10 Best Wrestlers Of 2019

Who wins the exhilarating, wide-open race?

Will Ospreay
NJPW1972.com

Honourable mentions are vast.

Johnny Gargano perfected his blend of searing big match melodrama in 2019, which is deeply impressive given how superb he was last year, and how a misjudged tweener experiment damned by circumstance undid his modern Ricky Steamboat connection with NXT crowds. Injuries suffered towards the end of the year remove him, cruelly, from the conversation. Tetsuya Naito is in physical decline, but still put on several bangers opposite Kota Ibushi, the cheap - though potent - thrills of which suffered in contrast to another exceptional year of deeply-thought storytelling.

PAC elevated the Open The Dream Gate Championship over in Dragon Gate, and has starred throughout the Dynamite era with matches so intricate that they demand a re-watch even with such phenomenal, overwhelming, accessible content to wade through. Shayna Baszler further cast herself as a legitimate killer in NXT, modifying her formula match to reward those who pay strict attention, though she underwhelmed at Survivor Series.

Matt Riddle was awesome all year-long, as were Roderick Strong and Kyle O'Reilly. Dependable has pejorative connotations, but they were dependably excellent. The Juniors of New Japan deputised incredibly for departing Ace KUSHIDA. Kenny Omega was outstanding, but simply didn't wrestle enough to beat out the competition in his stylistic division. Chris Jericho, Jay White, the Young Bucks...what a year this was.

But there can only be 10...

10. Cody

Will Ospreay
Scott Lesh

Judged purely on quantity, Cody falls far down the list - there is a wealth of awesome talent operating at a frequent, high level - but Cody's lighter schedule brings into focus just how special and inimitable his big matches are.

The best of pro wrestling serves up an unforgettable spectacle, and Cody transcended the content churn in 2019 by recovering a style, gravitas and occasion thought forever lost. His bloody, emotional epic with brother Dustin Rhodes is something, arguably, no other performer could pull off. Literally every action has seared itself into the memory of wrestling fans, within a traditional, comprehensible layout that made perfect sense and use of the dynamic. The match also conspired to keep fans guessing - and hoping, remember that? - all the while.

Much like Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania 35 masterclass, Cody's super-fun smoke-and-mirrors sprawl opposite Shawn Spears at All Out becomes more impressive as time passes, given how little his opponent has made an impression elsewhere.

Cody Vs. Chris Jericho, at Full Gear, was the timeless stuff of masters. People agonised over the stakes, as if neither could afford to lose. That used to be the point. And still, that genius finish answered every anxious question. His match with Sammy Guevera, on the debut Dynamite, while very good was far from the best match of this Wednesday Night War - but it damn sure was the loudest.

And therein lies the magic.

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Former Power Slam Magazine scribe and author of Development Hell: The NXT Story - available NOW on shop.whatculture.com!