revitalized the division with her feud with the rapidly improving Miss Tessmacher. Madison has skills and she knows how to use them, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
Kruger came out of nowhere this past year to dominate in FCW and claim the FCW heavyweight Championship out from under everyone’s nose. He had a terrific reign with it too, fending off other talents on this very list like Steamboat, Wyatt and Cesaro, and establishing himself as perhaps THE talent to watch in FCW over the past year.
While Alberto Del Rio isn’t exactly revered for his abilities, it’s near impossible not to acknowledge that the man started off solid and is only getting better as time goes on. From his feud with Punk over the title last year, to his feud with Sheamus now, he’s show great growth in his understanding of the WWE style and has produced an unending stream of good matches ever since. He’s on the brink of becoming a special performer, but there’s no way to know if he’ll get there just yet.
Believe me, nobody is more surprised to see Kofi Kingston this high than me. But over the past year, Kingston has truly found his calling as a tag team performer, producing tremendously exciting tag matches with a variety of partners, and creating more excitement and fan interest in undercard matches than anyone in WWE. Maybe it all finally clicked for him, or maybe this year was a fluke, but at long last, Kingston finally seems to have found his niche, and he’s excelling in it.
After 20 years as a pro, apparently Bully Ray was just getting started. Early in 2011 he made the switch to the mega bully character we know and love to day, and ever since he has been turning in amazing performance after amazing performance. If we were handing out trophies for promos, he’d be at the top of the list. But since we’re handing out trophies for matches, he’ll have to settle for 44.
Mercedes has seen her role in the wrestling industry change over the past year, as she found herself in Shimmer playing a heel and mixing it up with more young and hungry wrestlers, while over in WSU she found herself not being the champion for the first time in what seems like forever. But neither change seems to have slowed her down any, and her work in Shimmer especially has picked up considerably since her heel turn and in the feud with Athena where Mercedes made her a star.
This was the year the Barrett Barrage began. Despite only being active during this year for less than half of it, Barrett made an immediate and indelible mark on the year during his time with it, as he engaged in a brutal and extended feud with Randy Orton that made both men look like a million dollars. Barrett won the traditional Survivor Series match, dominated Orton time and again, and seemed poised for a serious shot at permanent main event status when he got hurt. With a full year to work with and a laundry list of new worlds to conquer, don’t be surprised to see Barrett run rampant on this list next year.
Against all odds, this may have been the big guy’s finest year as a professional wrestler. From breaking the ring with Mark Henry in a moment for the highlight reels, to being the springboard for Daniel Bryan to get to main event status, to the plethora of “way better than you’d expect” performances against CM Punk, John Cena and others, this was a fantastic year for the Big Show as a performer. He’s never looked more dominant and he’s never put more people over, and somehow he’s the only one who seems to know how the hell that works.
The former ECW World Champion did what he does pretty much every year. Make men half his age feel insecure about their physiques, turn in some absolutely gifted heel work, and show that he may very well be the finest wrestler working a hardcore style in the world today. His alliance with the Tokyo Pimps gave him plenty of fun stuff to do, but it was his match with Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship that was the crown jewel of a great year.
This was the year that Eddie Edwards really broke away from the rest of the Ring of Honor pack. Up until now, he had always been a sort of Davey Richards Lite, with all the pros and cons that come with that association. After losing the title in July to his former teammate Davey Richards, he went on a quest to get it back, culminating in the biggest match of either man’s career at Final Battle. Then he teamed up with Adam Cole against Richards and Kyle O’Reily and continued to not only have great matches, but to utterly outshine Davey Richards and everyone else they put against him all year long. It’s a weak year for ROH when their best only makes it to 39, but his association with Adam Cole can only push both men to be better in the future.
Another year passed Hirooki Goto by without him being able to win the big one. And another year passed with him being surpassed by his fellow members of the “New Three Muskateers” Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura. The man still puts on performances after performance that makes you think that this time, THIS TIME, he might just be ready to move up to the next level. And yet here he is, at number 38, great, but forgotten.
It’s something of a dark day to consider that we live in a time where Rey Mysterio is ranked all the way back of only the 35th best wrestler of the year. But people have to get older, and this was a year of injuries and suspensions for Flyboy Rey. Since his comeback, though, he’s seemed much like his old self and has made a lot of people look good in a very short time. But it would be a lie to say that another year like this one might not remove him from the list altogether. We’re looking at the twilight of one of the finest careers in wrestling history. He’s hoping this wasn’t our last chance to enjoy it.
Kojima burst back into relevance in a big way this year, as his reformed legendary dream team with Hiroyoshi Tenzan reformed to take down the invincible world killers of Bad Intentions. Unlike his partner Tenzan though, Kojima has been anything but a retread of the past since forming the team, and has found the perfect role for himself at this point as the a red hot, firey babyface in a tag team. It’s refreshing to see guys like him find a niche like this where they can continue to produce long into their careers, and Kojima is making the most of every match.
Low Ki tried the whole WWE thing. Smiling, being nice, not kicking people’s body parts into the front row. He tried it, and it wasn’t for him. So he cruised back over to Japan and IMMEDIATELY started right back up where he left off when WWE originally signed him, by conquering the Jr. division in an almost effortless manner. Mixing Low Ki into the already mind blowing mix of talent in the New japan Jr. division didn;t just make for great matches, it made for DREAM matches, and he’s poised to continue doing the same right on into 2013.
If the only thing you’ve seen of Tensai this year is him giving people the Claw and losing to Tyson Kidd in WWE, then you’re missing out on the real reason he’s on this list. Because before he came back to these familiar shores, he was over in Japan enjoying the longest tag team title reign in New Japan history. Not only that, but he and his partner Karl Anderson, (who narrowly missed making the list himself,) won the Pro Wrestling NOAH tag team titles as well and defended them again and again in incredibly dominant fashion. Tensai himself was easily the centerpiece of it, and for a stretch of the year he was perhaps the most dominant figure in all of wrestling.
And now he looks like a tattooed weather balloon who can’t buy a victory. A lot can happen in a year.
When Gail Kim left WWE, she had a chip on her shoulder and something to prove. So when she got back to TNA and the women’s division she founded, she wasted absolutely no time in snatching up every title available. But far more important that what she won, is what she did, and that’s make Knockouts title matches must see for the first time since she had left before. She pulled fantastic matches out of everyone from Mickie James to Miss Tessmacher, when all they had been doing before her is trying to see who could botch more in a 30 second match. Kim completely changed the tone of the whole division and rewrote its future in one glorious run. And now she’s set to get right back to it.
It’s ironic that this is the year that we were introduced to the Hall of Pain, because this was by far the least painful to watch year of Mark Henry’s career. Henry had shown flashes of potential greatness before, but that stuff was nothing compared to the 3 month span where he feuded with Randy Orton and then Daniel Bryan, and looked like the most terrifying badass in wrestling. Some of that credit has to go to who he was working with, but it was Henry himself who really seemed to dial in for the first time and achieve his massive potential. Unfortunately a prolonged feud with Big Show that did neither man any favors followed, as did injuries that still keep him out even now, but those 3 months will stand alongside those of anyone on this list in terms of greatness, and that’s enough reason to be excited for the comeback.
This won’t go down in history as the best year of Randy Orton’s career, and it won’t go down as the worst. But you want to know the measure of just how good Randy Orton is, even when he’s not at his best? Wade Barrett, Mark Henry and Kane all owe their spots on this list to him. How’s that for performance?
It’s been a busy year for everyone’s favorite Joshi. She’s competed all over Japan, won the CMLL women’s championship in Mexico, and in general made a name for self as one of the faces of the new Joshi movement. But it’s i America with Shimmer that she has truly distinguished herself, particularly in forming a tag team with Ayako Hamada that stole virtually ever single show they appeared on, including a match against Ray and Leon that caused the live crowd to chant “That was awesome” for TEN STRAIGHT MINUTES AFTER THEY LEFT. Perhaps the scariest thing about her is realizing that she’s still a baby in terms of experience, and just how much better she could truly get. Could she surpass her mentor Hamada next year? Stranger thing have happened.
Kana arrived on the American scene last year like a whirlwind. She had fantastic matches with virtually everyone she encountered there in the 3 trips to Shimmer she’s made during the past year and has been the talk of nearly every show she’s been on. Add that to her incredible work as SMASH’s first Divas champion, (in particular her MOTYC match with Syuri,) and you have a woman who has taken the entire wrestling world by storm and is only getting started.
Christian is Christian. What else is there to say about a guy who is simply a bastion of consistent goodness all year long no matter who he faces or under what circumstances. If ever there was a man who had a lock on being part of this list until they retire, you’re looking at him.
This year Akiyama mounted a full scale comeback tour that saw him win the AJPW Triple Crown Championship and Pro Wrestling NOAH’s tag title and defend them against all comers all year long. It was a return to form for the man as he held court over some great matches and seemed to be keeping the fortunes of All Japan afloat all by himself the entire year. A decline next year seems inevitable, as he’s just as beaten up as any other wrestler that drove the King’s Road, but wit one last big push, he has found himself in the spotlight at least one last time.
Now, now, now. Put down your torches and pitchforks.
Chris Jericho had another one of his wacky comebacks in the past year, with the primary purpose being the clear desire to elevate CM Punk at all costs. There are many differing opinions on whether he actually did that or not, and their matches were a bit of a mixed bag, but Jericho himself spent the entire year looking more spry and quick than he has in a decade, and once he moved past the Punk feud, he added a jolt of electricity to every match he participated in from then on. And even though he walked away from wrestling again for a little while shortly before this list was formed, he went out hitting just the right note with a pair of terrific matches with Ziggler that made it clear that he very much still has it. He’s at a crossroads now in terms of which direction his performances will go if he comes back next year, but one thing is for certain. His fans will never stop lobbying to see him at number 1.
Welp, there’s part 3 for you. Part 4 is on the docket for later tonight, so don’t you stray too far. Because when we conclude our list of the top 100 wrestlers of 2012, there will be fireworks aplenty. So until then, remember to keep reading, and be good to one another.
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