Greg DeMarco brings you his decade-ending list of the Top 10 stars of the past 10 years. Not an easy task, see how your list compares!
The end of 2019 also brings the end of a decade, one that saw the wrestling business go through a tremendous amount of change. I started writing about wrestling for 411Mania in 2010, so I’ve been right here for the crazy ride that the wrestling business has taken us on. With that, I have compiled my Top 10 Stars Of The Decade.
The Top: AJ Styles
The Phenomenal One has really been a decade-defining talent. During the past 10 years, he’s had 11 major title runs, including six world title reigns spread out over TNA, New Japan, and of course WWE. Those reigns totaled 1038 days, which is a lot. How much? AJ Styles has been a world champion for 28% of the decade, doing so in three major companies. AJ’s run in WWE really cements his place in the decade, and is why I would call him the greatest star of the past 10 years.
For 1784 days (at the time of this writing), Kazuchika Okada has been the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. That’s nearly half of the decade. He won his first championship on February 12, 2012, and is the reigning champion today. He has been the definition of excellence in his career. He’s a world champion through and through–so much so that he hasn’t held any other championship outside of New Japan’s top crown. In his entire career! While he’s largely done everything in one company, it’s the second largest company in the world and he is undoubtedly their top star.
Love him or hate him, The Beast Incarnate has had an insane run through WWE since his return. Since 2012, he’s worked 61 matches (really loving that MMA schedule), and holds a record of 48-12-1. That’s an astounding 79% win percentage, and doing so in mostly huge matches. Like huge huge. He’s main evented WrestleMania twice during that span, held five WWE world titles (including one 504 day run as champion) and even won Money In The Bank this year! And let’s not forget that in 2014 he ended legendary WrestleMania streak compiled by The Undertaker. He’s a money performer for the company, es evidenced by the crowd’s attention during his matches. I often point to his match against Finn Balor at the 2019 Royal Rumble, and that’s easy as I was in attendance. 48,000+ didn’t sit down from the ring introductions through the finish of the match. No one else does that besides Brock Lesnar. No one.
For many, Roman Reigns is the definition of “being shoved down our throats.” But if you look at what he’s accomplished since making his WWE debut in 2012, it’s an astounding list. Yes, he’s held a world championship in WWE four different times. But his longest title reign at all is his first–a WWE Tag Team Championship run with Seth Rollins at 148 days. He’s also held the Intercontinental and United States Championships. But his most impressive accomplishments come in the form of WrestleMania accolades. Roman Reigns is a four time WrestleMania main eventer, all obviously taking place in this decade. In one of those main events, he became only the second man to defeat The Undertaker on wrestling’s grandest stage.
The past 10 years have been a trying time for Daniel Bryan. He climbed to the top of the mountain, giving wrestling fans arguably the greatest story of the decade when he overcame Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista (essentially all of the fully active members of Evolution) at WrestleMania 30 to leave as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. But that was actually his fourth world title win of the decade! He ended up taking 3 years off due to head injuries, and when he was finally cleared, he returned and eventually became wrestling’s top heel. During that turn, he also became world champion one more time.
Funny little fact: Chris Jericho started the decade as a world champion in WWE (winning in February 2010), and ended it as a world champion in All Elite Wrestling (winning that one in August 2019). In between there he was one of the most polarizing, surprising, and talked about superstars of the decade. He had memorable runs with Edge, CM Punk, Kevin Owens, and AJ Styles in WWE, he provided New Japan with a huge boost to their subscription service and faced the company’s biggest stars in Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito, and Kazuchika Okada, and helped AEW launch their new promotion in 2019. He is the master of reinvention, and the master of eliciting emotion. He’s on Mount Rushmore for many an analyst these days, and he’s undeniably one of the top stars of this decade.
This tier is a little different, as it includes stars that weren’t consistent throughout the decade, but were indeed major players that deserve Top 10 distinction.
Becky Lynch’s run really covers the last third of the decade, but it’s her last two years that put her on the list. She wasn’t the face of the Diva’s Revolution/Women’s Evolution, but she transcended that to become the face of the entire WWE. She won the 2019 Royal Rumble and completed her ascension when she won the first ever female main event at WrestleMania 35. As “The Man,” Becky Lynch became a force of nature that wasn’t originally intended to be in the WrestleMania main event, but ended up winning the whole thing.
Cody Rhodes does have championship distinction and major event appeal during the past decade. But that’s not enough to put him on the list. Cody is on this list because he had the balls to branch out and be different. He left WWE in 2016 and set sail on a journey that saw him revitalize multiple independent territories, and be the catalyst for ALL IN, and the much beloved All Elite Wrestling. The announcement of AEW literally changed the wrestling business, and that does not happen without Cody Rhodes.
CM Punk hasn’t wrestled a professional wrestling match since January 2014, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from talking about him for the near six-year period since he was eliminated from the 2014 Royal Rumble match. Crazy fact about CM Punk’s career, his last singles match ever is actually a win over Billy Gunn on Monday Night Raw! Billy Freaking Gunn! CM Punk is an irresistible force in professional wrestling whose name fans won’t stop chanting, and we won’t stop talking about. Is he done? Something tells me that while he probably won’t appear on a Top 10 Stars list for the next decade, he will in fact wrestle during it.
Occupying what would essentially be stop #10 in my list, Randy Orton was one of the most consistent performers of the decade–if not THE most consistent performer of the decade not named AJ Styles. Seven of his world championships came during this decade, ranging form 2010 to 2017. He also captured the Money In The Bank briefcase in 2013, main evented a WrestleMania, and served as the WWE’s best “plug and play” option for nearly any situation. Randy Orton might go down in history as the most underappreciated star in WWE history, but his role in the past decade cannot be denied.
In making a Top 10 list, there were undoubtedly stars that had to be left off. I put them into two groups, and I think you’ll see that those groups are quite distinct.
Group 1: John Cena, Kofi Kingston, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Charlotte Flair, Gail Kim
Group 2: Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Lee, Ronda Rousey, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Nikki Bella
What do you think? Who did I leave off? What did I get just right? What would you change?
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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