1) Roderick Strong (ROH, PWG, Indies) - 212 points
Who woulda thunk it? Roderick Strong taking the cake as Wrestler of the Year in 2015. I don't think anyone would have guessed it and even if I second guessed this result. Then, I went back and watched multiple matches of his and runner up, AJ Styles, to see if this was an accurate reading and sure enough, I felt like it was. Roderick Strong was simply on another level this year and when you go back to watch his matches, you still feel it. The way the crowd reacted to him, the feel of his matches, the atmosphere, it all clicked, even after the fact. Seeing this year unfold for Roddy is something I'll never forget as a wrestling fan. All over the board, he was working harder than ever and finally getting the due that he has deserved for so long. In PWG, he turned the corner as a character by becoming the complete dickhead of a World Champion, but also delivering some of the best matches in career & company history against the likes of Zack Sabre Jr and Mike Bailey. In ROH, he got opportunities to face NJPW all stars like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, & KUSHIDA and knocked it completely out of the park in every single chance. On top of that, he went 60 minutes with World Champion Jay Lethal before delivering two more amazing matches with Lethal which resulted in him winning the Television title which Jay had held for over a year. All of that alone can qualify Roddy as wrestler of the year, but he has more to offer when considering him as a candidate as he competed in companies such as EVOLVE, Rev Pro, & Southside during the first half of the year prior to signing his exclusive ROH/PWG contract. In the aformentioned promotions, he delivered more memorable performances including a blow off feud with Drew Galloway, a second classic meeting with Zack Sabre Jr, a first time ever match with Will Ospreay, and the reunion of the Dojo Bros with Adam Cole & Eddie Edwards on two separate occassions. Roddy has been one of the most consistent and well conditioned athletes in pro wrestling for nearly a decade and I admit, I didn't even realize it until now. This year, he opened my eyes and made me a full fledged believer in his ability to be one of the best in the world. And in 2015, I don't think there was anyone better. Sure, you had the Shinsuke Nakamura's that produced two five star matches. Yes, you had AJ Styles continue to build his legacy and show persistence through injury. Yup, John Cena had one of his best years yet and won over many new fans. And who could forget the resurgence of Chris Hero & Matt Sydal to new heights? Despite all that, no one reached the level of Roderick Strong. When I think Wrestler of the Year, I think the year that Roddy had this year is the perfect example of what the winner of Wrestler of the Year and first place in a list like the Elite 80 should be. It was one hell of a ride and I have no clue how Roddy plans to top it in 2016, but one thing is for sure, after this year, I wouldn't dare doubt his ability to do just that!
Previous Rankings: #36 in 2014
2) AJ Styles - 207 points
In 2014, AJ Styles re-emerged himself into legit Wrestler of the Year contention by adding a new fresh interest in his career when he left TNA for NJPW. AJ's time in TNA is not ANYTHING to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination, but the truth is that Styles left TNA at just the right time because it was sinking. He would win the IWGP Heavyweight Title three months into 2014 and become the leader of the Bullet Club, a stable that would rule the world of wrestling until the present day. With that in mind, you may say, how could someone follow that up? It was hard, but AJ did so in phenomenal fashion in 2015. Another IWGP Title run, outstanding matches against the likes of Kota Ibushi & Kazuchika Okada, great trios matches with The Young Bucks. The consistency, success, and overall excellence was the same amazing factor as in years past however this year we saw what AJ was truly made of as he fought through tough injuries yet still delivered some of the best performances of the year. An extremely consistent year by AJ Styles was punctuated by a jaw dropping performance against Jay Lethal on live PPV at ROH's year end event, Final Battle. AJ challenged for the World Title despite battling some real life injuries that caused NJPW to pull him from the World Tag League. This left many worried about how he would deliver in a main event slot and I'll be damned if he didn't prove them all wrong by providing fans with one of the best ROH matches of the year. The thrilling performance by an injured AJ Styles had me on the edge of my seat and reminded why AJ is such a class act and top notch performer. 15 years and counting and the phenomenal one doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon!
Previous Rankings: #3 in 2014, #17 in 2013
3) John Cena (WWE) - 194 points
Despite missing two months of action at the end of the year, John Cena still somehow managed to scoop up the WWE Wrestler of the Year award. His US Title reign helped him tremendously as he gained points for all the defenses plus the high quality matches that his open challenge produced week after week. This is the first time Cena has won this award in the Pro Wrestling Truth awards since 2007 and it really says something about how he's just gotten better as time has went on. 2015 will undoubtedly be looked back on as one of his best years yet. He delivered great match after great match, elevated one young talent after another, brought prestige back to the United States Championship, and proved himself to be an all time great in the world of pro wrestling. Many doubters and nay sayer were won over this year as John's talent that has often been questioned was put on full display and we saw why Cena has been the top dog in WWE for so many years. I look forward to what Big Match John will do in 2016!
Previous rankings: #2 in 2014, #2 in 2013, #4 in 2012, #2 in 2011
4) Seth Rollins (WWE) - 174 points
Many people viewed Seth Rollins as the guy from The Shield who would be least likely to succeed however this year, Seth absolutely crushed these pre-conceived opinions by taking the biggest championship in the game on the biggest stage of the year at WrestleMania 30. Rollins cashed in his Money in The Bank briefcase on Brock Lesnar & Roman Reigns and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. This put Rollins on the bad side of most fans as he became The Authority's number one guy. They protected him at all costs and this made for a somewhat lackluster reign as champion. But the truth is, Rollins was one of the most consistent and fun to watch performers throughout the year and his reign was never even stopped as he got injured and was forced to relinquish the belt. Rollins earned victories over Brock Lesnar, Sting, John Cena, among others to retain the championship that he made his. Not to mention becoming a double champion by defeating John Cena to win the United States Title and retain the WWE Championship. It was a landmark year for the former ROH World Champion who has now staked his name into the history books of WWE forever.
Previous rankings: #4 in 2014, #7 in 2013
5) Kevin Owens (WWE) - 173 points
Big Kev stomped into the WWE last December and proceeded to head into 2015 and turn the company on it's head. He won the NXT Championship, debuted on the main roster & defeated John Cena in his debut PPV match, and then won the Intercontinental Championship months later. The former Kevin Steen is the same one of a kind talent that ROH & PWG fans have loved since 2007 and he is clearly taking full advantage of the opportunity he's gotten to compete on the big stage that is WWE. With everything that he's accomplished in his first year of action in the fed, the possibilities seem to be endless for what he can achieve in 2016 and beyond.
Previous Rankings: #52 in 2014, #8 in 2013
6) Daisuke Sekimoto (BJW, DDT, NOAH) - 168 points
WHAT?! A NON NJPW STAR WINS PURO WRESTLER OF THE YEAR?! IN 2015?! Yes, indeed! It was by a very close margin, though, as you can see. He only beat out Okada by two points, but if you look at how often Sekimoto worked and pair that with how consistent he was, you will see just how/why he is the highest ranked japanese wrestler on this list. One half of the Strong BJ duo had an unbelievable year which saw him hold tag titles with Yuji Okabayashi in both his home promotion of Big Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as DDT. Even though they are partners, Sekimoto mixed it up with Okabayashi several times this year and it was epic each time. His tag team success & delivery plus his outstanding string of singles contests against Ishikawa, Masato Tanaka, & Okabayashi earned one of the hardest workers in Japan a well deserved award and a Top 10 ranking. Now is the time to check out Daisuke Sekimoto, if you never have. This year was my first exposure to him and I've already been digging into his past work. Lord knows what the man himself will accomplish in 2016!
7) Kazuchika Okada (NJPW, ROH) - 166 points
The Rainmaker began 2015 in bittersweet fashion. He delivered a classic performance yet he came up short and left the Tokyo Dome in literal tears in a moment that was watched by millions around the world. How can you rebound from one of the most embarassing moments of your career that took place at the hands of your arch rival? Fight back and win the IWGP Title. And that's exactly what Kazuchika Okada did. By the time that June rolled around, Okada was back to his old self as he defeated AJ Styles in an awesome match at Dominion to become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This put his rival Hiroshi Tanahashi at odds with him once again as he would go on to win the G1 Climax which meant the two would meet in the coming year for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. By August, the stage was set for another huge meeting in quite possibly the greatest rivalry of the past 10 years. Okada spent the entire final half of the year as IWGP Heavyweight Champion which virtually righted the wrong that happened in January, but once again all of that could be crushed to start out the new year if Okada can't manage to defeat Tanahashi at the biggest show of the year.
Previous Rankings: #5 in 2014, #2 in 2013
8) Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW, ROH, DDT) - 162 points
I pretty much covered the basis of Tanahashi's year in the above article about Okada so I'm going to take this time to explain why I chose Tanahashi as NJPW Wrestler of the Year ahead of Okada despite the Rainmaker having more points than him. First things first, some of the points earned were earned in matches outside NJPW, and admittedly, some of Tanahashi's were as well, but when you look at NJPW solely, Tanahashi had the better year. He won his biggest match of the year at the biggest show of the year thus retaining his title and making his most heated rival cry in defeat. He DID lose the IWGP Heavyweight Title a month later, but he would continue to have awesome matches as the year went on against the likes of Kota Ibushi, Katsuyori Shibata, AJ Styles and the man he had his second damn near five star match of the year with, Shinsuke Nakamura. To top that off, he won the 25th annual G1 Climax which is the most prestigious pro wrestling tournament going today. Tanahashi was the ace of NJPW in 2015 and there's no doubt about that.
Previous Rankings: #13 in 2014, #3 in 2013
9) Kota Ibushi (NJPW, DDT) - 159 points
For quite a long time during the year, Kota Ibushi was in firm control of the number one slot on this list. The young, exciting athlete killed it every single night. From the five star classic with Nakamura just four days into the year to his series with HARASHIMA in DDT over the KO-D Openweight Title to the NJ Cup Final Match with Hirooki Goto to his matches with AJ Styles, Ibushi was all over the place and looking phenomenal each time out. The exhausting performances ended up paying a toll however as Ibushi would end up sitting out the final three months of the year due to an injury. It's said to be quite serious and I'm very saddened to see it happen. Especially when he was having one of the best years of his career. One can only do so much, though. I feel like he will come back rested and better than ever whenever that may be, so, here's to the breathtaking performer that is Kota Ibushi! Get well soon!
Previous Rankings: #17 in 2014, #39 in 2013
10) Ricochet/Prince Puma (Lucha Underground, PWG, NJPW, Dragon Gate, Indies) - 159 points
Ricochet was the Independent Wrestler of the Year in 2014 and rightfully so as he won NJPW's Best of the Super Juniors tournament AND PWG's Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Just like with what I said about AJ, it left me wondering, how can possibly follow that? Well, Ricochet may not have found as much tournament success however he certainly covered a load of ground and continued build his legacy. The Future of Flight began the year under his Prince Puma persona as the champion of Lucha Underground. He competed in a number of highly entertaining title matches against Johnny Mundo and Mil Muertes before losing the title on the season finale in August. Outside of the temple, Ricochet was in his most well known form competing in PWG regularly as well as Dragon Gate and NJPW in Japan plus other various Indies throughout the year. There is one key counterpart that made Ochet's year special this year though and that man's name is Matt Sydal. Ricochet faced Sydal in February for PWG in a remarkable match and it would spawn a year that the two provided us with stellar matches, not against each other, but as a team. The duo tore it up in Dragon Gate over the summer including one of my favorite matches of the year against Naruki Doi & YAMATO then they went to NJPW where they won the Junior Tag League thus earning them a title match at Wrestle Kingdom 10. It was a way to cap off 2015 for Ricochet!
Previous Rankings: #2 in 2014, #15 in 2013
11) Zack Sabre Jr (PWG, NOAH, RevPro, PROGRESS, Evolve) - 158 points
When Zack Sabre Jr made his first big wave of US appearances in 2014, it truly was the kickstart of something special as the world would bare witness to the birth of a new technical master in every sense of the word. 2015 was Sabre's year to shine and he did so in every corner of the globe. From his home in the UK in promotions like Rev Pro & Progress to the US in PWG & Evolve to Japan in NOAH, ZSJ was everywhere delivering his unique brand of pro wrestling to fans across the world. Notable moments from Sabre's year include his unbelievable series of matches with Roderick Strong, his run in the Battle of Los Angeles tournament which he would ultimately win, and rumors of a WWE NXT debut on the horizon. Heading into 2016, ZSJ will be leaving NOAH for the first time in several years to work full time in the US. With a PWG World Title Match in his future, indie bookings pouring in, and NXT seemingly around the corner at any moment, it looks like Zack Sabre Jr is just getting started and I think we'll see him breaking arms, fingers, & wrists on our TV screens very soon!
Previous Rankings: #23 in 2014
12) Yuji Okabayashi (BJW, DDT) - 157 points
Yuji Okabayashi returned from injury in 2015 and needless to say, he blew the doors off of every promotion that he stepped foot in, most notably his home promotion of Big Japan Pro Wrestling. Whether it was teaming with Daisuke Sekimoto and ripping it up in a series of matches with Twin Towers or facing his own partner for the BJW World Title which led to him winning the title and being the reigning champion through the end of the year, Okabayashi never failed to deliver. In fact, he didn't just deliver, he knocked it out of the park. In singles, tags, six man's, in ever area he was hard hitting, precise, and left an impact. I'm new to BJW and other promotions like DDT in which Okabayashi frequents, but I'd venture to say that 2015 was one of, if not, THE best year yet for him. As said before, he and the rest of the Big Japan Big Four as I like to call them, were one of my favorite parts about wrestling this year.
13) Kyle O'Reilly (ROH, NJPW, PWG, WXW) - 154 points
When it was made clear that Kyle O'Reilly would be working exclusively with ROH last year, I was extremely bummed because I always looked forward to his singles work in PWG. Well, with the absence of PWG on his schedule came more singles opportunities and a year that I can't complain about AT ALL. 2015 was just as good if not better for O'Reilly. He made it to the finals of the Best of Super Juniors tournament and proceeded to compete in an amazing match that is being hailed as one of the best NJPW matches of the year, against KUSHIDA. They would take their chemistry to RevPro later in the year and add another chapter to their rivalry in another fantastic contest. That's just singles talk though. O'Reilly continued to tear through the world of tag team with partner Bobby Fish as ReDragon delivered another stellar match with the Young Bucks, won their second pair of IWGP Tag Team Titles, and had great matches throughout the year against the Timesplitters, Jay Lethal & Shinsuke Nakamura, among others, despite losing the ROH Tag Titles in the middle of the year. O'Reilly capped off his already landmark year with a huge return to PWG, exactly one year to the day that he made his final appearance for the promotion. What a way to end the year! With a contract that allows him to work ROH, NJPW, & PWG, 2016 is going to be absolutely epic to watch unfold for Kyle O'Reilly.
Previous Rankings: #6 in 2014, #21 in 2013
14) Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW, ROH) - 148 points
The King of Strong Style may have dropped from #1 to #14 on this list however he's still the same performer that he was last year. Nakamura produced the only to five star matches in the world this year (with Ibushi at WK9 and with Tanahashi at the G1 Finals) and reminded everyone why he's one of the very best in the world today. Aside from his high quality matches, Nakamura sometimes fell into a repetitive format which is what cost him a higher slot on this lost. The lower profile the match, the less eventful it is when it comes to Nakamura, but as long as keeps delivering these five star matches like he did this year, I won't be complaining. Nakamura found himself at home with the IC Title yet again this year as he traded it back and forth with Hirooki Goto in a good series of contests that he would end up winning ultimately as he regained the title in September and has it around his waist heading into 2016 with AJ Styles waiting for him.
Previous rankings: #1 in 2014, #6 in 2013
15) Roman Reigns (WWE) - 142 points
Roman Reigns had one rocky road this year, but it was ultimately a success. He went from getting booed out the building when he won the Royal Rumble to getting a massive ovation when he defeated Sheamus to become the WWE Champion in the same building that give him one of the most hostile receptions in recent memory. 2015 saw Roman Reigns grow tremendously despite being forced into situations he clearly wasn't ready for yet as a performer. All along the way he still managed to deliver a number of great matches even with the horrendous booking. It was painful to watch at times and the product often suffered from it for that very reason, but in December when he dethroned Sheamus, it felt like the perfect story and the perfect end to the year for Roman. He's heading into 2016 as the WWE Champion and WrestleMania season is right around the corner. The Roman Empire looks to just be getting started.
Previous Rankings: #42 in 2014
16) Chris Hero - 140 points
Chris Hero has always been a favorite of mine, but this year in particular he truly solidifed that. In late 2013, he returned to the Indies and was solid however his 2014 didn't leave many people talking. Once 2015 hit, though, Hero turned it up SEVERAL notches and produced one of the best years of his career. Hero's wars with Timothy Thatcher, technical battles with Zack Sabre Jr's, fights against underdogs like Mike Bailey, his stint in NOAH, teacher-student match ups against Tommy End and record breaking occurences like his 100+ minute wrestling gauntlet for SMASH Wrestling proved to the world that Hero is far from done leaving his imprint on pro wrestling. There are still some doofs who make fun of his weight, but those people have clearly not been watching his matches. Hero's style has changed and been adapted to fit the times and better suit who he is as a wrestler now. It's something that is amazing to look back on as you will see Hero grow throughout his career. I'm not going to take the time to reminisce just yet, though, because Hero is heading into 2016 strong and I don't want to miss a minute of what The Knockout Artist has to offer in the present day.
17) Trevor Lee (PWG, TNA, Indies) - 136 points
Trevor Lee took the momentum from his breakout run in 2014 and used it to propell him to an equally great year in 2015. Lee was all over from what has become his home in PWG to CZW to Beyond Wrestling to AAW and he even made his debut for TNA Impact Wrestling as a part of Team GFW. Lee grabbed gold only weeks into his run with the company as he and Brian Myers defeated The Wolves to win the TNA Tag Team Titles. It was Trevor's biggest achievement thus far despite it being shortlived. Lee has become a major attraction across the Indies and I look forward to watching him progress further in the years to come.
Previous Rankings: #51 in 2014
18) Will Ospreay - 136 points
Will Ospreay took wrestling by storm similar to how Trevor Lee did in 2014, if not on an even bigger scale. At the young age of 22, Ospreay has more skill than some ten years older than him and beyond that, he puts it to good use. This led him to bursting out of nowhere into the limelight with must see matches against AJ Styles, Matt Sydal, and Mark Andrews throughout the year. This also led to his first trip to compete prominintely in America where he made it to the semi-finals of PWG's Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Ospreay held the Rev Pro British Cruserweight Title and the SWE Speed King Title in the first half of the year before closing out the year with a reign as PROGRESS Champion. The Aerial Assassin is the next big thing.
19) Hirooki Goto (NJPW) - 129 points It's been one hell of a sleeper year for Hirooki Goto. I don't think people realize how awesome of a run he had in 2015, one that rivaled that of the four aces of NJPW ahead of him on this list. Goto started the year as one half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions then went on to make it to the finals of the NJ CUP in a great match with Kota Ibushi. In the middle part of the year, Goto defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to win the Intercontinental Championship and would walk into the G1 Climax with the title around his waist. This led to a big champion vs champion meeting during the tournament which saw Goto pin the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada to the mat for a three count. It was a massive victory and one of the best matches of the entire tournament. So, whats that? Victories over the two top singles champions in NJPW, Okada & Nakamura, a reign as IWGP Tag Team Champion and a reign as IWGP Intercontinental Champion? I'd say that's a damn good year and I think Goto would agree.
Previous Rankings: #60 in 2014
20) Matt Sydal (ROH, NJPW, PWG) - 129 points
Just like Chris Hero, Matt Sydal returned to the Indies in 2014 only to use it as a warm up year in prep to blow us all away in 2015. Sydal's first year back was fun and it was clear that he could still do all of his stuff in crisp fashion however we didn't see the true Sydal of old until this year and I'd almost say it wasn't even the Sydal of old, it was the Sydal of a new level. As my friend Mark (@seethekidwin) has said, he's pretty much the smartest junior heavyweight around. He never does too much, but he still wows you. He does just enough and it's all done in remarkable fashion. Sydal left us with MOTY candidates all across the board from his 2/3 Falls Match with Will Ospreay in Rev Pro to his bout with Ricochet in PWG to his tag with Ricochet in Dragon Gate in Japan against Naruki Doi & YAMATO to his Best of 5 Series with ACH, Sydal was a can't miss act in 2015.
21) Dean Ambrose (WWE) - 126 points
It could be said that the Lunatic Fringe took a backseat this year as both of his Shield brethren, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, reached major singles achievements in the form of winning the WWE Championship. Something that Ambrose has been unable to do since 2014 despite several attempts. Now, does that mean that Dean wasn't as vital of a part of WWE programming as Reigns & Rollins? No, it doesn't because Ambrose actually had just as good or better of a year than those two when it comes to match quality and popularity. From his tag team battles alongside Roman Reigns to his MOTY candidate with Seth Rollins to his recent streak of hot TV matches since entering the IC Title picture and winning the belt, Ambrose has been delivering all over the place. So, 2015 wasn't a bad year by any means. However, I feel like it won't be long before we see something snap in Ambrose and he goes after that WWE Championship with reckless abandon.
22) Cesaro (WWE) - 114 points
It was another rollercoaster ride of a year for Cesaro. He went up and down the card. His booking was so sporatic that even the most diehard fan could get thrown off by it. One thing that never changed, despite all that, was the Swiss Superman's ability to tear the roof off of any arena he stepped into. He stole the hearts of the WWE Universe on multiple occassions. Whether it be his successful tag team with Tyson Kidd that began the year or his reignited singles run that saw him main event Raw against John Cena, Cesaro was at the top of his game in 2015. Regardless of how uninterested I became in WWE's product, I could always count on a few people to deliver a match worth tuning in for and Cesaro was one of those guys. The injury list mounted up this year and right along with Seth Rollins, Cesaro was put on the shelf in November with a torn rotater cuff. The wait is going to suck, but I have no doubt that Cesaro will be back killing it in no time, even if WWE never rewards him for it.
Previous Rankings: #31 in 2014
23) Michael Elgin (ROH, NJPW, PWG) - 109 points
Big Mike went from one of the most off/disappointing runs of his career to a complete career resurgence this year. His debut in NJPW was the spark needed to get fans back on his side as Elgin won over all the Japanese fans as well as his long time American followers who had fallen off the bandwagon. This led to him teaming with Hiroshi Tanahashi in the World Tag League as well as the huge opportunity of facing Jay Lethal at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January for the ROH World Title to kick off 2016.
24) Masato Yoshino (Dragon Gate) - 109 points
Yoshino's position as the ace of Dragon Gate was put to the test multiple times the year and he not only solidified his position for another year, he went above and beyond to prove it. In matches against up & comers like T-Hawk, Yoshino stood his ground and won the King of Gate Tournament which led to him defeating BxB Hulk to become the Open the Dream Gate Champion. He would defend the title successfully against T-Hawk in the main event of Kobe World in July before dropping it to Shingo Takagi at Dangerous Gate in August. Before I go on though, I also have to mention his reign as one half of the Open The Twin Gate Champions with Shachihoko Boy which gave us one of the best tag matches of the year when they faced the Jimmys in April. None the less, Yoshino rebounded from his Dream Gate Title loss by teaming up with fellow stable mates, Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk, to win a tournament to crown new Open The Triangle Gate Champions. So, as a whole, Yoshino had each of the top three championships in Dragon Gate around his waist at some point this year PLUS he won the King of Gate tournament and delivered awesome matches all along the way. Enough said, Yoshino's 2015 was superb.
25) Jay Lethal (ROH) - 104 points
2015 was the biggest year of Jay Lethal's career. Him came into the year with a record breaking reign as ROH World Television Champion which translated into him winning the ROH World Title from Jay Briscoe, becoming a double champion and the first person to pin Briscoe in nearly two years. Lethal went on to defend the World Title in an awesome series of matches with Roderick Strong and AJ Styles to close out the year strong. Lethal's 2016 looks to continue this hot streak as just four days into the year he makes his NJPW Debut at the Tokyo Dome at WK10 to defend the ROH World Title.
Previous Rankings: #44 in 2014
26) Akira Tozawa (Dragon Gate, PWG) - 103 points
Tozawa set his 2015 into perfect motion with a sensational victory over Kzy in February which gave him the first singles championship of his career, the Open the Brave Gate Title. The resident top babyface in Dragon Gate carried the title with pride throughout the year having several outstanding defenses, particularly his match with EITA at Kobe World in July. His reign came to a suprising end in November at Gate of Destiny where Kotoka somehow managed to win the belt. It was a disappointing moment for many fans, but Tozawa took the momentum he gained from that near 9 month reign as champion to rebound and win the Open The Triangle Gate Titles with Masato Yoshino & T-Hawk to close out the year.
Previous Rankings: #73 in 2014
27) Kohei Sato (BJW, Zero-1) - 99 points
Kohei Sato, one half of the Twin Towers tag team in BJW, had one hell of a year wrestling aside his partner Shuji Ishikawa. The duo ripped the tag division in Big Japan to shreds with outstanding matches in all forms from regular tags to trios. All along the way, they held the BJW Tag Team Titles, that is, until they lost them to arch rivals Strong BJ, Sekimoto & Okabayashi in the third match in their series. Outside of BJW, Sato had great matches in promotions such as Zero-1 where he held the Zero-1 Heavyweight Title for a number of months and he also currently holds the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Titles with Daisuke Sekimoto!
28) Mike Bailey (PWG, AAA, C4, Beyond) - 94 points
Bred from the same mold as his Canadian brethren El Generico & Kevin Steen, Mike Bailey splashed into the limelight this year with a PWG debut that turned into him being the most consistently booked man on the roster, his first trip to Mexico to compete for AAA, and just an overall year filled with this unique talent taking full advantage of every opportunity he was given. It was in 2014 that he & Biff Busick's series of matches got him on the map and that continued & ended this year with their meeting in PWG and 2/3 Falls Match for C4 Wrestling. Bailey also had outstanding matches against the likes of Drew Galloway, Chris Hero, & Trevor Lee, but truly anytime he stepped in the ring, it was something worth seeing because he's so one of a kind. Match quality isn't all Bailey has on his trophy case this year, though, Speedball won CZW's Best of the Best Tournament early in the year and also made it to the finals of PWG's Battle of Los Angeles tournament only to be eliminated by the man he defeated a month prior, Chris Hero.
Previous Rankings: #70 in 2014
29) Dolph Ziggler (WWE) - 92 points
In my piece about Cesaro, I mentioned people that I could always count on to deliver even when WWE's product was souring. Dolph Ziggler was another one of those guys. He's been one of those guys for almost 5 years now and he continued the trend of being a workhorse this year by rarely failing to light up the crowd. Although he was involved in a number of completely idiotic storylines such as the Rusev/Lana saga, Ziggler's in ring work more than made up for it as he had great matches early in the year against Daniel Bryan and closed the year out tearing things up with Dean Ambrose & Kevin Owens in the mid-card. Ziggler has yet to be able to reach the top tier however just as in years past, he was a vital part of the WWE roster.
30) Big E (WWE) - 92 points
This year, we saw the real Big E come out and shine and it was wonderful. As the leader of the New Day stable, Big E was put in a prime slot on Raw each week to showcase his abilities as well as his charisma which was, for the most part, hidden in all of his previous roles. E & partner Kofi Kingston had a nice reign as tag champions and as said before, were easily the most entertaining part of Monday Night Raw many weeks. New Day does, indeed, rock.
31) Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW) - 91 points
Another fantastic year for the Stone Pitbull. Ishii once again dominated the NEVER title scene in NJPW while delivering awesome matches all over the board. The strong style, fighting spirit technique of Ishii provides for thrilling matches against a variety of opponents. This year his best opponent was undoubtedly Tomoaki Honma, with whom he had a three match series that is must see. As said before the NEVER title was Ishii's main focus and he held it for the majority of the year and considering he's headed into 2016 as the champion, I'd say this was a very successfull year for Ishii.
32) Jay Briscoe (ROH) - 89 points
Jay Briscoe began 2015 with the ROH World Champion around his waist plus he hadn't been pinned in two years. There was arguably no one on the level of Briscoe when 2015 began when you look at it on paper. This led to a monumental champion vs champion match with Jay Lethal in which Briscoe put it all on the line like always, but this time he lost it all. You may think the man would fall apart following this loss however Briscoe maintained cool and would compete in a number of great matches in the remainder of the year, most notably his No DQ contest with Adam Page in September which was absolutely nuts. Jay has yet to get his rematch for the ROH Title against Jay Lethal so you know that has to be on his mind heading into the new year.
33) Kofi Kingston (WWE) - 89 points
I never thought I'd see Kofi this high on this list, but forming the New Day stable with Big E & Xavier Woods turned out to be a blessing in the skies despite it's cringy start. The stable gave Kofi exactly what he needed in terms of character and placement as it allowed him to work in a totally different way than he normally does. It also earned Kingston yet another set of tag team titles, but this was undoubtedly his best run with the belts yet as he, Big E, & Xavier Woods were the only entertaining part of Raw for many weeks.
34) Bobby Fish (ROH, NJPW, WXW) - 88 points
39 year old Bobby Fish had another solid year. Most of his best work came alongside partner Kyle O'Reilly as ReDragon continued to dominate on just about every front of the tag team world with two reigns as IWGP Junior Tag Champions. However, once again, Fish was outdone by O'Reilly when it came to singles competition. That doesn't mean Fish didn't have some gems though because he got a number of big matches against the likes of AJ Styles and Jushin Liger in which he took full advantage of the chance to prove himself.
Previous Rankings: #37 in 2014
35) Tomoaki Honma (NJPW) - 87 points
Hardly anyone is as beloved as Tomoaki Honma in NJPW. This year the audience got hugely behind him in his quest to win gold in New Japan and it made for a classic match with Tomohiro Ishii in February along with two more incredible matches to follow it up later in the year. The sad thing is that Honma was never able to defeat Ishii or win any gold, BUT he did end the year on the high note as he teamed with Togi Makabe to win the 2015 World Tag League.
36) Tommy End (PWG, WXW, Progress, Evolve) - 86 points
The jiu jitsu specialist had a breakout year that was nearly a decade in the making. It can be best exemplified by his PWG return this year that came 9 years after his first appearance with the promotion in 2007. He was a totally different person then and now, he's one of the best in the world as he would prove this year in matches against the likes of Chris Hero, Will Ospreay, and others. In PWG, WXW, Progress, and abroad, Tommy was one of the key attractions in Indepedent Wrestling worldwide in 2015.
37) Shingo Takagi (Dragon Gate) - 85 points
Shingo Takagi is Dragon Gate's resident powerhouse and headed into 2016, he's at the top of the promotion with the Open the Dream Gate title around his waist. Shingo started off 2015 in anti-climatic fashion despite being involved several entertaning matches in the first half of the year, most notably his match with Akira Tozawa during the King of Gate tournament which got a lot of buzz. In August, Shingo's year took a completely different turn when he dethroned Masato Yoshino to become the Open The Dream Gate Champion and form the VerserK stable with former Mad Blankey members Naruki Doi & YAMATO soon after. It was the second half of the year that gave Shingo the surge into the Top 40 and if he can manage keep the momentum he started then, he could be looking at an even higher ranking next year.
38) KUSHIDA (NJPW) - 84 points
Everyone's favorite NJPW Junior Heavyweight had a pretty fantastic year. KUSHIDA took to the Best of the Super Juniors tournament once again after falling to Ricochet in the finals last year and this time, he would not be denied. In one of the best matches of the year, KUSHIDA defeated Kyle O'Reilly in the final round of the tournament to become the 2015 Best of the Super Juniors Champion. It was a monumental in the career of KUSHIDA and he would use that momentum to dethrone Bullet Club's Kenny Omega for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. His reign would be short lived, but as you probably already know considering when I'm writing this, KUSHIDA would get his redemption just four days into 2016. That didn't benefit him in the 2015 polls, but he still produced a year worthy of recognition.
39) Shuji Ishikawa (BJW, ZERO-1) - 83 points
One of the Big Japan Big Four, Shuji Ishikawa, had an awesome year if you can't already tell based off his ranking and the fact that I labeled him as part of a Big Four group. Ishikawa began the year as the BJW Heavyweight Champion having must see matches with Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi before losing the belt and turning his success towards the tag team ranks where he & Kohei Sato, Twin Towers, held the BJW Tag Team Titles all the way to October, having a number of killer matches along the way. Most notably, their three match series with Strong BJ, Sekimoto & Okabayashi.
40) Adam Cole (ROH, PWG) - 83 points
A drop for Adam Cole in the rankings this year, but considering he was out of action when 2015 began, I'd say this is pretty damn good. Beyond that, it fully displays the work ethic and ability of the Panama City Playboy. Fresh off a return from injury, Cole produced stellar matches with the likes of AJ Styles and then pulled the wool over everyone's eyes by befriending Kyle O'Reilly only to betray him in the biggest match of his career. Cole ended the year by adding insult to injury and defeating O'Reilly in their grudge match at ROH's Final Battle PPV. Days before this, Cole made his return to PWG, exactly one year to the day that he presumably had his final match for the promotion.
41) Andrew Everett (PWG, TNA, Indies) - 83 points
Andrew Everett made his return this year from a devastating injury that stalled the huge wave of momentum he had going into 2014. The Apex of Agility, as he calls himself, would pick up right where he left off when he returned to the ring in February, though and as a result he's earned the 41st slot on this list. Everett had a huge year in PWG where he had a jaw dropping contest with Ricochet, won the DDT4 Tournament with Trevor Lee, and battled against Mount Rushmore. Outside of Reseda, Everett could be found in GFW, Beyond Wrestling, PWX, WXW, Rev Pro, and various other places. Seeing this young man fly and flip around the ring is something to behold.
42) Jimmy Susumu (Dragon Gate) - 79 points
The Jimmyz have been a key part of Dragon Gate for quite some time and Jimmy Susumu could very well be considered the most underrated member of the stable. This year he was involved in some of the best matches involving the stable including a tag match against Yoshino & Shachihiko Boy which was one of the best of the year and the highly praised Mad Blankey/Jimmyz Disbandment Match. Susumu closed out the year by branching out on his own and challenging Open the Dream Gate Champion Shingo Takagi at the end of the FINAL GATE event. It was a totally unexpected occurence and gave the Jimmy quite the buzz headed into 2016.
43) Timothy Thatcher (Evolve, PWG, Beyond) - 77 points
From one intimdating badass from Japan to one in America. Timothy Thatcher fully left his mark on Independent Wrestling this year by competing in every top promotion the United States had to offer and blowing the doors off of every opportunity he was given. You could argue that his series of highly praised matches with Chris Hero put him on the map, but him winning the Evolve Championship from Drew Galloway during the summer would solidify his place on the radar of every fan. Thatcher competed abroad from PWG to Beyond Wrestling to WXW and it was an intense grapple fuck fest every time out.
44) Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW) - 76 points
Shibata is another person who had a sleeper year in 2015. He began the year with an abrupt reign as the IWGP Tag Team Champions with Hirooki Goto before going back to singles competition where he provided highly entertaining matches against the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, & AJ Styles. The intimidating strong style competitor rarely had a bad match in 2015.
45) Go Shiozaki (AJPW) - 74 points
The main reason to watch any All Japan show in 2015 was Go Shiozaki because just about every time out he delivered the best match on the card. On shows that would otherwise be labeled below average, Go would pull a quality contest out of his hind end. From his battle with Joe Doering early in the year to his match with Zeus to his tags with Kento Miyahara, Shiozaki was consistently great. His match quality combined with his five month reign as Triple Crown Champion and four month reign as AJPW Tag Team Champions with Miyahara earned him a spot amongst the Top 50 wrestlers in the world in 2015.
46) Sheamus (WWE) - 73 points
Sheamus spent much of 2014 out with an injury so he made his full on return this year. It was a slowburn, but by the time the summer rolled around Sheamus was back into title contention by winning the Money in the Bank briefcase. Early in the year, he played the bully and played a part in the re-injuring of Daniel Bryan. He took this momentum towards the MITB victory however things seemed to stall from there. Until November, that is. At the Survivor Series PPV, Sheamus took advantage of an exhausted Roman Reigns and cashed in his briefcase successfully to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. This was Sheamus' first world title since 2012. His reign was cut short by Roman Reigns in December, but I think that is just going to push Sheamus into that next gear as we head into 2016.
Previous Rankings: #56 in 2014
47) Tetsuya Naito (NJPW) - 73 points
2015 saw Tetsuya Naito transform into a new villanious character that we haven't seen from him before. The transition really began during the G1 Climax and it fully took off when it was revealed that he had taken Takaaki Watanabe under his wing and turned him into a character simply known as EVIL. Naito has entered the dark side and manipulated a fan favorite who just returned from his excursion in ROH, the question is, where will this lead him in 2016?
Previous Rankings: #62 in 2014
48) Johnny Gargano (WWE, Evolve, PWG, SMASH, AIW, AAW) - 72 points
Johnny Gargano has been unable to reach the level he was at in 2012 & 2013, but he still had another satisfying year that COULD be viewed as his biggest yet. Gargano competed regularly for AIW, AAW, PWG, & Evolve however his biggest break would come with his WWE debut in NXT alongside Tommaso Ciampa. Everywhere Gargano went this year, he delivered the same entertaining contests that he always has. His most notable feud of the year was that of his rivalry with Ethan Page that has been brewing since 2014 and this year, found it's way to Evolve on one of it's biggest shows of the year. Gargano came out on top in a match fighting for his job in Evolve so between that and his break in NXT, I think you could say it was a pretty great year for Johnny Wrestling.
Previous Rankings: #45 in 2014
49) Sasha Banks (WWE) - 70 points
No woman has made an impact in WWE in as quick as Sasha Banks has. The Boss herself was a massive part of what made NXT so special in 2015. Her reign as the NXT Women's Champion is one of the best title reigns in WWE in recent memory. She had amazing matches with every person she stepped foot in the ring with. Many of which top most people's match of the year lists. On top of outstanding matches, Banks made history by competing in the first ever women's Iron Man Match with Bayley which not only wrote her name in the history books, but also left people gasping just like all of her other title matches during the year. She made her debut on the main roster in July and while she hasn't been positioned in a spot on the card to succeed, it's always a treat to see her on television wherever she may pop up. Crowds chant "We Want Sasha" on a regular basis during Divas matches which could be seen as disrespectful however it also shows the starpower she has created for herself. One can only hope that WWE will put her at the forefront of the main roster Divas division in the new year because she has the ability to do great things as we've already seen from her time in NXT.
50) Kimber Lee (CHIKARA, Beyond, Indies) - 70 points
Kimber Lee is the epitome of women's wrestling in 2015. This year, she did the same thing Candice LeRae did in 2014, if not more, by pushing every boundary that has been put upon women in the wrestling business. Whether it be the controversial fight with Chris Dickinson for Beyond Wrestling in March that caused a stir on social media or her becoming the first ever female Grand Champion in CHIKARA as she defeated Hallowicked to close out the year on a high note, Kimber Lee set the bar high and it's going to be hard for anyone to top her in 2016.
Previous Rankings: #74 in 2014
51) Marty Scurll (PWG, Rev Pro, Progress) - 70 points
Amid the recent British wrestling craze that has struck the scene comes The Villian, or as some know him, Party Marty. Marty Scurll comes from the same mold as Zack Sabre Jr except with a tad more charisma. Scurll began the year as RPW British Heavyweight Champion defending the belt against the likes of Ricochet, Davey Richards, & Rocky Romero before losing it to AJ Styles in June. Scurll made his American debut for PWG in the latter part of the year in what can only be described as an extreme success as he was on five PWG shows to close out the year. I'm interested to see what 2016 brings for The Villian. He's such a versatile competitor that there's a vast number of ways he can go, especially in today's wrestling landscape.
52) Brock Lesnar (WWE) - 67 points
This probably seems like a weird spot on the list for someone on the level of Brock Lesnar, but when you think about, it's almost surprising that he landed a spot this high. Working on a part time schedule doesn't lend itself to ranking high on a list based off match quality, consistency, and championship success. With that in mind, the fact that he made it onto this list working a part time schedule shows how valuable of a talent he is as he delivers in every role he's given. Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar and Brock Lesnar is must see. This year, he began the year as WWE Champion before losing it at WrestleMania without being pinned, then his feud with the Undertaker got reignited and Lesnar closed out the year by finishing off the Deadman once again in a Hell in a Cell Match. I can't wait to see what Brock gets himself into in 2016 and I hope he gets some fresh matches that we haven't seen before because those tend to be the best (see his matches with Rollins & Reigns from this year).
53) Josh Alexander (AAW, AIW, PWG) - 67 points
One of the sadder stories of 2016 was that of Josh Alexander. The Walking Weapon was in the midst of the hottest run of his career, success wise. But health wise, he was at his worst. A nagging neck injury got to the point that he was told he had to retire and with that in mind, we saw the final few weeks of Alexander's career unfold before our eyes in the early summer. What a way to go out for him, though. He defeated Samoa Joe for the AAW World Title, held the PWG Tag Team Titles with longtime friend & partner Ethan Page, and had great matches across the country culminating in his final match with Page against Alessandro Del Bruno & Scotty O'Shea, two of Canada's finest young talents. It was sad to see him go, but it was clearly for the best and his run in independent wrestling won't be soon forgotten. Thank You, Josh!
Previous Rankings: #55 in 2014
54) HARASHIMA - 67 points
HARASHIMA has called DDT in Japan, his home for years and he continued to build his legacy this year with a number of great matches and even one more reign as KO-D Open Weight Champion. Albeit a short one, it was his seventh time winning the title which is record breaking number. His matches with Kota Ibushi and Yukio Sakiguchi are among the best of the year.
55) Biff Busick (PWG, Beyond) - 66 points
Biff Busick is another one of those guys that benefited greatly from the recent interest WWE has had in Independent talents. He was on WWE's radar for nearly the entire year, but thankfully they didn't scoop him up until the fall so we got 8-9 months of great action from Busick including his breakout run in PWG, the finale in his series of matches with Mike Bailey in C4 Wrestling, and the final chapter in his career in Beyond Wrestling. Busick competed three times in one night in Fete music one last time for the promotion he helped build, Beyond Wrestling, and went out on top by defeating Eddie Edwards, his arch rival. It was a sensational moment that was the perfect send off for Busick as he heads to NXT!
Previous Rankings: #22 in 2014
56) Angelico (Lucha Underground, PWG) - 66 points
Angelico was all over the place in 2015, literally and figuratively. Literally in the sense that he could be found flying off random things when you would least expect and figuratively in that he competed in a variety of promotions in a variety of matches. Tag team competition was where he thrived most as part of the Lucha Underground Trios Champions and as the AAA Tag Team Champions with Jack Evans late in the year. Angelico had his fair share of singles matches however including a one of a kind match with Jack Evans for PWG that has to be seen to be believed. Angelico heads into 2016 as one of the aces of the Lucha scene, particularly Lucha Underground. A knee injury kept him off PWG's first show of the year, but he looks to be recovered soon so it shouldn't affect him in the year to come.
57) ACH (ROH, WXW, RevPro) - 64 points
In a lot of ways, ACH fell off this year. When you compare his 2014 to his 2015, it's almost night & day. It's almost a similar situation to that of Cedric Alexander except the fact that ACH's match quality consistency did differ at several points in the year. He did deliver a few contests well worth seeing though, such as his series of bouts with Matt Sydal and the six man tag he was involved in to kick off the year. ACH seemed to start the year hot, simmer down completely, then pick back up as the year came to a close. I hope this means he will build back into the phenomenon that he was in 2014 so we can see him tearing the house down once again and potentially reach that next level.
Previous Rankings: #26 in 2014
58) CIMA (Dragon Gate) - 63 points
2015 started out extremely rough for Dragon Gate veteran, CIMA. He was forced to join Mad Blankey per stipulation from a match in late 2014 and by May, he ended up losing his hair and a few teeth as a result. BUT, he was able to get himself out of the group when they turned on him which led to he, GAMMA, & Don Fuji winning the Open The Triangle Gate Championships which would provide us with several great matches until November when they vacated the belts. CIMA closed out the year challenging Shingo Takagi for the Open the Brave Gate Title in unsuccessful fashion.
59) Samoa Joe (WWE, TNA, ROH, Beyond) - 57 points
The Samoa Joe of old is back, ladies and gentleman. I've been waiting for this moment for years, wondering if it would ever come, and it finally did. Joe decided to leave TNA early in the year which would lead to a career resurgence. The Samoan Submission Machine would provide fans with a number of unforgettable moments as the year rolled on including his surprise arrival in WWE to confront Kevin Owens during a live NXT special and his return home to Ring of Honor. I also can't forget to match his short tenure back on the Indies where he had a series of matches with Chris Dickinson and made an impact in AAW. Joe was beloved by everyone for nearly the entire year until a change of heart struck and we saw him turn into the monster he was in 2005 as he turned on partner Finn Balor which led to an NXT Championship Match between the two. Joe was unsuccessful in his attempt to win the belt however his intensity was unmatched. This means we've got an angry Samoa Joe heading into the new year and that's something everyone should be afraid of.
Previous Rankings: #58 in 2014
60) Fenix (Lucha Underground, PWG, AAW, AAA) - 57 points
From one Lucha Underground competitor to the next. Fenix found a different path to LU than Cross though. Fenix comes from the stomping grounds of AAA in Mexico and boy have US fans discovered a gem with him. His lucha influenced junior heavyweight athleticism makes him one of the most fun competitors to watch and led to awesome dream matches like the one he had against Matt Sydal in his PWG debut in August. Fenix closed out the first season of Lucha Underground by winning the Gift of the Gods medal.
61) Son of Havoc/Matt Cross (Lucha Underground) - 57 points
The man that WWE told was not good enough many years ago in one of the early Tough Enough competitions proved that statement to be completely wrong this year. Matt Cross has dawned many characters over the years from just being himself to changing his name to M-Dogg 20, but this year he became Son of Havoc and was a key part of a wrestling company on national TV which is something he was told he could never be. As Son of Havoc, Cross became one third of the first ever trios champions and was a part of several of the best LU matches of 2015. The love triangle between he, Angelico, & Ivelise was a nice story that provided several unforgettable moments as well. Outside of LU, Cross competed spontaneously across the Indies in the mean time before LU tapings began again in the fall/winter.
62) Ethan Page (AAW, AIW, Alpha-1, PWG) - 57 points
From one Ethan to another to another. I'll let YOU sort that one out. None the less, Ethan Page is a man that went to new levels of vulgarity, offensiveness, and even brutality this year. The man who has been honing his craft in Canada for many years started to break out in 2013 and has continued to get better and get more opportunities ever since. Page made his PWG and Evolve debuts respectively this year while also competing regularly for promotions like AAW where he was the reigning World Champion for several months. When not competing in singles action, Page could often be found alongside partner Josh Alexander under the name Monster Mafia. That is until Alexander decided to retire this year and he & Page had a great farewell run together, teaming and even facing each other at points. It was one hell of a ride for Ethan Page in 2015 and it looks to continue heading into 2016!
Previous Rankings: #34 in 2014
63) EC3 (TNA) - 57 points
Poor EC3. He finally got his moment and became TNA World Champion, but what does that even mean in 2015? Despite the flack the company may get, EC3 made it watchable on a semi-weekly basis. His match with Spud was the best TNA match in quite some time as we saw storytelling and brutality at it's finest. This would springboard EC3 to his eventual title reign that would see a horrible ending as he lost the title to Matt Hardy at Bound For Glory in October only for Hardy to relinquish the title days later. EC3 belongs much higher on this list and I hope he either gets away from TNA or gets some help in trying to make their product better in 2016. If not, he may end up like the gold mine that is Bobby Roode and not even be on this list and that would be a complete shame.
64) Tommaso Ciampa (WWE, ROH, TNA, PWG, WXW, Progress) - 56 points
The craziness of wrestling in 2015 can be no better represented by Tommaso Ciampa who was one of the few men that competed in every major US promotion this year. Ciampa began the year under contract with ROH, wrestled regularly for PWG & Rev Pro throughout the year, had a stint in TNA Impact Wrestling, and made his WWE debut in NXT with Johnny Gargano. On one occassion, the Sicilian Psychopath was on WWE & TNA TV on the same exact night. Who can say they've done that in this day and age? Not many, but Ciampa can. The year was one of his best when it comes to exposure although he wasn't able to win any gold or truly earn a rank any of the places he competed. I suspect that he will find his place in 2016, but I learned this year that the sky is the limit for Ciampa, it's just a matter of what he chooses to do. Will it be WWE, TNA, or the Indies? Only time will tell!
Previous Rankings: #67 in 2014
65) Drew Galloway (Evolve, PWG, ICW) - 56 points
The former Drew McIntyre arrived on the Indies last year after being released from WWE and set the world on fire. From his home country in England to the United States where he won the EVOLVE Championship. This year, he found some stability and had another good year. His matches in Evolve early on, his PWG debut, and work in home promotions in England made up a pretty solid body of work that was easily worthy of earning him a slot somewhere on this list. Galloway is undoubtedly one of the top prospects on the Indies today and I don't see that changing any time soon.
Previous Rankings: #29 in 2014
66) Daniel Bryan (WWE) - 55 points
Daniel Bryan was only active for four months this year yet he still made this list. That alone shows the work ethic of the bearded hero as well as how phenomenal of a performer he is, one of the all time greats, in my opinion. Bryan returned to the ring in January and would deliver a string of fantastic matches & moments to remember before being sidelined due to injury yet again. From six man tags to his battle with Roman Reigns to the ladder match at WrestleMania to the match with Sheamus that saw him busted open the hard way, the American Dragon laid it all out on the line. In the end, it has clearly cost him, but it's an effort that can't go unrecognized and the Elite 80 Points System did just that. DB's status for 2016 is up in the air and quite confusing as doctors have cleared him, just not WWE doctors so take that for what you will. I'd love to see him back in the ring, obviously, however his health & safety is first and foremost.
67) Neville (WWE) - 54 points
Neville made his main roster debut on March 31st and has been bringing his brand of high flying to fans around the world ever since. His booking hasn't been strong nor consistent, but he's given the chance to face a lot of big names and the result was a number of highly entertaining matches. Whether it be against Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, or John Cena, Neville looked great on every occassion and delivered a match that fans left the arena talking about. Neville isn't the typical guy that WWE would give a strong push, but as long as given chances to deliver great matches like he was this year on several occassions, I'm happy.
Previous Rankings: #32 in 2014
68) Kenny Omega (NJPW, PWG) - 53 points
Kenny Omega transformed into The Cleaner in 2015 as he dawned a new character after joining the Bullet Club last year. This transformed proved to be a successful one as he experienced two reigns as Junior Heavyweight Champion in 2015 and is headed into 2016 with the belt around his waist. He's fended off challengers such as KUSHIDA & Matt Sydal in his path to walking into the new year as champion. On top of his NJPW work, Omega made his return home to PWG in December in two reportedly awesome matches with Mike Bailey and Will Ospreay, respectively. It was a near perfect year for Omega on paper, there's only one thing he has yet to do and that's compete for ROH since the crossover with NJPW started. That's something I hope to see in 2016!
Previous Rankings: #57 in 2014
69) Santana Garrett (Indies) - 53 points
Santana left 2014 with a disappointing run in TNA, but she would use that fuel one of the most successful runs of her career in 2015. She competed in great fashion across the globe and picked up a ton of gold along the way including a reign as SHINE Champion. Currently she has five different titles to her name - the CWF Vixen's title, the NPW Women's title, the OPW Women's Title, Battle of the Bombshells Title, and the World of Stardom Championship. This really signifies what a top notch competitor she is in not only the world of women's wrestling, but wrestling as a whole.
70) Davey Richards (TNA, AAW, PWG) - 51 points
Davey Wrestling has his positives and negatives, but he managed to earn a slot in this year's Elite 80 once again. Between his work in TNA with Eddie Edwards and his various Indy bookings for AAW, PWG, & IWA Mid South, Davey remained one of the most reputable wrestlers in the world. He may not be the house of fire that he was several years ago, he still delivers every time out! This year he won the TNA World Tag Team Titles with Eddie Edwards two more times to add to his trophy case. On the Indies, he had memorable matches against the likes of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano although he would end the year on somewhat of a sour note by missing his highly anticipated match with Chris Hero for AAW.
Previous Rankings: #50 in 2014
71) Cedric Alexander (ROH, Alpha-1, PWX) - 49 points
2015 could be viewed as an off year for Cedric Alexander. He didn't make nearly as many strides as he did in the past two years, he stopped getting booked for PWG, and he remained in the same spot he's always been in ROH. However, I think a more apt description for his year would be an under the radar success. Alexander's booking status may have remained idle, but his delivery didn't change one bit. Every where Cedric went he over delivered. Whether it be his memorable matches with Candice LeRae, his work in PWX, his undercard matches in Ring of Honor, Cedric was on fire throughout the year, it just went un noticed. With his direction changing in ROH in the fall, I expect Cedric to start heading toward the upper echelon of the roster in 2016.
Previous Rankings: #66 in 2014
72) Bxb Hulk (Dragon Gate) - 49 points
Bxb Hulk! One of my favorite characters in Japan had a year filled with ups and downs. He began the year atop Dragon Gate with the Dream Gate title around his waist. Hulk defended the belt successfully in an amazing match with Uhaa Nation in March before dropping the title to King of Gate winner Masato Yoshino. Hulk would compete in a number of other various matches throughout the summer before a lingering injury caused him to take some long awaited time off. I'm looking forward to the return of Bxb Hulk in 2016 and hope to see him face Shingo for the Dream Gate Title at some point.
Previous Rankings: #30 in 2014
Match to watch:
vs. Uhaa Nation - Dragon Gate: Champion Gate In Osaka - 3/1/15 - ****1/2
73) Togi Makabe (NJPW) - 47 points
The "Unchained Gorilla" Togi Makabe has become a staple of the NEVER Open Weight division in NJPW and remained so this year. Makabe began the year as NEVER champion following a great match with Tomohiro Ishii at WK9. An injury would force him to relinquish the title however he would return in time for the G1 Climax and ended up regaining the belt. He closed out the year with a highly entertaining match against Kota Ibushi in which he succesfully defended his belt just before he would go on to win the 2015 World Tag League with Tomoaki Honma.
Match to watch:
vs. Kota Ibushi - NJPW: Destruction In Okayama - ****
74) Brian Cage (Lucha Underground, PWG) - 46 points
The Machine from SoCal is still trucking away and has had quite the year as a result. Chances to wrestle for Lucha Underground on National TV and AAA in Mexico has really put Cage towards that next level. He & fellow Californian Willie Mack delivered one hell of a match on LU's season finale that I think really put Cage on the map to new fans. Outside of LU & AAA, Cage still competed regularly for his home promotion PWG where he made it to the second round of the Battle of Los Angeles and reformed his tag team with Michael Elgin to close out the year.
Previous Rankings: #78 in 2014
75) Drew Gulak (Beyond, PWG, CZW) - 45 points
The technical wizard that is Drew Gulak had another solid year that was a long time coming for someone who has been around since the mid-2000's. Gulak found himself at the center of headlines with rumors that he was going to WWE which is always nice. But in the ring, he was involved in a number of big scenarios including Beyond Wresting's Greatest Rivals Round Robin and PWG's BOLA tournament. He also still competed regularly for CZW and Evolve which gave us some good matches as well. Plus, Gulak even shocked us this year when he got a handful of wooden slivers shoved into his forehead by Masada. That was an ironic moment for a man as grounded in pure pro wrestling as Gulak. None the less, I'm really curious to see what's next for Drew with the WWE rumors and his momentum on the Indies being sort of stagnant.
Previous Rankings: #43 in 2014
76) Ivelisse (Lucha Underground) - 42 points
The top female in Lucha Underground and former WWE Tough Enough competitor had quite the year this year. She held the trios titles with Angelico & Son Of Havoc for a good portion of the year providing a number of exciting matches & moments. Each of which proving herself to be the "baddest bitch" that she claims to be. It was nice to see Ivelisse finally getting her chance to see and with LU coming back for a second season soon, I see 2015 as just the start of her being spotlighted and delivering on that opportunity.
Previous Rankings: #27 in 2014
77) Finn Balor (WWE) - 42 points
When it was announced that the NJPW junior heavyweight stand out Prince Devitt was signing with WWE, I was ecstatic. This year we saw it come to fruition and it wasn't long before the man now known as Finn Balor was wearing gold around his match. After a match with Neville that sent me flashbacks to their NJPW BOSJ meeting, Balor was on a fast track to defeating Kevin Owens for the NXT Title in July in Japan, of all places. It was one of the best moments of the year and Balor has lived up to the hype as he still has the title around his waist headed into 2016. Now, the next question is not if, but when the painted demon will make his main roster debut. It's going to be a spectacle for the world to see whenever it that is and I can't wait to see the reaction he gets from the masses.
Match to watch:
vs. Kevin Owens - NXT Title Match - Beast in the East
78) Johnny Mundo (Lucha Underground) - 42 points
The former John Morrison made a resurgence this year in the form of Johnny Mundo in Lucha Underground where he found himself in a feud with Prince Puma over the title. They competed in a number of awesome matches including a 60 minute iron man contest. On top of that, he executed some great character development when he turned heel and slammed Alberto El Patron through a window. This led to some equally outstanding matches between those two as well. Needless to say, I think this year, Mundo proved what I have thought for a long time, WWE should have never let him go!
Match to watch:
vs. Prince Puma - Iron Man Match - Lucha Underground - 6/17/15
79) Pentagon Jr (Lucha Underground, AAA, PWG, AAW) - 40 points
Now, now, some of you are probably wondering why Pentagon Jr isn't higher on this list due to the raging popularity he had this year. Well, this list didn't play well in his favor considering Lucha Underground only ran for half the year and his bookings outside of there were sporatic, but that doesn't take away from what a special year it was for Pentagon. He became a household name for hardcore wrestling fans with his unique look and character work that is far beyond his years. His Lucha Underground work sparked a fire, his PWG weekend continued that flame, and as he rolls into 2016, I think this year will be looked back on as the calm of the storm because Pentagon is about to hit that next level and 2015 was just the start!
Match to watch:
w/ Drago vs. Fenix & Aerostar - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night Two - ***3/4
80) Donovan Dijak (ROH, Beyond Wrestling) - 40 points
Feast Your Eyes upon the future of professional wrestling. That's not just a catchphrase, it's a reality. Dijak entered the radar of every independent wrestling fan worldwide in 2015 after he won ROH's Top Prospect Tournament then became a part of Jay Lethal's House of Truth stable. I thought he was astounding for a big man, but I didn't realize how truly awesome he was until I started watching his work outside of ROH. Namely in Beyond Wrestling where he is my MVP of the Year for the promotion. Dijak put his name in the pot for being on this list by winning the ROH Top Prospect tournament, but he sealed it with the year he had in Beyond with amazing matches against the likes of Biff Busick, Chris Hero, Tommaso Ciampa & Jonathan Gresham throughout the year. To me, he was the best part about Beyond Wrestling all year and the most promising star in Ring of Honor heading into 2016. Now is the time to check out Donovan Dijak, but if you choose not to, trust me, you'll be learning about him soon enough!
Match to watch:
vs. Biff Busick - Beyond Wrestling: Life Sucks & Then You Die - ****1/4
What is the Elite 80?
Last year, I debuted a concept exclusive to Pro Wrestling Truth called Elite 80. It was designed to profile the best of the best in pro wrestling for a particular year. In the first edition in 2014, I went through and picked the order on my own based on a number of factors. It was cool and people seemed to like it, but it still felt it lacked something. So, I decided to take all the factors I was using to create the list and form a points system to go by throughout 2015. I was somehow able to either keep track with it as the year went on or catch up near the end of the year and get everything straight. Thus comes the presentation of this year's Elite 80!
Before I get into the reveal, I'm sure some of you are curious on my points system so I've decided to detail it below so you'll understand how/why the list came to be. It took a lot of time to come up with this system, properly compile all the points, and watch all the wrestling needed to make this list as accurate as possible. Speaking of that, I have to note that for the few sporatic shows/matches that I was unable to see, I referenced credible sources like Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer for ratings. These were mainly only used for the undercards of some random NJPW shows that I didn't seen in their entirety. I made sure to catch every major match this year, but that doesn't mean I didn't miss some solid undercard work. I also would like to thank Tony, Tom, & Dan for helping me with WWE Indy, & various other stuff that I was unable to catch.
Here is the points system I used:
Match Quality Criteria:
***** (Five star classics) - 10 points
****1/4-****3/4 (Awesome matches) - 8 points
***3/4-**** (Great matches) - 6 points
***-***1/2 (Good/solid matches) - 3 points
Major Title Win (WWE title, IWGP Title, ROH Title) - 10 points (5 points per defense)
Semi-Major Title Win (IWGP IC Title, WWE NXT Title, WWE US Title, ROH TV Title, Open The Dream Gate Title, Open The Twin Gate Titles, PWG World Title, BJW Strong World Title, DDT KOD Title, All Japan Triple Crown, GHC Heavyweight Title, IWGP Junior Title, Evolve Title, Rev Pro Title) - 7 points for victory. 4 points per defense.
Medium Level / Mid Card Title (WWE IC, WWE Tag, IWGP Tag Titles, TNA X, TNA Tag, FIP, IWA MS, WXW Titles, BJ Tag, WWE Divas, DDT KOD Tag Titles, GHC Tag Titles, GHC Junior Title, Alpha 1 Title, C4 Title, CZW Title, CZW Tag, Progress Title, PWX Title, etc.) - 5 points for victory. 3 points per defense.
Lower Level Title (Random American & Japan Indies) - 3 points for victory. 3 points per defense.
Major Tournament Win (G1 Climax, Battle of Los Angeles, Best of Super Juniors) - 10 points
Semi Major Tourney Win (King of the Ring, NJ Cup, Tag Leagues, King of Trios, DDT4) - 7 points
Lower Level Tourney (IWA Ted Petty, Scenic City Invitational, PWX Pure) - 5 points
Random Ways to Get Points:
Social Media Trend (Hot topic, viral video, etc.) - 5 points
Memorable Moment - 5 points
Outstanding promo/segment - 3 points