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The Top 30 Wrestlers Of The 2000s

Wrestling
The Top 30 Wrestlers Of The 2000s

via deviantart.net

The 2000s was one of the most exciting periods in professional wrestling history for many reasons. In North America, WCW and ECW closed their doors, leaving the now-public WWE as the unquestioned king of pro wrestling in the Western hemisphere. In Japan, both NJPW and AJPW experienced enormous changes and shocks, leading to a new promotion, Pro Wrestling NOAH, rising from the ashes and taking over the Japanese wrestling market for years. Finally, in Mexico, a slew of new stars gained international recognition, and lucha libre was given greater exposure.

Given all of these changes in the wrestling industry, it’s unsurprising that we, as fans, got to watch such an interesting blend of wrestlers perform during this decade. Old favorites, rising stars, outlandish characters, simple and one-dimensional grapplers, big monsters and tiny luchadores, we witnessed all of them during this interesting period.

But who was the best?

This article seeks to answer that question. It will rank the 30 best wrestlers from the 2000s from worst to best, based on a combination of characteristics: technical skill, charisma, drawing power, match record, longevity, and impact on the wrestling industry. To be considered for this list, wrestlers will have to have wrestled for a minimum of two years non-stop during the 2000s, and need to have wrestled in at least one major and high-profile match that garnered them international recognition.

30. Takeshi Morishima

image via: www.cagesideseats.com

Via www.cagesideseats.com

Pros:

Terrific brawler

Devastating offense

Can be surprisingly agile when he wanted to

Cons:

He rarely wanted to

Incredibly fat

So fat, in fact, that Vince McMahon likened him to a ‘fat Japanese girl’ during a WWE tryout match

Morishima was one of the few NOAH wrestlers to make a name for himself in the United States, thanks to a series of great matches in ROH against many strong opponents, including Bryan Danielson. It wasn’t hard to see why; despite being one of the most rotund wrestlers active during the 2000’s, Morishima was surprisingly agile, capable of backing up his intense brawler style with impressive cartwheels and agility.

Of course, it didn’t help that he hit incredibly hard, which really made him popular whenever he went. Because he hit so hard, he was able to draw in fans who had grown tired of the overly-theatrical style that had become dominant following WWE’s takeover of the wrestling industry. Sadly, his look was his own downfall; it prevented him from being taken seriously as a wrestler when he was given a WWE tryout, and it came back to haunt him in later years as well.

29. Dragon Kid

Image via: commons.wikimedia.org

Via commons.wikimedia.org

Pros:

Mesmerizing cruiserweight

Awesome gimmick, attire, and name

Moved so quickly in the ring that watching his videos requires slow-motion

Cons:

Small

His appearances were mostly limited to ROH and DGUSA

Stopped using the Dragonrana mid-way through the decade

Dragon Kid was basically Rey Mysterio on steroids. He moved with unbelievable speed and agility, and did things in the ring that few others could even think of doing. Some of his most impressive tricks included being able to run on the ropes before drop-kicking his opponents, multiple-rotation Hurricanranas, being able to execute pretty much any aerial maneuver conceivable, and his always-mesmerizing Dragonrana finisher.

He’s had to slow down in recent years due to age and wear and tear on his joints, which made watching him during his prime (i.e. during the 2000’s) one of the true hidden treats in North American wrestling. To this day it’s a wonder why WWE never signed him; he could’ve been as big or greater than Rey Mysterio if they really emphasized the cruiser-weight division.

28. Low Ki/Senshi/Kaval

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Highly athletic junior heavyweight wrestler

Ridiculously stiff offense

Enjoyable to watch

Cons:

Subpar promo skills

Has a reputation for starting problems with others

His voice doesn’t match his body

One of the biggest highlights of the independent scene during the 2000’s was known as Senshi or Low Ki. He made waves in the smaller promotions as both one of the best all-round wrestlers and especially as one of the stiffest kickers around. It was this legitimacy and “stiffness” that drew fans to him, as they wanted to watch him inflict real punishment in a profession dominated by theatrics and illusions. His realistic approach led to some truly fantastic matches in ROH and TNA, especially in his X-Division matches and his cross-promotional matches with fellow kicking expert KENTA.

Sadly, his reputation for being difficult to work with, as well as being ‘a mark’ for the business and himself, hindered his reputation with his co-workers. But if one’s success is determined by how good their matches are, then Low Ki was one of the best.

27. Keiji Mutoh

Image via: www.cagesideseats.com

Via www.cagesideseats.com

Pros:

Unbelievably popular and charismatic

Had surprisingly good matches despite getting older

Invented the Shining Wizard

Cons:

Didn’t always put 100% effort into his matches

Seemed to over-rely on said Shining Wizard

Has knees are now so weak that he can rarely wrestle in long matches anymore

In 2001, the man known as the Great Muta re-invented himself in a major way. Keiji Mutoh changed his look, started wrestling under his own name, and created one of the most popular wrestling moves ever in the Shining Wizard. Shortly thereafter, he jumped from NJPW to AJPW and launched the era of ‘Pro Wrestling Love’.

This led to one of the most exciting periods in wrestling during the 2000s, as the Mutoh-led era led to some of the most exciting dream matches that wouldn’t have happened without him. He showed both incredible business savvy and wrestling adaptability during this period, making him one of the most entertaining wrestlers during the decade.

26. Christopher Daniels

Image via: commons.wikimedia.org

Image via: commons.wikimedia.org

Pros:

‘King of the Indies’

Could work both as face and heel

Performed the Best Moonsault Ever

Cons:

Never won a World title in a major promotion, despite deserving it

Was overlooked in TNA in favour of ‘ex-WWE guys’

Only had one 5-star match in TNA

Christopher Daniels was a fantastic wrestler from the first moment he stepped into a wrestling ring. It was unbelievably versatile, as demonstrated by his ability to adapt to any wrestling or booking situation. Whether he was working as a face or a heel, under his own name or under a different gimmick, in singles or tag team competition, Daniels rose to the occasion and delivered.

This was especially true in his matches with Styles, Samoa Joe, Danielson, and many others. Daniels has been having excellent matches since the early 2000s, and was instrumental in putting TNA on the map during its early years. Unfortunately, Daniels was one of the many homegrown TNA that was overlooked in favor of the ex-WWE guys, which prevented him from achieving what he could’ve achieved.

25. Claudio Castagnoli

Image via: prowrestling.wikia.com

Via prowrestling.wikia.com

Pros:

Unbelievably strong

Highly charismatic

Throws the best uppercuts in the world

Cons:

Has more tag team accomplishments than singles achievements

May not cut the best promos

History as a comedy wrestler may have worked against him in some respects

Long before Cesaro was swinging people around and showing his amazing strength to the world in a WWE ring, Claudio Castagnoli was doing the same on the independent circuit. Not only that, he was able to showcase his charisma and adaptability by playing a wide variety of characters.

Not only did he wrestle under his own name while playing a serious technical wrestler, he also showed his comedic side by wrestling in Chikara under the name ‘Very Mysterious Ice Cream’ (no, seriously). When given the opportunity, Castagnoli could do anything and everything, which justifies the reason why WWE signed him in the first place.

24. Naomichi Marufuji

Image via: www.wikiwand.com

Image via: www.wikiwand.com

Pros:

One of NOAH’s most exciting junior heavyweights

Fantastic move-set

Capable of working with pretty much anyone

Cons:

Isn’t KENTA

Isn’t KENTA

Isn’t KENTA

For many years, Naomichi Marufuji’s career was linked directly to KENTA’s. Marufuji was Misawa’s protégé at the same time that KENTA was Kobashi’s, and the two of them spent many years teaming together and fighting each other. These led to some of the greatest matches in NOAH’s history which, given how impressive NOAH was during the first half of the 2000’s, says a lot.

This is because Marufuji had a more diverse style that made him stand out more in NOAH; while almost everyone (especially KENTA) had a more strike-oriented style, Marufuji was more ‘artistic’, in the sense that he combined striking with impressive and unique wrestling moves that emphasized aesthetics over practicality. Small wonder, then, that he became one of the biggest names in NOAH history. The only reason he doesn’t rank higher is because he wasn’t as big an international draw as KENTA was.

23. Rob Van Dam

image via: www.onlineworldofwrestling.com

Via www.onlineworldofwrestling.com

Pros:

Unorthodox wrestler that stood out from a crowd

Excellent hardcore & high-flying style

Ridiculously popular

Cons:

Suffered from backstage politicking

Made several critical mistakes during important pushes

Did little to adapt his gimmick in later years

Rob Van Dam stood out like a sore thumb in WWE. Where almost everyone followed a strict and easy-to-follow style, RVD was unorthodox and did things differently. When others were strict and passionate in their personalities, RVD was laid-back and easygoing. These things made him very popular with the WWE audience, especially since his popularity carried over from his old ECW days.

Though he reached the top of the mountain in 2006 after toiling away for many years, his time at the top was cut short by a combination of backstage politics and terrible personal decisions. If Van Dam never made these mistakes (which included a high-profile drug bust and a botched Frog Splash), there’s a good chance RVD wouldn’t have left to TNA at the end of the decade.

22. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin

image via: youtube.com

image via: youtube.com

Pros:

Ridiculously popular wrestler

Unmatched ratings draw and merchandise mover

Outstanding finisher and charisma

Cons:

Left WWE in 2002 under controversial circumstances

Had his last match at WrestleMania XIX

Appeared sparsely thereafter

Steve Austin was the megastar that catapulted WWE into the future. From 1996 to early 2002, he was the unquestioned king of WWE, the man who could always be relied on to draw in the big crowds. He was the ideal superstar in every way, and it was hoped that he would carry the company form nay years during the 2000’s.

Sadly, his injuries caught up with him in a bad way. Constant stress on his neck and other injuries caused him to become difficult to work with, which led to a high-profile departure from WWE in late 2002. He returned briefly in 2003, and wrestled his last match to date at WrestleMania XIX. His importance for WWE cannot be overstated, given how much of a tremendous star he was during his prime.

21. Samoa Joe

Image via: commons.wikimedia.org

Via commons.wikimedia.org

Pros:

Bad-ass

Can execute jumping and diving moves despite his size

Legitimacy from martial arts background

Cons:

Lacks the ‘superstar’ physique

Wildly underused in TNA

No, I mean REALLY underused in TNA

It didn’t take long for Samoa Joe to become a huge draw wherever he went. Despite being built like a large brawler, Joe quickly became a far more credible athlete by using a wide variety of submission holds and diving attacks that were quite unexpected for a man his size. He quickly made a big name for himself in Ring of Honor with his outstanding rivalry with CM Punk and his excellent match with Kenta Kobashi.

Sadly, Joe never achieved that same sort of recognition in TNA, despite being one of their top wrestlers, alongside Styles and Daniels. He could’ve been a multi-time World Champion in TNA if he was used properly, but sadly he was doomed to take a backseat to ex-WWE guys.

20. Jun Akiyama

Image via: dailymotion.com

Via dailymotion.com

Pros:

Incredibly stiff offense

Impressive amateur wrestling background

Long catalog of excellent matches

Cons:

Never became the huge main event draw everyone hoped he’d become

Spent over a decade in Kobashi’s shadow

Experienced booking problems while in NOAH

Known as one of the ‘Famous Five’, Jun Akiyama was one of the most outstanding wrestlers of the 1990s, and that reputation followed him into the 2000s. Akiyama was the wrestler around whom NOAH was initially built, and he proved his worth as a draw by out-wrestling virtually everyone.

Akiyama was the one man who could do everything: he was a natural amateur wrestler, so he could out-wrestle virtually everyone. He hit extremely hard with his signature moves (so much so that Triple H copied his signature jumping high knee). He had a huge variety of signature moves under his belt, making each one of his matches a treat to behold. He truly was one of the best wrestlers of the decade, and his outstanding matches in NOAH are proof.

19. Brock Lesnar

Image via: youtube.com

Via  youtube.com

Pros:

Unmatched combination of strength, agility and amateur wrestling experience

Capable of performing power, aerial, submission and any other kind of wrestling moves

Finished the decade as an internationally-recognized badass

Cons:

Ended his first WWE run prematurely

Failed in his attempt at pro football

Caused many legal problems for both WWE and NJPW

Brock Lesnar was the ideal combination of everything that Vince loved in an athlete, and was unbelievable when he wrestled in WWE from 2002 to 2004. During that short period, Lesnar demolished the likes of Hulk Hogan to The Rock to the Undertaker to Ric Flair and even Steve Austin. As if destroying some of the biggest names in WWE history wasn’t enough, Lesnar also became the youngest WWE Champion in history, and worked several fantastic matches opposite Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and others.

If Lesnar didn’t leave WWE in 2004, it’s highly likely that WWE could look very different now with Lesnar as the top guy.

18. Chris Benoit

Image via: youtube.com

Image via: youtube.com

Pros:

Awesome technical wrestler

Ridiculous workhorse

Was committed to helping rookies in WWE improve their in-ring skills

Cons:

Was sent back to the midcard by 2005 without any explanation

Was then send to ECW, despite being a popular draw

Has become persona non grata in WWE

For many years, Chris Benoit was one of the pillars that held WWE’s locker room together. A time-tested workhorse, Benoit wasn’t just one of the most technically-skilled wrestlers in WWE; he was also very old school and respectful of WWE’s traditions, and took athleticism and keeping in shape very seriously. This made him one of the most respected figures in WWE by both his peers and by his fans.

Unfortunately, that high standard, coupled with the damage done to his body over the years, eventually took their toll on him in a very unfortunate way. To this day, Benoit’s name seemingly nonexistent in WWE, and it’s highly likely that his accomplishments and importance will be forever white-washed by the company over his final actions.

17. The Rock

image via: insidepulse.com

Via insidepulse.com

Pros:

Outstanding talker with unbelievable charisma

Fantastic chemistry with many different wrestlers

Strong worker when it was required of him

Cons:

Was more interested in Hollywood than wrestling by early 2000’s

Over-rated finisher

Caused a massive talent shortage upon departure

There wasn’t a single person more charismatic or savvy with a microphone during the 2000’s more than The Rock. Even though he only lasted in WWE until 2004 (and after 2002 he was there mostly on a part-time/short-term basis), his influence on WWE cannot be ignored. He was unbelievably popular, and always got an enormous reaction from the audience, regardless of whom he was sharing the ring with.

Though he wasn’t the most technical of wrestlers, that didn’t matter; he was immensely entertaining, and knew how to keep the audience in the palm of his hand. The sad thing was, when he departed WWE after WrestleMania XX, WWE was crippled in terms of top-tier talent. Though he’d return later to play a more prominent role, it was his departure in 2004 that keeps him at such a low rank on this list.

16. CM Punk

Image via: en.wikipedia.org

Via en.wikipedia.org

Pros:

Excellent, versatile wrestler

Natural charisma and ring presence

Very comfortable with a microphone

Cons:

Has a notorious attitude problem

Also has an image problem in WWE

Must have broken many women’s hearts given his reputation as a ‘Casanova’

If there’s one wrestler who really showed passion, determination and commitment to pro wrestling, it was CM Punk. He truly started at the bottom, working in IWA-Mid South and in TNA as a mid-card wrestler. But over time, he became a wrestler worth watching. Though not as chiseled as other top stars, Punk made up for his shortcomings with his amazing promo skills, natural heel persona, and excellent technical wrestling against the top stars of the independent circuit.

Those strengths allowed him to make it to WWE, but alas he was a victim of backstage politics and prejudice against him. Since he didn’t have ‘the look’ of a wrestler/superstar, he was held back and wasn’t given the opportunities he deserved. He would eventually make it to the top of WWE on two occasions, but that wouldn’t occur until the 2000’s were over.

15. KENTA

Image via: www.wikiwand.com

Image via: www.wikiwand.com

Pros:

Excellent kickboxing-centered wrestler

Wildly popular both domestically and internationally

Kicked people HARD

Cons:

Kicked people HARD

Small

May have p*ssed off some people for his style

KENTA was the most bad-ass rookie in the 2000’s. Booked as having a little man complex, KENTA made up for his short stature by hitting people as hard as possible and executing a lot of impressive moves that many of his larger compatriots couldn’t. This made him one of the most popular draws in NOAH and abroad, but it also garnered him some controversy. KENTA hit people extremely hard almost all the time, and even by Japanese standards, that can become a liability more than an asset.

Yet even if KENTA did aggravate some older veterans with his stiff, no-nonsense style, it didn’t stop him from being one of NOAH’s shining beacons of light in a difficult period and one of the most popular wrestlers not in WWE during the 2000s.

14. Randy Orton

Image via: imageevent.com

Via imageevent.com

Pros:

Third-generation wrestler

Excellent physique and technical skill

Outstanding natural heel

Cons:

Disappointing babyface

Not the best at promos

Had an attitude problem backstage

WWE pushed Randy Orton to the moon early on for very good reason: he had the ideal combination of family ties, physical attributes, and personality needed to thrive in professional wrestling. He had the look that Vince wanted, he was a fantastic heel, and he seemed to make everything in the ring look easy, hence JBL’s constant repetition of those words. These assets led Orton to considerable success in WWE, including him becoming the youngest-ever World Heavyweight Champion.

Of course, Orton wasn’t perfect, especially during the 2000s, as he was bogged down by less-than-stellar promo abilities that made listening to him a bit difficult. That said, Orton’s success and prominence in WWE shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The only reason he doesn’t rank higher on this list is because other wrestlers had better assets than he did.

13. Jeff Hardy

Image via: Youtube.com

Via Youtube.com

Pros:

Ridiculously popular

Awesome, unorthodox style

Impressive merchandise mover

Cons:

Struggled with drug problems throughout the decade

Short World Title reigns

Over-relied on high spots and weapons at times

Jeff Hardy’s a rare case in pro wrestling: even after he makes so many mistakes (as seen by his personal choices and substance abuse problems), even after he keeps going through the same storylines, even after he fails to make any major changes to his wrestling style or persona, he stays wildly popular with the audience.

That has become the signature feature of Jeff’s career: that he stays so unbelievably popular, thanks to his amazing charisma and eccentric aura. Those are the main reasons why Jeff was so popular in WWE and in TNA, and the championships he won are physical proof that even if you’re small or if you lack natural wrestling skill, you can still achieve big things as long as you can connect with the audience.

12. Eddie Guerrero

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Excellent wrestler

Unbelievably charismatic

Helped change the perception of ‘small wrestlers’ in a big man’s world

Cons:

Struggled with being World Champion

Sadly passed away far too early

His death was exploited for ratings

If there was one wrestler in WWE who really deserved to be at the top of the ladder, it was Eddie Guerrero. He was a tireless workhorse who worked unbelievably hard and did whatever necessary to get over with the audience. Even when he was supposed to be a heel, or when he was put against bigger stars, some fans still cheered for him because they knew how good of a wrestler he was.

This was especially true at No Way Out 2004, when he won the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar. This was one of the best moments of the entire decade, and was the crowning achievement of a great wrestler’s legacy.

11. Chris Jericho

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Outstanding technical wrestler

Impressive charisma and microphone skills

Took part in many memorable moments and matches

Cons:

Wasn’t taken seriously as a draw during his Undisputed Championship reign

Left WWE for two years

The Codebreaker isn’t as cool a finisher

From January 2000 to December 2009, Chris Jericho could always be relied on to put on a great match, cut a great promo, and make a good rivalry great. Whether it was his excellent feuds with Shawn Michaels in both 2003 and 2008, his many multi-man matches, or his quickly-organized yet well-executed feud with Rey Mysterio in 2009, Jericho was more than capable of excellent matches.

He was so versatile that he could work wonders with pretty much anyone, which is why he did so many different things and won so many different titles over the decade. These reasons and more are why Jericho’s always wanted back in WWE: he’s so good at what he does that he can leave and come back and he’ll still be able to do well in a wrestling ring.

10. Kenta Kobashi

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Still an awesome wrestler, despite spending almost two years on the shelf

Put on several outstanding matches during this decade

Had a two-year reign of excellence as NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Champion

Cons:

Basically had no more functioning knees by 2006

Became a semi-regular draw by late 2007

Experienced considerable health-related setbacks that damaged his career and NOAH’s success

Kenta Kobashi may have been the best wrestler in the world during his prime. Even though he spent over a year on the shelf with extensive knee surgery, Kobashi still managed to become arguably the biggest wrestler on the entire planet during the early 2000’s.

He was essential to NOAH’s early success during the first half of the decade, especially during his two-year World Championship reign. He wrestled in several of the best matches in the world during the decade, and his title matches guaranteed almost instantaneous sell-outs for NOAH. For those who’ve never seen Japanese wrestling, Kobashi is one wrestler you absolutely must see.

9. Edge

Image via: www.fanpop.com

Via www.fanpop.com

Pros:

Masterful gimmicks and character work

Evolved from ‘glorified tag team wrestler’ to ‘certified main-eventer’

Easily one of the best heels in recent WWE history

Cons:

Lost his impressive physique by the end of the decade

Executed one of the least-impressive Spears

Didn’t have that many top opponents towards the end of the decade

Edge was one of the biggest success stories of the entire 2000’s. He began the decade as a ‘glorified tag team wrestler’ with a cheesy comedy gimmick, and finished it as the most decorated wrestler in WWE history. 11 World Championships, a staggering 14 tag team championships and numerous other accolades are all testament to his vast skill and abilities. He really matured into a top wrestler by the mid-2000s, becoming one of the biggest and best heels in recent memory.

Who else could put on such masterful rivalries with the likes of John Cena, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker, and come out on top on the majority of occasions? Indeed, Edge was one of the biggest success stories of the ‘SmackDown Six’, and WWE is sorely lacking a wrestler like him at present.

8. Rey Mysterio

via www.wrestlenewz.com

via www.wrestlenewz.com

Pros:

Outstanding cruiserweight wrestler

Amazing draw

Probably made WWE millions in merchandise sales

Cons:

Suffered from extensive knee problems throughout the decade

Had an abysmal World Title run

Became repetitive towards the end of the decade

Rey Mysterio was the perfect, multi-use tool for WWE. He had an exciting and eye-catching wrestling style that drew in casual and die-hard wrestling fans alike. He was a natural underdog that people loved to gravitate towards, making him a natural babyface. He was a beloved superhero that everyone enjoyed watching, and he made WWE millions in merchandise.

If there was one person who really kept WWE going strong in the 2000s, it was Mysterio. From his 619 finisher to his wide array of reversals for any situation, Mysterio was a one-of-a-kind wrestler, the likes of which is needed desperately in today’s WWE.

7. Triple H

Image via: en.wikipedia.org

Via en.wikipedia.org

Pros:

Excellent physique

Great finisher

Masterful heel persona and ring psychology

Cons:

Allegations of backstage politicking made people genuinely disinterested in him

Often put on repetitive matches

Spent way too much time in the Title picture

While some might dismiss HHH’s long time in the World Title picture to backstage politics, the fact is that Triple H was a great wrestler in many respects. He had the look of a superstar, without a doubt. He had an excellent understanding of ring psychology, owing to his training from Killer Kowalski. He had, and still possesses, great charisma and comfort with a microphone.

The only real marks against him were that his matches and feuds became highly repetitive, and the evidence that supports his allegations of corruption is too prominent to ignore. Say what you want about his flaws; HHH was a tremendous superstar for many years, and his current position as part of the Authority is proof of his commitment to, and understanding of, the wrestling business. 

6. The Undertaker

Image via: en.wikipedia.org

via: en.wikipedia.org

Pros:

Outstanding gimmick work

Started putting on better and better matches

Elevated many top stars during this decade

Cons:

The American Badass gimmick is widely forgotten in WWE

Also took part in many abysmal matches

Was also paired with several failure opponents and partners

There were many reports that The Undertaker planned on retiring several times during this decade, first around 2000 and then again around 2005. Thankfully, that never came to pass, and the Undertaker continued his long-standing tradition of being one of the most entertaining and venerated wrestlers in history. Undertaker managed to re-define himself successfully as the American Badass for a few years, and provided fans with some really interesting moments.

But it was as the ‘Deadman’ that the Undertaker spent most of the decade, turning himself into a hybrid of sorts of all his earlier incarnations. Though he did have some disappointing rivalries during the 2000s, he managed to have some of the finest matches of his career during this period, proving to everyone that some wrestlers do in fact get better with age.

5. Bryan Danielson

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Masterful technique and mat work capabilities

Stiff striker

Capable of eliciting a response from the audience by doing very little

Cons:

Very limited character work

Not the best during interviews

Small

Long before Daniel Bryan was main-eventing WrestleMania XXX, Danielson was considered the best technical wrestler on the entire planet. He had a natural ring presence, and was a certified master of technical wrestling. He could apply and get out of any hold, he could strike incredibly hard (hence fan chants of ‘you’re gonna get your f***in head kicked in’), and he always knew when to use certain moves in the ring. It’s because of those skills that he put on so many breathtaking matches in ROH and Dragon Gate, and why his WWE signing was such an unbelievable moment.

That unbelievable moment was followed by concern; Bryan was such an outstanding wrestler on the independent scene because he was explicitly opposite what WWE desired. His small stature and lack of charisma when compared to WWE ‘superstars’ was enough for people to worry. Thankfully, Bryan was able to continue his 2000’s great match streak in WWE as well.

4. Shawn Michaels

Image via: youtube.com

Via youtube.com

Pros:

Still a masterful wrestler and storyteller

Managed to steal the show despite becoming a part-time performer during later years

Could put on a memorable match with literally anyone

Cons:

Part-time schedule hurt WWE ratings in later years

Didn’t look like he was comfortable in some DX segments

Short World title reign

Shawn Michaels returned to WWE in 2002 after a four year absence, yet it was as if he never left in the first place. HBK still possessed the same level of skill, psychology and charisma as he had before, with the only major change in his personality. Gone was the prima-donna Michaels from the 1990s. In his place was a born-again Michaels who seemed humbled by his back injury.

Even though he wasn’t always in major storylines, Michaels still took part in several outstanding matches. His contests with Triple H, Chris Jericho (in 2003 and in 2008), Kurt Angle, and of course, the Undertaker, were some of the best matches ever, and given how many high-quality matches took place during this decade, that says a lot about HBK’s wrestling abilities.

3. John Cena

Image via: www.whatwrestling.com

Via www.whatwrestling.com

Pros:

Excellent physique

Considerable natural charisma

Could put on excellent matches when booking demanded it

Cons:

Booking rarely demanded it

Stale character

Experienced some very boring rivalries during this decade

In the span of a decade, John Cena debuted against Kurt Angle, adopted an entertaining rapper gimmick, won the WWE Championship many times, and became the biggest WWE superstar in terms of drawing power and merchandising since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Because WWE wanted to make a ‘new Hogan’ out of Cena, they put him in matches against true technical masters to really help him grow as a wrestler.

Cena’s matches against Kurt Angle, Edge, Triple H, Umaga, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton were some of the best matches in WWE during the entire decade. The only major knocks against Cena during the 2000s were how he got stale towards the tail end of the decade, and the repetitive nature of some of his rivalries.

2. A.J. Styles

image via: www.wrestlenewz.com

Via www.wrestlenewz.com

Pros:

Extremely versatile wrestler

Incredible adaptability

Wildly popular wherever he went

Cons:

Deserved to be on a bigger stage

Sub-par promo skills at times

The Styles Clash didn’t look that powerful

For a decade, A.J. Styles was TNA. It wasn’t hard to see why; he was an outstanding technical wrestler who could do literally anything; he was an outstanding high-flyer who could also pull off impressive power moves; and he had a subtle charisma that made him both easy to connect with. It’s no wonder that TNA’s fans have long considered Styles to be the biggest name in the promotion, and arguably the biggest home-grown star in that promotion’s history.

Styles was so good, in fact, that even as TNA struggled to grow as a promotion, there was always a guarantee that Styles could be relied on to bring in viewers. If people wonder how Styles became such a huge star in recent years, it’s by being such a tremendous wrestler in TNA and on the independent circuit for so many years.

1. Kurt Angle

WWE Raw superstar Kurt Angle (1996 Olympic Gold Medalist)

Via WWE Raw

Pros:

Masterful amateur and professional wrestler

Unmatched skill and adaptability

Can be wacky, serious, face, heel…you name it

Cons:

Multiple injuries hampered his performance

Had to deal with drug problems on several occasions

Had to deal with drug problems on several occasions

There’s no other way about this: Kurt Angle was the best wrestler during the 2000’s. He put on the best matches, was the most consistent wrestler during that entire decade, and managed to put on a clinic with every single one of his opponents. It was rare to see Angle ever put on a ‘bad’ match, and even when he had to say or do something stupid, it was very hard to boo him.

Whether he was in WWE or in TNA, Angle was the most outstanding wrestler of the 2000s, and truly deserved to be called ‘Wrestler of the Decade (2000s’) by the Wrestling Observer.

 

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