Sports Illustrated Announces “Wrestler Of The Year”

A comprehensive review of the top 10 professional wrestlers of 2017 has been released by Sports Illustrated.  The detailed article, written by Justin Barrasso, features what qualifiers have been used, as well as explaining each entry.

Below is the final list, as well as a selection of highlights from the feature:

Barrasso begins by providing a description of what qualities are assessed when making the decisions, as well as highlighting notable omissions:

“For this top 10 list, the format was based on a combination of work rate, drawing ability, and overall impact on the business in 2017.”

“A wrestler’s skill at consistently elevating his opponent was also emphasized. Shawn Michaels is one of the greatest of all-time, and an integral part of his brilliance was his ability to make you believe in the man standing across from him in the ring.”

Superstars that don’t feature on the list include:

  • Finn Balor
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • Christopher Daniels
  • Trevor Lee
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • Brock Lesnar

Barrasso explains that while Brock Lesnar can easily draw a crowd, his success was primarily down to his opponents.

“Lesnar shined in his Survivor Series encounter with AJ Styles, but that was courtesy of Styles.”

Top 10 Wrestlers of The Year 2017:

10: Keith Lee

“Keith Lee is a modern day mix of Samoa Joe and Bam Bam Bigelow. He transitioned in 2017 from an afterthought in Ring of Honor to a workhorse across the independent scene, delivering moves that most super heavyweights only dream of hitting.”

“A closer look at Lee’s work from this year showed a focus on his timing. He is a student of the game, moves exceptionally well, but also redefined his body from the beginning of the year to the end.”

9: Cody Rhodes

“Rhodes took a considerable risk, but he has successfully parlayed his family name and WWE credentials into far greater star magnitude than he ever achieved with the “WWE machine” behind him. He had memorable encounters with Christopher Daniels in Ring of Honor and even Kazuchika Okada in the main event of the AXS TV G1 Climax Special in July. The sky is the limit for Cody in 2018, starting with his date at Wrestle Kingdom 12 with Kota Ibushi.”

8: Matt Riddle

“Riddle is not selfish and does not eat people up in the ring, but he is also able to protect himself and his own aura. He is a phenomenal ambassador for independent wrestling, and there is a reason his merchandise lines were so long at shows in 2017.”

7: Kevin Owens

Photo Credit: WWE.com

“Owens was consistently overshadowed by various other storylines that WWE chose to highlight throughout the year, but he constantly delivered compelling work in the ring. That feat is nearly impossible to achieve in WWE, as the weekly television grind overexposes talent to the point where the extraordinary becomes ordinary.”

“Owens made everything he did meaningful, cementing himself as a top heel in the business during 2017.”

6: Kazuchika Okada

“Okada steered the ship during New Japan’s maiden voyage into the United States for its G1 Special in the USA on AXS TV in July, where he worked with Cody Rhodes. Okada’s work is so finely-tuned and compelling that the match was Rhodes’ best match of the year, where it fell somewhere closer to the tenth best match of Okada’s year.”

5: Braun Strowman

Braun Strowman delivering a Running Powerslam to Brock Lesnar at WWE No Mercy 2017. (Photo Credit: WWE.com)

“Outside of his No Mercy match with Brock Lesnar, which was a complete and utter failure, Strowman added intrigue with an ambulance match with Reigns, which took place after the spot on Raw where he flipped an ambulance, and even withstood a trip inside a garbage truck. WWE’s booking philosophy is built around delivering memorable moments to its fans, and Strowman created more than anyone else in 2017.”

4: John Cena

“Despite looking past-his-prime at the Survivor Series-which was largely the result of being surrounded by the likes of Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, and Braun Strowman-Cena has played a role in the most memorable matches of 2017, including his Royal Rumble win over AJ Styles, as well as a SmackDown loss to Shinsuke Nakamura and a compelling feud with Roman Reigns.”

3: Roman Reigns

“Reigns also succeeded in a variety of matches. The Fatal 5-Way at Extreme Rules, Fatal 4-Way at SummerSlam, and ambulance match are all part of his 2017 resume, and he even closed out the year with compelling television bouts with Cesaro and even Jason Jordan. To add to all of that, Reigns and Braun Strowman combined to deliver the feud of the year.”

2: AJ Styles

AJ Styles celebrating after winning the United States Championship at WWE Live Event

“Styles made every match entertaining, whether it was the Money in the Bank ladder match, a two-on-one affair against the Singh Brothers in November, or a match on SmackDown against The Miz in January. Styles started and ended 2017 as WWE champion, but was placed in lackluster feuds throughout the year with McMahon, Baron Corbin, and most recently Jinder Mahal.”

1: Kenny Omega

Photo Credit: SI.com

“Unlike Styles and Reigns, who have the WWE wagon entrenched firmly behind them, Omega has created his own buzz in America. Along with some of the best bouts of the year, an ability to enhance his opponent, and a must-see intangible, Kenny Omega is Sports Illustrated’s Wrestler of the Year for 2017.”

Check out the full feature by Justin Barrasso here at si.com with further details and explanations for each of the entries on this list.