This past week saw the release of the PWI 500, which briefly ignited debates among wrestling fans.
For those who aren’t aware, PWI – or Pro Wrestling Illustrated – is one of the last surviving wrestling magazines, having been running in some form since 1979. Since 1991, they’ve produced the PWI 500, a list of (in their mind) the top 500 wrestlers in the world.
The list is usually skewed heavily towards wrestlers in major promotions, but whilst the main arguments surround who’s number one, you can find similar debating points throughout the list. For instance, this year’s top ten is Roman Reigns, Kazuchika Okada, Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Jay Lethal, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & John Cena. As a top ten, you’d be hard pushed to argue, but the placements… for sure, you could argue whether Okada should be ahead of Reigns, or perhaps even AJ Styles, given their consistency throughout the year.
The inclusion of Seth Rollins and John Cena in the top ten may be odd, given how much time out they’ve had with injuries, but then again Brock Lesnar at number 19, with all of eight matches in 2016, highlights it’s nothing to do with number of matches… especially when you consider that El Ligero – with 115 matches in the books as of September 1st – isn’t even close to the list!
Looking through the 500, there’s a healthy smattering of British talent, featuring: Nick Aldis (#96, despite having only 18 matches after leaving TNA for the indy scene), Mark Andrews (#165), Wade Barrett (#142, in spite of retiring and only having 17 matches this year!), Josh Bodom (#407), Bram (#115), Big Damo (#348), Noam Dar (#106), Pete Dunne (#396), Jack Gallagher (#273), Drew Galloway (#10 – tied with John Cena), Grado (#293), Mark Haskins (#240), Zak Knight (#287), Roy Knight (#279), Hugo Knox (#400… err), Dave Mastiff (#345), Neville (#66), Will Ospreay (#16), Iestyn Rees (#425), Rockstar Spud (#100), Zack Sabre Jr. (#28), Marty Scurll (#204), Sheamus (#17), “Flash” Morgan Webster (#390) and Doug Williams (#328).
Twenty-five British wrestlers on the list of 500… a full five-percent, which isn’t bad for a tiny group of islands, eh? Especially when ten years ago, we only had 13: Nigel McGuinness, Doug Williams, Finlay, William Regal, Robbie McAllister, Rory McAllister, Jody Fleisch, Jonny Storm, Paul Burchill, Spud, Norman Smiley, Darren Burridge & Andy Boy Simmonz. That last one getting on the top 5,000, let alone a top 500 still boggles my mind.
With that in mind, the 2016 sample alone highlights some of the issues that the PWI 500 inherently has: guys appearing on the list by virtue of the company they’ve signed with (for no example, and with no disrespect intended to Hugo Knox, a few NXT house shows and one televised jobbing appearance probably shouldn’t get you on this list!). Ditto Spud, whose 29 matches somehow gets him on the list above the likes of guys who wrestle regularly in the UK, and across the world now. And of course, El Ligero…
Throughout the 500, there’s guys on the list seemingly just for making the Cruiserweight Classic line-up, with only Hoho Lun and Mustafa Ali not making the 500. Kenneth Johnson was so low down the food chain that the only footage of him could only be found after finding a gimmick name linked to via a Texas indy promotion… yet that gets him onto the list at #413? How?! Particularly when guys below him like, say, Fred Yehi (#415), have wrestled matches on a higher stage consistently, was also figured into the CWC qualifiers, and was being booked on higher profile shows?
All in, the PWI 500 only serves to create a discussion and especially in this era, bring the magazine back into the spotlight. Remember: wrestling is art, wrestling is subjective… and you can just about make an argument for anyone being anywhere on this list!