Monday, January 11, 2016

ESO-PRO presents the Wrestling Weekday Top 10 Wrestlers of 2015: Honorable Mentions Part 4

In this the fourth of six posts looking at the people who didn't quite make it to the Top 10, we finish out the folks that came in under 20 on the list.

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24. (3 way tie) Undertaker: Like Sting, he only wrestled a couple matches, but they included two main events against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell. Along with a victory over Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania and a tag victory with Kane over Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series, he looked stronger than he did in years, even if he ultimately dropped the rubber match against Lesnar. While I thought this would be the year he retired, he looks to head into 2016 as a high level special attraction for WWE.

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24. (3 way tie) Nikki Bella: She held the Divas title for most of the year, even if her reign was less than impressive. But she did take more victories over Paige and Naomi than anyone ever could want to count. While injury left her out of action after her loss to Charlotte, she still scored the longest title reign in Divas championship history, even if it feels more like a corporate decision to erase AJ Lee's long reign rather than anything she really earned by her talent. Lauren Price obviously disagreed with much of my assessment in her nomination: “Her commitment to this business is supported by the fact that the worked through a shoulder injury for several months. Puts over other women wrestlers on the mic and on social media. Unfortunately, she is the scapegoat for WWE management’s poor booking of the Divas and does not get nearly enough credit. Cannot wait for her to get back as I would love to see her work with Sasha.”

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24. (3 way tie) AJ Styles: I was the only person to nominate AJ in 2015, mostly because I suspect my fellow reviewers don't follow New Japan closely (or at all.) He had a great 2015, scoring a ton of solid victories in the G1 Climax, even if it came after he lost the IWGP Heavyweight title (which he won earlier in the year from Hiroshi Tanahashi) to Kazuchika Okada. He also had a stellar battle with Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 9 and Kota Ibushi at Invasion Attack. Along with his Ring of Honor work, he put on a 2015 that only made him look more valuable to the biggest show in wrestling, which seems likely with Styles supposedly on his way to WWE now.

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23. Dalton Castle: Joe Crowe was the sole nominator for Dalton Castle, a man that deserved to be higher on this list, but awful booking from ROH kept him from reaching the heights he should have in 2015. He should have been main eventing for the promotion by the end of 2015, but sadly was still stuck in an endless feud with Silas Young. Still, he was easily the most entertaining part of the shows he appeared on. As Joe says, “So fun, so unlike everyone else in ROH. His highlight moment for me was his T-shirt ad on ROH, where he said, 'Get this shirt... before it gets you.'”

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21. (2 way tie) Samoa Joe: Joe hasn't had a great year since 2008, but his career was instantly revived when he jumped from TNA to NXT. After a brief stop in Ring of Honor for matches with Jay Briscoe, Kyle O'Reilly and The Addiction (alongside AJ Styles), he moved to NXT to feud with Baron Corbin, Rhyno and Finn Balor. With great matches in the Dusty Rhodes Invitational and some brutal battles leading into his title match with Finn (including an epic encounter with Tommaso Ciampa), it is hard to argue that Joe doesn't deserve a big thumbs up for a great 2015.

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21. (2 way tie) Finn Balor: I am actually a bit surprised Finn didn't make it at least into the Top 20, but I suppose it is a sign of how much great talent one can currently find in professional wrestling. The first half of the year was spent in midcard NXT battles against Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami, but after moving into solid title contention, he put on some amazing performances against Kevin Owens, Apollo Crews and Samoa Joe. His amazing entrances at pay-per-views already electrify fans and I suspect will instantly make him a main event star in WWE. John Morgan Neal describes his appeal perfectly: “Mix the Undertaker with Jeff Hardy and watch the money come in.”

Next time around, the Honorable Mentions will take us from 20 down to 16 where we will see a top Lucha Underground talent, a new gaijin star on the rise in New Japan, one of the most entertaining figures on WWE television and two men that main evented multiple PPVs throughout the year.

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