2018 Top 50 Players in Pro Wrestling, #10-1

Welcome back to the third and final installment of our 2018 Top 50! We at Good Brothers Wrestling have crunched and re-crunched the numbers, and our algorithms are as precise as they are complex.

If you missed the first 40, please go back and check those out now.  There are a LOT of great names on this list!

I’m very proud to present this Top 10 list to you today.  Do I expect everyone to agree with it?  No way.  But I do feel that the findings of the thorough analysis can not be denied.  These 10 men are the definitive top players in the entire pro wrestling world, based solely on their performance in 2018.

A lot of people made an impact in the wrestling world this year – these wrestlers impacted it the most.  So let’s get to the final 10!

#10 ROMAN REIGNS

Talk about a polarizing figure to kick off the Top 10.  Anyone who doubts Reigns is the WWE’s chosen one needs to only look at one stat – Reigns has main evented the last 4 Wrestlemanias.  That’s Cena level.  That’s Hogan level.

Roman started out the year as Intercontinental Champion, but dropped the belt to The Miz in maybe the highlight of the Raw 25th Anniversary Show.  The Big Dog then came just shy of winning the Royal Rumble as the last man tossed by winner Shinsuke Nakamura.  Roman bounced back, winning the Elimination Chamber match by defeating Braun Strowman, who looked unstoppable after taking out all 5 other competitors.

With the Chamber win, Roman would go on to face Universal Champion Brock Lesnar in the Wrestlemania main event.  Many thought this would finally be the end of Brock’s title run – six F-5’s proved many wrong.  Reigns got a steel cage rematch at the Greatest Royal Rumble, but a cage malfunction led to a no contest.

Reigns put together a string of impressive victories, defeating Samoa Joe in the Backlash main event and former WWE Champ Jinder Mahal at Money In The Bank, but then fell to Bobby Lashley at Extreme Rules.  Roman won a rematch with Lashley on Raw to determine who would face Lesnar at SummerSlam.  It was there that Roman would finally put down Brock, winning his first Universal Championship.  And so ended Lesnar’s 504-day reign of terror.

Reigns then feuded with the imposing Braun Strowman, but needed help from his Shield brothers Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to put down the monster.  Strowman enlisted Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, but the trio was no match for The Shield.  Reigns and Braun went to a no contest in the Hell In A Cell main event, when Lesnar shockingly returned and attacked both guys.

Roman was set to defend the Universal Title against Brock and Braun at Crown Jewel, but was forced to relinquish his title before the event, revealing he was battling leukemia.  It was an unbelievable announcement from a man who had seemed too strong, but ironically may have been the humanizing moment that finally endeared Reigns to a hostile segment of WWE fans.

Had Roman’s Universal title reign not been cut short, and had he gone on to main event Survivor Series against AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan, I think you would be seeing The Big Dog in the #1 spot this year.

#9 THE MIZ

Talk about a change in narrative.  The Miz has gone from one of the most hated characters in all of wrestling to darn near beloved in the last couple of years.  2018 was another good year for the A-Lister, though the top titles still elude him.

In a career defining moment, Miz defeated Roman Reigns on the Raw 25th Anniversary show to win his 8th Intercontinental championship.  Winning the IC title was great, but it was the fans’ positive reaction that really brought the Miz’s story full circle.

Miz would compete in the Elimination Chamber match and last over 20 minutes, only to be eliminated first by Braun Strowman.  At Wrestlemania, he defended his Intercontinental Title against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor in a barn burner opening match.  Unfortunately, Rollins walked out with the belt, handing Miz his first Mania loss.  Miz was unsuccessful in a rematch at Backlash.

Miz also teamed with the undefeated Asuka as Team Awesuka in the first ever Mixed Match Challenge tournament.  The pair ended up winning the MMC, securing 100 grand for the Rescue Dogs Rock charity.

Miz left Raw for Smackdown as part of the Superstar Shakeup, which put him on a collision course with his returning nemesis Daniel Bryan.  After losing in the Money In The Bank ladder match, Miz and Bryan rekindled their feud, resulting in a SummerSlam match that Miz won with help from wife Maryse.  Miz & Maryse defeated Bryan and his wife Brie Bella in a Mixed Tag Match at Hell In A Cell.  Bryan would finally get his victory over Miz at the Aussie Super Show-Down event, defeating the Awesome One in a brief WWE Title #1 Contender Match.

The Miz entered the WWE World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel, but an injury forced him to bow out of the finals match.  He was replaced by Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, who won the title of “Best In The World” by defeating Dolph Ziggler.  Have I mentioned Crown Jewel was a major low point for WWE in 2018?

Miz would captain the Smackdown Men’s team in a losing effort at Survivor Series.  Also in 2018, Miz and Maryse starred in the USA reality series “Miz & Mrs”, as well as the sixth installment of “The Marine” franchise. Oh yeah, and he became a father for the first time – what a year!

While his much anticipated confrontation with Daniel Bryan may be seen as unsatisfying, it wasn’t for Miz’s lack of effort. There will be those who think Miz deserves a lower rating, but make no mistake, the A-Lister was a constant bright spot on several dull WWE shows in 2018.  

#8 HANGMAN PAGE

So this one may be a sticking point, but hear me out.  Trust me, I ran these numbers half a dozen time, thinking that Adam Page in the Top 10 could be a mistake.  When you look at the year he’s had, it’s definitely not.

Page started out 2018 as co-holder of the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles with his Bullet Club/Elite stablemates The Young Bucks.  The team, along with Marty Scurll, defeated Shane Taylor and The Kingdom in the Ultimate Mayhem main event of Manhattan Mayhem in January.  The “Hung Bucks” lost their titles to So-Cal Uncensored at the ROH 16th Anniversary Show. 

Page teamed with the Bullet Club to defeat Ibushi, Kenny Omega and Chase Owens in the Night 1 main event of Honor Rising: Japan.  He was also involved in two of the Honor United main events in the UK.  Page would be a major part of the ROH State Of The Art and Global Wars tours, performing in many of the main events.  At Honor Re-United, Page made it to the finals of the ROH International Cup.

Hangman took on Kota Ibushi at Supercard of Honor, but came up short in a 4+ star match.  He challenged Jay White for the IWGP United States Title at Strong Style Evolved, but again came out on the losing end.  At NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, Page had his first New Japan singles main event, taking on Kenny Omega.

Hangman had good luck in teams this year.  He and the Bullet Club defeated Jushin Liger, Horishi Tanahashi and Rey Mysterio Jr at NJPW Dominion.  Page and Marty Scurll defeated Tanahashi and KUSHIDA at the G1 Special.  Page also entered his first G1 Climax tournament in 2018.  He was part of the Survival Of The Fittest main event, which was won by Scurll.

Also, let’s not forget Page was part of the most memorable match at the All In PPV, taking on Joey Janela in a match that featured the return of Joey Ryan.  To be the most talked about moment on a card full of crazy moments is certainly an accomplishment.

Hangman Page will face Jeff Cobb for the ROH TV Title at Final Battle, a title that eluded him earlier in the year in a feud with Punishment Martinez.

Adam Page was named ROH Breakout Star in 2017, and if anything, he’s broken out as an international star in 2018.  With some main events and hot feuds under his belt, Page has gone from an unsung utility player in The Elite to a true player in the wrestling world.  All that has escaped him is real gold.  Rumor has him leaving ROH/NJPW soon with his Elite brothers, but wherever Page lands in 2019, expect him to be a force.

#7 AJ STYLES

Only a handful of men have had as consistent a year in the ever-shifting WWE as The Face That Runs The Place, AJ Styles.  One stat says it all – AJ spent 311 days of 2018 with the WWE Title.  No one does that anymore.

Styles defeated not one but TWO men, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, in a handicap match at the Royal Rumble.  At Fastlane, he somehow managed to hold on to the WWE Title in a huge Six-Pack Challenge main event, featuring the likes of KO, Dolph Ziggler and John Cena.

Styles then entered a feud with old NJPW rival Shinsuke Nakamure.  The two were set for the most hotly anticipated Wrestlemania match of the year, though that match kind of fell under expectations.  Nakamura turned heel afterwards and the two feuded into the summer, with Styles definitively winning a Last Man Standing match in June.  Say what you will about the match quality, but Nakamura’s turn as a nasty heel against the beloved Styles was just what he needed to revitalize his main roster run.

AJ then entered a feud with Samoa Joe, which sparked a new side in both men.  Joe finally got to become the monster we all wanted to see, while Styles had to tap into his dark side to combat the Samoan Submission Machine.  AJ faced Joe at Summerslam, Hell In A Cell, Super Show-Down, and Crown Jewel, holding on to the WWE Title throughout.

AJ defeated Daniel Bryan in a WWE Title match on Smackdown in October, but wasn’t so lucky when the two faced off again in November.  Just days before Survivor Series, Bryan defeated Styles in a surprise match, ending AJ’s 371 day reign – the 8th longest in WWE history.  After losing the title, Styles was pulled from the Survivor Series card.  AJ gets his rematch at the TLC PPV, and hopes to end 2018 like he begun it – as champion.

So if AJ ran Smackdown in 2018, why is he ranked at #7?  The problem is all booking.  Missing Survivor Series (one of the Big 4 PPVs for WWE) didn’t help, but for the most part, it was where AJ sat in the card.  As WWE Champion, the only PPV AJ main evented in 2018 was the Smackdown-only PPV Fastlane.  On every other show, Styles’ match took a backseat to some other feud, be it the Universal Title, Intercontinental Title, or just a random Roman Reigns match.

Hopefully in 2019, WWE will figure out that people are buying tickets TO SEE AJ STYLES!

#6 JAY LETHAL

2018 could be the year that cemented Jay Lethal as Ring Of Honor’s all-time franchise player.

In the main event of the ROH 16th Anniversary Show, Lethal took on ROH World Champion in a losing effort.  At Supercard of Honor, Lethal teamed with Hiroshi Tanahashi in an unsuccessful bid for The Briscoes ROH Tag Team Titles.

Feeling in a slump, Lethal began his own crusade to avenge his losses since losing the ROH Title to Cody in 2017.  He defeated the likes of Punishment Martinez, Jay Briscoe and Matt Taven on his quest for redemption.  At Best In The World, Lethal defeated NJPW star KUSHIDA in a dream match.

The night after BITW, Lethal entered a Fatal Fourway match involving Cody, Marty Scurll and Dalton Castle for the ROH World Title.  That match would mark the first time the ROH Title had changed hands at a TV taping, with Lethal walking out champion for the second time.

Jay has since successfully defended the title in the main events of Death Before Dishonor against Will Ospreay and at Glory By Honor over Silas Young.  Lethal defeated British star Mark Haskins in the Honor Re-United finale and Kenny King in the last Global Wars match.  His alter-ego Black Machismo beat Flip Gordon at All In.

At Final Battle, Lethal will fittingly defend his ROH Title against Cody, who has announced that he is leaving the company at the end of the month.  In a way, all of Ring Of Honor rests on Lethal’s shoulders in this match – but it’s a familiar weight for Lethal.

#5 CODY

Cody spent 2018 acting like he had something to prove.  Maybe it was because he’d just dropped the ROH World Title to Dalton Castle at Final Battle and lost to Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 12.  Or maybe it was due to all the challenges to his leadership in the Bullet Club.

2018 was ultimately a pivotal year in BC’s history.  Cody semi-feuded with stablemate Kenny Omega in the summer, leading to a match for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at G1 Special.  Cody did not walk out champion, but after the match, he squashed his beef with Omega during a fight that led to a split in the Bullet Club between the Elite and the newly named Firing Squad.

One of Cody’s biggest matches of 2018 may have been a Triple Threat ROH World Title match at Best In The World, though he failed to re-capture the gold from Dalton Castle.  Cody and The Young Bucks did win the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles on a July episode of ROH TV and successfully defended them until Survival Of The Fittest.  Cody was part of a Triple Threat main event at King of Pro Wrestling, facing Omega and Ibushi for the IWGP Title.

Of course, Cody’s biggest moments of 2018 had nothing to do with ROH or New Japan.  Cody and The Young Bucks decided to take up wrestling critic Dave Meltzer on a challenge.  Meltzer flippantly stated that a US indie show could never sell out a 10,000 seat arena.  The Elite took issue with this and put together their own, independently promoted PPV using friends and talent from other promotions.  The event, dubbed All In, was held in Chicago and 11,263 tickets sold out in under 30 minutes.

Cody spent much of the summer promoting his All In match with NWA Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis.  The match’s story leaned heavily on Cody’s father Dusty Rhodes’ history with the NWA Title and, at All In, Cody won the championship.  It would be the first time both a father and son held that title.

Cody’s NWA Title reign was short-lived, but the All In build up and his victory elevated the championship to a level it had not seen in decades.  At Final Battle, Cody works what is expected to be his last Ring Of Honor date, challenging Jay Lethal for the ROH Title.  What history will be made after that is in Cody’s hands.

#4 MARTY SCURLL

Did Marty Scurll have a better year than Cody?  Well let’s just look at the numbers and you’ll see that 2018 was a Marty Party, at least in Ring Of Honor.

Marty kicked off the year with a showstealing match at Wrestle Kingdom, where he lost his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title in a Fatal Fourway match with Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi and KUSHIDA.  Scurll came up short in a rematch with Ospreay at Sakura Genesis.

At Dominion, The Villain teamed with Bullet Club stablemates Cody and Hangman page to defeat the team of Tanahashi, Jushin Thunder Liger and the legendary Rey Mysterio.  Marty and The Young Bucks would capture the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles at Wrestling Dontaku.  They would hold those titles for over four months.  Scurll lost to KUSHIDA in a bid for the vacant IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title at the King of Pro Wrestling event.

Marty fared much better in his Ring Of Honor career.  In fact, if you went to an ROH show, you almost certainly saw Marty Scurll.  Scurll teamed with the Hung Bucks to defeat Shane Taylor and The Kingdom in the Manhattan Mayhem main event.  Scurll was involved in both Honor Rising: Japan main events as well.

Marty defeated Punishment Martinez at the ROH 16th Anniversary show to earn a future shot at the ROH World Title.  That led to a main event title match against Dalton Castle at Supercard of Honor, which saw Dalton retain.

At Masters of the Craft, Scurll defeated Castle, Punishment and Beer City Bruiser in a Defy or Deny Match to secure another ROH World Title shot.  He’d take that shot at ROH Best In The World in a triple threat match that also featured Cody.  Again, Dalton Castle managed to hold onto his championship.

Scurll won the Six-Man Survival Of The Fittest Challenge to win yet another shot at the ROH World Championship.  He’ll defend that contract against Christopher Daniels at Final Battle.

Scurll has spent all of 2018 within sniffing distance of the ROH World Title.  More importantly, he’s been an essential part of most all of Ring of Honor’s big events, as well as a stalwart in New Japan.  Throw in all of his success with his Bullet Club/Elite stablemates, and that’s a recipe for a banner year for the Villain.  It’s rumored that Scurll will be continuing with ROH into 2019 – it will be interesting to see if he can continue his success without his Elite brethren there to back him up.

#3 SETH ROLLINS

Way back when we were talking about The Bar, I called them the workhorses of the WWE tag team division.  Well, say hello to the workhorse of the WWE singles division, and maybe the only man keeping Raw afloat right now.

Seth (Freakin’) Rollins managed to have a standout year in WWE.  In a year when he only main evented two PPVs and has been far out of the WWE Title picture, how do you accomplish a Top 3 ranking? Consistency.

Simply put, Rollins has appeared at every WWE PPV in 2018 except two – the Smackdown-only Fastlane show and WWE Evolution.  If he’d shaved his beard, I think he could’ve gotten on that Evolution card.

Rollins worked double duty at Royal Rumble, defending the Raw Tag Titles with Jason Jordan (they lost) and entering the Rumble match itself.  Seth was tossed by his Shield brother Roman Reigns, but hey, it’s all business baby.

Rollins would be involved in the Elimination Chamber match for a shot at Wrestlemania glory, but like so many others, was taken out by Braun Strowman.  Instead, Rollins walked into Wrestlemania and won his first Intercontinental Title, becoming WWE’s 19th all-time Grand Champion.  Rollins held that title through the better part of the year, defeating the likes of The Miz, Finn Balor, Elias and Samoa Joe.

Seth spent the summer in a feud with Dolph Ziggler, who ended up capturing the IC belt.  The two squared off in several epic matches, including a 30-Man Ironman Main Event at Extreme Rules.  Rollins won the belt back at SummerSlam, with help from his returning Shield-mate Dean Ambrose.  The two also managed to capture Ziggler and Drew McIntyre’s Raw Tag Team Championship.

The Architect faced off against United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura at Survivor Series, besting the King of Strong Style in a great 20-minute match.  Rollins is set to take on now ex-friend Ambrose at TLC.

Perhaps Seth Rollins’ biggest highlight in 2018 was a losing performance.  On a February episode of Raw, Rollins lasted for over an hour in a gauntlet match, scoring wins over both John Cena and Roman Reigns.  While Rollins didn’t ultimately win, it was a moment that put the entire WWE on notice – Seth Rollins can lead this company.  In a year full of injuries and stop/start storylines,  Seth Rollins has been the only constant.  That’s not a coincidence.

#2 BRAUN STROWMAN

The Monster Among Men has been synonymous with one word in WWE this year – DOMINANCE.

Braun Strowman has dominated the WWE main event scene, feuding with both Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for the Universal Title.  That’s some stiff competition.  And while the championship has eluded Braun thus far, you cannot deny that he’s dominated the roster, television and PPV like no other.  Let’s look at his year in brief.

Braun faced Brock Lesnar and Kane in a Triple Threat match for the Universal Title at Royal Rumble.  Unfortunately, Lesnar retained by pinning Kane.  Strowman roared back at Elimination Chamber in the first ever 7-man Chamber match.  Braun eliminated five of the other competitors consecutively, an unheard of stat, though ultimately fell to Roman Reigns.

Braun then began a feud with Raw Tag Team Champions The Bar.  He was set to face the champs at Wrestlemania with a mystery partner, which turned out to be a 10-year old kid named Nicholas that Strowman chose from the audience.  Braun and Nicholas were victorious, with Braun doing all of the in-ring work.  It was Strowman’s first taste of WWE championship gold.  The pair would relinquish the tag titles the next night due to Nicholas’s homework commitments.

The Monster then dominated the Saudi Arabian Greatest Royal Rumble, winning the history-making 50-man match, as well as a worthless green belt.  During the match, Braun eliminated 13 men, breaking Roman Reigns’ previous record of 12.

Braun would feud with Kevin Owens into the summer, rarely giving any ground in a feud that made KO’s booking against John Cena seem even.  Braun won the Money In The Bank ladder match main event, proclaiming himself the Monster In The Bank.  Strowman and KO faced off at Extreme Rules in a Steel Cage, which saw Braun chokeslam Owens from the top of the cage through an announce table.  Strowman defended his briefcase at SummerSlam against KO in what was basically a squash match.

Braun announced he was cashing in his MITB briefcase in the main event of SummerSlam, but Brock Lesnar tossed the case and prevented the cash-in.  Instead, Strowman cashed-in for a match at Hell In A Cell, but was unsuccessful in getting the Universal Title off of Roman Reigns thanks to interference from Brock. Around this time, Braun turned heel and teamed with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre in some very ill-advised booking that has since been remedied.

After Reigns relinquished the championship, Braun and Brock collided at Crown Jewel for the vacant title.  It took five F-5’s, but Lesnar came out victorious.  Strowman was one of three survivors for the Raw Men’s team at Survivor Series.  Unfortunately, Braun has since been sidelined with an injury.  Fans expect he’ll return at WWE TLC for a match with Baron Corbin.

If Braun can defeat Corbin at WWE TLC, he’ll earn himself a Universal Title match with Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble.  If The Monster can somehow defeat The Beast, there may be no one left in the WWE who can stop him in 2019.

#1 THE YOUNG BUCKS

Yep, this list is ending with a Superkick Party. What can I say? I like it when people get new theme songs.

In all seriousness, The Young Bucks had the kind of career-defining year that few wrestlers ever see.  It was also built on the back of a LOT of years of work.

We’ve already talked a lot about the Bullet Club/Elite’s success in 2018.  Let’s look at some Bucks-centric highlights.  The Jacksons managed to win their 7th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at Wrestle Kingdom 12.  The reign was short, as they dropped them back to Roppongi 3K at The New Beginning.  After that, the Bucks announced they were bulking up to try their hand in NJPW’s heavyweight tag team division.

At Strong Style Evolved, the Bucks lost to the Golden☆Lovers in a 5-star classic.  They scored a big win over BC-stablemates Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi at Sakura Genesis.  At Dominion, the Bucks defeated Evil and Sanada to capture their first IWGP Tag Team Championship.  It made them only the second team in New Japan history to win both the Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight titles.

At Wrestling Dontaku, Matt and Nick teamed with Marty Scurll as the Super Villains to win their third NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles from the Bullet Club OGs. The Bucks were part of a losing effort by the BC Elite against the BC OGs at King of Pro Wrestling.

The Young Bucks’ time in Ring Of Honor was huge in 2018.  They teamed with Scurll and Hangman Page to defeat Shane Taylor and The Kingdom in the Manhattan Mayhem main event.  At the ROH 16th Anniversary Show, the Bucks and Page lost the ROH 6-Man Tag Team Titles to So-Cal Uncensored.  The Bucks would challenge SCU again, this time with Flip Gordon at Supercard Of Honor, but the trio would come up short.

The Bucks defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon in the first night main event of War Of The Worlds.  The team also one the finale of Honor United, a Four Corners Elimination Tag Match featuring the Briscoes, the Kingdom and LIJ.   They also were victorious in the Night 1 main event of ROH State of the Art.

The Young Bucks defeated The Briscoes and The Addiction in the Honor For All main event.  They also performed in main events for both Honor Re-United and Global Wars.  Can you say international superstars?

Like Cody, The Young Bucks’ biggest moment of 2018 is when they went “All In”, promoting their own independent wrestling show which turned into a sold-out 11,000 person event in Chicago that was basically indie Wrestlemania weekend.  The Jacksons teamed with Kota Ibushi in the main event of All In to defeat Pentagon Jr, Fenix and Rey Mysterio Jr.

The Young Bucks have proven they can sell merch (look no further than the first ever NON WWE wrestling Funko POP figures), they’ve certainly proved they can win gold, they’ve proven they can main event marquee events, and now they’ve proven they can PROMOTE marquee events.

With the writing on the wall for the Bucks’ time in Ring Of Honor, the Bucks may take their last bow at Final Battle after a grueling Ladder War with the Briscoes and SCU.   After that?  No one knows but the Bucks, Cody and Hangman Page.  The Elite have grown accustomed to shaking up the wrestling world.   Will we be looking at another Jacksons-topped list in 2019?  I’d put my money on it.

And that’s it for our Top 50.  Thank you to everyone who has checked it out – it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done for this site.  Here’s to a Happy New Year and an even better 2019!

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